You may not have heard of Baracoa, but this coastal city in eastern Cuba is definitely worth exploring. Many places in Cuba’s Oriente Province remain well off the tourist radar, despite the region’s natural beauty, vibrant Afro-Cuban culture and stunning colonial cities. This includes Baracoa, a hidden paradise near the island’s eastern tip. Huddled between the ocean and lush green mountains, Baracoa is the oldest city and one of the most remote places in Cuba. Whilst it may not be as well visited as more popular and larger cities like Havana and Trinidad, there are many amazing things you can do in Baracoa, especially if you’re an adventurous traveller.
Whether you want to get off the beaten path in Cuba, explore some of the country’s most scenic rainforests, or just want to wind down in a quiet, non-touristy city, here are 5 main reasons why you should visit Baracoa.
1. The local art scene
Baracoa has a quirky art scene. The city’s beautiful surroundings, indigenous sites and Taino and Afro-caribbean heritage have long been a source of inspiration for local artists. There are several art galleries you can visit, and you don’t have to be an art enthusiast to appreciate the artists’ innovative works.
One of the these is Baracoan artist Mildo Matos Carcassés, whose work has also been exhibited in other countries and you can see his work locally at the Casa de Cultura, Eliseo Osorio Art Gallery and at his own home . His neo-Taíno paintings are a tribute to Pacha Mama (Mother Earth) and Taíno deities, who were worshipped by the indigenous people of the Caribbean. Meanwhile, artist Luis Eliades Rodríguez explores Afro-Cuban culture in his artwork, with most of his surrealism-inspired paintings depicting Orisha saints. You can visit him at his home and studio called “Los Orishas”. And finally, make sure to check out the works by Rafael Joel Rey Barroso which celebrate all things Baracoan, including local history and icons. Rafael is the director of the Eliseo Osorio Art Gallery and also displays his artwork there.
2. Alexander Humboldt National Park
If you love being in the great outdoors, you must go on a hike through Alexander Humboldt National Park. Named after a German scientist who visited Cuba in the 1800s, this national park near Baracoa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most biologically diverse reserves in the world. Its dense forests are home to several endemic species, including the bee hummingbird, the painted snail and the endangered Cuban solenodon.
The Alexander Humboldt visitor centre and entrance is situated right on the edge of the Bahia de Taco (Taco bay), which is a vantage point for spotting sea manatee although they are often very difficult to spot. The treks take you through tropical and subtropical forests and past a small village, where you can try fresh fruit from a local farmer.
This national park is one of the most humid places on the island, but don’t worry – you can go for a dip in the park’s natural pools to cool off after your hike.
3. Yumuri River
There’s no shortage of exciting hiking trails around Baracoa. Immerse yourself in the Cuban wilderness by taking a trip along the Yumuri River. Surrounded by unspoilt rainforests, rugged mountains and steep canyons, this river offers various opportunities for adventure-seekers – you can take a boat ride, hike to the Belete waterfalls or bathe in natural pools. And if you’re an avid photographer, you’re in for a treat, as there are various vantage points where you can take in beautiful views, including one spot known as El Mirador de Yumurí.
The Yumuri valley is known for its biodiversity of plant and animal species, including Cuba’s national bird, El Tocororo – the Cuban Trogan – the painted snail and a variety of colourful butterflies.
4. El Yunque
One of the most amazing places to visit in Baracoa is El Yunque. This flat-topped mountain, which was declared a national monument in 1979, rises up to 575m and offers panoramic views of Baracoa and its surroundings. The 8km hike to the top can be a bit challenging, but if you’re lucky you might encounter some endemic animal species, including the bee hummingbird, which is the smallest bird in the world, and admire the diversity of flora along the way.
Make sure you wear good hiking boots for this hike – the path is quite muddy due to the high humidity levels and you will mostly be walking on uneven terrain.
5. Baracoa’s unique cuisine
Baracoa has its own cuisine. Many local dishes feature ingredients made from coconut, mainly because coconut groves are abundant in this region. One of the most common dishes you’ll find in Baracoa is fresh fish cooked in coconut milk. Lobster is another popular dish, and is served at many restaurants in Baracoa.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan, Baracoando serves delicious plant-based meals in a nice ambiance. This restaurant in Baracoa is known for its innovative dishes, which feature a variety of fresh, local vegetables.
Let us show you just how beautiful Baracoa is through one of our tailormade itineraries which will let you have the most authentic and memorable experiences in Cuba. Get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0131 621 7721 to discuss your trip of a lifetime.