BARACOA AND ITS SURROUNDINGS
WHAT TO DO IN BARACOA? MY JOURNEY
THE CITY OF BARACOA
Next to Baracoa city
Baracoa’s city center
Downtown Baracoa is not very big. Formerly the first capital of Cuba, there is a pleasant atmosphere, very relaxing. The central square with its Basilic of Our Lady of the Assumption (Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion), and the colorful facades of the houses around, are super cute. But a little further, you’ll find buildings, or some houses, which look abandoned. It’s a bit of a weird contrast that you have to get used to. I found certain places in the city charming.
The Malecón is nice to walk around at any time of the day. At the end of it, there is Fort Matachín (Fuerte Matachín), transformed into a city museum. This presents the history of the city as well as the specificities of the region. It’s quite interesting, but the disadvantage is that everything is written in Spanish. The museum has 2 rooms with panels, and some exhibits. The visit is about thirty minutes long.
Not far from the bus station, there is a wreck that you can see in the water. At the end of the day, with the colors of the sunset, the view of the wreck and Mount El Yunque is magnificent!
A must-do restaurant in the city is the vegetarian restaurant Baracoando (9G22+W9Q, Baracoa, Cuba). You have to go the day before to book for the next day, and give a deposit. Every day the chef makes an extraordinary and tasteful vegetarian buffet! One of the best restaurants I have been to in Cuba! For 1 000 pesos, you have a buffet with an incredible taste variety.
Mount El Yunque
View from Mount El Yunque
Donkey at Mount El Yunque
Mount El Yunque
Insect in Mount El Yunque
River at Mount El Yunque
One of the most beautiful beaches in the region is Manguana Beach. If you have done Cayo Jutías before, you may be a little disappointed, but the beach is still very nice. White sand, warm blue water, fresh coconuts, everything we love! There aren’t too many people during the week. It’s about thirty minutes by taxi to get there.
One of my best excursions I’ve done in Cuba is the ascent of Mount El Yunque and the waterfall! To do it, we took the Baracoa4u agency (Contact on Whatsapp: +5355302820, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org – they speak Spanish and English). Surely there are cheaper guides that you can find on the street, but be careful that they pay the entrance to the national park. Because if rangers pass, they will give you a fine, even if you didn’t know it and you were just following the guide. It happened the week before we went on the trip, so choose wisely. Be aware that it’s not possible to do this hike independently.
So off we go for the ascent of Mount El Yunque, leaving around 8 a.m. from home. There is a bit of road to the entrance of the national park. Then, it’s off for a 10km walk (round trip) and a little less than 575m of elevation. After a few minutes, you cross the river on foot (the guide told me that normally it never really goes higher than the hips). The water is cold, but on the way back, believe me you will be happy to do it again. From there you go deep into the jungle to the top (bring mosquito repellent). The trip is great because on the way, the guide will stop several times to explain the fauna and flora, certain insects, how they make chocolate, how the farmers live in the region… You might come across them with their donkeys coming down the path, full of bananas. The climb is not easy because it is very humid! You have to be in a good physical condition to do it. Remember to take plenty of water with you (minimum 1.5L, or even more), and good shoes! Sometimes it slips quite a bit on the way. Once you reach the top of the summit, the view is just incredible! On one side you see the sea with the city of Baracoa, and on the other, mountains as far as the eye can see! That’s wonderful ! After admiring the view, turn around by the same path.
You can stop there if you want, or you can continue to the waterfall, which apparently has the natural pool with the clearest water in the area. To get there, it’s 5km (round trip). At some point, you will have to leave all your belongings at the edge of a river, because you will cross it by swimming to continue climbing a few meters to a super beautiful waterfall. Once you get to the place, it’s magical! Such clear water! We see everything in depth. Beautiful! And maybe you’ll be the only ones there. We could stay there for hours.
Then the guide takes you for a snack. You have slices of fried bananas and pagan with a good warm chocolate. After the excursion, it feels good. After that, the taxi takes you back home at around 3/4 p.m. Frankly, it’s an incredible excursion, I have great memories of it! And yet I’m not the biggest fan of guided tours. But this one is definitely worth it!
The agency also offered us to do the Boca de Yumurí excursion, which is a canyon in the region. He sold it good to me but I read so many blogs saying it wasn’t terrible that I didn’t let myself be tempted. After the experience of the prehistoric wall in Viñales, I preferred to listen to the many blogs that advised to don’t do this excursion.
Price of the taxi to go and come back to Manguana beach: €30 no matter how many people you are. For the return, the taxi waits for you as long as you want on the beach.
Price of the Mount El Yunque excursion including guide who speaks different languages, transport, snack, entrance to the national park: €30 / person (and if you are alone, it will be €60 / person, yes yes the double) with Baracoa4u.
I was not sure what to expect for this city and the region. It’s true that it takes time to get there but it’s more than worth it! The landscapes are incredible! Even the city has a good atmosphere. It’s for me an unmissable of the island!
WHEN TO GO?
I was there early September and the weather was great. On the other hand, it’s quite humid during this period.
I won’t lie to you that the city can be visited in half a day, like many cities in Cuba. But there are many beaches and excursions to do around. So it will depend on your budget.
WHERE TO SLEEP? MY ACCOMMODATION
CASA DIOVANY HORIZONTE
Contact: Diovany Mosqueda – WhatsApp +5358325835
Address: Maximo Gomez #120, Bracoa, Cuba
Price: 10€-15€ / night, for a room with private bathroom.
The hostel is located in the center of town. There are two bedrooms with private bathroom, and a common room with terrace, so you have your private space. The breakfast (€5) is good and the host adapts to your tastes. A house that I recommend without hesitation.
MY 3 TIPS TO VISIT BARACOA
- Ask your host, or an agency, for excursions. Sometimes the guides in the street are cheaper but don’t pay the entrance to the national park. If you get caught, you can get a big fine even if you say you didn’t know it.
- For excursions, try to find people to share the experience with because if you are alone, they charge you double. The more you are, the lower the price.
- Look carefully at the opinions on excursions before taking one, the agencies will always tell you that the place is a marvel. But read several blogs to get a more objective opinion.