Baracoa, Cuba’s oldest Spanish settlement, is slightly different than any other Cuban city. It’s located in a municipality of Guantánamo Province, very close to the eastern tip of Cuba. Much higher amount of rainfall, makes it the region of lush, almost subtropical vegetation. After all, Baracoa is all about cocoa and coconut plantations and their products. Despite being hard to reach, it shouldn’t be missed on any Cuban trip, even if you only have one day of time to spend there. You can explore cocoa and coconut plantations, enjoy the taste of Baracoa cuisine, spend an afternoon at the beach and still have a plenty of time for learning some salsa moves at night.
What’s the best time to visit Baracoa?
Baracoa weather tends not to change much during the year. The annual average temperature is around 26 ºC and it doesn’t get much higher or lower than that. With more than 180 rainy days and high humidity Baracoa’s rainy season seems to be endless.
What’s good to know about Baracoa?
Baracoa was first visited by Christopher Colombus in 1492 and then founded by the first governor of Cuba, Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, in 1511. It was the oldest Spanish settlement on the island and the first capital of Cuba. It’s surrounded by a wide mountain range on one side, and by the Bay of Honey on the other, which makes it quite isolated from the rest of the country.
One Day in Baracoa Itinerary
Top things to do in Baracoa, Cuba
Follow this guide and make the best of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do on your one day in Baracoa.
Stroll around the city center early in the morning
Even a short walk through the streets of Baracoa makes it obvious this city isn’t much about impressive colonial architecture (unlike Trinidad and Havana) but more about the atmosphere and its people. From the very early hours the locals gather around the park in front of the Cathedral ready for a game of chess or domino. It’s the perfect place to meet locals or fellow travelers since this place is quite busy in the morning.
Book a day excursion at the tour agency
There are several tour agencies around the city center all of them offering almost the same excursion packages. Book the one that combines cocoa plantations and cocoa production tour, quick stay at Bahia de Mata, visit to the canyon of Yumuri river together with a river swim and the lazy time at the beach after all. Check out the few agencies since the prices can vary from 15 to 25 CUC. It’s recommended to book a tour online or via phone call at least a day in advance.
Learn about the cocoa production and try the original Cuban chocolate
Even if you don’t book a day excursion (which is recommended) make sure you find your way to the farmer’s house to see (and taste) the whole process of chocolate production. During the lesson you’ll get the chance of tasting all of the cocoa products including the original Cuban chocolate and the chocolate milk. Don’t get surprised it the chocolate doesn’t taste exactly as the one you buy at the supermarket.
Take a boat ride through the Canyon of Yumuri river
The legend of the river Yumuri tells that the Indian families rather choose jumping from the cliff into the Yumuri river and dying with dignity, than to be enslaved by the Spanish Conquistadores. While jumping they were screaming “Yumuri”. The tour of the Yumuri river includes a boat ride through the 180 m deep canyon and a swim in the clear, refreshing river water on the way.
Spend an afternoon at the beach Playa Manglito
Most of the tours will stop at Playa Manglito beach – gorgeous, quite tropical, sandy beach. Even if not you can get a taxi and go there by yourself. The beach is not as crowded as many other beaches around Baracoa and it mostly attracts only local people. It’s a great place to enjoy a couple of mojitos in the shade of a palm tree or have a lunch at the restaurant just next to the sea.
Try the seafood in coconut milk
Whether you decide to stay at the beach or to get back to the city, you’re probably super hungry by now. Since this coastal city offers a wide variety of super cheap seafood, it would be a real miss not to try it. Baracoa is famous for its grilled lobster (shrimps or fish) prepared in the coconut milk. It’s the specialty of this specific region and can’t be found in the rest of the country.
In Casa del Cacao, try one of many chocolate drinks
Casa del Cacao serves many cacao drinks including a hot chocolate with rum. If you always doubt between those two, maybe it’s time to try them mixed together.
Spend a night dancing salsa
There are not that many bars and clubs in Baracoa, and they are all located close to one another. Check out Casa de la Trova next to the Cathedral square, if you’re interested in learning some salsa moves or just want to enjoy some good vibes. If you’re more into seeing professional dance head to the La Terraza – it’s a huge open-air terrace that host dance shows and contests. After the show the whole terrace becomes a huge dance area.
Where to stay in Baracoa?
Casa particular (Private apartments) may be the best (and at times the only) choice for your stay in Baracoa. Even though it’s possible to find your casa once you’re there, due to a limited number of casas it’s better to book it online or to reserve it via phone. The accommodation there is pretty affordable and they usually prepare breakfast at a cost of a few dollars.
Extra tips for visiting Baracoa
– The tipping in Cuba is usually not compulsory, even though they sometimes charge additional 10% for the service. If not, at least 5% is expected.
– Always check your receipt in restaurants and bar. Unfortunately, many times the bill is incorrect, and you end up paying more than you should.
– The English is not widely spoken in Cuba. Learn some basic Spanish before getting there. You’ll definitely gonna use it.
– Make your trip to Baracoa even more exciting! Check out Tripadvisor for all the activities and organized tours in Baracoa or around the area. Make sure to purchase your tickets to all the attractions right away to skip the queues.
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