Baracoa

Travel Guide Caribbean Cuba Baracoa

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Introduction

View over Baracoa, east Cuba

View over Baracoa, east Cuba

© Utrecht

Baracoa is a small city on the southeastern coast of Cuba and is located among fantastic beaches and tropical rainforest. It is one of the most beautifully located places in all of Cuba and has a distinct tropical feeling.

It was visited by Admiral Christopher Columbus on November 27, 1492, and then founded by the first governor of Cuba, the Spanish conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar in August 15, 1511. It is the oldest Spanish settlement in Cuba and was its first capital (the basis for its nickname Ciudad Primada, "First City").

Baracoa is located on the spot where Christopher Columbus landed in Cuba on his first voyage. It is thought that the name stems from the indigenous Arauaca language word meaning "the presence of the sea".

Baracoa lies on the Bay of Honey (Bahía de Miel) and is surrounded by a wide mountain range (including the Sierra del Purial), which causes it to be quite isolated, apart from a single mountain road built in the 1960s.

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Sights and Activities

  • Parque Independencia (corner of Antonio Maceo and Felix Ruene). Effectively the city's main plaza, Parque Independencia features a fountain, a statue of local hero Hatuey, and Baracoa's original church (closed for renovations as of 2012). Most of the tour operators' offices, including Cubatur's, ring the park, as do the city government offices. Many casas and paladares are nearby.
  • Old Town - Baracoa's old town, which pretty much encompasses the entire city, is not particularly pretty nor does it contain many particularly notable buildings, but it's pleasant to stroll in.
  • Malecòn - Baracoa has its very own Malecòn, running from the northern bus station to Fuerte Matachín, though it has none of the fame (or crowds) of Havana's. It does, however, make for a pleasant stroll along the Atlantic. Near the middle of the walk, a park and statue commemorate Columbus and the Spanish landing on Cuba. Some casas are along the Malecòn, offering great views onto the sea.
  • Nearby Parque Nacional Alejandro Humboldt is a tropical rainforest park with great hikes.
  • El Yungue view.
  • Castillo de Seboruco (Hotel El Castillo), Hill west of Calixto Garcia, near Mariana Grajales - The highest fort in Baracoa, dating to 1739, is now a hotel, but non-guests are free to wander the outdoor (and some indoor) areas and admire the views.
  • Asiento Taino, Moncada beyond Hotel El Castillo - A reconstructed Taino burial ground full of statuettes. While the museum is fascinating, one does end up wondering how heavy-handed the reconstruction was. On the way there, watch for the dilapidated old gas station on Moncada – it's an impressive sight.
  • Beaches - Playa de Miel, Duaba, Maguana and Blanca.

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Weather

Baracoa and the surrounding areas has a tropical rainforest microclimate, which allows chocolate to grow very well. Expect a fair bit of rain, although it's generally not unpleasant. Baracoa can be surprisingly cool, though most of the surrounding area is pretty hot.

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Getting There

By Plane

There is a flight to Baracoa from Havana twice a week on Sundays and Thursdays with Cubana de Aviación.

By Car

Baracoa is the eastern end of Carretera Central, a highway spanning the length of the island of Cuba for 1,435 km, that ends in the village of La Fé, Pinar del Río Province.

By Bus

Viazul leaves from Santiago de Cuba at 7.30am every day, taking about 5 hours. The bus terminal is located at the northern tip of Baracoa city. The bus ride is one of the more beautiful in Cuba, going from semi-arid desert out of Guantanamo to impressive mountains on La Farola to rain-forest lowlands approaching Baracoa. Near the midpoint of La Farola, the bus makes a stop at a tiny tourist-oriented village, where you can buy red bananas, Baracoa chocolate, and cucurucho.

By Boat

There are no connections to other places in Cuba or further away.

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Getting Around

Fidel watches his people

Fidel watches his people

© Utrecht

By Car

There is a lot of short distance travel in and out of town. For destinations less than 15 km along the main road, try waving at vehicles with people already on its back.
Bici-taxis are available for rent for approximately 5 CUC per day. Alternatively, you can hire a car (with driver) for about 20 CUC.

By Public Transport

There is a tourist bus which will take you to Maguana Beach every day. It leaves at about 11:00am from the central square (in front of the church). It costs 5 CUC for a return trip.

By Foot

Local beaches can be reached by foot or by bici-taxi. By foot you can reach Playa Blanca, El Puerto, La cueva and the indigineous museum.

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Eat

Travelers weary of the repetitive (and frankly somewhat boring) food found elsewhere in Cuba can breath a sigh of relief when they reach Baracoa - and then dig straight into the small city's delicious regional dishes. The local peanut butter bars are a good snack. The peso pizza is a good treat too. In general, aside from chocolate, government-run restaurants don't serve local cuisine. Baracoa is known as the land of chocolate and coconut and most of the local cuisine is based around these two ingredients.

In addition, coconut manifests itself in two local specialties.

  • Coconut milk sauce. The first oddly resembles Thai curries while remaining completely different (quite a change from the usual bland Cuban diet!) and is served with fish and seafood. The best way to try it is to specifically ask your casa owner to prepare it, or go to some of the paladares that specialize in local food.
  • Cucurucho. The other speciality is a conical concoction of shredded coconut, sugar (and lots of it), orange peels, guava, and whatever else the maker felt like putting in–no two are alike! Cucuruchos are wrapped in palm leaves with a handy lid. They are quite sweet, sweeter perhaps than the typical North American palate usually allows for. 1 CUC each.

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Drink

Be sure to check out Baracoan drinking chocolate – hot chocolate brewed with cinnamon leaves. It's delicious, though the powdered milk limits its potential somewhat.

You'll of course find the usual assortment of peso and CUC sodas and alcohol in bars all around Baracoa.

  • Casa de la Trova (By the church). It offers itself as a comfortable and welcoming drinking establishment where you can dance with the locals. Popular for any blossoming salsa lovers.
  • Local Bar (At the northern end of the boulevard). This local bar offer cheap drinks and often good authentic music. Give a tip to the musicians or buy their CD.

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Sleep

There are two main options in Baracoa: hotels and casa particulars (private guesthouses). As elsewhere in Cuba, casas particulares, available for around 15-20 CUC per night will most likely be your cheapest options. Note that while many casas are small, they tend to operate in informal (and not entirely legal) family networks, so if the main casa is full, you will stay at a family member's.

Be prepared for the onslaught of hoteliers and taxi drivers as you arrive at the bus terminal. Watch out for the people claiming to be hotel owners, offering you a very cheap rate because this may change when you arrive at the hotel, meet the real owner and get given the real room rates. The game is that by this time you cannot be bothered to go and look for another hotel because it is just too hot. Instead just walk the short distance from the bus terminal into the city and check out 2 or 3 casas for yourself.

Hotels

Casa Particulares

There are numerous casa particulares in Baracoa.

  • Casa Alejandro y Susana, 1ro de abril Street, number 55 (In front of La Pesca), ☎ +53 53956044, toll-free: +53 21641091, e-mail: casaalejandroysusana@gmail.com. Check-in: Flexible, check-out: 15:00. Has terrace, garden, roundabout, yard and garage. Both rooms have air conditioning, hot shower, a double bed and a personal, as well as large glass windows allowing good and natural ventilation and lighting. Laundry services are provided, in addition to typical meals, vegetarian recipes, breakfast and cocktails with negotiable prices. The owners are lawyers. In the house you will find security, privacy and comfort. 25 CUC.
  • Yodanka, ☎ +53 53553587. Fantastic casa in a quiet side street, opposite end of the Malecon from the bus station. It doesn't have a name but it is the road after Juracion, on the right, as you are leaving town. The casa is about 200 meters away from the beach on the right hand side. Rooms are large with a double bed and ensuite bathroom. You also get a shaded patio, and a staircase to another patio in the sun. The owners speak Spanish only. 15 CUC.

8 Clara Silot y Victor, Libertad No. 28-A, ☎ +53 21-643662, e-mail: ocha@gtm.sld.cu. An alright room, with a great elderly couple, which actually adopted us while we're been there. Because of them, Baracoa was even more wonderful! It's about 8 minutes walk from the center.

  • Casa Colonial Gustavo y Yalina (Flor Crombet), 125 Flor Crombet, ☎ +53 21-64-25-36. An elegant colonial house that dates to the 19th century, this casa features Baracoan drinking chocolate and local specialties for dinner.
  • Nelsy Borges Teran, 171 Antonio Maceo. If trying Baracoa's local dishes is your priority, this should be the casa you stay in, as it is considered to have very good food.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

In many cities the only way for tourists to access the internet is through the government's communications centers. Look for buildings bearing the name "ETECSA", which stands for Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. ETECSA also has internet stations in some of the larger government hotels and resorts. The connection speed is comparable to analog dial-up speed in Havana or slower in smaller locations, at a cost of 6 CUC/hour. This is payable by purchasing a prepaid scratch card with a PIN code granting you access for one hour. The same card can be used throughout the country at any ETECSA terminal, allowing you to disconnect after your session and use the remaining time on the card further at the next hotel/city you go to.

WI-FI in hotels and restaurants is certainly uncommon if not non-existent and tourists should not rely on this being available when planning their means of communication.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to Cuba is 53. To make an international call from Cuba, the code is 119. The emergency number is 116 and information number 113.

GSM cell phones will work in Cuba (900 MHz). Cuba is one of the most expensive countries in which to communicate. When bringing your own cellphone, incoming phonecalls to Cuba cost about $1/minute. Outgoing calls from Cuba are similarly expensive, and can be as high as $5 per minute for making international when roaming with your cellphone from overseas.

A better way is to rent cellphones, which is possible at several stores in Havana, including one in the airport. The rates are 9 CUC per day (6 CUC for the phone and 3 CUC for the SIM card), plus about 36 cents a minute for prepaid cards. If you bring an unlocked GSM phone operating at 900 MHz (or quad-band world phone) you can buy a SIM card for 111 CUC, plus your prepaid minutes. If you're staying two weeks or more it makes sense to bring a cheap phone, buy a SIM card and prepaid minutes, then give the phone to a Cuban friend when you leave. Cellphones are among the most desired items for Cubans (bring a case for the phone too, Cubans are very fussy about keeping their phones scratch-free). You will have to go to a cellphone store with your friend and sign a paper to give the phone to your friend.

Post

Correos de Cuba operates the Cuban postal service. They are generally quite slow, and delivery is never guaranteed. Mail is read by Cuba’s censors; avoid politically sensitive comments. Also, never send cash! Post offices (correos) usually are open weekdays 8:00am to 6:00pm and on Saturday 8:00am to 3:00pm, but hours can vary widely. Most tourist hotels accept mail for delivery as well, which might be a better option. International airmail (correo aereo) averages from at least 2 weeks to over one month, and even domestic posts might take 1-2 weeks. When mailing from Cuba, write at least the country destination in Spanish (as well). International postcards, cost CUC 0.50 to all destinations; letters cost CUC 0.80. Within Cuba, letters cost from 15 centavos (20 grams or less) to 2.05 pesos (up to 500 grams); postcards cost 10 centavos. Stamps are available in US dollars as well (if buying at hotels, this is actually your only option) and can be bought at hotels and blue and white kiosks labelled Correos de Cuba. Parcels from Cuba must be unwrapped for inspection. It is far better to send packages through an express courier service, like DHL or the Cuban local one (called EMS), although the same regulation applies.

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Accommodation in Baracoa

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Baracoa searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

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This is version 28. Last edited at 14:49 on Aug 27, 18 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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