What to do?
This is what we did:
What we would’ve like to do if we had more time:
Where to stay?
Whereas there are many casas particulares in the center of Baracoa, it’s worth walking up the hill further away from the center. There, you’ll find the outstanding Villa Paradiso, run by Roberto and Manuel who are super friendly and helpful hosts. Their adorable pets (a dog, a cat and a parrot) deserve a mention too.
Villa Paradiso is a wonderful casa that looks out over the entire village. Unlike most Cuban houses with dark rooms and kitschy decoration, this house has large bright windows and an elegant interior design. Our room had windows on three sides and the walls were adorned with Cuban paintings and movie posters. We also had our own balcony with two rocking chairs from where we had a stunning view over the city and the bay of Baracoa.
Behind the casa lies a beautiful garden with tropical plants. A smalls staircase winds through the miniature jungle and leads up to another lookout point.
The breakfast we’ve had in Villa Paradiso was the best we’ve had during our entire trip through Cuba. It contained a fruit salad, omelet with vegetables, pancakes made from taro root (Roberto’s personal recipe), home-made marmalade, ham and cheese, fresh fruit juice, tea, local coffee… Basically, they gave their own twist to the typical Cuban breakfast served to tourists. And it is impossible to be hungry afterwards!
Another reason why I would recommend staying at Villa Paradiso is because the hosts are very well informed about the different activities you can undertake in the area. Roberto and Manuel love to go hiking and exploring themselves, so they’ll be able to give you detailed information about anything you’d like to do. They have even developed their own map of Baracoa and Roberto documents his findings with beautiful photos on his blog Villa Paradiso
The address is Moncada 92-B, e/ Paraíso Abajo y Calle 2, Baracoa. A room is around 25 CUC per night. It is possible to use the internet in the guesthouse, but you'll need a Nauta prepaid card.
How much time?
We spent two and a half days in Baracoa, which is definitely not enough. We got to see some of its main highlights, but there is more to explore. Its remote location ensures that Baracoa is not overrun by tourists. Thanks to its tranquility, its laidback vibe and its tropical surroundings, Baracoa turned out to be our favorite destination in Cuba. If I could return, I would plan for 5 full days.
How much does it cost?
It is important to know though that Baracoa isn’t the cheapest place in Cuba. An entrance fee applies for all the natural parks. For example, El Yunque costs 13 CUC and the waterfalls set you back an additional 8 CUC. Although this fee includes a guide, the bill adds up quickly. You’ll need to rent a bike or hire a taxi to take you around. Hiring a taxi for an entire day costs about 25 CUC and a meal in the national parks or at the beach will be about 6 to 12 CUC. All in all, Baracoa is the place where we spent most per day: about 50 CUC per person excluding souvenirs. In return, we had some really good meals, mind-blowing cocktails and excellent accommodation.
How to get there?
You can get there with a Viazul bus, but because of the long travel distance from Havana (18 hours), we preferred booking a flight via Cuba Travel Network. At 170 USD, it is way more expensive than the 66 USD bus ticket. You'll also need to hire a taxi for about 24 CUC to the 'Playa Baracoa Airport' in Caimito, west of Havana.
Playa Baracoa Airport is a very small airport that only seems to serve Baracoa. Force of habit, we arrived early to go through the full check-in procedure, but...the airport wasn’t open yet. The doors only opened around 8 am, after which we went through the minimalistic check-in and luggage control. About one hour later, we boarded a small charter plane with room for about 50 passengers. Our flight was planned at 10h20, but a little before 10h, we already took off. Things that go faster than expected? That’s not what we were used to in Cuba. Despite being seated right next to the propellor, which is not the most reassuring sight when looking through the window, the flight went smoothly. About 1h to 1h30 later, we were already in Baracoa.