Baracoa was established in 1511 by Diego Velazquez and Cuba's capital until 1515. It is the first city of Cuba and offers a more Caribbean vibe than other places in the country.
Baracoa is famous for its Cacao. The locals proudly claim that it was Baracoa that introduced chocolate to Europe but this is not true. In any case the conditions that prevail in the area make it perfect for growing cacao plants. That's why from the 18th century the cultivation of cacao spread in the all region and today the region produces the majority of cuban chocolate. One of the most significant events of Baracoa history is the visit of Che Guevara, while he was holding the office of minister of Industry, in order to found a chocolate factory that still exists.
Cubana (through Aero Caribe) offers a flight to Havana on Thursdays and Sundays. It frequently get's delayed so check the time at the airport office (Calle Jose Marti) or with local travel offices before showing up at the airport.
The plane and bus are frequently fully booked so make reservations in advance to secure a seat.
Push bikes are available for rent, expect to pay approx. $5 USD/day Alternatively, you can hire a car (with driver) for approx. $20 USD.
Bicycle taxis are everywhere and can be paid for in CUC or Moneda Nacional.
Mopeds/Scooters can be rented from a rental agency just off the main park (Parque Centro). It is located inside a cafeteria next to the Cinema. Expect to pay approximately $25CUC for a full day.
- El Yunque - 575 m high mountain, approx. 30 mins by push bike from the centre of town. You must pay to enter the national park, but the views from the peak are fantastic and well worth the 1-2 hr hike.
- Yumuri - river gorge accessed by car. Beautful walking tracks.
Relax around the town, share a bottle of rum and koola cola with locals at the nightclub 100 steps above the town. The Casa de la Trova by the church offers itself as a comfortable and welcoming drinking establishment where you can dance with the locals. Popular for any blossoming salsa lovers.
Cubatour, which is located opposite of the Cathedral, offers a variety of tours. The most common tour is to Yumuri Canyon that combines a small excursion by boat in Canyon, a visit in a cocoa plantation and a visit to an overpriced restaurant. The tour costs 20 cucs but you can save some money doing the same tour with individual guides. To do that you just must appear at 9.00 (half hour before the meeting time of Cubatour) in front of the agency of Cubatour. There they will be waiting for you individuals to propose you the same tour for a five cucs less. It's not a scum, it's just the same offer.
The local peanut butter bars are a good snack. The grossly overweight cuban selling peso pizza is a good treat too. Most people will eat at their casa particular. If you are quite desperate to save as much money as you can, there is a restaurant on corner of streets Felix Ruena and Ciro Frias, which is running by the cuban government and the prices for pizza and pastas are less than ten cuban pesos/50 us cents. The waiters are going to throw you a strange glance because they are not used to serve foreigners but that's all.
In Baracoa you can try the best ice-cream in Cuba:
- casa de cacao: it's the classic place to drink chocolate or to eat ice cream (scoop/one cuc)
- Casa de chocolate: it's at the same block with casa de Cacao but it's the one that locals prefer. Prices are in national Cuban pesos and not in CuC (one scoop for 0.60 Cuban pesos, aka 0,3 us cent!)
Havana Club, shared with friends and locals alike.
Casa particulars are available, expect to pay between 15-20 USD per night. Meals are approx $5-10 USD more a night.
Be prepared for the onslaught of hoteliers and taxi drivers as you arrive at the bus stop. 15CUC was the going rate in August 2010 and there were a few owners desperate enough to offer rooms at 10CUC. 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.
- Yodanka, Baracoa, ☎ +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 beech on the right hand side. This casa is owned and run by Orvil and Concha and their daughter Yodanka. They won't be fighting for your attention at the bus station so call them first to book the only room. +53 53553587. You will get a large room with a double bed and ensuite. If there are more of you there is another room joining the bathroom also available. You get a shaded patio, and a staircase to another patio in the sun, both covered in grapes, and you are welcome to eat as many as you can. This is a very nice family. Unlike most Cubans they only charged what they said, for room and meal. Extras, like fresh juices and ice-creams were all free. These guys really do want you to enjoy your stay with them. The breakfast and evening meals are all home cooked by Concha, and served by Orvil in his best shirt. We had to ask them to make less because the meals were so big; fresh fish, vegetables and salad everyday. If you buy a bottle of 3 años rum from the local shop, Concha will make you Mojitos (cuban style) whenever you want. Fortunately they only speak Spanish, so excellent for practising and improving your own. When you call, tell them which bus you will arrive on and they will meet you at the bus station. I cannot recommend this casa enough, and I only hope my recommendation doesn't mean it is booked the next time I visit. 15CUC. edit
- Clara Silot y Victor, Libertad No. 28-A, ☎ +53-21-643662, . 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 mins walk from the center. edit
- Hotel Rusa, Baracoa. checkin: 4PM; checkout: 12PM. This bright yellow hostel is opposite the Malecon (sea wall) in the centre of town. Famous figures like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro have stayed in the hotel. The rooms are basic with air conditioning, television and hot water. If you want some history and great views - ask for room 302. It's the room Che stayed in during his visit to open the local chocolate factory and is marked by a commerative plaque and cliche furnishings. 18CUC-30CUC. edit
- Lilia Albert (Marilys), calle 24 de Febrero, 24 (calle 24 de Febrero, between Marti and Flor Crombet), ☎ +53-21642731. Fantastic Casa Particular; Opened since february 2013, the owners are extremely friendly and accommodating. You would feel absolutely no commercial pressure to buy anything there, which is rare enough in Cuba. Located halfway between the bus station and the center, which means its a two minutes walk to reach either. Only one room and the usual perks : AC, private bathroom with hot shower etc. Rooftop terrace with great views over the sea and the Yunque mountain. All members of the family have some artistic sensivity, the owner and its elder son are both art teachers. Also the owner is amateur archaeologist and he is always willing to talk about the archaeology places around. Food here was the best I've had in Cuba, they make their own coffee and chocolate for breakfast, and meals are served in huge and delicious portions. The owners son and daughter speak some englidh and some french. 15 CUC. edit