things to do in baracoa

12 Best Things To Do in Baracoa, Cuba

Just a few decades ago, Baracoa, Cuba was so remote and isolated, surrounded by such dense jungle, that it was only accessible to the rest of the Cuban mainland by boat. That has since changed, transforming Baracoa into a favorite destination on the eastern side of Cuba for visitors and home to some of the best things to do in Cuba.

If you’re planning your trip to Baracoa, there are a few important things to keep in mind before you visit – and a number of things to do in Baracoa you just won’t want to miss! Read on for our local tips for the best things to see, do, eat, and experience in Cuba’s oldest city.

baracoa cuba

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Best Things to Do in Baracoa

If you have just a day or two in Baracoa as part of your Cuba itinerary, you won’t get to explore it all – but you’ll get to see the highlights. These are our top recommendations for the very best things to do in Baracoa – those can’t-miss-it type experiences that are worth traveling for:

  • Explore Old Town and See the Cruz de la Parra
  • Hike El Yunque or Alejandro de Humboldt
  • Visit Playa Maguana

Spend two days exploring historic Baracoa, hitting the beach, and visiting some of the natural wonders in the area to enjoy the city’s best. Looking for even more ideas on how to spend your time in Baracoa? Read on for even more of our favorite ways to enjoy Cuba’s original city.

best things to do in baracoa

Things To Do in Baracoa

1. Explore Historic Baracoa

As Cuba’s oldest city – the first city founded by Spanish conquistadores in Cuba and one of the oldest in the entire Western Hemisphere – Baracoa is brimming with important historic sites you’ll want to experience during your visit. Given the city’s small size and mostly flat downtown center, getting lost among old streets on a self-guided walking tour is usually the best way to experience Baracoa.

You’ll also want to climb to Castillo de Seboruco, the 18th-century Spanish colonial fort that once protected the city but now serves as the Hotel de Seboruco, one of the city’s only true hotels. Views over the city’s port and El Yunque are impressive.

Make sure to pop into historic churches and the city’s several tiny museums as you explore. Plus, you can’t skip Baracoa’s cathedral, Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, known for having one of the most important religious artifacts in the Americas today.

Read More: Baracoa, Cuba: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide

2. See the Cruz de la Parra

Exploring historic Baracoa often means the obligatory stop at the town’s cathedral, Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, but making a point to see the cathedral’s famous and historic Cruz de la Parra is significant enough that it deserves its own spot on our list of things to do in Baracoa.

The Cruz de la Parra is a wooden cross that was planted on the island of Cuba by Christoper Columbus when he landed at Baracoa on his first journey to the Americas in 1492. During his journeys, Columbus documented planting 29 wooden crosses at important stops along the way; today, the Cruz de la Parra is thought to be the only one to have survived, making it one of the most important artifacts connected to Columbus.

You’ll find the cross in the town’s cathedral behind glass. Originally thought to have been seven feet tall, it’s now much smaller after portions of it were removed over the years, though it is now preserved as a national monument.

el yunque de baracoa

3. Hike El Yunque

Baracoa’s tabletop mountain El Yunque – the Anvil, in English – is so distinctive and dramatic that it even made its way into Christopher Columbus’ journals on his first journey to the Americas in 1492. Today, its unique beauty still beckons explorers who know that climbing El Yunque is easily one of the most popular things to do in Baracoa.

Plan on the excursion to El Yunque taking almost a full day, including transportation to and from the area surrounding El Yunque, and a stop for food along the way. Locals that live in this rural area make a small business out of preparing homemade meals for hikers – and they are delicious! You’ll also get to swim in the river, which is a real highlight of the experience after a long hike.

The hike lasts between two to three hours and is only moderately challenging, though it can depend on weather conditions. If you’re traveling between December and April, slightly cooler, drier conditions make the hike easier, while May or June through November will be more wet.

Plenty of local guides offer hikes to El Yunque, though you can also pre-book the experience online if you want to avoid haggling over a price or prefer to plan ahead.

Read More: 5 Best Hiking Spots in Cuba

4. Learn About Chocolate Making

The rich jungle area surrounding Baracoa is home to almost all of Cuba’s modern-day chocolate-making industry. While the chocolate industry isn’t overwhelmingly large here, it’s enough to make learning about chocolate and taste testing it one of the best things to do in Baracoa.

El Sendero is a popular local chocolate farm where visitors can tour the farms and taste test chocolate as well as chorote, which is a Cuban hot chocolate made locally with coconut milk.

Another way to experience Baracoa’s chocolate culture is by visiting the local farms in Yumurí, which is arguably the best way to learn about local chocolate. Guides here offer an insider look at the whole experience, and you’ll get to taste a lot more fresh cacao and chocolate in the process.

Reviews and Bookings: Yumurí Canyon Visit + Chocolate Farm Experience

alenjandro de humboldt national park

5. Visit Alejandro de Humboldt National Park

Just an hour northwest of Baracoa, the Alejandro de Humboldt National Park is one of Cuba’s natural treasures. In its prestigious UNESCO World Heritage Designation, it’s lauded as “one of the most biologically diverse tropical island sites on earth,” making a visit one of the best things to do in Baracoa, especially if you love hiking and nature.

Guides will lead you through the park and point out incredible species of endemic flora and fauna, which have earned the park praise as being one of the richest sites in the Western Hemisphere for endemic species. The hike also passes by a jungle swimming hole that is about as idyllic as you can imagine and ends with a stop at nearby Playa Maguana.

Most guided tours of Alejandro de Humboldt National Park should be booked in advance (we recommend Civitatis online!) though you can also find private guides available in Baracoa for last-minute excursions.

Reviews and Bookings: Alejandro de Humboldt National Park Day Trip

6. Stay at a Casa Particular

Baracoa is a popular destination in Cuba, but it’s still just a small town, meaning there aren’t really any major hotels here for visitors. Instead, small bed & breakfast properties (casas particulares, in Cuba) and rooms for rent are the name of the game in Baracoa… and this historic town is all the better for it.

These are some of the best places to stay in Baracoa, which we always recommend for travelers:

Highlights of a casa particular stay can range from homecooked meals to spending time with local families or getting the best local advice on places to eat and things to do in Baracoa. For many, it’s one of the highlights of a visit to Baracoa – or in all of Cuba.

Read More: Casa Particular in Cuba: A Beginner’s Guide to Cuba’s Airbnbs

playa maguana
mathes / Depositphotos

7. Visit Playa Maguana

Laidback Playa Maguana, about a 30-minute drive north of Baracoa, is the best beach near Baracoa (and one of the best beaches in Cuba, in our opinion). It’s a drive, but it’s well worth it to visit this laid-back, beautiful beach, which feels quite untouched and is surrounded by palms.

You’ll find all the amenities you’re looking for on a beach day, with a restaurant beachfront and some smaller local spots nearby, which are a bit more affordable (and better, in our opinion). You’ll also find a small dive shop nearby to rent gear for snorkeling or for diving excursions, which are a great choice as just off the beach there is a nice reef. Book transportation to Playa Maguana ahead of time, or find a cab in town to take you.

If you’re looking for a beach that is closer to Baracoa, Playa de Miel is located immediately south of Baracoa’s malecón oceanfront promenade. Though the sand is slightly darker, and there tend to be some more waves here, it’s a great alternative option to Playa Maguana for a quick beach trip.

Read More: 12 Best Beaches in Cuba

8. Eat Cuban Food

Baracoa’s small size means its restaurant scene is limited – don’t expect any avante-garde Havana restaurants here! – but what you will find will explain why eating traditional Cuban food is at the top of our list of things to do in Baracoa. Some even call it one of Cuba’s culinary capitals for its abundant produce and fresh ingredients and the unique gastronomic traditions that exist locally – and nowhere else.

Restaurante Tato’s is a favorite destination that offers some of the best seafood options near Baracoa. Located directly along the beach at Playa El Mangalito, it’s the ultimate beach bar and restaurant type experience you might be craving from a Caribbean vacation.

You’ll also find some incredible farm-to-table cuisine at El Eden near the River Toa if you’re headed on an excursion, and from local families that live near El Yunque and prepare fresh Cuban dishes for visitors.

Looking for some specific recommendations for where to eat in the city of Baracoa? These are some of our favorite spots:

boca de yumuri baracoa cuba
Thomas Kauroff / Shutterstock

9. Visit the Yumurí Canyon

Head about 45 minutes east of Baracoa, and you’ll hit the gorgeous yet isolated area of Yumurí, known for its stunning natural beauty, soaring cliffs, and tranquil river slicing through the countryside towards the ocean. The beautiful Yumurí Canyon (Cañón de Yumurí) is a protected natural area perfect for boat rides, spotting endemic flora and fauna, and enjoying swims in the crystal clear water. In short, it’s one of the best day trips from Baracoa.

A guided excursion to the Yumurí Canyon is also one of the best ways to learn about chocolate production in Baracoa. Visits include stops at local farms in Yumurí, where guides here offer an insider look at the whole production experience. Taste tests are, of course, included.

Reviews and Bookings: Yumurí Canyon Visit + Chocolate Farm Experience

10. Dance at Casa de la Trova

Baracoa isn’t much of a party town and tends to be quite sleepy, so if you’re looking for some happy hour and evening fun, Casa de la Trova is the best spot in town. Located in the heart of Baracoa, you’ll know you’ve found it when you see people spilling into the street, dancing with drinks in hand. Live music throughout the week always makes it a party.

Even if you’re not into dance or drinking, I recommend stopping by Casa de la Trova for at least one night on your trip to enjoy the music and people-watching – it’s always one of our favorite things to do in Baracoa!


11. Walk Baracoa’s Malecón

There’s no malecón – oceanfront promenade – in Cuba more famous than the miles-long Malecón de Havana, but taking a stroll along the Baracoa malecón is certainly among the best things to do in Baracoa. Not only is it a scenic spot to enjoy ocean breezes, but it traces a route past some of Baracoa’s most important monuments and new favorite destinations.

Start at the Fuerte de la Punta Spanish colonial fortress at the northwestern part of historic Baracoa and head south until you reach its end at the Fuerte Matachín, where you’ll usually find daring locals plunging off the sea wall into the waves below. Playa de Miel, the closest beach to Baracoa, sits immediately south of the malecón if you fancy a dip.

12. Visit Baracoa’s Archeological Museum

One of the most impressive destinations in Baracoa is the Museo Arqueológico Cueva del Paraíso – Baracoa’s archeological museum – and it’s so much more than just your average museum with cookie-cutter historic exhibits. This museum is built within a series of caves that once served as the burial grounds of Cuba’s indigenous Taino people.

Within the museum, you’ll find over two thousand original archeological artifacts that tell the story of a rich culture that existed in the area long before the arrival of Columbus. Skeletons, petroglyphs, statues, and pottery make up the exhibits, which are carefully curated by local historians. Even if you’re not a museum-lover, this is one museum you won’t want to skip.

Carley Rojas Avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Home to Havana and Explorers Away. She is a serial expat and traveler, having visited 40+ countries and counting. Carley has written for publications like Travel + Leisure, MSN, Associated Press, Weather Channel, Wealth of Geeks, and more. Find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.