This section is dedicated to take away all your "I wish someone had told me that before I went!" experiences. This way, you are better prepared for what to expect, what not to expect and can spend less time settling in, and more time making new friends in your chosen hostel. We share our insider knowledge of tips, tricks and important things to look out for in Baracoa. To help you make friends with Baracoa before you visit, we've included a few helpful and fun things you should know about the area. Enjoy!
As it's a bit off the beaten track, in the far east of Cuba, Baracoa is most of the time forgotten by many tourists. The town draws mainly nature lovers, as it is the gateway to one of Cuba's most beautiful parks.
Baracoa can be reached by plane, though most tourists drive there after visiting Santiago de Cuba. The final hour of the five-hour trip offers some impressive views of the mountain range that gives Baracoa its isolated image. Along the way, you can buy fruit and vegetables, which are a bit harder to find and are a bit more expensive in the little town itself. There is a store here and there, but most people end up in one of the many restaurants, instead of cooking themselves. For the budget-minded travelers there are some very cheap options out there, mostly restaurants aimed at the locals, taking only CUP instead of CUC. It'll take some time to find them, though.
Options for Baracoa hostels are super limited. Some places call themselves "hostals," but actually they are not Baracoa hostels at all. They are actually more like hotels and do not offer dormitories, but only private rooms. With the lack of hostels in Baracoa, the cheapest option for backpackers is heading to one of the many "casas particulares" that are scattered throughout the town. When arriving at Baracoa without pre-booked accommodation, you can find a place to stay by talking to the many casa owners that will be waiting at the bus station. During the months of December and January, which is the peak season for tourists, there won't be many vacancies. A good idea is to arrange your accommodation beforehand.
Perhaps because of the dearth of hostels in Baracoa, the town does not have many solo traveling young backpackers. It draws mainly tourists who seek a few quiet days away from the hustle and bustle of Santiago de Cuba. The town's main attraction is the Alexander Von Humboldt National Park, which houses several plants and animals that can only be found there, the table mountain called El Yunque, and the Chocolate factory that was founded by Ché. Tours can be booked in a couple agencies in the center. However, if there are not enough people (mostly five) for these activities, the agency will simply tell you to go find some people yourself. In that case, simply go to the town square, where you can find taxis and arrange your own transportation. This is also the only place in Baracoa where there is Wi-Fi available.
Baracoa comes very much alive during the evening, especially with the Casa de la Trova, where the local men will invite women to dance a salsa. People are very social and friendly, just like in the rest of Cuba, but always be aware that some of them might want something more.
Presumably in the future with the increase of tourism, there may be more Baracoa hostels. At the moment, tourists will have to make use of the casas particulares. Don't let the lack of Baracoa hostels scare you off -- it is one of the most beautiful areas in Cuba and not to be missed.
Written by local enthusiast for Baracoa hostelsMargaret