Baracoa, Cuba’s earliest and most remote town, is unique even to Cubans.
Baracoa's fickle climate is distinctly different from that of the rest of the country, as its mountainous areas register the island’s highest precipitation rate. With an annual average of nearly 145 inches of rain 180 days out of the year, the mountains of Baracoa are a prime location for coffee and cocoa cultivation.
Located on the north coast of Cuba’s easternmost tip, Baracoa is where Christopher Columbus landed on his first voyage. He named the region Porto Santo, and referenced a nearby “table mountain” that he could see in the distance, which is known today as El Yunque. In the 1500’s, Baracoa was named the first capital of Cuba.
Baracoa’s proximity to mountain ranges made it relatively inaccessible, and thus, a prime place for illegal trade with English and French. During the Haitian revolution of the 19th century, Baracoa became a safe haven for French refugees who began growing cocoa and coffee in the region.
Remote and Culturally Complex
Prior to 1960, Baracoa was only accessible by sea. It wasn’t until after the Cuban Revolution that a single mountain road was constructed from Guantánamo. Today, it can also be accessed by bus from Santiago de Cuba or by plane from Havana.
While the architecture of the town can be described as scruffy and run-down, the culture and cuisine of Baracoa make it a must-visit destination in Cuba. Coconut, banana, and cacao are the specialties of this region, and it is considered Cuba’s top manufacturing area for chocolate. Among the lush greenery in the city are small restaurants and street vendors that offer distinctive specialties that utilize local crops, such as prawns in coconut sauce and banana-stuffed tamales. One particularly sought-after Baracoa specialty is the cucurucho, a sweet treat of coconut, sugar, and fruit wrapped in dried cone-shaped palm leaves.
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