Villa Paradiso

A unique bed & breakfast, a lovely guesthouse in Baracoa, Cuba

Baracoa 2018 in Review – Best Pictures, Shout-Outs and More!

Published on 21 December, 2018.

What better way to celebrate and thank our guests, partners and friends than to share our best Baracoa pictures from 2018! May this slide show reach you with our affection – you made our 2018 a very special year we will remember fondly!

Daybreak Villa Paradiso Baracoa Cuba

Baracoa – a bottomless treasure trove of wonderful experiences

In 2018 we continued sharing with you some of the most authentic experiences in our region and uncovering off-the-beaten-path, unique excursions you won’t find on travel guidebooks. Our blog, A Taste of Baracoa, has become one of the most comprehensive and detailed Baracoa travel guides available worldwide for free!

Baracoa Bay • Cuba

1. Pozo Azul

We took a 4×4 vehicle and went all the way to where Cuba begins to showcase the beautiful Pozo Azul sinkhole. Pozo Azul has been name-dropped in some solid articles aimed at adventure lovers. Its remoteness and challenging access keep it a spot only a few travelers actually get to see!

Pozo Azul • Baracoa • Cuba (Acrostichum aureum)

2. Up along river Toa to Quibiján

Another great 4×4 vehicle ride took us to Quibiján, a tiny community at the gates of the Cuchillas del Toa Biosphere Reserve. There, you can experience both the amazing endemic flora and a unique family-run permaculture farm – unforgettable views and exchanges with local ecological innovators!

Quibijan • Baracoa • Cuba

3. Hidden beaches

Beaches-wise, the last 6 km before you reach the Yumurí Canyon are rich in nice little spots. This exploration can be done cycling, starting from lovely El Manglito beach, a small fishing community where some of Baracoa’s best seafood is served at tables right on the sand.

El Manglito • Baracoa Cuba

But the stretch between El Manglito and Yumurí Canyon offers the traveller several little-visited sandy beaches and coves.

Boulders near Yumurí • Baracoa • Cuba

Thus, should El Manglito beach be too crowded, you can head to Barigua and enjoy a good massage on the beach before a nice fresh fish or seafood meal!

Spa on the beach at Barigua • Baracoa • Cuba

If you wish to see pictures of Baracoa’s other beaches, you find them at the end of this post: Cajuajo beach, Mapurisí beach and Maguana beach!

4. Ancestral rhythms and tasty countryside dishes

Lovers of traditional Cuban music should not miss Baracoa’s ancient kiribá and nengón rhythms at El Güirito hamlet – another great opportunity to engage local folk around songs, dance and delicious traditional food!

Kiriba + Nengon • Baracoa Cuba

5. Baracoa’s flora – such riches to discover!

Baracoa’s rich flora keeps pulling us to undertake new hikes to areas where we’ve never been, where we bump into the most beautiful sightings such as this panetela (Phyllanthus epiphyllanthus).

Phyllanthus epiphyllanthus • Baracoa Cuba
Phyllanthus epiphyllanthus

See, we have a current fixation with wild orchids and other endemic plants and flowers such as this lovely Epidendrum anceps orchid growing on a karst mount summit! (We also promise a post on orchids and other tropical plants in Baracoa in 2019!)

Epidendrum anceps • Baracoa Cuba (Orchid, Orquídea, Orchidée)
Epidendrum anceps

If you are also a lover of plants and trees, here’s a little secret: the uniquely Baracoan habitat called charrascal, on tough serpentine rock soil, hosts a captivating flora that’s almost always overlooked by travelers. We keep wondering why…

Charrascal • Baracoa • Cuba

6. Beautiful panoramic views

Nothing like a great lookout point for travellers seeking inspiring new horizons! Taco Bay, in the maritime portion of Alexander Humboldt National Park, is particularly photogenic.

Bahía de Taco • Baracoa Cuba

If you like hiking, you could enjoy this other view from high on a hill, between endemic plants and trees on a little-known trail in the Humboldt Park – the Loma de Piedra trail.

Loma de Piedra • Alexander Humboldt National Park • Baracoa Cuba

7. The sunsets of your dreams

Sunsets are your thing? Whatever excursion you decide to do, on your way back at the end of the day you will witness some of the most beautiful dusk views. Check out the sun setting behind La Bella Durmiente (Sleeping Beauty) mountain, another unique Baracoa landmark!

Baracoa Cuba

Or this view towards river Toa’s delta as the day goes down…

Toa • Baracoa • Cuba

8. Baracoa’s farmers – environment care, environmentalist creativity

In 2018 we featured some of the local rural leaders in the area of ecological farming whom you can visit!

Eco Farming • Baracoa Cuba

Roughly 18 km up the road along river Toa, the family-run permaculture system El Edén is nothing short of the Garden of Eden – and the owners, Oni and Pincho are not only the most welcoming people but also extremely inspiring!

Agriculture écologique • Baracoa Cuba

In Alexander Humboldt National Park we were welcomed by Caridad and Mandiel, whose family farm is a mini-industry producing natural fruit juices and vinegars, among other things. Check out their home-made juice-making equipment – built out of recovered and recycled materials!

Agroecología • Baracoa Cuba

Nearby Caridad and Mandiel’s farm, the Oliveros family excels in the production of organic fertilizers from sheep manure, harvest remains and… hurricane vegetal debris! You can come to their farm in the context of Ecotur’s agro-ecological visits to Humboldt Park!

Agricultura ecológica • Baracoa Cuba

Stay tuned for more great Cuban ecology and ecologists: people living in Baracoa’s countryside lead a life increasingly integrated with the environment, with a significant leadership role played by women.

Eco Farmers • Baracoa Cuba

As you will have noticed, whether for its ecological farms, tropical rainforests or rivers and beaches, Baracoa is a wonderful destination for family travel.

Baracoa Cuba

In 2019 we will feature blog posts on natural medicine and ancient knowledge of plants in our region, plus more about ecological best practices in Cuba, including ideas for a specifically ecotravel-focused stay in Baracoa!

9. By the way – follow us on Instagram… and Pinterest!

If you love travel pictures and want to see more of Baracoa’s nature and people, make sure to check out all our pictures in one place – follow us on Instagram!

Villa Paradiso Baracoa Instagram

Oh! And in 2019 we hope to be able to build up our presence on Pinterest too (but we need to learn the ropes first…)!

10. From all over the world – bloggers & writers visited & wrote about Villa Paradiso

Lifestyle, travel and food blogger Yasmin Dick, the thoughtful and sensible writer behind the nascent Generation Avocado made Villa Paradiso one of her top picks, writing: “Nothing has been forgotten, nothing is too much trouble; every detail of every guest’s stay is carefully considered, including the personal touch of welcoming you by name.”

Cuba travel expert Claire Boobbyer stayed with us in April as she was doing research in view of an article for Condé Nast Traveller about the best beaches in Cuba (you’ll notice that 4 out of the 10 beaches in Claire’s article are located in the Baracoa region!).

We guided Claire on a rural cycling adventure through the Yara-Majayara protected area to Boca de Boma.

Boca de Boma • Baracoa Cuba

And then we continued all the way to wild Cajuajo Beach – with a stop at Cueva del Cacique archaeological site, where she was guided by Roberto Ordúñez Fernández, the director of the Sociedad Arqueológica de Baracoa.

Archaeology in Baracoa, Cuba

French novelist Serge Legrand-Vall stayed with us for a few days. He kindly gave us an autographed copy of his novel La rive sombre de l’Èbre (The Dark Shore of the Ebro), a beautiful story set in the Spanish Civil War. His new book, Reconquista, should be out soon – we hear that Baracoa will have a bit more than a cameo in it…

Serge Legrand-Vall

Canadian chocolate travel expert Doreen Pendgracs, the author behind Chocolatour, also spent a few days at Villa Paradiso while exploring Baracoa’s rich cacao heritage and production. She kindly shared with us some incredible samples of chocolate, including a Chapon chocolate made with cacao beans from Baracoa.

Doreen also wrote about Villa Paradiso, calling it the gem of Cuba’s cocoa country! We can’t wait for her upcoming book on chocolate adventure travel across the world – which will feature Baracoa among other great cacao terroir destinations! (Make sure to check out her first chocolate travel book, a delightful and incredibly informative read for both chocolate and travel lovers!)

From Canada, we were visited by Kristen and Abel, from the wonderful sustainable travel agency WoWCuba. They had a great time exploring the Baracoa region and were extremely kind to say on their Instagram account that Villa Paradiso “are simply hospitality experts”! (Note that WoWCuba also organizes trips to Cuba for U.S. citizens!)

In late November, Southern Florida’s writer, adventurer and Cuba travel expert Heidi Siefkas decided to give herself a special birthday gift – to come explore Baracoa for her first time!

Heidi Siefkas in River Duaba • Baracoa Cuba

Heidi’s discovery trip was packed with quintessential Baracoa adventures – and she tells you all about it on her blog! And if you’re planning to visit Cuba for the first time, you will want to read the insightful (and amusing!) vignettes that compose her Cubicle to Cuba!

Heidi Siefkas • Dusk by El Yunque • Baracoa Cuba

Belgian travel blogger Sophie Lenoir, the author behind Bitten By The Bug, also visited us in December during her one-month Cuba adventure trip. We are looking forward to her insights on her Baracoa experience, in early 2019!

Last but not least, British journalist and travel writer Lydia Bell stayed at Villa Paradiso during a visit to write about Baracoa’s culinary riches. She was accompanied by British photographer Rama Knight. Stay tuned for Lydia’s upcoming article on our region’s food scene, to be featured in Food Travel magazine!

11. Sitting on top of the (TripAdvisor) world!

Our guests’ appreciation this year put us solidly on the #1 spot on TripAdvisor in travelers’ preferences for bed & breakfasts in Baracoa. And to our utter disbelief, your warm reviews led Villa Paradiso to slowly inch into the top 5 guesthouses in travelers’ preferences on TripAdvisor for the whole of Cuba! Folks – we keep pinching ourselves… Really!

Villa Paradiso Baracoa on TripAdvisor (Cuba)

12. All that social media love!

We also basked in the glow of beautiful social media love. Lots of amazing friends supported us this year as we passed 3K followers on Twitter and 800 page likes on Facebook.

These friends are numerous and we are deeply grateful to all of them – we regret not being able to mention them all. But friends – you know who you are and we love you!

Villa Paradiso was nominated to a couple of peer-recognition awards – a great way for independent bloggers to highlight other bloggers they appreciate and cherish.

The amazing and humorous Adventuring Woman from Minnesota nominated us to the Sunshine Blogger Award, and so did the ever-cheerful and fun Bonster and Chopster of Monster Voyage from the U.K who nominated us to the Versatile Blogger Award.

And from New York City, the wonderful and sustainability-oriented Musings and Adventures nominated Villa Paradiso to the Liebster Blogger Award.

In 2018, Villa Paradiso found a special connection with Australia, thanks to Cheryl and Perry of the Wicked Bubble in Port Douglas who are longstanding Baracoa lovers – and supporters! They enlisted our collaboration to write and post this lovely blog entry about Baracoa!

We couldn’t conclude this section without a shout-out to some of our favourite chats on Twitter on 2018: #CultureTrav, #FoodTravelChat, #RoadTripChat, #SundaySunsets, #FunTravelChat… And in 2019 we look forward to joining another chat we just found about – #TRLTor ‘The Road Less Traveled’ chat.

13. Coming up in 2019 (and 2020!)

Villa Paradiso’s website in Italian? Yes! In January we’ll be welcoming Elisa Merelli, from Venice, who this year made us an extremely kind and generous offer to translate all our website content into Italian – as a volunteer! How can we ever thank you, Elisa?

We also learned in 2018 that the awesome couple formed by Samantha Owen-Stoddart of SOS Travel U.K. fame and Adam Stoddart, well-known in social media as Chance to Travel, will come visit us in the second half of 2019.

Fast forward to 2020: Baracoa and Villa Paradiso will be the final stage (the cherry on the sundae!) of Monster Voyage’s epic trip to the Americas!

14. Meanwhile in Cuba… (Talking ‘Bout A Revolution!)

The Cuban “casa particular” model was created at once as a family-run economic undertaking, a supplementary form of travellers’ accommodation (besides hotels) in Cuba and (quite importantly!) as an ideal setting for visitors to exchange with Cubans and learn more about our country.

In 2018 again we were delighted to have conversations with our guests about recent developments in Cuba: yes, we got a new president: Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez. Women accounted for 53% of our representatives at the National Assembly. The Cuban doctors that Brazil’s Bolsonaro called incompetent? Well, Cuba’s international doctors brigade had been previously awarded the World Health Organization’s Dr Lee Jong-Wook Memorial Prize for Public Health!

Cuba held a widely participatory and transformative constitutional reform process, including over 130,000 local analysis and proposals meetings across the country and with a referendum coming up in February 2019 to approve the new Constitution.

Cuba Constitutional Reform

And we continued to resist the U.S. blockade against Cuba (the ‘embargo’) – enlisting support from (practically) all countries at the United Nations General Assembly.

For many of our guests, these conversations provided an opportunity to dismantle misinformation about Cuba peddled by corporate and mainstream media in many countries.

15. Here’s to a wonderful 2019!

Folks – you all brought us the best of yourselves as guests or partners – our house was often overflooded! Sometimes we were exhausted. But we always had reason to be happy and thankful – we’re fortunate that you guys stepped into our lives! Someone said that friends are like a well-maintained garden… May all our gardens flourish and thrive in 2019!

Villa Paradiso Baracoa Cuba

Biggest shout out of all to our dearest friend and colleague Gladys! Ever popular among our guests, Gladys won many hearts with her morning-like, soulful smile and kind, thoughtful and caring ways – plus, she saw growing numbers of fans of her delicious, traditionally roasted coffee! Gladys, dear – 2019 will see many more wonderful adventures together!

4x4 Adventure in Baracoa, Cuba

16. Last but not least – the beach pictures we promised above!

Let’s start with Cajuajo beach.

Cajuajo, Baracoa, Cuba

And then, Mapurisí beach.

Mapurisí, Baracoa, Cuba

And a last one from Maguana beach!

Maguana, Baracoa, Cuba

A few more thanks

Ileannes and Indira at Ecotur in Baracoa were wonderful again this year. A big thank you to Alexander Humboldt National Park and Roermi, our excellent guide during the ecological farming visit. Noel Coutin Lobaina, head of Baracoa’s Archaeological Museum, was an amazing and generous source of knowledge about the region’s endemic flora. And as always, we’re grateful to our web programmer, Roninsoft. Thank you all for making such a positive difference this year!

Activities, Baracoa, Sustainable Tourism

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Recent Comments

    • Thank you, John – glad you liked it! When you come to Cuba, please don’t hesitate to be in touch – we’ll be delighted to host you here at Villa Paradiso! A wonderful and amazing 2019 to you as well!

  • Lovely post, and thanks for the mention! I truly loved meeting you and staying at Villa Paradiso Baracoa. Your warmth and hospitality is second to none. And your insights into the region enabled me to plan the best possible itinerary that would help me make the best use of my limited time in the area. I only wish I had had more time to experience it all! All the best to you for 2019 and always.

    • Thank you so much, dear Doreen! We have fond memories from your visit – the absolutely delightful chocolate tastings, pairings & conversations and the good things we learned from you – you brought so much to our lives over a few days, the best of them all being your friendship! May 2019 bring you endless reasons to feel elated!

  • Your pictures convinced me to treat myself to a birthday adventure in Baracoa. However, I only scratched the surface on my quick trip. I can’t wait to go back and take a deeper dive. Maybe this time, I’ll bathe in the Honey River (Río Miel) and see if the story is true. Mil gracias to Manuel, Roberto, Gladys, and the entire barrio at Villa Paradiso. I hope to see you in 2019!

    • Dear Heidi,
      It was simply great that you came to Baracoa as a gift to celebrate your birthday! We keep saying that the gift was actually for us – getting to know you was just wonderful! We too hope you can come back soon for that deeper dive into the region – there’s so much to explore, discover, experience! Here’s a to 2019 full of great adventures and accomplishments!

  • Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Great to look back on Baracoa through this post. We wish you a happy, healthy, and successful 2019 🙂

    • Thank you, Anna and Ulla! We were delighted to host you this year – it was a real pleasure to get to know you! All the best for 2019 to you as well – good health, lots of love & happiness! 🙂

  • What a wonderful post about your incredibly busy year! You’re so deserving of all the accolades that are coming your way, from a place on the Top 5 Cuban guesthouse list to mentions in a number of publications and of course, blogger awards! Your blog is indeed a seminal resource for Baracoa, and becoming more so every day. You’ve taught me so much about Cuba and shown me it’s incredible beauty—I’m grateful to you for that and for your warm friendship and support. I’d love to be one of your visitors someday. Can’t wait for more on orchids!

    • Thank you so much, Cynthia! 2018 has been awesome as well because we got to know you a bit from afar, to appreciate the wonderful blog you write showcasing beautiful Minneapolis with sharp/deep info, the most enjoyable pictures, and simply great gusto! Plus – your spontaneous & generous support has been simply amazing and proof that friendship can happen in social media – your warmth, your sincere appreciation, your sense of humour and happiness – all of it! Here’s to a new year packed with more mutual learning and great content sharing! We promise you a good one on orchids, for sure! Hugs & kisses from Baracoa to you and B! Manuel & Roberto

    • So do you, Lydia dear! Thanks for your lovely visit in 2018 – we’ll keep an eye on your writing in 2019! 🙂

  • Wow, what a year Villa Paradiso has had! I am so over the moon to read of all your successes and achievements together with so many friends along the way. Thank you for sharing your home and love so widely, you are both truly remarkable people. Please give the dogs, cats, parrots and all those whom you surround yourself by a squeeze from London. I can’t wait to see what 2019 brings for your ever bigger family across the globe 🙂 xx

    • Thank you so much, Yasmin! Big squeeze back at you from all of us here in Baracoa (including Tato the dog, Plinio the cat and Lola the Parrot)! We look forward to your amazing blog posts in 2019 – here’s to great travels and experiences – and great new friends! 🙂

  • The more I read on, the more I miss Baracoa. Your pictures are amazing, they make me want to hop on the next plane and come back to explore all that natural beauty. Definitely an interesting article, and waw, you’ve been busy! You guys are doing a great job there. If you go on like that, I think you’ll have to open a second casa soon 😉 Thanks for making our stay so memorable!

    • Thanks so much, Sophie, for your kind remarks! It was such a pleasure to welcome you at our place last December!
      We were busy last year, yes – but our visitors were so amazing it just felt great to hang out with you all!
      Our best wishes of a great 2019 filled with incredible adventures!
      Manuel & Roberto

    • Thank you, Elisa! Baracoa offers lots of fun things to do, indeed! Come visit any time – we’d be delighted to host you!
      Manuel & Roberto

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