Published on 3 March, 2018.
Now that you’ve made it to Baracoa, why not venture to the island’s tip, where Cuba begins, where the sun rises? Punta de Maisi lies at the country’s frontier, facing the Windward Passage – and very nearby lies wonderful Pozo Azul.
Only a minute proportion of travellers explore the region beyond the Yumuri Canyon. Very few know that, from there, it’s only 30 km to the lighthouse that marks the easternmost tip of the island and to an off-the-beaten-track and very gratifying adventure – the trail that leads to Pozo Azul.
Beyond Yumuri, where almost no one goes
A new road connects the Yumuri Canyon with the town of Sabana. A lookout point has been set up on it, allowing you to take on a view of all of Baracoa’s northern coast, with mounts El Yunque and Sleeping Beauty in the horizon.
When you cross the bridge over river Yumuri, you leave the Baracoa municipality behind to enter the Maisi municipality. The geographical and human landscape changes, as Maisi comprises karst terraces with a flora of bushes and cacti. Mostly rural, the population grows mainly root vegetables such as taro (Colocasia esculenta), cassava (Manihot esculenta), sweet potatoes (Ipomœa batata) and yam (Dioscorea rotundata and cayenensis).
The Punta de Maisi Lighthouse
After you pass the town of La Máquina, Maisi’s municipal head, you’ll start descending from one geological terrace to the next and soon you’ll be able to see the coast line where Cuba ends – or begins!
At Punta de Maisi, a lighthouse was completed on November 19th, 1862 to help ships sailing at night. For Cubans, the Maisi Lighthouse is highly symbolic – when you reach it, you will have covered Cuba’s territory till one of its ends.
At 37 meters (roughly 115 feet) high, the Lighthouse is visible at night from a distance of 27 nautical miles.
Right in front of the Maisi Lighthouse lies the Windward Passage. At the other side of this strait, some 80 km (roughly 50 miles) away, stands Haiti. Lighthouse workers will tell you that, on a clear day, you can see the Haitian mountains from here.
The trail to Pozo Azul
Right before you arrive at the Maisi Lighthouse, a northbound-street leads to the starting point of the 12 km-long Pozo Azul Trail. Managed by the Empresa Agroforestal Maisí, the trail comprises a rural road that is extremely difficult to travel by car. It’s on a rocky surface, very irregular – only certain types of 4×4, all-terrain vehicles can complete it.
The trail makes its way on the lowest geological karst terrace, closely following the cliff that separates it from the second one.
All along the road you will appreciate this cliff on your left-hand side, with its capricious rocky shapes including caves, stalactites and stalagmites.
It’s really worth doing at least a part of this trail by foot. The zone is ideal for butterfly observation.
The local flora is very interesting – and you’ll be able to observe polimitas (Polymita picta, Polymita brocheri brocheri and Polymita brocheri cuestana, colourful endemic snails) and birds such as cartacubas (Todus multicolor), parrots and herons, among others.
Half-way through – a lookout point
At km 6 on the Pozo Azul trail, a lookout has been set up offering a beautiful panoramic view. To reach it, the Empresa Agroforestal Maisí has installed a wooden ladders system allowing you to hike up the cliff to reach the second geological terrace.
As you hike up these ladders, you’ll go through caves until you reach the lookout, built out of wood as well.
From the lookout point you will enjoy wide views of the lower geological terrace, covered in a dense, green vegetation. At a distance, the sea…
Even though the ladders leading to the lookout are not exhausting or anything, once you make it to the top and when you look downwards, you’ll notice you’ve gone up dozens of yards.
At the end of the trail, an oasis carved out in the rocks
Pozo Azul is a sinkhole or doline created by the action of water from an underground river that runs across a cave system. The water is lightly salty, as the river connects with the sea.
As you get near it between rocks and trees, you’ll be captivated by the sight of a water surface in tones varying from turquoise to emerald.
A system of wooden bridges and handrails leads you to the two areas of Pozo Azul. One of them is surrounded by ferns and is less deep. Emerald green shades predominate here, contrasting with the beige and tan tones of the rocks at the bottom.
The other area is deeper, and it’s mostly surrounded by a high, white limestone cliff separating the lower from the middle geological terraces.
Here you’ll see plants such as agave, besides the ferns. The predominant tone in this area of Pozo Azul is a deep turquoise blue.
You can bathe or swim on both areas of Pozo Azul’s cool waters. You’ll notice there are fish as well as shrimp and crabs between the rocks at the bottom. And, most probably, there’s nobody else in this place but you and your adventure companions!
Practical information and budget tips
- The excursion to Pozo Azul can be organized by Ecotur in Baracoa. Its price for two people is 64 CUC per person including transportation, guide service, snack and entrance fee. (Please note: this price may vary in the future, as the excursion is being re-designed.)
- If you go to the trail using your own transportation, the entrance fee to the Pozo Azul Trail is 10 CUC per person. This entrance fee must be paid in advance at Ecotur in Baracoa or at the office of the Empresa Agroforestal Maisí, at the motel right by the Maisí Lighthouse.
- The main difficulty is to find an adequate vehicle for the Pozo Azul Trail. A good jeep can be hired for the day from Baracoa. The price may vary between 60 and 65 CUC.
- Given the difficult nature of Pozo Azul Trail, its 12 km are covered in 1.5 hours (one way). It is important to depart from Baracoa early, considering the time it takes for this road to be covered.
- We recommend you take a sandwich and some fruit with you.
- At Punta de Maisi, by the Lighthouse and the beach, there is a motel (with several cabins, a pool, a bar and a cafeteria) where you can have something to drink (a soda, coffee, etc.) and get something to eat such as cookies or the like before you undertake the Pozo Azul Trail.
- At this time, foreigners are not allowed to climb to the top of the Maisi Lighthouse, but we’re told there are plans to include this as part of authorized excursions in the future.
- The Pozo Azul Trail is a beautiful yet delicate place. It requires from us an ecological awareness and lots of care to experience it. We invite you to learn more about sustainable tourism in the Baracoa region.