Published on 5 November, 2017.
Yumuri Canyon has always been a popular excursion for travellers who come to Baracoa. That said, only a few ones make it to the 20 meters-high Belete Waterfalls.
Indeed, with its 911 hectares, the Yumuri Canyon Protected Area offers visitors everything from amazing lookout points, a boat ride on the river, bathing in emerald natural pools, bird-watching – and a 7km hike to the Belete waterfalls.
Depending on which option you go for, you can count on beautiful scenery, short to moderate hikes, a nice range of habitats with both flora and fauna endemic species to behold, clear waters to wade into and cool down, and some stretches of deep, pretty untouched rainforest on high cliffs.
At the mouth of the canyon – Boca de Yumuri
Travellers short of time or on a packed itinerary for the day usually make a brief stop at the little Boca de Yumuri community, by the very mouth of the canyon, to enjoy the scenery from a couple of remarkable lookout points.
At this spot, a bridge over the river offers a magnificent view. Further up down the road, you will take a steep, winding hill and soon you’ll find a family home. Across the street from this house is the classic lookout point folks call El Mirador de Yumurí.
A boat ride and short walk into the canyon is the most frequent choice of visitors to the Yumuri Canyon. This is quite a charming option allowing for cool bird-watching or butterflies observation opportunities, and it offers you a nice taste of this definitely scenic place. Yet, a number of our guests have felt a bit underwhelmed by the experience and were left wishing for more.
Going within – a bath in the river Yumuri’s fresh waters
If you feel like exploring the canyon, you can undertake a mid-length hike. A narrow trail on river Yumuri’s shore allows you to get a feeling of the area’s flora and fauna biodiversity.
The trail is surrounded by endemic palm trees, other tree species, ferns, medicinal plants…
The weather is hot in Eastern Cuba and you will probably want to reach the best bathing areas in the river. The waters there are a beautiful emerald colour. Some of the pools are surrounded by large rocks, some of them 3 meters-tall, from which you can dive into the river.
Biodiversity in the Yumuri Canyon Protected Area
When you take a moderate-to-long hike into the canyon, you may appreciate a wider range of flora and fauna.
A lot of the plants and trees you will come across have medicinal properties. Over the centuries and thanks to the region’s indigenous and African roots, local folks have developed a deep knowledge of such plants and trees.
The tree species in the canyon include the ocuje (Calophyllum antillanum Britt). Local folks use ocuje wood to build their rustic homes and surrounding structures. The resin is used on skin to avert tetanus after rusty metal cuts and to treat recently burnt skin. Ocuje inner bark infusions are used to treat chronic colds and to trigger expectoration.
Another tree you can find at Yumuri is the ayúa (Zanthoxylum martinicense). It has thick, conical or pyramidal thorns and thorny leaves. The ayúa too has different medical uses, many of them based on the bitter bark: to control fever, diarrhea, ulcers, tooth ache…
Are you a good observer? Prepare to see these fauna species
Bird-watching adepts will enjoy a lot their hike into the Yumuri Canyon. Some of the birds you can spot here include the tocororo (Cuban trogon, Priotelus temnurus), the cartacuba (Todus multicolor), the West Indian woodpecker (Melanerpes superciliaris) and white and blue herons, among several others.
The whole Yumuri area and the canyon itself are home to polimitas (Polymita picta), beautiful snails that live on trees. Polimitas are endemic to Cuba, and the picta variety is endemic to Baracoa. Currently considered endangered, they are known for their brightly coloured shells.
Another lovely sight in the Yumuri canyon are its butterflies. If you come here on the right day/season, you will see them swarming and mating. This can happen both close to the river’s mouth and way deeper into the canyon.
Nature and agriculture – the Mandinga-Yumuri hike
If you’re looking for a longer and more demanding hike, you have two options at the Yumuri Canyon Protected Area. One of them is an excursion combining the canyon and the Mandinga rural community area – a very interesting hike offering both the nature experience and more of a human, agricultural content. We invite you to read more about the Mandinga-Yumuri hike in a future, separate blog entry.
The full adventure in Yumuri Canyon – all the way to the Belete waterfalls!
For those who would like a full hiking and birding experience, the six-hours excursion to the Belete waterfalls is heaven. The waterfalls are located some 7km from the canyon’s mouth (for a 14km round hike).
This long walk will have you wade into the river to cross it several times – great opportunities to cool down! Over the last kilometer, you will follow along a smaller water stream and into a ravine.
As you make your way between steep, high cliffs, the flora around you will be a denser tropical rainforest. The trail almost disappears and you make your way caressed by the wet leaves of plants and trees. You will become totally drenched!
Then, at the end, the waterfalls will appear before you! Beautiful, clear streams fall some 20 meters into a natural pool surrounded by rocks and trees.
Just dive into the water! Then spend as much time as you want simply taking in the wonderful place until you decide to undertake the 7 km back to the starting point.
As you return to Boca de Yumuri, take your time to enjoy the different angles of the canyon you’ll see – we guarantee your camera won’t be idle!
Coda – Cycling from Baracoa to Yumuri? Why not!
This ride is pure candy for cycling lovers. It’s a total of 56 km round trip, but the scenery is simply beautiful. Some segments include a few long uphill stretches, but the last 15 km are quite flat, and on the final 4 km you go right by the sea – beaches, boulders, cliffs… Amazing!
Villa Paradiso offers its guests complimentary cycling maps to the region. We invite you to learn more about cyclotourism in Baracoa.
Practical information and budget details
- Yumuri Canyon is located 28 km SE from Baracoa. There is an admission point at the entrance to the protected area, at Boca de Yumurí. A guide is assigned to you – this service is included in the entrance fee.
- The entrance fee varies depending on the type of activity/hike you choose – it’s 2 CUC for the boat ride, and between 4 and 13 CUC depending on the length of the hike you plan to do. For the Mandinga-Yumuri hike or the Belete Waterfalls hike it’s 13 CUC.
- A taxi for the day from Baracoa charges around 25 CUC. If you are 4 people to take it together, then it’s 5 CUC per person.
- The boat ride and a brief stay by the river takes 30 to 45 minutes at the most. The short to moderate hikes vary, but if you decide to enjoy bathing in the river, you may end up spending anywhere between 2 and 4 hours (it’s your call, the guide will wait for you). The longer hike to the Belete Waterfalls takes between 6 and 7 hours total, depending on your pace, the number of stops you make for pictures or to get some rest, the time you spend at the waterfalls.
- If you go to the Belete waterfalls, make sure to wear appropriate hiking shoes (some stretches are rocky and quite slippery) and bring enough water to drink and something to eat (sandwiches, fruit, typical local treats such as coconut cucuruchos or almond brittle, etc.).
- Polimita snails are endangered. If local folks offer you necklaces or other objects made out of the snail shells, please refuse to buy them. There are other handcrafts, fruits, etc. you can buy from them if you want to support local folks’ income so they can benefit from a more sustainable tourism in the region.
- If you decide for a shorter exploration of the canyon, your itinerary for the day could start with a short visit to Finca Las Mujeres – a small, family-run organic cocoa farm. And after Yumuri, you may spend the afternoon at El Manglito beach. The price for the taxi for this itinerary remains the same, and the driver follows your instructions and stops and waits for you wherever you want.
- The visit to Finca Las Mujeres is free. The women there will offer you a nice talk about growing, harvesting and processing cocoa into chocolate. There is also a tasting of locally produced cacao beans and chocolate. At the end, you can buy some of their excellent cocoa products – a nice way to support this family.
- At El Manglito beach, you can have a nice meal – fresh fish or seafood (or veggies!) right by the sea. The small local restaurants may charge you roughly between 5 and 10 CUC depending on what you order. There’s snorkelling as well at El Manglito. Bring your gear – or rent it there for 10 CUC.
- Renting a good bicycle for the day in Baracoa costs between 5 and 6 CUC. Villa Paradiso can refer you to a good local bike rental shop.