Santiago de Cuba Province Attractions
The province of Santiago de Cuba is a naturally beautiful area with the rugged mountains of the Sierra Maestra running through this area of Cuba. The mountains provide a great place for hiking and contain some historical sites. This is where Fidel Castro located his headquarters during the Revolution, a site that is now open to visitors.However, the main highlight of Santiago de Cuba province is the capital city, also called Santiago de Cuba. It is one of the oldest cities in the country and full of culture. The July Carnival is an event to be experienced if yourcalendar permits.
Parque Baconao spans across the provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo, and lies between the town of Santiago de Cuba and the Rio Baconao. The park is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The area encompasses mountains and coastal plains with scattered gold sand beaches.Along the main highway that runs near the coast through the Parque Baconao are a number of unique attractions, including museums, outdoor natural history exhibits, artists communities, a small amusement park for children, an aquarium, and more. Inland visitors will find coffee plantations, as well as the Laguna Baconao where travelers can hire boats for tours around this inland lake.The Parque Baconao has a variety of accommodation options and facilities for travelers.
Coffee Plantations (Cafetal La Isabelica)
In the area of the Gran Piedra in Parque Baconao are a number of abandoned coffee plantations. All of the coffee plantations in this area have been listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. One plantation in particular, the Cafetal La Isabelica, is in relatively good repair and is slated for renovations with the hopes of being turned into a museum. It was owned by Victor Constantin who left Cuba at the end of the 18th Century. It's possible to walk to the Cafetal La Isabelica coffee plantation from the base of the Grand Piedra, following a walking trail. At the plantation visitors can learn about the process of coffee growing.
Gran Piedra (Jardin Botanico)
The drive to Gran Piedra, though a little hair raising, is worth the effort for the fantastic view that awaits. A 12km / 7mi road winds up through the mountains from the main coastal road in Parque Baconao, to the Jardin Botanico. The Jardin Botanico has a variety of orchids and other plants and is a pleasant place to walk. From the end of the Jardin Botanico is a seemingly never ending set of stairs that leads up the Gran Piedra. From the top are wonderful views over the mountains and coastal plains.The area is sometimes hazy in the afternoons so for the best views try to reach the top during the morning hours.
Valle de la Prehistoria
Near the Museo Nacional de Transports in Parque Baconao is the Valle de la Prehistoria. This complex displays concrete life size recreations of dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures, along with cave men. The Valle de la Prehistoria is spread out over 11 hectares and makes a good stop for anyone with children. It may be a good idea to go early due to the lack of shade that can make the park feel quite hot. If you don't feel like stopping you can still get a good glimpse of the Valle de la Prehistoria from the main road.Also on site here is the Museo de Historia Natural with natural history displays.
The Aquario Baconao, on the coast near the east end of Parque Baconao, is a nice diversion. The aquarium has a good collection of marine life, with sharks, sea lions, dolphins, and fish. There is a regular dolphin show that runs at various times throughout the day. For an additional fee visitors can get wet and swim with the dolphins. The Aquario Baconao also has a fish tunnel that guests can walk through for a close up look at the fish swimming by. The sharks are kept in a separate tank but viewing is included with the price of admission.
Granjita Siboney is the farmhouse rented by some of the rebels of the July 26, 1953 attack on the barracks at Santiago de Cuba. Abel Santamaria used this house as a base to plan the attack. Following the tragic event, this house was attacked by Batista's police. Today Granjita Siboney is a museum with information on the attack, as well as personal items of some of the men involved, and weapons. The front entrance of the museum shows bullet holes to recreate the scene that followed the attack, although these are not the original bullet holes.