The enigmatic anvil shape of El Yunque is said to have fascinated Christopher Columbus himself! Classified as a national park, El Yunque beckons visitors to discover the incredible diversity of Cuban fauna and flora.
So lace up your hiking shoes and prepare to be enchanted by the breathtaking landscapes of this lush paradise!
💡 Planning Your Trip to Cuba 💡
🇨🇺 Visa: Before you depart, be sure to apply for your tourist card (which is your visa for Cuba). You can easily order your tourist card online through CubaVisa.
🛏️ Accommodations: To book your accommodations in Cuba, the Captain recommends Expedia. In Baracoa, the Captain especially recommends 3 casas particulares/B&Bs with very good value for money (Casa Lester, Casa Las Palmeras, Hostal Rubio)
📸 Activities: To book your activities, the Captain highly recommends Civitatis.
El Yunque in a Nutshell
Situated a short distance from Baracoa (a highly recommended base for exploring the region), El Yunque can be found in the province of Guantanamo, at the westernmost part of Cuba.
Standing at an elevation of 575 meters / 1,886 ft above sea level, El Yunque, meaning “the anvil” in Spanish, caught Columbus’s attention, leading him to describe it as “a high, square mountain resembling an island.” Nestled between the Duaba and Toa rivers, El Yunque is actually a “mesa,” a mountain with a plateau formed by erosion.
The region’s tropical climate, characterized by abundant rainfall, nurtures a vibrant ecosystem. You’ll encounter numerous endemic species, including the famous tocororo, Cuba’s national bird, the zunzuncito (bee hummingbird), and polymitas, small colorful snails.
As you explore, you might even come across Taíno remains, representing the indigenous community that inhabited Cuba before the arrival of the Spanish.
Getting to El Yunque
Excursions to El Yunque
To reach El Yunque, head about 10 kilometers / 6 miles west of Baracoa.
Cubatur offers a daily excursion. Please note that a minimum of 4 participants is required for the excursion to proceed.
To ensure your visit to El Yunque, you can also book your excursion online in advance, albeit at a slightly higher cost.
👉 More information: El Yunque Day Trip
Getting to El Yunque on Your Own
Alternatively, you can rent a taxi for the day, which would cost approximately 20 CUC.
For the more adventurous, you can embark on the journey by bicycle-taxi until reaching the intersection of the Moa road and the road to El Yunque. The bicycle-taxi cannot continue further, and you’ll need to cover the remaining 4 kilometers / 2.5 miles on foot. The walk is pleasant and offers splendid views of El Yunque.
As El Yunque is a national park, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee (8 CUC to access the waterfall, 13 CUC for the ascent of El Yunque) and must be accompanied by a guide.
Ascending El Yunque
A 4-kilometer/2.5-mile trail leads to the summit of El Yunque (8 kilometers / 5 miles round trip). It takes approximately two hours to reach the top and one hour to descend.
The hike commences with crossing a ford over the Duaba River. Some sections can be challenging, particularly in hot weather, but the ascent is manageable even for less experienced hikers.
The local guides possess an intimate knowledge of the region and will tell you all about the birds, insects, and endemic plants inhabiting the area.
From the summit, the panoramic view of Baracoa, the Toa River delta, and the distant sea is truly magnificent.
On the return journey, a refreshing break by the river is a welcomed respite! You can also extend the hike to include a visit to the waterfall.
Before embarking on the ascent of El Yunque, ensure you bring a minimum of 2 liters of water per person.
With a brief break at the summit and a refreshing swim in the river, the hike can easily span 4 to 5 hours, and there are no opportunities to purchase food along the way (except for a small shop at the “campismo,” at the base of El Yunque). Therefore, it’s helpful to pack some snacks.
Lastly, don’t forget to bring your swimsuit! Taking a revitalizing dip in the Duaba River at the end of the hike is an absolute delight!
Other Excursions around Baracoa
If El Yunque leaves you longing for more outdoor adventures and you wish to explore additional hiking trails near Baracoa. Here are more options the explore Baracoa’s lush surroundings:
- Alejandro de Humboldt National Park: the Captain’s article | book your day trip
- Boca de Yumurí: the Captain’s article | book your day trip