Villa Paradiso Baracoa — The Gem of Cuba’s Cocoa Country

Some people think I spend too much time on social media. But if I hadn’t participated in the #FoodTravelChat on Twitter earlier this year, I never would have connected with Roberto Jovel, an El Salvadorian now living with his Cuban partner Manuel Riquenes in Baracoa, a small town in the heart of Cuba’s Cocoa Country. Roberto and Manuel are the owners and hosts of a Casa Particular called Villa Paradiso Baracoa, a guesthouse located in the heart of Eastern Cuba.

villa-paradiso-baracoa

The views at Villa Paradiso Baracoa are lovely, offering both views of the town and of Miel bay.

villa paradiso baracoa is a beautiful casa particular in eastern cuba

I’d never stayed at a Casa Particular before, though I have stayed at B&B’s and guesthouses in various places including Maui and Costa Rica. A Cuban Casa Particular can be either. It can be a simple room in someone’s house as in a B&B or the AirBnB concept. Or it can be quite elaborate accommodations with incredible dinners at an additional cost, as in the case of Villa Paradiso Baracoa. The basic room charge is about $20/night. What a deal!

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Manuel is always up early, cutting up fresh fruit and preparing breakfast for guests of Villa Paradiso Baracoa.

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The second floor outdoor space at Villa Paradiso Baracoa offers great views while you enjoy your breakfast or dinner.

I was very pleased with my accommodations at Villa Paradiso Baracoa and stayed in two different guestrooms during my five-night stay. Both were terrific, with views of the town and Miel Bay. It was spotlessly clean and quiet, with an international clientele to share stories with. During my stay, I met other travellers from France, Switzerland, and Italy. (Roberto speaks fluent English, Spanish, and French.) There are three guest rooms in total that can accommodate up to eight people.

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The art at Villa Paradiso celebrates the culture of Eastern Cuba.

There are many gorgeous pieces of art hanging throughout the Casa Particular, giving the main part of the house a gallery-like feeling. But Villa Paradiso didn’t start out that way. Roberto and Manuel personally guided the renovation process from an ordinary and fairly modest house in the area, to the masterpiece it is today.

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This photo was sent to me by Roberto, and shows the construction of the main floor balcony at Villa Paradiso Baracoa.

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Roberto and Manuel adapted the concrete staircases to the limestone rocks at Villa Paradiso. That was no easy task! This one leads up to the Gazebo up the hill that is available for shared use. If you have trouble navigating stairs, this is not the place for you.

Roberto and Manuel adapted concrete staircases to the limestone rocks at Villa Paradiso. That was no easy task, as the villa is situated on very uneven terrain. And they hand painted all the locally made rattan and wood furniture. It is truly a labour of love. But word is getting out! Villa Paradiso Baracoa was even full during the hot humid summer (I visited in July.) So be sure to reserve your room as far in advance as possible.

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Roberto (left) and Manuel are super nice guys and the superb hosts of Villa Paradiso.

I truly want to thank Roberto and Manuel for inviting me to come stay at Villa Paradiso. It was one of the highlights of my visit to Eastern Cuba. And thanks again to the Cuban Tourist Board for orchestrating my itinerary, financing my travel costs, and providing me with a driver and translator/guide for the entirety of my trip.

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Baracoa is in the heart of Cuba’s cocoa growing country.

Have you been to Baracoa? Have you investigated Cuba’s Ruta del Cacao? Have you been lucky enough to stay at Villa Paradiso Baracoa? Please join the conversation. And stay tuned for more about my journey through Eastern Cuba.

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

54 Responses

  1. Giselle Merke says:

    Very beautiful views from the second floor. It looks like a wonderful place to eat dinner after a long day exploring.

  2. Sue Reddel
    Twitter:
    says:

    So glad you participated in #foodtravelchat and met the guys from Villa Paradiso Baracoa. Our goal on the chat is two connect people with destinations that highlight culinary adventures. Looks like you had just that with our friends in Cuba.

    • You are SO right, Sue. Can you remind me and others when the FoodTravelChats run on Twitter? I don’t think you send out the auto-reminder that some of the other groups do, and so I often miss them. Thx for stopping by the site, and for being the catalyst that fuelled my trip to Eastern Cuba. 🙂

  3. Cuba has long been on my bucket list, and now Villa Paradiso Baracoa is, too! Thanks for sharing your experience, Doreen–it helps a lot since so few people I know have visited Cuba. Having visited El Salvador, I would love to learn about Roberto’s experiences in the two countries. Looks like I will need to plan a visit!

  4. This looks like an incredible place to have as your base for exploring this part of Cuba. I’m sure the hospitality shown by your hosts to the international guests they attract (wow, to be fluent in several languages!) contributed to your positive review of Villa Paradiso Baracoa.

  5. Kathy Andrew
    Twitter:
    says:

    Wow, this looks amazing Doreen, and how great to find such a great place run by two gay men in Cuba. Between the food and the views, I’m putting it on my list.

  6. Linda Strange says:

    I’ve never been to Cuba; but Villa Paradiso Baracoa looks like a wonderful, relaxing place to stay.Your comments on the cleanliness, good food and a multi-lingual host are most appealing!
    Your return trip needs to be in winter, yes?

    • Hi, Linda. I think you would love Cuba because of the amazing music. I will have something on that in a future post. Yes, perhaps another trip to Cuba during winter would be amazing. But I have so many other places I really need to visit. Which is why volume II of Chocolatour is taking much longer than anticipated.

  7. Linda Paul
    Twitter:
    says:

    This looks like a paradise, for sure! Love the photos.

    Social media can be both blessing and blasphemy. I think a lot of the outcome has to do with how we engage and how far down the rabbit hole we allow ourselves to go. With moderation, social media extends our reach and broadens our world in miraculous ways, as you so richly discovered!

  8. Catarina says:

    Villa Paradiso Baracoa seems like a fantastic place. I fully understand that you loved staying there. Such houses are much more interesting to stay in than yet another five star hotel.

  9. Such an amazing adventure you must have had in Cuba’s cocoa country. Staying at Villa Pardiso Baracoa looks like a gem, especially with the gorgeous views it affords. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Looks like the Villa Paradiso Baracoa is truly a labor of love between Roberto and Manuel. And that love is more than enough to create a masterpiece and a continuing delightful service. You are lucky to have been able to stay there! And the price is so right!

  11. Donna Janke
    Twitter:
    says:

    Villa Paradiso Baracoa looks like a great place to stay. I’ve never stayed at a Casa Particular, but think I would look for that type of accommodation should I make another visit to Cuba.

  12. noel says:

    This looks wonderful – I would love to visit and stay in this area some day. Your hosts look very friendly and wonderful art enthusiasts, which I love hanging out with.

  13. You cannot please everyone Doreen and I am sure you will not even attempt to. You are focused and can see the bigger picture.

    The accomodation you stayed in (Villa Paradiso) looks as if it embraces the culture; from the art on the wall to the exotic fruits served for breakfast. I would take this over a standard uniform hotel any day of the week.

  14. Sue Reddel tried to post this comment and it wouldn’t take, so she’s asked me to post it here for her: “Doreen, here’s the comment I tried to enter: #FoodTravelChat is on Twitter every Wednesday at 8 pm ET. We are happy to send folks reminders and have two easy ways to make that happen. Interested food travelers can check out the link below.
    http://www.foodtravelist.com/spotlight/join-us-foodtravelchat/
    Join Us For #foodtravelchat
    Every Wednesday night Food Travel Chat at 8pm ET/7pm CT/5pm PT on Twitter for an hour under the hashtag #FoodTravelChat to chat about Food Travel. foodtravelist.com

  15. We would like to thank Doreen and #FoodTravelChat for the wonderful experience! Meeting and hosting Doreen has been a highlight for us this year. She’s a lovely individual whose presence in our house was simply delightful – and of course she loves sharing her knowledge of chocolate, which included tastings (right here on our terrace with the sea view!) of some great chocolates by different artisan chocolatiers from various countries. We learned lots and truly appreciated Doreen’s conviviality, sense of humour and charm (you can tell she must be a great hostess herself!). For those of you who commented on Doreen’s post expressing an interest in visiting us here in Baracoa – thank you so much and we’ll be certainly pleased to welcome you at Villa Paradiso!

  16. Nancie
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’ve not been to Cuba. Should I visit (and there’s a good chance I will, now that I’m back in Canada), Villa Paradiso Baracoa will be on my radar. Thanks for the tip about booking early.

  17. If you weren’t a writer on social media, we wouldn’t have met! Isn’t it wonderful to discover a place built and managed with loving care? I felt that way at La Torretta in Manarola, Italy. They become magical memories.

  18. Wendy Peck says:

    Looks like you landed in a winning place. I was in Cuba in February, and stayed in three separate apartments. I’m much less social than you, so that was perfect for me. In all cases, the whole unit was mine, and I had a breathtaking view and deck in Matanzas. My Havana place was cute and cool, and right smack in the heart of Habana Veijo. I felt like the only tourist on the street. I had my own little cafeteria on the corner. They let me take the plate to my apartment and return it the next morning. My final spot was in Santa Marta, a quick bike ride from Varadero. Tiny little cottage with a huge yard, table, swing, etc. to expand the living area.

    I will go back, and will do exactly what I did this time. It was gritty, close-to-the-ground travel, definitely behind the well-crafted tourist view of Cuba. The people were amazing for the most part, and really love Canadians. I had one guy on the street ask me where I was from. When I said Canada, he grinned widely and gave me an enthusiastic thumbs up. Great time.

  19. Claire says:

    Looks like an excellent place to stay in! It always helps to have a friendly and approachable host to make a trip even more memorable! Cheers!

  20. I’ve been wanting to go to Cuba for years – I really need to get there while it’s still such good value and relatively uncrowded. Villa Paradiso looks like a wonderful place to stay.

  21. Cuba is on my travel list. I remember the first time i come to know about the country was via this movie called “Soy Cuba” Hopefully, some day i shall visit.

  22. Oh, Man! Now I REALLY want to get back to Cuba, pronto, to enjoy the Baracoa route and this villa. What a find, and such a nice story you’ve presented. Will pin, too.

  23. Lori
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’m so bookmarking this for our future trip, Doreen. It looks like a great place! Everything I would be looking for in a first trip. Thanks so much for sharing!

  24. neha
    Twitter:
    says:

    That view from the balcony is so mesmerizing Doreen. I don’t know when I will get to visit this part of the world, but when the time comes, I will definitely like to check this place. The hospitality was also very warm it seems.

  25. That’s when social media really shows its benefits — when you can meet someone that leads to a great experience like you had in Cuba. Villa Paradiso looks like a place I could spend some time especially on that terrace with a view.

  26. Ami Bhat
    Twitter:
    says:

    Love the rustic feel of the place. And the fact that it is clean and organized makes it all amazing. You are quite lucky to experienced it for yourself. I kinda envy you – not just for this place but for the visit to Cuba

  27. Sandy N Vyjay
    Twitter:
    says:

    I had never known what a Casa Particular meant, so this is some learning for me. The Villa Paradiso Baracoa looks enchanting. I particularly like the place where breakfast and dinner are served. Must be such a lovely experience to have a leisurely meal while feasting on those amazing views. Your posts about Cuba have really unveiled the lesser known facets of the country.

  28. Pankaj Yadav says:

    Cuba is on my travel list. Thanks so much for sharing!

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