Cuba, a pulsating island of energy and passion, is renowned for its pristine beaches, historic tobacco, and vibrant music. Yet, beyond the postcard image, there are lesser-known facets and tales that enrich its cultural mosaic. 
In this article, we will unveil 5 curiosities that may surprise you and deepen your appreciation for the Caribbean's pearl.


The Hidden Treasure of Baracoa

When speaking of Cuba, attention often gravitates towards the lively streets of Havana or the seductive rhythm of Santiago, yet the island harbors a hidden gem at its easternmost tip: Baracoa.
Established in 1511, Baracoa stands as Cuba's oldest city, once accessible solely by sea or through dense mountain trails, thus preserving an isolated and untouched charm.

The city is celebrated for its lush nature and the "Cruz de la Parra", a cross believed to have been planted by Christopher Columbus during his second voyage to the New World. Though lesser-known, this historic site reveals a direct connection to the era of great geographical discoveries.

Baracoa is also famed for its unique cuisine, notably the "cucurucho," a sweet concoction of coconut, sugar, and other fruits wrapped in palm leaves. The city boasts a culinary scene that is an eclectic mix of Indigenous, African, and Spanish influences, offering visitors an authentic taste of Cuba found nowhere else.

Discussing Baracoa without mentioning its breathtaking landscapes would be incomplete, with the World Heritage-listed Rio Toa winding through Cuba's largest forest and the majestic El Yunque, an anvil-shaped mountain that dominates the horizon and offers breathtaking views to those willing to ascend its peak.

Lastly, Baracoa is a treasure trove for chocolate lovers. It stands at the heart of Cuban cacao production, and visitors can explore the plantations to see firsthand how cacao is transformed into the delicious bars we all cherish.


The 'Tinajones' of Camagüey

The 'tinajón,' a large terracotta jar typical of Camagüey, is more than just a container: it's a historical and cultural symbol of the city. According to local tradition, anyone who drinks water from a 'tinajón' is destined to stay or return to Camagüey, a legend that intertwines with the daily lives of its inhabitants.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, these massive containers were a common sight in household courtyards, used to collect and store rainwater during drought periods. Beyond their practical function, the 'tinajones' have become a symbol of Camagüey's ingenuity and resilience, reflecting the local population's spirit of adaptation and survival.

Today, the 'tinajones' are celebrated as a distinctive element of Camagüey's identity, so much so that the Boutique Hotel Apodaca12 has dedicated one of its suites to these emblematic pots. Visitors can admire the shape and function of these artisanal objects, witnesses to a centuries-old history and still today a point of reference for the community.

The production of 'tinajones' is an art passed down from generation to generation, a process that requires skill, patience, and a deep knowledge of natural materials. Visiting the workshops where these pots are still hand-shaped today offers a unique experience to understand the Cuban artisan tradition.


The Origins of the Daiquiri

The Daiquiri, known worldwide as an icon of Cuban mixology, has humbler and more interesting origins than many might imagine. This cocktail was born in the late 19th century in the mining town of Daiquirí, near Santiago de Cuba, where American engineers working in the local iron mines mixed rum, lime, and sugar to create a refreshing beverage that helped them withstand the tropical heat.

The simplicity and freshness of its ingredients allowed the Daiquiri to quickly gain popularity. It was bartender Constantino Ribalaigua Vert, of the famous "El Floridita" bar in Havana, who perfected the recipe in the early 20th century, transforming it into a symbol of Cuban savoir-faire in the world of cocktails.

Contrary to what many believe, the original Daiquiri is not the blended version that has become popular in tourist destinations but a more sober and balanced mixture, served shaken or stirred with ice and strained into a cold glass. Its preparation reflects the Cuban philosophy of making the most of simple but high-quality local resources.

The story of the Daiquiri intertwines with that of historical and literary figures, including Ernest Hemingway, who had his own favorite version of the cocktail, the "Papa Doble," sugar-free and with double the rum. This anecdote highlights not only the popularity of the Daiquiri but also its ability to adapt to personal tastes, making it a true classic.


The Desembarco del Granma National Park

The Desembarco del Granma National Park, located at the southeastern tip of Cuba, is a site of exceptional natural beauty and significant historical significance. It is named after the yacht Granma, used by Fidel Castro and his revolutionaries for their historic journey from Mexico to Cuba in 1956, an event that marked the beginning of the Cuban revolution.

This protected area is distinguished by its spectacular limestone formations called "mogotes," which rise majestically above an almost lunar-like plain, and its imposing cliffs overlooking the cobalt blue sea. The marine terraces along the coast represent one of the most important and well-preserved geomorphological systems in the world, offering a fascinating testimony to climate changes and sea level fluctuations over millennia.

In addition to its geological significance, the Desembarco del Granma National Park is a critical habitat for a diversity of flora and fauna, including some endemics found nowhere else in the world. Visitors can explore natural trails winding through lush forest, discovering hidden waterfalls and natural pools along the way.

The park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized not only for its natural value but also for its cultural significance, preserving pre-Columbian archaeological sites and evidence of the early stages of the Cuban revolution.


The Phenomenon of Paladares

One of the most fascinating aspects of Cuban culture is the emergence of "paladares," privately-run restaurants in Cuban homes. This trend, which began in the 1990s as a response to government restrictions and economic scarcity, has given rise to a vibrant culinary scene that offers an authentic and personal experience to visitors.

Paladares are much more than just places to eat; they are expressions of Cuban creativity and ingenuity, places where owners share not only food but also stories, traditions, and the warm hospitality that characterizes the island. These spaces offer tourists the chance to savor authentic home-cooked dishes, often prepared with fresh local ingredients, in a welcoming and intimate environment.

Over time, paladares have become an essential part of the tourist experience in Cuba, revaluing traditional dishes and introducing culinary innovations that reflect the island's openness to the world. From simple rice and beans menus, paladares have expanded their offerings to include seafood, international dishes, and fusion creations, thus attracting the attention of international culinary critics.

In addition to contributing to the local economy, paladares play a crucial role in keeping Cuban culinary traditions alive, passing down recipes from generation to generation. They are places where conversation intertwines with flavors, where every meal becomes a shared experience, an indelible memory of the authenticity and cultural richness of Cuba.

Paladares represent the resilience and ingenuity of the Cuban people, offering a unique glimpse into the island's daily life and its culinary evolution. For visitors to Apodaca12, exploring these hidden gems is an opportunity to deeply immerse themselves in Cuban culture, going beyond the confines of the hotel and discovering the true flavors of Cuba.


Cuba and Its Hidden Stories

The journey through these curiosities shows us that Cuba is much more than meets the eye. Every corner of the island hides untold stories, unexpected traditions, and cultural treasures waiting to be discovered. Whether you're guests at Apodaca12, history seekers, or just curious explorers, Cuba always has something new to offer, inviting us to look beyond the obvious and immerse ourselves in its hidden wonders.