A fantasy land of crinkled mountains and exuberant foliage, the Cuban Guantánamo remains a galaxy away from modern America in ambience. That doesn't stop most people associating it with the United States Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, which continues in operation, though downsized. Off the base, the region’s isolated valleys and wild coastal microclimates (arid in the south, lush in the north) are Cuba at its most mysterious and esoteric. Herein lie primitive musical subgenres, little-known Afro-Cuban religious rites, and echoes of an indigenous Taíno culture supposedly wiped out by the Spanish centuries ago – or so you thought.
Though brutally battered by Hurricane Matthew in October, 2016, Baracoa and its rural surroundings remain the regional highlight, closely followed by the vibrant endemism of the semivirgin Parque Nacional Alejandro de Humboldt. Further west, the city of Guantánamo, perennially bypassed by most travelers, represents the Cuba rarely tasted by tourists.