Cafetal La Isabelica
Commercial coffee plantations were first established during the colonial era on the island of Cuba. In the mid-18th century, coffee production was augmented in the south-eastern provinces by the arrival of French coffee planters fleeing the revolution in Haiti.
A unique social heritage
The development of this form of agriculture in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra mountains during the 19th and early 20th centuries is perceived to have led to the creation of a unique cultural, social and agricultural landscape. This fact was officially recognised by UNESCO in 2000, when Santiago and Guantanamo Provinces, South-Eastern Region were added to the registry of World Heritage Sites. Although coffee production has fallen in the 20th and 21st centuries, around 90% of Cuban coffee is still produced in this region. Since 2003, Cuba has certified over 4,000 hectares of organic coffee plantations which mainly serve a European export market.
The coffee plantations
The Cafetal La Isabélica is the hub of the UNESCO site and was the scene of great celebration and ceremony at the inauguration in 2000. Today, it makes a pleasant day trip into the countryside to glimpse how Cuban coffee was planted, harvested, roasted and traded by the French farmers and to learn about the enduring importance of coffee for Cuba today.
Cafetal La Isabélica is a museum housed in a striking two-story stone manor house, featuring three large coffee-drying platforms. The house was built in the early 19th century by French émigrés from Haiti. At that time there were around 60 similar such farms in the area. The house is decorated with furniture and artefacts as it would have been when it was at the centre of a working plantation. Visitors can also see the drying platforms, fields, workshops, tools and artefacts of the plantation. There are limited signs, so it's worth hiring a guide to explain the history. Visitors can wander around the grounds unhindered and enjoy the pine forests that surround it.
The museum is reached via a 2km trek from La Gran Piedra (the Big Rock), which makes it easily combinable as part of an excursion to both.
Get InspirationAll about where to go and what you can do
Visitors to the Plaza de San Francisco de Asis in Old Havana, Cuba will be delighted by the history, artwork, and acoustics of the Basilica de San Francisco de Asis, which is home to the Museo de Arte Religioso and Camerata Romeu (an exclusive female orchestra). Catch one of the amazing musical performances or tour the convent to see memorials of notable people of the past and truly appreciate the grand columns and stone flooring in this Catholic Franciscan place of worship.
The mystery hidden within its walls, secrets left untold until modern times, and its title as one of the oldest star forts in the Americas make Castillo de la Real Fuerza a must-see stop on your tour of Havana, Cuba. You'll love making your way through the paths to the centre of the fortress, which was originally built for keeping watch for invaders. At more than 400 years old, you'll have plenty to talk about when you return home after visiting this astonishing site and its impressive layout.
Some 16 kilometres south of central Santiago sits the Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, often called el Morro but not to be confused with the similarly-nicknamed fort in Havana. The structure is now home to a fine museum, but it's even more widely recognized for its ambitious design, its striking placement bordering sheer cliffs, and the mesmerizing views it offers of the bay and out further to sea.
Explore cuba your wayTailor made cuba holidays
For those who prefer to travel at their own pace or to explore places not included in the brochure itineraries, we have years of experience at organising tailor-made holidays.
Create the perfect trip with the help of our specialists
Our expert tour consultants will be pleased to suggest ideas to complement your own and to organise the most appropiate programme to suit your interests, time and budget.