Cuba may be opening up to U.S. trade and travelers, but the island nation is still facing a number of challenges, including the prevalence of canned and processed culinary ingredients over fresh ones. Because of import limitations, it’s not always easy to find flavorful (and healthful) meals here—which may explain why many travelers claim their best meal in Cuba was at El Paraiso.
Founded in 2005 by a local family, and set in the Valley of Silence near the city of Viñales, this lush organic farm boasts rows of vegetable and herb gardens; fruit trees; chicken, pig and rabbit pens; and much more. The restaurant, added in 2011 and set in the charming farmhouse, where guests sit on wraparound porches surrounded by panoramic views to dig into multicourse, family-style meals that let the stellar ingredients shine, pairs dishes with the famous “Anti-Stress” cocktail, a combo of mint, basil, anise, yerba buena and coconut milk, with Cuban rum added to taste.
El Paraiso has become a national model for organic farming and community partnerships (the owners donate a portion of the harvests to area daycare and retirement facilities)—so hopefully soon, these type of fresh meals will be more common. Open for tours, lunch and dinner; book through intrepidtravel.com.
Sandra Ramani, Organic Spa Magazine
August 2, 2016