When you take a trip out west to the area known as Porta del Sol, make sure you discover its major attractions: The legendary Panadería bakery in Quebradillas. Isabela, Aguadilla, Rincón (with its lighthouse park) and Añasco offer some of the world’s great surfing areas and beaches. The small towns of Moca, Aguada and Hormigueros are known for their beautiful handicrafts. San Sebastian, Las Marías and Maricao represent fascinating examples of the mountainous towns dedicated to agriculture. In the port city of Mayagüez, you can enjoy a first-rate zoo, historic theater and beautiful city plaza. The Cabo Rojo area (Joyuda, Boquerón, El Combate and Mona) entices visitors with its beautiful beaches, excellent seafood and the Boquerón Wildlife refuge, a paradise for bird-watchers. Unique architecture helps to define San German; its neighbor Sabana Grande is considered the gateway to the Luis Muñoz Marín Panoramic Route. Lajas (a major pineapple producer) includes La Parguera, which attracts divers and water sports fans. And Guánica offers nature trails in the Guánica Dry Forest (a World Biosphere Reserve) and the clear waters of Gilligan’s Island. Throughout the area, you will find a good supply of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company’s approved small inns and restaurants—the Paradores and Mesones Gastronómicos.
Lajas: La Parguera
This small village has some of Puerto Rico’s premier attractions: world-class diving, the nature reserve and a bioluminescent bay. Combining some of the clearest waters and best wall diving, this area is not to be missed by the serious diver. The nearby bioluminescent bay (Bahía La Parguera), like the one in Vieques, is best seen on a moonless night. Any number of boats can take you from the main dock to Bahía La Parguera to watch the dinoflagellates (by the millions) emitting flashes of light that give the water a ghostly glow whenever they are disturbed. If that is not enough, you can go kayaking in the Boquerón Forest mangroves west of town, join in one of the nature tours, try bird-watching, go deep-sea fishing, suit up and snorkel or just hang out at one of the small islands south and east of the village that the locals favor on the weekends. Of course, the local seafood is excellent.
Explore the West, Porta del Sol CABO ROJO LIGHTHOUSE
Explore the West, Porta del Sol
Cabo Rojo (AD/1)
Cabo Rojo includes Boquerón, El Combate and Joyuda areas. Each of the areas has its own special flavor. The area is known for raw oysters as well as a wide variety of seafood coming into the Puerto Real fishing port and served up fresh in the local restaurants.
There is a beautiful beach, Playa de Guajataca, just west of town. The beach may be seen from the overlook on Rt 2 by the Paradores. There is an old sugarcane railroad tunnel at the west side, but the water is reputed to be too rough for swimming.
The Isabela trolley takes you to points of interest throughout the area such as Guajataca Tunnel, El Pastillo Beach, El Pozo de Jacinto and Villa Pesquera beach. The Guajataca Forest has a new trail system that is well worth a stop. At the small ranger station you can pick up a trail map for an excellent self-guided tour.
Aguadilla is known as the ”Garden of the Atlantic.“ The name comes from the colorful sponges and marine life prevalent in this area. It is also internationally known for its world-class surfing beaches.
Aguada is the Island’s second oldest settlement. Proof of this is the Ermita Espinar Ruins. It was built on behalf of Nuestra Señora de la Inmaculada Concepción and is evidence of the effort to convert the Taíno Indians.
The city ”Where the Gods Died.“ Taíno Indians drowned a Spanish soldier to prove the Spaniards were not gods. With proof in hand, this led to the Indian rebellion of 1511. Today Añasco is known for its ”hojaldre cake“ (filled with brandy and spices) and the second largest plaza on the Island.
One of the premier coffee-raising areas in Puerto Rico. Home to the annual Maricao Coffee Festival, the Maricao Fish Hatchery and the Maricao Forest Reserve (a good example of a cloud forest).
Mayagüez is the Island’s third largest city. Its elegant plaza has a stone walk, fountain, benches and a statue of Christopher Columbus on a globe pedestal. Walk west on McKinley St. one block from the plaza to view the Teatro Yagüez. The newly renovated zoo, the only one in Puerto Rico, is a great place for the kids.
In the center of town you will find the Basílica Menor Nuestra Señora de la Monserrate. The church was erected to celebrate the legend of the intervention of Nuestra Señora de la Monserrate to save the life of a peasant.
This area is known as the ”Milla de Oro del Buen Comer“ (The Gourmet Golden Mile) because of the strip of seafood restaurants along the waterfront road. There is a tiny island offshore, Isla Ratones, which is reached from a small dock on Rt. 102.
This area is an excellent place to unwind and enjoy a slower pace. It contains the office for the Boquerón Forest. The forest occupies a good area south of Boquerón as well as a major section of land running west of La Parguera to the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse.
El Combate (AE/1)
You will find restaurants on the road and the beach area at the end of Rt. 3301. This beach, also called El Combate, is now part of the Boquerón Forest Reserve. Go farther south to reach the salt flats and the 1882 Cabo Rojo Lighthouse.
San Germán (AD/2)
Founded in 1510, the town features an unusual two-plaza layout with a church on the east plaza and another church (the Porta Coeli) on the west plaza. The Porta Coeli Church, founded in 1606, is one of the oldest churches in the western hemisphere.
Rincón Surfing Beaches, Rincón
Rincón, the town of ”Bellos Atardeceres“ (beautiful sunsets), is so well known in surfing circles that it is mentioned in the Beach Boys’ tune Surfing Safari. One of the main attractions is the restored Rincón Lighthouse and Park. This park has an eco-friendly gift shop and a snack bar. More importantly, it is set right in the middle of some of the best surfing in the world. You can stand at the park and watch the surfers go at it. Often there are formal contests held on the beach just north of the park (Spanish Wall to Sandy Beach). Walking a short distance to the south, you will find more surfers and seaside snacks. Humpback whales may be seen in the winter from the shore (they come quite close to the lighthouse). The best chance of seeing a whale is from late January through late February, though there is no guarantee and the whale-watching season varies. Divers and snorkelers should consider a trip to Desecheo Island, due east of Rincón. This reserve has some of the most spectacular diving in Puerto Rico. On the southwest corner of Desecheo you will find a small and protected cove with excellent snorkeling and diving. The dive boats often tie up in this cove. Around the island the visibility is excellent, normally exceeding 100 feet. Some of the over 20 dive sites include the dives on the Yellow Reef pinnacle and the reef formation just offshore. You will find coral arches as well as staghorn and brain coral formations. This area is teeming with fish, and once in a while, a turtle wanders through.
Parque de las Cavernas del Río Camuy, Camuy
Explore the North
In the North, just outside of San Juan, are the towns of Dorado (a golfer’s dream), Toa Alta (home of the musician Tomás ”Masso“ Rivera), Toa Baja (Balneario Punta Salinas), Vega Alta (Vega Alta Forest), Vega Baja (Reserva Natural Laguna Tortuguero), Manatí (the Athens of Puerto Rico) and Barceloneta (with the Cambalache Forest mountain bike trails). Farther away, the northwestern towns of Camuy, Hatillo and Arecibo offer prime tourist attractions, such as the Parque de las Cavernas del Río Camuy and the largest radio telescope in the world in Arecibo.