The colors of the Puerto Rico West Coast don’t end where land meets sea, but carry on into the spectacular array of sea life that populates its bays. For diving enthusiasts and keen snorkelers, these crystal clear waters can bring you face-to-face with a sea turtle or puffer fish. Unforgettable experiences are to be had year round on the coast where the sun never stops shining.
There is a reason why Puerto Rico West Coast is nicknamed “Porta del Sol”; this coast is epitomised by it’s dazzling beaches, great surf and their laid-back attitude to life. Facing the Caribbean Sea, the West Coast boasts year-round sun and warmth. For those dreaming of a vacation rich in nature and wildlife, the West Coast possesses some of the finest flora and fauna, not to mention to great variety of species; ranging from bats and snakes in the underground caves, to the Mona ground iguana and yellow-shouldered blackbird on Mona Island (the Galapagos of the Caribbean). There are new experiences to be had on land and by sea, making this the perfect holiday destination for those looking for a relaxed atmosphere to try something new.
The fusion of Taino Indians, Spanish, African and more recently American influences, has resulted in a Puerto Rico that is rich in not only history but culture as well. This is evident in ‘La Cocina Criolla’ cuisine, which literally expresses the huge variety of traditions that come together in the recipes. The original Taian yuca and corn was introduced to novel Spanish ingredients, which included, garlic, cilantro and olives. Mixing these ingredients with the African Slave trade favourite cooking technique, frying, has led to a veritable ‘melting pot’ of recipes and tradition.
Puerto Rico is not only colorful regarding its cuisine but it is also rich in its folkloric history, many stories dating back to Taian indigenous tribes. The colorful architecture is synonymous with the island’s colonial history, the pastel-colored buildings, with elaborate balconies and meandering, cobblestone streets transports you straight into Andalucian Spain.
The local festivals provide the perfect opportunity to appreciate the variety of local music. Again, Puerto Rico’s rich history has led to amalgamations and alterations of traditional instruments; the Spanish classical guitar has been edited into numerous instruments, each producing its own iconic tone and pitch. Also popular on the island are percussion instruments, synonymous with the African slave trade, such as maracas.
This varied cultural mix on Puerto Rico provides an unforgettable learning experience alongside the wealth of activities and wildlife that encompass it.
The entire West Coast is a hub of fun and varied activities but each town offers it own quirks and attractions, enticing diverse adventure-seekers.
Aguadilla: take a break from the hustle and bustle and make your way through a forest to the secluded Survival Beach and explore the crystal clear waters of the caves. Crashboat beach provides a contrasting mood where you can enjoy the vibrant local music and food vendors. Don’t miss the chance to seek out the best spots of the ‘barrio’ on horseback.
Rincon: although famous for its surf spots, Rincon also boasts beaches providing other watersports, including paddleboarding, snorkelling, diving and fishing. The historic yet still fully functional, Punta Higuera Lighthouse and surrounding park offers magnificent views of the coast where sometimes humpback whales come to play.
Mayaguez: considered the ‘capital’ of the West, Mayaguez offers the Plaza de Colon as its cultural epicentre. Many celebrations take place here throughout the year, and at Christmas you can expect to find the square buzzing with lights, music and food vendors. The fountain commemorating Christopher Columbus is also worth checking out. For the experienced diver, this is an important departure point for reaching Mona Island.
Cabo Rojo: The reddish water in this area where the Salt Flats are situated provides the origins of the name for this western coastal town. These Salt Flats are a key tourist attraction of the area and serve as a brief pause on the route to Los Morillos Lighthouse.
Lajas: the main allure of Lajas is the waterfront town of La Parguera where you can find not only local artisan produce but underwater adventure. Scuba lovers can ‘Dive the Wall’ and swim with moray eels, sea turtles and a rainbow of sea life.
Despite the regular pothole and bump in the road, driving is the most efficient way to make the most of your trip to the West Coast of Puerto Rico. If you intend on visiting multiple places along the coast, whether it be the dazzling beaches or sprawling countryside, travelling by car is the only way to make it accessible. The island certainly lacks in public transport what it makes up for in natural and cultural diversity.
For the keen cyclist, bikes are available to rent in the main tourist areas; however it is not recommended to cycle on main roads as it has never been a popular means of transportation on the island and therefore the road systems are not accustomed to this use.
If you want to take a broader view of the island, domestic flights are available between the islands’ capital San Juan and Mayaguez on the West Coast.
The island, West Coast specifically, is glorious to visit all year round, especially if you’re trying to escape a colder climate. Peak season for Puerto Rico is December to March, when the island is at it’s sunniest and driest but also its busiest; for this reason mid-April to June is recommended for those sun-seekers looking to avoid the crowds. As with all Caribbean islands, September – November is the hurricane/rainy season and therefore although the heat and humidity is fairly guaranteed, a spot of rain may be added to your trip. The winds of the hurricane season generally don’t reach the Puerto Rico West Coast and therefore during summer months, temperatures can peak at 100F.