Exploring The Island - West

Read more in the West section in the online Magazine: >>>> PLACES TO GO WEST

Think of sunsets, a beach culture, combine them with lush mountains and you’ll almost begin to understand the west coast.  

Porta del Sol or Door to the Sun is another name for this region. Most people on the Island escape to this region for vacationing so take the local’s advice and “Head West!”. Discover  beach towns & fishing villages unexploited by mega resorts and high rise hotels yet full of outdoor activities; surfing, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding and ecotourism. 

Nature rules southwestern Puerto Rico. Dramatic cliffs overlook half-moon beaches. A bioluminescent bay in La Parguera is neighbor to mangrove channels. In Guánica, one of the largest tracts of dry coastal forest in the world shares top billing with one of the most impressive offshore diving walls in the Caribbean. When the Spaniards first arrived they divided the island into two major ports, San Juan and San Germán. Since San Juan was fortified, San Germán became the target of many pirate attacks.

A few places to get to know the West

  • Centro Interpretativo las Salinas, Cabo Rojo
  • Bosque Estatal de Boquerón, Cabo Rojo
  • Ruinas Faro Punta Borinquen, Aguadilla
  • Domes Beach, Rincón

Editor Notes on Rincón

Rincón, located on the westernmost tip of the Island, is a diverse community of around 15,000. Ever since the World Surfing Championships were held here in 1969 it has attracted an interesting group of visitors. These have fallen in love with the area and stayed for good purchasing property, developing new businesses and making Rincón their home. English is widely spoken all over town. 

It’s also the undisputed surfing capital of Puerto Rico. Some of the most famous beaches are: Domes Beach, Sandy Beach, and Steps Beach on Routes 413 and 4413. The Tres Palmas Marine Reserve is well known for its huge waves reaching 20-30 feet in the winter storms. In the summer months, when there is no surfing, other water sports available are snorkeling, scuba, fishing, and sailing. If you stay more than a day, sunset watching will become your new ritual. 

Rincón hugs the western extension of mainland Puerto Rico and is reached by Route 115 to the north and by Route 2 from the south. Rincón is a natural and authentic seaside paradise. Here you’ll meet people from all over the world, attracted by the warm days and cool nights filled with tropical sounds and music. 

Punta Higüero Lighthouse, surrounded by a park on the peninsula of the same name, is the town’s axis for orientation. Lighthouse lovers will enjoy visiting the park, and the ocean views. Humpback whales migrate from January to March so be on the lookout for a breach. Just a bit further north is Domes Beach, an appropriate name due to the fact that there’s an inactive dome shaped nuclear reactor. Biking and walking trails that follow the old railroad tracks connect some of these beaches. To the south of the town, beaches such as Playa Córcega are more tranquil, ideal for bathing and beachcombing.  

Scuba divers and snorkelers will be at home at the Tres Palmas marine sanctuary particularly in summer months. For scuba, the must-visit destination is the uninhabited Desecheo Island, 13 miles off the coast in the Mona Passage, a heaven-on-earth wildlife preserve of pristine coral reefs, 150 foot visibility and large schools of reef fish.  

Once a rustic mecca for serious surfers, who would rent shacks on the beach, Rincón now features a whole host of short term rentals, villa apartments, boutique hotels, elegant oceanside resorts, notable cuisine, outdoor dining, and other amenities to satisfy a more sophisticated clientele. Think of a small-beach-town seasoned for upscale tastes. 

Interesting fact

In 1960 the BONUS prototype nuclear reactor was begun at Domes Beach. It operated as a small scale experimental power plant until 1968 and was then decommissioned. It’s the first nuclear reactor built in South America.