This page provides maps, photos © and directions for visiting areas
showing the beauty of the Island and places of importance to our students.
(Scanned materials are credited where known. Please respect ©s)
Going west from San Juan on highway 22 which later turns into route 2, one of the first chances to get back to the coast is at Vega Baja. At the end of highway 686 going north is Playa de Vega Baja. This beach sits on top of a coral reef and is graced with palm trees which shade it. Groups of local fishermen can often be found fishing the surf here.
Route 686 continues west along the coast weaving in and out of pasture land and then returning to the ocean at Playa Mar Chiquita. The rock formations found at Punta Puerto Nuevo, half way between the two beaches, create a giant jacuzzi in front of the beach as waves swirl between the rocks. From the west end of route 686, take route 685 south back to highway 2 for four miles before heading north back to the coast at Imbery on route 684.
Route 684 north follows the river through farmland and ends at Palmas Altas where the coast road continues as route 681 towards Arecibo. The beaches along route 681 are not protected and large waves roll in from the north. While surfers enjoy these waters, they ofen are not safe to swim in due to large waves and strong currents. A boat was washed ashore and is now a testament to the ocean's fury.
Route 681, a beautiful drive, goes past Cueva del Indio, a cave known for its cave-drawings. It then turns inland at Arecibo, a major manufacturing center. The large Arceibo Observatory lies 20 miles south of town in the lush mountainous area. Enjoy the city, or continue on to Camuy and the lighthouse that guards its beach at Point Penon. Sunsets over the ocean are always a treat.
Two Paradors are located west of Quebradilles. The Vistamar is perched high on a hill overlooking Balneario (beach) Guajataca. This location is convenient to Isabela to the west and the Aymamon Mountains and Lake Guajataca to the south. If you are in a hurry to get to Aguadilla , stay on route 2. One of my favorite spots, however, is the town of Isabela west on route 113. This is a lovely small town with whitewashed houses and narrow streets.
Isabela sits on the top of a high ridge. Below, the waves crash on black lava rocks which jut out into the ocean. A sheltered harbor protects a beautiful beach and boats used by the local fishermen. The beach has a small pool area filled by water from waves which broke on the lava island protecting it. This is a great place to snorkle. The road follows the coast going west and is not paved. While tenuous at times, you can usually drive the 10 miles to the next paved area, route 466. Stop at the obvious pulloffs and enjoy the view.
From these pictures you can see both the pool and the rock island that protects the pool and makes it such a good spot to play. On days when the sea is rough, kids stand on the edge of the rock and let the wave washover knock them into the pool. The lava rock just to the east of the pool offers a good place to picnic and watch the waves. Wear shoes, the rock is very sharp.
If you are continuing west along the coast you will pass through Ramey Airforce base on the northern tip of the island. The road through the base is public so you can drive to Aguadilla via this route even though most maps do not show the road as continuous. Just north of Aguadilla on route 107 is Playa Boqueron Sur, usually referred to as Crash Boat Beach. This is a beautiful area and very popular. The beach is dock for many colorful fishing boats adding to its charm.
Groups of men will launch the boats which take to sea in search of large fish such as the swordfish you see being carring to market. Everybody helps to get the laden boats from the water. Crash Boat also is a favorite area to scuba dive and snorkel. Wrecks and old pilings are home to many fish. The water is usually very clear. Packs of small dogs hang out near the shaded picnic tables looking for handouts.
Our trip around the island take us to Rincon, surfing capital of the islands. The mountains meet the sea here and the coast is craggy in many areas. Rincon is a hangout for surfers. There are two nice hotels south of town. Parador Villa Antonio and the Villa Cofresi Hotel which is a throw over to a Hemingway novel and truly delightful. Both are on the narrow beach offering incredible sunset in the evening. In the eary morning, the locals fish the calm water along with the birds.
Small groups of men fished the schools of sardines that hugged the shore. The schools could be identified by the diving birds. The oldman and his yellow boar cast an everchanging reflection on the still waters. North of the town are the main surf areas. Plan on a good hike to get to some of the best spots. The trip around the Island continues in the southwestern section.
[PR San J]