Any time of year, Cabo Rojo is on the list of must-visit places in Puerto Rico. This coastal town is located in the extreme southwest of the Island, where its charms include towering limestone cliffs, stunning beaches, idyllic nature reserves for animal lovers, and creative restaurants.
The name Cabo Rojo refers to the reddish color of the water near the town's famed salt flats, which is caused by the high concentration of the mineral. The salt flats are special to Cabo Rojo and perfect for a quick stop on your way to other popular attractions, like the lighthouse or one of the breathtaking beaches.
Here are some of the top things to do in Cabo Rojo:
Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge
The Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge is a 1,836-acre coastal subtropical dry forest that contains many of Cabo Rojo's top attractions. The refuge was established in 1974 and is one of nine reserves managed by the Caribbean Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex (United States Fish and Wildlife Service).
It's an island paradise for people who enjoy hiking and birdwatching. The refuge has been designated as the critical habitat of the yellow-shoulder blackbird and is the first place in the Caribbean to be designated as a site in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network.
Los Morrillos Lighthouse
This historic and picturesque lighthouse helps ships navigate safely through the Mona Passage from the Caribbean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. Completed in 1882, the Faro Los Morrillos de Cabo Rojo was the second lighthouse built under Spanish rule on the Island. The structure is part of a maritime lighting system that was included in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1981.
Visitors can access the lighthouse’s observation deck to enjoy incredible panoramic views of the surrounding area and the Caribbean Sea. El faro (lighthouse) is open to visitors from Wednesday to Sunday.
When visiting this place, be sure to wear sturdy shoes, comfortable clothes, and sunscreen. Likewise, carry sufficient water and snacks, as there are no restaurants or kiosks nearby.
Cabo Rojo Salt Flats
As you drive to Los Morrillos, you'll have the opportunity to stop and see the pink-and-red waters of the Cabo Rojo Salt Flats. The salt flats, whose beautiful, cotton-candy pink and rich red tones contrast with the turquoise color of Playuela, are also part of the refuge and have been recognized as an important wildlife habitat.
There are two parking areas by the lighthouse and both require a walk up a hill (its's not very steep) to reach your destination. Start at the informative visitor center, which has a viewing deck and hiking trails. There are also guided tours available with advance reservation. The visitor's center operates from Thursday to Sunday.
The lighthouse’s surroundings are even more attractive than the structure itself, as there are impressive limestone cliffs nearby. This is an amazing photo opportunity. But be careful not to get too close to the edge, as there are no safety bars in place.
As a bonus, one of the hiking trails will take you to Cabo Rojo's famous natural stone bridge, Puente de Piedra — a beautiful rock formation that also makes a great photo.
La Playuela Beach
La Playuela (also known as Playa Sucia) is one of Puerto Rico’s most beautiful and remote beaches, and is recognized among the best of the Caribbean. It's located very close to Los Morrillos Lighthouse, so you can plan a visit to both attractions on the same day.
La Playuela is a crescent-shaped beach with soft, white sand and turquoise-colored water. Generally, the waves are gentle, but please be careful if you move to a deeper area given there are no lifeguards onsite, nor are there any facilities or concessions.
A popular locals spot on weekends and holidays, we recommend visitors stop by during the week or arrive early on the weekends.
More Cabo Rojo Beaches
Cabo Rojo has 28 miles of coastline — the most of any municipality on the Island. In this town you'll discover 18 beaches, among which Buyé and Combate stand out.
Unlike Playuela, these two beaches are more family-friendly and have kiosks or restaurants nearby. In addition, at both beaches you will find equipment rentals, including kayaks, snorkels, beach chairs, and umbrellas. Both beaches are accessible and the waters are calm and waveless.