Awe-inspiring scenery and crowd-pleasing cuisine.
Known as Ciudad Verde (“Green City”) Cayey sits on 52 square miles (135 square kilometers) tucked in a valley of the Sierra de Cayey section of the Central Mountain Range. The municipality marks start of la Ruta Panorámica, a 165-mile (266-kilometer) road that snakes through the towering mountains, and the surrounding scenery is breathtaking to behold. The area’s elevation of 1,500 feet (460 meters) above sea level makes it cooler in temperature than Puerto Rico’s beach towns and gives rise to another nickname, la Ciudad de las Brumas (“The City of Fog”).
Cayey is bordered by Aibonito to the west, Cidra to the north, Caguas and San Lorenzo to the east, Salinas and Guayama to the south. SJU airport is an hour’s drive north, and Ponce is an hour to the southwest.
The Roast Pork Route
Come hungry to Cayey and your taste buds will thank you. The neighborhood of Guavate is famous for its Ruta del Lechón, a windy strip of cafeteria-style restaurants and kiosks that serve loads of lechón asado, a Puerto Rican preparation of roasted pork and gastronomic heritage. The Guavate experience is one you won’t find anywhere else in the world, with more than a mile of roadside eateries that roast whole pigs on spits over open fires and chop up the meat with machetes. Patrons enjoy their meat alongside traditional Puerto Rican side dishes like fried plantains, rice with pigeon peas, and blood sausage.
While Guavate is relatively quiet during the week, on weekends the entire area becomes a lively street party. Families and friends come here from all over the island to stuff themselves with delicious food and dance to live salsa music as the crowds spill out from eateries packed with people having a fantastic time.
Nature enthusiasts love Bosque Estatal de Carite, a 6,000-acre protected area that’s home to a wide variety of birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals, along with more than 200 types of trees and other plant life. If you only have a couple of hours to spend here, Charco Azul, one of the best known features of the forest, is a photo-worthy deep-blue swimming hole that’s easily accessible via a walking path from Route 184.
Larger-than-life sculptures scattered throughout Cayey pay homage to different aspects of the town’s heritage. The Monumento al Jíbaro, a sculpture by Puerto Rican artist Tomás Batista, commemorates the legacy of the field workers and peasants that are crucial to the island’s history. Famed sculptor Juan Santos Torres created the Loma de los Tres Reyes Magos, a monument that features three distinctive stone carvings representing the Three Kings. The Monumento al Veterano honors the many heroic war veterans that hail from Cayey.