A centuries-old beach town on Puerto Rico’s east coast.
Originally settled by the Spanish in 1513, the municipality of Naguabo spans 52 square miles in eastern Puerto Rico. The area stretches from the shores of the Caribbean Sea to the peaks of the Luquillo Mountain Range and is bordered by Río Grande to the north, Ceiba to the northwest, Las Piedras to the east, and Humacao to the south. The center of town is a half-hour’s drive from the Ceiba ferry terminal and RVR Airport and an hour from SJU airport.
Naguabo bears the nickname el Pueblo de los Enchumbaos (“The Town of the Drenched”). Six rivers run through the area, including Río Daguao, Río Santiago, and Río Blanco, which, in addition to offering exquisite natural pools, cascading waterfalls, and rock waterslides, supplies drinking water to more than 26,000 residents who call Naguabo home. The town’s nickname also alludes to its abundant rainfall, which stems from its close proximity to El Yunque, the only subtropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System.
The Other Side of El Yunque
One of the most unique attractions in all of Puerto Rico, El Yunque is a nature lover’s dream come true. The rainforest spans 28,000 acres and is popular for its many enticing options for hiking, swimming, wildlife viewing, and adventuring. While most visitors arrive from Río Grande or Fajardo on the north side of the forest, Naguabo offers an entry point into the southern portion. The Río Sabana Recreation Area, which is open from Thursday through Sunday, is an ideal starting point. On days when the gate is closed, visitors can park outside and access the rainforest by foot.
Beachside Food and Fun
While most beach towns throughout Puerto Rico feature waterfront promenades called malecones, the Malecón de La Playa Hucares in Naguabo is one of the island’s most iconic. Abutting the Caribbean Sea, this well-maintained stretch is just a few steps from the beach. As they have for generations, fishermen embark from this site to troll the nearby waters for lobster, conch, capitán, and other indigenous seafood. Their catch is served fresh just hours later at Mickey’s Restaurant, Ikakos Bar & Restaurant, and the other charming eateries and kiosks that line the malecón. In fact, Naguabo is credited with inventing chapín pastelillos, fried Puerto Rican turnovers filled with coffer fish.
Abutting the southern end of the malecón you’ll find the remains of “El Castillo” Villa del Mar. Originally built in the early 20th century as the home of local sugar titan Don Faustino Rodríguez Fuertes, the now-crumbling structure was once an impressive example of grand Victorian architecture, complete with Ionic columns, hexagonal roofs, and a multi-colored façade.