Surf, snorkeling, and sensational cocktails are what you'll find in this paradisiacal town on Puerto Rico's west coast.
Isabela is the type of beach town you visit for the weekend to get away from hectic urban life. The beaches accommodate surfers, swimmers, and snorkelers. There's a state forest for hiking, camping, and lake activities, and there are even luxury resorts with exceptional cocktails. This town has something for everybody, as long as your goal is to relax and unwind.
Things to Do
Isabela's beaches offer conditions for all levels of surfing experience. Middles Beach is the most advanced, a stretch of sandy beach with powerful currents and rocky sections offshore where waves break. Jobos Beach is also very popular and has sections that are appropriate for swimmers, as well as a number of restaurants, bars, and surf shops.
Snorkeling and Beaches
For snorkeling visit Shacks Beach, although be warned the current is strong and the seabed rocky and covered in coral reef. Montones Beach also offers great snorkeling and is protected from the Atlantic currents by an enormous formation of volcanic rocks creating a pool that's safe for swimming. There's also family-friendly Villa Pesquera Beach, which has tranquil water and food kiosks nearby.
Paseo Lineal de Isabela
Paseo Lineal de Isabela is a 4.5-mile cycling and jogging lane that follows the coast, reaching famous beaches like Jobos and Montones, with sections in asphalt, packed sand, and boardwalk. On weekends, companies like Pedalea Isabela offer bike rentals to enjoy the Paseo Lineal.
Monument to Cacique Mabodamaca
As you drive down PR-2 through Isabela you'll come across a giant stone sculpture carved right into the mountainside called Monument to Cacique Mabodamaca, or more colloquially La Cara del Indio (the Indian's Face). This sculpture was made in honor of Taíno chief Mabodamaca, whose tribe occupied the region known as Guajataca and who went to war with the Spanish.
Guajataca State Forest
The Guajataca State Forest spans several towns including Isabela, Lares, and San Sebastián. Camping in Guajataca State Forest can be arranged through the Puerto Rico Natural and Environmental Resources Department. Facilities include parking, gazebos, fresh water, and bathrooms. The forest system has several trails, including one that leads to the Cueva del Viento, and an observation tower. You can also enjoy kayaking and fishing at Guajataca Lake and visit the Guajataca Tunnel and coastal trail.
Restaurants and Bars
From Caribbean fusion and seafood-centered eateries to cocktail bars and gastropubs, there's plenty to sip and savor in this cozy beach town.
Nestled inside Villa Montaña Beach Resort, Eclipse Restaurant & Bar sources all of their produce locally, utilizing it to create eclectic and masterful Caribbean dishes. Nearby Sonido del Mar Bar & Restaurant boasts a robust menu of coastal Puerto Rican flavors, including everything from seafood-topped mofongo to camarón asopao.
For a nightcap, La Central is one of the best cocktail bars on the west coast (and possibly the Island). The atmosphere is intimate and relaxed. Their regular menu features delicately crafted cocktails and a limited food menu. Every month, the venue hosts local bands, art shows, and bar takeovers featuring guest chefs and bartenders.
Where to Stay
There are dozens of hotels, guesthouses, and beachfront properties to choose from in Isabela, ranging from casual and rustic to opulent and luxurious. The most famous parador (guesthouse) in Isabela is the Villas del Mar Hau, colorful cabins that sit right on Montones Beach.
For something slightly more upscale but still beachfront, opt for Villa Montaña Beach Resort, a plantation-style hotel with one- to three-bedroom, fully-equipped villas, each with its own patio terrace and jacuzzi.
If you're looking for the height of luxury then Royal Isabela is your place. Guests stay in private villas high on a cliff with a dramatic view of the Atlantic Ocean, each with a private pool. Royal Isabela is also a paradise for golfers and has access to secluded El Pastillo Beach.