A mountain town rich in history – and coffee.
Situated more than 3,900 feet (1,200 meters) above sea level, Lares is a scenic hamlet in the western region of Puerto Rico. Upwards of 30,000 people live in this mountainous town, where the agricultural industry encompasses crops such as coffee, sweet potatoes, bananas, and citrus fruit. Lares is bordered by Camuy to the north; Hatillo, Utuado, and Adjuntas to the east; Yauco and Maricao to the south; and San Sebastián and Las Marias to the west. It takes about an hour and a half to reach Lares by car from San Juan.
Dubbed La Ciudad de Cielos Abiertos (“The City of Open Skies”), Lares’ high elevation provides crisp air, verdant landscapes, and breakthtaking vistas. To enjoy the scenery, head to Mirador Mariana Bracetti, a spectatular vantage point located in Parque el Jíbaro that offers panoramic views of both the city and the mountains.
A Legacy of Liberty
Lares played an important role in the political history of Puerto Rico, a heritage that is still celebrated today. On September 23, 1868, an armed uprising known as El Grito de Lares brought together roughly 1,000 rebels who fought against oppressive Spanish colonial rule. While the revolution was ultimately quelled, the effort led to important reform in the way that Spain governed the island and the rights granted to its citizens.
In honor of the revolution, the municipality hosts a festive celebration each year on September 23. Thousands of people descend on the town for this annual event, which brings together artists, musicians, athletes, and others to commemorate the important milestone.
From Bean to Brew
Caffeine addicts can easily get their fix in Lares, which has been a major center for coffee production for more than a century. The geography, soil, and tropical climate make for ideal conditions for producing robust, rich beans. The municipality is home to a handful of farms that actively grow, roast, package, and sell their high-quality varieties. Many coffee farms are open to the public for tours and tastings. You can easily spend a day hacienda-hopping throughout the area, stopping at outposts that each offer their own appeal. Be sure to check out Café Oro, whose coffee is easily recognized in stores by its gold metallic packaging; Café Lealtad, which operates a revived a nineteenth-century hacienda; and Café Lareño, an estate run by fourth-generation coffee producers.
Save Room for Dessert
In-the-know residents and visitors with a sweet tooth line up down the block to get a taste at Heladería Lares, a beloved ice cream parlor that has been a staple in the town square since 1968. Still owned and operated by the descendants of its founder, the shop is famous for its unusual homemade varieties. Over the years, the family has experimented with more than 500 unique flavors, many of which draw inspiration from local produce like sea grapes, corn, and sweet potatoes. These artisan ice cream makers have a knack for turning traditionally savory Puerto Rican dishes into delicious sweet treats, so don’t be afraid to order a cone filled with unexpected concoctions like arroz con salchichas (rice with sausages), beer, or bacalao (codfish).