This Underrated Region in Puerto Rico Is Home to Gorgeous Beaches, Mountains, and Cities
Equipped with world-class hotels, fascinating historic sites, and a vibrant party scene, it's easy to see how San Juan has become such a prominent Caribbean tourist destination, but Puerto Rico has a lot more to offer than just its capital. One region in particular — the east, to be precise — is certainly one of the most gorgeous destinations to visit across the island, as well as one of the most underrated. Rolling hills, lush forests, and soft, sandy beaches can all be found in abundance, offering visitors a unique and charming perspective on this iconic Caribbean destination.
There's no shortage of pretty seaside hideaways to use as a base while exploring eastern Puerto Rico, but few can compare to the Wyndham Palmas Beach and Golf Resort. Located in the island's ritzy Palmas del Mar district, this sprawling hotel complex offers ample opportunity for open-air relaxation, with two massive outdoor pools and the blissful Palmas del Mar Beach just a short walk away. For wildlife lovers, the resort is brimming with all sorts of fascinating species — sunset brings massive flocks of parrots to the surrounding treetops, while daylight hours are perfect for spotting wading birds and packs of iguanas lazing on the lawn.
Though it may be tempting to spend your entire trip basking in the beauty of Palmas del Mar, there's one particularly fascinating destination in store for history buffs: Guayama. This historic city dates back to 1736 and is affectionately referred to as the Pueblo de los Brujos (or City of Witches) by locals. Though small in stature compared to the island's capital city, this community is home to some interesting historic relics, including the opulent, white-domed Parroquia San Antonio de Padua and Museo Casa Cautiño, a gorgeous neoclassical-style palace that's packed with of ornate 19th-century art and artifacts.
A lengthy tour of Guayama is certain to make you work up an appetite, and fortunately, there are a wealth of bars and restaurants across the city. Just a few minutes southeast of Guayama's central square, Prime Market offers a wide range of masterfully crafted dishes, from lobster thermidor to ropa vieja rolls, and it's all accompanied by a massive selection of wines sourced from around the globe. For a more casual outing, local favorite La Casa De Los Pastelillos is just 15 minutes away, serving more than 40 different varieties of pastelillos alongside gorgeous beachside views.
After a couple of days spent basking in the beauty of the Caribbean coast, it's time for an above-sea-level perspective of eastern Puerto Rico. To kick off the day's festivities, a trip to the stunning Hacienda Muñoz is in order. While this sprawling hillside operation is rife with lush vegetation and free-roaming chickens, the real prize here is in seed form — the coffee bean, to be exact. After an hour-long walking tour across the property, guests will have an opportunity to sample some of the finest blends that Hacienda Muñoz has to offer and maybe even grab a few bags to bring home.
Now that you're buzzing with caffeine, it's time for a quick lunch break before your next mountain journey. Launched in 2008, the idyllic open-air Restaurante Casaju provides guests with spectacular vistas of the Sierra de Luquillo mountain range — and fortunately, the food is just as amazing as the views. There's no shortage of classic Puerto Rican staples to order around here, but for any newcomers to the island's dining scene, mofongo is an essential experience. This ultra-flavorful blend of garlic, oil, and mashed green plantains is one of the heartiest dishes found on the island, and it pairs perfectly with a Medalla Light — Puerto Rico's most popular beer.
The southern foothills of El Yunque National Forest are spectacular from afar, but no trip to eastern Puerto Rico is complete without getting a close-up look — a fact that Hacienda 8A knows all too well. A paradise for outdoor adventure, this massive estate offers horseback riding tours that delve deep into the heart of the Las Piedras hills, with plenty of wildlife and stunning mountains to take in along the way.
One of the most impressive qualities of eastern Puerto Rico is the massive range of experiences available all in one day. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the beach, traverse mountains on horseback, and gorge themselves on mofongo all before sundown — and then dive into the Palmas del Mar bar scene. While this sprawling region is certainly underrated right now, its abundant natural beauty and easygoing atmosphere could easily vault it into stardom in the near future.