Puerto Rico

Published on July 2nd, 2011 | by Mark Chesnut

Head for the Hills: Barranquitas and Comerío, Puerto Rican Hill Towns

Dam beautiful: The Comerío Dam is one of the picturesque sites in the hills of Puerto Rico.


Puerto Rico’s sunny, beach-lined coast may splash across the pages of countless travel magazines, but the island’s Cordillera Central mountain range is another world altogether. Here’s what I discovered during a wonderful, one-day trip into the central heart of Puerto Rico’s hill towns. 

Even though I’d been visiting the Isla del Encanto regularly for more than a decade, wandering between San Juan, Ponce and the west coast, the extent of my interaction with the central mountain range up until now had been limited to admiring its beauty from behind a car window as we cruised along superhighways. But during my last visit to my condo in San Juan’s Condado district, my partner Angel and I decided to head for the hills — specifically, to the town of Barranquitas, to photograph and write a review of Aviones, a restaurant that serves food aboard three vintage airliners. 

To get to this quirky, fun eatery, you’ve got to take roads that wind up into the hills — impossibly curvy, scenic byways with sometimes scary drop-offs and frequently inspiring views. After just one long afternoon traveling through these magnificent hills, I discovered a bunch of reasons to justify a day trip into Puerto Rico’s less-explored interior. Here are a few of the sights and activities that we enjoyed. 

Modern life: Puente La Plata is a bridge that crosses Puerto Rico’s longest river.

Puente La Plata: The dramatically modern Puente La Plata, or La Plata Bridge, is also called the Jesús Izcoa Moure Bridge (named after a legislator from the town of Naranjito, where the bridge is located). Puerto Rico’s first “cable-stayed” bridge (cable-stayed bridges normally have one or more columns or towers, with cables supporting the bridge deck), this soaring structure crosses the Río La Plata River, the island’s longest river — and the bridge, at 2,306 feet/703 meters in length, is one of the largest bridge construction projects in Puerto Rico. 
Part of PR Route 5, this $27.7-million construction opened in 2008 and consists of two diamond-shaped towers and 96 fan-shaped cables. It is similar in structure to the Centennial Bridge, which opened across the Panama Canal in 2004. 

Historic center: Barranquitas, Puerto Rico is the resting place of two legendary heroes.

Barranquitas: This picturesque, hilly city of about 30,000 has a lovely small square centered around an ornate gazebo and dominated by a lovely church, Parroquia San Antonio de Padua, which has handmade wooden ceilings and modern stained-glass windows. 
A short stroll away, we visited the mausoleum of Luis Muñoz Marín, who was the first governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and is one of the island’s most revered heroes, and his father, Luís Muñoz Rivera, a poet, journalist and politician who was a major proponent of Puerto Rican political autonomy. Muñoz Rivera’s former home has been converted into a museum and library. Just outside of town is Aviones, the restaurant centered around three vintage aircraft (be sure to check out my photos and review of Aviones here). 

WHEN TO GO: In July, the Feria Nacional de Artesanías takes place in Barranquitas, bringing more than 200 artisans from around the island to exhibit their latest creations. 

Picture perfect: The countryside surrounding Comeríos, Puerto Rico, provides excellent photo opportunities.

Comerío: On the way back, we drove through Comerío, a city of about 20,000, where women were wearing “dubis” — rollers and hair clips — since, as my partner Angel explained, it was Saturday afternoon and they needed to look their best that night. Just outside of town is a gorgeous large waterfall created by the 480-foot-long Comerío dam, a hydroelectric power source that first opened in 1913 on the La Plata river. 
WHEN TO GO: In mid-June, the Festival del Jíbaro Comerieño, a troubadour (folk singer) competition, takes place, with traditional food, artists, handcrafts, and contests featuring the cuatro (something like a Puerto Rican ukulele). 


Modern religion: A stained-glass window at the main church in Barranquitas, Puerto Rico.

Never forgotten: The mausoleum of Luís Muñoz Marín and Luís Muñoz Rivera, in Barranquitas.
Beauty treatment: three residents of Comeríos, Puerto Rico, sport dubis. 

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About the Author

The founder and editor of LatinFlyer.com, Mark has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and manager. He's worked with some of the biggest consumer, in-flight and travel trade publishers that cover Latin America.

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