Discover Puerto Rico Mountains (Part 2).
Farther along the road lies the base of Cerro de Punta, at 4,390 feet the
island’s tallest peak. A steep, one-lane road leads to the top for still more
panoramic views of San Juan and the Atlantic.
Now, leave the Panoramic Route and head north on winding Route 144 for a look
at Jayuya (ha-YOU-yah), one of Puerto Rico’s highest towns.
Nestled in a lush valley and surrounded by the mountain summits of Cerro de
Punta and neighboring Los Tres Picachos, rural and refreshingly cool Jayuya is
the home of remote coffee “fincas” or plantations, ancient petroglyphs and some
of the island’s finest woodworkers, many of whom take their inspiration from the
region’s natural beauties and early Taino Indian culture.
To learn more about the legacies of some of the Caribbean’s earliest
inhabitants, stop by the Jayuya Archaeological Museum, home of hand-crafted
native pottery and sacred ceremonial objects known as “cemis,” from which the
museum itself takes its fantastic shape.
If possible, spend the night in this rarefied corner of the Cordillera where
you will be lulled to sleep by a chorus of “coquis,” Puerto Rico’s native tree frogs.
On your way back down from Jayuya, turn northwest on Route 140 and continue
past Utuado on Route 111 to the Caguana Indian Ceremonial Park for another
glimpse of the island’s pre-Colonial history.
The most important of some 30 Indian centers found in the area, Caguana is
set in its own 13-acre botanical garden where royal palm, guava, cedar and ceiba
Its main attraction is 10 “bateyes,” rectangular ball courts where Taino
Indians once gathered to play a semi-religious game similar to soccer.
Of particular interest are the many petroglyphs which adorn these rock-bound
fields and date back some 800 years.
The park also features replicas of native huts or “bohios” and a pocket-size
museum highlighting important archaeological finds. Admission is free.
Double back on Route 111 to Route 10, going via Adjuntas, a pleasant mountain
enclave with agricultural roots.
The surrounding fields yield a highly esteemed brand of coffee, but it is as
a producer of citron that the town has gained international recognition.
Facilities here process this amorphously shaped citrus fruit and ship its finely
cubed skin to the United States and Europe to flavor cakes and other sugary
Pick up the Panoramic Route on Route 518 as it continues west, crossing Lake
Garzas Dam and skirting Guilarte Forest Reserve.
Here you can climb a flower-fringed trail to the summit of 3,900-foot Mount
Guilarte for unobstructed vistas of both coasts and a look at some of the 278
tree species which thrive in this dense domain.
Continue west on Routes 525 and 135 through the rolling hills of compact
coffee bushes to Los Rabanos, known more commonly to locals as Castañer.
Coffee cultivation is said to have been introduced here from the French
Caribbean in the early 1700s. By the end of the following century, the island’s
premium blend had earned itself a reputation in Europe for its winning
combination of aroma and flavor. To this day, the dark green plants still
flourish here and annual bean harvests pump an estimated $70 million into more
than a dozen mountain rural communities.
On the last leg now, head for the coffee stronghold of Maricao, on
the western edge of the Cordillera Central, and the Maricao Forest Reserve.
Puerto Rico’s smallest municipality is also one of the prettiest and boasts
its own fish hatchery (open daily to the public and located off Route 410) which
stocks island reservoirs.
In February there’s the annual Maricao Coffee Festival. Held in the town’s
diminutive main plaza, it features a parade, folkloric entertainment, arts and
crafts and agricultural exhibits.