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Are you visiting Puerto Rico soon and looking to have exciting adventures beyond Old San Juan? How about spending a full day exploring the island’s opposite end, where you can find wide beaches and gorgeous sunsets? As the west side of Puerto Rico is less visited by tourists, it delivers an authentic and unusual Caribbean experience.
I recently spent a full day traipsing through this rugged land with West Side Destination during a one week trip to Puerto Rico. It was a long day, as Puerto Rico’s west side is a two hour drive from Old San Juan, where I was staying at the CasaBlanca Hotel. However, I had amazing adventures that never would have happened had I not dared to venture beyond the historic capital.
If you’d like to see wonderful coastal views of the rolling sea, wander colorful local villages, and watch the sky erupt into oranges and pinks from a historic lighthouse, this day trip is a must. Below I am listing all the best sights on the West Side of Puerto Rico that you can’t miss!
The Perfect West Side Puerto Rico Day Trip
Your first stop will take about two hours to reach from Old San Juan, so prepare for a long day of about 12-14 hours. Much of the drive will be highway, but it will eventually give way to hillier local roads.
This trip took us to the northwest corner of Puerto Rico, starting at Isabela and heading down the coastline to Rincón.
Pass the time listening to a podcast, a Caribbean playlist, or your tour guide tell stories of Puerto Rico’s past and present. The guide from West Side Destination picked my group up in his large van at the Caribe Hilton in Old San Juan, where the bulk of the group was staying for a conference (I moved there once the conference began).
Mirador de Guajataca
This viewing point offers a preview of the fun ahead, looking over the lush hills and white sand beaches of Isabela’s rugged north coast. It’s a beautiful spot to stretch your legs after a lengthy drive and pause for photos. You may also find vendors near the viewing point selling jewelry or local snacks.
Now that you’ve seen the view from above, it’s time to head down to the water, where the Rio Guajataca River flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Guajataca Beach has a remote feel and it was nearly empty during our tour, as this beach is too rough for swimming. It was lovely to walk along the water, while avoiding the sea foam from washing onto my shoe.
Pause here for a short moment to listen to the waves and enjoy the sea breezes before moving onto the next adventurous stop.
Guajataca Historic Railroad Tunnel
Facing the water, turn left and head west down the beach to the Guajataca Railroad Tunnel (El Tunel de Guajataca). You’ll pass colorful murals on several structures along the way.
A historic landmark constructed in 1904, this route was once used to transport sugar cane from farms in the area. Today, you can cross the tunnel and follow a short trail down to Playa Pelicano.
Cara del Indio Monument
Shortly after leaving the beach and driving into Isabela along Route 2, you will encounter the Cara del Indio Monument at the intersection of Route 2 and 113. This monument marks the entrance to Porta del Sol, or the west coast region of Puerto Rico.
This modern rock carving is the face of the Cacique (chief) Mabodamaca, a Taino leader who attempted to defend his land and people from the Spanish colonizers.
Crash Boat Beach – One of the Best on the West Side of Puerto Rico
This large beach is the most stunning in the town of Aguadilla and its gentle turquoise waters deliver calming Caribbean vacation vibes. In fact, you might even hear some beach tunes playing in the vicinity, which adds to place’s good energy. This chill hangout is perfect for wading in the gentle water and even doing some snorkeling.
There are food stands along the beach where you can purchase snacks or the island’s signature cocktail, the pina colada. Unfortunately, I was so busy swimming and sipping my drink at this beach that I forgot to take any photos. You can definitely expect to have a good time!
We stopped for lunch at Cinco Restaurant in Aguadilla’s Maleza Alta neighborhood, where I had some of the yummiest mofongo of my stay in Puerto Rico. I should mention that lunch was BEFORE the beach, but we went back into the town afterwards for some sightseeing.
In particular, we headed straight to the painted houses of Agaudilla that were created by Proyecto Pintalto. This macromural, called “Amanecer Borincano” (Boriquen Sunrise) is dedicated to the fisherman of Aguadilla. The whole thing extends in a mosaic pattern across a small hillside of houses.
This is an amazing stop to pause for a few photos. Even during the rain spell we experienced, the vibrant colors were popping brilliantly. This was helped by the fact that the houses had just been repainted to their former glory in 2022.
Sunset from the West Side of Puerto Rico
Our last stop of the day was at Faro de Punta Higüera in Rincón, a surf town on the westernmost tip of Puerto Rico. This is THE PLACE to be during sunset and also offers the chance to glimpse migrating whales during the winter.
The lighthouse dates back to 1892, but had to be rebuilt after damage from a 1918 earthquake. The surrounding area is a park with a coastal path, where you can watch the horizon glow during golden hour.
We almost missed the show during heavy rain that started while we were in Aguadilla. However, our guide never lost hope, telling us the weather can change quickly in Puerto Rico. He was right, as the sky cleared just in time for us to watch the sun erupt into streaks of orange, yellow, and pink.
Once the show is over, it’s time for a relaxed night drive back to your hotel in Old San Juan.
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That covers it for a busy day exploring the West Side of Puerto Rico. It’s a nice change of pace from hectic Old San Juan to wander rugged beachside paths and view legendary sunsets. If you crave new adventures, traversing a railroad tunnel or chilling at surfer beaches will surely do the trick.