Most visitors zip between the surf breaks and beaches of Aguadilla and Rincón without stopping, but there are a handful of enticing historical diversions along the way, including a traditional lace-making town, a handsome mansion and a holistic health institute.
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Palacete Los Moreau
Palacete Los Moreau
Further inland along PR-2 from Aguadilla is the Palacete Los Moreau (T787/830-2540), lording it over a swathe of parkland like a mini French castle. The house is tucked away 2–3km along PR-464 from the highway (follow the signs), and is now the artfully restored cultural centre and museum for Moca municipality. This enchanting mansion was once at the heart of one of Puerto Rico’s largest coffee plantations, established by the Peugeot family in the nineteenth century. The estate was inherited by Frenchman Juan Labadié in 1860, but it wasn’t until 1905 that the house you see today was completed, a grand criollo adaptation of French château style. The mansion appeared in the 1935 best-selling novel La Llamarada by Enrique Laguerre – it was renamed in 1993 to honour the fictional Moreau family from the book, and the author was buried in the garden on his death, twelve years later. Inside, the first-floor museum contains bits and pieces related to Moca, while a more absorbing collection of black-and-white plantation photographs can be found on the second floor. The house and grounds are far more engaging than the collections on display, however, and the beautifully restored wooden floors, stairs, rails and upstairs bedrooms give a rough idea of what it must have been like to live here.
Founded in 1772, 8km inland from Aguadilla, MOCA is best known for its delicate, handmade bobbin lace or mundillo, used to embellish collars and handkerchiefs,
linens, pillows, bridal veils and baby clothes. The town’s mundillomaking roots are hazy: the craft was imported from Spain and became popular among the island’s elite in the nineteenth century, when it seems to have become the established trade of the town. Though lace-making remains an important cottage industry here, you won’t see much evidence of this on the streets: it’s a fairly typical Puerto Rican country town, with a sleepy centre of ageing clapboard houses and newer concrete buildings. The busy main square, Plaza Don José de Quiñones, contains a small statue of female lace workers, the Monumento a la Tejedora de Mundillo, but is overshadowed by the pretty pink Spanish Colonial-style church.
The best place to buy mundillo nearby is Artesanía Leonides and Pequeño Angelito, both at c/Blanca E. Chico 200 just south of the plaza. You can pick up lacy purses, place settings (from around $15), and cute dresses and booties for babies here ($30–40). Otherwise the Festival del Mundillo (T787/818-0105) is held at the end of June, when stalls in the main
plaza overflow with fine lace products.
Travelling west on PR-115 towards Rincón you’ll pass the Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute (787/868-6307, www.annwigmore.org) at km 20 on the edge of AGUADA. The centre is dedicated to teaching the late Dr Ann Wigmore’s “Living Foods Lifestyle” through its two-week programme – see the website for details. Wiggie’s Shop on site sells all sorts of health foods, books and related products. Near the Ann Wigmore Institute, don’t miss the celebrated roadside stall on PR-115 at km 20 known as A El Original Kioskito de la 115 (787/868-3124), a popular vendor of sweets, cakes and snacks for over 25 years. Try the limber de coco, frozen coconut milk cake, (or the piña, uva, maiz or “cheez-cake” versions) for less than $1.
Central Aguada has little to offer, but the town’s quirky eating options are worth a try, with A El Plátano Loco (787/868-0241, www.platanoloco.com) top of the list. You’ll find it south of town off PR-411 at km 5 – look out for the signs to “Universidad del Plátano” and turn right beyond “Parada 5”. As befits the name, everything on the menu features plantains, the savoury green banana: a bizarre but satisfying array of lasagne, pizza, sandwiches and the isla de plátano, the signature mofongo shaped like Puerto Rico and stuffed with meat. Try the sweet flan de plátano for dessert.