Hemmed in between the coast and a ridge of lush, flower-strewn hills, RINCÓN has managed to hang onto its small town roots, despite being one of the most popular resorts in Puerto Rico and justly celebrated for its bellos atardeceres (beautiful sunsets). Perhaps best known to outsiders as the premier surfing destination in the Caribbean, its northern barrio of Puntas is a maze of narrow lanes and steep slopes dotted with chilled-out guesthouses, bars and cafés, all booming thanks to “surf tourism”. US expats (many of them surfers) dominate businesses in the area, providing an easy-going, international feel similar to Vieques. In contrast, the southern beaches of the Caribbean Coast area are lined with gleaming beach resorts, condos and hotels attracting thousands of overseas and Puerto Rican sun-seekers. This area in particular has been experiencing a mini-construction boom, prompting some disapproving locals to refer to the town as “Rin-condo”. Development has not gone unprotested however, and thanks to environmental groups, particularly the local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, Rincón is at the forefront of ecological activism on the island.
In addition to some serious surfing, you can do just about any outdoor activity here, with nearby Isla Desecheo offering some of the best diving in the region, and horseriding along the beach for those who prefer to stay dry. During the winter season hordes of surfers descend on the town, while the blazing summer months are dominated by Puerto Rican vacationers who tend to huddle in the southern resorts – with the waves flattening off, this is the best period for snorkelling and swimming.Read More
Clearly visible around 19km off the coast of Rincón, Isla Desecheo is a barren 370-acre hunk of rock that became a national wildlife refuge in 1983, off-limits to casual visitors. The real draw lies beneath the sapphire waters that surround the island, an underwater wonderland with consistent 30–45m visibility, open for diving and snorkelling. Amid the shimmering corals, swim-through tunnels and caverns just offshore you’ll spot nurse sharks, giant lobsters and a plethora of tropical marine life: porcupine fish, spiky scorpion fish, and schools of flounder, snappers and triggerfish. Boats take around 45 minutes to reach the island for details.
Añasco’s brandy cakes
Añasco’s brandy cakes
Heading south from Rincón towards Mayagüez it’s worth making a brief detour to Añasco, a small town “where the gods died”. Taíno cacique (chief) Urayoán had a Spanish soldier drowned in the nearby Río Grande de Añasco to prove the white men weren’t gods, precipitating the rebellion of 1511, but today Añasco is a hard-working blue-collar town some 17km from downtown Rincón.
The best reason for a pit stop is to try the local speciality, hojaldre cakes (literally “puff pastries”, made with brandy and spices), sold from a tiny shop east of the main plaza: Fábrica de Hojaldres (t787/826-5011) is tucked away in a commercial building off Calle 65 Infantería (PR-109) opposite the old Plaza de Mercado – walk through the passage towards the car park at the back and look for the yellow sign. The official address is c/65 Infantería no. 50.