Just 2km beyond central Isla Verde, PIÑONES is an entirely different world, a languid, low-rent community of shacks, houses and a couple of thousand tenants scattered along the coast and PR-187. At the weekends the whole area comes alive with salsa and sanjuaneros looking to connect with their traditional roots, drink beer and enjoy the cocina en kiosco. In addition, the beaches here are excellent for surfing, especially in winter.
Bus C45 runs into Piñones from Río Piedras via Isla Verde Monday to Saturday: from elsewhere take a bus to Isla Verde and change outside the cockfighting arena. Taxis are impossible to find at the weekends, so you need to arrange transport in advance. Get off the bus as soon as you cross the bridge into Boca de Cangrejos, the first part of Piñones at km 4.3, crammed with cheap restaurants and head to La Paseodora information centre, just off the road on the right.
Piñones is home to the descendants of freed African slaves as well as more recent immigrants from the Dominican Republic, making for a vibrant cultural mix. La Paseodora, run by the Corporación Piñones Se Integra (COPI; t787/253-9707, whttp://www.copipr.com), acts as a focus for activities to celebrate this heritage and also manages the area’s ecological attractions. To explore the latter, rent a bicycle here and follow the Paseo Piñones bike trail.