Justly regarded as La Ciudad del Café (“coffee city”), the languid mountain settlement of MARICAO is one of the most traditional on the island, the haunt of Taíno rebels, jíbaros and some of the world’s best coffee for over two hundred years. At harvest time the town is bathed in the aroma of roasting coffee beans, blazing red berries plucked from bushes that carpet the slopes nearby. Other than enjoying the pleasures associated with its premier crop, Maricao makes an enchanting last or first stop on the Ruta Panorámica, with its celebrated coffee festival, a small but engaging fish hatchery and the vast forest reserve just out of town.

Maricao has a small, compact centre of ramshackle wooden criollo houses with verandas, and a smattering of cheap cafés and shops, though it’s rarely busy – on Sundays the place seems totally abandoned. While sights may be lacking around central Plaza de Recreo Luis Muñoz Rivera, the town does have a certain lazy charm, and its narrow streets are perfect for aimless wandering.

Just outside the centre, on PR-410 a few metres from PR-105 (the Ruta Panorámica), a cleft in the hillside hides the Gruta San Juan Bautista, a small grotto and waterfall dedicated to San Juan (St John). A short pathway and steps lead up both sides of a statue above the waterfall, an image of Jesus being baptized by the saint. It’s a shady, peaceful spot and easy to park nearby.

 

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