Squashed between the north coast and the peaks of the Central Cordillera, karst country is quite unlike anything else in Puerto Rico, a haunting landscape that resembles parts of China more than the Caribbean. Stretching between Quebradillas and Corozal, this is a region of crumbling limestone hills smothered in dense jungle, flashes of white stone poking through the vines like a lost city, the narrow gorges (sumideros) in between pockmarked by cavernous sinkholes. These striking formations, known as mogotes, were created over millions of years, the limestone bedrock worn away by seeping water: Kras (or “karst” in German) is the region in Slovenia where the phenomenon was first studied. Gazing over Puerto Rico’s karst country from lofty viewpoints on the Ruta Panorámica, it’s easier to appreciate their surreal uniformity – a bit like a roughly made egg carton spreading across the horizon.

Hard to believe today, but by the 1940s much of the area had been deforested to make way for coffee plantations and fruit farms. By the 1960s most of these had closed and with the forests restored, you’ll find plenty of tranquil reserves nestled among the peaks, as well as some major attractions: you might recognize the vast Observatorio de Arecibo from movies such as Contact (1997) and GoldenEye (1995), while the Parque de las Cavernas del Río Camuy shows what happens beneath the surface and the Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Caguana is an evocative reminder of the Taíno past. Make time for Lares if you can – spiritual home of Puerto Rico’s independence movement – and the small hill towns further east, with Ciales a charming introduction to the island’s lauded coffee-growing traditions.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Puerto Rico features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Top live music destinations

Top live music destinations

San Juan, Puerto Rico Puerto Rican artistes were prominent in the New-York based creation of salsa in the 1970s, when the pan-Latin mix was given a rock fla…

10 Mar 2014 • Rachel Mills camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs