The secret to making the most of Puerto Rico’s rugged north coast is to skip the towns and head straight for the beaches: the exceptions are Dorado, which boasts a modest collection of museums and galleries, and Vega Baja, a gracious old colonial town. Autopista PR-22 is a fast and efficient route west, but if you have time you’re better off following the coast roads, a leisurely alternative rewarded by long, deserted stretches of sand. The trinity of Balneario Cerro Gordo, Playa Los Tubos and Playa Mar Chiquita represent the best of Puerto Rican beach life, while the Reserva Natural de Hacienda La Esperanza and Bosque Estatal de Cambalache offer some wilder, off-road relief. Quebradillas is the gateway to the Porta del Sol, well off the beaten track despite some celebrated culinary attractions, a compelling beach area and some low-key but enigmatic ruins. Toa Baja, Toa Alta, Vega Alta and Manatí hold little appeal, while even the region’s largest city, Arecibo, offers little in the way of sights and is best avoided.

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