The town of Isabela, on Puerto Rico’s northwest coast, is renowned as the “Garden of the Northwest” because of its natural beauty, which includes bathing and fishing beaches, woods with native flora and fauna, and snorkeling and fishing spots.
Isabela has a distinct indigenous culture, and visitors love participating in local customs such as watching santeros create wooden Santos or saints. Visitors can expect to sample unusual foods such as quesito de Hoja, a native string cheese, as well as fresh seafood. Isabela is also home to a large number of Paso Fino horses, who are recognized for their smooth gaits and are bred locally.
1. Enjoy the Beaches
Isabela is noted for its many beaches, which attract surfers, snorkelers, boogie boarders, and fishermen, as well as those looking for a relaxing day in the sun. The following are some of Isabela’s most beautiful beaches:
Jobos: One of Puerto Rico’s most prominent surfing beaches, Jobos is popular among locals and is not overrun with visitors. Snorkeling is possible under a protective cover. When you’re hungry, sit back and relax with the locals while eating some casual island fare.
Shacks: A popular beach site for snorkeling, surfing, and diving, Shacks is an all-purpose beach. The Shacks is a great spot to dive because of the crystal-clear waters and cathedral-like caves beneath the surface.
Blue Hole: For everyone who enjoys snorkeling, this beach is a must-see. A reef may be found near Blue Hole Beach, where you can see a wide variety of fish, coral, and other marine life. Manatees can occasionally be seen towards the reef’s end.
Blowhole and Bao La Princesa: This is a huge area with several coral formations, beaches, and natural pools. In the spring and summer, the location is quite popular. Pozo Brujo, a blowhole near the base of the cliff, maybe located towards the east end.
Punta Sardina: Located just a short distance from Isabela’s downtown area, Punta Sardina’s deep seas make it a favorite swimming and fishing site. The beautiful beach also features a shallow area where families with small children can swim.
Montones: There are several hotels and eateries in this neighborhood. You can hire cabanas for the day and swim in a variety of water depths. The beach is popular with families since it includes shallow spots where children can comfortably snorkel or swim.
2. Trek to the Guajataca Tunnel
The Guajataca Tunnel was a railroad tunnel that connected Isabela and Quebradillas and was used to carry the sugar crop. It was built in 1911. The railroads have long since vanished, and the tunnel is now accessible to the public and completely safe to traverse. The vistas of the rocky and scenic coastline, especially Playa El Pastillo and Playa de Guajataca, make the walk worthwhile. The latter, on the other hand, has harsh waves and strong currents, making swimming dangerous; the former, on the other hand, is a large and lovely beach.
Try looking at the Cara del Indio, a rock carving of a Cacique, or aboriginal chief, named Mabodamaca, on the west side. Mabodamaca is said to have jumped into the sea to die rather than be kidnapped by the Conquistadors.
At the border between Isabela and Quebradillas is the Guajataca Tunnel Park. The Route 2 entrance in Quebradillas offers free entry and parking.
3. Explore the Guajataca Forest
The Guajataca Forest is a virgin natural reserve with endemic flora and animals. The forest features 25 kilometers of paths, with Trail #1, which leads to the Cueva del Viento, being the most popular (Cave of the Wind). This stunning natural cave has limestone rock formations and is home to bats.
The 2-mile circular interpretive route, which is ideal for a mild hike, is very popular. An observation tower and a picnic spot are also accessible from the trail. There are 156 different tree species and 45 different bird species in the forest.
4. Go Horseback Riding
In Isabela, Tropical Trail Rides offer seaside horseback riding and ATV adventures. You’ll then ride through a lovely woodland before arriving at the seashore.
Tropical Trail Rides will even take you on a trek up the cliff for a panoramic photo opportunity if you are willing and able. One can swim on the beach or explore the cliffside caves if you don’t want to trek.
5. Go Scuba Diving
Isabela’s underwater caves provide excellent scuba diving opportunities for beginners and experts alike. Scuba, mountain bike, snorkeling, and surfing tours, as well as equipment rentals, are available at Aquatica Dive and Surf. You can enroll in scuba or surfing classes.
6. Learn About Paso Fino Horses
The Paso Fino horse is a cross between the Barb, Spanish Jennet, and Andalusian horses that the Spanish produced for use on plantations in Puerto Rico and Colombia. Plantation work was appropriate for these little, lovely horses with a fluid pace and high endurance. Approximately 8,000 purebred Puerto Rican Paso Fino horses are registered today. When you go out with Tropical Trail Rides, you can ride a Paso Fino.
7. Enjoy the Festival of the Wise Men
Isabela celebrates the Christmas holidays every January with the Festival de Los Reyes Magos, a two-day festival commemorating the entrance of the three Magi. The event comprises arts and crafts fairs, children’s puppet shows, live Christmas entertainment, and food and drinks for sale at Plaza Manuel Maria Corchado y Juarbe.
8. Savor Local Seafood
You should taste some of the local seafood while you’re in Isabella. The beachfront OceanFront Restaurant serves Caribbean fusion food and has both casual and fine dining options. Spiny lobster, mahi-mahi, and ahi tuna are among the fresh-grilled delicacies sourced from local fishermen.
Restaurante Sonido del Mar, which offers a stunning ocean view and serves fresh local seafood as well as Caribbean specialties, is also highly recommended.
9. Peruse the Tiny Photography Museum
Photographs depicting Isabela’s history from 1725 to the current day can be found in the Museo de Fotos de Isabela (photography museum). You’ll discover about sugar cane plantations, well-known local athletes, and the history of the area. It is a small museum run by Totn Ruiz Méndez, who enjoys answering inquiries and interacting with visitors. Admission is free.
10. Attend a Patron Saint’s Day Celebration
The Fiestas Patronales de San Antonio de Padua festival, held in June, honors Isabela’s patron saint, San Antonio de Padua. Parades, food and drink, and religious processions are all part of the cultural events, which are a terrific way to gain a firsthand look at Isabela’s customs.