Exploring Puerto Rico’s Route 187

Starting just beyond the airport in San Juan and heading towards Loíza, Route 187 hugs the coastline offering some spectacular scenery on a road less traveled. Along Route 187, Piñones boasts the island’s largest mangrove forest and is home to a community representing the fascinating Afro-Caribbean cultural heritage of Puerto Rico. Kiosks alongside the road at Piñones offer traditional foods, including pasteles, bacalaítos, alcapurrias, arepas and empanadillas, as well as colorful crafts and coconut masks. Visitors can hike or ride a hired bicycle along the paths leading to two points offering spectacular panoramic views of the coastline and mangrove forests. A small beach, referred to locally as La Pocita, is perfect for relaxing on, while some cafés and restaurants offer a place to sit and socialize. Further along Route 187 is Vacía Talega – one of the island’s most beautiful beaches.

Home to families who have lived there for generations, Piñones is offers insight into the history of Puerto Rico’s culture and traditions, particularly relating to food, crafts and music. The area is also home to dozens of archeological sites, some of which are considered to be the oldest on the island. At the Cultural and Ecotourist Center of Piñones, visitors can hire bicycles to travel along the trail in the Piñones State Forest and Nature Reserve, where a variety of different habitats – beaches, sand dunes, lagoons, mangrove forest and coral reefs – are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Visitors can also rent kayaks to explore the spectacular Torrecilla Lagoon which extends into the mangrove forest of the reserve.

Established by sociologist and social worker Maricruz Rivera Clemente the organization Corporación Piñones Se Integra (COPI) promotes a number of sustainable development projects to improve the quality of life of the community. These include workshops in which participants can learn about the African heritage of the Puerto Rican culture through Bomba music, percussion, dancing and discussions in a relaxed and fun atmosphere. The center also hosts educational sessions regarding conservation of the environment, which includes an area used by endangered leatherback turtles as a breeding ground. On the second and last Friday of each month, the Folkloric Ballet Majestad Negra presents Afro-Puerto Rican Music Shows and cultural activities take place throughout the year, making Piñones an interesting destination to visit when exploring the island of Puerto Rico.