Puerto Rico’s Peñuelas, The Valley of the Flamboyant Trees

Peñuelas is a city of 27,615 (Census, 2000) located on the south coast of Puerto Rico about a dozen miles west of Ponce. Its nickname is “The Valley of the Flamboyant Trees” (in English: “Valley of the Flame Trees”) and its citizens are called “Peñolanos”. The city was founded in 1793 by Diego de Alvarado and has enjoyed a quiet, peaceful history for the most part.

The city is home to an AA league baseball team called the Los Petroleros de Peñuelas (the Peñuelas Oilers), and this reflects the city’s association with the oil and gas industry. Until 1980, a large petrochemical complex called CORCO was located in Peñuelas, and although CORCO is long gone, Peñuelas now hosts an ultramodern LNG import facility at Guayanilla Bay on the seacoast. Liquid natural gas powers a 461 megawatt cogeneration plant from which electricity is sold to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s grid. Steam from the plant is used to power an on-site desalination facility that supplies fresh, clean drinking water to the surrounding area.

Past and present petrochemical activities have not degraded the many natural attractions that continue to make Peñuelas a popular tourist destination. These include a series of caves called the Convento Caverns, the Charco de Soplaera water pool and the Guilarte Forest.

In town, the Unknown Soldier Monument and the Don Angel Pacheco Monument add character to this neat, friendly Puerto Rican town. If you plan on visiting Peñuelas, it’s a good idea to coincide your time there with some of the colorful festivals. Patron Celebrations, for example, occur in March followed by the Güiro National Fiesta in May. There’s also the popular “Vuelta Cyclista” bicycle tour that takes in a number of the local sights and landmarks. Pretty Peñuelas – it’s off the beaten track but there are few nicer places in Puerto Rico!