San Sebastián, Puerto Rico (2023 Guide) – All You Need To Know

San Sebastián is a town located in the mountain ranges of Puerto Rico.

Known for its rich history, lovely architecture and natural beauty, residents around the island love visiting San Sebastián.

I’ve lived in Puerto Rico for the past 14 years and love visiting this town for a road trip.

In this article, I will cover everything that you need to know about San Sebastián:

What is San Sebastián?
What is San Sebastián Puerto Rico known for?
Where in Puerto Rico is San Sebastián located?
What is the San Sebastián Festival in Puerto Rico?
What are some things to do in San Sebastián?
Is San Sebastián Puerto Rico safe for tourists?
Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is San Sebastián?

San Sebastián is a municipality of Puerto Rico located in the mountains of the northwestern part of the island.

There are twenty-four barrios (neighborhoods) in San Sebastián.

The residents of the town, known as “San Sebastián del Pepino” or “Pepino town” for short, call themselves pepinianos (cucumbers) and patrulleros (patrollers).

image of Museo de Historia
Museo de Historia (History Museum) of San Sebastián, located in the town plaza.

San Sebastián is also named the “hammock town” and has a dedicated hammock museum I’ll discuss more below.

The town was formally founded in 1752, led by the founder, Captain Cristóbal González de la Cruz, who, together with other locals, was interested in transforming specific cow ranches into agricultural settlements. 

Mariano Martin, the island’s catholic bishop, completed the town’s religious foundation in December 1762. 

By the 1700’s, San Sebastián was a collection of a few cow farms held by certain citizens of the Partido de Aguada. 

image of a cow statue
A cow statue in San Sebastián honors the history of the towns agricultural settlements.

The town got its name from these two cow farms. The names of the new community are derived from these geographical features: Las Vegas del Pepino (Cucumber Fields). 

It was named San Sebastián de Las Vegas del Pepino in 1865, later shortened to “San Sebastián del Pepino.”

The municipality’s economy is built on coffee, produce, and the cattle and dairy sectors. 

San Sebastián now has 37 educational institutions, a primary health care facility, a post office, phone service, radio and television stations, and minor highways.

Here’s a video of an aerial view of San Sebastián in 4k:

From Rincón, it takes about 40 minutes to visit San Sebastián. Many people take this day trip to visit the Gozolandia waterfall.

Read all about the area in our article Rincón – All You Need To Know.

 

What is San Sebastián Puerto Rico known for?

San Sebastián, Puerto Rico, is known for its cultural heritage, natural beauty, colonial architecture, and more.

But this town is most famous for its Heifer Festival called “Festival de la Novilla”.

I mentioned earlier that San Sebastían is also called the hammock town. Because they are known as the hammock town, you can visit a hammock museum while you are here.

image of a hammock
A hammock on display at the Hammock Museum in San Sebastián.

The museum guides you through the evolution and history of the hammock. Did you know that the indigenous Taínos invented the hammock before Columbus took over Puerto Rico?

San Sebastián is also known for its beautiful waterfall named Gozalandia.

image of waterfalls
Gozolandia waterfall in the rural area of San Sebastián.

There are two separate waterfall areas you can visit when you arrive.

Below is a video of the Gozalandia Waterfalls:

Read more about Gozalandia in our guide to the 15 Best Waterfalls in Puerto Rico.

 

Where in Puerto Rico is San Sebastián located?

As I mentioned before, San Sebastián is located in the mountain ranges of central Puerto Rico. 

San Sebastián is located in the western mountains of Puerto Rico.

East of Moca and Añasco, north of Las Marías, south of Isabela, Quebradillas, and Camuy, and west of Lares boards it. 

The town is located in the humid northern hills of the island.

Elevations in the rugged terrain range from 100 to 300 meters (330 to 985 ft) above sea level.

You can get to San Sebastián by using the Google Maps location below:

Want to know the driving time from San Sebastián to San Juan?

It’s about 124 km away, which is roughly 2 hours away from San Juan. 

Getting there with a rental car is best because Ubers will not take you to San Sebastián.

If you’re coming to Puerto Rico and still need to book a rental car, check out our Renting A Car In Puerto Rico article.

 

What is the San Sebastián Festival in Puerto Rico?

Don’t be confused by the “Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián,” which is a street festival that happens in January in Old San Juan. This annual festival is celebrated on the street called San Sebastián.

Taking place at a different time and region of the island, the festival that San Sebastián town celebrates is called Festival de la Novilla (Cow festival).

image of a cow statue
Agriculture is an important part of the history of San Sebastián which is demonstrated by their annual festival, but don’t confuse the San Sebastián festival in Old San Juan with this town.

Live bands playing anything from folk music to salsa, craftsmen and fried food sellers, and amusement park attractions are put up in the town square.

The festival’s high point is the official parade, in which a cow is dressed in a flower crown and leads a procession of floats through town. 

This celebration not only commemorates Puerto Rican agricultural methods but also functions as a fundraiser for local scholarships.

If you are curious to learn more about the holidays in Puerto Rico, check out our article Public Holidays, Traditions and Celebrations in Puerto Rico.

 

What are some things to do in San Sebastián?

Visiting the Gozalandia natural water park is one of the best things to do in San Sebastián.

image of a waterfalls
Gozolandia is one of Puerto Rico’s most popular waterfalls.

It’s perfect for taking the family; it’s a nice road trip experience, and you get to explore the natural beauty of Puerto Rico.

After swimming at the Gozalandia waterfall, head on over to Hacienda La Fe, a restaurant that serves delicious Puerto Rican cuisine and even includes rock climbing & zip lining.

image of Hacienda La Fe
Hacienda La Fe is a ten minute drive from Gozolandia waterfalls.

Visiting the Museo de la Hamaca (Hammock Museum) is another must-do activity when visiting San Sebastián.

You’ll learn the history, origins, and evolution of the popular hammock you see photographed at so many beaches.

image of Museo De La Hamaca
Museo De La Hamaca welcomes visitors who want to learn about the history of the hammock and tour their exhibit of how they were first made.

The indigenous Taínos of Puerto Rico invented the hammock.

Puerto Rico is an iconic island where the Piña Colada and Hammock were first created.

image of a statue
Statue of the indigenous people of Puerto Rico, the Taínos.

For more information about Taínos, read our article detailing the History of Puerto Rico.

 

Is San Sebastián Puerto Rico safe for tourists?

San Sebastián is safe for tourists as long as they take basic safety precautions and know their surroundings. 

image of a cop
Police patrol the streets of Puerto Rico, but it is still important to take precautions and observe local culture when you visit a new place.

It’s important to note that crime rates in Puerto Rico have been higher than in the U.S. states in recent years.

It’s a good idea for tourists to avoid carrying valuables and to be vigilant in crowded or unfamiliar areas. 

Tourists should also be aware of local laws and customs and respect the region’s culture and traditions.

 

FAQ section

Is San Sebastián worth visiting?

Yes, San Sebastián is worth visiting for its historical significance, and natural beauty, and it's a famous waterfall that residents from all around the Island love visiting with friends and families.

Is San Sebastian, Puerto Rico, a good place to live?

San Sebastián, Puerto Rico, is a good place to live if you like living in the mountains, plan on retiring, are looking to buy a country home, or like a slower pace of life. Other than that, I wouldn't recommend living there.

 

Final thoughts

San Sebastián, Puerto Rico, is a charming and unique town in the island’s west-central region, known for its natural beauty, the Novilla festival, the Gozalandia waterfall, and its colonial architecture.

Visiting San Sebastián will be a delightful experience because the town’s residents are very friendly and welcoming, and the community has a strong sense of togetherness.

I recommend checking out our article on the 45 Best Places To Visit In Puerto Rico for your next adventure on the island. 

You may also enjoy our article Where To Stay In Puerto Rico – 13 Best Places & Areas.

San Sebastián, Puerto Rico (2023 Guide) – All You Need To Know
Article by

Miguel Concepcion

Writer at PuertoRico.com. I’ve lived in Puerto Rico for 14 years and have experienced every inch of this stunning island. Growing up in Puerto Rico has helped me truly learn about the rich culture and extensive history this island has to offer. I share my local knowledge in all of the articles that I write.

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