Cabo Rojo, or "Red Cape," is a quiet treasure in Puerto Rico, a place beloved by locals but relatively undiscovered by tourists. Located on the southwest coast of the island, Cabo Rojo has some of the most scenic landmarks on the island. It is said that the infamous pirate, Roberto Cofresí, made this region his haven and buried some of his loot in the rugged caves along its coast.
Whatever you may think of pirates, it's clear Cofresí had good taste. Cabo Rojo combines stunning natural beauty with a quaint town and many cultural offerings. Here are five reasons why it's a destination you might just fall in love with.
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One of my top 5 favorite beaches in Puerto Rico is Bahía Sucia, or "Dirty Bay." Guess where it's located? Yup, Cabo Rojo. But that's just one of the area's many dazzling beaches. Playa Boquerón is a fully equipped and picturesque beach in the quiet town of Boquerón, and Playa Combate is not only the longest beach in Puerto Rico but one of its most beautiful.
The only caveat to Cabo Rojo's sandy gems? Avoid them at all costs on long weekends, when hordes of Puerto Ricans descend on them.
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Built in 1882, the Cabo Rojo lighthouse is one of the region's most distinctive landmarks. Easily accessible from Bahía Sucia, the lighthouse is a classic example of Spanish lighthouse architecture. The attractive grey-and-white trim sets it off in stunning fashion against the red-hued limestone cliffs, which on their own provide a scenic vista unlike any other in Puerto Rico. This is a functioning lighthouse and is open to the public.
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Just off the coast of Cabo Rojo are two incredible islands. Isla de Mona, 50 miles west, is known as The Galapagos of the Caribbean for its astounding variety of marine life and iguanas (and I'm talking 3-foot long iguanas here). The entire island has been declared a natural reserve and is closed to public access, but its surrounding waters make for spectacular snorkeling and diving.
Isla de Ratones, near the small town of Joyuda in Cabo Rojo, is a tiny, breathtaking sandbar that also offers excellent snorkeling.
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The colonial town of Cabo Rojo, with its quaint central plaza (called Plaza Ramoón Emeterio Betánces) has a few cultural highlights. In particular, don't miss:
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- The Iglesia San Miguel Arcángel in the main plaza - a beautiful church built in 1771, it is said that Ramón Emeterio Betánces once set free the children of slaves from this spot.
- The Museo de los Proceres - an impressive collection of national art and sculpture, along with native Indian culture exhibits.
- The Salvador Brau Monument - Salvador Brau, a Cabo Rojo native, was named the island's Chronologist. He published the La Historia de Puerto Rico (The History of Puerto Rico") in 1904.
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The Salt Flats
Gazing on the barren salt flats in Cabo Rojo is something of an alien experience. Amid the tropical beaches and azure waters of the Caribbean, this is an unusual landscape. There are an interpretive center and an observatory tower that gives you 360-degree panoramic views of the flats and the surrounding area. Tours are cheap and offer a fun way to learn about how salt is collected here.
One other reason to visit the Salt Flats: hike along them, hugging the brush as you go, and you'll see rough trails that lead to miles of pristine and often isolated beachfront. I ended up on a small strip of beach with nothing around me but an idle boat on the horizon.