Jesse Sage from ThisOldeThing.com contributed this awesome article on Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. Enjoy!
I lived in Puerto Rico for a semester when I exchanged to the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras. During that time, I tried to get out of my comfort zone as much as possible, though I didn’t have to try much because I was living outside my comfort zone!
Walking to the huge Plaza del Mercado in Paseo de Diego to buy fresh produce from individual merchants rather than a grocery store, trying to survive my classes (which were all in Spanish), and navigating one of the most mysterious public transportation systems I’ve come across was a daily challenge. But my friend Joohyun, another exchange student, along with our next-dorm-neighbor Kassy, and I, wanted to see more than just the area of Rio Piedras. On a break from school, we rented a car and planned a road trip. Cabo Rojo is one spot we visited that I’ll never forget.
Somehow, visiting Cabo Rojo is not on the most-recommended lists of things to do in Puerto Rico. Most visitors, who only stay for a few days, tend to stay around Old San Juan. If you want to feel like you really got away from it all, take the drive to the lighthouse and beach in Cabo Rojo.
El Faro Los Morillos, Playa Sucia & El Puente Natural de Piedra in Cabo Rojo
El Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre de Cabo Rojo, as it’s officially named, is a National Wildlife Refuge on the south-west coast of Puerto Rico. This spot is a little treat that proves that taking the road less traveled has its perks. You should plan your visit in three parts, that I know of:
El Faro – The Lighthouse Playa Sucia/Playuela – The Beach El Puente Natural de Piedra – The Natural Stone Bridge
The Lighthouse on the Cliff – El Faro Los Morillos
Faro Los Morillos de Cabo Rojo is the lighthouse built in the late 1800s to guide ships through the waters at night. The cliffs it sits on are a very different terrain from the gently sloping, crystalline beaches on the North Shore of the island. Waves crashing against the steep cliffs with a sheer drop of over 200 feet add drama to the tropical setting. It almost feels like you could be in a Caribbean version of Wuthering Heights as the wind blows through the seagrasses surrounding the lighthouse.
Down below, the drive down a path and short walk to the beach prevent the usual crowds from flocking here. Playa Sucia literally means “dirty beach”—not a very enticing description—which may be why it tends to be more private.
After visiting the lighthouse, which just breathes history and made me imagine a different story in every room, my friends and I found a beach spot in the inlet of Playa Sucia secluded enough to lay out topless. I remember feeling so happy, inspired and independent, and as I looked out through the leaves shading our beach retreat I thought, “this is the fuckin’ LIFE!”
El Puente Natural de Piedra – The Natural Stone Bridge
I actually haven’t been to this natural “bridge” just a short walk from El Faro, but once I saw a photo, I couldn’t leave it out! In case any of you are in the area, this is another stunning part of Cabo Rojo that certainly looks worth the walk. Note that though you may have seen photos of people posing on the bridge, you REALLY shouldn’t do that! This natural bridge isn’t very strong and will eventually wear away and break under someone’s weight. It’s best to enjoy this beautiful view from afar.
Planning a Visit to Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
Try to go on a weekday as it gets busy on weekends and holidays. November through January, the beach accumulates Sargasso seaweed which gives it its name of Playa Sucia. Plan to go during February-October and you’ll find a stunning beach! There are no bathrooms or food around, so bring anything you need to stay comfortable all day. Bringing an umbrella isn’t a bad idea, though we found an area shaded by palm trees and vegetation. Plenty of sunscreen and refreshments are a must.
A note about parking your car—park where you see signs that say estacionamiento (parking). You can get a ticket for parking outside of there!
Use Caution & Common Sense at the Cliffs at Cabo Rojo
The cliffs at Cabo Rojo are a place you can daydream you’re in another time period, but use caution! There’s no fence to break up Mother Nature’s beautiful view meaning there’s also nothing to stop you from falling—and it gets quite windy!
About the Author: Jesse Sage is the creator of ThisOldeThing.com where she writes about vintage weirdness and spills ice-cold historic tea.