Route 184 in the heart of Puerto Rico’s Sierra de Cayey mountain range features a variety of activities for those looking to experience countryside culture with true Puerto Rican flavor and mesmerizing vistas close to nature. The first stop along the route is Guavate, a sector in the municipality of Cayey famous throughout the island for it’s distinctive “lechoneras”. Lining both sides of the road, these open-aired eateries offer the ultimate Puerto Rican dish – lechón asado – savory suckling pig roasted on a spit and served with traditional favorites like arroz con gandules.
Just a few minutes from Guavate, the Carite Forest Reserve engulfs visitors with the serene sights and sounds of nature. The humid, sub-tropical forest encompasses over 6000 acres of land, home to native species of palms, ferns, and pine trees, as well as an abundant and varied bird population. Gazebos and picnic areas are available for those looking to take a break from city life, while hiking trails dot the area and help guide nature lovers through the reserve.
One such trail, located in the municipality of Patillas on the southern end of the forest, leads directly to Charco Azul, the perfect place for a reinvigorating dip. Named after its bluish hue, the natural pool’s refreshing waters flow from brooks born high in the adjacent mountains and continue to trickle down stream through the trail. The creek outlines a camping area with facilities that allow guests to spend the night in these pristine surroundings – the type of setting that is becoming increasingly difficult to find with every passing day.