Puerto Rico’s east coast is rich in natural wonders, making it the most popular destination for day-trippers from San Juan. Less than an hour’s drive from the island’s capital are three quintessential Puerto Rican sights: El Yunque Caribbean National Forest, Balneario La Monserrate (Playa Luquillo), and Bosque Estatal de Piñones, all on the north end of the east coast.
Farther east is Fajardo, the island’s boating center renowned for its water sports, and Laguna Grande, a bioluminescent lagoon in the Reserva Natural Las Cabezas de San Juan. Fajardo is also the point of departure for the ferry to the islands of Vieques and Culebra.
The southern side of the east coast is less developed and lacks the big-draw tourist sights found farther north, but its sleepy towns—Naguabo, Humacao, Yubaca, Maunabo, and Patillas—and beaches offer a quiet getaway for those wanting to escape the bustle and crowds.
There are two officially designated scenic drives in the east coast. The Ruta Flamboyan (along Carr. 30 from Carr. 52 to Humacao) affords a lovely view of the spectacular flamboyan trees that bloom throughout the summer. These huge trees, also known as royal poinciana, have a broad, umbrella-shaped canopy that blooms a brilliant orange-red from June to early August.
The Ruta Coqui doesn’t necessarily get you any closer to its namesake, the coqui tree frog, than does a walk through any other forested part of the island. Instead the route (along Carr. 3 from San Juan to Humacao) passes by the east coast’s most popular attractions—Playa Luquillo and El Yunque—and the town of Fajardo.
© Suzanne Van Atten from Moon Puerto Rico, 2nd Edition