Baños de Coamo
Baños de Coamo (end of Carr. 546, daily 8 a.m.–6 p.m., free) may well be Puerto Rico’s very first tourist attraction. The hot springs, which retain a constant 110°F temperature and which are rich in minerals, were first discovered by the Taíno Indians, who shared their find with the Spanish colonists. By the mid-16th century, a steady stream of visitors was making its way here, and in the 17th century a resort was built that operated until the 1950s. Wealthy visitors from all over the world visited Coamo, including the most illustrious U.S. proponent of hot springs himself, President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The springs look very different today than they did then. The water has actually been contained in two places. One, which looks like a small standard swimming pool, is on the private property of the Hotel Baños de Coamo and is reserved for its guests. The public bath is an easy half-mile hike down a dirt road behind the hotel. Unfortunately, despite the size of the hotel parking lot, visitors to the public bath are forbidden to use it, so it’s necessary to park alongside the dead-end road, where local farmers sometimes sell produce from the backs of their trucks.
Until recently the bath was contained in a stone pool, but that structure has since been replaced by a square ceramic-tile enclosure that looks a lot like a giant bathtub set down in the great outdoors. Families with small children and many elderly folks gather here to relax for hours, bringing with them picnics (no alcohol allowed) and folding tables on which to play dominoes and cards. Whether the springs are truly healing can be debated, but that doesn’t stop the clearly infirm who are drawn to the waters.
Dips are limited to 15 minutes at a time, and there is a small rustic changing room on-site.
© Suzanne Van Atten from Moon Puerto Rico, 2nd Edition