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Naranjito’s Impressive Landscapes

The City of Changos offers educational tours, restaurants, gazebos, and a cable-stayed bridge 

April 18, 2024 - 11:00 PM

Mirador Staircase Tower in Naranjito, where you can enjoy a full view of downtown Naranjito, as well as the surrounding neighborhoods. (Isabel Ferré Sadurní)

Lee la historia en español aquí.

Naranjito.- “This reservoir is much more than 4.5 kilometers of water. There is much more than that here. There is flora, fauna and history.” In this way, Carlos Sáez Espinel, a 31-year-old young entrepreneur from Naranjito, describes the La Plata lake, a space that feeds from the river that bears the same name, and that he promotes through boat tours.

The reservoir was initially created to supply water to the metropolitan area, but it has become home to interesting aquatic and avian species.

“What I do is a leisure tour, but it’s also educational because I talk a little about the history and fauna of this place. Many people don’t know how many species live here. There are many birds. Lots of flora and fauna; the variety is impressive. This is why it is protected by the Department of Natural Resources,” explained Sáez Espinel.

The naranjiteño added that some species have been introduced “artificially” to the space. “Right now, the last one introduced was the red devil cichlid. There’s also quite a few types of herons: the great white heron, two types of gray heron, and the cattle egret. There’s also green herons, night-herons, and others,” he highlighted.

“I grew up here. I’ve been exploring the lake since I was a child and I’ve always had the idea of showing off this place’s beauty,” reiterated the young man, who acquired his Pantun model boat and trained to obtain his navigation license, as well as other permits that certify him as Captain of the Plata Boat Trip, an innovative nautical tourism concept unique to this mountain town.

“Gateway to The Mountains”

Another attraction of the city of changos (a black bird abundant in Puerto Rico) is the only cable-stayed bridge on the island, which is located on the PR-5 highway. It is known as La Puerta de la Montaña (Gateway to The Mountains) because it connects the metropolitan area with Naranjito. This impressive structure was inaugurated in 2008. It is 402 meters long and is similar in height to a 22-story building. It is supported by 96 cables.

When crossing this impressive bridge, you can spot the gigantic letters that welcome passers-by. These have become a well-known picture spot to record your visit to this charming mountain town.

Nearby is the Paseo Lineal (linear park), which is 1,200 meters long. Along the way, two gazebos, a recreational area for children, exercise stations, and a restaurant were established. The restaurant is known for its giant chair, which is adorned with a Puerto Rican flag and is an excellent selfie spot for visitors.

Another tourist attraction in this town is the Las Lágrimas viewpoint. “There is a waterfall over there and one of the falls happens to look like it’s only a few droplets of water. Legend says that a mother lost her son and those are the tears of that mother,” explained the municipality’s tourism director, Silvia Rodríguez.

Already in downtown Naranjito, it is impossible not to stop and admire the colorful walls of the alleys that give merit to one of its nicknames, “The City of Colors”. It is a passageway between two buildings on Georgetti Street, which features an homage to two well-loved figures from this town, Martina “Marta” Fuentes Cosme, and Gil A. “Jalisco” Nieves.

“This initiative arose spontaneously to breathe life into the town, and paying homage to two characters from our history. Marta lost her husband and children and, because of that, she would sit there at the entrance to the alley. She would ask for money all well-put, with her makeup on, always with a smile on her face. People remember her standing there. On the other wall is Jalisco, the announcer of the dead. He would go to the funeral home to check who had died, and then he would announce it all over town. He would also go to memorials and the cemetery,” said Rodríguez.

Another well-visited area is the ‘Staircase Tower & Bridge’ lookout point and connector. Just steps away from this colorful space is Naranjito’s public square, surrounded by important buildings, such as the San Miguel Arcángel Church, the Centro de Bellas Artes, City Hall, as well as small businesses and Puerto Rican food stands, like the one that sells the famous pasteles de arroz. The town square is located between Georgetti, Miguel Rivera and Ignacio Morales streets.

All these landmarks complement the famous gastronomic route, which lines the PR-152 Highway and is present in Naranjito’s various barrios. This concept features more than 50 restaurants, whose culinary offering ranges from Puerto Rican dishes to international cuisine fusions.

“We have created a map that helps direct visitors to those restaurants and food trucks, with the oldest and most striking being El Rancho de las Longanizas Don Nando. That one has been around for more than 40 years and is deep inside Naranjito, in the Feijo sector of the Cedro Arriba barrio. There’s food options in every barrio in the municipality,” concluded Rodríguez.

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