Christopher Columbus’s landing site in Puerto Rico is believed to lie in the Southwestern coast of Aguadilla. This was during his crew’s second voyage to the West Indies in 1493. Visitors today will find many a locale named after the explorer, whose name translates in Spanish to Cristóbal Colón. Most notable of these is the Colón Park, near the ocean, with varied recreational facilities such as picnic areas and playgrounds. As is typical of Aguadilla, history combines with fun here: the monument known as Cruz de Colón (a cross in honor of you know who) stands close to La Casa del Árbol, technically a freestanding house that was built interlaced with a banyan tree that grows there.
Some other historical sites in Aguadilla include the ruins of an old Spanish lighthouse, monuments to the native taínos and to the town’s fishermen, and fountains in honor of musicians that have called this their home.
The once-abandoned Ramey Air Force Base, handed over to the Puerto Rican government in the 1970s, is finally being developed to exploit the area’s commercial and tourist potential. Luxury hotels are starting to spring up, and airlines such as JetBlue and Continental have been servicing the nearby Rafael Hernández airport. The airport is named after one of the many aguadillenses of note, Rafael Hernández Marín, late composer and songwriter. His “Lamento borincano” is one of many nostalgia-themed tunes that any local will at least know how to hum. The town is also the birthplace of José de Diego, a politician and writer who was one of the most ardent fighters for independence during Spain’s rule.
Aguadilla is also one of Puerto Rico’s world-class surfing locations, with beaches such as Gas Chambers, Wilderness, and Crash Boat. There is even an ocean-side boardwalk named Paseo de Surfers. The surfboards might make these beaches even more colorful, but it’s the underground beauty of the ocean –with wonderful corales and diverse marine life– that prompts Aguadilla’s title of “Garden of the Atlantic.”
One doesn’t have to be a pro surfer to enjoy the water in Aguadilla. Puerto Ricans from all over the island make the trek here to enjoy the Caribbean’s largest water theme park, Las Cascadas. There’s also Parterre Park with its famous Ojo de Agua (or, “Eye of Water”), an underground freshwater brook that was a frequent watering hole for maritime travelers. Last, but not least, there’s the frozen kind: Aguadilla is home to one of the island’s few ice rinks… along the beachfront!