One might be tempted to believe that Aibonito’s name stems from the Spanish word bonito, with the exclamatory “ay!” in front. A version of its origin does claim this to be true; the folk tale tells of a Spanish explorer who gazed upon the area and shouted “ay, bonito”… But the more likely explanation is that it was adapted from the native taíno word Jatibonicu, which referred to a local “river of the night.”
From the last week of June through the first week of July, Aibonito “shows off” as host to the Festival de las Flores. This flower festival was founded in 1969 and continues to grow in popularity. Some visitors from around the island and abroad might come just to gaze or take photographs, but many can be seen with their wallets ready to purchase the latest offerings in tropical plants. Music, food, and a diverse array of activities (e.g., a troubadour contest) round out this long-running celebration.
Potted plants notwithstanding, Aibonito offers plenty of splendid natural scenery. The town holds the distinction of being the highest town on the island at an elevation of 2,401 feet. It also lies amidst the Cayey Mountain Range, and the journey there can be literally breathtaking. Its altitude makes Aibonito prone to relatively cold weather; for islanders below 60˚ F is already “chilly,” let alone the record 40˚ F recorded here. To help take in all the scenery, the town has many designated lookout points such as La Piedra Montá and Piedra Degeteau.
From Aibonito’s heights hikers can take a tour down the Cañón San Cristóbal. A guide for this adventure is highly recommended, as no clear paths exists and access is difficult. The Usabón and Barranquitas rivers flow through this 9 kilometer long canyon, the only one in the island, created by volcanic rift. The adventurous will be rewarded with pools and waterfalls within the lush vegetation.
Among Aibonito’s famous residents there have been several illustrious politicians. The town’s Casa Degetau Museum used to be the house of Puerto Rico’s first Resident Commissioner in Washington, D.C., Don Federico Degeteau. Rubén Berrios, still a key figure in the island’s independentista political party (known as “El PIP”), was born here as well. During his long career Berríos has served many times as a senator as well as the gubernatorial candidate for the PIP.