Canóvanas is one of many towns in Puerto Rico named in honor of a native chief, or cacique. Its nickname, however, signals that this municipality has a special connection to taíno ancestry: “Ciudad de los Indios,” or City of the Indians (as the natives were commonly mislabeled). Many professional sports teams in Canóvanas also carry the name Indios/Indias.
Canóvanas is located roughly halfway between the two major tourist centers in northern Puerto Rico, San Juan and Fajardo. In fact, the many shopping centers strewn alongside PR Road 3 can easily tempt casual travelers through Canóvanas into stopping to shop and snack. Retail businesses range from local huts selling all kinds of fritters to an outlet mall full of American brand stores.
The signs leading up to the entrance of the recently-renamed Hipódromo Camarero are another hard-to-miss sight along Road 3. Known for generations as El Comandante, Hipódromo Camarero is Puerto Rico’s own premium horse racetrack. Races are held five days a week, excluding Tuesdays and Thursdays. Betting centers can be found all over the island.
Across the street from the racetrack lies the Jesús T. Piñero House, reopened as a museum in 2004 to honor the man appointed by the U.S. as Puerto Rico’s first native governor in 1946. Piñero was also one of the founding members of one the current major political parties, the Popular Democratic Party. The beautiful pink house recreates aspects of both Piñero’s family and political life.
Canóvanas is at the forefront of agrotourism, a new concept in travel and offshoot of ecotourism. The town is host to La Casa Floriham, the second of several planned agriculturally-themed hotels in Puerto Rico. These resorts called agrohospederías focus on guests’ enjoyment of the surrounding natural environment. They are unique in that they operate within farmlands in haciendas, and visitors can learn about agricultural life firsthand.