The municipality of Carolina shouldn’t be hard to miss, since most tourists land here at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. The lure of nearby Old San Juan notwithstanding, Carolina boasts its own tourist-centric area. Isla Verde stretches west from the airport, a long line of beachfront casino hotels, replete with sunbathing, dining, and nightlife opportunities. The Balneario Isla Verde is one of the larger and popular beaches in this area. Carolina’s coasts are also the site of abundant mangrove forests with diverse wildlife.
Alas, Isla Verde is just a tiny part of this so-called “Town of Giants.” Formerly known as the town of Trujillo Bajo when founded in 1857, its name was later changed in honor of the daughter of a wealthy landowner. Carolina used to be a central agricultural town of the northeast, with sugarcane as its main crop, but it is now largely industrial, producing everything from chewing gum to electronics. Many shopping malls pepper both sides of its major highways.
The legendary Río Grande de Loiza crosses Carolina. This river was a constant source of inspiration for one of Puerto Rico’s major poets, Julia de Burgos, in whose name the town built a museum and park, with facilities for various cultural activities. A sports complex honors Major League Baseball player Roberto Clemente, a national hero whose distinguished career spanned 18 seasons and an MVP award in 1966. The Casa Escuté houses local art along with an exhibit on Carolina’s famed giant, Felipe Birriel, who stood the astounding height of 7’11”.
Carolina seems to never run out of reasons to celebrate. It hosts year-round Noches de Bohemia with local musicians, Noches de Jazz y Galería where art and jazz music collide, salsa and bowling competitions, reggeatón concerts (many artists in this genre were born here), as well as the traditional fiestas patronales.