Manatí is a municipality that has been characterized as a center of intellectual and literary activity. It has been called the Athens of Puerto Rico, and some of the architecture around town tries to recreate the style of the ancient metropolis. The town’s commitment to literary culture is evident in its major library, Biblioteca Nacional Francisco Álvarez. Next door one finds the Salón de los Poetas, built in honor of the poets and artists who built up Manatí’s reputation. Both of these buildings can be found on the Paseo de la Atenas. Many other historical buildings display various architectonic styles; there’s the Teatro Taboas, the Archivo Histórico, and the Banco Territorial Agrícola y Casino.
Manatí is clearly a town rich in history as well as resources. Its many rivers have made its fertile ground highly dependable for agriculture. Sugar cane, coffee, and pineapple plantations stand beside factories for the manufacture of textiles, shoes, and pharmaceuticals.
The Manatí leg of the Manuatabón River was actually the first site that Juan Ponce de León chose for excavating gold. This dates the first Spanish settlement in this area to the start of the 16th century. The Iglesia Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria church, dating further back to the 17th century, is still standing in its original location. At Plaza de la Historia de Manatí, a black granite wall with gold lettering that recounts the history of the town.
Often considered a well-kept secret, Manatí’s beautiful sands provide a quieter alternative to tourist-packed beaches. Among these are Playa Los Tubos, which features a family-friendly recreational area, and Playa Mar Chiquita, its rougher waves recommended for surfing. The name of the town honors the coastal inhabitants of the same name: manatees (manatíes, in Spanish), of which there is a fountain at one of the town plazas.