Patillas, PR – The Emerald of the South

Locals might call them “sandías” now, but this town is named after what was known before as the patilla fruit, which grew in abundance here. The popular fruit’s name in English: Watermelon! So, there’s no reason to ask the locals about their patillas, which is Puerto Ricans’ term for sideburns.

At night, tourists might get a kick out of enjoying the unadultered wildlife in the stretch of coconut-grove beach called Balneario Villa Pesquera. The beach is part of the fishing community of Barrio Bajo. Weekends begin early on Thursdays nights, when locals start to gather for music, food, and a laid-back good time. Cold beers, warm neighbors, and “rellenos de papa” (fried potato balls filled with ground meat) will make sociable tourists feel at home. Those who stay in town overnight can wake up to get their hands on the fresh catch of the day.

Part of the Carite Forest Reserve lies in Patillas, including one of the highlights of the facilities-rich environs: the Charco Azul (Blue Puddle). On a hot day in Patillas, hikers don’t have to venture to the beach to take a dip and cool off. This “charco” is actually part of a nearby river that forms a natural pool constantly fed by the mountain rains.

There’s also a freshwater lake named Patillas, which serves as a hydroelectric reservoir, as well as a fishing and recreation area. Visitors can dine at water’s edge in local restaurant La Pared, which offers typical Caribbean cuisine including seafood. Back on the coast of Patillas, all kinds of water activities are on offer: surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving. Check out the “hidden” town of Barrio Guardarraya.

Patillas is one of many Puerto Rican municipalities where a short drive takes you back and forth between the mountains and the sea. A glance at the hills here, with the sunlight reflecting brightly on them, and one knows why Patillas is the Emerald of the South.

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