The tranquil municipality of Santa Isabel is named after a legendary, medieval Hungarian princess who dedicated her life to serve the poor and the sick. Puerto Ricans pride themselves on hospitality as well, and this southern coastal town is no exception. It might not offer the frills characteristic of other tourist-centric municipalities, but for those comfortable enough enjoying life alongside the islanders, a visit to Santa Isabela might provide the real deal.
Santa Isabel is a typical coastal towns with its “malecón,” or beachside boardwalk, and a Villa Pesquera, or fishing village. A stroll along this area will reveal a multitude of options for dining on fresh seafood, downing some cold beers, or just sipping one’s morning coffee. Order your café like the locals, either negro or cortaíto: negro is just black coffee, while cortaíto literally means “cut” with milk. Then, it’s off to dip in the water at either Santa Isabel Beach or Punta Águila.
Music plays a large part in the life of the town, taking center stage during the patron saint’s festival in July. In fact, one of the folk art specialties of the town is a type of drum used to play bomba music. Bomba is a drum-heavy music and dance style developed in Puerto Rico. It was directly influenced by the music of the West African people who were brought in by Spaniards to work as slaves in plantations. The rhythm of the bomba was originally played on barrels of rum with stretched goat skin covering the ends.
Santa Isabel was founded during the mid-19th century, and the town center features the typical layout of the square plaza, Plaza de los Fundadores, fronted by the church, Iglesia Santiago Apóstol. Santa Isabela’s economy is a mix of old and new, ranging from agriculture and manufacturing to biotechnology research.