Vega Baja, PR – City of the Melao Melao

In Puerto Rico, the sugarcane harvest traditionally includes the production of the syrupy substance known as melao. The municipality of Vega Baja is known as the City of the Melao Melao, where locals celebrate a melao festival in October. A marathon is also held during this festive weekend, possibly to burn away all the carbs. For a different type of burn, head to Playa de Puerto Nuevo, one of Vega Baja’s most popular swimming beaches due to its light waves and extensive facilities. Visitors to the municipality will also find great seafood restaurants along the coast, as well as the town’s own Club Náutico, a marina.

This northern coastal municipality also features treats for the visiting naturalist. The Tortuguero Lagoon Natural Reserve is home to hundreds of plant species, among which 37 are unique to this ecosystem. There are picnic areas and other facilities within the reserve, which also happens to be right on the coast. One can see the short canal that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the lagoon. Unfortunately, one can also see all the encroaching developments threatening the well-being of the various animal species (including more than 80 bird species) that make this reserve their home. Recently, the government acquired 207 acres of farmland from the Finca Nolla in order to expand protection efforts.

At the center of downtown Vega Baja, one can find the Museo de Arte Casa Alonso. The beautiful house is considered a National Historic Site in its own right, but the grounds on which it was built have also yielded many taíno artifacts of great archeological value. There’s also the Nuestra Señora del Rosario Parrish, which dates as far back as 1776. The architectural designs of still-standing theatres Teatro Fénix (neoclassical) and Teatro América (art deco) signal an island moving away from Spanish colonialism at the turn of the 20th century.

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