Humacao, Puerto Rico may be one of the territory’s best kept secrets. Though it’s a bit of a drive from the big attractions of San Juan and famous resort towns like Dorado, Humacao stands on its own as a great option for travelers who want to see a different side of Puerto Rico.
From pristine beaches to surprising hikes, Humacao has plenty to offer nature lovers. From fascinating history to otherworldly science, Humacao also has a plethora of places for curious culture vultures to discover. And from secluded resorts to affordable lodgings, Humacao can fit pretty much any traveler’s budget.
If you’re curious to see how Humacao may fit into your Puerto Rico itinerary, read on to learn more about this hidden pearl of Puerto Rico’s southeastern coast.
Where Is Humacao, Puerto Rico? (And How Far Is Humacao from San Juan?)
How far is Humacao from San Juan? If you want to stay in the center of the action near San Juan, you may want to look elsewhere, as Humacao is 69 kilometers (or about 43 miles) southeast of Puerto Rico’s capital city. It will likely take over an hour to get from San Juan to Humacao, and that includes toll roads.
But for travelers who want to discover more of Puerto Rico beyond the most popular stops, Humacao, Puerto Rico, opens up plenty of new opportunities. This city offers easier access to El Yunque National Forest, a stunningly verdant paradise that’s the only tropical rainforest in the national forest system.
Beyond El Yunque, Humacao also makes a great “base camp” for exploring more of the eastern side of the main island, as well as the nearby smaller islands of Culebra and Vieques. The Ceiba Ferry Terminal is only 43 kilometers (or about 27 miles) away from Humacao. Ceiba regularly has ferries running to Culebra and Vieques, and these boat rides tend to be cheaper and easier to access than flying to either island from San Juan.
What Can You Do in Humacao?
Perhaps the more pertinent question is: What can’t you do in Humacao? No matter what your interests and desires are, you can probably find what you want in and around Humacao, Puerto Rico.
What to Do in Town
Humacao has plenty of hidden gems full of amazing art. At Casa Roig you can admire the handiwork of famed architect Antonin Nechodoma, who designed this house for wealthy sugar baron Antonio Roig and oversaw its construction in 1920. Meanwhile, Centro de Artes Ángel “Lito” Peña Plaza has a fascinating collection of works by contemporary Puerto Rican artists in a beautifully historic setting, and the Centro de Bellas Artes de Humacao is the region’s premier performing arts venue.
If you want to learn more about Humacao’s history, check out one of the city’s historic churches. The Concatedral Dulce Nombre de Jesús was originally built in 1769, then a second church was built in 1826. It made the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1984 thanks to its unique Gothic Revival meets Caribbean tropical design. This church is also living history, as it’s still active, and Pope Benedict XVI officially made it a cathedral in 2008.
Shifting gears, let’s talk about the University of Puerto Rico’s Astronomical Observatory. A group of students rediscovered this observatory on campus in 2019, and it’s once again a working research facility that opens to the public during lunar eclipses and other special night-sky events.
Where to Find Humacao’s Local Great Outdoors
On the coastal side of Humacao, you will find Punta Santiago. The beach itself has a fascinating combination of white coral sand and black volcanic sand, and the water often sports a gorgeous aquamarine hue. Though it’s part of a working fishing village, this beach is nonetheless a welcoming place for visitors. Even better, it’s also right by the Balneario Punta Santiago, where you’ll find a water park and a camping area.
Largely surrounding the Punta Santiago beach is the Punta Santiago Nature Reserve, which is also known as the Humacao Nature Reserve. Though this park is primarily dedicated to preserving much of the region’s natural beauty, you will find some remnants of Humacao’s military history, including the former U.S. Army lookout built on top of El Morrillo. In addition, the Punta Santiago Reserve has the Pterocarpus Forest, wetlands with mangrove forests, the Antón Ruiz River mouths, multiple hike and bike trails, and designated fishing areas.
What to Do at Palmas del Mar
Located on the south end of Humacao, Palmas del Mar is a private gated community with over six miles of Caribbean Sea frontage. Later on, we’ll go into more detail on the lodging options at Palmas del Mar, but for now we’re focusing on the community’s activities and amenities.
Of course, Palmas del Mar has plenty of beaches that are open to residents and guests, but it also has a members-only, full-service Beach Club that has family-friendly pools with water slides, an adults-only pool, a restaurant and bar, and locker rooms with showers. Palmas also has its own Yacht Club marina that’s fully equipped with true 240V electrical systems dockside, courtesy pump-out service, complimentary in-slip diesel fuel service, and free WiFi at the docks.
Moving inland, Palmas del Mar in Humacao, Puerto Rico, also has the largest and best-equipped tennis facility in the entire Caribbean, as well as an on-site equestrian center with trails and a training facility. Palmas del Mar even has a highly acclaimed golf club with two 18-hole championship courses: the Reese Jones designed Flamboyán Course, and the Gary Player-designed Palm Course.
What About Hotels and Vacation Rentals?
No matter your personal preferences and budget, Humacao, Puerto Rico, has a place for you to stay. For more affordable accommodations, check out Barefoot Travelers Rooms, where guests can take advantage of the house’s on-site amenities, including a full kitchen, a lending library, and complimentary WiFi. Plus, you’re within walking distance of the nature reserve.
You can likely find a few more vacation rentals in and around town, but the bulk of available vacation rentals will probably be at Palmas del Mar. More specifically, the Surfside Palmas, Harbour Lakes, and Park Royal Homestay Club Cala complexes regularly have units available. This is a solid option for travelers who want a place that feels more like home with larger space and more in-unit amenities, but also want the resort-style perks that come with a community like Palmas del Mar.
For those who prefer a full-service hotel, Palmas del Mar is still where it’s at, as this is where you’ll also find the Wyndham Palmas resort. Though its mere 107 rooms and suites might officially qualify Wyndham Palmas as a micro-resort, nothing about the Wyndham’s expansive pool areas, lush garden landscaping, easy beach access, or big flavors at its signature Trova restaurant feels “micro” at all. Also, the Wyndham’s rooms themselves also feel pretty large, and the “boho chic” vibes really help break the stereotype some of us may have regarding a Wyndham-branded hotel.
How About the Local Restaurants?
When it comes to restaurants in Humacao, you can expect plenty of variety and some fascinating new flavors here and there. At first glance, Humacao restaurants might not seem as exciting as San Juan’s. But if you know where to go, you can find many tasty surprises in town and at Palmas del Mar.
Humacao Restaurants in Town
Bocata by Campillo is the local Spanish deli where everyone goes for tasty tapas, scrumptious paella, delectable tortillas and sandwiches, and a great selection of wines and liquors. If you’re craving more authentically local Puerto Rican fare, Cafe Teatro Oriente serves up the real deal (including some classically delicious tostones), plus they’re open late on weekends, and they even host local live music acts on weekends.
For something healthier, try Pachamama Magic Bistro. They make plenty of fantastic vegetarian and vegan dishes, plus they also have CBD beverages, teas, and even a “witch store” if you’re interested in picking up any magical souvenirs. For hearty breakfasts and some of the most authentic Puerto Rican coffee this side of El Yunque, it’s hard to beat El Kafe. And for some of the best sushi you’ll find anywhere in Puerto Rico, Rest Tokyo has a menu chock full of great rolls, plus they serve some great Chinese and Asian-Caribbean fare.
Restaurants at Palmas del Mar
If you’re staying somewhere behind the gates at Palmas del Mar, you can eat well without having to stray too far. For a fun night out that probably won’t break the bank, check out Pura Vida in Palmanova Plaza for great pan-Caribbean fare, top-notch service, and all-around good times. If you’re more in the mood for authentically Puerto Rican seafood with beautiful views, La Pescadería is right by the marina, and their mofongo with shrimp and garlic sauce is simply phenomenal.
As hinted a little earlier, Wyndham Palmas is pretty much the culinary epicenter of Palmas del Mar. Puerto Rico native chef Julio Cartagena teamed up with celebrity chefs Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth to open Trova Coastal Kitchen, a sumptuously stylish all-day restaurant that seamlessly blends local Caribbean ingredients and flavors with international flair. (The Persian love rice and sunflower pizza are my personal favorites!) For more casual light bites, Botica is Wyndham Palmas’ cool tapas bar, while Café 1736 is the place to go for authentic Alto Grande coffee and to-go breakfast items.
Humacao, Puerto Rico, Is Truly a Hidden Gem That’s Worth the Journey
Humacao, Puerto Rico, may not be a household name (yet), but it’s certainly a place full of hidden treasures. Humacao’s city center has several fascinating artistic and also cultural assets for urban explorers to discover. Plus, the city has a great variety of restaurants serving up fantastic old-school Puerto Rican dishes and exciting new international flavors. And for everyone who likes spending quality time in the great outdoors, Humacao abounds in spectacular natural beauty.
Whether you want to take the town by storm or enjoy a tranquil escape at Palmas del Mar, Humacao is happy to welcome you in and treat you to a uniquely Puerto Rican experience.
Interested in learning more about planning a visit to Puerto Rico? Check out this guide to planning the perfect road trip.