Manatí, also known as The Metropolitan City (La Ciudad Metropolitana) or Puerto Rico’s Athens, is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Puerto Rico. There are many impressive places with unique scenery: from crystal beaches to historical neighborhoods, including amazing national parks.
Founded in 1799 by Don Pedro Menendez Valdés, its name comes from the sea mammal manatee in Spanish. Conformed by eight barrios (neighborhoods) and a barrio-pueblo district (downtown and administrative sector), Manatí has a respectable amount of spots to discover.
The town hasn’t been a big place for tourists all these years, until 2014 when the first hotel was opened. A casino and a steakhouse were built for the public, too, attracting more visitors.
Hacienda La Esperanza
This place was a prosperous sugar cane plantation many years ago, in the 19th century. Today it is an attractive tourist place that was restored and served as a museum to show how Haciendas worked in the past.
This big reserve also features many other places to visit, such as wetlands, mangroves, estuaries and beaches, La Esperanza Beach being the biggest one.
History tours are made during the year for anyone who has a reservation and wants to visit, showing everything the house has to offer. Visitors can also check out the sugar mill outside, where an enormous engine from 1861 is located, restored to its original glory.
Mar Chiquita Beach
Mar Chiquita is one of the most visited beaches located on the northern coast of Puerto Rico, in Manatí. It’s also very near the bay, protected by the ocean with rocks covering most of its border, giving a lovely scenery. Along these borders, there’s a gap of rocks where the ocean enters, forming Mar Chiquita.
The beach is also known for its very thick sand and the many beach shells that can be found laying around. Tourists love sunbathing or swimming there, while others prefer taking photos or snorkeling its crystal waters. Lots of fish can be seen through the clear water.
Although there are no bathrooms, the beach has a big parking lot with markets only open during the weekends.
It may not be as famous as others places since not many tourists visit it, frequently being missed out. So this is a spectacular moment to learn about one of the hidden gems that Manatí offers. Not very away from Old San Juan, Guayaney is the perfect option for those looking for a hiking trip.
This spring of clear waters is full of wildlife, such as turtles, fishes and plants, for photo enthusiasts looking to get the best picture.
Mountain bike trails are also available nearby, all around the lagoon. In addition, there are some allowed spots for people looking to get into the water and enjoy its warm and clear pond. Since this place is very clean and well-kept, it’s advised to visitors to keep it that way.
La Poza de las Mujeres
La Poza de las Mujeres (Women’s pool) is a famous beach that many tourists visit when going to Manatí. Located in the Natural Reserve of Hacienda La Esperanza, it has that name because women only used it during 1600-1700.
Since it’s a “hidden” place, people must cross a muddy path to reach the crystal water and golden sands. Many surfers use this place to practice since there are periods when the waves are very strong and frequent, but it’s calm during summer.
Due to its natural state, there are no services for tourists there. Remember to bring everything you may need (water, sunscreen, towels and more), and to always take the trash with you to keep it clean.
Las Golondrinas Cave
Playa Pastillo is another of the many beaches that Manatí has to offer for swimming and sunbathing enthusiasts. It’s perfect for those who want to enjoy long walks next to the water with a decently wide beach.
A large rock wall on the beach forms a cave called Las Golondrinas. This place isn’t always accessible and opens only during the summer season and when the tides are low and calm. It’s important to remember that since the place is located can be dangerous if the water is high.
No lifeguards or facilities are available either, because it isn’t a place frequently visited by many people. Its rough waters only attract those who only really love it.
The Town Center of Manatí is another exceptional place that cannot be missed when visiting the historical places of Puerto Rico. This old district has many buildings from the 18-19th century. It includes the city hall and the cathedral Nuestra Señora de de la Candelaria y San Matías, which was actually built in 1729.
For entertainment enthusiasts, the Taboas theater is an old but well-kept building that offers many local shows for visitors. Check their schedules on social media to learn about their activities.
Other Places of Interest
People looking for a more urban touristic experience might want to know what the city of Manatí offers. While it is not a very big town (around 20,000 people were living there), many landmarks and places of interest are available.
Since 2019, Manatí has offered free tours to tourists to discover the city, beaches, historic places and eateries. In addition, places like El Salón del Poeta, the Manatí Baseball Stadium, the Acropolis Sports Complex, and the New Manatí Arena are good places to check out.
Los Tubos Beach
Surrounded by palm trees, thick sand and crystal waters, Los Tubos is a striking beach visited mainly by surfers. Its waves collide from the left and right, making it perfect for water sports like that.
For those looking for a calmer experience, there’s also a prominent picnic place with many features to spend a beautiful day. Gazebos, sightseeing spots, camping zones, children’s playgrounds and more. Every 4th of July, the beach also celebrates the International Festival of Los Tubos de Manatí, attracting many people.
Hacienda Mar Chiquita
There are many alternatives to having a fun day with family, and Hacienda Mar Chiquita is one of those places. Located in Boquilla, Manatí, the Hacienda Mar Chiquita is a recreational place for people of all ages looking to experience a good day outdoors.
Horse riding around the beach, meeting farm animals, four tracks or riding go-karts are some of the activities that can be found. People can even celebrate their birthday or throw parties there, acquiring its services.
Since it’s a place for all ages, there’s a food restaurant with non-alcoholic drinks and many local and international food to order.
Many festivals and celebrations are held in Manatí all the year, an exciting event for tourists to experience. Its patron day festival, Fiestas Patronales de la Virgen Candelaria, is celebrated in February. It features parades, games, artisan contests and regional food.
Dishes You Cannot Miss in Manatí.
Discovering many places to eat is the exact moment to eat new exotic and local dishes. It covers the tastes and likings of everyone: from vegetables to meat food, spicy, cold and spicy food.
These turnovers are one of the region’s classic dishes, filled with many savory mixes, especially ground beef and potatoes. Depending on the liking, people can order it fried or baked. While the fillings are also seasoned, sofrito and achiote are the most local ones visitors can find.
Rellenos de papa
A popular appetizer combines potatoes and picadillo with ground beef or pork seasoned with sofrito. Onions and cheese are often added too. Tourists can find this food almost anywhere and even eat it during a walk.
This could be a trademark not only of Manatí but the entirety of Puerto Rico, and for a good reason. These green fried plantains are called Tostones and are sold anywhere. Eaten like crunchy snacks, its preparation is simple and doesn’t use many ingredients.
Soft vegetable dough with a filling of meat while being steamed in banana leaves is called Pasteles. This traditional dish has a seasoned mixture of green plantains, bananas, potatoes, pumpkins and milk. Many restaurants in the town offer this traditional dish, and it’d be an error not to try it.
Manatí, Puerto Rico, might not be a classical tourist place, but there are many exciting things to do. With enough activities for all ages, visitors can go to the beach, enjoy a natural wildlife trip at a reserve or discover the caves formed by rocks along the coast.
Since most places are incredibly well-preserved, remember to always take the trash with you to contribute to keeping the location clean.
Enthusiasts of downtown life have their spot, too. Historical buildings, theaters, sports stadiums and many restaurants and places to discover new local foods are open all year to the public.