I am delighted you have chosen to visit Isabela! I sincerely hope you will have a great time here.
Isabela is a coastal city on the Northwest side of the Caribbean Island of Puerto Rico. It has crystal-clear beaches and delicious food, and the best part is definitely it’s people. They are warm and inviting making you feel right at home. Visitors love to come here for all those reasons and more.
CARMEN CREATES MEMORIES: Stand in front of the ocean. Let yourself be mesmerized by the view of foaming waves crashing on the shore and birds flying so close to the water. Let the sun warm your face as you close your eyes and inhale the scents of ocean life. Feel the breeze with droplets of water tickle your skin. You are in Isabela! Open your eyes and savor this moment.
Experience Isabela Beaches
Just stand in front of the ocean and be mesmerized by the spectacular view you get to experience. See how the birds spread their wings over the waters. Savor the ocean’s smells. Feel the breeze. Take a mental picture. Then, yeah, go ahead and take out your cellphone and take a selfie to capture the memory. Our beaches are great for swimming, surfing, diving, and snorkeling. There are even family-friendly beaches for the little ones. The best part is you can enjoy the sights and sounds year round because they are always open. Learn more about our beaches and the activities that await you! (This article is coming soon. I will link to it here.)
Explore the Guajataca Forest
If hiking is more your style, visit our Guajataca Forest (pronounced gua-ha-TA-ca) which boasts 25 miles of flora and fauna unique to the area. There are several hiking trails to choose from. Trail #1 is the most frequented one. It ends at Cueva del Viento (Wind Cave). This cave, with limestone rock formations, is home to many bats that you can see sleeping during the day. The road to get there is really narrow (about 1.5 cars wide) and is a two-way street. Drive slowly, lower your music volume, and honk when entering a curve to alert opposing cars know you are coming. One car will need to pull over so the other can pass by. You will need shoes with a good grip and a flashlight if entering the cave. GPS: 18°25’13.7″N 66°57’57.3″W
Go Horseback Riding on the Beach
Why not start your day with a morning ride on the beach? Or how about watching the sunset while horseback riding on the beach? Tropical Trails offers just that for you. They operate 7 days a week and have a morning tour and a sunset tour. I truly enjoyed this experience. The staff is friendly and this is definitely a family-friendly activity (children must be at least 3 years old to participate).
Isabela has so much to offer. I’ll get back to all you can do here, but first, let’s get you ready for your trip.
Things to Know Before You Arrive
The closest airport to Isabela is the Aguadilla Airport (BQN). It is a short 20-minute drive. Airlines that fly here from the mainland are Frontier, JetBlue, Spirit, United Airways, and Prinair. The Luis Muñoz Marin airport in San Juan (SJU) is where the major airlines arrive into. It is about a 2-hour drive away. (Although traffic has been terrible lately.)
US Citizenship is granted to anyone born on the island. U.S. citizens and permanent residents coming from the mainland do not need a passport to enter. However, a government-issued ID is necessary. Everyone else will require a passport to enter Puerto Rico.
You need to rent a car. I cannot stress this enough. Public transportation is non-existent in Isabela. Uber, Lyft, and taxis are rare and few.
Spanish is the official language in Puerto Rico. English is our second language. Most people who work in tourism will speak both languages fluently, but here are some tips in case you come across someone who doesn’t speak English. Speak slowly. Use hand gestures. Use Google Translate and type what you want to say. Be patient.
US Dollars are used. Cash is king here on the island. Most places will accept cash. Many places accept credit cards, although Discover and American Express are less popular. Contactless credit cards, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay are relatively new to the island and there are still many places that don’t accept them, especially on this side of the island. The other thing to point out is that a very popular form of payment is ATH Móvil. You need to have a debit card at a participating bank in order to use this form of payment. All establishments must accept at least two forms of payment. One can be cash and the other ATH Móvil. That’s why it’s important to have cash on hand, especially if you do not have ATH Móvil.
We drive on the right side of the road. Police officers do not need to be in a marked vehicle to stop you for infractions. The speed limit will be displayed in Miles Per Hour, but the distances will be displayed in Kilometers. I know it’s weird, but we used to belong to Spain and so we have a mixture of measurements going on here. (Construction is measured in square feet, but land is measured in square meters. The weather is displayed in Fahrenheit, but your temperature is taken in Celsius.)
Most restaurants here do not offer delivery service. A few places can be found on the Uber Eats app so check there. Another app that is used by locals is MunchiesPR. They also offer delivery service for some of the local restaurants.
Shopping bags are not provided for free in many establishments. Most places will charge you for a bag anywhere from (10 cents to a dollar). This includes retail stores, supermarkets, and even Walmart. At A House in Jobos, I provide bags for my guests to take with them before heading out to do some shopping.
There are no lifeguards on any of our beaches in Isabela. All beaches have public access. There are no private beaches on the island.
Savor Our Food
These are our bakeries. You can find freshly made sweet delights, espresso coffee, breakfast dishes, sandwiches, and even cooked meals for lunchtime. If you just want a few slices of ham or cheese, you just order them by the dollar’s worth. For example, you would ask for $1 of cheddar cheese. My favorite panaderia to buy bread in is Pan Sobao. Their bread is delicious. My favorite place to buy pastries and eat lunch is Isabela Bakery. There is a brand new bakery that just opened close to A House in Jobos and it is Costa Isabela Bakery. I’ve never been there, but boy do those pastries look delicious!!!
These are kiosks that you can find on almost any street in Isabela. They will have a variety of fried finger foods to enjoy. My favorite is definitely La Parada de los Surfers where I usually order the fish pastelillo (fried flour turnover filled with fish). I also love their sorullos (corn dog). Another popular one is actually in town. It is Willy’s Quick Lunch. There you can get a variety of turnovers and other finger foods as well. Both of these places may have long lines. Be patient. It’s worth the wait!
Coffee Shops –
We love our coffee here any time of the day. You can try the many varieties at any of our coffee shops. If you are in the Isabela Town Square, try one at Bohemio Café, located in a kiosk right on the Plaza. If you prefer your coffee at a coffee shop, then I would recommend The Coffee Spot or Verde Menta (I love the pancakes here, too). Read about our brunch experience at Pancake Bistro Cafe.
Yes, we have most of the major U.S. food chains in Isabela, like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Church’s Chicken, and Subway. But our local restaurants are amazing. Want to experience traditional food with waiters dressed in traditional attire? Then go to Restaurante El Platanal. How about having a meal beachside at Eclipse? In the mood for Chinese food? Then Ying Ying is the place to go. In the House Manual I provide to our guests at A House in Jobos, I provide the Google Pin for many more local restaurants.
Experience What Isabela Has to Offer
Isabela’s Town Square is a great place to enjoy an ice cream cone, a cup of coffee, or a bit of shade. It has benches to sit and relax on. There is a water fountain with a sculpture as well. On one side you can see the beautiful Catholic Church. If you can, go in and see the tilework, the mural, and the Christ statue. City Hall is a beautiful building that you can enjoy. Stop by the Tourism Office and ask for an Isabela pin while there. (It’s the office immediately to the left when you go up the steps.) There’s always something to do here. There are even weekday evening festivals offered.
Cacique Mabodamaca (Cara del Indio)– See our giant homage to the Indian Chief who governed the city of Isabela, Cacique Mabodama. This monument is carved on the side of the rock and is a favorite roadside tourist spot. Selfie anyone?
Paseo Lineal is a 4-mile-long boardwalk along the beach. You can walk, run, or bike along this path. Didn’t bring your bike? No problem. RIDE offers bike rentals at the beach.
Ermita San Antonio de Padua de la Tuna are the ruins that remain from the church of the 1700s. It is said that this is the first church erected by the Spaniards in the Northwest of Puerto Rico. The church was built like a cross (if you look from above). There is a small museum attached to it.
Pozo de Jacinto is a natural blowhole at one end of the boardwalk. Legend has it that Jacinto was walking with his cow and the cow fell and made this hole in the earth. If you scream, “Jacinto, give me the cow!” water will splash you from the blowhole.
Guajataca Tunnel is the old railway tunnel that used to connect Isabela with the town of Quebradillas. It was used to transport sugar cane. There are no rails any longer, but the tunnel still stands and you can go see it. On weekends, you can find artisans selling their items.
Enjoy Isabela’s Festivals
In addition to the Salsa nights and Artisan nights, check out these festivals.
Festival de la Yuca (October 14-15, 2023),
Festival Isabela Tiene Sabor is a gastronomic festival celebrated this year on November 4-5, 2023. This festival is very popular. Just look at the pictures on their Facebook page.
Fiesta de Reyes Isabelinos is a MUST. It always happens on January 5th (in the evening) and January 6th all day. On the evening of January 5th, the three Wise Men make an appearance in the town square, but you have to be on the lookout because it is dark out. At around 9:00 a.m. on January 6th they have a procession and go to the church (where the procession ends) to present their gifts to the Baby Jesus during the Catholic mass that is filled with music and tradition. I would highly recommend attending even if you are of a different faith or don’t speak Spanish. Afterward, they present their gifts and their talent (they sing!!) in the town square. There is a beautiful mural that commemorates this tradition on the small street by the Catholic Church. It’s street art so it’s always available to enjoy.
You will not be without things to do in Isabela. These are just some of the many things available. Bookmark this article as I will be updating it with more information as it becomes available.
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What things do you look forward to doing in Isabela?
Written by Carmen
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