While in Mayaguez, Don’t Miss the Bioluminescent Bay in Nearby Lajas
Mayaguez is the third largest city in Puerto Rico, considered the “capital” and cultural center of the west coast region. If you’re visiting Puerto Rico you probably considered staying in San Juan, but if you’d like a more mellow city and wish to experience the more relaxed side of the island, Mayaguez is a great central point to do so. From Mayaguez, you can go beach hopping and visit a nice variety of interesting attractions, among them the bioluminescent bays and mangrove keys of La Parguera, Gozalandia waterfalls, lighthouses, historic landmarks, caves, forests, and more.
Mayaguez has European charm, with one of the island’s most active and elegant squares. If you’re traveling to Puerto Rico during the Christmas holidays, Mayaguez boasts the most beautifully decorated and festive square on the island, celebrations take place for over a month.
Content to Help you Plan your Visit to Mayaguez
The city is located right in the center of the west coast of Puerto Rico. Further below we have included a guide on the best airports to travel to Mayaguez and the west coast with more travel tips.
The popular tourist beach town of Rincon is just 30 minutes north of Mayaguez. Cabo Rojo is 20 minutes south of Mayaguez, home to some of the best beaches and attractions on the island. Southeast of Mayaguez is San Germàn, a historic town, and Lajas is about a 45 minutes drive. Mayaguez is one of the three cities of Puerto Rico, San Juan being the biggest in the north, followed by Ponce located south.
Top Rated Hotels in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico
Best Things to Do & Top AttractionsMayaguez & Nearby - Puerto Rico
Explore the Beaches of the West Coast of Puerto Rico
While there are no beaches in Mayaguez, just 30 minutes from the historic center of Mayaguez, you have a number of beautiful beaches to enjoy. North of Mayaguez you can explore the beaches of Rincon, known worldwide as one of the best surfing destinations in the Caribbean. The beautiful beaches of Cabo Rojo are south of Mayaguez. About 45 minutes from Mayaguez you can spend glorious days exploring the keys of La Parguera, eat dinner at the fishing village and stay until the skies turn starry dark to swim in the glowing bioluminescent waters.
Are there any beaches in Mayaguez? Yes, there are but they are not used for bathing since one of the biggest rivers flows into the bay of Mayaguez making the water murky and not the most attractive or safe for swimming. Along the coast, you will find waterfront restaurants and bars attracting mostly a local crowd, locals fishing from shore, and families parking at the oceanfront park to do skateboarding, get exercise and watch the sunset.
Top Rated Tours on the West Coast of Puerto Rico
Hang out at Plaza de Colon
Plaza de Colon, the town square of Mayaguez is among the most attractive and elegant plazas in Puerto Rico. During Christmas, Plaza de Colon is the most beautifully lit and festive plaza in all of Puerto Rico attracting Puerto Ricans from all over the island for over a month. Over the past decades, due to the closing of local businesses, some plazas (squares) are not as active and lively, Plaza de Colon has remained an outdoor living space for the community and friends to gather for a cup of coffee and good conversation. Plaza de Colon is the location where most art and cultural events in Mayaguez are held throughout the year. You’re invited to visit and experience life and culture at the plaza, you may find listings of some events on the municipality’s Facebook page.
Plaza de Colon has the traditional Spanish design with the Alcaldia (government office) across the Catholic Cathedral. At the center of the square is a fountain with a Christopher Columbus bronze statue where kids still love to throw pennies for luck. Surrounding the plaza are some of the most beautiful buildings in Mayaguez, a few nice new restaurants have opened, and there are a few local shops and cafe right at the square.
While at the square, don’t miss:
- Rex Cream – ice cream shop offering many tropical flavors, a local favorite.
- Ricomini – a bakery with traditional Puerto Rican treats, sandwiches all day, and hearty Puerto Rican food for lunch at local budget-friendly prices.
Explore the Natural & Historical Treasures of the West Coast
With a car rental, you can stay in Mayaguez, and have easy access to a number of amazing natural attractions, cays, islets, bioluminescent bays, cultural and historical treasures in the nearby beach towns and mountain towns. See our guide to the best things to do on the west coast of Puerto Rico.
Top Rated Tours to Gozalandia Waterfalls from San Juan
Admire the City’s Architecture
Architecture lovers will enjoy walking around the blocks surrounding the Plaza de Colon square.
Mayaguez has a tumultuous history, with hundreds of buildings and residences destroyed by San Fermín, a 7.5 earthquake back on October 11, 1918, followed by a tsunami. The city was rebuilt beautifully and up until the 90s, the city was prosperous with many local businesses housed in historic elegant buildings. The arrival of big box stores destroyed local businesses resulting in many empty buildings dwindling the life of the city. In the past decade, the historic district has been going through a nice revival with restored buildings and new businesses bringing back more life to the historic district. Restored buildings have been turned into museums, restaurants, and offices.
+ Buildings you may wish to see near Plaza de Colon
You may go into the tourism office, they offer pamphlets with maps and information on historical places in Mayaguez. You may also inquire about walking tours which are free to the public.
- El Teatro Yagüez
- Iglesia Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria – see further below on this guide for history and important facts about the cathedral.
- Casa Alcaldia – The original building was built in 1845, it was destroyed in 1918 by the earthquake, demolished, and reconstructed in 1926, designed by Fidel Sevillano.
- Antigua sede del Casino de Mayagüez (Headquarters of Mayaguez Casino) – The original building was destroyed as well by the earthquake originally occupied by Casino Español (Spanish Casino). The design is Spanish Neoclassical by Mayaguez native Luis Perocier.
- Casino de Mayagüez – this building dates back to 1874 designed by Francisco Porrata-Doria in the Spanish Renaissance style.
- Edificio La Gloria – This building belongs to the family that owns La Gloria, one of the oldest shoe stores in Puerto Rico which is still open today. The building was designed by Mayaguez native José Sabás Honoré. The first floor was for the store and the upper floor was a residence, the four arches are the only remains of the top floor since it suffered severe damage from the earthquake.
- Edificio Sucesión Fálagan – This building dates back to 1850 and it is one of the oldest buildings in Mayaguez designed by Pedro Alcántara. This building was constructed for Eugenio de Hostos, father of Eugenio María de Hostos, one of the most important personalities in the history of Mayaguez. In 1861 it was turned into the headquarters of Casino Español (Spanish Casino).
- Antiguo Convento de las Siervas de María (Hotel Colonial) – The original building was a convent for Siervas de Maria which also suffered damages by the 1918 earthquake, and was re-constructed by 1933. The building was a convent until 1960. After its closure, it was turned into a small inn, first named Hotel Plata, and today Hotel Colonial welcomes residents from around the island and travelers. Right next to the entry door of the hotel you’ll notice the door to what used to be a chapel, now serving as a guest room. Sadly the chapel was remodeled instead of being restored to retain its historical charm, however, it is a unique experience to stay in that room.
Just 25 minutes from Mayaguez the town of San German established in 1506, is the second oldest municipality established in Puerto Rico after San Juan, it will not disappoint with its historic architectural treasures, museums, and churches.
Source: Mapa de Mayaguez en Google
Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria
+ History of Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria (Our Lady of Candelaria Cathedral)
“On July 19, 1760, on behalf of the inhabitants settled on the banks of the Yagüez River, Don Faustino Martínez de Matos asked the Governor of the Island of Puerto Rico, Don Esteban Bravo de Rivero, for authorization to found a town. On July 30, 1760, the decree authorizing the foundation of the “Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria” was issued in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
About a month after the authorization granted by the island’s governor for the foundation of the new town, under the patronage of Our Lady of Candelaria and patronage of San José, the Vicar General of the Bishopric and the city of San Juan gave permission so that the Priest of San Germán moved to Mayagüez to place the first stone and give him his blessing
The first construction lasted almost three years. According to the archives in the city of San Germán, by 1760, the first Catholic church in Mayagüez was built in wood (1763) on land donated by Don Juan de Aponte and Don Juan de Silva. The residents, concerned and eager to comply with the precepts of the Catholic Church (hear mass, confess and receive communion) requested that, during the construction period of the new church, due to the considerable distance from the Parish of San Germán to that of Mayagüez, a chaplain was appointed to live in the new town and celebrate Holy Mass in the Hermitage that already existed on the land of Don Esteban Irizarry.
The parish church in masonry was completed in 1780. In 1830, under the direction of the architect, Don Vicente Piera, planning and construction of the new church with three naves and eight altars began, which was finished in 1836. It also had two octagonal towers, placing the public clock in one and the bell tower in the other.
In 1841, Mayagüez suffered a terrible fire where only 40 of the 700 existing houses were left standing. The church, being made of masonry, was one of the refuges for the homeless. In 1854, lightning struck the right tower, which was rebuilt until 1870 when the building was restored. At that time, the church was made of masonry and was characterized by a simple neoclassical style, two octagonal towers, and interiors richly decorated with paintings and reliefs.
In the month of October 1918, the island of Puerto Rico was shaken by the San Fermín earthquake. In Mayagüez, this phenomenon was followed by a tidal wave. The parish church was one of the most affected buildings. The towers partially disappeared having to be demolished in their entirety using dynamite. After the earthquake, the reconstruction works took two years to begin. For this, it was necessary for Father John Lynch to travel to the United States where he would collect donations in the amount of $65,000 and an additional donation from the Province of Baltimore. With this money, the reconstruction was paid for, which included a new façade design by the architect Luis Perocier and a new building by Luis F. Nieva. This reconstruction which ended in 1920, is the one that lasts until the present.
The different designs presented by Arch. Perocier presented alternatives with and without the towers. The lack of financial resources led to the decision not to build the towers at that time. These would be built at a later time when the economic situation allowed it.
The separation of church and state as a result of the change of sovereignty in 1898, caused the economic responsibility of building their parishes to revert to the parishioners; This, together with the precarious economic situation in which the population found itself, did not make it possible to raise enough money to complete the works.
In 1976, Pope Paul VI, through the bull Qui Arcano Dei, created the diocese of Mayagüez, naming Monsignor Ulises A. Casiano Vargas as its first bishop and raising the rank of Cathedral of the Diocese to the Iglesia Parroquial Nuestra Señora de the Candlemas.
As is common knowledge, eighty years after this reconstruction, the work is still unfinished: without its towers. Currently, the third attempt of the Catholic Church to build its long-awaited towers is being pursued, but in addition, the remodeling works intend to make the necessary physical changes to adequately respond to the change from a parish church to a cathedral church. Among these changes are the remodeling of the front façade, the construction of a dome over the High Altar, improvements to the roof of the central nave, and other interior arrangements.
The current works are in charge of the Architect Carlos Juan Ralat and it is expected that they will conclude at the beginning of the year 2002.”
Source: Translated from the official cathedral website
Take a Romantic Walk on the Gardens of Tropical Agriculture Research Station
Temporarily Closed – The Tropical Agriculture Research Station (TARS ) is beautiful place with gardens for a relaxing, romanitc with great educational value for plant lovers. This place is one of the three tropical/subtropical research centers of the United States Department of Agriculture. The grounds are very attractive where visitors can enjoy a walk to admire native plants and trees as well as many other interesting species worldwide.
+ Info & Hours
Sadly, after Hurricane Maria and the most recent Hurricane Fiona the station is currently closed until further notice.
“The USDA-ARS Southeast Area’s (SEA) number one priority is the safety and health of our personnel and visitors. As a result of damages caused by hurricanes Maria and Fiona, there are multiple repair, maintenance, and construction projects running at the location. Therefore, at the present time, we are restricting visitors and meetings at the Tropical Agriculture Research Station (TARS) to strictly essential purposes and emergencies.”
- Tel: 787-831-3435
- Address: 2200 P.A. Campos Ave., Ste. 201, Mayaguez, PR 00680
Go Shopping at Mayaguez Mall
Pack light and go shopping at the Mayaguez Mall. The mall offers a nice variety of shops, both US brands, and locally-owned shops. The Mayaguez Mall is a great place to dine, there are many restaurants both inside and outside the mall from traditional Puerto Rican food to All-American restaurants such as Chili’s, Macaroni Grill, and more…. Check out their website for store listings and hours.
During holidays you can enjoy live music and artisan events, check here for listings.
Teatro Yaguez (Yaguez Theatre), is one of the most beloved landmarks in Mayaguez. Originally constructed in 1909, it was destroyed in 1919 by fire, and rebuilt in 1921. Teatro Yaguez is owned by the municipality of Mayaguez, the administration led the restoration to its original glory in 1984. Teatro Yaguez is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Today the stage and auditorium continue to be used. Check out upcoming shows here.
Best Places to StayMayaguez, Puerto Rico
In Mayaguez you can choose accommodations that cost less than hotels in San Juan, three of them are located in the historic district from where you can walk to the square to enjoy cultural events, eat at nearby restaurants, and bakeries, relax at cafes, and admire the architecture. Police presence is high at the square since the Alcaldia (Mayor’s / City’s Municipal Building) is located there, making the central historic district a safe place for visitors to stay and enjoy with the whole family.
TRYP by Wyndham is located in the central historic district of Mayaguez just a block from Plaza de Colon square. You can walk to restaurants, bakeries, cafes, and shops.
This is a nice location just a short block from Plaza de Colon square, a minute’s walk from Ricomini Bakery and parking is very convenient.
This historical building was turned into a charming small inn located just two blocks from Plaza de Colon square, bakery, restaurants and shops.
Planning your Stay in MayaguezPuerto Rico
Airport Options for Travel to Mayaguez & West Coast of Puerto Rico
- Option 1: The closest and most convenient airport is in Aguadilla, just 50 minutes from Mayaguez, you can pick up your car rental after arrival, then head south to Mayaguez. Check flights to Aguadilla Airport.
- Option 2: If you fly into San Juan Airport, we recommend you stay in the capital so you can explore Old San Juan for 2 nights by foot. Then pick up car rental in San Juan Airport so it is easier to drop off upon returning home, then head to the west coast by traveling through the scenic south side highway. From San Juan take Rt. 18, heading towards Caguas to Rt. 52 and into Mayaguez. Check flights to San Juan Airport.
- Option 3: The airport in Ponce is about 1 hour and 10 minutes from Mayaguez. Jet Blue and Spirit Airlines offer flights from NYC and Orlando to Ponce. Check flights to Ponce Airport.
Related Article: Puerto Rico Airports
Getting Around Mayaguez, Puerto Rico
You will need a car rental to get around Mayaguez and the west coast of Puerto Rico. Public transportation is not an option and taxis can get quite expensive. During business hours, you’ll notice more traffic since nearby towns frequently visit and commute to the city for government services, hospitals, shopping malls, and work commutes. We advise you to wait until after 8 am to leave for the beach or explore the nearby towns.