Over the course of the past year, I have literally fallen in love with the seaside town of Cataño (kah-TAH-no), Puerto Rico. It’s been an interesting love affair, between Cataño and me, especially given the fact that until recently (due to the pandemic) I was more than likely one of the very few tourists visiting the area. Not to mention that, as I’ve learned, anyone that’s not from Cataño originally (or ‘Catanese’) is considered a ‘tourist’ or ‘outsider’ to the community, even if they are from other municipalities in Puerto Rico. That being said, after multiple visits with my boyfriend (who resides in San Juan) and numerous botched attempts practicing my rudimentary and broken Spanish at the local grocery (I’m learning slowly but surely!), I have felt welcome and very much at home in this very charming place.
Founded in 1927 and celebrated to this day as the smallest municipality in Puerto Rico, Cataño is seemingly enjoying a rebirth of sorts and is attracting attention from both locals and tourists alike. Just minutes from the historic streets of Old San Juan by ferry, this quaint seaside town boasts a newly developed boardwalk miles long and an amazing view of Puerto Rico’s oldest city (San Juan) across the sea.
With a variety of restaurants, nightlife, and local attractions, Cataño makes an amazing staycation locale for Puerto Ricans looking for a weekend escape off the beaten path, and for visitors to the island who want to experience Old World Puerto Rican culture minutes away from the city and other island excursions.
Nicknamed ‘The Town That Never Dies’ for a reason, Cataño is not only alive and well, it’s thriving and on the verge of an architectural and cultural renaissance. If you are like me and enjoy exploring unique places, you will love Cataño too. Think modern, artistic, urban meets romantic Old World village by the sea and that’s the feeling Cataño brings to me.
Wow! I am so smitten!
A few of my favorite things to do/see/explore in Cataño
- Bring a lawn chair and a book to the boardwalk park. Enjoy the breeze, people watch, and gaze across the sea to the San Juan skyline while sipping on local Sangria. The boardwalk is like a mini amusement park for children and adults alike with ice cream stands and vendors selling toys and curios on weekend days. In the evening the restaurants and bars come alive with the lights of the town illuminating the shoreline festivity.
- Enjoy a lazy lunch savoring local cuisine at Don Tello restaurant on the waterfront before retiring to your AirBNB for a relaxing siesta (there are no hotels in Cataño ). The outdoor veranda almost directly across from the ferry terminal is a great spot to gaze at the sea while sipping on a cold margarita or glass of vino. The sweet plantains are to die for and my absolute fave! YUM!
- Hop the Cataño ferry to Old San Juan for a day of sightseeing and shopping. The ferry costs $1 round trip and runs every half an hour between the hours of 7am-7pm seven days a week. Wander through through the historic streets of San Juan and get lost in time, stopping here and there to check out a gallery, and taking time to cool out at one of many outdoor cafes with an iced coffee or a refreshing mojito.
- Sip on a cold drink block party style at La Yola soaking in the local music, festivity, and friendly neighborhood vibes. This lively venue sports an eclectic neighborhood bar with a walk up window for ordering local snacks. Seating is seaside on a variety of benches and rocks jutting out over the crashing ocean waves, or wherever you can find a spot to sit! Many people prefer to stand in the street and dance to the sounds of Latin music while sipping on their cocktail of choice. It’s BAR none (no pun intended) my absolute favorite spot in the Cataño neighborhood to date.
- Watch traditional BOMBA dance performances to live drumming and singing while enjoying the most delicious tostones (fried plantains) you will ever eat every Monday evening at El Punta Sabroso owned by Alfredo Emerson. This local eatery specializes in fried potato stuffed fritters that are out of this world and provides shaded outdoor seating in their large pavilion. The experience is worth coming out early for, as the food often runs out long before the drinks do!
Where to stay
If you are looking for an off-the-beaten-path visit to Puerto Rico and prefer an AirBnB experience to a hotel check out 126 Cataño a place you can feel at home while exploring all that the greater San Juan area has to offer. 126 Cataño on Airbnb is perfectly appointed for a comfortable stay. This recently renovated two-bedroom home steps away from the waterfront, the ferry, local grocery, and pharmacy is equipped with AC and all the amenities (including a gated carport). The decor is fun and lively and the extra details like a dartboard and HDVTV provide at-home entertainment. The covered veranda is a wonderful place to enjoy morning coffee or an evening glass of wine. I especially love sitting in the rocking chair and listening to the cicadas and tree frogs sing their songs at night drownIng out the occasional sound of a motorcycle or car passing by.
Other points of interest
Bacardi Rum Distillery, Cataño
Take a tasting tour and learn how rum is distilled in the Bacardi Rum Distillery.
Plaza Las Americas, San Juan
Hop the bus to Plaza Las Americas for a day of shopping in one of San Juans largest and well-known malls.
Uber services Cataño as well as San Juan and provides a convenient way to get around if you are not driving while in Puerto Rico.
Oh Cataño by the sea, thank you for sharing a taste of Puerto Rican Caribbean life with me. I’m so excited to visit again soon, and hope that some of you reading this article will enjoy some time in Cataño too!
May our adventures continue …….wherever we may be!