Trip to Toa Baja: A Puerto Rico Family Travel Guide
Puerto Rico has so much more to offer than the obvious tourist attractions. That’s why I came up with the series Bucket List Puerto Rico and this family travel guide to Toa Baja. I still talked about San Juan in two other posts you can find here and here. You can complement this guide with any of the previous guides I’ve posted, or you can dedicate a full day to it. We did the second option and I’m going to show you how. Keep reading to learn more!
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About Toa Baja
If you read my post on Cataño, you know that I’m passionate about the Taino culture. It’s in my blood… literally! And I want to honor them any chance I get. That’s why I loved learning about Toa Baja.
Its name comes from the Taino word Toa meaning “mother”. These lands were part of the yucayeque (village) of the cacique (chief) Aramaná, near the Toa river now called La Plata. However, when the Spanish colonized Puerto Rico, they enslaved the Tainos who lived here and named it Santa Elena. A farm was built here and some historians say it was the first agricultural experiment station of the island. Note: I tried taking pictures of it but it’s closed because it’s in pretty bad shape.
The town was founded around 1745, but some say it was years later. In 1843, there was a Taino revolt where they marched up to Casa del Rey (King’s House) which provided housing for Spanish government personnel and served as regional military headquarters. However, the Tainos were defeated by the Spanish militia.
My favorite name for this town is “Los Mojaitos” alluding to how the people get wet every time the river floods the town. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why Dorado was founded, due to all the money the farmers lost from the flooding. Other nicknames “Ciudad Bajo Aguas” (City Under Water) and “Los Llaneros” (Plainsman) because the town is one big plain.
Isla de Cabras (Goat Island)
This is an islet on the west side of the San Juan Bay entrance. It was expanded to include El Cañuelo Island in the 1940s when the PR-870 was built to allow access to the island. It’s had many uses, but it’s now a recreational area called Parque Nacional Isla de Cabras. It’s run by the National Parks System and has gazebos to rent for special occasions such as birthdays and weddings. It also has a designated area for boats and jet skiing.
At Isla de Cabras you can find fort San Juan de la Cruz (which now has adopted the name of El Cañuelo), built around 1647 after the Dutch attack of 1625 destroyed the original building and was used until 1785. It used to protect the bay from enemy attacks as crossfire with El Morro.
You can also find the ruins of the leper colony. Apparently there were four buildings but only two remain and one is in pretty bad shape so make sure to always keep an eye on your little ones. It’s incredible how such a spectacular place was used for this purpose. It really has the best view of El Morro!
There is a parking fee of $4.00 which I think is totally reasonable, and is open Wednesday through Sunday, 8:00 AM through 4:30 PM. It’s said that the beach there is not for bathing, but you will still see locals having a splash. However, I definitely prefer Punta Salinas Beach over Isla de Cabras’ beach.
Punta Salinas Beach
Punta Salinas is a crescent-shaped beach of golden sand and very little waves. It’s a balneario (public beach), which means it’s run by Parques Nacionales (National Parks Service). Because of that, it has some additional features regular beaches don’t have such as: gazebos, picnic tables, bathrooms, outdoor showers, lifeguards, and an area for kayaking. It even has floating wheelchairs! However, we did not see any lifeguard on duty when we visited. Still, this is a wonderful place to spend the afternoon.
There’s also a forest and a man-made pond, but we didn’t wander too far into the forest because we were almost eaten alive by the huge mosquitoes there (LOL). Seriously though, if you plan to venture into the forest section, take bug repellent! You’ll thank me later.
This beach also has a parking fee of $4.00 and is open Wednesday through Sunday, 8:00 AM through 5:00 PM. It is located on road PR-165.
Casilla del Peón Caminante
This I stumbled upon when doing my research on Toa Baja’s history. It was an interesting find!
During the late 1700s to 1800s, roads were made and kept by men called “Peon Caminante”. These men would walk the strip of road they were assigned to and make sure there were no issues. The government in turn, built these small houses for them to live with their families. In fact, some are still owned by the ancestors of those peones.
However, others are in ruins or were demolished due to nearby construction. Sadly, the one in Toa Baja is in ruins but you can still see it from the side of the road.
This building is located on Carr. 2 km 19.2, next to a Rooms to Go. While my husband got out of the car to take pictures, I stayed inside with the kids and told the story of how the roads were made back then. This is a great chance to teach the kids a little more about how things were done without all the technology we have now!
Places to Stay
If you’re planning a road trip or week-long vacation and want to visit some of the places mentioned here, I’d recommend staying at Comfort Inn Suites for one night. That way, you’re well rested for the next adventure. It’s a very nice hotel, it’s really close to Punta Salinas Beach and has a beautiful view of the ocean.
So that’s it!
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