La Parguera is a dreamily beautiful coastal town that is the perfect place to explore Puerto Rico’s southwest region and the wonders to be found in the surrounding jeweled Caribbean waters. You’ll want to dive right in!
This gorgeous coastal town has its own phosphorescent bay, with waters that glow at night, and a famed coastline ringed by small islets with gorgeous beaches surrounded by clear, tranquil waters. La Parguera is among the best spots in the Caribbean for swimming, fishing, snorkeling, diving and kite boarding. La Parguera’s central seaside plaza is packed with charming restaurants, bars, guesthouses and boutique hotels. The establishments offer surprisingly sophisticated fare, from cutting edge seafood and fusion cuisine to artisan cocktails and craft beers. The seaside village also has a number of attractive boutiques selling beachwear and beautiful crafts and artwork, which also adds La Parguera’s considerable charm. It’s a wonderful break from the sun during the day and is one of the main dinner and nightlife destinations in the southwest.
The place is also the take-off point for voyages into the pristine Caribbean by boat and water sports operators. And if for some reason you don’t want to get on a boat, be sure to visit La Parguera’s Playita Rosada beach, a stretch of sand within its mangrove-chocked coastline, with fabulous saltwater swimming pool created from a square wooden dock.
To get to La Parguera, you take a two-lane highway along the emerald Lajas Valley in southern Puerto Rico, the majestic Cordillera Central mountain chain looming in the distance and cutting across the horizon. The drive then winds down a country road, which swoops through tropical forest and darts across hillsides cutting between views of the sparkling Caribbean Sea and lush landscape. It is among Puerto Rico’s loveliest areas, but despite the beauty of the approach to La Parguera by land, the charms of this seaside village are truly appreciated from the sea. Several small cays and islets, bobbing in the sparkling sea like floating tropical gardens, front the pretty village, which is marked by the colorful facades of its iconic boathouses breaking through its green shoreline, and beautiful guesthouses and vacation residences scattered across the sun kissed hillsides surrounding town that overlook the coast.
The town boasts some of the best hotels, restaurants and bars in the region, which is another reason La Parguera is the one of the most popular vacation spots in this picturesque area.
It’s the epicenter for water sports, boating and fishing, and is near several natural wonders in the areas, like the Guancia Dry forest and the Cabo Rojo lighthouse and adjacent coastal nature reserve, as well as the bounty of historic and cultural attractions in Ponce and San German. The town is also likely to be your best choice for a meal, gourmet beer or craft cocktail in the region, and it’s one of the best parties in the southwest, with live music in several establishments on many nights, especially weekends.
The Parguera Plaza Hotel is one of La Parguera’s best lodging options, overlooking the village’s main plaza, where something always seems to be going on, and the tranquil Caribbean Sea beyond it. While the lobby and pool area have lots of activity on weekends and other nights, including live performances, the hotel also features a series of elevated terraces, as we as its second and third level rooms, that stay a world apart, blessed by not only a sea view but a sea breeze as well. The property has a great full sized swimming pool and surrounding terrace, just off the tropical courtyard, and the staff is super friendly and attentive to your needs.
Another fine option is the Turtle Bay Inn, which is within walking distance of La Parguera’s village but is in a quiet residential neighborhood. The guesthouse is so spotlessly maintained, and features fine home-style decor that you might mistake for a beloved grandmother’s house. The inn is also known for its home-cooked breakfasts, fine pool area and adjacent snack-bar. The friendliness of its staff is also part of the allure of this property, which is likely to trigger cherished memories from your youth.
There are a number of new restaurants that have opened in recent years that have helped launch a gastronomic revolution in La Parguera, but the town also has some of the region’s best old school seafood and comida criolla restaurants at water’s edge with decades of experience serving up the classic fare. Moon’s Bar & Tapas at the entrance to town is one of the new establishments helping to create the culinary excitement. This comfy wooden, open air spot maybe low key but it serves sophisticated tapas with fine ingredients and features friendly service and a great vibe.
Right adjacent to the main plaza and the Parguera Plaza Hotel, lies Isla Cueva, which calls itself a beer and burger bar but in reality packs a menu with enough punch to please any taste. There’s a complete tapas menu — from fried calamari to sliders to Mexican classics to fried local cheese. Of course, the burgers are dynamite, and they include enough variety to please anyone, with fish, chicken and vegetarian options – and a slew of inventive toppings. The restaurant also serves delicious American-style breakfasts.
The best part of Isla Cueva, however, maybe the pizza and craft beer “cave” upstairs, which has the region’s widest selection of craft beer and delicious brick oven pizza. There are great pizza options, including insanely delicious alternatives for meat lovers and vegetarians, and you can create your own. The wide selection of draft craft beer will quench the thirst of brew aficionados, with the menu including premium local selections like s like Ocean Lab Brewing, Señorial Brewing, FOK Brewing, Del Barril, Boquerón Brewing and Old Harbor Brewery. Make sure to try a beer “sampler” which gives allows you to sample a number of craft beers of your selection. The open air dining terrace overlooks the action downtown and the harbor.
Fogata Bar and Grill is another great option in La Parguera. This spot also has an upper level, open air dining room overlooking the town’s gorgeous coastline that is the perfect spot to enjoy the intoxicating mix of flavorful food and dizzying beautiful vistas. It specializes in grilled fish and steaks, as well true renditions of local comida criolla. There is often live music and other special events. La Casita, meanwhile, is one of La Parguera’s oldest eating establishments, a simple family restaurant with delicious seafood and Puerto Rican fare near the town’s marina.
There is always a carnival atmosphere along the town’s harbor area, with food kiosks, open air bars and artisans and street vendors. You can grab a slice at Tony’s pizza, which is open late night, or nibble on homemade Puerto Rican pastries and desserts from stands. Be sure to the try the famous homemade sangria at Coño’s, which also features Puerto Rico classics on the jukebox and beautiful festival prints and other Puerto Rican artwork that provide insight into island history and culture. And of course, you cannot leave La Parguera without shooting a game of pool at the Mar & Tierra Sports Bar, which is right near the dock for the Phosphorescent Bay ferry and other charter boats. The bar makes great piña coladas and mojitos and has a full line of frituras, the fried beach snacks for which Puerto Rico is famous, and draws a festival crowd.
You’ll want to visit the phosphorescent bay while here, especially on moonless nights, when the glowing waters are at their brightest. The bay is surrounded by mangroves and its glowing waters are caused by millions of microscopic plankton, which brighten when the water is disturbed by a boat or swimmer. The bays are extremely rare, but Puerto Rico is blessed with three of them, and the La Parguera bay is the only one visitors can swim in. The easiest way to see the bay is to take a ride on the glass bottomed boat called the Fondo de Cristal, which takes several evening voyages to the bay from the waterfront village.
If you want to dive into the bay, your best bet is to take a trip on one of the several smaller boat excursions to the bay, or alternately on a kayak excursion run by one of the local water sports tour operators. Veteran eco-tour operator Aleli Tours offers both power boat and kayak tours to the bay, while Paradise Scuba runs a snorkeling trip to the bay, which provides a unique twist on the adventure. One of the most pleasant ways to explore the bay is to combine it with a sunset cruise, with Frank Ocean Trips offering such a voyage on a beautiful boat. La Parguera’s sunsets are world-class, and you will be submersing yourself in one natural phenomenon and then another equally splendid one. The trips usually include drinks and snacks.
The daytime also requires an offshore excursion of some sort to fully partake of the La Paguera experience, and wow what options! You can hire a first-class vessel with an experienced captain for a half-day excursion, arrange for transport to and from one of the islets from town, or rent your own boat for the day. There are also snorkel tours, as well as kayak and paddleboard tours.
The point is to get out there anyway you’d like so you find out what’s so special about La Parguera, a place of gin-clear water, cut by underwater reefs, floating mangrove forests and scattered islets and cays, with verdant interiors but ringed by white sand beaches. The swimming is delicious, but you might also be tempted to fall back into the shallow water and simply relax, with your preferred beverage in hand. Another local thrill is to ride the current, either with your body, board or kayak, through the canals cutting through the coastal mangrove forest.
The snorkeling here is glorious, the waters teeming with corral, marine vegetation and a dazzling array of tropical fish. And every cay and islet has fine snorkeling just offshore. One of the most popular islets is Caracoles, which is surrounded by mangrove channels. Mata la Gata has restroom facilities and a rectangular deck that forms a natural swimming pool. Cayo Enrique is another popular cay just offshore.
Of course, a snorkeling tour can get you to the best prime snorkeling spot depending on current conditions, and many of the vessels are comfortable hangouts with music, beverages and snacks. Any voyage you take will include an obligatory stop on an offshore cay for lunch and some downtime on the beach.
La Parguera is also the gateway to some of the finest scuba diving in the world. Nearby is the legendary The Wall, or La Pared. This 20-mile long towering wall runs from 60 to 120 feet underwater before plunging down to depths of 1,500 feet as it runs off the continental shelf, and its endless diving sites offer great visibility, the region’s best array of marine life and among its most dramatic coral formations. Both Paradise Scuba and Snorkeling and Papayo Divers offer diving trips to The Wall and snorkeling trips to the offshore cays and other spots. For kayaking and paddleboard adventures, try Aleli Tours or Kayaking Parguera Tours.
As wonderous a place as La Parguera’s offshore water world is, you’ll leave being a big fan of Playita Rosita, La Parguera’s iconic “beach.” It has a wonderful picnic area and a stretch of sandy beach bordered by mangrove forest. The natural “swimming pool” formed by a rectangular wooden deck is the perfect spot for a swim or just chill out in the water or deck side, and it’s one of the top spots in Puerto Rico to take a selfie!