Occupying a small sliver of land wedged between Hwy 2 and the sea, Aguadilla is a small coastal city of patchwork development and surprising contradictions. It’s contemporary appeal – including a world-class surf scene and bright marine life – stands in vibrant contrast to Eisenhower-era tract housing and the graying campus of a retired US air-force base. Given its history, it’s no surprise that it is a confusing place to navigate, and like many Puerto Rican towns the historic quarter has been largely abandoned in favor of generic out-of-town shopping malls along Hwy 2.
The early colonizers of Aguadilla (founded in 1780) were Spanish loyalists fleeing from the Haitian invasion of Spanish Hispaniola in 1822. By the late 19th century the settlement had become an important port, but in 1918 its fortunes changed for the worse when it was ravaged by the destructive San Fermin earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
Attractions in town are few, though a recent renovation has spruced up the central Plaza Colón. Surfers head north to the unblemished beauty of Crash Boat, Shacks and Jobos beaches, while committed golfers wheel their clubs to the windy Punta Borinquen course built for President Dwight Eisenhower. If neither activity is appealing, bypass Aguadilla for Rincón.