Undeniably Puerto Rico's biggest, most bizarre new attraction, the 362ft likeness of Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón) navigating toward the New World is the work of Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli and is the linchpin of the north coast's flashy new tourist development.
The statue, the tallest in North America and Puerto Rico's highest structure, stands astride a green rise overlooking an alluring expanse of beaches and mangroves: a wild area poised to become the TerraVista Park, a future adventure complex in which the statue will take center stage. By 2020 there should be new hotels, restaurants, helicopter rides and 'mangrove adventure' activities such as kayaking and ziplining in this spot.
Officially opened in 2017, the statue is the first (and currently only) part of this megaproject. You can ascend to a viewing gallery about halfway up and imagine the crowds-to-be descending on this peaceful place.
The irony surrounding the statue is as much a talking point as the structure itself. First, that it should be raised within sight of an important ceremonial site for the Taíno, whose culture was decimated following the explorer's arrival on these shores; and second, that it should be raised at all with construction costs of millions of dollars to a heavily debt-saddled island. Many are also concerned about the statue's environmental impact in an ecologically sensitive area.
Love it or hate it, the statue exhibits some splendid workmanship and has launched a revival of this entire stretch of coast.