Being a Caribbean island, Puerto Rico likely conjures up images of a sun-soaked paradise full of endless palm-lined beaches. And well it should! Yet a stone’s throw away from these sandy shores, the mountainous core of the island hides less obvious jewels that are no less enticing. One such gem is beautiful Lago Dos Bocas, a man-made reservoir deep in the Cordillera Central mountain range that is shared by the municipalities of Arecibo and Utuado.
Created in 1942 when a dam was built for a hydroelectric power plant, the inverted V-shaped reservoir has become a popular day-trip destination for locals. Driving from San Juan usually takes about an hour and a half on a fairly straightforward route: head westbound on Highway PR-22 towards Arecibo, take Exit 75B and merge onto PR-10 towards Utuado. Make a left onto PR-621 and follow the signs to the lake’s embarcadero, the public pier.
Upon arriving, you’ll immediately notice the lake’s lush surroundings. Deep verdant tones dominate the mountainous landscape as the flora practically dips into the water’s edge. Before the area was flooded by the construction of the dam, Lago Dos Bocas used to be the site of a coffee plantation, and remnants of coffee trees remain on the steep mountains that appear to emerge from the lake. North of Lago Dos Bocas you’ll spot the distinctive karst topography that defines this region of the island: limestone hills that look like loaves of sugar lined up in neat lumps. Erosion and vegetation have created small caves on the facades of these mogotes, as they are known locally.
Once you’re at the pier, you can either choose to admire the bucolic setting on dry land or go the extra (nautical) mile by taking a boat ride across the lake. This really is the best way to admire the reservoir’s beauty and catch an up-close-and-personal glimpse of the local fauna. Puerto Rico’s Department of Transportation offers free rides on ferries able to accommodate about 40 people.
If you’re interested in a more intimate experience, several lakeside restaurants offer free rides as well, provided you dine at the respective establishments. At the pier, you’ll meet employees of each restaurant with menus competing for your business. The main restaurants in Lago Dos Bocas are El Fogón de Abuela, Rancho Marina, Paisaje Escondido #2, Restaurante Otoao (787-312-7118, 787-894-5511) and Restaurante El Cacique (787-324-6155). These are usually open on weekends and holidays, though its best to check their website or call ahead to confirm their hours of operation. Once you choose the restaurant of your liking, the representative will call the boat and they will meet you at the dock.
The menus all specialize in traditional Puerto Rico cuisine (cocina criolla). El Fogón de Abuela is particularly famous for its fricasés (stews made with a variety of meats including veal, goat, Cornish hen or rabbit) and stuffed (Puerto Rican style mashed plantains), whereas Rancho Marina provides a generous variety of salt- and freshwater fish.
Whether you crave hearty, homegrown Puerto Rican food or a generous helping of nature, Lago Dos Bocas won’t disappoint.