Located on the northern coastal plains of Puerto Rico, the seaside town of Hatillo is a tranquil community of undulating hills and rambling ranches. The village was founded in 1823 by Canarian immigrant Agustín Ruiz Miranda with the stipulation that part of the land be used for public buildings and wide streets with the rest sold or used for homes. These conditions were met and the resulting town is unlike any other in the world.
Today, the town is a hub of Puerto Rico’s dairy industry, making the region the world’s largest producer of milk per square mile. Nearly one-third of the milk consumed in Puerto Rico is produced here. Visitors can experience part of this industry for themselves at Vaca Negra, a local cheese-making company managed by a microbiologist associated with the region’s dairy industry. Visitors can try different cheese varieties in the facility’s charming café or take a class to learn how to create their own cheese creation.
The town is also well-known for the extravagant festivals held in the downtown area and central square. Its patron saint festival, the Fiestas Patronales de Nuestra Sra. del Carmen, is held each July and features parades, live entertainment, amusement rides, games, and regional food and crafts. The town also holds a Sugarcane Festival each May to celebrate the historical significance of sugarcane cultivation in the region.
The most popular festival each year is the Mask Festival, celebrated annually on December 28. The festival is meant to commemorate the Holy Innocents of the biblical story of King Herod, in which young children were slain as part of a failed attempt to kill the baby Jesus. The day is meant to be a day of fun and celebration, with large crowds participating in the festivities.
During the Mask Festival, men and women of all ages wear colorful masks and elaborate costumes that cover them from head to toe to parade through the town. As mid-day draws near, the participants converge on the town square for a procession and award ceremony. This celebration continues for the entire day with participants enjoying good food, dancing, and other forms of entertainment for the whole family.
Hatillo is a great place to visit during other times of the year as well. The seaside community has 10 beaches, with one of the most popular being Sardinera Beach in the Carrizales neighborhood. Just off of Highway #2, this beach features crystal clear waters and a natural rock wall along the north shoreline that prevents strong waves from getting close to the beach. The peaceful pool is great for snorkeling and the pleasantly sandy beach hides lots of beautiful rocks and sea glass.
Another popular outdoor recreation area is the Great North Park, located between Hatillo and Camuy on Highway 119. Here, children and adults can enjoy the beauty of the coastal landscape in a variety of recreational spaces, including a beach area, a boardwalk, a camping area, and a boating area. The grounds also hold volleyball courts, a soccer park, children’s play areas, and an observation tower.
The town is also home to the Plaza del Norte Mall, the biggest shopping mall in northwestern Puerto Rico. With more than 130 retailers and restaurants and a new movie theater, it has become a popular destination for both locals and tourists. Other places of interest include the Hacienda Santa Rosa Ruins, the Old Bayaney Sugar Mill, and the Francisco Deida Méndez Coliseum.