This Article appears courtesy DiscoverPuertoRico.com. It originally appeared  here

A colorful trolley in Caguas’ town square Plaza Santiago Palmer.

Known as the “Center and Heart of Puerto Rico”, Caguas takes pride in keeping tradition alive. A vibrant city, rich in culture and soul, you can choose to visit one of its many museums or stroll around its beautiful botanical garden.

Walk around beautiful gardens, learn about endemic species, stroll the ruins of an old sugar mill, and more. This town is revitalizing its town’s square, with several new spots, eateries, and events.

Caguas History Museum

A building that once served as the town’s City Hall now hosts one of the most important museums of this municipality. Due to its highly architectural importance, the building now belongs to the National Historic Sites of the United States. The place sets a mirror into the past as it narrates the uprising of Puerto Rican identity. The walls and the many rooms depict the Taíno settlement, the Spanish conquest, and the North American invasion that shaped the island for a better understanding of the present Puerto Rican culture.

 

Museo del Tabaco

The only establishment dedicated to the history of tobacco in Puerto Rico is situated in Caguas. Located in a neoclassical, colonial-era building, the museum showcases the development of a historic industry in the island. Pay a visit and discover how Cubans used to buy the tobacco cultivated in Puerto Rico to blend with theirs. Learn about the industry and its meaning to Puerto Rico, and observe replicas of old tobacco ranches. The educational experience is highlighted by local artisans that craft artisanal cigars for visitors.

Jardín Botánico y Cultural de Caguas William Miranda Marín

Caguas’ real gem is the Jardín Botánico y Cultural de Caguas William Miranda Marín. A testament of history, this theme-park is designed to educate the public and elevate the relationship between culture and nature in a tropical setting. Its 60 acres of land are made up by gardens and the remains of Hacienda San José — a 19th century sugar plantation.

The garden offers guided tours, walking trails, and various specialized exhibits (like the African and Taíno Ancestral Grove, Forest Heritage, Riverside Corridor, and Tropical Wetlands) for you to wander. Explore the rich history of the ancient sugar mills of Caguas, the ecological significance of the town, an in-depth look at agriculture of Puerto Rico; and more. Learn about the indigenous archeological findings on site, the century-old sugar mill ruins, and the centennial slave barracks. Take a closer look at the roots of the Puerto Rican creole identity to understand something deeper about the island.

Museo de las Artes Populares

Lovers of folk art, skilled artisans, and local culture should make this a stop to learn more about several of the island’s prominent craftspeople. The museum pays homage to artists such as Zoilo Cajigas and Celestino Avilés, two wood carvers dedicated to creating religious figures, as well as saints and musical instruments. Some of their works are featured permanently at the museum. Elpidio Collazo and Emilio Rosado also have rooms dedicated to their craft, carved birds. Other artists that worked on leather, ceramic, and toys are showcased as well. A second showroom exhibits traditional figurines by a cagüeño teacher named Edwin Báez.

Paseo de las Artes

One of the main attractions in Caguas is the Paseo de las Artes, a space that turns into an outdoor festival highlighting local artists. Be ready to walk, eat and drink, dance, and appreciate the works of Puerto Rican and international makers that have made this space their workshop. Another event that takes place at the Paseo de las Artes is the Al Fresco Culinary show. This event gathers people to savor creole food and creative presentations of local and international fusions at different food stations, food trucks, and stands.