Day Trip: Things to do in Loiza Puerto Rico

Vejigante Mask and Puerto Rico cape worn during st. James festival

Visiting Loiza, Puerto Rico

Loiza is located on the northeastern coast of Puerto Rico. Yuiza or Loiza is named after a Taino woman who is the only noted female chief. During slavery in the 16th century, the Yoruba tribe from Nigeria were brought over to Puerto Rico. As a result, it is now known as the largest concentration of Afro Caribbeans in Puerto Rico. To this day, the residents maintain the heritage and culture of the African people.

Historical Parque Histórico Maria de la Cruz Cave

The park is open Wednesday from 8am-5pm and the workshops (headwrap, bomba, and museum are available from 9am-4pm. Tickets are only $8 for all activities.

Maria de la Cruz Cave

Maria de la Cruz Cave

In 1948, archeologist Dr. Ricardo Alegría found evidence of early human people inside the cave. He discovered pre-Colombian artifacts from the Taino people. Years later the cave was used as shelter by both freed and enslaved Africans. You can take a small guided tour inside the cave where you can climb, locate beehives and hear about the history of early settlers.

Standing on rocks in Maria de la Cruz Cave

Bomba

Bomba is a type of drum from Puerto Rico used to tell a story. The bomba has over 16 rhythms and has both African and Spanish elements. Slaves working on the sugar plantations used the drum as a way to communicate. It was used to both convey rebellions and celebrate victories.

Head Wrapping

During slavery, head wraps were worn by women to cover there hair. Now we embrace our heritage and wear them to show pride in our culture. This Young lady showed me how to tie a head wrap.

At Maria de la Cruz Cave Cultural Center posing after head wrap workshop

Artesanias Castor Ayala

Ayala souvenir shop that sells art and vejigante masks

Unfortunately, Mr. Raul Ayala was not at home but I had the opportunity to meet his sister who welcomed me with open arms. Posing with Ms. Ayala in souvenir shop Mr. Ayala is most known for his contribution to the Bomba and creating vejigante masks. The mask is made from coconut husks and decorated in brightly colored fangs and horns. The folklore says that the vejigente represents the Moors being defeated in Spain let by Saint James. To honor the saint people dressed as demons during a big festival in July called Fiesta de Santiago Apostól, or Festival of Saint James, held in Loíza each July.

Vejigante Mask and Puerto Rico cape worn during st. James festivalVejigante Masks at Raul Ayala Shop in Loiza Puerto Rico

 

Akeem Tolson 

Akeem Tolson at the Artesanias Castor Ayala

As I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across a post from Akeem Tolson who visits Puerto Rico often. Let us meet Akeem as he tells us a little more about his travels to Loiza.

Tiffany: Why do you enjoy Puerto Rico?

Akeem: I’m always excited about my trips to Puerto Rico, every visit is like my first time. It has become my favorite place to go for “mental health breaks”.

Tiffany: How did you meet Mr. Raul Ayala?

Akeem:  During this trip, another friend of mine asked me to reach out to Mr. Raul Ayala in Loiza. The Ayala family is well known throughout the island of Puerto Rico and abroad for their contributions to Bomba music. Bomba is a style of traditional Afro Puerto Rican music that is centered around percussion and African based dance movements. We went to Loiza, which had been hit hard by the hurricane and met Mr. Raul Ayala. He showed us how his shop was destroyed by the storm. Despite his loss, he was gracious enough to give us a brief history lesson about Puerto Rico, Loiza, the African origins of bomba and the vejigante masks. In July, I went back to experience the cultural festival.

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Akeem: I encourage all visitors to Puerto Rico, especially black travelers, to add Loiza to their itineraries. For more info about my travels to Puerto Rico, contact: Instagram: @live_be_do Facebook: live.be.do

Samuel Lind Estudio

I had the opportunity to visit Mr. Samuel Lind a native of Loiza, PR. He is a soft-spoken mild-mannered artist who packs a powerful punch through his art. Mr. Lind embodies the spirit of the bomba music and black people of Puerto Rico. I love the details that he puts in both his statues and oil paintings.  Samuel Lind Studio is located on Road PR-187 km 6.6, in Loiza.

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Puerto Rican Snacks

After visiting different sites in Loiza, my stomach was excited to try local street food. I tasted Alcapurrias, which is yucca and green bananas filled with a beef filling. Next, I had bacalaitos otherwise known as fried codfish fritters. The chicken and beef pinchos were flavored very well and were accompanied by BBQ sauce and a bread roll. Also check out the San Juan Food tour for more great food.

Poets Passage 

Although Poets Passage is not located in Loiza, I recommend checking out this little gem. It is a small cafe, book store, and poets lounge. On Tuesdays, they have open mic night. They perform poetry live music in both English and Spanish.

Poets Passage in Old San Juan Puerto Rico

Need a place to stay in consider staying at a hostel in Puerto Rico.



36 Comments

    • Thank you so much for reading, I appreciate your kind words. I try to inform and story tell for each destination.

      • Very informative and interesting blog post on Loiza, Puerto Rico Tiffany! I’ve been to PR before but have never heard of this part. It sounds like it’s so rich in culture and history especially about Mr. Raul Ayala, the Maria De La Cruz cave, Bomba, and the head wrap. Thanks for sharing!! 🙂

        • Thanks for reading Nicole! I’m always glad to inform my readers about places they have not been too! Lots of history that I didn’t know prior to visiting, I learned a lot.

    • Yes, I love to travel with other people but if they can’t go, I throw up the deuces and roll out. 🙂 #bucketlistgoals

    • Thank you for reading. When I travel I love finding places where I can connect with people that look like me.

    • Hey Mimi, happy to know I have introduced you to a small city in PR that you have never heard about. I loved learning about the culture.

  1. This info was everything! Thank you 🙇🏾‍♀️✨ And now I’ll have research to do because the mask is familiar to me from an anime, Majora’s Mask that I’ll need to rewatch for cultural context while picking a part things I call ‘afro kawaii’

    • Wow, I just got a quick lesson in anime. I had never heard of Majoras Mask or Afro Kawaii. You had me looking things up, thanks for allowing me to learn about something new.

  2. This is good post with some unique options to explore puerto rico.Few days ago only I could know its territory of US and would like to visit this.thanks for sharing

    • Yes, the great part is PR is US territory. If you are from the states you don’t need a passport or visa. PR has so many different small cities to explore.

  3. Puerto Rico looks amazing! The snacks look fantastic and that’s really interesting about the cultural pride aspect of the head wraps!

    • I love wearing head wraps so I was excited to learn they wear head wraps like Africa. Snacks were good as well.

  4. How interesting that people used the bomba to communicate. It’s really amazing how ingenious people can be when they’re in dire circumstances. But also sad that they were enslaved in the first place.

    • It’s great how they used bomba to celebrate and communicate, very smart people. Yes these people were resilient and found ways to communicate despite being oppressed.

  5. Wow! Now you know how to travel. You should consider hosting a group trip somewhere sometime, I can tell you’d be a super fun travel partner. Love this post as well. I’ve always wanted to visit Puerto Rico. What a beautiful country.

    • Funny you say that I will be holding my first official trip to Ghana in West Africa. You should def put PR on your list of places to travel. Thanks for reading, I’m glad you enjoyed the blog post :-_

  6. It is so amazing to know about offbeat places through this way. Very interesting to read about Loiza, Puerto Rico which I not heard about before, and to know that there’s so much to do!

    • I hadn’t heard about Loiza either but I had already spent time in Old San Juan and wanted to experience something different. It is a great day trip.

  7. Peurto Rico is high on my wishlist due to its unique culture. Thanks for sharing top things to do in Peurto Rico and especially that ancient cave.

    • Yes visiting the cave was cool especially knowing people that inhabited and utilized as a place to stay. Lots of culture in PR.

  8. Wow I never heard of Loiza before but reading this post has intrigued me to visit Puerto Rico super soon!

  9. I have never been to Puerto Rico but am so curious to visit! And I have to admit that this is the first time I get to hear about Bomba music, something new to learn!

    • It was my first time hearing about Bomba as well. One of the reasons I love traveling because you learn so many new things 🙂

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