100 miles (161km) W of San Juan; 6 miles (9.7km) N of Mayagüez

North of Mayagüez lies the resort town of Rincón, the first of a string of beach destinations you'll encounter as you head north, but not the closest, as the town lies at the western end of a piece of land jutting off the coast.

I always lose my bearings driving to and around Rincón, and any Google Maps or GPS system you are relying on will surely go haywire (basically giving a different direction each time you punch in the locations). That's probably as it should be as you drive a jumble of circuitous country roads over La Cadena Hills to reach the town, the center of which eludes most visitors, who head to the guesthouses and hotels along the coast. Rincón sits on a flattened peninsula of land jutting off Puerto Rico's western coast, so there's water surrounding it on three sides, which has another confusing effect.

Rincón long ago stopped being that sleepy coastal village attracting surfers and bohemian travelers from around the world. They, of course, are still coming, but a building boom has brought a wave of new condo, hotel, and luxury vacation residence projects, which has attracted more and more visitors here over the last decade. In fact, the town is beginning to worry about the pace of development and its effect on the beautiful natural resources here.

There's still a lot of space to get lost in, though, with the surrounding hills on one side, and water on the town's other three borders. Rincón dates from the 16th century when a landowner allowed poor families to set down roots on his land. It was a sleepy agricultural town for centuries afterwards. It eventually gained fame as the Caribbean's best surfing spot, a fact reinforced by its hosting the World Surfing Championship in 1968. It remains the surfing capital of the Caribbean, a center for ex-patriot North Americans, and a tourist magnet.

With over a dozen beaches in town, great surfing, sailing, and snorkeling, and an ever better nightlife and cultural scene, it's not hard to see why. It continues evolving as a destination, reinforcing the fact it's one of the best stops to make in Puerto Rico.

There was a time when nonsurfers visited Rincón for only one reason: the Horned Dorset Primavera Hotel, not only one of the finest hotels in Puerto Rico, but one of the best in the entire Caribbean. Now there are several reasons for them to come.