More and more visitors are discovering the bewitching allure of Puerto Rico's wild and wooly southeast coast, with deep sand beaches, powerful waves, and cliffs cutting across the landscape straight down to the coast. There are still empty beaches with lighthouses, but now there are more restaurants and lodging options than just a few years ago.

In Yabucoa, you can also catch the start of the Panoramic Route, a tangle of narrow country roads crisscrossing Puerto Rico's mountainous interior from the east to west coasts. The coastal Rte. 901 cuts along steep oceanfront cliffs and descends into such sleepy coastal villages as Maunabo and Patillas. Along the way is El Horizonte, where the food is as satisfying as the views. At Punta Tuna, along this road in town, there is a beautiful lighthouse built in 1892 and a wide public beach beside it with restaurants, bathroom facilities and an outdoor picnic area. A better place to go swimming is Playa Emajaguas, a rare, thick sandy beach in the area. It does not get as crowded as Playa LucĂ­a, farther down the road, right next door to larger hotel.

Beyond Maunabo, the main coastal road merges with Hwy. 3 as it passes through the pretty town of Patillas, which has one of the nicest resorts of in the area. Arroyo has the fine Centro Vacacional Punta Guiliarte, a National Parks Company public beach and vacation center.

Off Rte. 3, Rte. 901 climbs steep oceanfront cliffs, cutting back and forth in switchbacks that afford outstanding views of the Caribbean and the islands in the distance. The road again descends into Maunabo, a sleepy coastal village that despite its charms remains off the beaten path for most visitors to Puerto Rico. At Punta Tuna, there is a beautiful lighthouse built in 1892 and a nice public beach beside it, with restaurants, bathroom facilities, and an outdoor picnic area. The wide sand beach here is among the nicest in the region. Elsewhere in town, the beaches are mostly deserted, used more by fishermen than beachgoers. The sand is heavier, darker, and deeper than elsewhere in Puerto Rico, and the currents can be strong. The beaches, protected by palm trees and bluffs, are beautiful, however.