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Meet the Original Puerto Ricans at Caguana

2/21- The Park has reopened. A volunteer group has cleaned it up and restored it!

Caguana Ceremonial Park

If you take a trip to the Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Park (or Parque Ceremonial Indigena de Caguana in Spanish) in Utuado, you can learn about the people who lived in Puerto Rico (or Boriken as they called it) prior to the arrival of the Spanish. In this a small area, archaeologists have uncovered many artifacts, petroglyphs and a number of stone-lined areas.

Many years later, after further excavations, research and preservation, this area (now operated by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture) is said to be one of the most important Taino-culture archaeological sites in the Antilles today.

History of the Caguana Ceremonial Park

According to the archaeologists and anthropologists who have studied the ancient culture of Puerto Rico, most agree that the Tainos, as a cultural group, date from the year approximately 1000 – 1100AD to the beginning of the 15th century (when the Spanish arrived). Sadly, the Tainos were swiftly and almost completely decimated by disease and Spanish subjugation.

In an odd twist of fate, some of the original Spanish did write about aspects of the Taino culture and customs they saw upon arrival. Now, with the Taino people gone, those writings give us much of the knowledge we have about the culture.

Caguana Ceremonial Park

There seemed to be an archaeological boom in the early 20th century. After word spread of possible ancient cultural finds in the area, Dr John Mason came from the States and began excavations in the area in 1915. He made detailed maps of the area and descriptions of his findings. However, they did not preserve the findings or petroglyphs and the site was left to be reclaimed by nature.

In later years, other archaeologists came to the site and re-excavated. They have uncovered 10 ceremonial plazas (sometimes referred to as batey), many wonderful petroglyphs and other artifacts.

There have been a few archaeological findings in the park (pieces of pottery) from proto-Taino (before the Taino) cultures, but it looks like the area was mainly used by the Taino people. The ceremonial plazas were thought to be constructed by the Tainos and used for about 300 years (until the Spanish arrived).

In 1957, the government of Puerto Rico "acquired" the land from the farmer who owned it. Since then, they have excavated and restored the site, added a museum and made the area into a beautiful park.

A Visit to the Park

As you enter the park, you walk down a tree-lined path, past picnic shelters until you get to the visitor center where, upstairs, you’ll find a large petroglyph on display. This petroglyph is etched in limestone, unlike the rest that are etched in granite. Since limestone is so soft, it was moved indoors from the plaza to help protect it from the elements. There are also some beautiful views of the ceremonial plazas from the upstairs balcony.

Downstairs, you’ll find a desk by the museum entrance, where you pay your admission and get a written brochure about the park and the excavated findings. It is available in English, Spanish and a number of other languages. There is a small, but interesting and air-conditioned, museum that has a lot of information on the artifacts on display. The informational placards are bilingual (English/Spanish). It also has a beautiful recreation of La Mujer de Caguana (the Woman of Caguana) petroglyph. She most likely represents Atabey, the Taino goddess of fertility. The real one is out in the largest ceremonial plaza.

Caguana Ceremonial Park

From the museum, you can gain access to the grassy fields and the ceremonial plazas. There are 10 plazas and 21 well-preserved petroglyphs out there. The largest plaza is where most of the petroglyphs can be found on the large rocks lined up along the far edge. The petroglyphs are well preserved and easy to see.

Though no one really knows the purpose of the plazas with 100% certainty, there are theories about how they were used. It is theorized that the largest, central plaza was for important ceremonies. There is a horseshoe-shaped plaza to the side of the largest plaza that is believed to have been a dance area. Surrounding the central plaza, you will find almost a semicircle of other small plazas and one medium-sized one. These smaller plazas are thought to be where the Tainos used to play a ball game called batos. These plazas are sometimes called bateyes. The smaller ones may have been practice fields, while the medium-sized one may have been the real ball field.

Note that the grassy areas and access to the bateyes are sometimes closed off if the ground is too wet from recent rain. That was the case the day that we went.

Caguana Ceremonial Park

It is believed this site was specially chosen and considered sacred by the Tainos. If you take a look at the surrounding mountains, you’ll notice that the mountain ridge-line has a distinctive shape — the mountains have the shape of a cemi. The cemi was the name of the physical representation of the Taino dieties or gods. They were also associated with fertility, both human and agricultural. Tainos considered cemis very powerful objects of spiritual value.

You will also notice the well-maintained grassy areas and large, beautiful trees in the park, many of which are endemic to the area and important to Taino life. The Institute has recreated a Taino bohio (shade structure) for visitors to use to sit and enjoy their time in the park.

All in all, Caguana is a lovely and important site that is part of the Puerto Rican cultural heritage, that I am glad has been preserved. I think the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture is doing a wonderful job at this site. The National Park Service has placed it on the National Register of Historic Places, and it is designated as a National Historic Landmark.

The Icing on the Cake

Caguana Ceremonial Park

The park itself is lovely, but the best part of this park was the museum guide Michael Guzman. But latest reviews say there are no guides anymore.


The admission fee allows visitors to enter the small museum, see the 50-minute documentary (in Spanish, only) if they like, and grants access to the archaeological area. Prices are $5 for adults , $3 for kids ages 6-13 .

On days when the ball fields are too wet (and therefore closed), entrance to the museum is free.

The park is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday only from 9am to 4:00pm.

Caguana Ceremonial Park

I hear the park’s schedule and/or days that it will be open may change. It is highly recommended that you call to find out if the park and/or the archaeological area is open to visitors on the particular day you plan on visiting.

The museum area is wheel chair accessible, but the ceremonial plazas are not. There are restrooms at the edge of the parking lot and in the museum.

Allow about 45 minutes to see the museum and plazas. Add another hour or so if you want to watch the 50-minute movie (in Spanish, only).

You can call them for more information or reservations at 787-669-1866. Check their Facebook page for latest updates.

The park, located in Utuado, it is a bit off the beaten path, but a nice stop. The drive down Route 10 is beautiful, with the haystack magote hills. The sheer limestone rock cliffs are fantastic.

Driving directions: Take Route 22 to the Arecibo area. From Route 22, take Route 10 south to Utuado. Follow Route 10 south to Road 111 (turn right onto Road 111). The park is located at KM 48.6 on Road 111. You can’t miss the gated park on your left, with plenty of free parking. Road 111 is a twisty road — take is slow and enjoy.

The drive to Caguana from the San Juan area takes approximately 90 minutes.

We are in the process of updating the maps we use on our web site. While we're working on that, you can click on the GPS coordinates below to view the location on Google Maps ... assumes no responsibility regarding your safety when participating in the activities described in this article. Please use common sense! If your mother or that little voice in your head tells you that you are about to do something stupid … then don't do it! Read more about Safety →

Comments & Discussion Leave a Comment »

There are 13 comments on this article. Add to the Discussion »

We are a composition of 34% Taino (native), 33% European ( Spaniards) and 33% Africans ( people of color). Also scientifically supported in recent years as the genetic ethnic group that best represents the human race due to its extensive heritage of races. We have astronauts, NASA engineers, scientists, judges of the Supreme court of justice, Gold medalists, 5 crowns of Miss Universe, Academy awards, Tony awards, and World class artists not to mention great and well known Art painters like Francisco Oller, Wichie Torres, Adolfo Arana and so many others. Our "Salsa" music is loved in Japan and Europe. We have famous musicians, singers and actors everywhere in the globe. Our Philarmonic orchestra is one of the most acclaimed in the world. San Felipe del Morro Fort has become a world heritage! Our men and women have served the United States military since 1917......We also have many distinguished doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers, clothes and building designers who call our little island home! Is true we receive $22.5 million a year in social assistance and government grants but we produce 73 billion dollars for the US! Yes, we are proud of being puertoricans speaking two languages as well! Viva Puerto Rico!

Comment by Mirta/Miguel A. Davila on 06 Oct 2019

We visited the park on Monday 5/16/16. While we didn't watch the movie (we don't speak Spanish), the gentleman at the gate and Raquel at the museum were able to give us quite a bit of information. The museum and grounds were in fine condition. It was a really neat experience!

Comment by Jennifer on 18 May 2016

I've been to the park several times in my life. I feel a special spiritual presence there. We have a family oral history that my great-grandmother, Rita Matias Rodriguez, was a full-blooded Taino from San German. I hired a professional genealogist and he traced my family all the way back to the late 1700's to Bucarabones, a barrio located right next to the Indiera in Maricao and not far from the park. National Geographic did a DNA test on me. Guess what? It came out Native American. I guess my Family oral history of being Taino is true. Proud to be Taino! Taino ti, Yukibo

Comment by Richard Morrow Porrata on 28 Feb 2016

Thanks for the update. I took that number off and found another number for an office. Try 787-724-0700 ext. 1360

Comment by Gwenn on 19 Dec 2015

The second telephone number listed goes to a residence. Please update. I tried the first number as well with no answer on a Saturday morning.

Comment by Mauricio on 19 Dec 2015

So glad that I stopped at Caguana. Very powerful experience. Mike at the front desk was very informative and passionate about sharing the Taino experience. The grounds are meticulously maintained. A nominal admission fee ($2) but worth it. Would recommend.

Comment by Camille on 06 Jul 2015

I'm a local... and today I'm going with my 12 years daughter to a full cultural trip to Utuado. We appreciate our culture and our island. Just don't stereotypes every person who live here. We appreciate our island and our culture. The point of all those historical places is to learn about the culture and the people who's lives here, not to make negative comment, how do you feel is the Puertorricans go to your home lands. The most sacred places and belike u. Appreciate what you just experience and enjoy Life!!

Comment by Tachie Collazo on 18 May 2014

I'm pleasantly surprised by the comments on here. I'm glad tourists like it because locals certainly don't appreciate it!

Comment by Eps on 15 May 2014

Want to know where can i find a ceremonial dress for a girl. Size 8-10 please email me!!!! Is for my niece from the states. Please send me prices also Many thanks!!!!

Comment by Wally on 12 Mar 2013

Yes, genome studies have shown Puerto Ricans have Taino ancestors, so there was mixing of the Tainos with the Spaniards. So some Taino influences still exist in the present, but the Taino culture as the original peoples knew it is gone.

Comment by Gwenn on 27 Feb 2013

It's hard to believe that an article written in 2012 would say the Taino are gone. It is estimated that the average Puerto Rican is at least 15 % Taino. There are those who have tested in the 30 to 39%. Taino descendants still go to this place to pray and meditate. It would have been nice if the author had included the Taino elements still present in our Puerto Rican culture.

Comment by Domingo Hernandez on 26 Feb 2013

We just visited this amazing park. Grounds are well kept, the people who work there really enjoy their job! Learned a lot and was even asked questions about my heritage. The person who took our money at the museum looked at me and asked if he could ask me a question, I said yes and he asked if I was Puerto Rican, I answered yes that both my parents were born here, my dad from Bayamon and my mom from Ponce. I myself was born in Queens, NY. He looked at me and said you have Taino in you, you have such strong facial features of the Taino Indians, your eye shape, high cheek bones and face. I felt so proud to be told that! The others who worked in the gift shop were very helpful and informative, they spoke to my daughter about the culture and gave us information on it. Very nice place to visit and learn about the Tainos.

Comment by Michelle Hagerthy on 05 Feb 2012

I visited this park in 2006, and enjoyed the experience. The grounds were pretty, groomed, and well maintained. I definitely got the impression that the people in charge take pride in the place, and give it the TLC that it deserves. I remember the guide was especially pleasant, helpful, and knowledgeable. I don't remember his name, but I wouldn't doubt it if he was the same Michael Guzman that you experienced. The only drawback for my visit was that the grounds were muddy from recent rain, so we had to have a good sneaker cleaning session before we headed back into into the car. Overall I would recommend it, and I would say that it's a good addition to a trip to Lago Dos Bocas.

Comment by Josh on 11 Apr 2011

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