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Isabela is a municipality of Puerto Rico located in the north-western region of the island, north of San Sebastián; west of Quebradillasmarker; and east of Aguadillamarker and Mocamarker. Isabela is spread over 13 wards and Isabela Pueblo (The downtown area and the administrative center of the city). It is a principal city of the Aguadilla-Isabela-San Sebastián Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The town is known as the "Jardín del Noroeste," the "Garden of the Northwest," because of the many wild flowers in its landscape. It is also knowns as el "Pueblo de los Quesitos de Hoja", the "town of Leaf Cheeses," for its production of this typical fresh white cheese wrapped in banana plant leaves, reputed to be the best . It is also known as la Ciudad de los Gallitos or the "City of the Fighting Cocks." Since the 18th century, cock fighting was very common throughout the island, and the town became famous and well known for the quality of its fighting cocks and special breeding and training techniques used by its people. [67945]



Aerial Photo of Downtown
Isabela, Puerto Rico.

Courtesy Arq.

Luis A.


The Taíno chief Mabodamaca, one of the most important chieftains of the Island of Boriken (Taino name for the island of Puerto Rico) during the 18th century, ruled the region of the 'Guajataca' (Taíno name for the northeastern region of Puerto Rico) where Isabela was originally founded. Although the actual date of the origins of the first Spanish settlement is not precisely known, a small settlement/hermitage is known to have existed by the end of the 17th century or beginning of the 18th century in a great extension of land into what encompass today the municipalities of Isabela, Camuymarker and Quebradillasmarker. The settlement bordered to the east with the shoreline of the Guajataca River and was located on the grounds of an earlier Taíno settlement.(Isabela Economy 18century).

Around 1725, José Antonio de Mendizábal y Azares (Governor of the Island of Puerto Rico) granted authorization to base a population on the existing hermitage/village. Its given name, San Antonio de La Tuna, derives from the avocation of the Spanishmarker settlers to the saint San Antonio de Padua and in honor of a wild cactus growing in the region (Tuna is the Spanish name for cactus). At the end of the eighteenth century San Antonio de la Tuna had a church, more than sixty houses, and almost 1,200 inhabitants, which was a considerable population for those times.(Isabela Economy 18century).


Prompted by economic and health factors, the decision to relocate the hermitage to a more favorable location was pursued. Around 1818, the village obtained authorization from then Governor Salvador Meléndez to transfer the population to a new location closer to the coast. The new community would be named Isabela in honor of Queen Isabella of Castile. Meléndez approved the transfer request and a new town was founded the following year on May 21, 1819. In this same year the construction of the church began, which finished in 1824. In 1918 the church was damaged during a strong earthquake that affected the western region of the island, it was rebuilt soon after.(Isabela Economy 18century).


Isabela's flag derives its design, colors and symbolism from its Coat of Arms. It consists of three horizontal stripes of equal width. The top and bottom stripe are yellow and the center one green. The Coat of Arms may be superposed on the green stripe in the center.

Coat of Arms

The town's coat of arms, dated 1819, is divided horizontally in three stripes of the same width, two gold and one green. The top and bottom stripes are gold, and a green stripe in the center. The green, which has an olive tree in its center, symbolizes the first inhabitants of Isabela and of the island of Puerto Rico, the Igneris Indians. The gold represents the Taíno Indians (they made extensive use of gold), who lived in this area about two hundred years before the discovery of the island. The gold bell represented in the center stripe between two cactus is a symbol of the town of San Antonio de la Tuna. The two cocks represent the bravery of the inhabitants and Isabela's famous fighting cocks. The horse represents the cattle wealth of the region and honors the fine step horses (Paso Fino) for which Isabela is famous. The crown has three towers, a standard emblem for Puerto Rico cities.

A new Coat of Arms photo is available in the official Web page on

Barrios (Districts/Wards)

  • Arenales Altos
  • Arenales Bajos
  • Bajuras
  • Bejucos
  • Coto
  • Galateo Alto
  • Galateo Bajo
  • Guayabos
  • Guerrero
  • Isabela Pueblo
  • Jobos
  • Llanadas
  • Mora
  • Planas


It could be said that Isabela is a hybrid town of sorts, with the rarity of being a coastline city that has beaches but is also known for its mountains (with peaks of over above sea level), rivers (surface and submarine), lake, caves (surface and submarine), cliffs, coastal flats and forests (Tropical and Mangroves).

Geographically, the municipality of Isabela belongs to the Northern Coastal Plains. Running through the south, the Aymamón mountains, a prolongation of the Jaicoa Mountain Range that begins in the neighboring town of Aguadillamarker, boasts peaks of over above sea level. The most prominent hills that are part of these mountains are La Bandera (Galateo Alto ward) at 368 meters (1,207 ft); La Silla (Arenales Alto ward) at 337 meters (1,106 ft); El Sombrero (in Galateo Alto) at 330 meters (1,083 ft); Indio (Planas ward)) at 310 meters (1,017 ft); and Monte Encantado (in Arenales Altos) at 280 meters (919 ft) of elevation above sea level. The central part of the territory, which consists mostly of flatlands, the mountains does not surpass 200 meters (656 ft) of height; the coastline flats (Bajuras), is slightly above sea level.



'Punta Sardina Bay'
Isabela, Puerto Rico.

Courtesy Arq.

Luis A.


The early economy of the hermitage had been based mainly on cattle ranching, its derivative products and hogs products, but trading was limited because of many factors: its inland location and topography, the settlement was posted above a hill overlooking the river (now river Guajataca) and it made diffucult the use of the river as a trading route as did the location's propensity to disease and outbreaks.(Isabela Economy 18century).

After the transfer to the present Isabela the economic realities that resulted from the new land and property opportunities that were readily available, the healthier environment formed due to the wide open plains and prevalent northern winds, and the proximity to the coast and the natural sea port at the bay of 'Punta Sardina' prompted for the diversificaion of the agricultural products and an increase on trade. The cultivation of sugar cane, coffee, tobacco, cotton, yuca, coconuts and fruits was stimulated further.(Isabela Economy 18century). Since then, Isabela has continued to flourish up to the present time.


Isabela also has several small clothing, manufacturing and hi-tech plants, a higher education institution, a world renowned agricultural research center and a major shopping mall, Plaza Isabela.[67946]


'Collage' Isabela, Puerto Rico
One of present Isabela's main industries is tourism, because it's a coastal city with several beautiful beaches, outstanding panoramic views and other diverse attractions such as its rainforest, rivers, lake, cordillera mountains, submarine rivers and caves and archaeological sites among others. It is visited by many local tourists as well as those seeking some sun and fun from the United Statesmarker and other countries.

Landmarks and places of interest

'Rio Guajataca'
Isabela, Puerto Rico.

Courtesy Arq.

Luis A.

'Blowhole at "La Princesa"
Isabela, Puerto Rico.

Courtesy Arq.

Luis A.

'Ruins of San Antonio de La Tuna' - Isabela, Puerto Rico.

Courtesy Arq.

Luis A.


'Centro Empresarial Playero - Villa Pesquera' - Isabela, Puerto Rico.

Courtesy Arq.

Luis A.

  • Brujo Well
  • Jobos Beach & Jacinto Well
  • Montones Beach
  • San Antonio de la Tuna Ruins
  • Punta Sardina
  • La Princesa Beach & Blow Hole
  • Centro Empresarial Playero - Villa Pesquera
  • Shacks Beach
  • Río Guajataca

Festivals and events

  • Isabelino Fighting Cock Festivities - February
  • Weave Festival - May
  • Kite Festival - May
  • Patron Festivities - June
  • Yucca Festival - October
  • Innocent Saints Day - December


Isabela is also well known for its world-class surfing spots, and was the host site for two World Cup Surfing Championshipsmarker in the 20th century.

Isabela had a basketball team that played at the Jose "Buga" Abreu Coliseum, the Isabela Bantams ("Gallitos de Isabela"). The team had average success. In 1987, one of its superstars, Frankie Torruella, was diagnosed with heart disease, and the trading of another star player, Edwin Pellot, to the Coamo team, hastened the team's fallout. In 1984, the team lost the championship, four games to two, to the Canovanas Indians team ("Indios de Canóvanas"). Between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, the Bantams were serious championship contenders. In the late 1970s their star player, Mickey Coll, died in a motorcycle accident. The first home team's court was named after him. The Bantams where Isabela's home team until October 2005 when they moved the franchise to Guaynabo. The Playeras, a female volleyball team, played in Isabela for 2 seasons until they as well moved to Aguadilla becoming Las Divas.

The local basketball team was called the "Gallitos" ("Little Cocks," in reference to the slim, lightweight body of the fighting variety) due to the town's fame for quality fighting cocks. The name was translated literally into English as "Bantams", a variety of dwarf cocks.

The town has a cock fighting arena, traditionally called a "Gallera." Fights are customarily held on Sunday mornings, and the bet and stakes are controlled by the government of Puerto Rico, and pay prizes based on the fighting record of the cocks.

Isabela also has amateur baseball teams. Also Isabela is well known for its Fine Step Horses ("Caballos de Paso Fino") and its world class board, wind and kite surfing spots.



  • Isabela Economy (18th Century)b- *[67947] Colección de Tesis: Tesis de maestros presentadas en el Departamento de Historia Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Rio Piedras: Colón, Maria Judith, Historia de Isabela vista a traves de su desarrollo urbano, 1750-1850. (1985), 288 pp.

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