In the 1800s, Puerto Rican coffee was widely regarded as among the world’s finest, served at European cafés and to monarchs and popes. This history—both the period’s agricultural boom, and the enslaved labor it relied on—is documented at Hacienda Buena Vista, a plantation in the mountains whose unique, water-powered machinery still functions more than a century later.
First established in 1833 by a Catalan immigrant from Venezuela, the hacienda grew plantains, bananas, corn, and avocados, with a wooden water wheel, propelled by the water of the Cañas River, powering a corn mill, which was later bolstered by an advanced hydraulic turbine. In the late 1800s, following local trends, the owners started producing coffee.
Agriculture ceased in the mid 1900s, but in 1984, the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust bought the hacienda and restored the structures and machines, making the site the region’s best-preserved plantation. Regular tours allow visitors to learn about this period of Puerto Rican history, and the still-working machinery is a highlight for engineering nerds, as the river-powered turbine is a rare example of extant hydraulics from that period.
The hacienda’s location is idyllic and relaxing, with the river and a waterfall nearby. But tours also feature information on the lives of the enslaved people who tended crops and picked coffee fruits, including their living quarters, which reminds visitors that this beautiful location was a site of forced labor, and that this period of history and the global coffee reputation it established is intertwined with colonization.
Know Before You Go
Hacienda Buena Vista is currently managed by Para La Naturaleza. To visit the plantation, it's necessary to make a reservation.