Surrounded by mountains in the town of Lares, Puerto Rico, Hacienda Lealtad is like a trip back in time. This preserved 19th-century coffee plantation was recently restored after years of disuse, and it now offers a glimpse into the way of life during the island’s agricultural boom.
Founded in the early 1800s, Hacienda Lealtad was one of the major coffee producers during Puerto Rico’s Spanish rule, run by enslaved workers who lived as forced laborers on the property. It was the first plantation of its time powered with electricity, via a still-functional hydraulic wheel capable of generating up to 20 kilowatts of energy from the rainwater coming from the mountains.
The complex includes a former post office, landowner’s house, slave barracks, kitchen, coffee drying field, “drawers” for storing coffee beans during rainy days, and a mill to process the beans. There’s also a small stone structure that operated as a prison. It is said that in 1868, a group of enslaved workers fled from this plantation to join the Grito de Lares uprising against Spanish rule, though another version of the story suggests they actually left to rebel against the abusive treatment they received at the plantation.
The revitalization of Hacienda Lealtad was the vision of the plantation’s current owner, Edwin Soto. His original plan was to turn the property into a family farm, but it eventually evolved into a project to preserve a part of Puerto Rico’s history. The structures were all renovated using materials and furniture typical of the 19th century; the landowner’s house is decorated with furniture that belonged to the family of the famous Puerto Rican essayist and poet, José de Diego.
While Hurricane María reversed part of the process in 2017, the fields at Hacienda Lealtad are recovering and tours are being offered once again. The plantation also continues to produce its own coffee, branded Café Lealtad, but the tours alone are worth a visit. Today, the revitalized Hacienda Lealtad is not only a producer of coffee but also unforgettable memories.
Know Before You Go
Bus tours depart from Cafe Bistro Hacienda Lealtad, also known as Restaurante Hacienda Lealtad, which appears on Google Maps. Make sure to ask for departing hours and reserve a spot.