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Puerto Rico

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Personality Types that Like it Best

Did You Know…?

  • Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens but island residents don’t vote for president or pay U.S. taxes.
  • Don Q rum originated in Puerto Rico.
  • Puerto Rico is the only place in the U.S. where Columbus landed.
  • El Yunque is the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. national forest system.
  • Puerto Rico and Cuba have the same flag except the red and blue are reversed.

Of fortresses and fishing

The island is smaller than Connecticut, but Puerto Rico packs in the attractions. It appeals to the traveler who seeks warmer climes in winter, plenty of water-based activities, access to historical sites and the buzz of a foreign culture that comes with the ease — for Americans — associated with domestic travel.

That is Puerto Rico. Colonial-era Spaniards built fortresses, San Juan’s walls and other historical sites. The island has America’s only tropical rain forest, beautiful flowers, caves that are truly natural wonders and lots of golf. Not least, Puerto Rico’s waters have broad appeal — to the diver, swimmer, serious angler and more.

As Caribbean islands go, Puerto Rico is fairly large, at 3,435 square miles, which translates into plenty of space for exploration and some variety in the terrain, from coastal plains to mountains in the interior.  It is not much, however, for lakes — they are small and few — or rivers — only one is navigable — and this means those who love water sports turn their attention to a long shoreline, the Caribbean on the south and the Atlantic on the north.

That said, Puerto Rico is distinct from other Caribbean islands (except for the U.S. Virgin Islands) in that it is American. As a result, U.S. travelers don’t need a passport to return home from Puerto Rico as they do when flying home from other Caribbean destinations.  U.S. Customs rules don’t apply to Puerto Rico travel either.

Because Puerto Rico was initially a Spanish colony, Spanish is the first language of most residents. Puerto Rico was ceded to the U.S. in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. Now, after more than 100 years, plenty of English can be heard, especially as many residents have lived in the continental U.S. The frequent movement of Puerto Ricans themselves between the island and the U.S. mainland is one reason air service to the island is good and frequent. The other reason, of course, is the demands of tourism.

With the right pricing, the airlines and resorts can lure tourists to the island year-round, but the winter months always remain peak season.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Run the rapids on Tanama River in a kayak, or glide along Puerto Rico’s only navigable river, the Espiritu Santo. Or, kayak on the ocean.
  • Take the 200-foot rappel into the mouth of the Angeles Sinkhole, your entry into Angels Cave and only the beginning of an explorer’s adventure.
  • Or, descend by trolley into one of the sinkholes in the Rio Camuy Cave Park as part of a guided tour of the interior. At the park, you can walk into the Spiral Sinkhole and Cave (205 steps) but must be an experienced spelunker to explore further.
  • Go surfing in Rincon, site of numerous surfing competitions, including the world championships in 1968 and 1988.
  • Go scuba diving. If you need lessons, they are available.
  • If fishing is your thing, enter the island’s annual International Billfish Tournament, where competitors have reeled in specimens of more than 1,000 pounds.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Go bird-watching in the Caribbean National Forest, known as El Yunque, or in the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Go snorkeling in the shallow reefs near Dorado, Humacao, Mayaguez or San Juan.
  • Visit Mona Island about 50 miles offshore. Accessible only by boat or private aircraft, it is called the Galapagos of the Caribbean because of the animal life found there: giant lizards, sea turtles and red-footed boobies.
  • Go horseback riding along a beach, in a tropical rain forest or at a coffee plantation in the mountains. The most spectacular routes are around Cerro de Punta near Jayuya, the island’s tallest mountain.
  • Hike in El Yunque or in the Gunica Dry Forest, following marked trails and roads in each.
  • Stay in one or more of the island’s 23 paradores, or country inns, noted for affordable rates and picturesque locations.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Sample fresh shellfish and oysters, from the island’s southwest, plus a full range of tropical fruit, including guavas, papayas, pineapples, starfruit and 14 kinds of bananas. The northeast region is noted for local artisan cheeses and citrus fruit.
  • Explore San Juan’s fortresses that recall the days when Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony, in particular, El Morro Fortress and San Cristobal Fort.
  • Play golf in the self-described golf capital of the Caribbean.
  • Visit the Hacienda Buena Vista, a coffee plantation restored by the Conservation Trust. Original machinery is operational again, and you’ll find plenty of freshly roasted coffee on hand.
  • Treat yourself to luxurious spa treatments at any of 17 spas on the island.
  • Buy distinctive souvenirs: island masks made of papier-mache or coconut; handmade lace, and small wooden figures of saints and religious scenes.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Puerto Rico Tourism Company at www.seepuertorico.com