Puerto Rico packs a heavyweight punch compared to its feather weight size, only being a 100 miles long and 35 miles wide. While San Juan is its capital city, cruise port and entertainment mecca, Puerto Rico has premier attractions and destinations worthy of some quality time in every corner.
Of course you have well known San Juan where no trip is complete without taking a stroll through the old town, marveling at the beautiful fountains, impending fort and the liveliness of cobblestone streets and café patios. Not too far away you can find a multitude of hotels, beach front, spas, golf and rest and relaxation in El Condado and Isla Verde, to name a couple areas.
Venture east to the El Yunque rainforest to experience nature, the iconic coquì frog and cascading waterfalls like the La Mina. In this area you can also experience zip lining in the largest aerial park in the western hemisphere. Even further east is Fajardo and Vieques Island, perfect spots for a night kayak experience in the bioluminescence bays. Vieques’ neighboring island of Culebra is famed for its beaches such as Flamenco Beach, wildlife refuge and turtle nesting sanctuary. This island is most appreciated by those seeking a laid back Caribbean experience without the traffic and high-rise resorts.
Moving along to the south of the island, you will find the island’s second largest city of Ponce. This is a beautiful modern city with old-world charm. The southern area in general is packed with cultural and historic sites representing Spanish aristocracy and Taino civilizations. In fact here you can find, Tibes Ceremonial Park, the largest Taino ceremonial center in the West Indies.
Circling around to the West is the divers and surfers paradise. The city of Mayagũez offers a great base camp to explore this side of the island. Juan A. Rivero Zoo can be found here as well as annual festivals such as the Chocolate Festival held in May.
On the northern shore of the Island, west of San Juan, you can find the extensive and dramatic Rio Camuy Cave Park and the Arecibo Observatory, to see and learn about the world’s largest single-aperture telescope. A little closer in to San Juan are the premier golf courses along the Dorado Beach area.
My latest trip to Puerto Rico was for business but I made time before and after for adventure and cultural pursuits. San Juan was my base camp. From here I was able to sample some amazing food from Jose Enrique (don’t let its appearance, the hot pink house on the corner, deceive you), trés chic Oceano, (be sure to try the mofongo and crème brulee) and unassuming Ropa Vieja. About an hour east of San Juan in the Luquillo area you will find Carabalì Rainforest Park. They have a restaurant (excellent rice and beans), horseback riding, ATV and go kart racing. The ATV adventure was awesome. We meandered through a private reserve down to the Mameyes River where we took a dip in the most crystal clear water. There is a rope high above the river that we used to hurl ourselves off the cliff into the awaiting waters. Before getting back on our ATV to continue our journey, our faces and bodies were painted with river rocks in the likeness of Taino princesses and princes and our heads adorned with a ring of palms.
Up next in my quest for extreme adventure was a day with Explora. High in the hills of the Arecibo area is a pink casita perched on a cliff serving as our base camp. Here we donned our helmets, life jackets, knee pads and rappelling harnesses. As we hiked to the rappelling site our guides provided history of the area, pointed out fossils embedded in the rock and botanical highlights. After being expertly secured to ropes and riggers, we rappelled from a cliff down into the Tanames River below. Then we learned the technique for body rafting (hint: your body is the raft). Along the way we took some time to marvel at the stalactites and stalagmites, and even caught sight of a crab nestled in the formation. After lunch on the river banks and another rapid we climbed our way back up the mountain to the casita. We took advantage of the spectacular view from the natural showers on the side of the casita overlooking the valley below and mountains on the other side. I was just about eye level to the hawk soaring in the distance. Champagne, cheese, fruit and other delicious treats were laid out for us as a cherry on top of this multi-adventure experience.
If you didn’t realize it Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory so no passport is required to travel to this beautiful island in the Caribbean Sea. Its’ easy access makes it a great choice for quick get-a-ways, weddings and honeymoons and even business events.
What’s on your must do or see list for a trip to Puerto Rico?