Puerto Rico was once the island of Boriquen. Its inhabitants
were the Arawaks. Chris Columbus discovered this
raw island in 1493, renamed it San Juan Bautista,
and began its Spanish colonization. Eventually it
was named Puerto Rico and Luis Munoz Rivera persuaded
Spain to grant the colonies autonomy in 1897. With
Munoz Rivera as leader, the United States won the
island in the Spanish- American war in 1988. In 1917,
Puerto Rico was established as a US territory, with
its own government.
Environment & Climate
Today, Puerto Rico is a major tourist destination.
Its ecology, environment, and personality attract countless
travelers every year. Lying between Hispaniola and
the archipelagoes of the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico
has a beach for anyone, with the Atlantic Ocean to
the north and the Caribbean Sea to the south.
There is more to Puerto Rico than beaches, though.
El Yunque, a rainforest in the northeast, is cherished.
It is said that this national park receives over a
billion gallons of rainfall per year. As one could
imagine, wildlife thrives here, as do the standard
foliage of rainforest ecology, including the majestic
To the south of the island
there is a unique ecological wonder. The Guanica Dry
Forest is both coastal and
tropical, with an ironic landscape of cacti, evergreens
in the hills, and mangrove stands.
Those adventurers seeking
a variation of activities should travel northwest.
Here they will find rocky
ledges, caves, and hills to delight the senses. While
climbing, travelers may hear or see coquis, the island’s
native frogs, who are known for their assertive croaks.
The climate in Puerto Rico is humid and warm throughout
the year. The temperatures range between 75-85 degrees
Fahrenheit. To escape the hot temperatures, visit the
mountain regions. Temperatures are cooler there. Hurricane
season is a time to be wary of. The season is between
May and November.
Since beaches are a main draw of Puerto Rico it is
worth noting some of the best. For swimming, the southern
coast is the best choice because of its calmer waters.
The beach named Boqueron is the most recommended. Punta
Guilarte and Flamenco Beach are also worthwhile.
Surfers can find the best waves between Rincon and
Isabella in the northwest, during the months of October
through April. Windsurfers should visit Isla Verde
or anywhere else along the northern Atlantic coast.
Beginners can partake in San Juan’s Condado Lagoon.
Hiking areas are prevalent, and stunning. Trekking
in El Yunque, the rainforest, or Rio Camuy Cave Park
is essential. For wildlife enthusiasts, Guanica Reserve
is worthwhile. It’s here that birdwatchers will
be rewarded. Rincon will provide sightings of humpback
whales, January through March.
Caving is a sport that takes
some skill. Nevertheless, both experienced and beginner
cavers can participate
in the sport in Puerto Rico. The cave system of Camuy
River can be explored with the help of the guides in
the National Park. There is a trolley-tram beginners
can take to a cave. The tram transports guests to the
cave, via a sinkhole.
A unique experience in Puerto
Rico remains the viewing of the bioluminescence of
Phosphorescent Bay. The bay
is located near La Parguera.
Scuba diving is, of course,
another popular activity. Great diving is accessible
a couple of miles offshore
in Puerto Rico. Get too close to the shore, and visibility
can be affected by river runoff. Desecheo Island, just
west of Rincon, is a must for experienced divers. The
island is adjacent to a 5-mile deep submarine canyon.
There are numerous other sites that are worth a visit,
including Culebra and Vieques islands, Humacao, and
Unlimited, a tour
operator based in Rincon, offers single and multi day
dive trips, instruction
and charters. They offer various types of packages,
including scuba diving, snorkeling, and diving certification.
are fantastic for families. They provide a full day
of memorable experiences. Their
charters depart at 8:00 am. The boat ride to Desecheo
takes about 1 hour, and offers sights of dolphins,
and whales in the wintertime, along the way. The day
is spent off shore of the island, where guests can
dive or snorkel. Desecheo Island is unknown to the
masses, but those who know it agree that it is a gem
of a dive site. Visibility is 100-150 feet, and depths
vary from 20 feet to over 100 feet, which makes it
an alluring place for all levels. A buffet lunch with
sandwiches, fruit, sodas, and water is served. The
day is complete with a relaxing ride back to the dock
at 3:30 pm.
Half-day charters to Mayaguez
are also available. The Ocean Unlimited web site states, “The local reefs
in Mayaguez are abundant with many different types
of hard and soft corals, as well as a wide variety
of reef fish and even a stray open water game fish
from time to time. These sites are excellent for snorkeling,
Discover Scuba Diving and training dives. Many of the
sites begin in about 15-20ft. Snorkelers can find patches
of reef in the 10-15ft range, while divers can drop
off the side of the reef system to a maximum depth
of 60ft.” After a few hours of snorkeling and
beginning diving, the captain brings the boat back
Unlimited offers charter
to Mona Island for a 3 or 4-day camping excursion.
At Mona, divers can
dive in the gorgeous waters, snorkelers can do their
thing in the blue lagoons, wildlife lovers can look
for sea turtles and other species of wildlife on shore,
hikers can hike over the rocky hills, and caving enthusiasts
can explore. Permits are required to visit Mona Island.
After an action packed day, participants camp on the
beach overnight. The expedition is a great value, with
all meals and camping equipment provided. Lisa Maddocks
of Oceans Unlimited proclaims, “This is a true
get-away on a deserted island.”
What Else to Do
There are many festivals in Puerto Rico spread among
the months of the year. A couple of the most entertaining
include the Festival of St. John the Baptist, which
takes place in San Juan in late June. The event is
full of dancing, music, feasting, and parades. The
climax of the festival is a walk into the sea, backwards,
at midnight. It is meant to bring about good fortune
to those who participate. For some zesty fun, visitors
to the island can celebrate Carnival in February.
Lodging in Puerto Rico can be varied. There are plenty
of Internet resources to help travelers find a location.
Maddocks, of Oceans Unlimited,
recommends Parador Perichi’s
and Joyuda Beach Hotel. Both are government-endorsed
properties. They are moderate in price, have restaurants,
a pool, and are only about 15 minutes from Oceans Unlimited’s
boat dock. The Lighthouse Inn is about 10 minutes from
their boat dock and has several restaurants on site.
A special perk is that these lodges are close to nature,
and located in an area quieter than Rincon.
Although there are no marina facilities in the Rincon
area, Lisa says, “In Rincon, we suggest the Hotel
Villa Cofresi. This is a wonderful beachfront, family
owned hotel with a restaurant on premises, pool and
beachside cabana bar. Prices are moderate (but great
property) and staff makes you truly feel like "family"!
This property is about 35-40 minutes from our boat
San Juan is renowned for its fine restaurants. French,
Caribbean, Mexican, you name, you can find it in Puerto
Rico, inside or outside of the city. There is even
a magazine dedicated to reviewing restaurants and food
in Puerto Rico, named “Tables”. The magazine
is an outstanding resource for finding the right dining
establishment for the moment.
When to Go
The question should be when not to go. Puerto Rico
can become overwhelmed with tourists during the months
of December through April. After the peak season
travelers risk Hurricane Season. If a more affordable
vacation is on the agenda, then it is important pay
attention to the weather reports before and during
Getting There & Around
Luckily, Puerto Rico is extremely accessible, with
major US airlines flying in and out of San Juan everyday.
American Airlines maintains a major hub in San Juan.
In addition, British Airways serves the island from
London and flights depart from Frankfurt on Lufthansa
to the island frequently.
The main airport is San Juan's
Luis Muñnz Marín
International Airport. Like most major airports, there
are a plethora of car rental agencies, taxis and buses
waiting to transport guests to the island.
When you are ready to begin
your adventures across the island, it is recommended
to rent a car. Be aware
that the locals drive a bit unpredictably, but usually
without the rage factor. Watch speed limit signs and
remember to drive on the right hand side.
Patient individuals can take
on the public transportation system in Puerto Rico.
Although affordable and interactive,
there are, in general, no set schedules, and many stops
on the routes. Flag a publicos down whenever you see
one, but be sure to identify it first by the ‘P’ or ‘PD’ on
the license plate.
Taxis in busy areas are plentiful,
and ferries run from Fajardo to Culebra and Vieques
Of all of the Caribbean’s islands, Puerto Rico
comes out ahead in regards to affordability. It is
not unreasonable to budget $300 per day with lodging
at a more prestigious hotel, and three high quality meals a day. Budgeting
down from there, a moderate vacation might cost about $200 per day, and an
economy vacation could be less than $100 per day. The off-season, May through
November is always more affordable, and specials are easily discovered.
In addition to the peso,
most venues accept all major credit cards and traveler's
checks. ATMs are also readily accessible in the tourist localities.
Tip about 15% in restaurants,
and remember that bartering is not common like in other
Caribbean destinations, with the exception of artisan
Whatever the cost, Puerto
Rico is a place, not so far away, that takes you away,
and truly draws you in.
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