Discover Puerto Rico:
|This is a launch point for sailing and sport-diving
excursions (arranged locally or in San Juan) as well as for regularly scheduled ferries
and air service carrying passengers and cargo to Culebra and Vieques. If you plan to take
a car on the ferry, you must reserve space a week in advance.
Nearby are several very popular uninhabited coral
islands (Icacos & Palomino). The perfect beaches are bounded by calm, clear water
ideal for snorkeling.
Just outside of Fajardo on Route 987 is the new
Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve (El Faro). This 316-acre point of land features a
neoclassic lighthouse (in continuous operation since 1882), a nature center,
archaeological excavation and wilderness preserve.
Discover Puerto Rico:
Millenniums ago, two-ton leatherback turtles were
lumbering onto its beaches. In the 18th century, pirates used its cays as secluded,
protected hideaways. At the turn of this century, President Theodore Roosevelt established
a naval center and a bird refuge. Today, snorkelers wander through its coral kingdoms,
nodding good-day to an astounding variety of sea creatures. Culebra with its 24 offshore
islands forms a miniature archipelago. Culebra's rugged countryside, outrageous beaches
and small-scale tourist industry make the 25-square-mile island a hidden Caribbean
Discover Puerto Rico: Vieques
On Vieques, beauty and history merge on a
25-by-5-mile island. Arawak Indians once lived here and it was an infamous haven for
pirates during the 17th century, before, during and after which various European powers
fought for control of Vieques. A century-old lighthouse still protects the port.
Snorkeling is excellent, especially at Blue Beach. The island is also the home of the
spectacular phosphorescent Mosquito Bay (ask your hotel to arrange a guided nighttime
trip). Camping is permitted at Sun Bay with a free permit. Its reefs are popular with
sport divers, and several Puerto Rican dive operators schedule trips here.
Discover Puerto Rico: Falardo to Ponce
You can either cut back through the interior to
link up with the expressway (Route 52), stay on the shoreline for an enjoyable ocean side
drive (Route 3) or use the new east-coast Route 53 (currently under construction). It is a
choice between exquisite beaches or breathtaking- mountain vistas.
Discover Puerto Rico: Ponce
With a population of 300,000, Ponce is Puerto
Rico's second-largest city. It was founded in 1692 by Ponce de Le6n's great-grandson. The
beautiful downtown Plaza is a must stop, with lovely fountains, a cathedral and local
bench-sitting denizens. At the back of the cathedral is the red and black, century-old
wooden firehouse, Parque de Bombas. This unique firehouse is open to the public with
exhibits on the second floor. The municipal band plays a free concert here every Sunday
The world-class Museum of Art, designed by Edward
Durrell Stone, houses more than 1,000 paintings and 400 sculptures, including the finest
collection of European works in the Caribbean, many important Puerto Rican pieces, some
Inca pottery and even Thai pieces.
La Guancha Paseo Tablado, the boardwalk, is a fun
stop where you can loiter with lively local Poncefios--the teen scene, elders and the
For an incredible vista of how the mountains meet
the sea at Ponce, drive to the summit of El Vigfa Hill, where scouts once scanned for
attacking ships. Visitors can ascend La Cruz del Vigfa, a 100-foot observation tower.
Nearby is the Tibes Indian Ceremonial Center,
site of the oldest cemetery uncovered to date in the Antilies. These ancient Indian sites
include seven bateyes (ball-fields), some carved with petroglyphs, said to have been used
for a soccer-like game. On one of two dance grounds, stones line up with the sun during
the equinox and solstice, making Tibes a pre-Columbian astronomical observatory. There's
also a reconstructed Tafno village, with thatched roof bamboo huts.
On Route 10 from Ponce to Adjuntas is the
Hacienda Buena Vista. This coffee plantation was built in 1833 and restored to its
original condition by the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico with major support from the
Smithsonian Institute. Here you will find a two-story estate house with the original
waterwheels and other farm machinery in action. Call the Conservation Trust (page 2) to
make the required reservation for a tour.
Discover Puerto Rico: Guanica
The town of Gufinica spreads around a quiet
little bay. Visit the lovely central plaza or take a stroll along the sea wall to enjoy
the view of the azure waters. Three beaches here (Cafia Gorda, Manglillo Pequefio and
Playa Santa) offer excellent sunning and snorkeling. Nearby, Gufinica Forest has the
richest bird population on the island and a lignum vitae tree that is more than 1,000
Discover Puerto Rico: Parguera
A small and friendly fishing village with several
tourist accommodations, services, restaurants and superb recreational opportunities. Plan
to stay past dark on a moon-less night at nearby Phosphorescent Bay (Bahfa Fosforescente),
one of the few in the world (others are in Japan, Jamaica and Vieques). A special variety
of luminescent plankton, dinofiagellates, glow like blue fire in the dark. As you stir
your hand through the water, you'll leave sparkling swirls. Also plan to visit The Canals,
an area just off the coast, where more than 30 mangrove cays and islands form ornate
Discover Puerto Rico: Boqueron Beach
This interesting little waterfront town is the
jumping-off point for the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse at the southwest tip of the island. Like
Parguera, you will find a lot of water sports activities and plenty of convenient
accommodations. If you take the coast road north, you will find seaside restaurants and
small beaches dotting the shoreline.
Discover Puerto Rico: Mona Island
Some fifty miles west of Mayaguez floats rugged
Mona Island, where sea birds share their colonies with yard-long iguanas. The island has
200-foot cliffs ridded with caves that once held pirate booty. See Ecology for further
information on Mona.
Discover Puerto Rico: Mayaguez
The port city of Mayagiiez is the island's
third-largest city. Its elegant plaza has a stone walk and benches and a statue of
Christopher Columbus on a globe pedestal. Visitors to the Tropical Agricultural Research
Station can take a self-guided tour of lush tropical gardens and exotic plants and trees
at this former plantation.
Discover Puerto Rico: Rincon
The town of Rincon, to the north, nestles between
La Cadena Mountains and a series of beaches facing the Atlantic to the north and the
Caribbean to the south. You may find yourself humming old Beach Boys tunes as you drive
into town, since the half-dozen reef-lined Atlantic beaches have become a winter mecca for
skilled surfers. The World Surfing Championship is frequently held in Rincon. Endangered
humpback whales may be seen in the winter from the gorgeous new observation park
constructed around the fully restored lighthouse just north of town.
Discover Puerto Rico: Aguadllla to
Just outside of Aguadilla, the town of Moca is
best known to visitors as the center for Mundillo-style lace-making (see Shopping). The
area from Aguadilla to Quebradillas features some of the best beaches in the world. These
picturesque, coconut-palm-shaded beaches extend along northwestern Puerto Rico from Crash
Boat around Borinquen Point to Jobos and lsabela. The longest runway in the Caribbean is
at Borinquen Point, site of the former Ramey Air Force Base. Crash Boat is named for the
launches kept here to pick up passengers in case of an airplane crash. These waters
provide good snorkeling in the summer and good surfing in the winter, when the surf tends
to be rougher.
Discover Puerto Rico:
If you take only one sightseeing trip from San
Juan, this should be it. From Arecibo, on the north shore, go southwest along Route 129 to
the Rfo Camuy Cave Park. This incredible 268-acre park is the site of the great
subterranean caverns carved out by the Camuy River over one million years ago. The
impeccably maintained trails gently descend 200 feet through a fern-filled ravine to the
yawning, cathedral-like caverns. To visit this pristine site is to be transported to
another, hidden world. The park is equipped with picnic areas, walking trails, food
facilities, an exhibition hall and a souvenir shop, making it the perfect place to spend a
day. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 8am to 4pm.
Discover Puerto Rico: Arecibo Radio telescope
A short ride from the Caverns is the 'Observatorio
de Arecibo' at the end of Route 625. This is the site of the largest radio telescope in the
Discover Puerto Rico: Manati
Located between Arecibo and San Juan, Manati is
the pineapple center of Puerto Rico. This is also a good jumping-off place for a visit to