Discover Puerto Rico: Fajardo
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: Culebra.

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 treasure.

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 night.

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 toddler-mama set.

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 years old.

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 channels.

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 Quebradillas

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: Camuy Caverns

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 world.

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 the interior.