Puerto Rico Holidays – Tours & Adventures Travel Guide
“With the gentle sound of the sea lapping at the feet and the cool breeze caressing the face, it is not hard to imagine why Puerto Rico is known as the Isla del Encanto, “the Island of Enchantment”. This Isla del Encanto is an archipelago that comprises of the main island of Puerto Rico and the islands and keys of Culebra, Mona and Vieques. Despite the tranquility, which the Island offers its visitors; Puerto Rico had a turbulent and violent history during the era of the Spanish conquistadors. Yet it is this mordant fusion of the early Taino with the viciously subjugated Africans that had produced the diverse and unique culture, which had enchanted all those who visited Puerto Rico. With the whistling of the palm trees in the wind beckoning, it is hardly surprising that Puerto Rico remain one of the top destinations in the Caribbean for those wishing for a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the mundane metropolis and the perfect place for honeymoons and weddings.”
Puerto Rico Holiday Highlights
History & Culture - Originally, a Spanish colony, today Puerto Rico is a self-governing Commonwealth under the United States with its capital at San Juan. Even with the intrusion of the American culture towards the latter stage of her political history, Puerto Rico retains much of her cultural heritage. The Bomba and Plena music have their roots from the African slaves imported during the rule of the Spanish. The influences of the Tainos are seen in the foods, musical instrument like the maracas and the names, which adorned the municipalities of the Island. However off late, the Puerto Rican cultural expression seems to be a contradiction between the past and the contemporary. The Puerto Ricans loves everything that is American and yet demonstrate a close fidelity with their “Borinquen”, their Island of Enchantment. Despite all that had been said, beneath the surface, the essence of what makes Puerto Rico so enchanting would reveal itself to those are willing to open up and soak in what she has to offer.
Sightseeing - Beginning with the old city of San Juan, the soul of this city is said to be crammed into this seven square blocks of buildings. There are over 500 years of history awaiting the eager explorer at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the Plazuela de la Rogativa, visitors will be able to witness a statue, which commemorate the struggles of the women who defended the city from the British invasion. Formerly a market built in1855, the Museo de Arte e Historia houses a rich collection of Puerto Rican culture under one roof. Here visitors will be able to gain greater insights into the works of Franciso Oller and other notable artists as well as the history of San Juan. It is also in San Juan that you find the San Jose Church, deemed the second oldest church in the western hemisphere. The church is also the site where the Spanish conquistador Ponce de León was buried for over 300 years before being moved to San Juan Cathedral. The La Fortaleza, now the Governor’s mansion is also another main attraction of the old city, which visitors should view to appreciate the colonial Spanish architecture.
Moving on to San German, visitors can visit the Iglesia de Porta Coeli, a Gothic church built in 1606. The church is an amazing example of Gothic architecture. Architectural enthusiasts should also tour the Cathedral de San Germán de Auxerre, which is decorated by a blue fresco on the ceiling of the main nave. Other sightseeing highlights of Puerto Rico include the Paseo La Princesa otherwise known as the Promenade of the Princess. A walk through the promenade is trip back to the nostalgic 19th century. At Ponce, salsa lovers can visit the Plaza Las Delicias and witness the open-air music festival held here.
Wildlife, Flora & Fauna - The El Yunque National Forest is the only rainforest which the National USA forest system posses. Regarded as the most popular natural attraction of this island, the El Yunque National Forest receives over one million visitors a year. There are over 250 species of trees, a thousand types of plants and various other wildlife waiting for the nature lovers to discover. Beside the flora and fauna, there also other highlights in the El Yunque to explore. They include the La Coca and La Mina Falls, the Bano Grande, Bano de Oro and the Yokahu Tower.
The Tropical Agriculture Research Station in Mayaguez is also another attraction for the nature lovers. The Research station hosts over 2,000 species of exotic plants from all over the world. Here visitors can view the wide sampling of tropical plants in a sequenced order by following the paths and paved drives provided. Off the coast Puerto Rico near the islands of Fajardo and Vieques are found some of the most amazing bioluminescent bays in the Caribbean. Nature lovers must not miss this magical experience of seeing the water literally glow in the dark due to the microorganisms that thrive here. Visitors can also hop to the Island of Vieques explore a newly established wildlife refuge where the sound of the nature has replaced the sound of exploding naval munitions.
Golfing - As with all premier holiday destinations, Puerto Rico boasts of having one of the top golf courses in the world. Golf master Tom Kite designed the Trump International Golf course in Rio Grande Puerto Rico, which has two 18-hole championship courses. Well crafted with a splendid view of the Caribbean Sea, the courses provide both the high handicapper as well as the veteran golfer unrivalled golfing experience.
Scuba Diving & Water Sports - For those into extreme water sports, the waters around the island of Puerto Rico provide for some of the best opportunities in the Caribbean to ride the waves. With waves ranging from 2 feet to 20 feet, surfers of all skill levels can enjoy the thrill these beautiful waters provide. Some of the best surfing spots on the island are Aviones, Bridges, La Bomba and Rincon. The vast coral gardens around the waters of Puerto Rico are also home to some of the best dive sites in the region. With hundreds of species of tropical fish around as fodder, it is not uncommon for divers to come face to face with barracudas, moray eels or nurse sharks. The Boqueron Beach at Mayaguez and the coast of Vieques are some of the popular dive sites that visitors can try out. The most exhilarating dives are near Desecheo Island ,50 miles west of Mayaguez, For snorkeling, the reefs near Dorado, Humacao, Mayaguez and San Juan are superb.
Fishing - For fishing enthusiasts, the fishing here is good all year round, but October to March, is the perfect time to catch for Blue marlin, dolphin, dorado, White marlin, Yellow-fin Tuna and Sailfish.
When To Go
A good time to visit Puerto Rico is from December to April. While the upside is the favorable weather around this time, the downside is the higher prices charged by the hotels. In addition, the crowds are heavier too during these times. A good time to go is perhaps during the beginning and ending of the high season. With luck, you might end up with favorable weather conditions as well as cut-price rates. Puerto Rico sees the Caribbean hurricane season running from June to November.
- Being a US Commonwealth, Puerto Rico has some of the Chains stores from the US operating here. As such, you can get most the essentials at reasonable prices.
- If you are planning to rent a car to tour the island, you need to produce an International driving license.
- A Spanish phrasebook would also be useful to break down the language barrier with the locals.
- Bring along a good pair of trekking shoes if your main agenda to the island is to visit the El Yunque National Forest.
Puerto Rican Classic Itineraries
If you have limited time to spend on Puerto Rico, make San Juan your home base.
The first stop should be the beaches at:
- Isla Verde,
- Condado or
- Ocean Park
Your next stop should be the old city of San Juan. Check out:
- El Morro,
- Fuerte San Cristóbal
- Calle Fortaleza
With a car, you can also visit the world’s largest radio telescope at the Observatorio de Arecibo. On your way down you can drop by to Parque Ceremonial Indígena Caguana and then to Hacienda Gripiñas for an evening at this restored plantation.
Your Puerto Rico vacations can also be combined with Jamaica holidays.
The next on the list of sites to visit will be the El Yunque national Forest. The day will end at a night in Fajardo. If you wish to visit the bioluminescent bay, sign up for a kayak trip through Laguna Grande. Rounding off your trip, you can head back to San Juan with a stopover at Loiza Aldea. If you are into gambling, then you can try your luck at any of the hot spots of Condado and the Isla Verde.