The Island of Puerto Rico is located on a beautiful spot in the Caribbean Sea, eighteen degrees off the equator. Rightly called ‘La Isla del Encanto’ or the ‘Enchanted Island’, Puerto Rico has ample of opportunities in store for the tourist. Discovered by Christopher Columbus, on November 19, 1493, his 2nd voyage to the Americas, the island is called by many as ‘The land of a thousand blessings’. Thus every year, 19th November is celebrated as Puerto Rico Discovery Day. The very skeleton of Puerto Rico is formed by its beaches spanning 300 miles, lush tropical rainforests, caves that are a million years old, and a cactus filled dry forest. A harmony of voices, a striking blend of historical influences, as old as 500 years, from Europe, Africa and the Caribbean, Puerto Rico was home to the Taino Indians. They gave the island the name, Boriquen which means ‘Land of the Noble Lord’. The influence of its mother country Spain is evident in every facet of Puerto Rican life. Spanish culture has left his impression in the form of Puerto Rico’s colorful literature and arts to its tasty cuisine, its fountains, and towering military forts.
Lying on the rim of the Caribbean, the island enjoys a warm and sunny climate most of the year. Tourists flock to the island during winters. The rich soil of the island makes it ideal for growing sugar cane and pineapples. Coffee, citrus fruits and tobacco are cultivated on its rich, green and fertile mountain slopes. Its azure coastal waters are home to fishes like Barracuda, kingfish, mullet, Spanish mackerel, tuna, lobster, and oysters. Due to relatively short width, Puerto Rico doesn’t have large lakes or long rivers, it has 17 lakes, which are all man made. Being the smallest of the Greater Antilles, Puerto Rico is only 18% the size of Jamaica. Smaller islands like Vieques, Culebra, Mona, Desecheo, and Caja de Muertos and the main island Puerto Rico makes up the country.
San Juan National Historic Site
Around 15 minutes by a taxi from Luis Munoz Marin International Airport and you will reach the most visited site in Puerto Rico, Old San Juan. San Juan Historic Site comprises of the forts San Cristbal, San Felipe del Morro (El Morro), San Juan de la Cruz (also known as El Cauelo), Paseo del Morro National Recreation Trail, bastions, and powder houses. The fortification was built by the Spaniards in the 16th century to guard the sea lanes from the New World. The town of San Juan resembles 16th century Spain. The 400 year old, San Felipe del Morro itself attracts roughly 2 million visitors every year, thus making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Puerto Rico. El Morro stands at a towering 140 feet, guarding San Juan’s coastline. After 100 years of the completion of the El Morro fortress, the construction of another fort, San Cristbal began. Being 3 times bigger that El Morro; it was used to repel attacks both from land and sea, with is tunnels covering a distance of 400 meters.
El Yunque National Forest
The El Yunque National Forest comprises of a vast 28,000 acres of land, making it the largest block of public land in Puerto Rico. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest that is managed by the US National Forest Service. Tourists should visit the Visitors Center first, where you can expect information on the forest’s biodiversity through films, exhibits as well as get your map. The forest has over 24 miles of hiking trails, along with two large waterfalls and two lookout towers. Being a tropical forest, you can sure expect lots of rain, around 100 billion gallons of water falls each year. Due to the rainfall, the forest has very verdant appearance, enjoy seeing the ferns and the tiny waterfalls everywhere! Drive to the Yokahu Tower and gasp in awe at the exotic beauty of the island. Take another road down the tower, and you’ll come across the La Coca Falls, which invites climbers to take a shot at its slippery rocks.
Rio Camuy Caves
You can’t miss out on going to the Camuy Caves if you’re in Puerto Rico. The caves, located in a 268 acre park, are a cavern system that said to be carved out by the third largest underground river in the world. The caves are an hour and a half’s drive away from San Juan. A tram takes visitors down the road to the entrance of the caves. Tour guides are available at the scene and audio players that narrate information about the caves are also given. Down in the caves, it’s a whole new world. Visitors can walk on the concrete pathway only to discover spectacular rock formations, clear pools of water and a sinkhole. There is also a natural spring where visitors can actually drink from; they call it ‘the fountain of youth’.
Vieques Bio Bay
13 km east off the Puerto Rican main island, lies the small island of Vieques. The Vieques Island houses one out the five national natural landmarks in Puerto Rico, The Bioluminescent Bay. Also known as the Mosquito Bay, Its luminescence is achieved by the dinoflagellate Pyrodinium bahamense, a micro-organism. The neon blue trail is left behind, when this organism detects a disturbance in the water and starts to glow. Go on a kayaking adventure in its fragile ecosystem to experience the bay’s mangrove tunnels, a factor contributing to its luminescence. Boat rides, snorkeling and kayaking facilities can be availed by tour companies or local vendors.