Puerto Rico Tourism
Regardless of where you stay, a visit to Old San Juan is a must. Down narrow streets paved with blue bricks once used as ballast on sailing ships from Spain, shoppers will discover good buys on jewelry in dozens of shops, art lovers can pick up original works in several galleries, and history buffs can poke into small museums and explore the two huge fortresses, El Morro and San Cristobal, built centuries ago by Spain and now maintained by the U.S. National Parks Service.
By day, the streets bustle with commerce and the governing of the island, but at night, the Old City cools down, and lovers stroll along the waterfront Paseo de la Princesa, where floodlights cast a glow on the ancient wall that once guarded the city against invaders from the sea.
Some visitors return year after year to Puerto Rico and never leave San Juan, but those who have learned of the joys of venturing "out on the island," as the locals say, have discovered the island's hidden arcs of beach, cool mountain forests, and historical sites.
The most popular day trip out of San Juan is a drive or bus ride to the Caribbean National Forest, commonly known as El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Parks system. Waterfalls fed by more than 100 billion gallons of annual rainfall lace the forest and giant ferns shade the winding road into the preserve. You can choose trails from casual to steep, or merely climb the roadside observation tower to get a stunning view of the second half of your day trip, the palm-lined curve of Luquillo Beach below. There, you can sip coconut milk from its natural container on one of Puerto Rico's finest beaches and rest up from your El Yunque hike while the sun dips toward the mountains where you stood earlier in the day.
The city of Ponce, "The Pearl of the South," entices visitors to the Caribbean coast with its brightly painted fire station, now a museum, and its central plaza, the grandest on the island with its laurel trees, trimmed in the shape of giant mushrooms, shading benches and fountains. The Ponce Museum of Art is one of the finest in all the Spanish-speaking world, and the nearby Hacienda Buena Vista, managed by the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust, offers tours of a restored coffee plantation, including demonstrations of the 19th-century water-powered machinery, which still works today.
And that's just a small sample. From coast to coast, Puerto Rico offers the chance to find a beach chair and do nothing or strap on your walking shoes and do it all. Either way, there will still be some choices left over to enjoy back home on evenings spent planning your next visit.
Most visitors stay in one of the hotels lining the San Juan oceanfront, close to all the activities of the capital city. In the Isla Verde and Condado areas, many hotels are right on the beach. The larger ones offer casinos and all are near shops and restaurants. If the feeling of colonial Old San Juan draws you even more than the beachfront life, a few hotels in the Old City can let you stay in the heart of nearly five centuries of history.
Much of the city's nightlife is centered in the hotels, as well. Some, such as the Sands Hotel, offer ongoing shows, and others frequently add special events to the usual attractions of the casinos, discotheques and night clubs.