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The Daily Journal
La Isla del Encanto
Discovering the island delights of Puerto Rico
By ALEYDA MORALES
16 August 2004
When we go on vacation, we want to get the most for our time and money. If we have a family, we want a place where both adults and kids of all ages can have fun. Deciding on a place that everyone will enjoy is no easy decision.
Dad wants to go someplace that has interesting historic monuments and where the exotic natural landscapes offer challenges and adventures. Mom is looking for a cosmopolitan destination where she can enjoy the arts, a place with excellent accommodations, transportation, a wide variety of foods and different malls for shopping. Teenagers want a place with nightlife, and the youngest family members want to play water sports on the beach.
Puerto Rico, the smallest island of the Greater Antilles, is the perfect place to please them all, a place where everyone can enjoy an unforgettable vacation. It's no coincidence that it is known worldwide as the Island of Delights, la Isla del Encanto.
Puerto Rico is a magical spot where visitors only have to travel a short distance between its destinations.
Here, visitors can enjoy both the type of entertainment that teenagers want as well as impressive historical legacies of the Taínos (the aboriginal natives) and of the Spanish colonizers of the island.
Also known as Borinquen (a derivative of the name given to the island by the Taínos), the island offers forests, deserts, beaches and caves, like the Camuy Caverns, which boast the third longest subterranean river in the world, not to mention the extraordinary diversity of flora and fauna, sea and rivers.
The Islands around the Island
In addition to the principal island, the self-governing US commonwealth of Puerto Rico includes Vieques, the largest of the adjacent islands and a great spot for those who love fishing, Culebra, Palomino, Mona, Monito and other tiny islands.
Culebra is a wildlife refuge with an ecosystem inhabited by exotic birds and reptiles like tortoises and giant lizards. The beaches here are pure paradise. Visitors can camp out or enjoy the landscape from the balconies of the local hotels.
Isla Mona and Monito are considered the Galapagos of the Caribbean
Gilligan's Island is just a mile outside the well-known Copamarina Beach Resort in Guànica, on the southeastern coast of Puerto Rico.
On this inhabited island, there is exuberant vegetation and beaches with white sand. Ideal for snorkeling, the calm waters and fascinating mangrove swamps are packed with marine life.
Puerto Rico has some of the most stunning beaches in the world. Boquerón, just under three hours from San Juan, is the perfect spot for enjoying festivals on the beach, nightlife, water sports and other activities, excellent food, handicrafts, and of course, first-class beaches.
The atmosphere of this picturesque village attracts many tourists to invest in its elegant residential complexes in order to ensure their return. Boquerón is located in the town of Cabo Rojo, where the beautiful beaches of Joyuda and Bhuyé are situated.
In Rincón, the most eastern village in all of Puerto Rico, lies Shacks.
This beach boasts international prestige: it is one of the most popular windsurfing spots on the planet. Often compared with Maui, Hawaii, this beach is also ideal for wave jumping and kitesurfing.
Just down the road, not far from Shacks, you find Jobos, another spot for scuba diving and snorkeling.
Seven Seas, near the coastal town of Fajardo, is another one of the beaches of Puerto Rico.
Here, you will find the hotel El Conquistador, one of the most visited spots on the island thanks to its luxurious facilities. El Conquistador also has an extraordinary view of the sea from the mountain, and guests can access the beach right outside the hotel.
In La Parguera, to the southwest between Mayagüez and Ponce, don't miss the Phosphorescent Bay, where every night visitors can enjoy a bioluminescent phenomenon created by microscopic organisms that live in these waters.
Other spots of interest include El Yunque Rainforest, the only tropical rainforest in the US forest system, and the Guanica's Dry Forest, which is inhabited by 600 rare plants and animals, including 16 species that are only found on the island and 48 endangered species.
In San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, visitors will enjoy Old San Juan, the home to historical monuments that date back to Spanish colonization.
Visitors can walk along the cobblestone streets and enjoy outdoor activities, the work of local artisans, or the weekend nightlife.
Places like La Rumba on San Sebastiàn Street offer live music every night for dancing and a great time with friends. Old San Juan also has excellent four and five-fork restaurants, theaters and museums.
The famous hotel, El Convento, totally remodeled, is situated right in the heart of the action.
Some places of historical interest in San Juan include El Paseo de la Princesa, the San Juan Cathedral, the Fort El Morro, the Port of San Juan and La Fortaleza, the executive mansion inhabited by the island's governor.
The archipelago of Puerto Rico is located in the eastern Caribbean. The principal island, known as Puerto Rico, has an almost rectangular shape with nearly 100 miles from east to west and 35 miles north to south. The island has three distinct geographical regions: the mountain, the plateau to the north, and the coast.
U.S. citizens do not need a passport or vaccinations to travel to the island. The only requirement is some form of identification, such as a driver's license. Foreigners need passports, and in certain cases, a U.S. visa.
The national currency is the U.S. dollar. The official language is Spanish, but Puerto Rico is considered a bilingual territory.
The climate is tropical, with an average temperature of 80 degrees.
The best part of the island is that you can cross it in just three hours. It is easy to rent a car and the hotels offer tour guides.