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THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE
Filling In The Missing Parts Of Ricky Martin's Puerto Rico
by Karen Schwartz
June 4, 2000
Recent Puerto Rico tourism ads feature singer Ricky Martin talking about the country's beaches, culture, history and night life. The pop star's ads may have enticed you to check out his homeland, but before you plan your trip, you'll need more information than the brief commercial provides. Here are some guidebooks you might want to check out:
Lonely Planet: Puerto Rico, by Randall Peffer. Lonely Planet, 360 pages, $15.95 paperback.
This is the Lonely Planet's first book about Puerto Rico , and it also features what is known as the Spanish Virgin Islands -- the islands of Vieques and Culebra.
"Almost everything about Puerto Rico stands out as a dramatic and original yoking of opposites," Peffer writes. "Here, travelers will find strong and recognizable vestiges of Amerindian ancestors, Spanish conquistadors and West Africa slaves, as well as the political and economic influence of the U.S.A."
The book begins with facts about Puerto Rico, then offers a chapter for the visitor that includes "The Best and the Worst," "Internet Resources" and "Language Courses," in addition to the usual information about public holidays, currency, sports and where to get laundry done.
Other chapters feature San Juan, the East Coast, the South Coast, the West Coast, the North Coast, the Central Mountains, the Spanish Virgin Islands, Spanish for Travelers and a glossary.
The entries offer a range of lodging options, from campgrounds to luxury resorts. Similarly, the night life varies from sleepy beach bars to pulsing salsa clubs.
Short sidebars offer interesting information about which marine animals to avoid, what damage hurricanes have caused, and more.
There are 16 pages of color photographs and 26 maps.
Ulysses Travel Guide Puerto Rico, by Sophie Gaches and Francois Henault. Globe Pequot Press, 349 pages, $17.95 paperback.
This is another first edition, and the book is similar in layout to the Lonely Planet Guide.
It begins with a portrait of the country that includes the geography, flora and fauna, history, culture and arts, then offers a chapter featuring practical information on climate, safety, security and more. A chapter on outdoor recreation covers national parks and wildlife reserves, as well as hiking, fishing and water sports.
Region by region chapters are divided into San Juan, the East, the Southeast, Ponce and the South-Central Region, the Northwest, Vieques and Culebra. These sections include information on shopping, entertainment, accommodations and restaurants.
This book uses a series of symbols to denote amenities such as pools, restaurants, fans, refrigerators, whirlpools, casino, wheelchair access and Ulysses' favorites, among others. A three- star rating system indicates which attractions shouldn't be missed, and prices are given on a scale using one to four dollar signs.
The book features 26 maps, 8 color photographs and a glossary.
Off the Beaten Path, by John Marino. The Globe Pequot Press, 161 pages, $12.95 paperback.
"Most visitors to Puerto Rico spend the majority of their time on the grounds of their hotel or the sun-drenched beach beside it," Marino writes in his introduction. "But that just makes it all the easier to get off the beaten path and experience firsthand the charms of the place that Puerto Ricans call . . . `the enchanted island.' "
The chapters are titled Old San Juan, San Juan, East of San Juan, Ponce and the South, the North Coast and West, and the Central Mountains.
The listings for each region include restaurants, accommodations, attractions and annual events. Sidebars list historical facts, geographical tidbits, legends, trivia, suggested day trips and anecdotes.
The entries don't include a wealth of information that can't be found in the other books, but they do focus on the more unsung and presumably unspoiled finds.
Of the three books, Marino is the only author who lives in Puerto Rico . He is city editor at the San Juan Star, Puerto Rico 's only English language newspaper.