Thursday, August 21, 2008

Puerto Rico's Top 5 Must See and Do

We had some visitors in town for the past few days, and it was fun showing them around the island. So, I just came up with the idea of compiling a list of my top 5 things to see and do in Puerto Rico. I'll start from the bottom and work my way up...

Fifth Place: El Yunque Rainforest. It's located about 45 minutes or so from San Juan and is definitely worth a visit, especially if you've never been to a rainforest before. There are quite a few hiking trails, some which lead you to pretty waterfalls. Just a word of caution, most people either join tour groups (for those who choose not to rent a car) or explore on their own. The latter is probably the best option. Although there are, supposedly, park rangers who can provide guided tours, I don't believe they're reliable. Oh, if you drive, admission to the park is absolutely free!

Fourth Place: Museo Castillo Serrallés, and Ponce. This beautiful attraction is located in the southern city of Ponce, which is about an hour drive from San Juan. It was home to the Serrallés family, founders of the distillery which brought us the Don Q rum. You must join a tour in order to see the interior of the museum. If you have the time, I would highly suggest you to just go ahead and join the tour! The tour guide will explain to you the history of the house, which is both interesting and fascinating. Afterwards, be sure to go visit Ponce's town center, where you'll find Parque de Las Bombas. One last thing, you must try the ice cream at King's Cream!

Third Place: Viejo San Juan. It's safe to say that you've never been to Puerto Rico if you've never been to Viejo San Juan. Despite the presence of Payless Shoes and McDonald's, it's still a great place to enjoy Spanish colonial architecture in all its glory. There are many art galleries, museums and historic places to see. The most famous include El Morro and the San Cristóbal Fort. On certain days, when the cruiseships come to shore, you'll find Viejo San Juan filled with tourists. Unfortunately, some buildings are in desperate need of repair, but it's still a really charming place to explore. I love the narrow, cobblestone streets because it just transports you back into a completely different era... of the horse and buggy!

Second Place: Playa Flamingo, Culebra Island. This is absolutely my favorite beach in Puerto Rico. White-sandy beaches and clear blue water, it's heaven on earth! Culebra is a tiny island which lies to the East, and takes about an hour and a half by ferry from Fajardo. Culebra is such a wonderful little gem. Rustic, uncommercialized and laid-back, it is the perfect place to get away from it all. Just a word of advice, if possible, do avoid going on weekends. This is when it gets really crowded on the ferries, and it's also quite difficult to get tickets. Do try to plan ahead if you can. If you have the time, try to spend at least a night here.

First Place: Sun Bay Beach, Vieques. Before I go any further about this fantastic beach, I must say I'm completely biased on this one. I won't go into details, but this is a really special place for me. This is a great beach to swim, as there aren't normally too many waves. Like Culebra, I would recommend coming here during the week. There are more ferries going to Vieques, but it's still quite difficult to get tickets during the weekend. This is especially true during the summer. The ferries going to Vieques also leave from Fajardo. Kayaking in the bioluminescent bay, I've been told, is a lot of fun. However, if you're looking for an active nightlife scene, neither Vieques nor Culebra would probably be for you. What I love most about the beaches in both islands is the tranquility.

(Photo credits: Culebra,, Vieques,

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