Founded In 1510, San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, spreads out along the northern coast and also inland. Its nucleus is Old San Juan, a seven square block walled area, sitting on a point of land between the Atlantic Ocean and San Juan Bay. Old San Juan is filled with history and culture, and is a living museum. It is preserved in all its natural grace and beauty, and at 500 years of age is far from being decrepit. Some of its narrow streets are paved with small blue-gray cobblestones which came to the port hundreds of years ago as ships’ ballast.
San Juan is a place to park the car and walk. The terrain is hilly and the sidewalks steep, but walking is safer than driving under these conditions, and there is so much to see! There are many charming cafés at which to stop, rest and enjoy a cup of fine Puerto Rican coffee or a meal along the way.
The newer part of San Juan is a thoroughly modern, bustling city of a million people. A series of bridges link the inlet with the resort areas of Condado and Isla Verde as well as the residential communities of Santurce and the suburbs of Hato Rey and Rio Piedras.
Puerto Rico is a perfect family destination. The smallest children love the sandy beaches, the warm shallow seawater and the swimming pools constructed especially for them. Kite flying on the breezy days is a favorite pastime. There’s no end to the activities available for older children, including boat rides, shell collecting, horseback riding, hiking, wind surfing, and snorkeling. The adults in the family will also enjoy exploring the underwater wonders of Puerto Rico. On land, they will have the opportunity to play on what are considered the best golf courses ion the Carribean. the best golf Most resort hotels offer programs of activities, and many have play directors and supervised daily fun for various age groups.
Music is a special source of Puerto Rican pride, and the bold Latin beat is best characterized by the music and dance form known as salsa, which shares not only its name with the Spanish word for “hot sauce” but also a zesty, hot flavor. This fusion of west African percussion, jazz (especially swing) and big band and other Latin beats produces mambo, merengue, flamenco, cha-cha, and rumba.
San Juan is home to ballet, fine drama, symphony orchestra performances. It is also the scene of many lively and colorful festivals, which can take place at any time due to the warm, sunny weather that is present year round. Government regulated casinos operate in the larger hotels, and provide enjoyment to many visitors. Most are open 20- 24 hours a day. Horse racing is another favorite sport on which to wager.
Puerto Ricans welcome visitors and are eager to show off their city. They are justifiably proud of its timeless beauty, its warmth and its zest for life
Metropolitan Area Population: 1,086,376
The largest part of the population is of Spanish descent. There are also Portuguese, Italians, and French. About 85 percent of the people are Roman Catholics
Puerto Rico, commonwealth of United States of America 1000 miles southeast of Miami and 1600 miles from New York.
300 square miles
Atlantic Time (GMT -4 Hours) Same as Eastern Standard Time without Daylight Saving Time.
Average Temperatures (in Fahrenheit):
|January – March||81||70|
|April – June||85||72|
|July – September||86||75|
|October – December||85||72|
Temperatures average 78-83F year round. December-April are the coolest months. Sweaters are necessary in the mountains during winter. In the hottest months, July-September, temperatures often top 90F. Sunblock is essential year round! About 59 in. of rain falls annually on the island, most of it during hurricane season June-November, but rain can fall in brief torrents year round. This is a warm rain in San Juan, and one can easily “drip dry” after a shower.
Tourist Offices: In The U.S., Puerto Rico Tourism Company, 575 Fifth Ave., New York, Ny 10017, Phone 212-599-6262 Or 800-223-6350.
Currency: U.S. Dollar. Traveler’s checks and credit cards are widely accepted.
Mon-Fri 9:30 -3 . Some are open on Saturdays. Credit cards and traveler’s checks are widely accepted.
If you travel to San Juan on a cruise, The easiest way to mail letters and postcards is from the ship. The U.S. Postal Service dispatches mail daily. The old post office on Recinto Sur in old San Juan is open Mon-Fri 8am – 5pm and Sat 8am – noon.
Passport/Visa Requirements: proof of citizenship recommended but not necessary for U.S. Citizens. All others should have proof of citizenship. Reconfirm documentation requirements with carrier before departure.
110 Volts, 60 cycles AC, same as US.
Telephones & Fax:
International Dialing Code:
International telecommunications are good. The pay phones have instructions in English And Spanish. You can also place long-distance calls from world service telephone at Pier one: phone 721-2520
Telephone Area Code:
while the drinking water is considered safe, many residents drink bottled water. Medical facilities are plentiful in San Juan and outside the city. The Ashford Memorial Community Hospital is located in the tourist area of Conrad phone 721-2160. For municipal ambulance service, call 343-2550.
Jan 1 New Year’s Day
Jan 6 Three King’s Day
Jan 11 De Hosts Day
Feb 22 Washington’s Birthday
Late Feb. Ponce Carnival
Ma22r Emancipation Day
Apr 5 Good Friday
Apr 7 Easter
Apr 16 De Diego Day
May 30 Memorial Day
Jun 24 San Juan Bautista Day
July 4 Independence Day
Jul 17Munoz Rivera Day
July 25 Constitution Day
July 27 Dr José Cellos Barbuda’s Birthday
Sept 1. Labor Day
Oct 12 Columbus Day
Nov 11. Veteran’s Day
Nov 19 Discovery Day
November 25 Thanksgiving Day
Dec 25 Christmas Day
How To Get Around:
Much of the sightseeing and shopping can be done on foot as distances around the City are not great.
Driving in Puerto Rico:
Puerto Rico’s 3,500 square miles are a lot of land to explore. Although you can get from town to town via público, it’s not the best way to travel unless your Spanish is good and you know exactly where you’re going. In spite of traffic signs in Spanish and aggressive fellow drivers, a rental car may be best for exploring outside the old city. Roads in Puerto Rico are well marked with distances posted in kilometers and speed limits in miles per hour. Be aware that many of Puerto Rico’s newer roads are toll roads, so keep change handy. Roads in the interior of the island can be narrow and steep. Chickens and dogs share the road with vehicles. You may find that local drivers travel at high speeds regardless of road conditions or narrowness of the roads. Drive defensively and make sure to buy a good road map.
catch one of the free, open-air trolleys by getting on near the terminal or anywhere along their routes: one follows a northwesterly path Boulevard De Valle and Calle Norzagaray To Calle Cristo and La Fortaleza while the other travels northeasterly along San Francisco Street, Plaza De Armas and Fortaleza Street.
Taxis are readily available at the ship terminal, with dispatchers supervising loading and unloading. They are usually the best way to get around San Juan quickly and easily – as long as you and the driver agree on rates and routes beforehand. a word of caution: in the past some taxi drivers have been accused of overcharging passengers, especially tourists. The public service commission has set up a system to try to improve this situation.
Local Bus Service:
Air-conditioned but crowded, public buses run from the harbor to various locations in the greater San Juan area the Metropolitan bus authority or AMA, its Spanish acronym covers the greater San Juan area, which consists of San Juan, Santurce, Rio Piedras, Hato Rey, Bayamon and Carolina. Small bus companies serve island towns and environs. Publicos vans and cars are low priced and offer rides along established routes but may not keep to a schedule or be very comfortable. In one of these packed public cars, typically a mini-van or sedan whose license plate includes the letters “pd” or “p”, the 15-minute trip from San Juan to Rio Piedras, for example, stretches to 45 minutes.
The Aqua Express, a daily ferry service, connects Old San Juan at Pier Two with Cataño and Hato Rey. .
Puerto Rico’s Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is located about 20 minutes east of downtown San Juan, and 10 minutes from Isla Verde. It is the largest and busiest in the Caribbean. If you take a cruise that begins in San Juan, most cruise lines will arrange your transportation from the airport to the pier. if not, a taxi ride to the port will take about 30 minutes, depending on traffic. There are also a number of limousine services. The airport has just undergone a $30 million facelift.
Isla Grande airport, a mile south of the port, handles general aviation within the island and to other Caribbean islands. An airplane with pilot can be rented from one of the flying schools there for a sightseeing flight around the city or the island. Contact Hill Aviation phone 723-3385
El Bosque Nacional Del Caribe
Take Route 3 East From San Juan And Turn Right South On Route 191, About 25 mi. from the city. stop in at the Centro De Información El Portal El Portal Tropical Forest Information Center on route 191 at the entrance to the park.
Admission is charged
The best way to see the 28,000-Acre Caribbean National Forest (Or El Yunque, as it’s commonly known) is to go with a tour guide. Dozens of trails lead through the thick rain forest, and guides take you to the best observation points, bathing spots, and waterfalls.
721-7000 Ext 2211
Guided tours in English on the hour, in Spanish every 30 minutes The governor’s palace, built between 1533 and 1540, was used as a fortress against Carib attacks but greatly expanded in the 19th century. It is believed to be the oldest executive residence in continuous use in the western hemisphere. Access to the official areas is not permitted.
Catedral De San Juan
153 Calle Cristo
Weekdays 8:30-4; Masses Sat. 7 pm, Sun. 9 am; 11 am, Weekdays 12:15
Built in the 16th century but extensively restored in the 19th and 20th. the remains of Ponce de León are in a marble tomb near the transept. The Catholic shrine of Puerto Rico had humble beginnings in the early 1520s as a thatch-topped wooden structure. Hurricane winds tore off the thatch and destroyed the church. It was reconstructed in 1540, when the graceful circular staircase and vaulted Gothic ceilings were added, but most of the work was done in the 19th century.
Centro Ceremonial Indígena De Tibes
787/840-2255 Or 787/840-5685
Tues.day – Sunday 9-4.
Tibes Indian Ceremonial Center. At Tibes, are found pre-Taíno ruins and burials dating from ad 300 to ad 700. Some archaeologists, noting the symmetrical arrangement of stone pillars, surmise the cemetery may have been of great religious significance. The complex includes a detailed re-creation of a Taíno village and a museum.
17 El Vigía Hill, 787/259-1774. Admission Charged.
A splendid Spanish revival mansion perched on El Vigía Hill that recalls the era of the sugar barons.
After hurricane damage, El Morro Trail, a jogger’s paradise, is being reconstructed. The trail provides Old Town’s most scenic views across the harbor. The first part extends to the San Juan Gate; it then goes by the well-preserved walls of El Morro, a 16th-century fort, and eventually reaches a scenic area known as Bastion de Santa Barbara. The trail is designed to follow the rhythm of the movement of the ocean surf, and sea grapes and tropical vegetation surround benches that are perfect for a rest. The walk is romantic at night, when the walls of the fortress are illuminated.
Fuerte San Felipe Del Morro/Fuerte San Cristóbal
Small admission charge.
San Felipe Del Morro was built in 1591 to defend the entrance to the harbour, and the 11-hectare fort san cristóbal was completed in 1772 to support El Morro and to defend the landward side of the city. The massive six-level fortress covers enough territory to accommodate a nine-hole golf course. It is a labyrinth of dungeons, barracks, turrets, towers, and tunnels. its small, air-conditioned museum traces the history of the fortress. Tours and a video show are available in English.
Plaza Del Quinto Centenario
The Plaza Del Quinto Centenario, Inaugurated On 12 October 1992 To Commemorate The 500th Anniversary Of Columbus’ Landing, is a modernistic square on several levels with steps leading to a central fountain with hundreds of jets good view of El Morro, the cemetery and sunsets.
2.5 miles west of Cataño at km 2.6 on State Road 888, across the straits from El Morro Castle, is the world’s largest rum factory.
Take the ferry and then a taxi. Displays and samples are offered. A one hour tour leaves every 30 minutes.
Cuartel De Ballajá
Mon-Frid 10:00-4:00, Sat-Sun 11:00-5:00
Guided Tours Available Weekdays 1030, 1130, 1230 And 2:00
Once the barracks for Spanish Troops and their families, was also inaugurated 12 October 1992 with the museum of the americas on the second floor tracing the cultural development of the history of the new world.
Chapel museum open Wed-Sun 9:00-12:00, 1:00-4:30
Built in the early 16th century, later used as a headquarters by the US Army, is now the office of the institute of culture, with a good art gallery. Cultural events are sometimes held in the patio, art exhibitions in the galleries.
Iglesia De San José
Calle San Sebastián, Plaza De San José, 787/725-7501. Admission Free.
Mon-Sat 8:30-4:00, Sun Mass at noon
With its vaulted ceilings, this is a splendid example of 16th-century Spanish Gothic architecture. The church, one of the oldest in the western hemisphere, was built in 1532 under the supervision of Dominican friars. The body of Ponce de León was buried here for almost 300 years before being moved in 1913 to the Catedral De San Juan.
Casa De Los Contrafuertes
Early 18th Century, believed to be the oldest private residence in the old city, now has periodic art exhibitions on the second floor and a small pharmacy museum with 19th century exhibits on the ground floor.
1 Calle San Sebastián
Tue-Sun 9:00-12:00, 1:00-4:30
Guided Tours Tue-Fri By Appointment.
Built in 1523 by the family of Ponce De León, who lived in it for 250 years until it became the residence of the Spanish and then the US military Commander-in-Chief. It is now a historical museum which is well worth a visit.
The Alcaldía, Or City Hall
724-7171 Ext 2391
Mon-Fri 8:00-4:00 Except Holidays
Mon-Fri 8:00-12:00, 1:00-4:30
Formerly the Spanish colonial exchequer, a fine example of 19th century Puerto Rican Architecture, now houses Puerto Rico’s State Department.
The Naval Arsenal
Wed-Sun 9:00-12:00, 1:00-4:30
The last place in Puerto Rico to be evacuated by the Spanish in 1898, exhibitions are held in three galleries.
Casa Del Callejón
Both Museums Closed For Restoration
A restored 18th-century house containing two colonial museums, the architectural and the Puerto Rican Family.
Reserva Natural Las Cabezas De San Juan
The reserve is open to the public, by reservation only, Friday-Sunday and to tour groups Wednesday-Thursday. Tours are given on request in advance, by phone four times Daily; An English tour is available at 2 Pm. Rte. 987, Km 5.8
787/722-5882 Or 787/860-2560
Most of Puerto Rico’s natural habitats are rolled into Las Cabezas Reserve’s 316 acres. nineteenth-century El Faro, one of the island’s oldest lighthouses, is restored and still functioning. The wide variety of birds makes this a favorite spot for bird watchers.
Jardín Botánico (Botanical Garden)
Intersection Of Rtes. 1 and 847 at entrance to Barrio Venezuela, Río Piedras
The main attraction at the University of Puerto Rico is the lush 75-acre forest of more than 200 species of tropical and subtropical vegetation. Gravel footpaths lead to a graceful lotus lagoon, a bamboo promenade, an orchid garden with some 30,000 plants, and a palm garden. Signs are in Spanish and English. Trail maps are available at the entrance gate.
Pablo Casals Museum
Pablo Casals museum is in an 18th century house beside San José church, with Casals’ cello and other memorabilia.
San Juan Museum Of Art And History
Norzagaray Y Macarthur
Built in 1855 as a marketplace, now a cultural centre with exhibition galleries.
Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
399 De Diego Avenue in Santurce
Tuesday through Sunday 10 – 5
Admission charged. The museum’s gallery is open to the public on Wednesdays until 8pm for special interactive and educational programs.
Launched in the summer of 2000, this is one of the island’s most important art museums. It houses more than 250 pieces, including works by two of Puerto Rico’s most recognized artists: Campche and Rafael Tufiño.
Visitors may also view works by gifted international artists, attend films in the state-of-the-art theater, or participate in classes in the 5 acre sculpture garden.
Observatorio De Arecibo
This facility is part of the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center of Cornell University. Rte. 625
Wed.-Fri. Noon-4, Weekends 9-4.
The town of Arecibo is home to the world’s largest radar/radio telescope: a 20-acre dish, with a 600-ton suspended platform hovering over it, sits in a 565-ft-deep sinkhole. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the observatory. This is where where groundbreaking work in astronomy, including SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, continues.
Casa Del Libro
Tue-Sat, Except Holidays, 11:00-4:30
An 18th century house on Calle Cristo, has a collection of rare books, including some over 400 years old.
Museum of the Sea
On pier one, with a collection of maritime instruments and models. Open when the pier is open for cruise ships.
Museo De Arte De Ponce Ponce Museum Of Art
Av. Las Américas, 787/848-0505 Or 787/848-0511
The Indian Museum
Calle San José 109 On The Corner Of Luna
724-5477 Or 722-1709
No admission charge
The Indian museum concentrates on Puerto Rican indigenous cultures, With exhibits, ceramics and archaeological digs.
Fort San Jerónimo
Wed-Sun 9:30-12:00, 1:00-4:30
Another museum in the old city, it is a military museum.
Founded In 1714 but became incorporated into San Juan in 1951. On the edge of Río Piedras, the gardens and library of the former governor, Luis Muñoz Marín, are open to the public, with a museum showing his letters, photos and speeches.
The University Of Puerto Rico
764-0000, Ext 2452
Mon-Fri 9:00-9:00, Weekends 9:00-3:00
The University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras is in a lovely area. The University Museum has archaeological and historical exhibitions, and also monthly art exhibitions.
250-0000 Ext 6580
The Botanical Garden at the agricultural experiment station has over 200 species of tropical and subtropical plants, a bamboo promenade one variety can grow four feet in a day, an orchid garden over 30,000 orchids, and an aquatic garden.
The financial district of San Juan nicknamed ‘The Golden Mile’.
Luís Muñoz Marín Park
Avenida Jesús T Piñero
Covers 35 Hectares, which can be toured by a one kilometre cable car.
Parque Luis Muñoz Marín
Next To Las A
Admission Free; Parking $1 Per Vehicle.
This idyllic 90-acre tree-shaded park is dotted with gardens, lakes, playgrounds, and picnic areas. An aerial gondola connects it with the parking area and provides a 61/2-minute tour of the grounds. An outdoor amphitheater is the venue for plays, concerts, and folk performances.
Museum Of Contemporary Puerto Rican Art Santurce
The Sacred Heart University
Tue-Sat 9:00-4:00, Sunday 11:00-5:00
Fine Arts Center
Opened in 1981, with theatres and halls at the corner of De Diego and Ponce De León.
Parque De Las Cavernas Del Río Camuy
Rte. 129, Km 20
787/898-3100 or 787/898-3136
Admission and parking fee.
Tues.-Sun. 8-4. Last tour starts At 3:50
The 250-Acre Río Camuy reserve contains one of the world’s largest cave networks. Tours take you on a tram down through dense tropical vegetation to the cave entrance, where you continue on foot over underground trails, ramps, and bridges. The caves, sinkholes, and subterranean streams are all spectacular. Be sure to call ahead; the tours allow only a limited number of people, and hours change slightly in the off-season.
787/729-6960 More Info
This 18th-Century fortress guarded the city from land attacks. even larger than El Morro, San Cristóbal was known in its heyday as the Gibraltar of the West Indies.
A residential area having several moderately priced hotels as well as some expensive ones. Miramar is separated from the Atlantic coast by the Condado Lagoon and the Condado Beach area, where the luxury hotels, casinos, nightclubs and restaurants are concentrated. From Condado the beach front is built up eastwards through Ocean Park, Santa Teresita, Punta Las Marías and Isla Verde. Building is expanding along the narrow strip beyond Isla Verde, between the Sea and the airport. Along this road, Avenida Boca De Cangrejos, there are lots of food trucks selling barbecued specialties.
Scuba Diving And Snorkeling
The diving is excellent off Puerto Rico’s south, east, and west coasts as well as its offshore islands. it’s best to choose specific locations with the help of a guide or outfitter, who will know current conditions and safety concerns. Snorkeling and scuba instruction, equipment rentals, and tours are available at the following:
Boquerón Dive Shop
Main St., Boquerón, 787/851-2155.
Caribbean School Of Aquatics
Taft St. No. 1, Suite 10f, San Juan, 787/728-6606.
Caribe Aquatic Adventures
Radisson Normandie Hotel,
Corner of Av. Rosales And Av. Muñoz Rivera,
Puerta De Tierra, San Juan, 787/724-1882 Or 787/281-8858.
Coral Head Divers
Palmas Del Mar, Rte. 906,
Humacao, 787/850-7208 Or 800/635-4529.
Copamarina Beach Resort, Rte. 333, Km 6.5,
Guánica, 787/821-0505, Ext. 729, Or 800/468-4553
Laguna Garden Shopping Center,
Av. Baldorioty De Castro, Carolina,
Parguera Divers Training Center
Hotel Posada Por Lamar, Rte. 304, Km 3.3,
La Parguera, 787/899-4171.
Puerto Rican Diver Supply
A-E6 Santa Isidra 111,
The Artisan Markets
Sixto Escobar Park Calle Cuevillas,
Puerta de Tierra, San Juan, 787/722-0369 Luis Muñoz Marín Park
Next to Las Américas expressway West on Av. Piñero,
Hato Rey, San Juan, 787/763-0568.
By law, all casinos are in hotels. The government keeps a close eye on them. Dress for the larger casinos tends to be on the more formal side. the law permits casinos to operate noon-4 am, but individual casinos set their own hours. hotels that house casinos have live entertainment most weekends, restaurants, and bars; drinks are usually served in the casino to players. The minimum age is 18
For beach lovers and water fanatics. There are water slides, a giant wave pool, spiraling body slides, activity pool and kiddy pool. Professionally trained lifeguards, first aid and security staff are on duty. There are also gift shops, two 18-hole mini-golf courses and a large, dry play area for children. Facilities are available for birthday parties and private activities.
Luis A. Ferré Science Park
Rt. 167, Ave. Comerio
Wed -Fri 9-4, Sat-Sun 10-6
A science park for the whole family to enjoy
Plaza del Quinto Centenario
This plaza is the cornerstone of Puerto Rico’s commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World in 1492. Dominated by a giant stone pillar and a beautiful ground level fountain (it’s not enclosed and the children get soaked, which makes it that much more enjoyable).
Museo del Niño
Tues-Thurs 9-3:30 Fri. 9-5; Sat., Sun. 12:30-5
A very popular children’s museum with educational exhibits. On the Plaza de Catedral.
This is the boardwalk on the Caribbean Sea, just across from the Ponce Yacht Club. There are lots of food kiosks in this open air venue. Free transportation to the central plaza on the Chu-Chu Train.
Río Piedras Botanical Garden
Rt 1 at Rt 847, San Juan
A major botanical garden, located in San Juan. Affiliated with the University of Puerto Rico.
Ponce Trolley Tour
Free daily tour of the historic zone starting at the central plaza.
Parque de Bombas
Plaza las Delicias, Ponce
In the central plaza, behind the Catedral de la Guadalupe, this century-old wooden firehouse is open to the public. It is painted bright red and black. Antique fire engines on the first floor; exhibits on the second floor.
Tibes Indian Ceremonial Center
Rt 503, Km 2.1, Ponce
This major historical site goes back to 400AD. An impressive museum and grounds. Tues-Sun 9-4.
Calle Corchado #75, Isabela
787-782-2100 EXT 201
Call Isabela City Hall for reservations.
A trolley service for visitors.
Humpback whales may be seen in the winter from the observation park at the Rincón Lighthouse.
El Yunque (Caribbean Nat.Forest)
Rt 191 Km 4.2, Río Grande
Forest hikes, camping, visitors center, exhibits. The only rain forest in the US forest service system.
This is one of the world’s great beach, surfing and sports beach areas. The beaches are too numerous to mention as the run they entire coastline from Rincón to the south to Isabela to the east. The surfers, windsurfers, beach scuba divers and all their support crew and admirers are great fun to watch. It is even more fun to join in. Winter is the peak surfing season.
By Law, All Puerto Rican Playas Beaches are open to the public. The government runs 13 balnearios public beaches, which have dressing rooms, lifeguards, parking, and in some cases picnic tables, playgrounds, and camping facilities. Admission is free, parking is $2. Most balnearios are open 9-5 daily in summer and Tuesday-Sunday the rest of the year.
For more information contact the Department Of Recreation and Sports 787/722-1551 Or 787/724-2500.
This white-sand beach has good snorkeling, with equipment and chair rentals along the beach. Close to San Juan, It’s a lively and popular beach.
Parque De Tercer Milenio
Third millennium park. On the Puerta de Tierra stretch at the entrance to old San Juan, the park encompasses Balneario Escambrón, a patch of honey-color beach with shade from coconut palms and a mostly gentle surf. There are showers available, and several restaurants; and the park is open daily 7-7.
Kids will like Playita Condado, marked Condado Public Beach on its sign. The small beach has an even surf and some shade from trees and is adjacent to the Condado Plaza Hotel off busy Avenida Ashford.
On the southwest coast is a broad beach of hard-packed sand fringed with coconut palms. It has picnic tables, cabin rentals, a basketball court, a minimarket, and scuba-diving and snorkeling outfitters nearby.
Crescent-shaped Playa Luquillo comes complete with coconut palms, changing rooms, lockers, showers, picnic tables, tent sites, and stands that sell Puerto Rican savories and tropical cocktails. Coral reefs protect its crystal-clear lagoon from the Atlantic waters, making it an ideal place to swim. It’s one of the island’s largest and best-known beaches and is crowded on weekends. It also has a “mar sin barreras” (sea without barriers), ramp that allows wheelchair users water access 787/889-4329 or 787/889-5871.
This spectacularly beautiful beach is on the north shore of Culebra island. The 3-mile-long crescent has shade trees, clear, shallow water, picnic tables, and rest rooms and is popular on weekends with day-trippers from Fajardo. In winter, storms in the Atlantic often create great waves for bodysurfing.
This wide strand of sparkling white sand is located on the eastern end of Culebra, on a protected bay with calm waters. The views of the islets of Culebrita, Cayo Norte, and St. Thomas are stunning. Snorkeling here is popular, too. As there are no facilities and little shade, bring lots of water and an umbrella.
Nothing in Puerto Rico in recent months has generated more headlines than the 52-square-mile island of Vieques (about the size of Aruba), off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. Local residents have protested the presence of the U.S. Navy here since the 1950s. The Navy has long found the island an ideal terrain for use as a bombing range. Activists charge the Navy is ignoring health and environmental hazards. A compromise has been reached, which includes the promise of $90 million in aid if residents will allow exercises with live ammunition to continue.
Most of Vieques consists of long, natural, and pristine beaches of white sand.
The visitor information center 787/741-5000 is in the fishing village of Esperanza
Other Vieques beaches are: Playa Sun Bay, a gorgeous stretch of sand with picnic facilities and shade trees.
Red and blue beaches, on the U.S. Marine/Camp Garcia base open to the public 6-6 when military exercises are not in progress, are superb for snorkeling and privacy.
Bahía Mosquito Bay is best experienced on moonless nights, when millions of bioluminescent organisms glow when disturbed
Everything is closed on public holidays. One of the most important is 24 June, though in fact the capital grinds to a halt the previous afternoon and everyone heads for the beach. There is loud salsa music and barbecues until midnight when everyone walks backwards into the sea to greet the Baptist and ensure good fortune. 25 July is the Día de la Constitución and when this takes place on a weekend it is almost impossible to get a hotel room. Reservations should be made in advance. Every town/city has local holidays for harvest festivals (pineapple, tobacco, sugar cane, etc) and for celebration of the town’s saint. There is a festival somewhere every week.
Several towns and regions also have pre-lenten carnivales, complete with parades, folk music, local dishes, a carnival queen pageant, and music competitions. all are in early to late February.
New Year’s Day (1 Jan) – Public holiday; most businesses closed.
Three King’s Day (6 Jan) – Religious holiday celebrated around the island with feasts and parties.
De Hostos Day (11 Jan) – Half-day holiday honors Eugenio Maria de Hostos, an educator and patriot.
San Sebastian Street Festival (mid-January) – Street party in Old San Juan with music, dancing, food and crafts.
San Blas Marathon (early Feb) – Half-marathon in the southern town of Coamo attracts international and local runners. It’s Puerto Rico’s biggest race, and the crowds are always large.
Ponce Carnival (late February) – Every city in Puerto Rico honors its patron saint with a festival, but Ponce celebrates in grand fashion with processions, parades and floats. Colorful paper-mache masks are worn by many of the revelers.
Emancipation Day (22 Mar) – This half-day holiday commemorates the emancipation of slaves.
Good Friday and Easter – These religious holidays are the most solemn days of the year. The island nearly comes to a halt.
De Diego Day (19 Apr) – Celebration of the birth of Jose de Diego, writer, poet and statesman who was the first Puerto Rican president under U.S. rule.
Casals Festival (mid-June) – The island’s premier cultural event honors Pablo Casals, who founded the festival in 1957. It showcases top musicians from around the world as well as local talent. At the Performing Arts Center in Santurce. Tickets US $20-$40; phone 809-721-7727 or 728-5744.
San Juan Bautista Day (23 Jun) – The island’s patron saint is celebrated at the beach, as “sanjuaneros” take to the water backward in order to bring good luck for the coming year.
Barranquitas Artisans Fair (mid July) – The original artisans’ fair in the hill town of Barranquitas still draws hundreds of crafts people (carvings, masks, jewelry, and paintings).
Munoz Rivera Day (19 Jul) – Celebration of birth date of statesman Luis Munoz Rivera, Puerto Rico’s first resident commissioner in Washington and father of Puerto Rico’s first elected governor, Luis Munoz Marin.
Loiza Carnival (late July) – St. James the Apostle is honored as Loiza residents masquerade with masks and costumes designed to frighten off the evil spirits. Music, dancing, food and crafts.
Bomba y Plena (7-9 Oct) – Music festival celebrating the island’s African-Caribbean heritage with music and dancing in Old San Juan.
Columbus Day (21 Oct) – Half-day holiday, known as La Raza, that commemorate Columbus’ landing in the New World.
Discovery Day (19 Nov) – Public holiday commemorating the day in 1493 when Columbus reached Puerto Rico; all businesses closed.
Thanksgiving Day (mid-November) – Businesses and offices closed. Most families gather for dinner; many restaurants offer special meals at reasonable prices.
Bacardi Arts Festival – The largest festival for artisans on the island. Just about every craftsman turns out for this fair on the grounds of the Bacardi Rum Distillery.
Christmas Day (25 Dec) – Religious holiday; most businesses closed
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