Puerto Rico’s nickname, Island of Enchantment, is a fitting sobriquet. Sandy beaches, palm trees, and tropical breezes make it a favorite getaway for the sun and surf crowd. Rugged mountains and a verdant rain forest attract adventure travelers, and lavish hotels with ocean-side golf courses embrace vacationers who crave luxury.
Despite the traffic jams and overdevelopment in some areas, natural beauty abounds in the many protected coves, mangrove lagoons, caves, and mountain streams.But Puerto Rico is much more than a picture postcard. Four hundred years of Spanish heritage has left its mark on the island, giving it an Old World elegance. Its vibrant cultural life reflects not only the island’s European history, but also its indigenous origins and African influences.
An added bonus is the hip, bustling metropolis of San Juan, which boasts world-class restaurants, nightclubs, and casinos that keep the party-hearty set up until dawn. Yet, a simple stroll through the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan steeps visitors in a concentrated dose of the island’s history and cultural life.
Just 111 miles long and 36 miles wide, Puerto Rico has a population of 3.9 million people, making it one of the most densely populated places in the world. Despite the traffic jams and overdevelopment in some areas, natural beauty abounds in the many protected coves, mangrove lagoons, caves, and mountain streams. They provide the perfect backdrop for an immersion into the sensual pleasures of the tropics.
Less than an hour’s drive from San Juan is one of the island’s most popular sights, El Yunque Caribbean National Forest, which contains a semitropical rainforest. In the northwest karst country, there are limestone caves, easily explored at Las Cavernas del Río Camuy park, and several bioluminescent bays where kayakers can commune with the tiny luminescent organisms that turn the water a glittery green- or blue-specked sea on moonless nights.
Puerto Rico’s central mountain region is one of the dramatic, beautiful areas of the island, where high mountain peaks, canyons, ferns, orchids, streams, and cooler temperatures prevail. The indigenous Taíno culture was once a stronghold here, and their ancient ruins and petroglyphs can be found throughout the area.
All that is to say, there is a lot more to Puerto Rico than beaches. But if it is spectacular beaches one wants, there are plenty to be found, as is a bounty of water sports from surfing and diving to fishing and sailing.
Life is vivid in Puerto Rico, so prepare to have your slumbering senses awakened in this enchanted land where the sun shines brightly, rainbow-hued buildings pop with color, and tropical music fills the air.
Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Puerto Rico.