Puerto Rico (100 miles by 35 miles) is the most easterly of the Greater Antilles and consists of three islands, Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques. From the rain forested mountains you drop to over 300 spectacular beaches. The western side of the island is aptly named ‘Porta Del Sol – doorway to the sun’.
Getting There – Accommodation – Dining Out
You can fly on a through flight from Gatwick to San Juan with Norwegian on their new Dreamliner aircraft or there are more regular flights via New York and other US gateways not only from London but UK regional airports as well. Many cruise ships call at or start their itineraries from the port at San Juan.
One of the most beautiful secluded hotels in Puerto Rico lies on Vieques Island, The W Retreat & Spa. A stylish favourite in old San Juan town is the El Convento, or the St Regis Bahia Beach Resort which enjoys a pristine tropical setting at the foot of the ancient El Yunque rainforest.
Contact me for further details on these properties and all others in the area.
There is huge range of quality restaurants on the island especially in San Juan; Budatai offers oriental combined Puerto Rican cooking. Marmalade is another favourite and on Vieques Island, Duffy’s with a wonderful beachfront location serves authentic Caribbean cuisine.
The Capital – San Juan
In San Juan there is a strip of hotel-lined beaches stretching from Asla Verde past Condado, nicknamed the ‘action centre’, to old San Juan. Old San Juan has a beautifully restored colonial section, gothic churches, Spanish style plazas, balconied houses with wrought iron grills. The sophisticated city wall built by the Spanish took advantage of the steep, rocky shoreline adding twists to increase visibility and overlap the field of fire. El Morro, the fort, forms part of the wall at the peninsula’s tip.
Places to Visit
Part of the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico is not only a beach destination; enjoy a day out to The Cordillera Central Mountain Range were temperatures are cooler and also explore the trails around the magical El Yunque Rainforest situated on the slopes of Sierra De Luquillo. Ponce a small city on the south coast is home to The Museo de Arte de Ponce with a fine collection of European and Puerto Rican art. Visitors to Puerto Rico must include a visit to the stunning island of Vieques, one of the most untouched beautiful Caribbean Islands with very few cars – ideal for exploring by foot or bike. Take time to visit El Morro Fort in San Juan and walk round the walls – spend some time walking round the old town admiring all the colonial architecture. This beautiful island has 270 miles of white sandy beaches; Coki Beach and Magens Bay are perfect for snorkeling and swimming.
Culture and History
Christopher Columbus was welcomed by the peaceful Taino Indians to their island of Borinquen in 1493; Columbus called San Juan after John the Baptist. Spanish colonists led by Ponce de Leon arrived in 1508 and founded the ‘rich port’, Puerto Rico, though later the two names were exchanged. Fortifications, including the Fortress of El Morro, were erected by the Spanish. Sir Francis Drake failed with his attack on the fortress in 1595 and the Earl of Cumberland took the fort; in 1797 the British withdrew. Slavery on the island was abolished by the Spanish in 1872 and autonomy granted in 1897. During the Spanish American War, US troops took Puerto Rico. In 1917 Puerto Ricans were made US citizens, and since 1952 Puerto Rico has been a self governing commonwealth.
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Photo: Old San Juan – Church (RG) 93