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Latin America Travel & Tour Information

As soon as you get off the plane, drop your stuff at the hotel, change your clothes and straight to the beach. You begin to absorb the heat from the sun and a contagious music drifting from somewhere; while your eyes focus on every detail, you feel your body is not big enough to deal with so much fun. Then you stay sitted on the sand looking out to sea until the sun finally sets in the horizon. It is dinner time and you start searching for one of those restaurants you heard about, in which to taste the most delicious local food. Getting to know the local cuisine is said to be one of the best ways to travel and absorb the culture of a foreign land. You finally order roast pork, codfish and ?mofongo?. Your stay in Puerto Rico has just begun, there is still a lot to discover?!

 

Puerto Rico is one of the Greater Antilles´ archipelagos that comprises several islets and cays, among them: Mona, Vieques and Culebra, plus the marvelous island of Puerto Rico. The latter comes before you as ?a daydream island?, and believe me this is a well-founded statement that you will eventually agree upon.

 

The country´s history starts 400 years ago as a Spanish colony. But before Columbus arrival, the island was dominated by Taino civilazations, from whom today´s inhabitants´name stems: ?boricua?, which at the same time derives from the word ?Borikén?, meaning ?Crab´s Island?. Since 1917, Puerto Ricans are North American citizens altogether, although they do not vote in American presidential elections, for the country holds a US-Associated Free State status. The fusion of idiosyncrasies is completed by the Afro-caribbean population, descendant of former slaves, thus creating a vast wealth of cultures.

 

A remarkable feature is the inhabitants´ way of speaking. It is neither pure Spanish nor English, but the mixture of both known as ?Spanglish?. The influences from both sides also gave birth to a unique cuisine, by which Puerto Rico is highly praised as the Caribbean Food Mecca. The National Tourism Department has a list rating 30 restaurants as the best on the island.

 

While touring around, the tunes of ?La Borinqueña? will softly fall on your ears, it is the National Anthem being played on the streets of cities like San Juan (the capital), Mayagüez, Guaynabo, Ponce, Cataño and Bayamón. Outside the urban centers, life revolves along the mountain range that traverses the country from east to west, in the forests and the charming beaches.

 

The whole lenght (177 km) and width (56,3 km) of Puerto Rico is full of good options: active nightlife, museums, Plaza de las Américas (the largest shopping mall in the Caribbean), cultural itineraries, the charming ?Porta del Sol? and ecotourism in the caves at Tanama, the Camuy River, the bioluminiscent bays, ?El Yunque? and Guánica.

San Juan, past and present

No story or legend about this city will ever take you any deeper into its history than strolling the streets by yourself and unveiling each one of its corners and old buildings. The Old San Juan still bears the indelible marks of the former Spanish fort it used to be that has nowadays turned into a World Heritage Site.   

 

Explore the wall-enclosed streets, visit the pastel-colored colonial mansions, come closer to the plazas and 17th-century buildings. In addition to the museums and churches along the way, other places to visit are the Fort of San Cristóbal, The Fortress, San Felipe del Morro Castle and the gothic cathedral.

 

The waterfront (Malecón) is a spectacular look-out facing the Atlantic, easily accessed from ?Paseo de la Princesa?. After taking in the glamour of the sea and the city, move on to the craftsmarket to take a break and cool down with a drink of ?maví?.

 

The new section of the city is known as ?El Condado? and it is completely different. Here the show of modern arquitecture and the throbs of nightlife come and go in full force and shapes: pubs, discoteques, casinos and restaurants. The Gallery Night, though, only takes place the first Tuesday every month and basically consist in longer opening hours for the music venues. The most popular bars line San Sebastián and Fortaleza streets.

 

In the outskirts of the city, go to Bacardí´s Rum Distillery, where the renown elixir is produced. It is located in Cataño, across from the capital´s bay. Another attraction, just 1-hour away from San Juan, is the Observatory at Arecibo, featuring the largest radio-telescope in the world.

Southbound: Ponce and archeology

Right on the southern tip of the island, the city of Ponce hosts Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center, labeled as the most important archeological find in the Caribbean. This ancient aboriginal settlement lies outside the city and features 7 different cluster of buildings, three ceremonial squares, a cemetery, an observatory and a reconstructed village

 

.Its discovery happened just by chance in 1975, when a local farmer was searching for raw material to make charcoal and found several pieces of ceramics. Some experts arrived one year later and a huge archeological site was born, today one of Puerto Rico´s chief attractions.

 

On the other hand, Ponce´s owm charms await you. It is the second biggest city on the island and a major economic and cultural center, known as ?The Pearl of the South?. Its architectural sights are a must: the Main Square, the Fine Arts Museum, the Cathedral, the beautiful fountains and the 100-year-old fire engine station. The Cross of the Watchtower is the lookout placed on the mountain once used to raise teh alarm in case of a sea raid.

The music flows in their blood

Would you rather stay away from ?hot? rythms or have you ever felt like trying some dancing steps? There is no way to get away from salsa, guaguancó, la bomba, la plena and reggaeton in Puerto Rico, because music is simply ubiquitous, rooted in the deepest corners of this island.

 

Puerto Rican music will be with for the whole of your stay here, coming out of the jukeboxes or from the pubs, where you can give full vent to dancing. The origin of these rythms is the result of the fusion of contributions from the different cultures that have populated the island in the course of the centuries. Historically, Salsa has occupied a prominent place. Just to mention some of its top representatives: Willie Colón, Héctor Lavoe, Tito Rojas, Bobby Cruz, Jerry Rivera, La Sonora Ponceña and the Great Combo.

 

Join the ?Le lo lai? Programm, a series of weekly performances for the whole year, so that you dont miss the opportunity to feel the vibrant Puerto Rican tunes.

¿Puerta del Sol? (Door to the Sun)

San Juan lies to the north, Ponce to the south and the incomparable Porta del Sol rises to the west. This is the ideal hide-out to make your dream of sand, fesh air, sun, nature and sun, come true. A place for all tastes: relaxation and action.

 

All sorts of adventures lay before as soon you open your eyes in Porta del Sol every morning. A bit of sports to begin with: surfing in one of Puerto Rico´s finest beaches may be a really good choice, or maybe playing golf, but fishing, diving, windsurfing or snorkelling are not to be discarded. 

 

The beauty of Porta del Sol is simply overwhelming, same as the number and quality of tours and excursions to take. There is a famous zoo to visit in the city of Mayagez; incredible animals to spot in the Dry Forest at Guánica and the stunning espectacle of the Bioluminiscent Bay.

Caves, forests and rivers

The singing of the frogs (coquís) fills the air during the nights, and in some areas is a rather common occurence such as in Utuado, centrally located community, rich in nature-related experiences.

 

While is this region, there is a place not to miss: the magnificient caves of the Tanama River: caves like that of Juan González, the arch, of the dead and several others, will take you into the wonderful underground world of estalactites and petrogliphs imprinted on the rocks by the Taino aboriginals. 

 

How would you feel when taking in the inmensity of these lanscapes? It is hard to describe. All along you will see clear water gurgling from the rocks, the lush vegetation, the subtle action of local farmers and the whimsical hand of nature in shaping those caves.

 

Moreover, you will surely visit the Caguaná Indigenous Ceremonial Center in Utuado, founded aproximately in the yeaer 1200 B.C. It consists of 10 clusters of buildings, a central stone monument and a museum. Another attraction here is the ferry trip on Dos Bocas Lake. 

 

The cave network of the Camuy River, located on the northern coast, is the world´s largest and draws a great deal of nature lovers.

 

Puerto Rico features many other nature attractions: the bioluminiscent bays, where microscopic organisms glow when they feel disturbed; ?El Yunque? forest, full of incredible waterfalls;  Cabo Rojo Wild Life Refuge; Guánica´s Dry Forest, declared Reserve of the Biosphere by UNESCO;  Cabo Rojo´s salt mines; the coral reefs at La Pared; the canals of La Parguera and whale watching at Rincón.

Beaches and Sports

The Caribbean and the Atlantic are Puerto Rico´s only boundaries, fitting the island with over 400 km of coastline. Thus, paradisiacal beaches like Sun Bay and the resort at Luquillo, are a common sight, each with their own peculiarities though.

 

Flamenco beach is by far the best option for a close look at marine life, where motor boats are prohibited. Pine Grove, Los Turbos, Jobos and La Pared beaches are definitely spots for surfing. In ?La Parguera? and ?Fajardo?, meanwhile, you will find the most approprite conditions for sportsfishing. ?Desecheo? awaits with its colorful reefs, as in Green Beach, Anchor and Tamarindo.

 

Regardless of fine sand and watersports, Puerto Rico is also a major golf destination, since it posseses 23 golf courses and hosts important international tournaments.

 

It is  a great experience to be here during a sports event, basketball, baseball, volleyball and boxing are the most popular.

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