Boating in Puerto Rico
Oldest U.S. City with Rich History
A U.S. territory with more than 300 miles of coastline, Puerto Rico has a dynamic mix of mountains, beaches, rainforests, glamorous cities, and sleepy beach towns that can entertain even the worldliest traveler.
The international airport is located on the southeastern edge of San Juan, the island's capital and major urban center. Founded in 1521 as a Spanish settlement, San Juan is the oldest existing city under the U.S. flag. Today the city is a busy contemporary metropolis but still allows visitors to connect with its more than 500 years of rich history and culture. The best place to do this is in Old San Juan.
Things to See and Do
Old San Juan
Old San Juan is a seven-square-block area, which is the best-preserved colonial district in the Caribbean. It has evolved into a charming residential and commercial neighborhood with more than 400 carefully restored 16th- and 17th-century Spanish colonial buildings, painted in a rainbow of pastel colors. The streets are paved with cobblestones that were originally used as ships' ballast and have turned an iridescent blue-gray with age. Exploring by foot is the best way to experience Old San Juan, especially given the narrow, steep streets and heavy traffic. More than that, though, are the myriad of alluring everyday details of the city -- old men playing dominoes in the pocket-size parks, the smell of roast pork and fried plantains floating out of a corner café and the small shops featuring local crafts that you'll only really notice if you're walking.
Be sure to visit El Morro, a stunning six-level fortress completed in 1589 that sits on a cliff at the edge of a wide lawn (popular with picnickers and families flying kites). The UNESCO World Heritage site is maintained by the U.S. National Park Service and is the unofficial symbol of Old San Juan. Soaring 140 feet above the sea, the fort is a captivating maze of tunnels, dungeons, barracks, outposts and ramps. The views of San Juan Bay from its ramparts are unbeatable. Open daily from 9am to 6pm; 787-729-6960.
Places to Visit Outside of San Juan
El Yunque National Forest (named for the native Indian spirit Yuquiye, which translates loosely as "Forest of Clouds") is less than an hour's drive from San Juan and only minutes from the Yacht Club at Palmas del Mar. Encompassing 28,000 acres, it is the only tropical rainforest in the United States National Forest System. The park is home to many unique plant and animal species, including the Puerto Rican parrot and the tiny coqui (indigenous tree frog), and is threaded with miles of hiking trails for all ability levels. For more information contact: tel: 787-888-1880.
Long before a testing site for the United States Navy, the island of Vieques has blossomed into a favorite tourist spot since 2003, when the Navy discontinued its military practices here. The spectacular beaches are still unspoiled and the pace of life is slow, but that doesn't mean you can't find adventure: Horseback riding, cycling, and swimming in bioluminescent bays are all popular activities and easy to arrange. The island is a short ferry ride or 20-minute flight from San Juan, just six miles away.