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Puerto Rico soon -- any tips?
Old 09-05-2007, 12:50 AM   #1
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Puerto Rico soon -- any tips?

It looks like my 3 week (approx) trip to the impoverished slum remnant of America's colonial past beautiful island of PR is a "go" -- this was an air far bought ridiculously cheap ($68.20 r/t) back in the winter. I know almost nothing about PR except that is where the ancestors of many Neuva Yorqueos came from ... Seriously, I am an "anglo" but speak pretty good Spanish and look forward to visiting the island. I had to pass on an earlier Costa Rica Trip (just as well probably ... a month there, 3 day layover in Lauderdale and then to PR? Perhaps not.)

I've never heard of anyone retiring there (unless you count the fabulous old Little Feat song "Time Loves a Hero"), but that is part of the rationale for going there...

So anyway, tips or web sites for Porter Ricker would be appreciated.
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Old 09-05-2007, 08:37 AM   #2
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You can visit Puerto Rico Vacations | Puerto Rico Tourism Company | Puerto Rico Tourism & Travel

or

Welcome to Puerto Rico!

Enjoy!
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Old 09-05-2007, 08:47 AM   #3
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Been there many times, and have a winter condo there. This is probably the best web site for tourism:

Puerto Rico Vacations | Puerto Rico Tourism Company | Puerto Rico Tourism & Travel

As far as what to do, you can do just about anything except snow ski, and there is probably someone trying to figure out how to do that. Here are some ideas:

Old San Juan. One of the oldest cities in the New World, dates back to 1520's if I recall. It was a walled city and there are still city walls that you can see. Go to see the old Spanish forts El Morro and San Cristobal, run by the Park Service. Walk around town, it's a bit like New Orleans with the balconies up, cobblestone streets (brought as ballast in spanish galleons), nice restaurants. You don't have to speak spanish, everyone speaks english but if you want to speak spanish you will have a leg up, except as soon as they detect an accent they will speak english back to you.

The rain forest at El Yunque, the only tropical rain forest in the US Forest Service. The peak is at around 3500 feet, gorgeous view of the island and the ocean. Worth at least half a day, and about 2 hours east of San Juan.

El Conquistador Hotel on the east point of the island is very impressive, sits high on a cliff overlooking offshore islands, beautiful golf course and tennis courts, but you have to stay there to use them.

The offshore islands of Vieques and Culebra. Vieques has the best example of a phosphorescent bay, but must be seen on a moonless night. Culebra has one of the top ten rated beaches in the world according to Travel magazine. You can fly to those islands, or take a ferry for less than $5 from Fajardo.

There are so many other things, but on a first time limited vacation they would be too much to do.

As far as slums yes, there are those and they are almost as bad as those in downtown Washington DC :-) But not many tourists go looking for them.

As far as retirees there, no there are not many and I think it's mainly because of the cost. It's a US style economy, and prices are a bit higher than on the mainland because everything has to be imported. But we know several US retirees there, and DW and I do a lot of sailing adventures either alone or with them. PR is a great jumping off place to sail and discover small uninhabited islands, or sail to the British Virgin Islands. As I say, we are only there in the winter because we want to avoid hurricane season. And even though I speak Spanish pretty well, DW doesn't so she gets a language headache after a couple of months :-)

Good luck and let me know what you think after you return. PM me if you want any details.

Here's a link to the phosphorescent bay
Island Adventures Biobay Tours, Vieques Island - Puerto Rico

And here's a link to Flamenco Beach on Culebra island
Flamenco Beach Culebra, Puerto Rico
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Old 09-05-2007, 09:11 AM   #4
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We like PR well enough to go about every two years and still haven't seen the whoel island. In 3 weeks you can see a lot, though. I second Viejo San Juan as a treasure, but it is very urban with all that entails. I also think El Yunque is a must, and an easy trip from San Juan ( we like to stay at Casa Cubuy, which gives lovely private access to the suth side of the rainforest and is inexpensive).

We like Vieques so much that we will be going nowhere else in PR when we visit again in Feb. You can do the ferry from Fajardo, or fly ($$$) from San Juan. I have done both with success. The other alternative that I hope to try next time is a high speed ferry from San Juan (hopefully much less PITA than the Fajardo ferry and less spendy than the plane). We usually stay at Ted's Guest House. Ted is a great guy (and a wellspring of local info) and his small guest house (apartments, really) are less than a block from the waterfront in Esperanza on Vieques. Beaches are - in a word - breathtaking, and the bio-bay is a must.

Other places to consider:

- Ponce: this is "la perla del sur" in PR. Isolated from the Merkinization that spreads from San Juan, this city is a remarkably well preserved colonial spanish one, and the culture is much more relaxed. A beautiful place, and it has a great art museum. A good deal hotter than the north coast. Don't miss the Don Q mansion tour.

- Guanica: this is a tropical dry forest on the south coast. A unique ecosystem worth a hike and very beautiful.

- Rincon: Never been there, but supposed to be a surfer's paradise and is allegedly very pretty.

- Hacienda Buena Vista: Preserved 18th century estate in the southeast portion of the country. Can get a tour by appointment, which is way, way worth it.
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Old 09-05-2007, 09:42 AM   #5
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Other places to consider:
Brewer, have you done the Cabezas de San Juan around Fajardo? It's an old Spanish lighthouse from the 1800s that is now a museum sorrounded by thousands of acres of mangroves, lagoons, and canals. It's run by a non profit ecological organization and they have 2-3 hour tours on small train cars through the entire area, including walking on a boardwalk through the mangroves. Or, what DW and I do, we take our kayak and put it in the water at the small beach in Fajardo, kayak through the canals into the big lagoon, where all you can see is nature all around, no people, no houses, and the big rain forest looming beyond. We then cross over illegally carefully across a small park walkway at the far end of the lagoon and put in at the Seven Seas beach. From there you can kayak, or just walk along to the very point. We're lucky if we see 3 or 4 people the entire time, usually other eco minded people like ourselves.
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Old 09-05-2007, 09:49 AM   #6
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Brewer, have you done the Cabezas de San Juan around Fajardo? It's an old Spanish lighthouse from the 1800s that is now a museum sorrounded by thousands of acres of mangroves, lagoons, and canals. It's run by a non profit ecological organization and they have 2-3 hour tours on small train cars through the entire area, including walking on a boardwalk through the mangroves. Or, what DW and I do, we take our kayak and put it in the water at the small beach in Fajardo, kayak through the canals into the big lagoon, where all you can see is nature all around, no people, no houses, and the big rain forest looming beyond. We then cross over illegally carefully across a small park walkway at the far end of the lagoon and put in at the Seven Seas beach. From there you can kayak, or just walk along to the very point. We're lucky if we see 3 or 4 people the entire time, usually other eco minded people like ourselves.
Never been to the cabezas, but always wanted to. Travelling with two small children makes some of these destinations challenging. Having said that, PR is relatively easy with kids.
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If you like this kind of stuff - see Arecibo Observatory
Old 09-05-2007, 11:14 AM   #7
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If you like this kind of stuff - see Arecibo Observatory

In addition to El Yunque, snorkeling and old san Juan you might want to see Arecibo. Even if you are not a geek you might remember SETI@home project - it used data from Arecibo.
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Old 09-05-2007, 06:15 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by sailor View Post
In addition to El Yunque, snorkeling and old san Juan you might want to see Arecibo. Even if you are not a geek you might remember SETI@home project - it used data from Arecibo.
And if you go to Arecibo, the Rio Camuy caves are worth a trip:

San Juan : Side Trips : Arecibo & Camuy | Frommers.com

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Old 09-06-2007, 08:06 PM   #9
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Wow thanks for the advice so far. I'm finally getting around to reading guidebooks about P.R. (Hell, I've got over two weeks to go...!) and "Let's Go" already is scaring me -- $50 for rooms This sounds like Dominican Republic all over again ... I'm probably still going on the trip... just going to regret the CC bill upon return

Darn those cheap airfares ... this "cost creep" reminds me of an old Looney Tune where Daffy Duck is a failed but persistent door-to-door salesman and he is about to open a front door when the house explodes. "Hey, you need a house, to go with this door knob!"

Having nothing to do with P.R., RIP Luciano Pavarotti.
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