Take Your Pick
Aguadilla, PR
Ready to go Fishing
Crashboat Beach - Crashboat Beach got its name during a time when military exercises here simulated rescues at sea for downed airplanes. Today the crystal clear waters are the perfect place to snorkel, sunbathe, swim, sail and surf. This is not a secluded beach by any stretch; in fact it can get quite lively, with thousands of people flocking here during the summer months. When you do come, leave your food at home because located in the parking lot are vendors selling Puerto Rico's famous beach food, pinchos. Pinchos are meats that are glazed, skewered and grilled to perfection, then served with a piece of bread. Tasty.
Arecibo, PR
Shhh I'm Listening for ET
Arecibo Observatory - The Arecibo Observatory operates the world's largest and most sensitive single-dish radio telescope. Completed in 1963, this 1,000 foot diameter behemoth was built over a natural sink hole and was designed to detect radio waves in the atmosphere. Many notable discoveries have been made here including the rotation rate of Mars and the first planets outside of our solar system. To get to the telescope requires a somewhat strenuous uphill hike, but there is a snack hut halfway to the top. Once there, you enter a 10,000 square foot facility which features science exhibits and a 100 person auditorium playing a short film entitled "A Day in the Life of the Arecibo Observatory". For movie buffs, the Arecibo Observatory was featured in the 1995 Bond film "GoldenEye", starring Pierce Brosnan.
Arecibo, PR
Clara Cave in Camuy Caverns
Camuy Caverns - Expertly carved by the Camuy River over one million years ago, the Camuy Caverns are a subterranean delight that were discovered by modern man in 1958 and opened to the public in 1986. Today visitors don audio equipment and descend a winding jungle-like path aboard an orange train car to the mouth of the cave. Inside the cave tour guides point out stalactites, stalagmites, and fruit bats. The highlight of the 45 minute tour is Clara Cave. Clara Cave is a 700 foot long and 200 foot high chamber with enormous natural limestone sculptures glistening in the man-made and natural light.
Arecibo, PR
Arecibo Lighthouse
Lighthouses - There are 16 lighthouses (faros in Spanish) dotting Puerto Rico's coastline, with 11 of them built by the Spanish prior to the year 1900. Most are still active, with a number of them recently restored, but a few are in ruins. The Arecibo Lighthouse and Historical Park contains the 1898 Arecibo Light built 84 feet above the Punta Morrillo rocks. The park also contains a Taino Village, 1/3 scale replicas of the Nina, Pinta, Santa Maria (Columbus's ships) and a pirate ship, an aquarium (inside a pirate hideout), a zoo, and small museum.
Catano, PR
They Make Great Rum Cake
Bacardi Rum Factory Tour - Bacardi Rum has its roots in Cuba, where in 1830 Don Facundo Bacardi Masso (1814-1886) began experimenting with rum to mellow it out. At the time it was a harsh drink fit only for pirates. Through a series of charcoal filtering and oak barrel aging, Don Facundo created a smoother rum and in the process created an alcohol empire. That empire moved to Puerto Rico in 1936 where tours have been conducted since 1962. Along the tour visitors learn the history of "the bat", see a brief film about the Bacardi family, smell different rums and receive a bartending demonstration. There are also free drinks available at the start or end of the tour.
Fajardo, PR
Seven Seas Beach
Seven Seas Beach - Just a short 35 mile drive from San Juan is Seven Seas Beach, one of the finest public beaches on the island. This crescent shaped cove is filled with powdery white sands shaded by curved palm trees and filled with shallow turquoise waters. There are clean restrooms with showers on site as well as lifeguards. It is a great place to snorkel, swim, and lay in the sun. The beach is located near the Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve which offers tours through several eco-systems and terminates at a 19th century lighthouse. And if you're feeling energetic and like a little more seclusion, take the two mile hike to El Convento Beach.
Fajardo, PR
A Trip to the Islands
Island Ferry - There are three rather large islands off the coast of Puerto Rico, Isla Mona, Isla de Culebra and Isla de Vieques. The latter two islands are accessible from Fajardo aboard the Island Ferry. Isla de Culebra is the smaller of the two Spanish Virgin Islands and is surrounded by absolutely crystal clear waters which are perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. Big brother Isla de Vieques offers a little more in the way of nightlife and entertainment and equally beautiful beaches. Be sure to check out the northwestern edge of Playa Flemenco, there is a cool rusted military tank there.
Jayuya, PR
Outside Museo del Cemi
Museo del Cemi and Museo Casa Canales - Located next to each other in the central mountain region of Jayuya are the Museo del Cemi and Museo Casa Canales. The Museo del Cemi's unique animal shape was built to resemble a "cemi" or Taino diety. The Taino Indians, who originated in South America, were here when the Spanish arrived in 1492. The two story museum contains Taino artifacts including fishing nets, necklaces, and posters of the island's petroglyphs. The Museo Casa Canales is a reproduction of a late 1800s coffee plantation house whose owner was Rosario Canales, the founder of Jayuya and its first governor.
Maricao, PR
Enjoy a Cup of Coffee and a Cigar
Coffee Festival - While serving as President, Franklin D Roosevelt made a cup of Puerto Rican coffee a morning ritual in the White House. The coffee he enjoyed was grown in the rain-soaked hills near the small town of Maricao. Each year in February, at the end of the coffee harvest, the town holds the Maricao Coffee Festival. The festival includes lively music, colorful parades, local arts and crafts, and cup-after-cup of rich aromatic java. You can also pick up a freshly rolled cigar made from locally grown tobacco.
Mayaguez, PR
The Ruins of Puerto Rico
Sugar Cane - The Spanish brought sugar cane to Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic in the mid-1500s. Sugar mills popped up around the island processing the sugar cane into brown sugar, molasses, and table sugar. Sugar cane is also the main ingredient in rum, another Puerto Rican export. The industry peaked in the 1950s, with over 40 sugar mills and refineries processing nearly 1 million tons of sugar. Today there are only a couple of working sugar mills left, but you can still see the rusting remnants of a once proud industry peppering the island.
Ponce, PR
Climbing on the Big PONCE
Big PONCE - While traveling oeste (that's Spanish for west) just este (I bet you can guess) of Ponce are five gigantic red and black letters spelling out the city's name, PONCE. The letters are nearly 20 feet tall, 18 feet wide and 12 feet thick, and beg you to stop and take a picture. The work was created by Puerto Rican artist Carlos A. Rivera Villafane's as part of a public art project commissioned by the government in 2004. That year the government spent $25 million on 100 projects throughout the island and the big PONCE is just one of them. Here's the bad news, you can get a ticket for stopping at the letters because there is no road to them. I took a chance anyway.
Ponce, PR
House of Pumps
Parque de Bombas - To visit one of the brightest firehouses in the Americas, drop by the Parque de Bombas (House of Pumps). Dedicated in 1885, this Gothic wood-framed structure features vibrant red and black bands and is probably the most recognizable building in Puerto Rico. After serving as a firehouse for over 100 years, it became a museum in 1990 with two floors exhibiting historic firefighting equipment, paintings and photos. The Parque de Bombas is located on the town plaza just behind the Ponce Cathedral, a wonderful Catholic Church that is open to the public.
Ponce, PR
Don Q Rum Bought This
Castillo Serralles - Built in 1926, Castillo Serralles was the primary residence of Juan Eugenio Serralles (1907-1967), a sugar cane processor and son of Don Q Rum founder Juan Serralles Colon (1845-1921). The 2.5 acre estate contains magnificently manicured gardens and the four story mansion set high in the hills overlooking historic Ponce. The Spanish Moroccan mansion became a museum in 1991 with tours available alternating in Spanish and English. Highlights include the original 1930s furniture, a small theater featuring an introductory film and a rum and sugar cane museum. Located just behind the mansion is the 100 foot tall Vigia Hill Cross which is a must-climb.
Rio Grande, PR
El Yunque
El Yunque Rain Forest - There are differing opinions on how El Yunque was named. In Spanish El Yunque translates to "The Anvil", but there is also a Taino Indian spirit named "Yuquiye" which means the "Forest of the Clouds". To this monkey, the second translation makes more sense. No matter how the name was derived, this 28,000 acre Sub Tropical Rain Forest should not be missed. There are over 50 species of birds inhabiting the rain forest (including the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot), 13 species of Coqui (a non-webbed foot frog) and hundreds of species of trees, flowers and plants. Hiking and picnicking are two of the most popular activities. Just remember to bring an umbrella, El Yunque receives nearly 250 inches of rain per year. So you will get wet.
San Juan, PR
It's Raining Cats and Dogs
Strays - Walk in any Puerto Rican city and you have to be careful so you don't step on a cat or two. They are in the middle of the road, lying on cars, lying under cars, and darting in and out of buildings. In the countryside there are fewer cats, but thousands of stray dogs. It is estimated there are over 200,000 stray animals on the island and from what I read the problem isn't getting better.
San Juan, PR
Cristobal Colon - That Means Columbus
Christopher Columbus Statue - On Christopher Columbus's second voyage to the new world in 1493, he landed on Puerto Rico and named the island San Juan Bautista (Saint John the Baptist). Later, the city of Puerto Rico, which means "Rich Port" was renamed San Juan and San Juan was renamed Puerto Rico. Stay with me. Then on the 400th anniversary of the Columbus landing, a bronze monument was erected with the name "Cristobal Colon" on it. Now, if my name is Socko the Monkey in English, I would expect my name to be Socko the Monkey in Spanish. Turns out, that isn't the case. If they ever erect a monument in Puerto Rico to me, it will say Calcetino del Mono. Bueno?
San Juan, PR
Clay Totem Pole
Totem Pole - The Plaza del Quinto Centenario was built in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' maiden voyage to the Americas. Inside that plaza is the Plaza del Totem. The Plaza del Totem features an ultra-modern 40 foot Totem Pole which is the work of Puerto Rican artist Jaime Suarez. The black granite base holds a terra cotta ceramic structure with protruding broken pieces of tile. It's not a place you will spend the whole day, but it's worth checking as you walk around Old San Juan.
San Juan, PR
El Capitolio
Capitol Building - Known as the Palace of Laws and El Capitolio, the Capitol Building of Puerto Rico houses the Senate in one wing of the building and the House Representatives in the other. The Neoclassical Revival style building was designed by architect Rafael Carmoega and construction began in 1919. And though the structure was completed in 1929, the dome was not finished until 1961. Under the dome is the most impressive feature of the capitol, the intricately designed and colorful rotunda. Truly a work of art. Tours are available by appointment, but you are free to roam the halls by yourself.
San Juan, PR
A Very Ornate Cemetery
Mary Magdalene Cemetery - At the foot of El Morro overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, is the historic Mary Magdalene Cemetery (Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis). Founded in 1862 and named after Catholic Saint Maria Magdalena de Pazzi, the cemetery is the final resting place for the who's who of Puerto Rico. Famous poets, artists, politicians and actors are buried beneath some of the most ornate and beautifully designed headstones imaginable. The back of the cemetery is surrounded by a forty foot high wall and amongst the headstones is a neoclassical red domed chapel.
San Juan, PR
Puerto Rico's No. 1 Attraction
San Juan National Historic Site - Visited by more than two million people annually, the San Juan National Historic Site is the number one attraction in Puerto Rico. The historic site contains two major Spanish fortifications, Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro) and Castillo San Cristobal, along with a massive wall surrounding Old San Juan. Construction of El Morro's six levels began in 1539 and continued for over 200 years. It was designed to protect the city's wealth and people from attack by non-Spanish intruders. Inside the two forts are cannons at the ready, sentry boxes overlooking the sea and in El Morro a 1908 rectangular lighthouse.
Utuado, PR
Prehistoric Baseball?
Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Park - Occupied for nearly 300 years between 1200 AD and 1500 AD, Caguana was a Taino Indian site used for religious purposes and a ball game called "batey". Depictions of batey have been found, but the rules have yet to be discovered. Excavation of the site began in 1915 by Dr John Alden Mason who mapped the entire area and proposed theories on the functions of the many plazas. The archeological site contains dozens of large petroglyphs with portrayals of animals, tribal leaders, and Indian ancestors. The museum features a short film and artifacts recovered at Caguana.
Villalba, PR
Swim Beneath a Waterfall
Toro Negro State Forest - Filled with miles of hiking trails, a waterfall, and of course trees, the Toro Negro State Forest is a great place to get in touch with nature. The 7,000 acre jungle/forest sets atop the island's granite rolling hills and contains the highest point on the island (4,393 feet). The trails lead to an old observation tower with a great view, a river-fed pool, and a few natural water holes to swim in. Just driving through the forest is worth it. From the road you can see the Dona Juana Waterfall, a gorgeous three stage waterfall that terminates in a refreshing swimming hole. It's cold, but refreshing.