Puerto Rico

Old Apr 7th, 2007, 02:19 PM
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Puerto Rico

My wife and I recently returned from a weeks vacation to Puerto Rico. We travel about 3 or 4 times a year, never to the same place. Puerto Rico was wonderful. We stayed in San Juan at the El San Juan Towers which is just behind the famous San Juan Hotel & Casino, but much more reasonably priced. Very good value staying there, and several good places to eat in walking distance.

Prior to leaving home (USA) we reserved a car from Advantage Car Rental. However I was smart enough to have a back up reservation at Avis. Good thing I did because when we were eventually picked up by Advantage's shuttle (took 45 minutes despite their lies it would take only 10) and arrived at the off site car lot, there were not cars available - several people were leaving in anger as we arrived. Fortunately for us the Avis reservation was still available. DO NOT RENT FROM ADVANTAGE at the San Juan airport.

Old San Juan was fun to visit - for the archetecture, the ruins of El Moro and San Cristobal, and the restaurants. If you go shopping AVOID THE BLUE LOTUS. This shop sells imported items from the far east including jewelry. My wife purchased an amber ring which fell apart only hours later. The owner Ian J Jolly refused to assist us in any way - his suggestion for my wife to "just glue the stone back into the setting". Unbelievable. He made it clear that he does not take any responsibility for the items he sells once they leave the store. The Blue Lotus is located on a street corner close to where the cruise ships dock - obviously he targets cruise tourists who cannot return once the ship sails away. A tourist official in Old San Juan confirmed that they have received alot of complaints about him and his store, and suggested I file a complaint with the BBB. Just be warned: do not purchase merchandise from the Blue Lotus. There are many other reputable shopts, and unlike Mr. Jolly, most of the jewelers guarantee their merchandise.

We discovered a relatively new (3 yrs) small restaurant in Old San Juan called Spanglish owned and operated by a young married couple (he from USA, she from PR, hence "Spanglish"). Excellent authentic PR cuisine, and the owners Robert & Carola are wonderful people. Best for lunch but they serve dinner as well. Tell them hi from Dr J & Carol.

During the week we explored a large portion of the country including:
Ponce, Cabo Rojo, Combate beach, Boqueron beach, Parguera, Old San Juan, Culebra Island, El Yunque rain forest, Rincon, Fajarda, and Vieques Island.

Each of these were wonderful.

Boqueron and Combate are some of the best beaches to see but in the far southwest part of the island. I particularly liked Cabo Rojo with its wide & calm Bahia Sucia beach and bay. Swimming there is very good and calm, but not for snorkeling. There is a lighthouse there, but I found the salt flats there even more visually interesting.

Culebra Island is famous for its beaches and snorkeling/diving. The reef is easily reached being only yards off the shore at Flamenco Beach (the most popular destination for tourists, only $3 bus ride away) - definitely worth the ferry ride from Fajardo ($9 pp rt and takes about 1 hour). Get there early because sometimes they can be sold out of tickets. If you wish to take a car onto the island make a reservation in advance.

Vieques Island is larger. The beaches are also very nice, but I found the snorkeling lacking. Again take a ferry from Fajardo. The taxi at Vieques will bring you to your destination there - usually Esperanza malecon where there are several kiosks and small restaurants. I found this to be boring. We took a taxi to red beach for the better snorkeling there - marginal at best. Blue beach is said to be better - however the taxi would not go there as the reoad is dirt and would take longer than he wanted to be off road (loss of other fares). Vieques is larger than Culebra, but for me Culebra was the better of the two if you have to chose one over the other. Be aware that the ferry does not run after sunset.

When visitng Rincon make certain to go to Tres Palmas beach, and stop at Maria's for happy hour and sunset. Snorkeling off the beach at Tres Palmas is fair; however there is reef coral and fish to see. There is a lighthouse nearby where many go whale watching from Jan - March. Rincon, in the far northwest is a 2 1/2 h ride from San Juan. It is famous for its surfing; they held the international surfing championships there last month (Feb - March 2007).

El Yunque rain forest is famous as the only rainforest managed by the US park management. The hiking trails are perfect in that they are not difficult and long enough for a half day hike. For those not wishing hiking trails, there is access to the top & Britton tower via a paved service road. La Mina falls is 45 minute hike via an easy trail. Unfortunately there are no wild animals to see; and although the foliage is wonderful, there were not that many flowers in bloom during our March visit.

Besides the ferry at Fajardo, nearby Luquillo beach is also famous and worth a visit. It is also close to El Yunque rain forest. There are good restaurants in Fajardo, and the famous El Conquistador hotel is located there. Not to be missed is the bioluminescent bay tour. There are actually 4 of these in Puerto Rico: Parguera in the southwest, Culebra Island, Vieques Island, and in Fajardo. The one at Parguera is reportedly losing its luminescence for a variety of reasons, and those at Culebra & Vieques are only accessible at night requiring an overnight stay since the ferry back to PR does not run at night. The one at Fajardo was amazing - kayak trip through mangroves in darkness opening into a small bay teeming with bioluminscent dinoflagella that glow when disturbed. Costs about $43pp.

Consider a trip to PR - inexpensive, easy direct flights f rom the USA, great food, plenty of variety of sites to visit, great beaches, good snorkeling, and most of all the people we met were wonderful. Just avoid the Blue Lotus in Old San Juan and do not rent a car from Advantage at San Juan airport.
netmd is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2007, 02:26 PM
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I really enjoyed reading about your visit to PR...it is one of our favorite places! You might want to re-post on the Caribbean board where people would look for such great info which you have provided.

Thanks for sharing your info and thoughts about PR.
Marianna is offline  
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