GG's roundup of the best of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico, a Caribbean island roughly the size of Connecticut, is a spectacular fusion of more than 500 years of Latin culture and modern America. Hip, chic restaurants skirt 15th Century Spanish forts that flank the Caribbean's only national rainforest. And don't forget the hundreds of beaches where vibrant pinks and yellows of sunrise are outdone only by the sinewy reds and purples of sunset.
Beachy getaway with your galpals? Sexy weekend with your lovah? Wholesale escape from real life? Puerto Rico delivers. Just in case you need a reason to book your ticket to Puerto Rico, dive into these 10.
#1 Puerto Rico beaches
Luquillo Beach, just 45 minutes from the airport is a tourist fav, but the locals will tell Boquerón on the southwest corner is the best beach in Puerto Rico. But then again there's Flamenco on the smaller island of Culebra, touted as one of the best beaches in the world. Think of the fun you'll have deciding where to spend your time while in Puerto Rico.
#2 Luminescent Bay
"Hidden along the Caribbean coast is one of the most spectacular Bioluminescent Bays in the world. The mysterious blue-green light is created by micro-organisms which thrive in an environment uniquely suited to their needs. A trip into the bay on a balmy night is a magical experience. Fish flash by in dark water, and a swim is like floating through stardust." ~ Captain Sharon Grasso
#3 Happening clubs
Night clubs and discos in Old San Juan rival Miami's best. Puerto Ricans are among the best hosts in the world and if you're clubbing on the weekend you'll be rubbing elbows and hips with locals who make up a big part of the crowd. Linger at dinner because the fun doesn't get started at clubs like the Nuyorican until midnight.
#4 Natural wonders
Tear up your itinerary and start exploring the caves, offshore coral reefs and the rainforset. El Yunque is a 45 minute drive from Old San Juan and is a spectacular trekking spot - especially if you only have a day to explore. Paths are well maintained and tourist-friendly (not as strenuous or challenging as a hike up a volcano). Read how Carly, a GG writer, healed her broken heart in Puerto Rico.
#5 A food lover's paradise
Prepare for a food adventure in Puerto Rico. You'll find restaurants serving everything from Italian to Thai to Indian on Restaurant Row in San Juan. But stray a little further and amuse your palate at open air patios and local eateries that dish out comida criolla (traditional homestyle Puerto Rican food). My fav - Amarillos or Amarillitos, which are yellow plantains, sweet and served fried. To read more about what I love to eat there, read my post on Da House in Old San Juan.
#6 Golf, casinos and more - oh my!
Las Vegas style gambling, glitter and extravagant shows rule the nightlife. With more than 20 golf courses in Puerto Rico and a bounty of beach resorts, there's something for everyone. For help finding the best casino or golf course in Puerto Rico, visit TripAdvisor.
#7 History buff nirvana
Old San Juan was designated a US National Historic Zone in 1950. It's one of the oldest, most preserved colonial cities in the Americas with more than 400 carefully restored shops, open-air cafés, homes, tree-shaded squares and monuments. Give yourself ample time to stroll the narrow streets decorated with elegant wrought-iron balconies dripping in lush, tropical flowers and paved with adoquines (blue-gray stones from the ballasts of Spanish ships).
#8 No passport required
Puerto Rico is a US Territory so Americans don't need a passport to visit. US currency is used and if you're traveling with picky teens, you'll find American fast food joints easily. Although Spanish is the official language, everyone speaks English - even if they say they don't. It also boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the Caribbean - as long as you steer clear of La Perla and watch your wallet. Crime against tourists is almost non-existent, but petty theft is a problem.
#9 The festivals
It doesn't matter what time of year you visit Puerto Rico, there's something going on here. A street art fair in Old San Juan, a pig roast in a mountain village just outside town or a free concert on the beach in Isla Verde, there's always a party somewhere. Who knows, you might even luck out with a celebrity performance - Paul McCartney performed in San Juan in April, 2010. Frommer's has a comprehensive list of Puerto Rico 2011 Festivals.
#10 Geocaching mecca
Mr. GoGirlfriend is a geocaching addict and he introduced me fully to his passion in Puerto Rico (until that point I considered launching an intervention). Geocaching in San Juan allowed us to explore the hidden gardens of the old city while taking in the shopping and touring the fort. Of course, we took regular breaks at the fabulous restaurants on Restaurant Row. My GoGirlfriend geocache has traveled to Arizona and is still traveling - yes, I'm an addict now too.