Bars

Old San Juan has enough bars to make your mind spin, but here are a few to get you started. Bar central is Calle San Sebasti n, where weekend nights get going at about 10 30 p.m. Nono's, s 787-725-7819, 100 San Sebasti n (on Plaza San Jos ), is one of the old city's most famous bars, swarmed by local and visiting barflies alike. A good place to meet strangers, it has pool tables upstairs. Usually open daily 11 a.m. to late. Slightly more upscale, Amadeus, s 787-722-8635, 106 San Sebasti n,...

Humacao

Another mega-resort, Doral Resort at Palmas del Mar, is a 2,630-acre, self-contained paradise for retired millionaires and wannabes, golfers and high-rolling vacationers. The exclusive Palmas has all the trappings of a world-class resort two golf courses, the largest tennis complex center in the Caribbean, an equestrian center, private marina, a long sandy beach, casino, restaurants, shopping and facilities for children. Look for signs from Hwy. 53 to Candelero Drive, Palmas del Mar, s...

Flora Fauna

With more than 200 inches of rainfall falling on much of El Yunque each year, the forest is a fantasyland of vegetation. Rare species of tree, such as the tabonuco and palo colorado, some of which date back 1,000 years, give way to dozens of variety of palms, more than 200 types of fern and a gnarled miniature forest on the mountain peaks. Technicolor flowers bloom from more than 80 varieties of orchids, as well as hibiscus, lilies, ginger and dozens of other tropical species. Many people who...

Diving

Though visibility is usually well below 100 feet, and some divers complain that much of the reef is dead or covered by sand, several dive sites on the east coast remain popular. Because of its convenient location and heavy tourist traffic, Palomino Island is one of the most-visited local dive sites, with a double barrier reef system and sand channels, home to the curious band-tailed puffer fish and parrot fish colonies, among other things. Atwo-tank dive here should include the Palominitos...

Cay Hopping on La Cordillera

HPS With transparent waters and shallow reefs, abundant marine life, gorgeous stretches of white sand and gentle trade winds, boating around the ridge of islets just off Puerto Rico's northeast corner (known as La Cordillera, not to be confused with the mountain range) is one of the best adventures the east coast has to offer. The northernmost cay, Icacos, is a popular destination for sunseekers. Along stretch of sand gives way to several decent snorkeling spots on the south side of the island....

Hatillo Camuy

On Carr. 119 in Camuy (Km. 7.5), the guest house Posada El Palomar, s 787-898-1060, has clean, fairly standard rooms (the owners say they are romantic, but that depends on you) very near the beach, as well as a restaurant, Jacuzzi, swimming pool and indoor and outdoor games. Not a bad place to stay the night before a morning trek to the Camuy caves or the Arecibo Observatory. The facilities are fully accessible for people with disabilities. . Much more generic (and right on the highway) is the...

Adventures

HERO VALLEY - Don your Gore-Tex and get ready for what's rapidly gaining a reputation as the most grueling hike in Puerto Rico. The infamous Hero Valley is found in the Reserva Forestal Carite, on land managed by Joe and Cathy Carrasquillo at Las Casas de la Selva (see page 292), s 787-839-7318, who offer guided treks through some of the wildest country on the island. In 1998, Hurricane Georges blocked several miles of trails here, so the project is something of a work in progress with path...

Where To Eat

One of the island's top restaurants is Cilantro's, s 787-2642735, on Calle Luna 85 (parallel to the central plaza). It serves up nuevo latino cuisine in an elegant yet casual atmosphere of patios and artwork in the Casa Real - a replica of the home of the Barcelona-born Gelp brothers, who emigrated to San Germ n in the late 19th century. During the Depression, los hermanos Gelp opened their home to hungry locals and campesinos. But since Cilantro's opened in August 2000, the tiled patios have...

Gay Lesbian Travelers

There is probably no better destination for gay and lesbian travelers in the Caribbean than Puerto Rico, and nowhere more so than in San Juan (see pages 108-109). The Condado strip and nearby Ocean Park are just as steamy as Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, without the redneck factor. For a completely over-the-top, decadent gay holiday, you're probably best off finding accommodations in the middle of the action. Condado has a few hip nightclubs, wonderful food, beachfront villas and beautiful people....

Hiking the Trails of Guanica Forest

The 9,900-acre Guanica forest is considered one of the largest and best-preserved tracts of subtropical dry forest anywhere (find out more about the ecological importance of the forest on page 250). Unlike hiking trails in El Yunque rain forest, Guanica is refreshingly free of swarms of tourists, paved trails and overrun picnic sites. Most of the trailheads are found near the ranger station, located in the heart of the eastern forest at the end of Carr. 334. If the station is open, stop by to...

Riding The Sugar Train

Built mainly for transporting sugar around the island, this short-lived train circumnavigated the island during the first part of this century. A few older islanders have fond memories of hopping aboard for trips along the coast - either for transportation purposes or just to enjoy the scenic ride. Most of the track has given way to coastal roads and seaside developments, and the only surviving stretch of track in use - El Tren Del Sur -opened as a tourist attraction in 1996. This line between...

Naranjito Corozal Morovis Ciales

Visiting this string of towns tucked in the mountains above the north coast is a lovely drive, even if it doesn't quite match the splendor of the Ruta Panoramica. All four are former agricultural strongholds with pretty plazas, connected by roads that wind through the tropical forest. Each has at least one, if sometimes tenuous, claim to tourist interest. Following Carr. 167 southward from Bayam n, you wind through rolling hills with volcanic rock faces and thick vegetation, dotted with hilltop...

Fine Dining

The best sushi restaurant in Puerto Rico is Yukiyu, s 787-722-1423, 311 Recinto Sur. It also gets top marks for authentic d cor paper screens, antique kimonos and funky geometric tableware. Fish is usually top grade and more varied than at other sushi restaurants on the island. Expect to spend 30 a head for sushi and drinks. The lunch special costs 19. Open daily from noon to past midnight. At the only Romanian restaurant in Puerto Rico (and perhaps the Caribbean), Transylvania, s 787-977-2328,...

Aguadilla

Aguadilla represents the island of Puerto Rico at its best and worst - a wildly beautiful spot nearly overrun by thoughtless development. If possible, circumnavigate the town itself to reach the lovely beaches nearby on the island's northwestern point Crash Boat Beach, with its colorful fishing boats upended in front of shabby snack stands, and the secluded Wilderness Beach and Shacks Beach, both reached on turnoffs from Carr. 107R. During the week, these are excellent places to catch some...

Adventure guide to Puerto Rico

HUNTER PUBLISHING, INC. 130 Campus Drive Edison, NJ 08818-7816 s 732-225-1900 800-255-0343 fax 732-417-1744 www.hunterpublishing.com E-mail hunterp bellsouth.net IN CANADA Ulysses Travel Publications 4176 Saint-Denis, Montr al, Qu bec Canada H2W 2M5 s 514-843-9882 ext. 2232 fax 514-843-9448 IN THE UNITED KINGDOM Windsor Books International The Boundary, Wheatley Road, Garsington Oxford, OX44 9EJ England s 01865-361122 fax 01865-361133 ISBN 1-58843-116-9 2001 Hunter Publishing, Inc. This and...

Spirituality the Occult

To a large extent, Puerto Rico is more a spiritual nation than a religious one, with lingering belief in spirits worshipped by Taino and African ancestors - like the Taino spirit Jupias, who haunts the dreams of mortals. Curanderos or espiritistas (healers) are consulted regularly on the subjects of money and marriage, health and happiness, blessings and revenge, to name a few. Bot nicas, the stores that supply herbs and potions essential to Puerto Rican spiritual rituals, can be found in...

The Spaniards Arrive

After first discovering the Indies in 1492, Christopher Columbus was named Admiral of the Ocean Sea by Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and outfitted with 17 ships for a second voyage. He set sail on September 25,1493 from C diz in southwestern Spain, with more than 1,200 sailors, soldiers and settlers eager for gold and riches in the unknown lands. After about two months spent crossing the Atlantic and island-hopping along the Lesser Antilles, the Spanish fleet moored in a bay off...

Plant Life

Puerto Rico was almost entirely clad in a thick, verdant forest 500 K td years ago. Settlement, agriculture and industry felled most of it, and although reforestation efforts since the 1970s have restored about 40 of tree cover to the island, only 1 of virgin forest remains (most ofit in El Yunque). The wet forests are categorized into distinct zones, and all are crawling with rich vegetation and animal life. At its highest elevation the dwarf, or cloud, forest is usually bathed in mist, with...

Where To Stay

Rates are per room, per night, double occupancy. Single occupancy may or may not get you a discount, so ask when making a reservation. Breakfast included where noted. to 50 to 100 to 150 and up Punta Guavate & Carite Forest Reserve I 289 Punta Guavate & Carite Forest Reserve La Casona de Guavate & Posada El Castillo, s 787-7475533, Carr. 184, Km. 28 (about 10 minutes after you leave Hwy. 52 at Exit 32), is one of the wackiest places you could ever hope to stay, a combination of luxury...

Old San Juan

As the Caribbean sun strikes its first assault on the bright town-houses of Old San Juan, the seductive smell of coffee and fresh-baking bread leaks from the doors of the city's bakeries. The historic quarter lurches awake. A queue of cars forms outside the multi-story parking lots, as city employees and other commuters press into town. On a street corner facing the port, a vendor hawks African masks, pretending to carve them by hand for the sake of passersby. In the Plaza de Salvador Brau,...

High End

It's nearly impossible to find a room in Vieques that doesn't have a view - if not of the sea, then of a vibrant tropical garden or of the rolling hillsides. Guest houses are generally small and most have something special or unique about them, whether it's their location, design or history. Martineau Bay, run by Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, s 787-741-4100, 888-ROSEWOOD (888-767-3966), may be open by the time you read this. The five-star luxury resort is on the north shore, between Isabel...

Deep Sea Light Tackle Fishing

Within quick striking distance from San Juan are some of the island's best blue water and fly-fishing spots. The ocean trench north of the city is alive with game fish such as wahoo, dorado (dolphin fish), tuna, marlin and other billfish. Inshore, light tackle fishermen flock to Laguna de Torrecilla and Laguna Pi ones for tarpon, snook, snapper, grouper and king mackerel. Captain Jos Campos of Puerto Rico Angling, s 787-7242079, who holds a title for a record-breaking 93-pound king mackerel,...

Aasco

The pretty pueblo of A asco is southeast of Rinc n, on Carr. 109 off Hwy. 2. It is seldom visited by tourists, which is a shame since it is one of the rare small towns that still captures the flavor of rural Spanish colonial architecture. The coast nearby was one of Columbus' brief stops as he explored the Puerto Rican coast in late 1493 and, although there is no museum to commemorate it, the area is steeped in history. For decades after Columbus, waves of explorers, conquistadors and merchants...

Aguirre

Asugar town frozen in time, the ghost town of Aguirre is a curiosity on an island that is one of the most densely populated landmasses in the world. An abandoned cinema, hospital, bowling alley and other boarded-up buildings lend an eerie atmosphere to this former boomtown. At times, the only evidence that Aguirre is inhabited at all are the red-and-white power plant chimneys that poke up over the palm trees as you approach town on Carr. 705. The center of Aguirre reeks of history. The year...

Hiking Walking

Some of the best hiking snakes through the rain forest of El Yunque trail descriptions are given under Eco-Travel, page 331 , and there are a few idyllic seaside walks along beaches. For hikers seeking on- and off-trail adventures, we highly recommend spending a day or more with guide Richard Druitt of La Casa Vida Natural and his brother John Rubio, who run Island Walkers, PO Box 1916, R o Grande, s 787-887-4359, www.islandwalkers.com. If anyone can get you off the beaten track, it's this...

Surfing

The northwestern point of the island is known to surfers worldwide. The combination of swells that wrap around the peninsula, offshore winds and long point breaks create perfect conditions for peeling waves and long rides. Board-toting thrill-seekers usually begin arriving in Rinc n and Jobos in late September for the tail end of hurricane season, which can pro duce a few monstrous swells, and stay through early April, when the sea generally flattens out. Here's a breakdown of the hottest surf...

Touring Sightseeing

Bali Llama Vieques

Begin your tour in Isabel Segunda, where some local characters are so friendly they'll cross the street or leap from the backs of trucks to shake your hand and say, Hello The majority of the population of Vieques lives around this five-block port town, and it has the feel of what Puerto Rico must have been like 50 years ago, before large-scale commercial development hit. School children in uniforms crowd the candy store. Elderly men repose on benches in the sunny central plaza. The coconut man...

El Yunques Hiking Trails

Thirteen official trails - a few paved and most extremely well maintained - lead into El Yunque. Many have shelters to duck into during frequent deluges of rain, as well as commodities such as drinking fountains, parking lots and visitor centers. Only a few trails are semi-treacherous, with slippery mud slopes that usually pay off at the end with stunning peak-top views. CAUTION Going off-trail or off-road in El Yunque is not advised, both for environmental and personal safety reasons. It's...

By

You will probably arrive on a flight from a major US or European city into the Luis Mu oz Mar n International Airport in San Juan. Most major carriers have flights, and it's a hub for American Airlines, with connections to other Caribbean islands. TWA also offers a near-daily check schedules, as they're subject to change redeye flight from Newark, New Jersey to Aguadilla, arriving at 2 a.m. - the only other destination for flights from abroad. This flight is highly recommended if you're...

Arroyo

It's hard to imagine that Arroyo was once a bustling sugar port with close connections to the then-Danish islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix. A few colorful A-frame homes still stand along the shore, testimony to a mild Scandinavian influence best represented by Danish descendant Edward Lind, one of few aristocrats who actually lived here. In reality, Arroyo has always been the poorer younger sibling of Guayama, and if you found Guayama boring you can skip this overdeveloped town. The town's...

Shopping Areas

S 787-725-1204, 205 Calle Cristo, travelers can stock up on kit bags and tech products. The ultimate gentleman's store, El Galpon, s 787-7253945,154 Calle Cristo, sells fine Suarez Panama hats and the island's best cigars. For kitchen enthusiasts, check out the shelves of Spicy Caribe, s 787-725-4690,154 Calle Cristo, for Caribbean cookbooks, tropical tableware and unique gourmet items. On Plaza San Jos , the Puerto Rican Institute of Culture gift shop is good for Puerto Rican musical...

Isbella Puerto Rico Where To Buy Mundillo

Puerto Rican arts and crafts are available in contemporary and antique forms, and the discerning shopper can pick up some real bargains. Santos are carved religious figures - usually wooden - and few traditional Puerto Rican homes are without at least one. You will often see lighted candles flickering on shrines laden with offerings to the various saints, most commonly St. Anthony or one of the virgins. Warding off evil and bringing good fortune to their believers, santos are immensely...

The Moca Plantations

Driving north on Carr. 110, from Moca toward Isabela a stretch of road called Jardines la Sierra because of its garden-like beauty , you'll find a French plantation-era fortress, called Los Castillos Mel ndez, at the intersection of Carr. 4110. The three fairy-tale buildings look wildly out of place. It's privately owned and, contrary to rumor, is not open to the public, according to the municipal office and the Tourism Company. Continue north on Carr. 110, turn right on Carr. 464 when you see...

Eco Snorkeling with Captain Richard

Native son Captain Richard Barone, a passionate viequense naturalist, educates islanders and visitors alike on the underwater wonders of his birthplace. If you have any interest in sea life whatsoever, don't miss his three-hour eco-snorkeling tour, Vieques Nature Tours, s 787-741-1980, in Esperanza. The tour starts right off the Esperanza pier, in Captain Richard's glass-bottom pontoon boat, the Sea View, which he designed himself. With a natural capacity for storytelling, he explains the...

Gunica The Dry Tropical Forest

When American troops first landed in Gu nica to claim Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War in 1898, they found a charming little residential community jarringly surrounded by dry, twisted scrub bent submissively under a hostile sun. As they prepared to do battle and sweated buckets in their Sears-made uniforms, they probably failed to notice the peculiar beauty of the rare dry tropical forest environment, the abundant bird life or the bright desert flowers punctuating the dusty greenery....

Puerto Rican Slang

Baba, nf, literally meaning spittle, used for boring or meaningless talk. bacalao, nm, cod fish, also used as a vulgar term for female sexual organs ba ar el caballo, phr, literally to bathe the horse, a humorous and archaic male term for having sex. batey, nm, from the Taino word, meaning a yard in the country. bellaco a, adj, horny, hot. bicho, nm, literally bug, the most common vulgar term for the male sexual organ. boh o, nm, from Taino language, meaning a hut, usually without walls....

Skydiving

Few activities provoke the eye-popping, sphincter-clenching rush of adrenaline that comes with willingly leaping out of a small plane thousands of feet in the air. The only private DZ drop zone in Puerto Rico is the Puerto Rican Skydiving Center, which operates from the airstrip in Humacao. They apparently offer tandem jumps for beginners you're strapped in with an instructor, who dives with you and controls the parachute , as well as training and certification courses and advanced jumps for...

Eco Travel

The Dry Tropical Forest of Guanica Despite the rugged terrain, searing heat and scant rainfall, the Guanica forest flourishes with an astonishing number of plants and cacti that burst with desert-like blooms, 245 species of trees and over 1,000 insects, including the yellow, black and red orb-weaving spider and so-called crazy ants, which form endless columns along the trails. Walking the trails see pages 237-240 for trail descriptions , you'll likely come across hermit crabs, geckos and...