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Do you have limited time, but want to go someplace off the beaten track – where you can venture to the Caribbean without a passport? How about Puerto Rico? Spring is a wonderful time of the year to visit this lovely island. True, it has sustained much damage from recent hurricanes, but this beautiful island has that bounce-back quality; and tourism is thriving. This vibrant island tour is an ideal introduction for first-time visitors who have limited time. We can begin planning your trip today! You’ll experience some of Puerto Rico’s most magnificent scenery as well as its most famous towns and beaches. On the island tour, you’ll start and end in San Juan as you make your way around the island and most meals are included. But don’t forget, we can fly you to San Juan to “catch-a-cruise” to the southern-most reaches of the Caribbean Islands, too. We can arrange special experiences to give you a true local perspective either before the cruise or after.
Puerto Rico – Spanish for “Rich Port” – is an archipelago in the Caribbean Sea that offers year-round great weather with over 300 beaches for nature lovers to choose from. Among the island’s allure is the only subtropical rainforest in the US – El Yunque, where exuberant flora and fauna, as well as rivers and hiking trails make it a great attraction for adventure seekers around the world.
This magical island also features three (3) of the world’s five bioluminescent bays, impressive cave systems, natural reserves, and the largest active radio telescope in the world and, of course, the uniquely historic architecture. Don’t forget about the different nations which fought on this island to secure it for their respective countries. Once occupied by French, Dutch, and British; but it remained a colony of Spain for four centuries. In 1898, following the Spanish–American War, the United States acquired Puerto Rico under the terms of the Treaty of Paris.
Whether you’re passionate about nature and love to explore, or you want to experience our urban settings full of culture, activities and nightlife – there is something for you to enjoy on this lovely island. Fall in love with Old San Juan as you become immersed in tropical colors, colonial architecture, epic fortresses, boutique and high-end shopping, and cultural events for the whole family. The enchantment of Puerto Rico can also be found beyond the island’s major cities. Let’s see what Puerto Rico has to offer…
San Juan: Your vacation begins with your flight into a bustling airport…catch a ride to your hotel and begin discovering Puerto Rico.
Landmarks You Shouldn’t Miss In the Metro Area – Old San Juan: A visit to the so-called “walled city” is like travelling back in time. As the second oldest town in America, a walk up and down blue cobblestone streets of Old San Juan is a gateway into the core of Puerto Rican history and culture. The charming pastel-colored colonial architecture and military forts blend in peace with a modern, slower-paced life for an authentic Puerto Rican experience. Whether you’re a history savvy, a cultural buff or a sightseeing enthusiast, here is a list of landmarks and iconic places that you should not miss while visiting this remarkable city:
- Castillo San Felipe del Morro: Better known as El Morro, this impressive citadel is one of the largest fortifications built by the Spaniards in the Caribbean during the 16th century. Made up by six staggered levels that integrate barracks, dungeons and storerooms, this fortress was designed to protect the city from attacks made by sea and it still has some of the original cannons facing the ocean. In its history, El Morro was never defeated by the enemy.
- Castillo San Cristóbal: Standing guard at the eastern gate, this fortress was built to guard the city from enemies approaching by land. Covering over 27 acres, this fortification is the largest one made by the Spaniards in the New World. This castle holds the famous “Garita del Diablo” (The Devil’s Sentry), center to many military tails and stories in the island.
- Capilla del Cristo: Another landmark is the “Chapel of Christ”. This small sanctuary was atypically built at the top of the walls of the city, an unusual decision made in colonial times. Legend has it that two men were racing their horses down the street and one of them fell over the cliff and survived. This inspired the construction of a sanctuary dedicated to the saints of health. Its altar is made of embossed silver and the room is decorated with two José Campeche paintings.
- La Fortaleza: Officially named “El Palacio de Santa Catalina de Alejandría” (the Palace of St. Catherine of Alexandria), La Fortaleza is the oldest state residence of the New World still in use. This executive palace conserves traditions such as candlelit-only dining rooms and original Spanish objects from the colonial era.
- Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery: This peculiar cemetery was established in the 19th century. The Spaniards built it outside the city walls because of their strong fear of the afterlife. Its oceanfront location derives from a superstitious belief that the deceased started a journey over to “the great beyond” and being close to the sea symbolized the beginning of eternity. This cemetery is the final resting place of Puerto Rico’s most prominent natives and residents.
- Seminario Conciliar de San Ildefonso: The original building was completed in 1832 and it was commissioned by the first Puerto Rican Bishop, Fray Juan Alejo de Arizmendi. The seminar became a cornerstone in the development of public education in Puerto Rico, under the long teaching tradition of the Catholic Church. The Dome at the Chapel is a work of art worthy of a visit.
- Casa Blanca: Turned into a museum, this is the oldest residence in Old San Juan. It was built to become the home of Puerto Rico’s first governor, Juan Ponce de León. Sadly, Ponce de León died before he could occupy it, but it was left for his descendants to reside in it.
- Puerta de Agua or Puerta de San Juan: The “Door to San Juan” is the most colorful and known of all the entrances to the “walled city”. It was the main gate through which the priests and governors made their entrance to their investiture ceremonies.
- San Juan Cathedral: When comparing to the rest of America, the structure of this church is a rare example of medieval architecture during Spanish ruling in the New World. The San Juan Cathedral is the second oldest church in America, after the one built in the Dominican Republic. It was there that the world’s first archdiocese was founded.
- Department of Treasury Annex: Located in the main square “Plaza de Armas”, it served as the depository of the royal treasure in the island. It was also the first headquarters of the provincial deputation that preceded the modern-days legislative branches.
- Franciscan Chapel: The Church of St. Francis was one of the first sanctuaries to be elevated in Puerto Rico. It is the best-preserved church in the island and it still maintains the niches of people that were buried there back in the day.
Now head East to El Yunque to Río Camuy Caves: Enchanting Trails in Puerto Rico: “Picturesque” hardly does justice to Puerto Rico’s outdoor attractions. From the island’s waterfalls and beaches to its rugged cliffs and mystical caves, so many of Puerto Rico’s destinations are bonafide displays of nature at its most majestic. Hiking trails inside official parks and hidden locales will guide you to incredible sights and unique treasures through which travelers can experience the true wonders of Puerto Rico.
- El Yunque National Forest:This national forest is a truly special place, and exists as the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. The biodiversity is extraordinary, as the forest is home to thousands of native plants, including 50 native orchids, hundreds of tree and fern species, 50 varieties of birds and many different breeds of bats, lizards, coquí frogs, fish and more. The forest features a network of trails, including paths to the stunning La Coca Falls and La Mina Falls, both of which offer varying degrees of difficulty.
- Camuy River Cave Park:Las Cavernas del Río Camuy in Quebrada, Camuy — located about an hour west of San Juan — are part of a breathtaking 300-acre park. It’s not only a gem among the island’s outdoor spectacles, but also a certified global treasure. With more than 10 miles of caverns and at least 220 caves, the Camuy River Caves stands as one of the largest cave networks in the world and is home to the third-largest underground river on the planet. A trolley ride down the mountainside covered with thick, lush foliage takes you to concrete walkways leading into Cueva Clara. The tunnels inside are immediately striking, and visitors are soon treated to a view of a 17-foot-high stalagmite. Continue walking and you’ll come across a pool that mirrors the Empalme Sinkhole, which rises 419 feet above it. The trail continues winding through these ancient rock formations until, finally, you reach the trolleys for a return ride out of the caves. It’s a magical and one-of-a-kind experience, all sound-tracked by dripping water, the squeaks and flutters of bats and the rushing river beneath.
- Cueva Ventana: One of the most iconic and most photographed of Puerto Rico’s natural wonders is Cueva Ventana, or “Cave Window.” It’s easy to arrive to it in Arecibo, and the hike is only about 15 minutes long — if you’re with a tour guide. You’ll see stunning cave formations and even learn about Taíno history and the petroglyphs inside. The biggest prize, of course, is the “window,” located just inside the cave: From its ledge, the view is immense, offering a seemingly endless stretch of green landscape and beautiful blue sky. Cueva Ventana is an important part of the Ruta Taína, a sacred tour through the land of Taínos. This route also includes Cueva del Indio, or “Indian’s Cave,” to the north, which is one of the most visited cavern systems in the island.
- Guajataca Forest Reserve: Bring a flashlight to explore the limestone caves at the Guajataca Forest Reserve around the northwestern areas of Isabela, San Sebastián and Quebradillas. While smaller than the Camuy River network, they are just as magical, with their beauty magnified by the forest’s unique topography. The area’s limestone deposits were created through volcanic eruptions that took place millions of years ago and helped to craft a landscape filled with canyons, sinkholes and underground rivers, as well as the rolling hills and the mystical caves the area is most famous for.
The 2,289-acre park includes 25 miles of trails. The primary path leads to Cueva del Viento, or “Cave of the Wind.” You’ll spot the trailhead easily at the parking area, then pass an observation tower offering panoramic views of mountains and valleys. Returning to the main path, you’ll ultimately reach the cave itself, with otherworldly stalagmites and stalactites galore.
- Gozalandia: The Gozalandia Waterfalls are a locally beloved spot in San Sebastián. This hidden gem is a natural waterpark, featuring a sizable, deep pool of water beneath an impressively tall cascading waterfall. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can plunge into the water from the rocks about 30 feet above, then swim to the right of the falls, where there’s a tucked-away underwater cave to explore (with room to surface and breathe, of course!). The name Gozalandia means “Fun Land” and it’s exactly that — even the hike from the parking area and gate is illuminated by sun and bright foliage. Past the main falls, there’s another set about a quarter-mile hike up, where there’s a rope swing you can use to launch yourself into the pool below. While the beaches of Puerto Rico certainly boast a glittering allure, if you dig a bit deeper and hike a bit further, there’s even more enchantment to be found. These remarkable sights are the stuff of traveler’s dreams — natural spectacles you’ll never forget.
- Tapia Theater: Also known as the municipal coliseum, this architectural gem was built in 1832 and named after Alejandro Tapia y Rivera, the father of Puerto Rican literature. It is the oldest permanent theater in Puerto Rico and among the oldest free-standing stages still in use under the U.S. flag.
In Western Puerto Rico you can discover Cabo Rojo (pronounced “KAH-bo ro-ho”) an unforgettable town just two hour from San Juan. Occupying the island’s south-west corner, Cabo Rojo offers miles of pristine coastline, rugged limestone cliffs, a quaint town, excellent gastronomy and many natural wonders. Despite all this, Cabo Rojo inexplicably remains largely unknown to tourists, with the area’s glorious beaches and unique natural wonders seemingly enjoyed mostly by locals. The area also boasts a fascinating history, with local legend claiming that infamous Puerto Rican pirate Roberto Cofresí buried some of his loot in the area’s coastal caves. Whether or not there’s any truth to this tale, there’s no doubt that Cabo Rojo is a true treasure itself, and the area is just waiting for intrepid travelers to discover its hidden gems.
- Get Close to Nature at the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge: You may have heard of Las Salinas, the famous salt flats of Cabo Rojo. The salt flats are only one part of a much greater nature reserve, the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge, which spans 1800 acres . Here, you can experience six ecological systems — the mangrove forest, dry forest, hypersaline lagoons, marine lagoons, seagrass and coral reefs. Spend some time exploring the numerous hiking and biking trails, which will give you plenty of chances to look for some of the more than 60 species of rare and native birds which make their home in the refug e. You should also visit the striking pink salt flats, which make for a truly unique (and photo-worthy!) experience, especially from the observation tower where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the salt flats and right out to the Caribbean Sea and Los Morrillos Lighthouse. Do not forget to stop by the visitor’s center right across from the observation tower, where helpful staff will provide information about the salt flats, local birdlife and more. While in the area, be sure to visit the quaint fishing village of Boquerón. With its variety of fresh seafood restaurants, you cannot leave this pocket of Cabo Rojo without trying some oysters from the village’s street kiosks. If you come on the weekend, you’ll find this village a hub of activity, with one of the west coast’s most famous beaches, Boquerón Beach, attracting visitors from near and far.
- Relax and Play on Magnificent Beaches: One of the loveliest beaches on the west coast, Buyé Beach can be a bit difficult to find — though locals are happy to lead you to it. You can park at Calle Buyé, then follow specific directions to one of the best local beaches in town — some people think they’ve missed it and turn back, but don’t make that mistake! You’ll miss a half mile of light sandy beach accompanied by calm waters of the prettiest shades of blue you can imagine. There are also bathroom facilities and picnic gazebos available, so be sure to bring lunch and cool drinks to make an afternoon of it. If Buyé is a bit too calm for you, be sure to check out Combate Beach . It is where you go to get away, Combate is where you go to party. During the summer, there are festivals and beach concerts. Almost any weekend, you’ll find a fun crowd with live music, lots of laughter, watersports and friendly people. If you’re looking for accommodation on the water, Combate Beach Resort is right on the beach and this charming parador has won multiple awards for excellent service. Perhaps the most popular beach in Cabo Rojo is Playa Sucia. Playuela (also known as Playa Sucia) is a true gem of the south-west coast — a crescent of sand coupled with inviting blue waters and limestone cliffs. While you’re here, make time to wander to Faro Los Morrillos . Commonly referred to as “El Faro”, this beloved lighthouse is located at Los Morrillos Peninsula within the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge, and can be found atop an impressive limestone cliff 200 feet above the Caribbean Sea. Built by the Spanish in 1882, the lighthouse is one of the most charming sights in Puerto Rico, and can be viewed from the shores of Playuela for those unwilling to hike up the cliffs for a closer look.
- Feast on Fresh Seafood in Joyuda: Joyuda, a small village peeking out from Cabo Rojo, is the place for fresh, local seafood in Puerto Rico. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from on Route 102. Some are located on the pristine water, and you can enjoy a great sunset view while you feast. Try Bamboleio , a small, laid-back restaurant with a house specialty of el pesca’o frito (whole fried fish). And whatever you eat, be sure to have a mojito withit — Bamboleio makes fresh, delicious mojitos in flavors like parcha (passion fruit), ginger and coconut pineapple. At Marty’s Kitchen , you can enjoy a view of Isla Ratones while you eat. and reasonable prices (fresh lobster for under $20) make them quite popular. Specialities include their mofongo, as well as fish stuffed with lobster and whole fish like red snapper and chapin (trunk fish). Suffice to say, it’s easy to understand why the locals want to keep the secret of Cabo Rojo all to themselves! From the beaches to the cuisine, Cabo Rojo is a special and unique place, and is definitely worth the trip. So, now the secret’s out, it’s time to start planning your adventure on Puerto Rico’s south-west coast. Who knows? Maybe you’ll stumble across Cofresí’s buried treasure while you’re there. In a place as enchanted as this, it just might happen.
- Plaza Las Américas: San Juan’s landmark shopping experience, Plaza Las Américas, turns 50 this year. There are more than 300 stores inside, ranging from the iconic — West Elm, Michael Kors, Forever 21, Victoria’s Secret, M.A.C., Zara, Sephora, Old Navy and Macy’s — to the uniquely Puerto Rican — Playero, an excellent spot for beach gear, and Uno de 50, featuring fine handcrafted jewelry. Dining options are vast, too, with options including La Patisserie de France, Godiva Chocolatier, Bienlatino (a deli-style spot with a Puerto Rican and Latin-centric menu) and La Placita en PLAZA, the mall’s own farmers market. As if that weren’t enough, Plaza — as the locals refer to it — also includes a top-notch movie theater, plus plenty of specialty events like craft fairs, car showcases, and art and design exhibits. The selection at this mall is seemingly endless, which is why it’s a good idea to download its free Plaza app before you visit. This handy guide helps visitors navigate the mall’s incredible variety and get the most out of their visit.
- Mall of San Juan:For high-end retail in Puerto Rico, the newly built Mall of San Juan simply can’t be beat. Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue both have a home here, as well as classic designers like Bulgari, Carolina Herrera, Coach, Jimmy Choo, Tiffany & Co., Pandora and Louis Vuitton. This state-of-the-art mall, which opened in 2015, also boasts hip-and-stylish shops like H&M, Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters, both much-beloved newcomers to the island’s trendy offerings. More than 60% of the center’s restaurants and retailers are unique-to-market.
- Old San Juan:Local flair abounds in historic Old San Juan. You’ll find artisans selling handcrafted Puerto Rican folk-art on its cobblestoned streets, and Puerto Rican Art & Crafts, which offers a wonderful selection of local art and original, hand-made items. The Poet’s Passage is another special spot — a “living museum of poetry and local art” that includes a cafe, live music and literary events like readings and signings. Don’t miss the legendary Olé, a specialty shop for expertly made hats, including the classic Panama style. With a history dating back to 1977, every hat sold at Olé is individually hand-fitted for every shopper, meaning a purchase made here is truly one of a kind.
- Calle Loíza: This bustling street in San Juan is rife with incredible restaurants and cocktail bars, but it’s also home to tons of specialty boutiques. The selection at the vintage store Len.T.juela is fun and exciting, while Shop Nude is ideal for sophisticated, beach-ready style. Just down the street you’ll find Mad Love, a contemporary women’s boutique with all the latest trends and must-have styles. The area is often referred to as hipster headquarters, and while it’s unprecedented level of cool certainly makes Calle Loíza deserving of that title, there’s truly something for everyone along this thriving mecca for distinctive shopping experiences.
- Plaza del Caribe: The southern city of Ponce’s shopping hub is Plaza del Caribe, a mall with more than 130 stores spanning cosmetics, fashion, accessories, cellphone companies and more. Plaza del Caribe offers the best in retail from companies hailing from all over the world, as well as exciting cultural events inside and in its elegant outdoor plaza. The plaza has hosted music concerts, children’s entertainment and art workshops, so be sure to check in on its events page for forthcoming events and festivities. While everyone loves receiving the typical shot glass or keyring as a vacation gift, there’s something special about items bought at local shops and boutiques. In Puerto Rico, there’s no shortage of extraordinary retail outlets — whether for souvenirs and gifts for friends and family or for your own collection, standout items from any of these destinations are another way of holding close the memories of your island vacation.
How to Enjoy San Juan in Three Days: This is the perfect pre- or post-cruise visit to San Juan…Puerto Rico’s capital city has it all: a storied history, world class restaurants, a thriving nightlife and pristine beaches. San Juan is an exciting city that will appeal to every breed of traveler, from those looking to spend their days lazing on a white sand beach to those wanting to dance the night away in a stylish salsa bar. Make the most of your stay in San Juan with a schedule that includes the best attractions and a few hidden gems as well.
There’s so much to do in San Juan that 72 hours may not be long enough to see it all. Extraordinary experiences are everywhere, and these are just a few of the remarkable options that will make for an unforgettable visit.
BACARDÍ The Rum Tasting Tour is $50 and includes:
- Tasting of five premium rums.
- Commemorative BACARDÍ Cup.
- BACARDÍ Welcome Cocktail for adults.
- Access to Bottle Your Own BACARDÍ
- Experience & Gift Shop
- Complimentary WiFi on property.
- Please note, you must be over the Legal Drinking Age to participate in this tour. This is a premium spirits experience. Children cannot accompany adults.
- Please arrive thirty minutes before your tour time to register and enjoy your Welcome Cocktail.
- The Rum Tasting Experience duration is approximately ninety minutes.
Fly Home…or Set Sail….This is an introduction to Puerto Rico for those who have limited time or just want a good taste of what the island offers. If you want to combine this tour with a cruise, that can be done; as well as it can be expanded to a longer tour. This tour features an exceptional experience in Puerto Rico. You’ll witness some of the most unique and colorful outdoor places, enjoy the cuisine as you “taste” Puerto Rico, tour a fort, attend a rum tour, and stay in a warmly welcoming boutique hotel.
Call TravelKatz – 352-277-7300 if Puerto Rico is on your list of places of interest. We’ll be happy to make this dream vacation a reality for you and your family or friends.
TravelKatz will handle all aspects of your dream Puerto Rico Vacation Package.
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