Aeropuerto Luis Muñoz Marín Carolina, PR

Year Established: 1955

Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is located in the municipality of Carolina about 15 minutes from Old San Juan and the neighboring tourist destinations of Condado and Isla Verde. Serving over 10 million passengers per year from 60 domestic and international destinations, the airport is the biggest and busiest in the Caribbean. Opened on May 2, 1955 it was renamed 30 years later in honor of Puerto Rico’s first democratically elected governor, Luis Muñoz Marín.

The Main terminal, used by most carriers, includes concourses A, B, and C. Concourses D and E are housed in the American Airlines Terminal which handles over 50% of domestic flights. Passengers depart the island through the upper level which includes a varied selection of clothing, souvenir, and duty-free shops. Several amenities – including an Admiral’s Lounge, bank, hotel, and barbershop – as well as major restaurant chains are located throughout. Arriving visitors exit through the lower level where taxis and shuttles are plentiful and can take you to your destination in no time.plentiful and can take you to your destination in no time.


San Juan, PR - The Walled City
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San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, serves as tourist mecca, seat of government, relic of colonial strife and progress, magnet of nightlife, patron of the arts, sunny beach paradise, rich port, and so on… But it is perhaps its role as a bona fide international city that makes it such a singular location in the island. San Juan does not gobble up local culture as much as keep it in flux with its gallery exhibits, film festivals, just-off-the-cruise-ship “turistas,” rock concerts, fusion cuisine… you name it.
One of the more frequented areas is Old San Juan, from which the municipality grew. Right on the coast, along the bay, is where this “walled city” lies, with its cobblestone streets lined by colorful buildings still flaunting their distinctive colonial architecture. Most of the fortifications -which protected San Juan from countless, sometimes-successful attacks- are still there too.
Go sit on the inactive cannons at either the San Cristóbal or the San Felipe del Morro forts. El Morro, as locals call it, can be accessed from a long pathway cutting across a vast green area popular for picnics, strolling, and kite-flying. The views of the breaking waves along the turquoise coastline are breathtaking on bright and sunny days.
Many hotels have their own sectioned-off beaches, but San Juan’s public beaches can be lively and fun. Great places to mingle with locals include El Escambrón, Laguna Condado, or the semi-accessible Ocean Park. El Escambrón is closest to Old San Juan, while Laguna Condado is across the bay from Miramar on the mostly-upscale stretch known as Condado. Condado bleeds over into Ocean Park, followed by Isla Verde, which is actually part of the municipality of Carolina and where the Luis Muñoz Marín airport is located.
San Juan’s treasures are not just on the coast. During the early 16th century, Spanish conquistadors ventured further inland under the orders of Juan Ponce de León. Little of the past remains in the now highly-commercial area of Puerto Nuevo. The Puerto Nuevo settlement was actually abandoned for the much-preferred, harbor-side settlement known then as Puerto Rico. At the time, the island had been baptized under the name San Juan Bautista. Soon after, though, settlement and island names were switched. The busy Hato Rey area features the huge shopping mall Plaza Las Américas. This is also where La Milla de Oro, the “golden mile” of banking and business, offering the starkest contrast to Old San Juan with its tall, glass buildings.
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Fuerte San Felipe del Morro
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La Fortaleza
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Parque del Tercer Milenio & El Escambrón
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Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
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Paseo de la Princesa, Antigua Cárcel, and Raíces Fountain
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Fuerte San Cristóbal
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Ocean Park
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Avenida Ashford & La Ventana al Mar
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Ponce, PR - The Pearl of the South
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The municipality of Ponce is Puerto Rico’s southern jewel, known to locals as “La Perla del Sur.” This fact won’t be lost on tourists, who’ll surely find enchanted ponceños proudly list all their town has to offer. Ponce’s name gives away its Spanish roots: Juan Ponce De León’s great-grandson, also named Juan, founded the hamlet from which the city later sprung. Ponceños are not afraid of modernity, constantly keeping up with the times by developing hotels, casinos, and malls that attract tourists and locals from all over the island.
An abundance of buildings from different historical periods add a touch of color and prestige to every corner of this constantly-evolving metropolis. Most notable of the offbeat buildings are the Parque de Bombas, a red-and-black striped historic fire station, and the similarly-styled firemen’s houses at “25 de enero” Street. The firehouse was built in the town’s plaza in the Spanish architectural style of immigrants from Cataluña. The houses were built later, in appreciation of the volunteer-only firemen corps who helped put out the great fire of 1883.
Many influential and wealthy Puerto Ricans have called Ponce their home. The Serrallés Castle, now a museum open to visitors, used to house the Serrallés family, producers of the world-famous rum Don Q. The Serrallés distillery continues its operations to this day. There’s also the Ferré family, best known for their knack for public service: Luis A. Ferré was a beloved governor for many; Sor Isolina Ferré, a benevolent educator; Rosario Ferré, a celebrated writer. It was Don Luis who donated his art collection for what became one of the largest art museums in the Caribbean, the Ponce Art Museum, which opened its doors in 1959.
Stretching further back into the past is Tibes Ceremonial Center, where one can witness ongoing archeological research on the taínos and earlier inhabitants the igneri. Many mysteries await to be uncovered in this important site. The current inhabitants, however, have their own celebrations to keep them busy: Ponce’s own carnaval is the longest running one in Puerto Rico. It is celebrated in honor of the life and death of the sardine. It also features many of the island’s colorful traditions such as the African-influenced song-and-dance of the bomba y plena, as well as masked troublemakers known as vejigantes. Ponce’s daily nightlife, however, is more downbeat than San Juan’s, and consists of “hanging out” at places like the old town’s Plaza of Delights and the boardwalk known as La Guancha.
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Parque de Bombas de Ponce
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Museo Castillo Serrallés
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Hacienda Buena Vista
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Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Tibes
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La Cruceta del Vigía
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Río Grande, PR - City of El Yunque
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Río Grande bears the name of the river that runs through it, immortalized in a poem by Julia de Burgos. However, for many visitors to the northeast, the municipality serves as one of the major gateways to El Yunque National Forest.
El Yunque is the only rainforest in the United States national forest system and, as such, it is under the protection of the US Forest Service. Although the rainforest stretches out along many Eastern municipalities, close to half of El Yunque is located within Río Grande. Also, the town provides the most convenient entry point to the north, off the coastal highway. The winding road uphill leads drivers to El Portal, a welcome center with various exhibits and information about the rainforest’s inhabitants. Locals and tourists take delight in a short informative film narrated by actor Jimmy Smits (of Puerto Rican heritage and NYPD Blue fame) and screened in an air-conditioned theater.
Along the coastline Río Grande features some upscale accommodations for tourists, such as the Río Mar Beach Resort and Spa and Gran Meliá’s Paradisus Puerto Rico. These resorts tend to attract pro-golfers with their world-renowned, links-style courses. The Trump Organization recently announced plans to also develop upscale oceanfront housing, which would unfortunately continue to shrink public access to Río Grande’s coastal areas. Offering a bit of a contrast is The Río Grande Plantation Eco Resort, located on the foothills of the rainforest. This property did, in fact, operate as a sugar cane plantation from the 18th century to the 1940s.
Visitors to the downtown area will find the typical sights of the old Spanish plazas, such as the Nuestra Señora del Carmen church, which was built in 1846. There is also a poster museum which houses a collection of this treasured Puerto Rican art.
The clash between environmental protection and continued development for economic growth is evident in Río Grande. It is easier to spot the native species of Amazon parrots on a t-shirt or on the town’s coat of arms than flying across the sky. Luckily, El Yunque is where the taíno god of Good is said to reside, and it looms large over eastern Puerto Rico, a constant reminder of the benefits of preservation and protection.
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El Portal Rain Forest Center
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El Yunque National Forest
El Yunque National Forest is located in the Sierra de Luquillo Mountains, about 25 miles east of the San Juan area. A short ten-minute drive through the village of Palmer in Río Grande and up PR Road #191 will lead you to El Yunque. Covering over 28,000 acres of land, the forest derives its name from the Taíno word “Yuké” – meaning sacred or white lands. From its peaks, it offers visitors some of the most breathtaking vistas found in the Caribbean. Temperatures range from almost 80 degrees Fahrenheit on the lower parts of the forest to a cool 65 degrees in areas closer to 3,300 feet above sea level.

El Yunque’s biodiversity makes it unique among other forests in the United States National Forest System. Frequent rain showers generate close to 100 billion gallons of rainwater a year and conspire with Puerto Rico’s warm tropical climate to accommodate over 240 species of native trees, 50 species of orchids, and 150 species of ferns. Almost a third of the tree species are native to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and 10 percent of them are endemic to El Yunque and cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

The forest’s animal life is dominated by reptiles, amphibians, and birds, including the endangered ‘Higuaca’ or Puerto Rican Parrot. The forest attracts over a million visitors each year, who come to hike its more than 13 miles of trails while enjoying the lush scenery and fresh mountain air. Guided tours of these trails are available through the USDA Forest Service’s innovative “Forest Adventure Tours” and “Rent-A-Ranger” programs.

The core of El Yunque National Forest remains largely untouched to this day and has proven to be an exceptional asset to the world’s scientific community. It not only serves as a leading research site for numerous studies, but also provides a unique window to the past, when the original forest covered Puerto Rico in its entirety.

Arecibo, PR - Diamond of the North

The world’s largest single-dish radio telescope can be found in the municipality of Arecibo. Yes, the world’s largest… right in the middle of small Puerto Rico’s north coast. The Arecibo Observatory is part of what is officially known as the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC), operated by Cornell University and funded by the National Science Foundation.
The grounds of this observatory are open to visitors during limited hours, but photographs can’t do justice to the immensity of the telescope. Standing on the edge of the observation deck and peering down at the concave plate has been known to induce either vertigo or the hopes of making contact with extraterrestrial life.
But Arecibo was not famous for space exploration until the late 20th century. The town’s history actually stretches back several centuries. Founded in 1556, it was the third Spanish settlement on the island. It acquired the nickname “Villa del Capitán Correa,” after the valiant captain who fended off a (pre-rock’n’roll) marine British invasion in 1702. Along this same coast one can visit various beaches with very clear waters, although the area’s rugged rock formations can make for difficult access. There’s Playa Las Tunas, Playa Morrillo, and Playa Hatillo, among many others.
The Arecibo Lighthouse and Historical Park adds another dimension to one’s beachside adventure. It is considered one of the best designed and most informative historical attractions in the island. The area features dining, shopping, and a combination of educational activities for children. Various time periods and cultures are represented along the way: from the native taínos to the famous pirates, from Spanish colonization to the invasion by the United States in 1898 (when the lighthouse itself was completed).
There is almost too much to do in Arecibo, from exploring the Cueva del Indio Natural reserve to visiting the Art and History Museum. There are also more modern thrills to be had, like taking the kids to the Fun Valley Amusement Park or witnessing the Xtreme Divers Freefall Festival (slated for February). A new piece of public art, Nelly Toledo’s Infinity Playground in the Plaza Manuel Ledesma, exemplifies the spirit of Puerto Rico’s “Diamond of the North,” aware of its complex history while looking forward to what the future holds.
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Camuy, PR

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Spending time in caves full of bats might not be the first idea that comes to mind when one is planning a vacation in Puerto Rico. However, many people can’t envision a trip to the island without a stop at Las Cuevas de Camuy. This cave system, formed through natural erosion over the course of millions of years, runs along part of the Camuy River, one of the largest underground rivers in the world.
It turns out that Camuy owes much of its popularity to José A. Martínez Oquendo, a speleologist -that is, a person who studies caves- who first suggested that a public park be opened here to let the public experience this ecosystem. Inside the 268-acre park, the official name of which is Parque de las Cavernas del Río Camuy, visitors can descend via trolley down to two major landmarks: Clara Cave and Los Tres Pueblos sinkhole. The immensity of their dimensions puts nature in perspective in an island mostly thought of as “small.” Non-claustrophobic types seeking a more challenging experience can arrange an expedition with a tour company in order to venture into narrower parts of the caves closed off to the general public. The parks features a sculpture by Kansas-born sculptor Tom Otterness titled El Coquí Gigante, many times de size of this tiny frog (tiny, but a national symbol).
During Spanish rule Camuy’s economy was dependent on sugarcane. Some of its sugar mills were active through the later part of the 20th century. In 1985, Destilería Serrallés, Inc. -makers of popular rum Don Q— bought out various other brands and their distilleries around the island. Among these was Camuy’s own Palo Viejo rum distillery, now in ruins.
In downtown Camuy stands a neo-classical building from another era, El Antiguo Casino Camuyano. It used to be both a cultural and political center for the town, but as its current name suggests, its “antique” hallways are not in use anymore, nor are they open to the public. Still, as with all Puerto Rican towns, walking around town by foot can yield new insights into the island’s history – like stumbling upon La Iglesia de Piedra (the Church of Stone), built in 1912, or the Museo de Historia y Cultura de Camuy.
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