Difference between revisions of "Puerto Rico"
Revision as of 17:13, 10 August 2005
Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island that is a territory of the United States of America. Located in the Caribbean Sea to the east of the Dominican Republic and west of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico lies on a key shipping lane to the Panama Canal - the Mona Passage.
Rincon Rincon is a town located on the west coast of the island between Aguadilla and Mayaguez, looking out over the Mona Passage towards tiny, uninhabited Isla Desecheo. There is a moderately well established tourist/hospitality business around the edges of the town, along the 413 highway and down along the coast. Downtown Rincon is about 5 minutes away from many beaches which enjoy surfable waves throughout the winter months, on both the north-facing and west-facing coasts. Check the swells at Wet Sand or WannaSurf before you head out (Rincon isn't clearly marked on that map, but it's southwest of Aguadilla, at the point on the west coast). The community is composed of local Puerto Ricans with a smattering of Americans who came to surf the legendary waves after they were popularized when the world surfing championships were hosted there in 1968. The hotels generally have less than 20 rooms. Some have pools and restaurants/bars, and none of them are more than 5 minutes away from a beach.
Coming to Rincon is not a Disneyworld experience, and might be difficult or frustrating for people travelling with small children. There isn't a whole lot to do here except surf or hang out on the beach. Locals are friendly to tourists, but it can be very helpful to have a command of conversational Spanish. It will be necessary to rent a car to get to Rincon, and once you are in Rincon, you will need a car to get to restaurants/ bars/ surf shops/ beaches, as there are no sidewalks next to the steep, narrow roads that connect downtown with the surf breaks. It is possible to rent rooms in a hotel or a private house that is right on the beach, but at some point you will probably need to drive somewhere and there don't seem to be any local ground transportation services.
The bars conveniently stagger their happy-hour events, so that you can go to Nativo at 5 on Monday night, and when their happy hour ends at 7, you can head on down to tamboo and keep drinking until they kick you out.
Tropical marine, mild; little seasonal temperature variation
Mostly mountains, with coastal plain belt in north; mountains precipitous to sea on west coast; sandy beaches along most coastal areas. Many small rivers and high central mountains ensure land is well watered; south coast relatively dry; fertile coastal plain belt in north.
Populated for centuries by aboriginal peoples, the island was claimed by the Spanish Crown in 1493 following Columbus' second voyage to the Americas. In 1898, after 400 years of colonial rule that saw the indigenous population nearly exterminated and African slave labor introduced, Puerto Rico was ceded to the US as a result of the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans were granted US citizenship in 1917 and popularly elected governors have served since 1948. In 1952, a constitution was enacted providing for internal self-government. In plebiscites held in 1967, 1993, and 1998 voters chose to retain U.S. commonwealth status, rather than become the 51st state of the United States of America.
Getting to Puerto Rico almost always means flying to San Juan's Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU). The gleaming white terminal located just east of San Juan is ranked 34th among passenger airports in the United States. U.S. Immigration and Customs Laws and Regulations apply. U.S. citizens flying between the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico do not need to pass through Immigration nor Customs. It is almost exactly the same as flying from N.Y. to Atlanta or Chicago... except you can't shop duty-free in Chicago before flying back to New York.
Most U.S. and many international airlines offer direct flights to Puerto Rico, and making connecting flights is easy. SJU is one of the largest airports in the Caribbean and is a popular place for hopping over to the U.S. Virgin Islands and other Caribbean destinations.
Transferring from the airport to your hotel usually requires taking a taxi, although some hotels provide complimentary transportation to their properties in special buses. Puerto Rico Tourism Company representatives at the airport will assist you in finding the right transportation. Major car rental agencies are located at the airport, and others offer free transportation to their off-airport sites.
Duty Free One of the interesting facts about Puerto Rico that might not be emphasized enough in travel guidebooks is that even though it is nominally governed by the United States, there are no federal taxes or import duties paid on on commodities like gasoline (about $0.50/liter for 87 octane in San Juan, as of 4/27/05) or rum. This might be an important consideration when planning how much empty luggage to bring, as a 750ml bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label costs only $120 in the duty-free airport shop vs. $200+ on the mainland. Bacardi liquor brands are very inexpensive as well- paying $8.00 for a 750ml bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin can be something of a shock, after paying $9.00 for a single 4oz martini of the same booze at La Guardia only 4 hours earlier. A 750ml bottle of DonQ Crystal (the local favorite) is only $10.00- bring one home with you.
From Latin America
Although there is no regular passenger service to Puerto Rico by sea, more than a million passengers visit the island on cruise ships every year, whether on one of the many cruise lines whose homeport is San Juan, or on one of the visiting lines.
Unless you are staying in one of the casino hotels in San Juan, or you have friends or family to provide transportation, you will need to rent a car. Make sure to get one with air conditioning. Don't give in to the temptation to rent a large vehicle like a Chrysler 300- small towns have narrow roads, and people tend to park in creative ways. If you leave San Juan, you will park on the shoulder, and you will need to pull on the shoulder to get around people, and you will hit some enormous potholes that you just didn't see in time. Check the car for scratches and dents when you rent it- and the LDW is probably a good investment as PR drivers are very aggressive. Some rental companies offer Jeep Wranglers or larger SUVs, but our feeling is that the best car for rural areas (and surf trips) is probably the Honda Element. Most rental companies stock Neons and Echos, and there are a lot of PT cruisers- these cars are all useless for transporting surfboards on the inside. The Element is nice because you can actually remove some of the rear seats so that even 9-foot long surfboards can go inside the car.
For some reason, many people have rapidly-flashing strobe lights on their vehicles. Every police car or SUV we saw had its blue light bar continuously illuminated any time they were in motion. Same goes for ambulances, but their light bars are red and orange (as well as sometimes blue). Most garbage trucks have orange or white strobes. In addition to the vehicles which are obviously operating in some public service capacity, there are many people who just seem to... like... having lots of flashing lights on their cars. We saw purple strobes behind the windshield and under the rear bumper. We saw bright yellow synchronized lights flashing on both sides. We saw red and blue flashing lights on beat-up Toyota Tercels (a local favorite, but NOT a police vehicle) hidden inside the grill. The ubiquitous flashing lights can be very distracting at first, but you get used to it after seeing it for a couple of days. It's not at all clear what the police do when they actually want to pull someone over, because they already have their lights on all the time. We managed to avoid getting pulled over, so we never found out.
From the very first onramp, it is clear that Puerto Rico is an island where Rims Matter. Forget all of your stereotypes about lowriders or 1950's era Chevy Impalas. I'm not saying that people will laugh at your rental car because you don't have big chrome spinners- I'm just suggesting that you would get a lot more respect if you did. Rims Matter even more than flashing strobe lights.
There is one toll road on Puerto Rico, (the 22) that runs west from San Juan towards Aguadilla, and then dead-ends into the 2 about 10 miles west of Arecibo. There are about 5 toll plazas between the airport and the last intersection with the 2, with tolls for a 2-axle car between $0.50 and $1.00. The lanes on the left are reserved for people with RFID toll passes, which you probably won't have on your rental car. If you need change, head for the lanes marked with a "C," usually the furthest to the right.
Learn about the different character of Puerto Rico's favorite Beaches, or find out where to participate in your favorite Sports. The hardest part will be choosing what to do first.
Blue Flag in Puerto Rico
The blue Flag Program, initiated in Europe since 1987 has been modified for implementation in the Caribbean. It is voluntary program and it has proven along the years to be a very effective strategy to guarantee the best quality in beach services for bathers in different parts of the world.
... Puerto Rico's Caribbean coasts. Spectacular wall diving offshore Guánica, or the cayos of the Spanish Virgin Islands of Culebra & Vieques. PADI 5 star Instruction.
Languages: Spanish in the native language for most Puerto Ricans. English is common in tourist areas and at military/federal government offices and facilities. All major hotels will have bilingual staff, and can arrange English or Spanish guided tours to various island attractions. If you decide to rent a car and explore the less-traveled areas of the island, expect that most will not be fluent in English.
Communincations: Most visitors from the mainland United States do not think to bring their cell phones with them. Puerto Rico uses the same area code system as the rest of North America, and cell phone coverage is excellent over much of the island.
Plaza Las Americas
Category: Department Stores & Shopping CentersOpen Hours: 9am-9pm Mon-Sat; 11am-5pm SunPhone: +1 787 767 1525
Old San Juan
It is the home to many art galleries that specialize in painting and sculptures from local artists. Also widely available are local crafts that include hand-carved, wooden religious figures, festival masks made from coconut husks or papier-mâché, hand-embroidered linens, blouses and dresses, Spanish-style jewelry of copper, gold and silver, handbags, hammocks, baskets, ceramics, and many items made from mahogany.
On Calle Marina in Old San Juan, opposite Pier 3, is the Plazoleta del Puerto, a great collection of shops specializing in local island crafts.
Puerto Rico is obviously famous for its rum and rum drinks. You can buy Don Q Rum, pineapple juice, and Coco Lopez Pina Colada mix at almost every convenience store, panaderiea, and grocery in the country. Beer is a different story- most stores stock a locally-produced beer called Medalla, or its friendly sister Medalla Light- but where a beer snob from the mainland might turn up his nose at a Budweiser and order an Anchor Steam or a Sierra Nevada, the Puerto Rican beer snob orders Coors Light. It's kind of funny the first time you see it. Other beer options for the discriminating drinker include Presidente, a beer from nearby Dominican Republic, and Beck's. The Beck's imported to Puerto Rico and the rest of the Caribbean is a different brew from the one that makes it to the mainland US, and is infinitely better. Presidente is a light pilsner beer, favored primarily because it comes in 12-oz bottles rather than the 10-oz cans that Medalla and Coors Light are supplied in.
Puerto Rico is open for business. Companies operating on the Island enjoy the pro-business atmosphere that provides financing for business, state-of-the-art infrastructure and a dedicated and low cost labor force.
The Commonwealth uses its financial independence to provide lucrative tax incentives, has instituted a centralized and simplified permitting process for new construction and has taken concrete steps to assure protection from petroleum price hikes.
Puerto Rico is also building a world class, state-of-the-art convention center that will include meeting spaces, gourmet restaurants and 102,000 square feet of public areas and be located in the heart of San Juan's tourist center.
The Commonwealth's new Port of the Americas will be a trans-shipment center for the Caribbean and South America. And the new Techo-Economic Corridor will integrate the technical resources from the public and private sectors, as well as Academia.
Crime is on the increase and is mostly linked to drugs trafficking. Car theft is a common occurrence so remember to lock your car and set the alarm. If you have a rental, and you're in a rural area, it is sometimes more practical to just remove your valuables from the car and leave it unlocked. A safer though tiring option is to use the public transport system, when one exists.
San Juan is not a safe area to venture out at night. Women travellers should take extra care and always move around in a group and steer clear of Condado beach at night. A number of thefts take place on beaches, even in daytime. So it’s advisable not to leave your belongings lying around.
Sunburn and mosquitoes are the worst threat to your health so carry sunscreen lotion and mosquito repellent. The threat of contracting Hepatitis A is low but it’s better to be careful and it’s recommended to take the necessary shot before leaving home. Fresh water lakes and streams are often polluted so avoid going in for a dip. It’s safe to drink tap water though if you’re venturing into the rural areas, carry bottled water.
Medical facilities are easily available especially in and around San Juan. There are a number of government as well as private hospitals. However, health services are fairly expensive.