Puerto Rico: Island of Enchantment

Puerto Rico is the best of two worlds! As a Caribbean island it is the smallest of the Greater Antilles yet it’s part of the United States so you don’t need a passport to visit. Located in the northeastern Caribbean, Puerto Rico is just a two-hour flight from Miami. The Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport is in Isla Verde nine miles from San Juan and the short cab or shuttle ride to the city is lined with modern hotels in a lush tropical setting.

Puerto Rico is about the size of Rhode Island and boasts the oldest city in US territory, San Juan, founded in the 1500’s by Ponce de León. The island was home to baseball player and humanitarian, Roberto Clemente, who was the first Puerto Rican named to baseball’s Hall of Fame. Yet San Juan itself is full of modern beachfront hotels that often include casinos if you like to gamble. The affordably-priced four-diamond San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino offers discounts for AAA members as well as government and military members and you can get the best lunch and breakfast buffet in town at it’s La Vista restaurant. If you have to get some work done or need to keep in touch via the Internet the hotel’s public areas, meeting, and guest rooms have Wi-Fi access for a small fee. You can plug your laptop into any outlet, since Puerto Rico uses the same 110-volt currency as the rest of the USA.

Old San Juan offers a rich visual experience, where narrow cobble stone streets are lined with 16th century buildings and churches and colorfully painted 200-year old homes with wrought iron balconies. It is one of the two barrios of San Juan and located on a small island connected to the mainland by bridges and a causeway. When driving you almost won’t know you’ve arrived Viejo San Juan until you see the explosion of colors of the historic buildings. A leisurely foot tour is the best way to experience this bit of the Old World, especially given the narrow, steep streets and sometimes heavy traffic.

Old San Juan has several plazas including Plaza de San José that is a favorite meeting place and in its center stands a bronze statue of Ponce de León, made from British cannons captured in 1797. The temperature in Puerto Rico is perfect year-round. Expect it to be 83 degrees in winter and 85 degrees in summer! When you go shopping, the official currency is the US dollar so there’s no need to convert your cash into foreign currency.To do justice to all of these wonderful sites in Old San Juan, plan to spend two mornings or even a full day.

Author: Joe Farace

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