Tourist Attractions in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico offers old world charm with modern conveniences, and a little slice of America in the Caribbean. Historic buildings, beautiful beaches, lush rainforest, and unique natural phenomenon are some of the main attractions that draw tourists to this tropical destination. The capital city of San Juan is a good place to start but there is much more to see beyond the city limits.
San Juan, a major cruise ship port of call in the Caribbean, is one of Puerto Rico's greatest treasures. The historic section known as Old San Juan is a treasure trove of Spanish colonial buildings dating back some 500 years, making it the second oldest city in the Americas. The entire area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Guarding the harbor is the 16th C Fuerta San Felipe del Morro, also simply called El Morro, which is one of the main tourist attractions. From this well preserved fort there are amazing views along the coast back toward San Juan, and out over the sea. Also set along the harbor is the Fortaleza, built in 1540, and known for being the oldest governor's mansion still in use. There are literally hundreds of historic buildings in the city, many well restored, making it easy to spend a day wandering the old stone streets or enjoying a meal at one of the outdoor patios.
Puerto Rico is a big island and there are several interesting cities, towns, beaches, and other attractions worth visiting. One of the most popular excursions, which can be done as a day trip from San Juan, is a visit to El Yunque National Forest in the interior, with walking trails and impressive waterfalls. Not far from El Yunque, in the northeast corner of Puerto Rico, is the beach town of Luquillo with a beautiful stretch of golden sand beach. A little further east is the town of Fajardo, a jumping off point for people who want to take a ferry to the islands of Culebra and Vieques. Both of these are known for their fabulous beaches and relaxed atmosphere. Vieques is also home to Bioluminescent Bay, where at night the water is lit with luminescent dynoflagellates, tiny micro-organisms that glow in the dark.
Along the South Coast is Ponce, the second largest city in Puerto Rico. It is far less tourist oriented than San Juan and much quieter, offering a more authentic experience than San Juan. The historic center has many interesting old buildings, several from the 1600s. Also located on the South Coast is the fishing town of Parguera where visitors can take a night tour, either by motor boat or by kayak, to see Phosphorescent Bay, another area of Puerto Rico with luminescent dynoflagellates.
On the rugged West Coast is Rincón, a popular surfing town with many Americans living in the area. The beaches here are known for their waves that attract surfers from all over the world. In winter this is also a good spot for whale watching. Between Rincón and San Juan is the unique landscape of Karst Country, with hills, caves, and canyons. There are walking trails in the Bosque Estatal de Guajataca, northeast of Rincón. Further east along the coast is Arecibo, home to the Arecibo Radio Telescope, with a huge dish set in a giant sinkhole.