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I Like To Be In Puerto Rico…

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico - you ugly island!
Island of tropic diseases.
Always the hurricanes blowing,
Always the population growing . . .

So sing the Puerto Rican immigrants to New York in Leonard Bernstein’s hit musical West Side Story. Those lyrics come from the introduction to the song ‘America’, in which the Puerto Ricans complain that however awful their Manhattan slum may be, things aren’t as bad as they were back home.

A lot has changed. Puerto Rico, and its capital San Juan, must seem liked different places to former 1950s immigrants who make the journey back to their home island. Prosperity from tourism and other industries has made the island one of the most prosperous in the Caribbean: US protection has ensured the steady growth of the local economy and a stable political climate.

Culebra Beach in Puerto Rico Which makes Puerto Rico a great cruise destination! Many Caribbean cruises make at least one stop on the island, usually putting into the harbor of San Juan itself. It’s an island of variety and surprises, from the crazy nightlife of the capital to the unspoilt and quiet beaches of the secluded western coast.

Entrance to one of the most amazing beaches
in the world - Culebra, off the eastern coast of
Puert Rico

For Puerto Rico is an island of beaches. There is a huge variety available, from the full-on Copacabana haven of hedonism to warm, lush strands that seem like a remote tropical paradise. If your time ashore is only short, you probably won’t want to stray too far from San Juan itself – in which case the beach you’ll find yourself heading for will be Isla Verde. It’s the ‘local beach’ of the capital city, and it’s where San Juan residents tend to congregate and hang out when they feel the need to relax. Don’t be put off by the prospect of crowds, though; Isla Verde is immensely long. Although much of the shoreline is dominated by luxury resorts and hotels, you shouldn’t have too many problems finding a quiet spot in which to nap for an hour or two.

If your cruise itinerary allows you a little more time, and you are traveling with your family, you should consider visiting the beach of Caña Gorda. It’s the main beach of the town of Guanica on the south-west coast of Puerto Rico. Many native Puerto Ricans have holiday homes in this area, and it is recognized as a tranquil and easygoing spot that is ideal for families.

Streets of Old San Juan Of course, there’s far more to Puerto Rico than fantastic beaches. If you’ve had enough of lounging around on your cruise ship and you feel like doing something a little more adventurous or active, the island presents a huge range of opportunities for sports and outdoor activities. Horses have always been integral to the Puerto Rican way of life, and an afternoon spent on horseback can be very rewarding indeed. The island is famous for producing the Paso Fino horse, well-known for its gentle and even temperament. There are plenty of trails and quiet beaches along which to ride. Don’t worry if you’re an absolute beginner – the island has an abundance of riding instructors! For the best deals, speak to your cruise line or call around some of the major San Juan hotels. Most riding trips are brokered through them, and they will know the most reputable and reasonably-priced venues.

San Juan National Cemetery San Juan itself is a great city. It’s a bustling tourist hub today, of course, but it is also a place steeped in history. Puerto Rico was a Spanish dominion until the end of the nineteenth century, when it was ceded to the US as part of the peace deal that concluded the Spanish-American war. The best place to start looking around the old city is at La Casita, in the Plaza de la Darsena. It’s a quaint old Spanish building which these days houses a tourist information center. On Saturdays the plaza is also home to a local craft market which adjusts its opening times to fit in with the schedules of cruise ships that are in the city harbor.

El Morro Fortress in San Juan Among the other sites worth looking at are the old city walls. Puerto Rico was an outpost of the Spanish Empire until the end of the nineteenth century, and San Juan’s city defenses were continuously upgraded as the US became the dominant political and military power in the Caribbean. The walls, which were made immensely thick to survive bombardments from naval cannon, were completed at the end of the eighteenth century. Many portions of this imposing structure – along with a number of Spanish forts – still survive, dominating and encircling the old town.

Whether you’re after relaxation, adventure of self-improvement, Puerto Rico is the perfect destination for cruisers who seek variety and the luxury of a tropical island paradise so close to home!

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