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
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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!