The island of Puerto Rico has seen a harrowing few weeks recently, with the massive hurricanes of Irma and Maria hitting the territory in full force. However, despite the recent devastation, the island territory remains one of our country’s most scenic and beautiful destinations. While you may still have to wait a few months to plan your Puerto Rico vacation, we wanted to take the time to appreciate a few of the island’s most treasured and popular sights and locales.
Inland Puerto Rico is home to El Yunque National Forest, a vast expanse of protected tropical rainforest with a staggering number of hiking trails and hidden sights. The sprawling area covers a vast amount of ground, and includes individual attractions like mountains, rivers, and waterfalls. Mount Britton rises in the center of the forest, providing excellent sights across the expanse of green that rolls out toward the horizon. Other areas like Coco Falls and Mina Falls provide that quintessential Caribbean waterfall experience. El Yunque is also home to thousands of species of wildlife, including the tiny coquí, one of Puerto Rico’s most recognizable animals.
San Juan, the territory’s capital, enjoys a rich history that dates back to the 16th century. The area of town boasts a vibrant culture that’s complimented by colorful buildings and narrow streets, transporting you to a truly unique vacation getaway. The forts of San Juan, such as El Morro and Castillo de San Cristobal will allow you to walk ancient ramparts that tower over the city. Fortaleza Street features some of the best dining in the city, while the promenade of Paseo la Princesa will allow you to experience some of the city’s finest sights and sounds. Of course, the vibrant nightlife filled with salsa dancing and discos is not far away, either.
While Old San Juan and the beaches of the island tend to top many lists of things to do in Puerto Rico, you simply cannot pass up the chance to visit Bioluminescent Bay. Located in the lagoons of Vieques Island, the tiny dinoflagellates that live in the water give off a colorful burst of blue when agitated, leading to a truly magnificent sight. Visit at night to get the full effect, as the murky depths of the lagoon light up in brilliant flashes of light below the surface for the perfect photo-op.
Puerto Rico’s designated beach town, Rincon is located on the western shore of the island. Popular for its stark-white Caribbean beaches and unbeatable surf, the location is popular among beach bums and surfers alike. Spend your days walking the endless beaches at twilight to catch a glimmering sunset, or try your skills at surfing in the warm ocean waters. Choose simply to relax with an authentic piña colada or dine in at great eateries like Mangia Mia or La Cambija.
One of the best Puerto Rico destinations, Playa Mar Chiquita is located on the north coast of the island, tucked away in a quiet location north of El Alto. Sheltered by coral formations, the tiny cove enjoys a calm surf and abundance of sea life off its yellow shores, allowing visitors to fully enjoy the beauty of their surroundings. The waves break against the coral, resulting in stunning shoots of sea spray that make for a special photo opportunity that will undoubtedly be Instagram-worthy. Be sure to make time for this special location on your next Puerto Rico vacation.
Puerto Rico faces a long road of recovery. Nearly 3.5 million American citizens remain without electricity, internet access, or any means to communicate with family and friends on the mainland. Many communities around the island face an imminent humanitarian crisis as supplies slowly trickle into heavily affected towns and cities. Hospitals remain without power, and food and water can be scarce, if available at all. It is not too late to donate what you can to relief efforts to help get Puerto Rico back up and running. Visit organizations like the American Red Cross to give money or blood. Other organizations, like Salvation Army, GoFundMe, or even the Humane Society of Puerto Rico, will accept whatever you can give to help the relief efforts in Puerto Rico so all of us can continue to enjoy some of the special destinations listed above.