“Puerto Rico: Scented by slow roasted pork and sea breezes, and coloured by swashbuckling history: this sun-washed medley of Spanish and American influences is a paradise-seeker’s pleasure dome.” Lonely Planet – Puerto Rico.
Old San Juan is a colourful kaleidoscope of life, music, legend and history. It’s an unmissable sight, the crown jewel of Puerto Rico. From the blue-toned, cobblestoned streets to 400-plus historically listed buildings to the stunning ocean views, the visual treats seem boundless.
The best place to base yourself is Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan). Accommodation wise, you don’t get much for your buck here – but this is more than made up for by the sights, sounds, and smells of this incredible location.
As you approach Arecibo, in the crawl of traffic, it’s hard to imagine that this sprawling municipality of nearly 100,000 people is Puerto Rico’s third-oldest city (founded in 1556). The major attractions lay outside of town. The colosal Birth of the New World Monument represents the explorer Christopher Columbus sailing for the Americas. Other spectacular sights include the the world’s largest radio telescope, the Observatorio de Arecibo – as featured in the James Bond movie – The world is not enough. Also very much worth a visit is Cueva del Indio where impressive cave formations have been chiselled and hollowed out by the elements.
Strolling around the sparkling fountains and narrow architecturally ornamented streets of the historic centre certainly evokes Puerto Rico’s stately past. Unfortunately the neighbourhoods that surround the central square exhibit woeful characteristics of Puerto Rico’s present: irreducible snarls of congested traffic, economic stagnation and urban sprawl. However, if you stick to the centre with its outstanding colonial architecture and the dozen or so excellent museums you only need to experience Ponce’s elegant side.