If I Were A Snowbird… Winter In Puerto Rico

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snowbird-vectorIt’s that time of year.  Summer is almost over and many Americans (especially those living in the northern states) are deciding where they’re going to spend the crudest winter months.  They’re called “snowbirds”, because they migrate south during the winter months.  Some have second homes in Florida.  But after a while the amusement parks and golf courses all start to look the same and you’re left with gated communities and swimming pools.  Boring!

So how about the Caribbean?  Many people think of the islands southeast of the Florida coast and their imagination runs wild with images of tropical landscapes, warm breezy days and cool exotic beverages by the beach.  Wow, what a way to spend the winter!

Fort San cristobal, the largest Spanish fort in the New World. Click on the image to see it larger.

Fort San cristobal, the largest Spanish fort in the New World. Click on the image to see it larger.

But which Island is best?  Well, if you’re looking for everything in one place, then  there’s only one answer: Puerto Rico!  Puerto Rico has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.  The average yearly temperature is 86 degrees.  And, to top it all off, it has some of the most varied cuisine in the world, Spanish forts (the largest and oldest in America), a 114 square kilometer rainforest, huge caverns, the longest zip line in the world, bioluminescent bays (3 of them), beautiful golf courses, water sports galore and a nightlife that rivals the largest capitals in the world.  Oh, and did I mention that the Island is a U.S. territory?

Fort San Felipe del Morro, guarding the entrance to San Juan Bay since 1539. Click on image to see it larger.

Fort San Felipe del Morro, guarding the entrance to San Juan Bay since 1539. Click on image to see it larger.

That’s right!  Puerto Rico has all that and more!  And since the Island is a U.S. territory you can hop on a plane and be here in a matter of hours; no passport… no visa… easy!  But that’s not all.  Since you’ll actually be on U.S. soil you’ll enjoy all the liberties and protections of the U.S. Constitution.

But there’s more!  Many Puerto Rican’s speak fluent English.  Others do OK.  That means no language barrier.

Then there’s the food.  Most American restaurant chains have a presence in Puerto Rico.  But that’s not why you’re going to travel thousands of miles.  Right?  You’ll want to sample the local cuisine.  And when it comes to food Puerto Rico is heaven on earth.  You’ll want to try local dishes like “arroz con habichuelas con empanada y amarillos”, or “mofongo con camarones”, or “verduras con bacalao”, or “carne frita con tostones de pana”, or “pescao con arepas”.  I won’t tell you what any of those dishes are.  You’re just going to have to trust me.  So go ahead, be adventurous and ask for them, and you’ll remember for the rest of your life.  And if you really want to experience the ultimate Puerto Rican cuisine try the more daring “nuvo caribbean cuisine” dishes at the Island’s poshest restaurants.  Mmmm!

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And what about the drinks?  OMG!  You’ll love the world famous “Piña Colada”, but there are dozens of other local concoctions made with rum, exotic liquors and tropical fruit that will blow your mind.

San Juan Cathedral. Click on image to see it larger.

San Juan Cathedral. Click on image to see it larger.

Old San Juan alone will take you several days to explore.  That is, if you would really like to see its many art galleries, historic churches, museums and Spanish fortifications.  The entire city is like a giant history lesson going back more than 500 years.

Then it’s out to “la Isla”.  That’s what the locals call any place outside of the San Juan Metroplex.  In English it means “the Island”, which makes no sense because all of Puerto Rico should be “the Island”.  But hey, it is what it is.  Just follow along and have fun!

The Caribbean has dozens of beautiful beaches and you’ll find most of them right here in Puerto Rico.  The main Island alone has beauties like Seven Seas, “Balneario La Monserrate” (Luquillo Beach), “Balneario De Carolina”, “Punta Salina”, “Mar Chiquita”, “Crash Boat”, “Boquerón” and “Playa Sucia”, to name just a few.  So if you’re a beach lover like me you’re in for a treat.

El Yunque NAtional Rainforest. Click on image to see it larger

El Yunque NAtional Rainforest. Click on image to see it larger.

But, like they say on TV, “there’s more”.  Just 25 miles to the east of the San Juan Metroplex is El Yunque National Rainforest, the only subtropical rainforest in the U.S. National Park System.  This is a place like no other on earth and it’s the perfect place to spend a day exploring nature at its best.

Oh, and now that I mention “nature at its best”, don’t miss the “Cabezas de San Juan” Nature Reserve just 10 or 12 more miles to the east of “El Yunque” in the municipality of Fajardo.  You’ll need to make reservations for this one, but believe me, it’s well worth the trouble.  Check out our separate post for more information.

And what if you head west of San Juan?  Well, there are several of the beaches that I mentioned above before you reach the municipality of Arecibo.  Once you reach Arecibo you’ll have several places to see: like “Cueva La Ventana” almost on the frontier with the municipality of Utuado, the Arecibo Radio-Telescope Observatory (the largest in the world), the Camuy River Caverns (absolutely stunning) and “La Cueva Del Indio” on the Arecibo Atlantic coast.  Each one of these places has its natural beauty and its perils so be sure to read more about them on this site before visiting them.

Clueva La Ventana. Click on image to see it larger.

Clueva La Ventana. Click on image to see it larger.

West of Arecibo it’s mostly wonderful beaches, great local cuisine and historic lighthouses built during Puerto Rico’s Spanish period.  For example, in the municipality of Aguadilla you’ll find the ruins of the old Spanish lighthouse that was destroyed during the 1918 earthquake.  A little to the southwest is the Rincón lighthouse where hundreds of people (both locals and visitors) gather during the months of February and March for a whale watching extravaganza.

Mayagüez Zoo. Click on image to see it larger.

Mayagüez Zoo. Click on image to see it larger.

If zoos are your thing there’s a wonderful (albeit small) zoo in the Municipality of Mayagüez.  And, finally, we reach the municipality of Cabo Rojo where you’ll find two of the most beautiful beaches on the Island: “Boquerón” and “Playa Sucia”.  The former is a blue flag beach and the later is exactly the way god made it: wonderful and wild!

Now, this post is getting rather long and we’ve barely scratched the surface.  There are entire towns that you’ll want to explore like San Germán, Lajas, Guánica, Ponce, Salinas, Patillas and Yabucoa on the south and Lares, Utuado, Aibonito and Caguas in the mountainous region.  Each one has its own charm, its own culinary specialties and hundreds of interesting places to see and explore. Many of them are covered in Puerto Rico By GPS and the rest will be covered in the near future.

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I have a friend from Tennessee who came to Puerto Rico for the first time about five years ago and now he comes here every February for 2 to 3 weeks.  And Tennessee isn’t half as cold as Montana or North Dakota or even Massachusetts or New York.  Once you spend a couple of weeks in Puerto Rico you’ll think twice before returning to your snowy neck of the woods.

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So go ahead, explore Puerto Rico By GPS at your leisure.  See all the fun things you can do in Puerto Rico and make your reservations today.  There are even a banners for “Hotels.com” and “Booking.com” at the upper right corner of every page in case you’d like to start there.

Make this winter a “warm winter”.

Enjoy Puerto Rico.

©2014,Orlando Mergal, MA
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Bilingual Content Creator, Blogger, Podcaster,
Author, Photographer and New Media Expert
Tel. 787-750-0000, Mobile 787-306-1590

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means that if you click on a link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services that I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”