Saturday, July 16, 2011


(includes Culebra Island, San Juan & Vieques Island)


Sights & Sites
Arecibo Observatory – Route 625; 787-878-2612;; world’s largest and most sensitive radio-telescope.
Rio Camuy Cave Park – Route 129, km 18.9; 787-898-3100;; among largest cave systems in world; after introductory film, tram down trail to Cueva Clara; hour-long guided leads on foot through 180’ high cave, teeming with wildlife; likely to see blue-eyed river crams and long-legged tarantulas; more elusive are bats that don’t come out until dark but generate palpable heat at cave’s entrance; visit ends with tram ride to Tres Pueblos sinkhole, where can see 3rd longest underground river in world; arrive early on weekends.

Flamenco Beach – among Caribbean’s 6 top beaches; short taxi ride from ferry terminal; ferries depart from Fajardo, port town on Puerto Rico’s eastern coast.

Ritz-Carlton Dorado Beach – 100 Dorado Beach Road; 787-626-1100 or 800-836-3124;; on site of Laurance Rockefeller’s secluded 1950s beachfront estate.
Mi Casa – 100 Dorado Beach Road (at Ritz-Carlton Dorado Beach); 787-626-1100;; Jose Andres’ restaurant.

FAJARDO ADMINISTRATIVE DIVISION (includes Humacao & Palomino Island)
Cayo Diablo Marine Park – east coast; not 1 but several different sites; not all dive operators can always get there because need proper boats (Fajardo’s most remote reef but takes less than 20 minutes to reach by appropriate boat); coral garden; regular controlled current tends to lead barracuda and eagle rays from time to time; visibility often best in area.
Palomino Island – shallow dive; dolphins upon occasion.
Retreat – off Humacao; very peaceful because little current.
Rooms – off Humacao; mazelike, mini-canyon jumble with swim-through caves.
Sail Rock – midway between Culebra and St. Thomas; 2.5 hour boat ride from Fajardo but worth special trip; lonely pinnacle jutting from ocean; underwater vista is beautiful.
El Conquistador Resort – 1000 El Conquistador Avenue (Palomino Island); 787-863-1000 or 888-543-1282;
El Conquistador Resort Kayaking Excursions – 1000 El Conquistador Avenue; 787-863-1000 or 888-543-1282;; kayaking in Cabezas Nature Reserve through bioluminescent waters at night.
Sights & Sites
City Center – notable for brightly painted, colonial homes.
Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve – Route 987; 787-722-5882; comprised of 3 headlands that extend into Atlantic Ocean; encompasses 7 different ecosystems, including beaches, beaches, forests, and offshore coral reef; lighthouse; phosphorous waters at night in Laguna Grande.

Falling Rock – easy current.
Frankie’s Cave – 60' reef series; very good dive.
Hatches – southwestern coast; good access of “famed” wall, with soft corals and big barrel sponges; also morays, rays and sharks.

Lechonera La Ranchero – Road 173, km 6.0 (Hato Nuevo Ward, half hour outside San Juan); 787-790-9988; only good on weekends, when this sports bar serves lechon (Puerto Rican-style roast pig); be there by noon.

Sights & Sites
Museo el Cemi – Route 144 (near km 9.3); 787-828-4618 or 787-828-1241; Taino history museum.
La Piedra Escrita – huge, river-bound boulder covered with 86 prehistoric Taino petroglyphs; date to 600-1200 CE.

Luquillo Beach – near El Yunque National Forest.

Mona Island – rough, 40 mile (plus) crossing but worth it; caves, cliffs, and pristine beaches; considered Caribbean’s “Galapagos.”

Sights & Sites
Museo de Arte de Ponce – 2325 Avenida Las Americas; 787-848-0505;; 4.5K works by European painters such as Goya, Rubens, and Lord Frederic Leighton, as well as African, Caribbean, Latin American, and North American artists.
La Parguera Bay – Lajas (southwestern coast);; phosphorous waters at night; 45 minutes west of Ponce, 20 minutes from Guanica.

St. Regis Bahia Beach – Route 187, km 4.2 (Rio Grande); 787-809-8000;; 139-rooms; expensive; on 483 acres fronting undeveloped, 2 miles beach; inland views of El Yunque National Forest; Espiritu Santo River runs along property; has received Audubon International’s highest certification for environmentally conscious development; staff naturalists offer guided bird-watching tours; excellent restaurant.
El Yunque Gallery – Calle Principal 4 (Palmer); 787-888-2762;; art.
Sights & Sites
El Yunque National Forest – Rio Grande; 787-888-1880;; rainforest.

Horned Dorset Primavera – Apartado 1132; 787-823-4030;; lovely infinity pool.
Primavera – Apartado 1132; 787-823-4030;; part of Horned Dorset Primavera, Rincón’s most elegant resort; sophisticated restaurant; well-dressed patrons enjoy sunset cocktails on covered, seaside veranda; then up grand stairs and into marble-floored dining room, manned by small army dinner-jacketed waiters; French-influenced Caribbean dishes.
Sights & Sites
Desecheo Island – 45 minute boat ride; wild, no-man’s land with pompano, reefs, and sharks; Pesotas dive (in Mona Passage) is worth special trip.

SALINAS ADMINISTRATIVE DIVISION (includes Cayo Matias & Isla Caja de Muerto)
Shark Alley – reef is 8 miles offshore so great visibility; big southern rays.
Half Moon Reef – shallow reef dive.

Sights & Sites
Cayo Matias – minutes off shore from Salinas; popular spot for boaters to congregate and socialize.
Isla Caja de Muerto Nature Reserve – 14 miles off Salinas.

Bars & Nightclubs
El Blok – 158 Calle Flamboyan (Esperanza); 787-741-6020;; iconic inn by sea (bar & restaurant with rooms).
Club Tumby – Antigua Naval Base (Barrio Mosquito); 787-399-7142;; megadisco in former military bunker.
Lazy Jack’s – 61 Calle Orquideas (Esperanza); 787-741-1447;
Beaches & Islands
Cayo Afuera – off Esperanza; small scrub island with coral reef on eastern side.
Cayo de Tierra – small, wooded atoll off western edge Sun Bay (outside Esperanza); follow land-bridge; island good for hiking and manatees sometimes in shallow water surrounding.
Glass Beach – at Calle Regimientio 65 de la Infanteria’s end (Isabel Segunda); on Atlantic Ocean side; good for beachcombing.
Playa Negrita – outside Esperanza; black sand beach.
Red Beach – Playa Caracas; along wide cove on island’s Caribbean side; terrific snorkeling on eastern end clear water; crowded during day.
Sun Bay – Esperanza; white sand beach.
El Blok – 158 Calle Flamboyan (Esperanza); 787-741-6020;; iconic inn by sea (bar & restaurant with rooms); affordable, simple rooms with visual style like nowhere else; colored hidrolico tiles, exposed concrete, native woods, clean, spare, exciting spaces.
Hix Island House – Route 200; 787-741-2302;; situated on 13 acres of Vieques wilderness; 13 apartments spread out over 4 elegant buildings with terrific views and outdoor showers, kitchens, and large, shared pool.
Palm Cottages – Bravos de Boston (Isabel Segunda); 787-587-6673, 787-550-6913, or 787-741-1463;
W Retreat & Spa – Route 200; 787-741-4100;; restaurant by Alain Ducasse.
Bili Restaurante – 144 Calle Flamboyan (Esperanza); 787-741-1382; local food.
El Blok – 158 Calle Flamboyan (Esperanza); 787-741-6020;; iconic inn by sea (bar & restaurant with rooms).
Cantina La Reina – 351 Calle Antonio G. Mellado (Isabel Segunda); 787-741-2700;; cocktails, fresh air, and fresh seafood; rooftop patio has wonderful views.
Coconuts – 59 Calle Benitez Guzman (Isabel Segundo); 787-741-9325;; outdoor patio is lovely in evening.
Conuco – 110 Luis Munoz Rivera (Isabel Segundo); 787-741-2500;; authentic Puerto Rican food; in house elevated off street; pretty in evening.
Duffy’s – Malecon (Esperanza); 787-741-7600; Vieques’s best-loved casual beach shack, set right on malecón in beachfront Esperanza; perfect place to while away afternoon; owned by Mikey Duffy (whose father, Hugh, helms equally popular Chez Shack in more northerly Pilon; blue banquettes perpetually stuffed with hungry sunbathers, who come for upscale bar food – yummy crab cakes, veggie burgers, addictively good fried calamari – and hangover-destroying bloody mary’s.
Mix on Beach – Route 200 (at W Retreat & Spa); 787-741-4100;; restaurant by Alain Ducasse, though quality of service belies this.
Next Course – Route 201; 787-741-1028; wonderful atmosphere, cocktails, and dining.
Orquideas – 61 Orquideas Street (Esperanza); 787-741-1864;; half-block off malecon, in dimly lighted, gauzy, open pavilion; emphasis on seafood with chef from Nantucket.
El Quenepo – 148 Calle Flamboyan (Esperanza); 787-741-1215; higher end restaurant; try dorado wrapped in pancetta over seafood risotto.
Uva – Calle Antonio G. Mellado (Route 200, Isabel Segunda); 787-741-2050; seafood; cozy, atmospheric restaurant, where candlelight flickers in evenings; complex dishes with Caribbean as well as traditional South American flavors; extensive wine list; order “chef’s table,” and Alzogaray will choose menu for you and personally serve your dishes to you (for whole tables only; $65-$90 per person).
Window Café – 61 Calle Orquideas (Esperanza); 787-741-1447;; coffee stand with few tables.
Abe’s Snorkeling – Esperanza; 787-741-2134;; for trips to Cayo Afuera; manatees, dolphins, eagle rays, nurse sharks, barracuda, and sea turtles (January to February).
Expediciones en Bieque – Esperanza; 787-435-0073;; rents horses for beach and forest rides; ask for Elizabeth.
Marauder Sailing Charters – Esperanza; 787-435-4858;; good, half-day excursion that includes lunch and snorkeling.
Vieques Adventures – Esperanza; 787-692-9162;; translucent kayaks for underwater viewing.
Vieques Conservation & Historical Trust – 138 Calle Flamboyan (Esperanza); 787-741-8850;; runs tours to Central Playa Grande’s ruins, former sugar plantation.
Yoga – 787-435-7510; MariAngeles practices Kundalini yoga on Sun Beach’s eastern end.
Black Beard Sports – 101 Calle Muñoz Rivera (Isabel Segunda); 787-741-1892;; local emporium that rents scuba equipment.
Calle Flamboyan – in Esperanza; on Saturday afternoons, continuously changing market.
Deda Galeria de Arte – intersection of Calle Muñoz Rivera and Calle Carlos Lebrum (Isabel Segunda); 787-741-1297;; run by Serbian artist.
Sights & Sites
Puerto Mosquito – on Caribbean side; bay with phosphorescent snorkeling at night; among most romantic places on earth, per Travel & Leisure.
Vieques Conservation & Historical Trust – 138 Calle Flamboyan (Esperanza); 787-741-8850;; museum.

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