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Things to see and do in Puerto Rico

Attractions in Puerto Rico

Cruise La Parguera’s coral cays

Located off the southwest coast, Mata la Gata is a gorgeous but hardly-known coral cay within La Parguera Nature Reserve, and a wonderful spot for swimming and snorkelling. Get there by water taxi from La Parguera's piers, but bring your own food and water supplies, as facilities on the island are minimal.

Dive off ‘The Wall’

Puerto Rico's coral encrusted coastline provides some fantastic opportunities for divers. Its most popular diving spot, however, is La Pared (The Wall), a 35km (22 mile) coral reef located off the south western coast. Water depths range from 16m (52ft) to 457m (1,500ft), offering something for every type of diver, in particular an abundance of colourful fish in crystal clear waters.

Explore an ancient burial ground

The Tibes Indian Ceremonial Centre is an ancient site near Ponce, well worth a visit to see its remains of ball courts, as well as a cemetery. A replica of a Taino Indian village has been built here and multiple guided tours are offered daily. There is also an on-site museum with Taino artefacts.

Get starry eyed at Arecibo Observatory

Site of the largest single-aperture radio telescope in the world, this international observatory is located in northern Puerto Rico, amid the distinctive karst landscape of limestone peaks and sinkholes. You can see the 8-hectare (20-acre) dish from an observatory platform in one such sinkhole at Arecibo's visitors' centre.

Go beach hopping

Tour the island's beaches, which include some of the Caribbean's finest. Crashboat beach on the west coast appeals to photographers for its colourful boats on the shore. Other excellent beaches include palm-fringed Luquillo Beach in Fajardo; family-friendly Escambrón in San Juan; Combate Beach on the southwest coast, which is ideal for sunset-spotting; and Flamenco Beach in Culebra, named one of the world's best by Discovery Channel.

Sample the cultural wonders of the ‘Pearl of the South’

The beautiful colonial town of Ponce, on the southern side of the island, is called 'La Perla del Sur' or 'Pearl of the South', for its distinctive architectural charms. Visit the excellent Museum of Art, which contains more than 1,000 paintings and 400 sculptures, ranging from ancient classical to contemporary art. Its collection of 19th-century Pre-Raphaelite paintings is considered among the best in the Americas.

See San José Church, one of the finest in the Americas

See the second-oldest church in the Western hemisphere, founded by Dominican monks in 1532. In the heart of Old San Juan, San José church has been undergoing restoration since 2002, uncovering early murals beneath 19th-century paintings. It is considered by scholars to be one of the best examples of Spanish Gothic architecture in the Americas.

See a night-time bioluminescent display

Puerto Rico boasts three of the world's bioluminescent bays (also called phosphorescent bays): in Fajardo, the town of La Parguera, and at Mosquito Bay on Vieques. All three offer night-time tours to see this show of natural lights dancing in the water, created by illuminated dinoflagellates, tiny sea creatures.

See the island’s history in a mosaic

Puerto Rico's capitol building is a must-see for architecture and history aficionados. The majestic marble capitol sits directly in front of the Atlantic Ocean as you enter Old San Juan. Don't just take photos outside; the interior dome features a gorgeous, colourful mosaic depicting the island's history. The Puerto Rican constitution is also on display.

Swim in the only tropical rainforest in the US

Sprawling across a mountainous expanse of northeast Puerto Rico, El Yunque is the only rainforest in the US Forest Service's system. Popular walking trails include La Mina, which leads to a waterfall and natural swimming pool, with others taking in craggy outcrops and Taino petroglyphs. On a clear day, climb the look-out tower in the park for a view of mountains and ocean.

Tour San Juan’s Museums

San Juan has a handful of interesting museums, which are a welcome diversion on rainy days. There's the Casa de los Contrafuertes, which houses the African Heritage Museum; Casa del Callejón, a traditional Spanish-style home with exhibits that explore colonial architecture and Puerto Rican family life; and the San Juan Museum of Art and History, which is housed in a 19th-century building and is often used for concerts.

View the highlights over Ponce

Perched on a hill overlooking Ponce, Castillo Serrallés is the former home of rum magnate Juan Serrallés, with a museum, artworks and butterfly garden attracting some 100,00 visitors a year. Equally impressive is La Cruceta de la Vigia, a cross-shaped observatory opposite the colonial-style mansion; from the top, you can see all the way to the Caribbean Sea.

Walk the city walls of old San Juan

Most of San Juan's old city remains are enclosed by a wall built in the 16th and 17th centuries, and which you can walk around for lovely views of the city below and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. It leads, finally, to the only remaining original doors into the old city, with its blue cobblestone streets, intimate plazas, and colonial-style homes. Standing guard over it all are the colonial Spanish fortresses of El Morro and San Cristobal.

Tourist offices

Puerto Rico Tourism Company in the UK

Address: Third Floor, Colechurch House, 1 London Bridge Walk, London, SE1 2SX
Telephone: (020) 7367 0982.

Puerto Rico Tourism Company in the USA

Address: 666 Fifth Avenue, 15th Floor, New York City, NY 10019
Telephone: (212) 586 6262.
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