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Puerto Rico

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324

Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is where the easy-going Caribbean collides with the slick efficiency of modern
America. The result is a colorful, diverse and culturally unique island that is often as confusing as it is cosmopolitan. Hip funky restaurants nestle next to 15th-century Spanish forts;
sprawling shopping malls encroach upon fecund tropical rainforests; and glitzy casinos lie
juxtaposed against some of the most stunning beaches in the Caribbean.

PUERTO RICO

History is another draw card. While the United States struggles to emulate the erstwhile
glories of ‘old world’ Europe, Puerto Rico gets out its killer trump card: beguiling Viejo San
Juan, one of the oldest and best-preserved colonial cities in the Americas. Cocooned in
what was the crucible of Spain’s once-illustrious colonial empire, neighborly pensioners
recline languidly in creaking rocking chairs; bomba drums light up the somnolence of a diminutive baroque plaza; and the walls of two great military forts rise like wizened sentinels
above the depths of the untamed Atlantic.
Racing headlong into the 21st century, contemporary Puerto Rico can sometimes present
a bewildering picture to culture-seeking visitors. Decades of unchecked American-style development have meant that, despite significant economic advances, the modern world has
stamped its ugly mark on the idyllically named Isla del Encanto (Island of Enchantment). But
purists can take heart. In Puerto Rico what you see isn’t always what you get. Scratch under
the surface and the soul of island will serendipitously reveal itself. Hop on a local bus, disappear off into the central mountains, or pedal your way around the beautiful island of Vieques;
just be sure to tear up any cast-iron itineraries and let the open road lead you where it will.

FAST FACTS
„ Area 3500 sq miles
„ Capital San Juan
„ Country code

%787

„ Departure tax US$14.10 (normally

included in the ticket price)
„ Famous for Rum, salsa, baseball
„ Language Spanish, English
„ Money US dollar (US$); US$1 = €0.65 =

UK£0.51
„ Official name Puerto Rico
„ People Puerto Ricans
„ Phrase Qué pasa? What’s happening?

Esta todo hablado. It’s all understood.
„ Population 3.9 million
„ Visa Unnecessary for most countries; see

p354

lonelyplanet.com

P U E R T O R I C O • • H i g h l i g h t s 325

HIGHLIGHTS

heavier. Skirt the edges of the high season (ie
November and May) and you could get lucky
with both the weather and cut-price rates.
The Caribbe...
PUERTO RICO
Puerto Rico is where the easy-going Caribbean collides with the slick efficiency of modern
America. The result is a colorful, diverse and culturally unique island that is often as confus-
ing as it is cosmopolitan. Hip funky restaurants nestle next to 15th-century Spanish forts;
sprawling shopping malls encroach upon fecund tropical rainforests; and glitzy casinos lie
juxtaposed against some of the most stunning beaches in the Caribbean.
History is another draw card. While the United States struggles to emulate the erstwhile
glories of ‘old world’ Europe, Puerto Rico gets out its killer trump card: beguiling Viejo San
Juan, one of the oldest and best-preserved colonial cities in the Americas. Cocooned in
what was the crucible of Spain’s once-illustrious colonial empire, neighborly pensioners
recline languidly in creaking rocking chairs; bomba drums light up the somnolence of a di-
minutive baroque plaza; and the walls of two great military forts rise like wizened sentinels
above the depths of the untamed Atlantic.
Racing headlong into the 21st century, contemporary Puerto Rico can sometimes present
a bewildering picture to culture-seeking visitors. Decades of unchecked American-style de-
velopment have meant that, despite significant economic advances, the modern world has
stamped its ugly mark on the idyllically named Isla del Encanto (Island of Enchantment). But
purists can take heart. In Puerto Rico what you see isn’t always what you get. Scratch under
the surface and the soul of island will serendipitously reveal itself. Hop on a local bus, disap-
pear off into the central mountains, or pedal your way around the beautiful island of Vieques;
just be sure to tear up any cast-iron itineraries and let the open road lead you where it will.
Puerto Rico
© Lonely Planet Publications
FAST FACTS
Area 3500 sq miles
Capital San Juan
Country code
%
787
Departure tax US$14.10 (normally
included in the ticket price)
Famous for Rum, salsa, baseball
Language Spanish, English
Money US dollar (US$); US$1 = €0.65 =
UK£0.51
Official name Puerto Rico
People Puerto Ricans
Phrase Qué pasa? What’s happening?
Esta todo hablado. It’s all understood.
Population 3.9 million
Visa Unnecessary for most countries; see
p354
324
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