Puerto Rico

We spent the first four days of our trip in Puerto Rico. Our hotel was on the beach at Ilsa Verde, which is just west of San Juan. When we were researching for this trip we had three primary site seeing goals for Puerto Rico. These were to see The San Juan National Historic Site, immerse ourselves in old San Juan and visit the El Yunque rain forest. We were able to accomplish these, plus more. We had two excellent drivers to help us get around. We met a taxi driver, Michael Rodriguez, on the first day. Each time we wanted a ride we called (787-536-1657) and Michael came to get us. Our driver and guide for tours was Cruz (787-225-8920).

San Juan National Historic Park

San Juan National Historic Site preserves the Spanish built fortification which guards San Juan harbor. Puerto Rico was the first major island that sailing ships would visit after following the trade winds and currents to the Americas. It offered shelter, supplies and control of the access to the riches of the new world. The site consists of El Morro, San Cristobal and the fortified wall between them. The fortification at El Morro was started in 1539. Castillo San Cristobal was completed some 250 years later in 1783. The Spanish held Puerto Rico until it became a US territory in 1898 as a result of the Spanish-American War.

The image here is a Sentry Box or Garita. The fort has many of these that were used a lookouts for enemies. All but one have been restored over the years. The one pictured here is the only remaining original Spanish built one.

Old San Juan

Michael gave us several rides to Old San Juan, where we took self guided tours. This is the historic center of the city. Many important buildings, including mansions and castles are well preserved. The colorful buildings along the blue cobblestone streets give one a feeling that you will run into a Spanish conquistadore around the next corner. The rectangular cobblestones were brouught to Puerto Rico as ballast on Spanish galleons. They are blue as they were cast from furnace slag.

We found that San Juan was was a great place to have a meal or stop for a refreshing drink. We really enjoyed El Patio Del Sam and Barrachina's in Old San Juan. The Pina Colada was invented at Barrachina's. We wanted to have meals where the locals ate, so we asked our drivers. Michael suggested Bebe's. Cruz recommended and joined us at Levi's. At Levi's we enjoyed Mofongo. Mofongo is one of the national dishes of Puerto Rico. It consists of fried plantains which are mashed with garlic and olive oil and formed into a bowl. Ours were then filled with shrimp or crab meat. Fantastic!

El Yunque

El Yunque is the only tropical rain forest within US territory. It is a lush 44 square mile area. It has several ecosystems including a mountain cloudforest and dwarf forest in the highest parts. La Coco Waterfall is one of the more distinctive features of the park. The water tumbles some 86 feet onto a series of boulders.

We didn't see any Coquis, the little frogs, that are the national emblem. We did see an abundance of flowering plants, however.
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