Thought you’d exhausted the Caribbean? Or simply tired of going on second-hand holidays? (No, Nicholas from the service desk, you don’t need to tell us every restaurant/hotel you went to in Cuba and INSIST we follow suit.)
In that case a new destination has opened up for winter 2015/6, where the beaches are untouched and the spectacular natural scenes aren’t fighting for space with resorts – namely Puerto Rico.
Oddly, Norwegian airlines are set to be the only carrier to fly direct from London to Puerto Rico when this service begins in November – and their twice-weekly flights from Gatwick are set to attract a new set of adventurers to its golden coast. So what does it have to offer? Here’s a quick lowdown on what there is to do in Puerto Rico.
1. Visit their glowing waters
Just as glaciers belong to Iceland and coral reefs to the Maldives, so bioluminescent ocean belongs to Vieques. It’s a Puerto Rican island with the highest concentration of island of dinoflagellates (glowy, beautiful plankton-like things) in the world: 720,000 per gallon of water. This makes for a bright and stunning light display when the night time falls. We can almost hear the bucket list item being ticked.
2. Go underground
Why wouldn’t you, when the world’s third largest underground river has created more than 10 miles of caverns and 220 caves to explore? (Another 800 remain unexplored, just to explain the sheer size of the phenomenon). There’s a 268-acre park built around the caves, with tours ranging from the gentle to downright crazy.
3. Zip lining
As Puerto Rico is a haven for nature-lovers, a novel way to survey the land is by zip lining from up above. At first your natural instinct is not to throw yourself off solid ground, but get the first couple out the way and you’ll be doing Supermans atop a forest.
We particularly like Eco Tours because their zipline drops you directly to a bar. Which brings us nicely on to our next activity…
4. Drink rum
That’s an order. No it isn’t really, but it’s worth bearing in mind that 70 per cent of rum drunk in America is made in Puerto Rico, so it’s going to be good stuff. The most popular brand is Don Q, and you can take a distillery tour to find out more about the rum-making process.
5. Eat plantain
While we’re feeling gluttonous, we’d like to point out that plantain will be ubiquitous so acquire its delicious taste now. It’s used in almost every dish, be it sweet or savoury – for example try it in patty form as tostones or mofongo: mashed fried green plantains stuffed with seafood, pork, or vegetables.
6. Visit the British Virgin Islands
Yes, one of the things to do when you get to Puerto Rico is to leave it. But the capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan, is one of the easiest ways to get to the exclusive islands. And when in Rome…
7. Go golfing
As if there wasn’t enough to do on the island, it’s also privy to some spectacular views on its many, many golf courses. Most are set up for fairweather tourists (quite literally), like the well-equipped Punta Boriquen which is PR’s first ever course. But there are also exclusive ones for those who take their golf very, very seriously – try Royal Isabela for starters.
8. Take a hike
Ha! Do you see what we did there?
With its aqua-blue coasts and mountainous environs, Puerto Rico is a hiker’s dream. And for those who particularly appreciate the environment they pass through, Mona Island is a must-do. Be warned: it’s not the easiest to access (it’s an uninhabited and undeveloped nature reserve, three hours away by boat, with only 100 visitors allowed on any given day). But it houses a wealth of unique and rare species making for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Nature-lovers can join a group tour to point out the most salient points, but the bravest and most resilient can go it alone too.