Puerto Rico, a self-governing U.S. territory—roughly the size of Connecticut with a population of about 4 million—is cosmopolitan Caribbean playground with an interesting blend of Latino, African and American cultures. Here, you are as likely to find centuries-old Spanish buildings as stylish modern restaurants and Las Vegas-type casinos, or all-inclusive oceanfront resorts.
Puerto Rico has a number of vacation hotspots. Here’s a quick overview of four of the more popular destinations:
Rincón. About 2 1/2 hours west of San Juan on the beautiful northwestern coast, Rincón leaped onto the scene as a world-class surf destination when it played host to the 1968 Surfing World Championships. Afterward, it attracted beach bums, draft dodgers, counterculture clingers and alternative lifestylers. Today, it is an affluent but subdued surfer’s paradise popular with American tourists and expats.
Boquerón. Just 30 minutes south of Rincón is this easy-going, brightly colored fishing village, said to be where Columbus landed when he reached Puerto Rico in 1493. Known for its sheltered beach, busy marina, shack-style eateries, food stalls serving just-caught seafood and pulsing nightlife scene, Boquerón is a magnet for everyone from everyday travelers to yachting enthusiasts.
Dorado. Born as a resort town in the early 20th century, when the Rockefellers arrived, Dorado today is the golfing capital of Puerto Rico, with several championship-standard courses played by duffers from around the world. Only 18 miles west of the capital San Juan, it also has several attractive local beaches, an intimate historic downtown and a number of newer gated communities.
Vieques. This now-demilitarized former U.S. Navy testing ground (until 2003) six miles off the southeastern shore is filled with upscale resorts, boutique hotels, trendy galleries and stylish restaurants.
Culebra. A tiny island halfway between mainland Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Culebra is a quiet and peaceful spot unknown to most tourists. Notably absent high-end resorts and cruise ship docks, the uncrowded island is the closest thing to the idyllic, unspoiled Caribbean that Puerto Rico has to offer.
—Shannon Roxborough, NileGuide.com regional editor for Florida and the Caribbean