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VOL. 130 | NO. 199 | Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Wiedower

Lance Wiedower

Puerto Rico Provides Tropical Alternative

By LANCE WIEDOWER

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It’s October. You’re probably thinking pumpkins, crisp weather, football, campfires and weekends away to view the beautiful changing leaves.

Yes, all those things combine to make October one of the best months of the year. But as the weather turns cooler and the days shorter, it’s also time to think about tropical getaways as the Atlantic hurricane season calms.

I’ve never visited the Caribbean during the winter; ironically, I’ve only been during hurricane season. But if you’re looking for a November or December getaway, particularly a location where the rates are good before the busy winter season kicks in, why not consider Puerto Rico?

What I love about Puerto Rico is it has a foreign feel while having that American touch, making it a good destination for people who are a little skittish about visiting somewhere out of their comfort zone.

Puerto Rico is a Spanish-speaking territory, but English is spoken with ease.

When we chose Puerto Rico for a summer visit, the idea was we’d experience the beach, the culture of a lively city, have a Caribbean vibe and some great outdoors experiences.

We swam in water as calm as a bathtub in a reef-protected bay while also experiencing the waves that crashed on the beach at our San Juan resort. We spent a day hiking in a rainforest, the only one in the U.S. National Forest system, and immersing ourselves in the rich history of Old San Juan.

So why visit Puerto Rico?

If you’re visiting the Caribbean you’re likely to be a fan of the beach. What I love about Puerto Rico is the northern side of the island is on the wilder Atlantic coast, so if you want a few waves you’ll get them on the beaches around San Juan. The southern side of the island is on the Caribbean, and there are plenty of great spots to enjoy the calm waters.

The northern side also has Luquillo Beach, where an offshore reef makes the waters as calm as the Caribbean.

I love the U.S. Gulf Coast beaches, but those fun beach towns don’t have the history and beauty of Old San Juan. Lots of great architecture, old Spanish forts, shops, restaurants and art galleries fill the original neighborhood of this island. Walking the streets of Old San Juan gives a feel of being in a different country.

And a day at El Yunque Rainforest gives the total tropical experience. It is only about an hour’s drive from San Juan, so it’s close enough for a day trip if you decide to stay in or around the island capital. We hiked to a waterfall, and enjoyed a beautiful drive throughout the park for magnificent views of the island and Luquillo Beach in the distance.

We also enjoyed the friendly people we encountered throughout the island, not to mention terrific food options from throughout the Caribbean and Central America.

If you’re considering a beach experience this fall or winter, it’s hard to go wrong with Puerto Rico. It gives the feel of being in a different country while maintaining the comfort of home.

Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.

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