La Isla del Encanto
A day of activities in beautiful Puerto Rico
By Claudia Pagan, University of Maryland.
Delicious food, beautiful nature, relaxing beach and active nightlife. What more could you ask for? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Being Puerto Rican does not persuade my comment about “La Isla de Encanto” being the most gorgeous place in the world. (Sarcasm, right behind Spanish and English, allows me the right to declare I am trilingual).
Besides being known for its beautiful beaches, many people do not know much about Puerto Rico. I could sit here and tell you all about its history, but that is not the point, Instead, I am going to talk about a few of the experiences you cannot miss out on while you are visiting. The following is a full day of activities that will give you a taste of what Puerto Rico is like and show you how it is distinguished from other places.
What is the most important question in everyone’s mind when they travel? Food, of course! Make sure you stop at the kiosks near Luquillo beach to grab a bite before starting your day activities. With over 50 kiosks, you are sure to find something to satisfy your taste buds. Food ranges from alcapurrias and bacalaitos to empanadas and mofongo. The food sounds foreign, but what else did you expect? You will certainly regret not having some of the most authentic food you can get on the island. After one bite, I guarantee you will be wanting more.
El Yunque is the only tropical rain forest in the United States. If that is not enough to peak your interest, then continue reading for some other reasons. Driving through the rainforest is an option, but you will not get the full experience. There are trails throughout the forest that do not lack in providing beautiful scenery so lace up your sneakers and get ready for a hike. Along the trails, you will be sure to encounter wildlife, and if you are lucky, you may get to see the coquí, a frog that Puerto Rican’s have grown fond of. For those of you who are not into hiking steep hills, there are other things for you to do such as swim in a waterfall and visit the Yokahu Observation tower that offers a magnificent view of the rainforest.
Unlike most beaches, the water in Luquillo beach is very calm. Not having to constantly look for the next crashing wave that will take you allows you to have more time to enjoy yourself, and after a long day in El Yunque, relaxation is much needed. Let your mind drift off while you sip on a refreshing piña colada and take in the warm sun. Between the calm environment and soft winds, you will instantly feel at ease.
The sun may not be your go to since you have been in it all day, but do not worry, there are plenty of ways to cool off. The beach has palm trees scattered throughout to provide shade and a place to nap. If that is not enough, stop by one of the stands to grab some fruit ice cream from one of the carts rolling by. Do not forget though that the kiosks are only a minute walk away! Treat yourself to another alcapurria. You know you want to, and do not worry, it will be our little secret.
Paseo de la Princesa
Just when you think the day is over, think again. Your day is not complete until you have walked the Paseo de la Princesa in El Viejo San Juan. It is best to go at night when the weather is cooler and the area is filled with entertainment. The Paseo de la Princesa is a pathway along the water surrounding Puerto Rico. As you walk down the path, you will encounter pushcarts selling piraguas. Buy one. They are similar to snow cones, but instead of a ball shape, they take the form of a pyramid. It is in your best interest to buy one because you will need something to keep you cool while you continue walking down the path to the grand finale.
Do not rush your walk, take the time to take in all your surroundings. The entertainers, vendors and antique street lamps. These things, however, do not compare to the Raíces Fountain. The Raíces fountain, or what I like to call the grand finale, is illuminated with lights to allow people to see the sculptures in the middle. The sculptures in the center each represent a different part of Puerto Rico: culture, character, or history. Find a place around the fountain to sit and take in everything you experienced in only one day.
I do not know about you, but this would definitely be at the top of my “Best Days Ever” list.