Traveling in Puerto Rico
|Puerto Rico is a tropical island nation that is located in the Caribbean sea. It is one of the oldest colonies in the new world so in addition to its tropical weather and beautiful beaches, it is filled with lots of important history. Christopher Columbus landed in Puerto Rico on his second voyage in 1493 which led to the island becoming colonized by the Spanish Empire. For hundreds of years the Spanish controlled Puerto Rico and other colonies in the Caribbean until the Spanish American war in the late 1800s. During the war the United States invaded Puerto Rico and it was signed over to the Americans with the Treaty of Paris in 1898. Puerto Rico has become a mix of both Spanish and American culture.|
|The first governor of Puerto Rico took office in San Juan in 1508. A decade and a half later the San Jose church was built in 1522 and is still remains in use today. Some 400 years later the Americans built the On the right is a photo of the capitol building in San Juan that was built by the Americans and finished in 1929 capitol building seen on the upper left that is the seat of the island’s government. On the right is a terrible photo of the church which is the second oldest in the western hemisphere. Since it is now an American territory, San Juan is the oldest city that flys the American flag.|
|With thousands of islands to choose from it’s easy to find cheap holidays to the Caribbean. Puerto Rico is a major American tourist destination within the Caribbean sea. As an American territory no passport is needed for US citizens and the process is no different than visiting any other state in America. Many people come to visit its beaches, rainforests, caves and to see its history. On the left is the customs building in the capital’s harbor. There is almost always a large cruise ship docked in San Juan as tourists pour into the city daily arriving in the Old San Juan district. I took the photo on the upper right of a neighborhood called La Perla. The area I was in was actually a large park filled with families, but I hear La Perla itself isn’t a safe area to visit despite it’s beauty.|
|San Juan was protected by early colonial defenses such as Fort San Felipe De Morro. San Felipe was finished in 1539 but during the next 400 years it continued to be improved. The forts were used many times in wars against other colonial powers in the area. Even during World War II the United States added a modern bunker which you can see to the left of the flags. This was created to watch for enemy subs and ships trying to sneak into the Caribbean. Below are photos of colonial cannons and the inner areas of the fort where people once lived.|
|Another fort only a mile away from San Felipe castle is Fort San Cristobal. At first I was unsure why the Spanish built a second fort so close to San Felipe, but I later learned this was created to protect the city against a land attack. In the mid 1600s the Dutch attacked the city by land. The city was successfully protected but an order was given to make some fortifications at this location to prevent a future occurrence. Some small defenses were put in a the time, but it wasn’t until the late 1700s that construction truly began. Fort San Cristobal is the largest fort ever built by the Spanish Empire in the new world.|
|While Puerto Rico has its history, it also knows how to have a good time. A big export of Puerto Rico is rum, most famous is their brand Bacardi. On the left is the Bacardi facility which is the largest rum distillery in the world located in San Juan. After you’ve bought your rum you can then head out to one of the many beaches on the island. The beach photo above is from Luquillo which is just east of the capital. I don’t know how anyone goes to school, work, or can keep up on their Fisher Investments UK with such beautiful beaches and homemade rum!|
|Unfortunately some of the most populated parts of Puerto Rico are extremely Americanized. I don’t think there is a place in the island that is less than 15 miles from a Burger King or McDonalds. Some towns and neighborhoods still have the Caribbean atmosphere even though a fast food joint is around the corner. The upper left photo is of a neighborhood in Ponce in the south with Aguadilla on the right which is on the western coast. The two photos below were taken from the western part of the country near Aguadilla. There was some really beautiful scenery here.|
|If you have seen the movie James Bond Goldeneye then you might remember the very end where 007 was trying to stop a satellite from launching an EMP into Great Britain. In the movie the location was Cuba but this scene was actually filled at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Unfortunately it was closed when I went so that was the best photo I could get. The Observatory can look at other planets and stars and because of its location near the equator it can view all of our planets. The observatory actually has largest electromagnetic-wave gathering capacity in the world. In my photo you can see the cradle, below this is a massive 305 meter dome!|
|Another important place to visit in the island is El Yunque, Puerto Rico’s largest national park. it is a rainforest located less than an hour from the capital and has several well maintained hiking trails. They have certain peaks that reach up to 1,000 meters and can take up to two hours to reach. Above are some photos of the vegetation I took while hiking along the trails. I seemed to go through a dry area followed by an area that was more damp and covered by mossy rocks. During my whole time in Puerto Rico I didn’t run into any rain though!|
|Here are two birds that I caught on camera while hiking in El Yunque. The first bird is the Bananaquit, on the right is the Puerto Rican Tody. Puerto Rico was prior to my serious photography days, I remember these two photos being one of my first wildlife shots that I was somewhat proud of. Of course I’ve done much better since, but I definitely had a lot of fun hiking in El Yunque and practicing photography. I also came across a humming bird and even a mongoose on the trail but they both were quick to leave the area. There had actually been a sign at the park entrance warning about rabid mongoose!|
|Along the trails of El Yunque are some towers that have spiraling stairs to give you a good birds eye view. On the left you can see some of the dense rainforests that surrounds a one of the parks peaks Nothing makes me happier than seeing views of nothing but nature. I actually spent a full day hiking in El Yunque and hit the trails as the sun was rising. Aside from the interesting plants and wildlife I came across, I also ran into plenty of waterfalls that were along the trails as well.|
As awesome as El Yunque is, it’s not the only place to see wildlife on the island. These three photos above and on the right where taken throughout Puerto Rico. The colorful bark on the tree to the left is actually natural. I’m not sure of the species of this lizard here, but the bird is a common cattle egret.
|You might be surprised to find that on a Caribbean island is the third largest river cave system in the world. These four surrounding photos are all of the Rio Camuy park. The two photos above are of the main entrance which leads into a giant room that is over 200 feet in height and filled with thousands of bats, crickets and spiders and even blind fish. You can actually fit a baseball stadium in this room! Below is an interesting stalactite. Another part of the cave once had a huge ceiling but it collapsed and formed a depression. The depth of the hole is huge and it is now filled with vegetation and wildlife. The river still flows and you can see it reenter the cave system on the lower right.|
While most of Puerto Rico is wet jungle and rainforests the southwestern part has a different place known as Guanica. This dry area is desert like and includes the national park Guanica Dry Forest. While moss and towering trees dominated El Yunque, large cacti and palms own the dry forest. The photo on the left is of the Caribbean sea taken from Guanica. Like the rest of Puerto Rico, the beaches were don’t go to waste and were popular among families.