Puerto Rico, the “Island of Enchantment”

Island of Enchantment—in Spanish, Isla del Encanto. It’s Puerto Rico’s nickname for good reason. Sandy beaches, palm trees, and tropical breezes make it a favorite getaway for the sun-and-surf crowd. Rugged mountains and verdant rainforest attract adventure travelers. Lavish hotels with oceanside golf courses embrace vacationers who crave luxury.

A stone fort along blue ocean.
El Morro fort in old San Juan, Puerto Rico. ©Brett Critchley, Dreamstime.

But Puerto Rico is more than a picture postcard. Centuries of Indigenous, African, and Spanish influences have coalesced to create Puerto Rico’s vibrant cultural life.

The hip, bustling metropolis of San Juan boasts world-class restaurants and hotels. Casinos and clubs playing reggaetón, house music, and live salsa keep the party going until dawn. Yet, a simple stroll through the cobblestone streets of Viejo San Juan steeps visitors in a concentrated dose of the island’s history.

Natural beauty abounds in the rivers, waterfalls, lagoons, and caves that populate the island. Venture out from San Juan and discover El Yunque National Forest with its semitropical rainforest; the northwestern karst country with its limestone caves; and three bioluminescent bays, where kayakers paddle in water that glows glittery shades of green, blue, or white at night.

Puerto Rico’s central mountain region is one of the most dramatically beautiful areas of the island, where high mountain peaks, canyons, lush vegetation, orchids, streams, and cooler temperatures prevail. The Indigenous Taíno culture once maintained a stronghold here, and their ancient ruins and petroglyphs can be found throughout the area.

View through circular cave entrance of lush green valley.
View through the Window Cave in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. ©Demerzel21, Dreamstime.

All this is to say that there is a lot more to Puerto Rico than beaches. But if it is spectacular beaches you want, there are plenty to be found, as well as a bounty of water sports, from surfing and diving to fishing and sailing.

Life is vivid in Puerto Rico. The sun shines brightly, the buildings and the sunsets pop with color, and tropical music fills the air. Prepare to be enchanted.

Suzanne Van Atten

About the Author

Suzanne Van Atten has written about destinations throughout the United States, Mexico, South America, the Caribbean, and Europe. She has barhopped in Barcelona, slept in a Jesuit monastery on the Amalfi coast, crewed a hot air balloon in New Mexico, gone white-water rafting in Tennessee, and gotten lost too many times to count.

Amidst all these travels, she always returns to Puerto Rico, a place she fell in love with when she lived there as a teenager. The country’s rich culture, postcard-perfect beaches, lush tropical jungle, cobblestone streets, pastel colors, lively music, and the joie de vivre of its people colluded to seduce her. No matter how many times she returns, she always discovers something new and delightful.

Suzanne is a creative writing instructor, an editor for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and a Pushcart Prize-nominated essayist who’s been published in the Gettysburg Review, The Chattahoochee Review, and Full Grown People.

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