Puerto Rico for Lovers

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Puerto Rico for Lovers
Sparkling waterfalls, sublime beaches, and superb vistas set the mood for magical Puerto Rican days and nights. Once the sun sets, salsa in beachside clubs and sip on rum cocktails. Let the romance commence.
By Dwiveck Custodio, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Jackie Gerena
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    Sunset Horse Rides along the Beach
    On Puerto Rico, horses roam the farms, the mountains, the town centers—and also the beaches. A couples' horse ride at sunset is a perfect way to kiss the day goodbye. With Tropical Trail Rides, in the northwestern municipality of Isabela, you can take a two-hour ride through the forest and by the beach as the sun sinks down towards the water. Make sure you take the opportunity to break for a hike or a swim along the way. On the north side of the island in Manatí, Kerry’s Horses designs personalized sunset rides by the beach or through nature reserves.
    Photo by Jackie Gerena
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    Seafood Love
    Puerto Rico's cuisine includes plenty of seafood and, therefore, lots of aphrodisiacs. Look for street vendors by the Parguera and Boquerón beaches on the island's western shore selling fresh oysters, already shucked and with a squeeze of lime. Or opt for an equally exotic octopus dish, cooked flambe-style at Salitre in Arecibo. Try the lobster-stuffed mofongo (mashed plantain) at Tino’s in Joyuda, or the sweet plantain balls stuffed with chorizo in guava sauce at Lola in Ponce. For the truly plantain-crazed, El Plátano Loco in Aguada serves everything from plantain pizza to plantain soup.
    Photo by Tom Pepeira/age fotostock
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    Birthplace of the PiƱa Colada
    With its cool tropical coconut and pineapple flavors, the piña colada is one of the most popular drinks on the island. Two equally-charming San Juan restaurants claim to have conceived this concoction. The elegant and historic Caribe Hilton credits bartender Ramón Marrero with the creation of this sensual drink in 1954; you can sample today's sweet and frothy incarnation at the hotel's swim-up bar. The colonial Barrachina declares its bartender Mingot invented the drink while experimenting in 1963. They have a creamier, more alcoholic version that you can drink in the interior courtyard.
    Photo by Elena Elisseeva/age fotostock
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    Invigorating Waterfalls
    Puerto Rico is blessed with numerous waterfalls, such as the 500-foot-tall San Cristobal Canyon and the three-in-one falls of Salto Dona Juana. The fame of El Yunque’s La Coca and La Mina Falls means Juan Diego Falls remain a largely undiscovered secret: A little farther up from La Coca is a hidden trail that leads to a short trickle of water which splashes into an invigoratingly cool pool, tucked well away from prying eyes. Gozalandia Waterfall in western San Sebastián might draw the crowds, but there's only enough room for two under the velvety stream of cascading water. For added privacy, swim underwater into a nearly imperceptible alcove.
    Photo by Tim Draper/age fotostock
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    Move Your Body
    Puerto Ricans dance to lively rhythms like bomba, merengue, and salsa—whether at home, at a festival, or on the streets—and they’ll be ecstatic to teach you how. To honor Puerto Rico’s Spanish heritage, Rosa de Triana serves tapas, sangria, and wine in a dimly lit room decked with Spanish posters, plates, and fans. On Fridays and Saturdays, enjoy dinner and a flamenco dancing show—a show, that is, until you start dancing too. On Thursdays, Latin music enthusiasts must stop by the Picante Lobby Bar & Lounge at the Courtyard by Marriott Isla Verde Beach Resort to learn to salsa.
    Photo by Brigitte Sporrer/age fotostock
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    Spanish Revival and Moorish Architecture
    Travel to the island’s opulent past with visits to architectural masterpieces of the 1930s. In the southern municipality of Ponce, the Serralles Castle’s clay tiles and terracotta detailing exemplify Spanish Revival style. Some rooms of the castle are designed to mimic the taste of decades past, and to commemorate the Don Q Rum-producing Serralles family; others have been turned into rum-related exhibitions. Casa de España, in Old San Juan, was built in 1932 as the headquarters of a private organization for Puerto Ricans of Spanish descent. Today, it is a private club for Puerto Ricans of Spanish descent.
    Photo by Steven Heap/age fotostock
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    Enchanting Botanical Gardens
    Puerto Rican gardens are a delicate fusion of nature and art, and a perfect escape from urban life. The William Miranda Marín Botanical and Cultural Gardens in Caguas have exquisite palm trees from around the world, and displays dedicated to native trees important in the Taíno diet. Enter near the man-made waterfall adorned with stained-glass butterflies; marvel at the whirlwind of color in the butterfly garden; and cruise around the crystalline pond in the privacy of a paddleboat. The Botanical Gardens of Rio Piedras are similarly enchanting. Make sure to stop by the Orchid Garden and the Garden of Heliconias, before seeing the Bamboo Chapel.
    Photo by Terrance Klassen/age fotostock
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    Beautiful Caves and Breathtaking Views
    There are a wealth of exhilarating panoramic views throughout Puerto Rico, but the journeys to Cueva Ventana and Cueva del Indio are incomparable. (Both caves are near to Arecibo, and can be visited in one day.) A hike up and through Cueva Ventana will let you admire the stalactites and stalagmites, but the real euphoria kicks in when you reach the natural window facing the Rio Grande River and the lush mountains of Arecibo and Utuado. Nearby, you can trek to the opening of Cueva del Indio. From the rock arches, watch the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crashing below. If you’re daring enough, climb down the wooden steps into an Indiana Jones-style cave full of Taíno petroglyphs.
    Photo by Chelsea Harms
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    Celebrate the Arts
    Arts on Puerto Rico range from lavish recitals to paintings of humble local scenes. The Luis A. Ferré Fine Arts Center in San Juan puts on various performances, including theater, concerts, ballet, and opera. The center itself is a work of art, with a vibrantly-colored mural of the Muses, and a stained glass window symbolizing the elements of nature. Meanwhile, the neoclassical Puerto Rico Museum of Art showcases visual art pieces from the 17th century onwards. Its collections feature a linoleum portrayal of a girl gathering food, and a collage in oil that depicts two faces of the famous Puerto Rican poet, Julia de Burgos.
    Photo by S. Murphy-Larronde/age fotostock
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    Rum Tasting
    Sugar cane and rum are big business on Puerto Rico. Locals love piña coladas, mojitos, coquito (the Puerto Rican version of eggnog), and daiquiris—all of which are made with rum. Don Q and Bacardí both offer tours—complete with tastings—that will transport you back to the romance of early 1900s Puerto Rico. At Casa Bacardí in Cataño, just outside San Juan, you can watch a documentary about sugarcane, the rum-producing process, and the Bacardí family; study old letters and furniture; smell diverse rums in their barrels; and watch a mixing demonstration. Casa Don Q in Old San Juan invites you to read about the rum-making process, and listen to an explanation about different Don Q rums and how to mix them.
    Photo by Chelsea Harms