Puerto Rico is more than just a place to get on and off cruise ships.
The UK market is Puerto Rico’s third largest, mainly because of pre- and post-cruise visitors. Although most only stay a couple of nights, there’s no reason why agents can’t give them a memorable stay.
Here’s our run down of what to see in Puerto Rico. A word of warning, however: if clients are doing an activity before embarking a ship, warn them that if it’s not one of the cruise company’s excursions, if they are late the ship could depart without them. Advise leaving plenty of time.
Old San Juan
The city is one of the first places in the New World that the Spanish settled, leaving a legacy of beautiful colonial architecture. Sights include Quincentennial Square, San Juan Cathedral and Cristo Chapel. Also take in the 27-acre San Cristobal fort, which dates back to 1634, the largest fort built by the Spanish in the new world with a maze of underground tunnels. The sister fort is Fort San Felipe del Morro, known as El Morro, dating back to 1539, with 60-foot walls towering over the ocean.
El Yunque Rain Forest
It rains every five minutes here, so visitors will need to put on plastic trousers for their trek. Trails are marked and graded and El Toro at 3,532 feet high is the tallest peak in the forest. Some cruise excursions have a narrated drive through the forest for those who don’t want to walk. In the El Yunque, visitors can take a dip in the Bano Grande pools, take in views from the Yohaku observation tower and discover the Coca Waterfall.
If your clients like rum, this is the excursion for them. At the distillery, visitors learn everything they need to know about one of the world’s most famous brands in one afternoon – from the history of rum, going back to the days of piracy and huge sugar cane plantations, to the vast, modern, industry today. There are some tastings thrown in too.
While the likes of the US Virgin Islands are great for duty-free watches and jewellery, Puerto Rico is the Caribbean destination for clothes shopping. Plaza Las Americas has more than 300 shops including Banana Republic, Macy’s and Sears. It’s in the Hato Rey district and advise clients to take a cab there. Alternatively, suggest Belz Factory Outlet World in Canovanas, where you’ll find discount Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger shops. For upmarket shopping head to Ashford Avenue in San Juan.
For a football game with a difference, head to the Caguana Indian Ceremonial Park. It’s home to more than 30 courts where the ancient Taino Indians once played ceremonial ball games – similar to lacrosse or football. The courts, in the centre of the island, are believed to be sacred. Visitors can also see monoliths and artwork on stone including La Mujer de Caguana, which shows a woman with frogs’ legs. There is also a museum of Indian culture.
Rio Camuy Cave Park
Only a small part of what is the third-largest cave system in the world is open to visitors. A series of trolley rides and footwalks takes visitors from one stunning site to another. Take in the 170ft high Cueva Clara or stand on a platform overlooking the 400ft-deep Tres Pueblos sinkhole. In the Cathedral Caves there are etchings from Tainos Indians. Advanced cavers can arrange special trips to go deep into the caves.
Puerto Rico is one of the busiest cruise ports in the Caribbean and ships stopping there offer a variety of excursions.
Celebrity Cruises sells several Puerto Rico cruise excursions including the City tour and Bacardi Rum Distillery, which cost £18.48 per adult, and an Old San Juan Walking Tour, which costs £20.72 per adult.
Royal Caribbean sells an Old and New San Juan City tour from £15.12 per adult. Its El Yunque Rain Forest Tour costs £20.16 per adult.
If clients want to stay longer, Caribbean Islands Club (part of Sunvil) offers a selection of hotels across Puerto Rico. Wind Chimes Inn, which it describes as a comfortable, reasonably priced and well located hotel – five minutes walk from a good beach and a bus ride to the centre of San Juan. One week costs £1,150 per person, twin share, including flights and transfers, for a May departure.