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About Puerto Rico
  Welcome to San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is the eastern island of the Greater Antilles, a designation it shares as part of a chain of islands that includes Cuba, Jamaica, and La Española. Its north shore is washed by the Atlantic Ocean. The south shore meets the Caribbean Sea. At 100 miles long by 35 miles wide, it is roughly the size of Connecticut. The Island's geographic diversity makes for a dramatic landscape. Karst hills of exposed rock undulate in the northwestern quadrant of the Island; this limestone area also includes a vast series of caves.The Cordillera Central (central corridor) of mountains running down the Island is full of jagged peaks. Its hillsides hold coffee plantations and steep, twisting roads. North and south, it levels to flat coastal plains cultivated with sugarcane, pineapples, and citrus groves. Rain forests of both primary and secondary growth have a dramatic presence, as well as remarkable dry forests. Beaches are found in pockets around the Island, ranging from rocky to sandy, white-sand to black.

Your discovery of Puerto Rico will begin in Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan), a largely restored historic city dating from the 16th century that's a magical place. On a mile-square peninsula to the northwest of the greater metropolitan area, it has open plazas and parks, a sweeping bayside promenade, and some of the New World's best examples of Spanish architecture. The old city's bluestone streets climb from the Bahia de San Juan (San Juan Bay) to a long headland overlooking the Atlantic. The oceanside bluff, which runs along Calle Norzagaray, is bound at either end by two great fortresses, Fuerte San Cristobal to the east and Fuerte San Felipe del Morro (El Morro) to the west, testifying to the city's past as a military stronghold. El Morro is particularly imposing, its massive walls melding with the promontory on which it sits, rising to split bay from ocean. As you explore the city, at every turn you're likely to encounter a new pleasure, from the central Plaza de Armas, where you can linger over a café con leche (Coffee with milk) and watch schoolchildren chase pigeons, to the serene gardens of the Casa Blanca, built originally as a home for Puerto Rico's first governor, Ponce de Leon, in 1521, to the extraordinary folkart collection of the Museo de las Americas. Along with the fortresses, there are numerous churches- some dating from the 16th century -mansions from the 19th century, and art deco masterpieces. Most buildings are only one or two stories tall painted in bright pastels that radiate under the Caribbean sun.

Although filled with history, Old San Juan doesn't live in the past; it's a flourishing cultural center, with the island's greatest concentration of top-flight restaurants, galleries, shops, and nightsports, attracting artists, intellectuals, and all manner of other sanjuaneros. Greater San Juan is an urban anomaly in the Caribbean. There are, of course, the trademark beaches, from the Miami-style Condado and Isla Verde areas to low-key Ocean Park and undeveloped Piñones.

Among the natural attractions, star treatment goes to the Bosque Nacional del Caribe (Caribbean National Forest), popularly known as El Yunque. This rain forest encompasses a huge, anvil-shape mountaintop that dominates the skyline on the roadway east from San Juan to Fajardo. The Tainos considered the area sacred ground, and as you hike the numerous trails you understand why. Waterfalls slice through the forest; mammoth ferns, pines, and Sierra palms refract the sunlight through a lime-green canopy; more than 200 species of birds make the forest home, including the rare Puerto Rican green parrot. El Yunque is less than an hour's drive from downtown San Juan, but it feels like the other side the world.

On the eastern coast, the Fajardo region is a hot spot for boating and diving, and nearby Balneario de Luquillo is one of Puerto Rico's prettiest and most popular beaches. Fajardo also serves as the departure point for trips to the offshore islets of Vieques and Culebra.

The temperature averages around 82 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. It's slightly cooler in the mountains, most noticeably at night. Trade winds from the northeast and steady breezes moderate the heat and high humidity on the coast. Although air conditioners are routinely available, they are often unnecessary.

Getting to The Outlets at Montehiedra:
From all points on the island, take Road# 52 (Expreso Luis A. Ferré) Exit 4A on Montehiedra’s Ave. Los Romero.



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