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When you're nicknamed "the surfing town" and the "town of beautiful sunsets," you better live up to the hype. Rincon, on Puerto Rico's tropical West coast, does. With little fishing villages, a surfing Mecca who's hosted the World Surfing Championships, inexpensive, small, and luxurious government-owned paradores, small seaside restaurants serving garlic-drenched steaks and fried plantains, and some of the best views in the Caribbean, little Rincon might be the jewel of the Puerto Rican travel experience.

Approximately a two to two-and-a-half hour drive from San Juan and the international airport, Rincon is easily accessible via car or tourist bus. Much of the drive is along the Puerto Rican coastline, usually populated by surfers and beach lovers making the trek to the Puerto Rico's best surfing and diving and snorkeling beaches. The discount airline Jet Blue (tel. 800/538-2583; www.jetblue.com) has excellent prices to Puerto Rico. If you book by midnight on Friday, March 10, 2006, fares between San Juan, Ponce, and Aguadilla, Puerto Rico and New York City start at $79 each way. Travel must be completed before April 5, 2006. If you miss the travel deadline, don't worry, Jet Blue continuously lists low-priced specials. Regular Jet Blue fares between New York and Puerto Rico start at $139 each way. For a new Jet Blue route from Orlando to Puerto Rican destinations, fares start at $119 with service beginning May 6, 2006. Aguadilla, a gorgeous beach town in itself, is only a 35 minute drive to Rincon.

A good place to start your Rincon experience is at the official website of the Tourism Association of Rincon (www.rincon.org). The site lists everything from history to activities to places to stay to simple and easy driving directions to Rincon from all major Puerto Rican cities. The "Activities" section of the website has information on horseback riding, bike rentals, hand gliding, skate boarding, and surfing.

Whale watchers should take note that whale watching is a winter pastime in Rincon. Every year, the Humpback Whale migrates just off the coast of Rincon. From the perch of Lighthouse Park, you can watch the whales frolic in the Rincon waters. February is high-season for Rincon whale watching, and you can even see the great humpbacks from your spot on the beach. Day trips on charter boats and sailing vessels can get you almost as close to the whales to touch.

The charm of Rincon, however, is in its peace, quiet, and endless miles of beaches not burdened by gigantic resorts. Hotels are small, and even guesthouses, bed and breakfasts get beachfront property. From Spartan inns catering to the nature-loving surfing crowd to romantic beach boutique hotels attracting honeymooners and couples, there's a variety of lodging to choose from when visiting Rincon. The Village Cofresi and Restaurant (tel. 787/823-2450; www.villacofresi.com/index.htm) is a quaint, small, friendly hotel located on the beach. Rates start at just $115 for a standard room. For couples or families traveling together, a two-bedroom suite or apartment that sleeps up to six people with a full kitchen starts at $140. The hotel has a game area with several pool tables and a beachfront restaurant specializing in Puerto Rican cuisine. On Saturday's, the hotel bar gets lively with local bands. Free breakfast is included in the price of the room. The hotel's beach is unspoiled with soft, white sand.

The Coconut Palms Inn (tel. 787/823-0147; www.coconutpalmsinn.com) is a guest house also located directly on the beach. Rates start at around $75 for a standard room with one-bedroom suites going for $100 to $125 per night. During high-season from January through mid-April, a one-week minimum is mandatory. The hotel boasts a Hertz Rental Car (tel. 800/654-3131, www.hertz.com) desk with cars available for $28 dollars per day or $173 for the week for hotel guests. The cars can be picked up or dropped off at any of the larger Puerto Rican airports. The incredible beach sunsets (and they really are some of the best in the world, rivaling even the sunsets from the Grand Canyon's Southern Rim) can be enjoyed with a drink in hand from the hotel's beach or the second floor veranda. The friendly hotel staff can arrange any diving, snorkeling, or inland trips as well as give surfers tips about where and when to find the best waves. In the spirit of Rincon, this inn is so laid back they even let you cook your own food on one of their outdoor barbecues.

If you're looking to splurge a little for the amenities of a big resort and white glove service, The Rincon Beach Resort (tel. 866/589-0009; www.rinconbeach.com) is a large hotel with several restaurants, a stretch of a sandy beach, a swimming pool and most water activities known to man. Rates start at $230 per night during the high season and drop to around $185 during the summer months from April 16 to December 20, 2006.

Just to let you know, the surfing beaches at Rincon are showing waves of up to four feet, and the temperature is hovering in the mid-80s. You can rent a surfboard and get information on surf lessons from the folks at the El Rincon Surf Shop (tel. 787/890-3108; www.elrinconsurfshop.com).

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