35 miles (56km) E of San Juan

A huge submerged coral reef off Fajardo's coast protects its southeastern waters, which are also blessed by trade winds -- a sailors' delight. The Caribbean waters here are run through with coral and marine life, from barracudas and nurse sharks to shimmering schools of tropical fish, making this area a diving and snorkeling paradise.

There are dozens of small islands off the coast of this eastern town. Fajardo itself has untrammeled beaches, surrounded by wilderness, with great snorkeling and scuba opportunities right offshore. It also has a bioluminescent bay and other natural wonders. Its unvarnished town center has atmospheric bars and cafetíns serving up cold drinks and tasty Creole cooking at bargain prices.

There are at least seven marinas in town, and with reason. Fajardo is the first of a string of ports extending to Vieques and Culebra, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, and the Windward island chain, the pleasure boating capital of the Caribbean. There are also gorgeous beaches, snorkeling spots, and untamed forest.

Las Croabas, a seafront village within the municipality, is the site of the El Conquistador Resort & Golden Door Spa, a leader in luxury since its casino was used as the setting for pivotal scenes in the 1964 James Bond classic film "Goldfinger." Today, the Mediterranean-inspired fantasy resort has its own funicular, water park, several pools in a breathtaking setting, a marina, a private ferry and private island with caverns, nature trails, horseback riding and watersports, plus classically beautiful beaches. The resort is divided into a main hotel, an upscale Andalusian village, and two modern resort communities, all tied together with lush landscaping. It also has full sports, spa, health, and beauty facilities.

The resort sprawls across a dramatic cliff and down along a harbor area, overlooking the coast with an infinite view of water stretching out from all sides. The back terraces and circular casino share the view, as do the leveled infinity pools stretching across the bluff. The buildings are wrought with Mediterranean motifs, from blooming Spanish courtyards to elegant neoclassical facades and fountains. A tramway takes guests down to sea level and the resort marina, and a ferry takes guests to the resort's beach on an offshore island.

Las Croabas is a charming fishing village, with boats tied up at harbor and open-air seafood restaurants. Many are clustered along Rte. 987 at the entrances of the Seven Seas public beach and Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve, over 300 acres (121 hectares) of dry forest, virgin coast, and mangrove swamp. It also borders the exquisite biobay, with glowing nocturnal waters. The restored 19th-century lighthouse still functions. The road ends in a circle, which wraps around a park at the village harbor. Several operators rent kayaks for daytime snorkeling trips or evening trips to the biobay at the adjacent nature reserve. You can paddle across the bay and through mangrove canals to make it to the biobay.