- Attending a Cockfight: Although a brutal sport that many find distasteful, cockfighting is legal in Puerto Rico. We find it repellant, but the cultural truth is that it has its devotees. The most authentic cockfights are held in small central mountain towns, and it's popular along the south coast, such as in the town of Salinas. But it's not necessary to go that far to witness one of these bouts. Three fights a week are held at the Coliseo Gallistico, Isla Verde Avenue 6600 (tel. 787/791-6005), in San Juan. Betting is heavy when these roosters take to the ring. Many visitors find the brutality depressing.
- Diving off Mona Island (Mayagüez): Surrounded by some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the Caribbean, Mona Island has the most pristine, extensive, and well-developed reefs in Puerto Rican waters. In fact, they have been nominated as a U.S. National Marine Sanctuary. The tropical marine ecosystem around Mona includes patch reefs, black coral, spore and groove systems, underwater caverns, deepwater sponges, fringing reefs, and algal reefs. The lush environment attracts octopuses, lobster, queen conch, rays, barracuda, snapper, jack, grunt, angelfish, trunkfish, filefish, butterfly fish, dolphin, parrotfish, tuna, flying fish, and more. The crystal waters afford exceptional horizontal vision from 150 to 200 feet (46-61m), as well as good views down to the shipwrecks that mark the site -- including some Spanish galleons. Five species of whales visit the island's offshore waters.
- Visiting Vieques & Culebra: Puerto Rico's offshore islands -- still relatively undiscovered by the modern world -- remain an offbeat adventure, and they've got great beaches, too. The most developed is Vieques, which attracts visitors with its gorgeous stretches of sand with picnic facilities and shade trees. It is an ideal retreat for snorkelers and tranquillity seekers. The beaches are nearly always deserted, even though they are among the Caribbean's loveliest. Nearly three-quarters of the island is owned by the Fish & Wildlife Service. The even-less-developed Culebra has a wildlife refuge, coral reefs, and Playa Flamenco, another of the Caribbean's finest beaches. And is it ever sleepy here! Culebra, without a doubt, is your best choice of location if what you really want is to do nothing more complicated than luxuriate on the beach and swim or snorkel.
- Spending the Evening at Mosquito (Phosphorescent) Bay (Vieques Island): At any time, except when there's a full moon, you can swim in glowing waters lit by dinoflagellates called pyrodiniums (whirling fire). These creatures light up the waters like fireflies, and swimming among them is one of the most unusual things to do anywhere -- truly a magical, almost psychedelic experience. It's estimated that a gallon of bay water might contain about three-quarters of a million of these little glowing creatures.
- Puerto Rican Road Food: No other place offers as many road-side treats as Puerto Rico. There's something good to eat around virtually every turn in the road. My family's favorites include barbecued chicken stands along Rte. 116 in Guánica, the pizzerias lining the northwest coast from Arecibo to Mayagüez, and the simple seafood restaurants fronting the quaint and picturesque harbor of Naguabo on the east coast. And you can't really forget Puerta de Tierra's oceanfront El Hamburger, or the taco joints along the old Caguas highway. Also try Piñones, east of Isla Verde (which has probably the largest concentration of frituras, fried beach snacks, near San Juan). Farther east, the cluster of food stands near the Luquillo public beach and Hwy. 3 are legendary for their seafood, as well as barbecued chicken. Make sure to try an arepa, a light flour pastry often filled with ceviche but also made with coconut flavor and eaten plain with coffee for breakfast. For succulent roast pork, chicken, and turkey, head to a string of open-air restaurants specializing in criolla barbecue in the mountain town of Guavate, about a half-hour south of San Juan. In all the years my family and I have been eating in Puerto Rico, we've never eaten at a bad restaurant. There simply isn't any bad food to be had here.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.