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5 Things to Do in Porta del Sol

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The Western coast of Puerto Rico is known as Porta del Sol, or "Sun Gate." It doesn't have the fame of San Juan or the tourist starpower of Vieques and Culebra, but Porta del Sol is tremendously popular among those who know about it. It's hard not to fall in love with this laid back, natural paradise. Surfing, hiking, and beaches are just part of the draw here. If San Juan gets too crowded for you, or you just crave nature's bounty, consider spending some time out west. Here are five ways to enjoy the best of what Porta del Sol has to offer.

1. Surf in Rincón

Photo © Puerto Rico Tourism Company
Rincón is the surf capital of Puerto Rico, and has perhpas some of the best breaks in the Caribbean. This coastal community lives on, and for, the water and the beach, and that's the kind of crowd you'll find here. Puntas, Gas Chambers, Domes Beach, and Crash Boat Beach are some of the top spots to surf. This is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean sea.

Surfing season runs from November to March, so if you want to ride the awesome waves ... or learn how to surf, this is the time to come to this charming part of Puerto Rico.

2. Explore La Parguera

Photo © Puerto Rico Tourism Company
La Parguera is known for two things, and both lie beneath the surface of the water. This is home to one of three biobays in Puerto Rico, which offer tourists a unique and captivating experience. Essentially, a trip out to the bay here is a chance to go swimming in glow-in-the-dark waters. For a more complete understanding of what a biobay trip is all about, read my review of the Vieques Biobay.

La Parguera's other star attractino brings scuba divers from all over the world to this part of Porta del Sol. The Wall is where the continental shelf drops off, providing one of the best dive sites in the Caribbean.

3. Visit Cabo Rojo

Photo © Zain Deane
Small and picturesque, the colonial lighthouse perched on a cliff in Cabo Rojo is only half the story. The spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea below is the real reason to come here. Come here especially during the early mornings and sunsets to capture one of the most beautiful vistas in the Caribbean. The lighthouse overlooks vast salt flats, and provides a good chance to see how sea salt is harvested, if you're interested. The surrounding area is also a popular place to birdwatch, as many birds make this corner of Puerto Rico their final stop before flying to South America every year.

4. Go Whale Watching

This is probably the last thing you'd expect to do in Puerto Rico, but off the coast of Rincón, in the winter, you can spot Humpback Whales, which migrate to this spot annually. February is peak whale-watching season, and several daytrips by boat embark from town to give you an up-close look at these gentle giants. If you don't feel like hopping on a boat, head to Lighthouse Park, where you may be able to sight them.

5. Hike the Guajataca Forest

A whole new experience from the El Yunque Rainforest, the Guajataca Forest features 25 miles of trails and a beautiful natural cave that alone is worth the trek. The forest is home to 156 types of trees and 45 species of birds. While you're here, make sure to visit the Guajataca Tunnel, a former railroad tunnel that connected the towns of Isabela and Quebradillas. Hike along the path to the splendid coastline and its beaches.
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