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Five things to do in Porta Atlántico

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Have you ever heard of Porta Atlántico? Puerto Rico's newest tourist region has plenty to offer, from one of the island's most astounding natural wonders to its most remarkable scientific achievement.

Puerto Rico is investing heavily in Porta Atlántico. Numerous hotels are cropping up, such as the Holiday Inn Travel Plaza en Arecibo, the Hyatt Place ib Manatí, the Wyndham Barceloneta, near the Prime outlet mall, and the crown jewel, the Dorado Beach Ritz Carlton Reserve, which will be the first 6-star hotel on the island. With that kind of presence from the largest hotel chains in the world, Porta Atlántico is poised for big things.

This is a destination unlike any other on the island, and I've got five ways to introduce it to you.

1. The Camuy Caves

Photo © Zain Deane
If you haven't been to the Camuy Caves, you're in for a treat. This subterranean kingdom in Camuy is the spectacular result of nature's handiwork, malleable limestone and evolution. An easy paved trail winds its way through some truly awesome caverns, but the experience is best enjoyed with a local guide, who will complement the tour with his or her own unique take on what the caves' most distinctive landmarks mean.

There's a reason Camuy ranks among my Top 5 attractions in Puerto Rico. Especially when it can share the top spot with the second entry on this list.

2. Arecibo Telescope

Photo © Puerto Rico Tourism Company
If Camuy is home to one of Puerto Rico's most dramatic natural vistas, Arecibo has without a doubt its most awe-inspiring manmade achievement. The largest single-dish radio telescope in the world lies nestled in these mountains, and it's a sight that must be seen to be appreciated. This is a legendary installation, a thousand-foot-across giant that has helped map the surface of other planets and even starred in movies.

3. The East Course in Dorado

Photo © Puerto Rico Tourism Company
Dorado's East Course is one of Puerto Rico's most hallowed golf destinations, and it's story is synonymous with the development of the sport on the island. Designed by a legend, conquered by legends, and reopened after a major renovation at the end of 2011, the course is one of the cornerstones of the renaissance of this part of Puerto Rico, and one of the drivers of the formation of Porta Atlántico.

Since it opened, the East Course is apparently better than ever ... perhaps because it went back to the basic design of its celebrated creator.

4. Mar Chiquita

Mar Chiquita ("Little Sea"), in the town of the Manatí, is one of my favorite hidden beaches in Puerto Rico. Hardly accessed by visitors (actually, you won't even find too many locals here on a weekday), Mar Chiquita is a small spot whose waters are protected by two wide arms of encircling coral that nearly come together. This coral wreath keeps out the rough surf of the Atlantic and creates a calm pool of Atlantic Ocean water.

True to a typical Puerto Rican beach, you;ll often find kiosks along the beach selling a variety for Puerto Rican snacks and fried foods.

5. Cerro Gordo

Cerro Gordo is a large, pristine beach, among the more popular stretches of sand in Puerto Rico. But it's not just the beach that makes this a destination worth knowing. Mountain bikers have long loved coming here for one of the most exciting and rewarding bike trails on the island. Offering splendid views, dense verdant foliage, and a downward run that recommends "no brakes," Cerro Gordo is an outdoor adventure-lover's refuge.

Even if you don't bike, the area is a lovely natural setting worth exploring.

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