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Five Things to Do in Puerto Rico's East Region

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There is so much to do in the East Region it's almost not fair. Many of Puerto Rico's rarest and most spectacular crown jewels (touristic jewels, that is) can be found here. Like the only subtropical rainforest in the U.S. Forest Service. Or not one, but two of only a handful of bioluminescent bays in the world. Or a beach that has frequently landed on top ten lists. I could go on. In fact, I think I will. Just note that the following is not in any particular order, because I honestly can't figure out what I like best about visiting this part of Puerto Rico.

1. Visit Flamenco Beach

Photo © Zain Deane
How absolutely gorgeous is Flamenco Beach? Put it this way. Out of literally hundreds of beaches in Puerto Rico , Flamenco is often ranked among the best beaches in Puerto Rico. Make that the Caribbean. Actually, make that the world.

Located on unspoiled and rustic Culebra Island, Flamenco Beach is a deep horseshoe of powdery sand framed against low green hills. The beachfront is wide and stretches for miles, giving tourists plenty of room to spread out. It's got the best campgrounds in Puerto Rico, and people come to camp by its shores for up to six months (I know; I asked). And the water ... calm, turquoise blending to royal blue, are calm and ideal for families.

Quite simply, this beach is so well-loved that people come to Puerto Rico from all over the world just for the chance to chill out on its shores.

2. Glow in the Dark

Photo © Erin Go Bragh
To understand just how special a bioluminescent bay is, take in this fact: there are only six bays that display bioluminescence consistently enough throughout the year to classify as a biobay. And Puerto Rico has three of them. And of those three, the two brightest lie in Puerto Rico's East Region.

Without a doubt, the most brilliant, spectacular biobay in the world is Mosquito Bay in Vieques. We're talking glow-neon-green, darting fish that look like they have batteries in them, and, if you're lucky, raindrops that sparkle like diamonds on the surface of the water.

It's an unforgettable experience, and a highlight of many a trip to Puerto Rico ... mine included.

3. Spend a Day in the Forest

Photo © Zain Deane
Simply put, El Yunque is Puerto Rico's most treasured natural wonder. It was even a candidate for one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature not too long ago.

A visit to the forest is a return to Puerto Rico the way it was before Columbus ever saw a map. Rough-cut hiking trails criss-cross the mountain, and some take you to pristine natural pools and waterfalls. The forest is a gentle giant, with no large creatures to threaten you. Instead, you'll hear the lilting song of the coquí tree frog, the chirping of myriad birds, and the rustle of leaves.

Of course, if you want to amp up your rainforest experience, El Yunque will oblige. Horseback rides and ATV tours with Hacienda Carabalí, or more daring adventures with Aventuras Tierra Adentro, await the intrepid visitor.

However you choose to experience the forest, experience it you must, if you love being outdoors. And if one day is not enough, there are some terrific mountain inns that will welcome you.

4. Go Snorkeling, Boating or Sailing

Photo © Zain Deane
Fajardo is the boating capital of Puerto Rico. From its marinas, you can catch the ferry to Culebra and Vieques Islands, catamaran tours to the Caribbean Seas, and even a pleasant tour of the nearby islets on a gorgeous sailboat.

There are many reasons why people love to sail from these shores. Just off the coast of Fajardo is an arhipelago of cays and islets, including one so picturesque it's something of a movie star. Then there are the many reefs in the area that make for fine snorkeling and diving. And finally, game fishing is a popular pastime, thanks to the abundance of tarpon, billfish, bonefish and more.

5. Dine at a Kiosk

Photo © Zain Deane
I'll admit it; I'm a fan. I'm a kiosk-a-holic. I simply love the string of 60-odd shacks and rustic eateries along Route 3 in Luquillo, home to the famed Luquillo Kiosks. You'll find a surprising variety of foods here. The specialty is the assortment of crispy 'Rican goodies and snacks. But you'll also get gourmet local fare, Mexican cuisine, Peruvian cooking and, my favorite, delicious stuffed burgers.
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