TRANSCRIPT

Trip Coach: November 11, 2008

Stephen Keeling, author of the first-edition "Rough Guide to Puerto Rico," answered your questions about Puerto Rico.

By , Tuesday, Nov 11, 2008, 12:21 PM

Stephen Keeling: Hi! This is Stephen Keeling, and I'm excited to chat with you today about Puerto Rico. Let's get started!

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Arlington, Va.: My wife and I will be taking a trip to Puerto Rico in March. We have one week to do anything we want and are trying to decide between Vieques and Culebra for a relaxing week while still having options available for things to do. What are the benefits of each island and what do you recommend?

Stephen Keeling: Great question. The two islands have a lot in common, but there are quite a few differences. Vieques is far larger, and with a population of around 10,000 it can seem much busier at times (Culebra has around 3000 inhabitants), though it's relatively easy to find a secluded strip of sand. Much of the tourist infrastructure is run by American expats on Vieques—Puerto Ricans still dominate on Culebra (though pretty much everyone speaks English on both islands). Unlike Vieques (which does occasionally experience bouts of car theft), crime is virtually unknown on Culebra: much of it shuts down in the afternoons for a siesta. Both islands have absolutely stunning beaches, though you'll have more choice on Vieques—the hotel and eating options are also far better on Vieques. Culebra has the most famous beach, Flamenco, and is a bit better for diving, snorkeling and kayaking, though if you get tired of the sea and sun, Vieques has some enticing cultural attractions (such as the old Spanish fort and prehistoric site) that are lacking in Culebra. In short, Culebra is best for a really tranquil, beach and water-based holiday; but Vieques offers more options in terms of wild, unspoiled beaches, eating and drinking, and activities. I love them both—hope this has made your choice easier!

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Rochester Hills, Mich.: How is the scuba diving and snorkling offshore and by boat?

Stephen Keeling: This really depends where you are in Puerto Rico, but as a guide, I'd budget $100-120 for two-tank dives (this assumes you are certified of course), and $50-75 per snorkeling session (2-3hrs). Most scuba trips will involve a boat ride. Remember that there are also many places to snorkel just offshore for free—paid trips will normally be an organized boat trip to an offshore reef. In general, operators in La Parguera and Culebra are slightly cheaper than San Juan, Fajardo and Rincón.

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Provo, Utah: I've only been to Puerto Rico as part of a cruise, so I've really missed out on the island's interior. What can you tell me about Camuy Caverns?

Stephen Keeling: I'm glad you've asked about Camuy! Puerto Rico's interior is definitely well worth exploring, but the problem with Camuy right now is that the best part—the guided walk through Cueva Clara, the biggest, most spectacular cavern—has been closed since January this year, when a tourist was actually killed by falling rocks (the first time this had ever happened).
What you get instead for your $12 entry fee is a brief introductory video and trolley bus tour around the mouth of Sumidero Tres Pueblos, a colossal sinkhole. The sinkhole is amazing, but to be honest, it's probably not worth visiting Camuy until the main caves re-open (hopefully sometime in 2009). If you're curious anyway, the park is open Wed-Sun 8.30am-5pm. Call the park at 787/898-3100 for the latest, though you need to mention Cueva Clara specifically—otherwise they tend to insist that 'the park is open' and leave it at that.
If you fancy something a little more energetic, contact a private tour operator. Acampa is a reliable outfit (787/706-0695; acampapr.com), and runs caving day-trips to the Río Tanamá area for $149. Expediciones Palenque (787/823-4354; expedicionespalenque.com) also runs caving excursions to the Camuy area from $90 per day.

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Santa Maria, Calif.: Will be with 3 others one day in San Juan off a cruise ship. Never been there before. Question: We prefer a private guide. Do you have a suggestion on who to contact, or using Google search? And, we're going on a four hour tour—what would you suggest as the focus? We plan to end the tour with lunch in city. Where should we go for a tasty meal, well served and prepared, not the usual junk stuff. Thanks, Dan

Stephen Keeling: Hi Dan! I'd start with "Legends of Puerto Rico", who tend to arrange the best guided tours of Old San Juan on foot (legendsofpr.com, Tel: 787/605-9060). Four hours should be enough to get a taster of the old town (which is where the cruise ships dock), though I'd certainly recommend coming back to Puerto Rico to really make the most of it! As for focus, given you'll be wandering around the old city, I'd concentrate on history; El Morro, the massive fortress guarding San Juan Harbor, is the premier sight, and the nearby historic cemetery is wonderfully picturesque. You should also check out the Galería Nacional, an easily absorbed gallery of Puerto Rican art, the cathedral, and the central square, the Plaza de Armas (where the kiosks serve great coffee). If you can squeeze it in, visit Casa Blanca, a gorgeous old mansion dating from the early sixteenth century. You have plenty of choice when it comes to lunch! Assuming you want to try Puerto Rican food, I'd recommend El Jibarito, at Calle Sol 280, which serves cheap and tasty local dishes, or Café Puerto Rico, at Calle O'Donnell 208, which knocks out excellent mofongo (mashed plantains stuffed with meat), the national dish.

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Alexandria, Va.: We are going to Puerto Rico for Christmas. What can you tell us about the festival of masks and can you give us some tips about going to see them?

Stephen Keeling: The Hatillo mask festival (Festival de las Máscaras) is one of Puerto Rico's most exuberant celebrations, so you are in for a real treat! Held on December 28, the festival actually commemorates King Herod's attempt to kill baby Jesus by ordering the murder of all first born sons. These days it's a big party; the men of the town wear florid masks and costumes to collect money for local churches or charities (with as many pranks as possible), there's a big parade with floats, lots of mouth-watering food and plenty of music and dancing.
Given the thousands that turn up to celebrate, visiting the festival can be tricky! The best way would be stay near the town: the Parador El Buen Café (elbuencafe.com) is a decent three-star hotel on the main highway just outside Hatillo. Once there, the hotel should be able to help with local taxis. Failing that, you can drive to Hatillo from San Juan in around one hour, but I'd leave really early!

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Probably a weird question to some since PR is know for sun and fun, but we are a family of five that like the water, but not the sun. We are picking PR because of the many activities besides from the beach. Because of this, we have many must-dos that are not beach oriented, like Old SJ, the caves on the north coast, rain forest, Ponce, etc. We would like to include the beach probably daily, but not lay out in the sun all day and do day trips in the morning. Where would you suggest we stay? I am thinking a rental in Luquillo, which could get us near a lot of what we want to see, but I am thinking that a better place would be west of OSJ rather than east. Note: we also want to do some snorkeling. Planning on early April. Thanks!

Stephen Keeling: Thanks for the question—not weird at all! There's more to Puerto Rico than sun and sand, that's for sure, so you have plenty of options! Luquillo is a good idea, as it has some fabulous beaches, and is a short drive from the El Yunque rain forest and San Juan; it's also close to the attractions of Fajardo and the ferry to Vieques and Culebra. Having said that, you could also opt for somewhere on the north or even west coast, which can also provide access to some enticing attractions inland. My two picks would be Boquerón, on the southwest coast, and Playa de Jobos, on the northwest coast. Plus points for Jobos: the beaches are excellent, there's great snorkeling at Playa de Shacks nearby (as well as horseback riding) and it's a short drive into the mountains (the Bosque Estatal de Guajataca is one of the best state forests for hiking); and you could be in Old San Juan within two hours. Boquerón is a trek from San Juan, but the beach is truly magnificent, and you have Ponce and San Germán, another historic gem, within easy striking distance. On top of that, you could explore the other-worldly landscapes and reserves of Cabo Rojo, the mangroves (by kayaks and boat) of La Parguera (also good for snorkeling), and the tranquil dry forest reserve near Guánica (which has numerous hiking trails). Both places have plenty of accommodation options (hotels and self-catering apartments). Hope that helps—have fun!

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Stamford, Ct.: I would like to go to Puerto Rico and in the past I learned that there is a road around the Island that can be traveled by car, and you can stay in private Inns. Is this true? How can I arrange to do the trip? Thanks, Sara

Stephen Keeling: Hi Sara—yes, Puerto Rico has the best highway system in the Caribbean and you can drive all over the island by car. Sections of the coast—the southeast and northwest in particular—feature lovely, usually empty roads that boast fantastic views of the sea. In other areas, especially near the cities, you'll find jam-packed highways that are as busy as anything in LA or New York. You can certainly stay in private inns along the way; the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association website is a good place to get some ideas puertoricosmallhotels.com.

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Nampa, Idaho: What should I see/do on the one day my cruise ship docks at San Juan? I'm talking 12/8/08.

Stephen Keeling: Hmm, this is a question I get asked a lot, and I'm always tempted to say "please stay longer"! I know that's not possible for most cruise ship visitors, so you have a few choices. If you fancy a few hours on the beach, soaking up the salsa and a couple of cocktails, make for Isla Verde, San Juan's best strip of sand (a taxi should be $19). If that sounds a bit too much like life on ship, stay in the old town (where the ship is likely to dock) and wander the cobbled streets, soaking up the atmosphere and eighteenth-century Spanish architecture. Old San Juan is packed with stores, bars and restaurants, but you should also visit El Morro, the massive Spanish fortress that overlooks the harbor, and grab a potent coffee in Plaza de Armas, the main square. It looks like you'll be there on a Monday, which means most of the other museums will be closed—take a peek inside the cathedral instead, or take a guided tour of La Fortaleza, the governor's mansion. You could also visit Casa Bacardi, on the other side of the harbor, which is a fascinating introduction to the world's largest producer of rum, even if you're not a drinker—though the drinkers get a couple of free cocktails at the end of the tour.

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Baton Rouge, La.: We will be on a cruise ship stopping in San Juan overnight on Dec. 30th. There's so much to see and do. My question is: How exciting would it be to visit Viequez Biobay on the evening of Dec. 30th? Thanks, Jerlyn

Stephen Keeling: Hi Jerlyn, you're right—there is so much to see and do! Assuming you have time to squeeze in a side-trip to Vieques (and plenty of cruise-ship visitors do so), the bio bay is simply stunning! It's hard to describe—it looks normal at first, but boats leave glowing trails in the darkness, while swimmers are engulfed by luminous clouds, the water spilling off your hands like glittering fireflies—it's really like something out of a fantasy movie! Note that moonlight can really affect your experience, because if it's too bright, it can be hard to see anything. Checking the handy moon calendar at biobay.com, it looks like Dec 30 should be fine. The website belongs to the best bio bay tour operator, Island Adventures—enjoy!

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Santa Maria, Calif.: I will be in San Juan for a conference during the first week of December. Where is the best snorkeling on the island? Thank you. Ardis

Stephen Keeling: Hi Ardis, great question. Though it's theoretically possible to snorkel almost anywhere along the coast of Puerto Rico, the power of the surf in winter (when you'll be there), coral damage, and the large number of silt-carrying rivers flowing into the sea, makes much of this inaccessible or unremarkable—in general the small islands offshore always offer the best coral and fish life.
Isla de Mona and Isla Desecheo on the west coast are definitely my picks for the best snorkeling and diving; Mona is quite tough to visit, but you can arrange trips to Desecheo from the surf town of Rincón. I'd also recommend Culebra and Vieques (Culebra is slightly better), which both have snorkeling areas that are sheltered from the big December swells—you can fly direct to both islands from San Juan in thirty minutes. To guarantee calm seas, head to La Parguera on the south coast, which offers plenty of snorkeling sites and mangrove islands—you might also see a manatee or two.

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Chicago, Ill.: Any feedback on: tropical-treehouse.com? After staying in San Juan for a few days, if we were to choose the West side of the island as opposed to the East Side, where would you suggest we go to explore? Is it worth the trip to Isla Mona?

Stephen Keeling: I'd definitely recommend the Tropical Treehouse—it's one of the most unique 'hotels' I've ever seen. It also makes a good base for the west side of the island, which is literally jam-packed with stuff to do. I love Mayagüez, the biggest city, and San Germán, a gorgeous old town further south, but don't forget Rincón is a surfing mecca and the west coast beaches are amazing: Playa Buyé and Boquerón are my favorites. It's also worth checking out the lighthouse at Cabo Rojo, and the bizarre, alien landscape of salt flats near here. For water sports, La Parguera is a solid choice.
Mona—tough question! Getting there is certainly a lot of hassle, and can be expensive. It's wild and beautiful, but certainly not overwhelmingly so, and giant iguanas aside (which are kinda cool) you could get a similar back-to-nature experience elsewhere in North America. The really unique thing about Mona is the sense of total isolation—the fact that it's so hard to get there, and that so few people have ever set foot on the island. And it's the one place where you can really sense what it must have been like when Columbus blundered his way into the Caribbean in 1492. If that appeals, go for it!

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Holliston, Mass.: We are going to San Juan for an overnight before our cruise to the Southern Caribbean on March 4 with 8 other couples. We would like a recommendation for a reasonably priced restaurant that could accomodate all of us for the night before the cruise. Thanks.

Stephen Keeling: Given the size of your group, I'd recommend somewhere spacious and lots of fun like the Parrot Club at Calle Fortaleza 363 in Old San Juan. It's a bit touristy, but the music, service and atmosphere are always fabulous. Having said that, it's not exactly cheap (entrees $25-30), and you normally can't make reservations (you'd have to get there early). You could also consider Zabo (zabopr.com), an atmospheric place in Condado, or El Jibarito in Old San Juan (eljibaritopr.com), which are both cheaper and should be able to accommodate your group.

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Manasquan, N.J.: We are cruising out of San Juan on February 28, 2009. Although we are staying overnight on the 27th, we do not land in San Juan until 4:30pm, so we actually only have one day to explore. My question is: How can my sister, mom, and myself make the most out of our 1 day (boat leaves at 11pm 2/28) stay in San Juan? We love shopping, but I am also interested in the rain forest there. Thanks for your help!!

Stephen Keeling: Hmm, choices, choices! Shopping would probably be the easiest option (though it depends where you're staying), with the most interesting places in Old San Juan; think Spanish antiques, carnival masks, cigars, panama hats, linens, arts and crafts and lots of contemporary painting. Old San Juan has plenty of other attractions, bars and restaurants to keep you amused, should the shopping options wear thin. On the other hand, El Yunque rainforest is enchanting, and not that far from San Juan (45 minutes drive)—an easy day-trip. You can hike well-maintained paths, splash around under mountain waterfalls, enjoy mesmerizing views and admire Jurassic Park-like sierra palms. You could take a guided tour from San Juan, but since there are three of you it would be cheaper to just rent a car and drive. Renting is straightforward and you'll have much more fun and flexibility (all the major rental companies have operations on the island). Bear in mind, though, El Yunque is a 'rain' forest—it's the wettest part of Puerto Rico and showers are fairly common.

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Weston, Wis.: I have a trip planned to San Juan, Puerto Rico on December 27. We are a group of 4 women ages 28-60. We are taking a 7 day cruise but need a hotel room the night before and the night after. I am looking for the best white sand beaches and inexpensive, nice hotels.

Stephen Keeling: San Juan's best beach, in my view, is Isla Verde. Lots of white sand, with plenty of bars and music nearby and a great party scene at the weekend. Needless to say, the best hotels here are not cheap! Inexpensive alternatives, a short walk from the beach, are Coqui Inn (coqui-inn.com) and Hotel Villa del Sol (villadelsolpr.com), but you could also consider the sleepier neighborhood of Ocean Park, where Hosteria del Mar (hosteriadelmarpr.com) offers great value for beachside accommodation. Failing that, you could always try "naming your own price" at priceline.com—you can sometimes get an Isla Verde five-star for $100.

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: Often I read about fabulous diving in Puerto Rico, but can't find any information on spots (they seem to close up as soon as they are written about). Also do they have any kind of transportation system at all? I am from N.Y. and don't drive. I only go to places where a car is not necessary.

Stephen Keeling: First the good news: there is fabulous diving in Puerto Rico! For me, three areas stand out: La Pared, the spectacular reef wall off the south coast (best approached from La Parguera); the offshore island of Culebra; and Isla de Mona, off the west coast, which takes a lot more planning and time to reach.
Now the bad news: sorry to say, public transportation is virtually non-existent in Puerto Rico, outside the main cities. The island is nominally served by públicos, which are private minibuses and long-distance taxis, but in most cases routes and times are not fixed and the whole system is highly unreliable and difficult to use for travelers (though it is very cheap). I've used públicos to travel between San Juan and Ponce, Mayagüez and Fajardo, but that's about it. If you can't drive, but still want some decent diving, I'd recommend Culebra—you can fly direct from San Juan, and once there it's so small you don't need to rent a car. It's stunningly beautiful above ground too! Contact Culebra Divers for more info (culebradivers.com).

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Seattle, Wash.: We are planning to go to Puerto Rico during Christmas for 6 days. We would like to camp and hike rather than stay at a hotel. Are there good camping places on the island? What are good snorkeling spots? We cannot swim but have snorkeled before in Hawaii.

Stephen Keeling: Good question! Camping is a great way to see Puerto Rico, and you'll definitely meet more locals. Your choices are primarily limited to beaches and forests; the six beach campgrounds are operated by the Compañia de Parques Nacionales (parquesnacionalespr.com), and all come with showers, toilets and barbecue grills. My two picks would be Playa Seven Seas (Fajardo) and Sun Bay (on Vieques). Campsites within Puerto Rico's forest reserves are managed by the Departamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales (drna.gobierno.pr), but to stay at any of them you must apply for a permit in advance, which is much easier if you speak Spanish. You can apply in person, by mail, by fax and on-line. You can also camp at Playa Flamenco on Culebra, perhaps the most stunning location of all, and within El Yunque National Forest. If you're looking to combine camping and snorkeling, aim for Culebra (Flamenco) or Vieques (Sun Bay)!

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: How's the public transportation in Puerto Rico? Is it feasible to visit without renting a car if I want to venture beyond Old San Juan?

Stephen Keeling: It's tough. Public transportation in Puerto Rico is limited to 'publicos', private minibuses (and sometimes cars) that tend to operate more as local bus services, without fixed timetables or routes, and only leaving when full. It is possible to travel between San Juan and a handful of major towns: you can get to Caguas, Ponce, Mayaguez and Fajardo fairly easily, but that's about it. Most other trips require advance planning, and calling the drivers in advance. And you need to start early! On the plus side, it's very cheap. With a car you'll have a lot more flexibility, though.

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New York, N.Y.: We're a couple in our 30's and are going to spend 4 night in San Juan next week. What are your recommended for not-to-be-missed attractions and restaurants?

Stephen Keeling: So much to see! I'd definitely spend a lot of time in Old San Juan; visit El Morro, the Galería Nacional, Casa Blanca, Museo de las Américas and just wander the streets, taking it all in. If you like art, it's worth making a trip to Santurce, an inland neighborhood, to see the contemporary art museum and excellent Museo de Arte, a real showcase of Puerto Rican talent. If you prefer the beach, head to Isla Verde—all the usual water sports are also on offer. For off-the-beaten track adventures, head to the university district of Río Piedras, where you'll find some real gems: the famous Francisco Oller painting El Velorio, in the university museum, and the Plaza del Mercado, where the market boasts a huge range of fresh veg and fruits, but also cigars, traditional botánicas and the best (and cheapest) food court in the city. Casa Bacardi, across the harbor, makes a great half-day excursion.
So many restaurants. In brief, in Old San Juan I'd definitely try Cafeteria Mallorca (try the eponymous mallorcas!), the Parrot Club, El Jibarito, and the cocktails at Maria's (piña coladas were invented in San Juan). In Condado, don't miss Ajili-Mójili and Bebo's Café, a real local hangout; Zabo is nicer for dinner. Pikayo in the Museo de Arte is the home of celebrity chef Wilo Benet, while the nearby district known as La Placita is fun on Thursday or Friday nights, for drinks, salsa and seafood. If you like casinos, visit the El San Juan Hotel for some 1950s class. I could go on…but hope that's given you some ideas!

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Oak Hill, Va.: We'd like to go to the rainforest and see the bioluminescence bay on the same day. Is this possible? We'll be staying in San Juan and want to do this on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008? I think the moon will cooperate, but how do I organize the trips? I've found half day bus trips to the rainforest, but nothing about the bay. Would prefer not to rent a car, but if that's the only way, I would do so. My 2 teenage daughters and my elderly parents with mobility issues will be accompanying me on this trip. Thank you for any assistance/advice you an provide.

Stephen Keeling: Hmm, tricky. I wouldn't recommend it, though it is possible with a rental car (I think that's the only way). You'd leave early in the morning and hit El Yunque rain forest by 8 or 9am to make the most of the trails and waterfalls (it's only 45 mins from San Juan). You'd then need to get to an airport by late afternoon for the short flight to Vieques; from San Juan it's just 30mins. You could also drive on to Fajardo airport, leave the car there, and take a 10min flight to Vieques. From Vieques airport it's a short taxi ride to a bio bay operator like Island Adventures. Flying back the same evening might be possible, but you'd definitely have to reserve the flight well in advance—in practice, I really think you'll need to spend the night.

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Washington, D.C.: What are the top three, best hotels (4-5 stars) in San Juan that a first-timer should stay at that's close to the beaches and nightlife?

Stephen Keeling: My picks would be the newly renovated La Concha Renaissance Resort, the Ritz Carlton and the El San Juan Hotel, though the San Juan Water & Beach Club Hotel is the best boutique. Look out also for the Condado Vanderbilt, which should be opening next year.

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Midland, Tex.: Are there any good scuba diving sites?

Stephen Keeling: Many! I'd recommend La Pared (the reef off La Parguera), Culebra, and Isla de Mona and Isla Desecheo, off Rincón. The sites off the east coast (Fajardo) and San Juan, are OK for beginners, but may disappoint seasoned divers.

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Schnecksville, Pa.: We will be visiting San Juan on Dec. 2nd on a cruise ship. I've been to the Old City. Any other suggestions? Thanks, Joe

Stephen Keeling: Hi Joe! I'm assuming you only have one day—in that case, you could head over to Casa Bacardi, which provides an illuminating introduction to the world of rum, or if you like art, make for Santurce, the lively barrio which contains two excellent art galleries—Puerto Rican art is seriously underrated! You can always just lounge on the beach, of course. Isla Verde is your best bet.

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Miami, Fla.: Should we be concerned about our safety when we travel there? Any tips on places to avoid?

Stephen Keeling: This is an important question, but the good news is that Puerto Rico is a lot safer for tourists than the stats might suggest. Most stories about car-jacking, for example, relate to the 1990s, and in general, crime has come down all over the island. Like many US cities, San Juan has problems with drug crime and gangs—but this rarely, if ever, affects tourists. Those hefty hotel taxes have been translated into a heavier police presence in all beach districts and Old San Juan, and robberies are very rare. Still, it always pays to take the usual precautions when out and about. And I'd avoid driving around the San Juan suburbs late at night, to be safe—the same applies to Ponce.
Elsewhere, you don't have much to worry about. Be aware of your belongings on beaches, where thefts can happen, and don't leave anything valuable in the car.

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New York, N.Y.: Hi Stephen—My husband and I are considering a trip to Puerto Rico in early spring 2009. We're big hikers and foodies. Can you recommend some good places to hike—and some good restaurants? Thanks!

Stephen Keeling: Certainly! Puerto Rico is thoroughly underrated as a hiking destination, despite being covered in lush, tropical mountains. The place to start is El Yunque National Forest, which is the best maintained reserve on the island; the hike up El Yunque (3461ft) itself (the name of a peak as well as the park) makes for a pleasant half-day excursion, but the trails to El Toro (3533ft) offer more of a challenge. There are also several trails to cooling jungle waterfalls, and plenty of visitor centers on the main road into the reserve. The island is littered with wilder state reserves, if you fancy a little more isolation; I'd recommend the Bosque Estatal de Guajataca, and the Bosque Estatal de Toro Negro, for the best trails.
Good restaurants abound—I think you'd also appreciate Puerto Rico's exotic 'cocina kiosco', kiosk food, served up in shacks all over the island. The most common kiosco food is deep-fried fritters, especially alcapurrias (mashed plantain stuffed with ground meat) and bacalaítos (thin cod fritters), but you'll find plenty of local specialties and a range of other small snacks on offer; make for the shacks around Guavate (in the mountains) for sumptuous barbecue pork. Other regional specialties include mojo isleño sauces and "chuletas can-can" pork chops on the south coast, and potent, homemade sangria in the west. Hope that whets your appetite!

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: I'll be honest: we like to party. But we aren't looking for the techno-blasting, cloyingly-sweet drink woo-hoo beach resort party scene. We prefer modern local music and at least a hint of authentic culture. Are there any chic, jazzy joints in or near San Juan where Puerto Rican hipsters hang out? (This question can also serve readers hoping to avoid such spots.) -Vic

Stephen Keeling: Hey Vic, there are indeed such places. I'd recommend Piñones, just east of San Juan proper, which really starts jumping at the weekends. To be fair, this is a bit more local and authentic than truly hipster (think blaring salsa and raw reggaeton, lots of rum and plenty of chickens ambling between the food shacks along the beach), but there are a few bars here that attract a cooler set: Bamboobei and El Balcón de Zumbador are good examples.

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: Is it worth venturing outside of San Juan if we're only planning to be there for a few days?

Stephen Keeling: Hmm, that depends. San Juan has plenty to keep you occupied, but if this is your first trip to Puerto Rico, I'd definitely recommend a visit to El Yunque National Forest, which is probably the most accessible tropical rain forest reserve in the Caribbean.

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Stephen Keeling: Thanks to everyone for all your excellent questions, it's been fun—sorry if I didn't get to all of them. For more ideas about making the most of this gorgeous tropical island, remember to grab a copy of the Rough Guide to Puerto Rico. Happy travels!