A Caribbean Soul: Greater Antilles (Puerto Rico)

Ah, the Caribbean. So many mysteries. Like which syllable gets the accent, the RIB or the BE? And which islands have the gentlest breezes? The bluest waters? The friendliest natives? Should I cruise via Royal Caribbean or take more of a DIY approach?

Jimmy knows. He became fascinated by the history of the Caribbean while a history major at the University of Southern Mississippi. He’s traveled the Caribbean for years, by boat and seaplane. The various islands are the subjects of numerous songs, and receive tangential mention on even more. To sum it up, In “Migration” (on the album “A1A”) he claims, “Got a Caribbean soul I can barely control.” So what’s his take on it all? And what’s in it for you? The Caribbean, also known as the West Indies, is primarily divided into the Greater Antilles (Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Cuba) and the Lesser Antilles to the south. Let’s take a closer look at the Greater Antilles from East to West.


She was down In Puerto Rico
Doing a scientist.
True, he was no geek though
She was taken with his kiss.

(From “Desdemona’s Building A Rocket Ship”, on the album “Banana Wind”)

Yes, Puerto Rico has plenty of action. This U.S. Commonwealth (no passport needed; U.S. dollars are the local currency) consists of a main island and various smaller islands.

On the main island, San Juan is the largest city. The most picturesque neighborhood, Old San Juan, has cobblestone streets and buildings dating back 100 years or more. Once a walled city, Old San Juan retains much of the original massive walls as well as two forts from the 16th and 17th centuries.

For something a little less urban, head out of town to the El Yunque National Rain Forest, with its miles of hiking trails, or Río Camuy Cave Park, 268 acres of subterranean caverns carved out more than a million years ago.

Puerto Rico’s outlying islands are Vieques and Culebra to the east and Mona and Monito to the west. All are diving destinations. In fact, according to Scuba Diving Magazine, Puerto Rico is one of the best-kept secrets in diving. Mona and Monito Islands are known as the Galapagos of the Caribbean and are home to endangered marine turtles, sea birds and occasional migratory marine mammals. Vieques, with its bioluminescent waters, is great for night swims. And Culebra is a capital of eco-tourism, with its National Wildlife Refuge and Canal de Luis Peña Nature Reserve. That island’s Flamenco Beach is one of the top beaches in the world.

next page (Haiti)

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