Tag: sustainable travel

Why Visit Puerto Rico: 4 Reasons This Island Is Calling Your Name

Why Visit Puerto Rico: More Than San Juan and the Beach

It’s a common theme in all of my Caribbean posts… countries in this region get constantly pigeon-holed by all-inclusive and cruise trips. If these companies had their way, there would be one thing that the Caribbean would be known for, its white sand beaches… because most Caribbean countries have them! This is good for mass tourism business, particularly in the case of cruise ships, because that means that different Caribbean countries won’t be able to negotiate for things like higher entrance fees. You can’t negotiate when you are interchangeable, and tourism can’t help local people if they can’t look out for their own interests. What does this have to do with the question: why visit Puerto Rico?

why visit Puerto Rico

A stream through the mountains near Toro Negro (c) ABR 2018

Because, it’s hardly any different for Puerto Rico. When most people visit they want to see 1-2 of three main things that get marketed for this island over and over again, Old Town San Juan, the beaches, and El Yunque. Now, don’t get me wrong, these are all absolutely worth seeing. San Juan is the most beautiful Caribbean colonial city that I have ever seen. The beaches are sublime, and El Yunque is a tropical, mountainous area that I would dare call magical. But Puerto Rico has SO MUCH more! If you want to experience a good chunk of things to do in Puerto Rico, this is a country deserving of a week or two (or more) of devoted exploration, not just a couple nights tacked on before a cruise ride.

why visit Puerto Rico

The mysterious 191, cut off by a landslide long ago (c) ABR 2018

But instead of listing a bunch of places for you to visit, I’m going to do this, I’m going to give you a bunch of reasons why you need to stay in Puerto Rico (and places like it) for longer than a few hours, or one day, if you have the means to visit the Caribbean. And if you are doing an all-inclusive, go out and meet the locals, experience the real country.


(1) Most people have a lot of misconceptions about Puerto Rico or just don’t know anything about the island and its people at all. Getting out and exploring will give you the opportunity to learn more about this beautiful country and its amazingly strong people.

why visit Puerto Rico

Agricultural tourism has huge potential on Puerto Rico (c) ABR 2018

(2) Every Caribbean island has things on it that you can see nowhere else in the world; things that belong in travel magazines along side of pictures of Thailand, India, and Peru. Puerto Rico has kaarst formations covered in tropical forests that will make you feel like you’re on another planet. Puerto Rico has rivers that run through caves big enough for you to float through. It has verdant mountains that touch the sky. Deserts, places to surf, rare birds, and beaches with tanks left abandoned. I could list a million things that make this island a special place. It’s a shame to not see at least one of these unique things. From the travel perspective, these are the many reasons why visiting Puerto Rico is perfect.

why visit Puerto Rico

Mangroves on the east (c) ABR 2018

(3) You exponentially lessen the good that you can do for communities by traveling when you just stay in high tourist areas, cruise-owned ports, and resorts. There are so many good people in Puerto Rico that are just dying to have the chance to make tourism work for their community. You can make a huge difference in a small community looking to host visitors and share the special things that their home has to offer.

why visit Puerto Rico

Hurricane damage on the coast (c) ABR 2018

(4) Puerto Rican culture is rich and unique and you won’t get a real taste of it from San Juan or an all-inclusive. There is an insane amount of delicious food all over the island. There are little restaurants and kiosks that specialize in succulent tastes that will blow your mind. Dance and music are big in Puerto Rico as well, like the rest of the Caribbean; eat good food and find a place to learn some moves or listen to the beats of the island. There is honestly an endless list of things to do in Puerto Rico.

why visit Puerto Rico

Lechones from the central region of Puerto Rico (c) ABR 2018

If you want to learn more about things to do in Puerto Rico be sure to visit our Guide to Puerto Rico.

What Is Ecotourism?

A large component of my PhD project focuses on ecotourism, and many of the concepts and development strategies that have evolved around this idea. The more I read about it, the more convinced I am that we, as tourists, aren’t as informed about the concept as we should be.

The primary misconception that many people I have talked to, as well as myself before my research started is that ecotourism is simply nature tourism. The working definition, however, is much more complicated, and implies considerations that are very important to me as a traveler. First, ecotourism is not only nature-based, but the money earned through ecotourism should help support conservation efforts and sustain the natural resources supporting tourism in the area. This can be done in a variety of ways. Visitor fees for national parks can be partially used to pay for conservation research, management and protection of native species, and the expansion of protected areas, among other things. Some ecotourism companies will also use some of their revenues to support conservation organizations, or purchase land that they plan on protecting themselves. Whatever the strategy utilized, a true ecotourism venture will not only use nature to entice travelers to visit, but they will care for the resource as well.

Second, the local people should be supported by ecotourism. In many cases, especially in developing countries, people from outside of the destination community benefit from tourism including foreign investors and development companies. This channels much of the money earned by tourism businesses out of the countries that travelers are visiting, and this can be made worse in areas where the goods needed to support the industry must be imported as well. In some cases, such as certain Caribbean countries, this can be so bad that nearly 70% of the money spent by travelers in these nations will be lost to outside entities. Ecotourism, on the other hand, should support local people by providing jobs and training opportunities, while also supporting local agriculture and businesses. Strategies for supporting local people will vary, but this is an integral component of ecotourism nonetheless.

Finally, ecotourism should provide relevant environmental education for visitors, and, when possible, to the local people as well. This aspect of ecotourism not only makes the experience of travelers more enjoyable, but it has the potential to help concerned visitors to improve their behavior, and get involved in protecting the aspects of the natural world that entice them to explore. Local education opportunities can do likewise, while improving local support for conservation, and serving as a chance for capacity building.

While it is hard to tell how many of these things are actually being accomplished by the ecotourism businesses that we choose to purchase from, there are a few different certification schemes that can help travelers such as myself sort through all the different options. Travelers may also make their individually planned trips into more of an ecotourism experience by seeing and donating to protected areas/species, staying in smaller, locally run accommodations, and seeking out businesses that train and hire local people.

Relevant Links: The International Ecotourism Society and The Rainforest Alliance

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