Guest Author - Kara Williams
Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States, so American citizens do not need passports to travel to this lush island about 1,000 miles southeast of Miami. The people who live in Puerto Rico are friendly and known for their warm hospitality. Their culture is one of mixed heritage, including influences from Africa, Spain and other European countries, America and their Caribbean neighbors.
On the island, there is so much to do! Hit the casinos, the golf course, the spas or the shopping districts. Hike the El Yunque jungle, also known as the Caribbean National Forest, to feel enveloped as you descend into the lush foliage. Be sure to tour El Morro, one of the largest forts the Spaniards ever built in the Caribbean. It sits high upon a promontory overlooking the entrance to San Juan Bay and affords many scenic photographs.
San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, is a treasure-trove of history. Stroll through the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan to admire colonial architecture and some of the oldest churches in the Americas. Area resorts are plentiful on white-sand beaches.
The same no-passport guideline applies to travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands, whose main islands are St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix, also known as "Americaís Caribbean." A cultural melting pot, the U.S. Virgin Islands are home to residents who can trace their roots to a number of countries, including Africa, England, Holland, Denmark, Spain, France, India and the United States.
Each of the U.S. Virgin Islands has its own personality and highlights. So, no matter if youíre craving rest and relaxation, a honeymoon spent shopping in a cosmopolitan center, or some activity outdoors in lush hills and crystal-clear water, there is an island thatís ideal for your U.S. Virgin Islands vacation.
The smallest of the three main U.S. Virgin Islands, St. John retains a tranquil and unspoiled beauty. Two-thirds of the island of St. John is designated a U.S. National Park with 9,500 acres of hilly green land and underwater reserve.
St. Thomas is known as the shopping capital of the Caribbean. Visitors flock to the duty-free shops in Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Enjoy breathtaking vistas from several island locations, including a tram-car ride up 700 feet above sea level for dramatic views of the harbor.
St. Croix delights visitors with its rich culture and vibrant arts scene, as well as its pristine beaches, botanical gardens and rainforest. It is home to the only underwater U.S. National Monument, Buck Island Reef.