The island of Puerto Rico is an excellent choice for student groups who want to travel to a destination with well-preserved ecological features. Since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, students, teachers and chaperones can travel there without a passport.
Puerto Rico is rich in Colonial and native history. It is also a spectacular destination for an eco tour. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. and well worth the visit. The island is peppered with small fishing villages, offering unique hands on learning experiences for students studying marine science as well.
While student groups are touring Puerto Rico, they can also visit the historic cities of Ponce and Old San Juan, eat authentic Puerto Rican cuisine, take Salsa lessons, and learn about the local culture.
Following is an overview of some of the main sites student groups can visit while taking an eco tour of Puerto Rico.
La Parguera – A Fishing Village with Unique Learning Opportunities
Students will visit La Parguera, a small fishing village in Western Puerto Rico. There the group will be able to feed Iguanas, identify birds, and even catch starfish. A local fisherman will speak to the group about everyday life in his profession, and students will interact with marine life up close. After enjoying a meal prepared by the locals, the group will embark on a bioluminescent night bay tour. The bay tour is a supervised swim where students will see dinoflagelates (plankton) that glow in the dark and fish that light up underwater.
The Tropical Rainforest El Yunque
Protected by the Federal Forest Reserve for over one hundred years, El Yunque is truly a treasure, since it is a well- preserved rainforest. Like many rainforests, El Yunque has a complex eco system with a wide variety of flora and fauna, animals, insects, reptiles and birds. Exotic scenery includes large cascading waterfalls, views of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea and a canopy of age-old trees. Student tour groups will take a guided hike of El Yunque that includes swimming under the waterfalls. Afterwards, students will have a lunch of Pinchos and spend time on Luquillo beach.
Ponce: Once Spain’s Capital City
Ponce is the second largest city in Puerto Rico and was named after Juan Ponce de Leon’s great-grandson, Loiza Ponce de Leon, who founded it in 1692. Student travel groups may opt to take a walking or trolley tour of this historic city, where they will explore old and new farmers markets, and see neoclassical buildings and facades, colonial homes, cathedrals and fountains from the 17th Century. Groups will also visit El Parque de Bombas, a Spanish and Moorish inspired architectural treasure that served first as a main exhibit pavilion for the 1882 Exhibition Trade Fair and later as a fire station.
Old San Juan: A Spanish Colonial City
Founded in 1521 and also known as ‘the walled city,” San Juan is the present day capital city of Puerto Rico. It sits on one of the largest and most accessible harbors in the Caribbean. Student groups will visit the old Spanish fort, explore the cobblestone streets of San Juan and view 16th and 17th Century Spanish colonial buildings.
Puerto Rico has a rich Spanish colonial heritage that has been well preserved. El Yunque rainforest is one of the 28 finalists in the World’s Seven Wonders competition and is a spectacular opportunity for learning about the ecological importance of preserving rainforests – right in this hemisphere.
On tour, there are also numerous opportunities for students to immerse themselves in Puerto Rican culture, cuisine, and lifestyles. The experience of visiting Puerto Rico is rich and varied. Guides are bilingual, so there is no need to be fluent in Spanish. However, for Spanish classes the guides will speak totally in Spanish (if desired) for total Spanish immersion.