To travel for better health is actually an ancient concept—as old as medicine itself. Archaeological evidence from the third millennium B.C. suggests that people in ancient Mesopotamia traveled to the temple of a healing god or goddess at Tell Brak, Syriato. A couple of millennia later, the Greeks and Romans traveled by foot or boat to spas and cult centers all over the Mediterranean. The Asclepia Temples, dedicated in honor of the Greek god of medicine, were some of the world’s first healing centers. Pilgrims would come and stay several nights, praying that Asclepios would appear in a dream and provide a cure to their ailment.
Due to uncertain insurance changes by the current administration, with costs skyrocketing for simple procedures, and with the Baby Boomers now an aging population (the folks who sang Give Peace a Chance), more people than ever are looking for alternatives to western medicine. Holistic care is about to implode. The year-round, near-perfect weather of Puerto Rico, and the ease of getting there (with multiple daily flights from most major US cities) makes it an ideal place to spend rejuvenating time there.
“The Island of Enchantment” is the smallest of the Greater Antilles Island chain, which forms a border between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The island is nearly 500 miles east of Cuba and about 1,000 miles southeast of Miami. Roughly rectangular in shape, Puerto Rico measures approximately 110 miles east to west and 35 miles north to south. In area, it is slightly larger than the state of Delaware.
Puerto Rico transforms into a great diversity of landscapes. Sunny beaches give way to upland rain forests, and urban highways intersect with country roads. This is a tropical island with consistent easterly trade winds. San Juan is the island capital and the largest city, with more than one million people in the metropolitan area. The island’s population is approximately 3.6 million.
The Taino Indians, who called their beautiful island Boriquen, were the inhabitants when Christopher Columbus first arrived in 1493. Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony for four centuries, with early military preoccupations replaced by agricultural and economic concerns by the 19th century. The island was formally ceded to the United States in 1898, and in 1917, Puerto Ricans were granted United States citizenship. Neither a state nor territory, Puerto Rico has a unique status as a Commonwealth of the United States.
Although Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States and have most of the rights, privileges and obligations of other citizens, they do not vote in national elections. Instead, they are represented in Congress by a Resident Commissioner who has a voice but no vote. Federal income taxes are not collected from residents, but because of its commonwealth status, Puerto Rico is eligible for some but not all federal programs.
Puerto Rico is one of the most frequently visited Caribbean islands. Among the main attractions of Puerto Rico is its rain forest, El Yunque. El Yunque is a well-maintained forest that has the distinction of being the only rain forest that is within the National USA forest system. There are many marked trails throughout the forest, and a number of information facilities. El Yunque’s peak reaches 3500ft/1067m above sea level, and covers 43sq.mi/113sq.km, including three-quarters of the island’s remaining virgin forest., El Yunque is home to more than 240 species of trees, and 1,000 species of plants (50 species of orchids alone), as well as various wildlife and the famed Puerto Rican parrot. Taíno Indian legend designates the peak of El Yunque as the home of the island’s protective spirit.
The municipality of Rio Grande, located on the northeastern side of the island, is a premier location in Puerto Rico. The hills of Rio Grande are filled with acres of lush vegetation, making it one of the most scenic areas on the island. Eco-conscious tourists travel to Rio Grande, primarily to visit the EL Yunque, but, as well, to dip in the warm ocean waters of neighboring Luquillo Beach, considered by most to be the most beautiful beach on the island.
Local natural attractions are diverse and exquisite. La Casa (PR) has the good fortune to be a five-minute walk to the famed Hacienda Siesta Alegra.
Hacienda has the reputation of being the most prestigious equestrian facility in the entire Caribbean basin. We are so pleased that he number 1 equestrian rider in Puerto Rico, Amy Tyler, has made herself available to La Casa guests for private horseback riding lessons.
Other local attractions are within a 5-10 minute drive from the La Casa campus; most are under a half hour away; none are more than a two-hour drive. They include:
- Nature walks and hikes in El Yunque to magnificent waterfalls and the famed Dwarf Forest where because of a perpetual cloud cover, normally towering trees at sea level here are in miniature size;
- Rio Camuy Caves: the largest cave system in the Western Hemisphere, carved out by the 3rd largest underground river in the world;
- Phosphorescent Bay; Las Croabas Lagoon in neighboring Fajardo has bioluminescent planktons in the water, so when you wave your hand through the water your hand lights up with a thousand tiny stars—awesome;
- Kayak trip through mangrove canals, down to the ocean;
- Pre-Columbian petroglyphs on river rocks;
- Bird watching: look particularly for the Puerto Rican parrot who inhabits only El Yunque;
- Observation of turtle nesting at La Selva Reserve, the most important leatherback turtle nesting and mating site in the Caribbean;
- Observatorio de Arecibo: astronomy at its best as the largest single-aperture telescope ever constructed, searching the universe for signs of life elsewhere;
- Banos de Caomo: natural hot springs; where FDR went for the healing powers of the waters; discovered and thought to be the Fountain of Youth by Ponce de Leon;
- Caquana Indian Ceremonial Park and Museum: thought to be a sacred site by the Taino Indians consisting of plazas, ceremonial fields and petroglyphs;
- Culebra National Wildlife Refuge: considered to be the most precious jewel in the treasure chest of Caribbean refuges. More than 50,000 seabirds of 13 species find their way to this dot in the ocean every year to breed and nurture their young;
- Rio Piedras Botanical Gardens: 200 species of tropical and sub-tropical plant highlighted by an orchid garden with over 30,000 flowers;
- Luis A. Ferre Science Park: includes a planetarium, physics museum, electrical energy museum, rocket plaza, transportation museum, aerospace museum and a zoo;
- Spelunking: underground treks that incorporate all the spry athleticism and scuttling wildlife of Indiana Jones, minus the giant boulder.
- Various outdoor activities including scuba diving, golf, tennis, horseback riding, fishing, snorkeling, windsurfing and body surfing
- Pure white sand beaches galore—5 of them in close proximity to La Casa.
Unlike all other islands in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico has a plethora of cultural events. Regional cultural attractions on the island include:
- Various museums, including the Museum of Modern Art;
- Bacardi Museum and Factory;
- Old City of San Juan;
- El Morro (fort);
- Casino (at the near-by Rio Mar resort);
- Plaza las Americas (largest shopping mall in the Caribbean);
Puerto Rico is a bounty of riches for those who want to relax, those who want to be active, those who want to learn, and those who want to heal whilst being immersed in an environment of natural splendor.