15635
Puerto Rico
An Outdoor Discovery of Puerto Rico’s History & Heritage
Learn the story of Puerto Rico through its archeological sites, ancient forts, seaside villages, a historic coffee plantation and the grand architecture and monuments of Old San Juan.
Rating (4.89)
Program No. 15635RJ
Length
8 days
Starts at
1,899
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8 days
7 nights
17 meals
7 B 5 L 5 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
In Transit to Program, Check In, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
San Juan
D
Hampton Inn by Hilton

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 3:00 p.m.

Afternoon: When you check in at the hotel and get your room assignment, ask the front desk for the location of the Road Scholar meeting room where we will have our Orientation session. Program Registration & Orientation: 5:00 p.m. As you register with the program staff, you will receive your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, and other important information. If your arrival is delayed, please ask for your packet when you check in. The Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. Unless specified otherwise, transportation will be provided primarily by motorcoach and will require going up and down a few steps. Meals at local restaurants will be plated and include choices from select menus with standard beverages of coffee, tea and water with other beverages available for purchase. Free time is reserved for your personal independent exploration. Please note that program activities, schedules, and personnel may need to change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: At a restaurant within walking distance of the hotel.

Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Old San Juan, Capitol Hill
San Juan
B,L,D
Hampton Inn by Hilton

Activity note: Walking up to 1.5 miles with some periods standing; paved terrain.

Breakfast: At the hotel, the breakfast buffet includes choices such as eggs, breakfast meats and breads, cereals, milk, juice coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll board our motorcoach and transfer to Old San Juan where a local expert will provide an overview of Puerto Rico’s history from the Spanish colonial period to the present. Columbus made landfall here on his second voyage in 1493, claiming it for Spain — which might have come as a surprise to the inhabitants, indigenous Taíno Indians. The first Spanish settlers arrived on the island in 1508. Moving on with our local expert, we’ll learn about the history and explore Fort San Cristóbal, also known as Castillo San Cristóbal, the largest colonial Spanish fortress in the Western Hemisphere. Construction began in 1634 and it was not completed until 1790. European powers fought for hundreds of years to control the island due to its strategic location. San Cristóbal guarded the land entrance to Old San Juan. It is a magnificent and impressive structure covering 27 acres, now part of the San Juan National Historic Site.

Lunch: At a local restaurant, we’ll have sandwiches and/or salads from a select menu and standard beverages.

Afternoon: Our next field trip will be to El Capitolio de Puerto Rico — Capitol Hill — with our local expert. The impressive building is home to the Legislative Assembly composed of the House of Representatives and Senate, a symbol of self-government to Puerto Ricans. The Neoclassical Revival design was by architect Rafael Carmoega. The interior features artwork illustrating highlights in Puerto Rico’s history by prominent artists. While here, a docent will provide a special presentation illuminating the inner workings of Puerto Rico’s governmental structures with some emphasis on the relationships these systems have with the United States.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll have a plated meal with standard beverages.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
3
Ponce, Tibes Indian Ceremonial Center, History Museum
Ponce
B,L,D
Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles throughout the day; some periods of standing. The drive is about 77 miles, approximately 2 hours.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll board the motorcoach and begin our transfer via the Luis A. Ferre Highway over La Cordillera Central — the island's main mountain range — into the southern part of Puerto Rico. We'll venture first to the Tibes Indian Ceremonial Center, one of the most important archaeological sites in the Caribbean, for an expert-led field trip focusing on the area’s history before Christopher Columbus’ arrival. Its discovery resulted from a hurricane in 1975 when torrential rains and flooding revealed remnants of indigenous cultures that had been long buried. Archaeologists began excavations in 1976 and eventually uncovered the oldest and largest Indian ceremonial complex in Puerto Rico, consisting of nine ball courts and three plazas. There was also a cemetery with nearly 200 human skeletons. The oldest artifacts and structures from pre-Taíno Indians date back more than 1,000 years.

Lunch: Local restaurant plated meal.

Afternoon: Riding on, we’ll reach the city of Ponce and embark on a field trip via trolley and walking through Ponce to admire its stunning architecture including the beautiful and unique historic Ponce Firehouse, Ponce Cathedral, and Delicias Square. We’ll then go on an expert-led field trip to the Museo de la Historia de Ponce — Museum of the History of Ponce. Inaugurated in 1992, it is now one of the city’s most active cultural centers, preserving and presenting important aspects of Puerto Rican and Ponceño history and culture. The majority of its artifacts have been donated by local citizens. Permanent exhibits include Ecology, Human Panorama, Politics, Economic Activity, Architecture and Urban Development, Health and Medicine. The museum is housed in the beautiful Casa Salazar that combines Moorish, neoclassical, and Ponceño architectural elements. We’ll ride on to the hotel for a mid-afternoon check-in.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll enjoy an interactive dinner, learning about the foods we’re eating from one of the chefs and specialties such as Mofongo (pickled plantains) and other local fare.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
4
Hacienda Buena Vista, Art Museum, Music of Puerto Rico
Ponce
B,L
Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles on some uneven terrain. The drive is about 15 miles, approximately ½ an hour.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: Our first field trip today will be to the Hacienda Buena Vista, a 19th century coffee plantation turned museum. Restored to its former glory by a team of Smithsonian specialists and island artisans, its location is indeed a buena vista (beautiful view), with just under 500 acres in the Rio Canas Valley. We may be able to see hummingbirds as the Hacienda's trails take us past cascading waterfalls. With our local expert, we will explore some of the plantation’s grounds and visit the on-site museum while learning about the development of the coffee industry in the area. Our next stop will be the renovated Museo de Arte de Ponce. Closed while undergoing extensive renovations, the museum was reopened in November 2010 in time for the celebration of its 50th anniversary. The $30 million renovation included an expansion, which increased the size of the museum by over 40%. The Museo de Arte houses the most important collection of European art in Latin America. Among its collection are works from the 14th to the 20th century, including Italian Baroque, British Pre-Raphaelite, Spanish Golden Age and contemporary Latin-American pieces. Some of the artists whose paintings and works are exhibited at the museum include Peter Paul Rubens, Lucas Cranach, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Eugène Delacroix, and Sir Edward Burne-Jones, among others. The museum's masterpiece is the Flaming June, painted by Frederic Leighton. Led by a museum docent, we will see much of the vast collection and learn about the relationships linking Latin American and European art.

Lunch: Local restaurant plated meal.

Afternoon: At the hotel, we’ll learn how the music of Puerto Rico has evolved as a heterogeneous and dynamic product of diverse cultural resources through a performance by a local musician.

Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
5
Transfer to San Juan, Town of Caguas, Puerto Rico Art Museum
San Juan
B,L,D
Hampton Inn by Hilton

Activity note: Walking up to 2 miles with some periods of standing; paved terrain. The drive is about 80 miles, approximately 2.5 hours.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We will check out of the hotel, we’ll board our motorcoach and depart for San Juan. En route, we will stop in Caguas to take a walking field trip to Ruta del Corazón Criollo — Route of the Creole Heart. Along the way, we’ll spot at a few points of interest and familiarize ourselves with the artistic culture of the area. Our historical journey through the heart of Caguas will provide a unique view into the cultural influence of this important city in the valley as we visit small craft shops and museums with our Group Leader.

Lunch: Local restaurant plated meal.

Afternoon: We will continue towards San Juan, taking the Luis A. Ferre Highway back over La Cordillera Central. Upon arrival in the city, we will visit the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR), the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico. Inaugurated in July 2000, the museum has managed to develop quite a large permanent collection of Puerto Rican art ranging from the 16th century to the present. The works are thoroughly researched and documented, with the exhibits often including an interpretation of the masterpieces on display. Our local expert will lead us through the exhibits of carefully selected artworks helping to give us insight into Puerto Rican art. As a popular museum, it also provides local artists with access to visual art from other parts of the world thereby encouraging artistic expansion. We’ll then go to the hotel for check-in.

Dinner: At a local restaurant within walking distance of the hotel, we’ll enjoy a plated meal with standard beverages.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
6
El Yunque Rain Forest, La Cabezas de San Juan Fajardo
San Juan
B,L
Hampton Inn by Hilton

Activity note: Walking up to 1.5 miles on some uneven terrain with minor elevation change.

Breakfast: At the hotel, the breakfast buffet includes choices such as eggs, breakfast meats and breads, cereals, milk, juice coffee, tea, water.

Morning: After boarding our motorcoach, we’ll transfer to El Yunque National Forest for a field trip including a short hike with our Group Leader and a local expert. This is the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest system. Located on the eastern end of the Island, El Yunque features a variety of unique plant and animal species with many well-marked trails, making it easy to explore.

Lunch: At a pleasant spot in the El Yunque Rainforest, we’ll have a tasty and healthy picnic buffet lunch including salads, sandwiches, and fruit.

Afternoon: Our next field trip will be to Las Cabezas de San Juan in the town of Fajardo at the northeastern tip of the island. This natural preserve is made up of over 300 acres spanning 3 rocky promontories that jut out into the Atlantic and Las Cabezas literally means “the headlands” referring to these landforms. A wide variety of close-knit ecosystems up this preserve, including dry forests, lagoons, mangroves, beaches and coral reefs. These habitats are home to numerous endangered species and the bioluminescent bay attracts visitors from all over the world. Among all that nature stands El Faro de las Cabezas de San Juan, an impressively restored lighthouse from 1882, overlooking the water with a beautiful view El Yunque. With our local expert and Group Leader, we’ll learn the importance of the mangrove forests, which flora and fauna are integral to this nature preserve, and also visit the Fajardo Light House.

Dinner: On your own to enjoy what you like in San Juan.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
North Old San Juan, Free Time, Farewell Dinner
San Juan
B,D
Hampton Inn by Hilton

Activity note: Walking up to 1.5 miles; hilly terrain, wear comfortable walking shoes.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet.

Morning: We'll explore North Old San Juan on foot and visit such famed sites as Paseo de la Princesa, a walk between the bay and the old city wall; La puerta de San Juan, the only remaining “gate” into/out of the old walled city; La Rogativa, a renowned bronze statue recalling a key incident in the city’s history; and the Catedral de San Juan Bautista, Old San Juan Cathedral. Our local expert will provide commentary as we go, pointing out unique architecture and sharing with us some stories about the Old City’s history.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Afternoon: Free time. Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most at your own pace in Old San Juan. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. The cobblestone streets are rich in architectural delights and the tree-shaded squares more reminiscent of Europe than America. We will regroup and a designated time and place and return to the hotel.

Dinner: At a local restaurant, we’ll enjoy a farewell dinner. Share your favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: At leisure. Say farewells and prepare for departure in the morning.

DAY
8
Program Concludes
San Juan
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out by 12:00 Noon.

Breakfast: Hotel buffet. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!