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When I think of Puerto Rico, I remember pulsing Latin and reggae music, sunsets that look poured from an artist’s palette, inviting stretches of beaches and colorful towns bustling with shops, art and tantalizing eateries.

A self-governing commonwealth of the United States, the island of Puerto Rico lies in the Caribbean, west of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The capital, San Juan, founded by Ponce de Leon in 1521, is the oldest city in U.S. territory.

Old San Juan is a square-mile area embraced by walls built in the 1600s. Replete with vendors, open-air cafes, music and galleries, Old San Juan is the spice of the island.

Take time to explore El Morro, a 500-year-old, six-story fort on the San Juan Bay (open daily, admission $3). The turrets, towers, tunnels, dungeons, secret passageways, stone walls and barracks that make up this citadel give you a glimpse of what life was like when Spain ruled the island. The fort was built on a rocky promontory to defend the coastline.

For more history, check out El Catedral de San Juan Bautista, home to Ponce de León’s tomb. On the lighter side, the Bacardi Rum Factory offers free tours. And when you’re ready for beach time, head to Condado and Isla Verde.

El Yunque in eastern Puerto Rico boasts 28,000 acres and is the only rainforest within the U.S. National Forest system. Millions of tree frogs tune up their chorus here each evening.

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