March 2018 update: In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in September 2017, Puerto Rico is still struggling to rebuild. If you’re craving sunshine and tropical color, this Caribbean island could be your perfect vacation—and your tourism dollars would help our fellow Americans in the Caribbean!
This view of the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis cemetery in historic Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, is iconic. (An old edition of the Lonely Planet guidebook has this photo on its cover.) The desk attendant at my hotel shared a scenic tip: Walk to the 16th-century Castillo San Felipe del Morro fortress in late afternoon to watch the sunset. I took his advice and was not disappointed!
I wandered along the old streets on the cliff above the ocean for a while. Nice to be out of the traffic. Just as I reached the old fortress walls, the sun was at its most golden. Looking east over the walls, I could see this chapel and historic cemetery bathed in the warm light, with the Atlantic sparkling and blue. Breathtaking!
Supposedly, the Spanish colonists built the cemetery in the mid-1800s overlooking the Atlantic Ocean to symbolize the spirit’s journey to cross over to the afterlife. I can’t imagine a prettier place to spend eternity!
—Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor
Read more about my travels in Puerto Rico: