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DPS 2009 Guest Activities

Children's Program

The meeting hotel has a children's program, "Camp Coqui" for $75 per day: not cheap, but much more reasonable than I've seen for "babysitting" services at other DPS meetings. Please let me (Mike Nolan, mylastname@naic.edu) know if you are interested in this service: If a number of people are interested, we could try to arrange either a group rate, or at least have it match the meeting schedule (their standard service runs from 9 to 4).

There is also a private beach located on an island (regular hydrofoil service included in the room rate).

Guest Program Tours

There are three tours organized through the AAS. Sign up and pay for these with registration. All trips inclue round-trip transportation from the El Conquistador. The El Yunque rain forest is about an hour away.

  • Old San Juan Walking tour, Wednesday 2009 Oct 7, 9AM - 4 PM Cost: $60.

    The tour is designed for culture and history enthusiasts who like to get up close to the sites and examine the past first-hand. Knowledgeable step-aboard guides will take you to Old San Juan-the oldest city in the U.S. There, you'll be able to stroll through Old Spanish cathedrals and forts such as San Cristobal, where you will see and learn how the Spanish built and defended their city. Afterwards, there will be an opportunity to do some shopping and have lunch on your own. Tour includes round-trip transportation from the El Conquistador, about an hour each way.

  • El Yunque Rainforest Tour, Thursday October 8, 9 AM - 1 PM or 1 PM to 5 PM. Adults, $60, Children $50.

    Named after the good Indian spirit, Yuquiyu, and shelter to the Taino Indians for 200 years, El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System. Spanning 28,000 acres and reaching an elevation of 3,624 feet, the area receives over 100 billion gallons of rainfall each year. In El Yunque you will see many unique sights and hear many unique sounds unsurpassed by any of the natural wonders. Breathtaking views of feathery ferns, thick ropelike vines, white tuberoses, ginger, miniature orchids and some 240 different species of trees are in abundance throughout the area. Home to the Puerto Rican parrot, El Yunque is also a bird sanctuary and you can hear the wondrous strains of these birds harmonizing with the tiny, inch-long coqui's prevalent to Puerto Rico. Splashing falls and cool shaded pools complement the total enhancement of the forest. Al tour guides will take you on a relaxing stroll in this magnificent forest. This 45 minute nature walk will be along one of many trails, while pointing out the splendor of the surroundings for photo opportunities or just pure enjoyment. Trip includes round-trip transportation from the El Conquuistador, about an hour each way. The

  • Catamaran and Snorkeling tour is cancelled.

    These tours are available through the hotel or by arrangement with the vendors (see the Que Pasa magazine), though the schedule will not be coordinated with the other tours. The departure point is about ten minutes from the hotel.

  • The "Golden Door Spa" is available. Here's a pdf brochure.
  • Arecibo Observatory Tour Saturday, October 10, 6:00, 7:30, and 9:00 AM. Cost, $45. Tour lasts ~9 hours (much of it spent on a bus). See the Arecibo Observatory Tour web page for more information.

Other activities

People staying a few days before or after the meeting may wish to explore the island further. Pick up a "Que Pasa" magazine at the airport or at any hotel for tourist information and a list of hotels. Public transportation is not readily available. Car rental is available through Enterprise at the hotel: Rates are generally competitive with other local agencies as long as you book ahead, but walk-up rates can be high. All of the usual agencies are available at the airport. Enterprise has offered free parking at the hotel. Here are some randomly-chosen points of interest.

It's possible to drive the whole way around the island in a day, but I don't recommend it: There are many attractions within easy driving distance of the El Conquistador.

Bioluminescent bay tours are great fun. There are kayak tours leaving from quite near the hotel (check Que Pasa or ask the concierge). Even better are the ones in Vieques, but that requires an overnight stay at least. There are other operators, but please either go in a kayak on an electric boat. There aren't in fact a lot of mosquitos, and DEET kills the bioluminescent creatures.

The diving in Puerto Rico is excellent, and the water is warm (>25 deg. C). Most trips are boat dives, often to 300m vertical walls, though some dive shops can arrange ad hoc shore dives for drop-ins if you show up reasonably early. "The Shacks" has a very nice 20-m pool where snorklers wish they could go just a bit deeper. There are nice snorkling areas too, though again, the best one I know is in Vieques. "Crash Boat" is a recommended place. If you have the time to visit one of the nearby islands, Culebra or Vieques, they are relatively uncrowded.

It's generally a good idea to reserve a hotel room or guest house a day ahead or the morning of, or at least check out what's available in Que Pasa or on the internet, before deciding where to go. There's not a tradition of "drop-in" travel, and not every town has a hotel. This is low season, so you should have no trouble finding lodging.

Note that places called "motel" typically have hourly rates. "Guest houses" are generally the best value, but are not widely advertised. "Paradores" are next, and are in some way government sponsored. Paradores vary from fine to wonderful. The hotels with casinos are mysteriously the most expensive option. They do tend to have multiple swimming pools, golfing, etc. Pick up a "Que Pasa" magazine (free) when you arrive at the airport: it lists many options, and is hard to come by outside of San Juan (the meeting hotel should have it).

Except in San Juan and the major hotels, the food in Puerto Rico is all much the same. You have "fast food" (Burger King and the like---don't use the drive-through unless you are truly fluent in Spanish). "El Meson" is a decent local sandwich chain. "Chinese food" almost always comes with french fries. Next come Mesones Gastronomicos, which are fine, usually serving seafood. Last is stuff you get from trucks on the side of the road. I recommend these latter, though the food won't be fat-free (nor vegetarian). Pinchos and Empanedillas are favorite "light-bulb foods", and worth a try. "Empanedillas de Pizza" might even be meatless. The "Kioskos" near the Luquillo beach park are well-known and generally good. They vary from sit-down dinner to grab-and-go snacks.

If you are a serious vegetarian, be aware that a request for "no meat" means to a Puerto Rican "No anatomically identifiable lumps of muscle tissue." You will be offered sausage with no ill intention, and lard is used abundantly. You can ask for "vegetarian", and will probably get fake meat.

Last Modified: 2009 October 05 09:30:14 AST