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Introducing Fajardo & Around

For the uninitiated observer, Fajardo is no oil painting. A spread-out municipality of just under 40,000 inhabitants, it sprawls like an untidy suburb between the El Yunque foothills and the sea. Part downbeat ferry port, part luxury boat launch, part swanky resort and part busy commuter town, there’s little rhyme or reason to this hard-to-fathom conurbation spread over seven wards, although there are plenty of amenities and ample hotels hidden amid the characteristic low hills and small hidden bays.

But delve beneath the outer turbidity and Fajardo has its raison d’être. A mecca for wealthy yacht owners and tourists heading to the gargantuan Conquistador (a mega resort that once featured in the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger), Fajardo reigns as one of Puerto Rico’s biggest water-activity centers and is the primary disembarkation point for the Spanish Virgin Islands of Vieques and Culebra.

You can do everything from diving in the waters of the coral-rich La Cordillera islands to exploring one of Puerto Rico’s three bioluminescent bays here. On dry land there’s the affectionate fishing ‘village’ of Las Croabas with its creaky fishing sloops, and the commonwealth’s oldest colonial lighthouse. There’s even a rather attractive and ecologically important nature reserve – Las Cabezas de San Juan – juxtaposed, in true Puerto Rican fashion, against the ubiquitous out-of-town shopping infestations.

Founded in 1760, downtown Fajardo, which lies between Rte 194 and Hwy 3, has little to show for 250 years of history. Yachters head a few miles south to Puerto del Rey, the largest marina in the Caribbean, while the most interesting sights for travelers – including the bioluminescent bay, the nature reserve and the well-maintained Playa Seven Seas – punctuate the strung-out neighborhood of Las Croabas to the north.