Caribbean cool: The top 10 reasons for a golf trip to Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has so much to offer golfers. It's got more courses than any Caribbean island -- around 20 worth considering -- and plenty of pursuits away from the game. Gorgeous weather is virtually guaranteed during winter months, not hit and miss like Florida or Arizona.

Plus, it's the only Caribbean island still hosting men’s professional golf (Paradise Island in the Bahamas hosts the LPGA Tour's Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic). The Puerto Rico Open is held every March at the Trump International Golf Club opposite the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral Miami.

Here are 10 reasons to visit Puerto Rico for golf:

10, Become a caveman (or woman): Spelunker fans can explore the Rio Camuy Cave Park, home of the world's third-largest underground river cave system. Cable trolley cars take visitors to the mouth of one of the caves. The nearby Arecibo Observatory features the world's largest radio telescope.

9, Free drinks: What's the best part of touring the Bacardi Rum Factory, the largest rum distillery in the world? The tasty free samples served at the end. Duh.

8, Explore the capital: Spend a day in fascinating San Juan. The El Morro and San Cristobal fortresses surround Old San Juan. The observation towers serve jaw-dropping views of the coastline for just a minimal entry fee.

7, Jungle Love: The Caribbean National Forest, or El Yunque, is the only rain forest in the United States. The Yokahu observation tower, a castle turret, provides 360-degree vistas of the mountains and ocean. Hike the Big Tree Trail, a fun 1 1/2-mile trek through thick vegetation to the 40-foot La Mina Falls. Take a dip in its cooling waters before heading home.

6, Cheer for Chi Chi: Follow the path blazed by Chi Chi Rodriguez, the island's most famous golfer, by staying at his El Legado de Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Resort or at the famed Dorado Beach Resort & Club, where he used to be head professional 50 years ago. Dorado boasts four courses (three currently open), including the beautiful beachfront East Course featured on the Golf Channel's "Big Break" series, and the luxurious Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve. Rodriguez also designed a solid course at the nearby Embassy Suites Dorado del Mar - Beach & Golf Resort, but it closed, possibly for good, in January.

Ginella's Journeys: The sights, smells and swings of Puerto Rico

5, Kayak by night: There are only 13 bioluminescent bays in the world, and three of the brightest and best are in Puerto Rico. The island of Vieques, just a short ferry ride from Fajardo, offers the best chance to see these amazingly small plants light up the water in sheer darkness, but it requires a night's stay on the island to participate. During the bio bay tour of the Laguna Grande bay near Fajardo, kayakers navigate a mangrove swamp in the Cape San Juan Nature Reserve. Every splash stimulates the millions of plankton to light up and amaze.

4, Golf galore: It's a tough choice where to stay and play besides Dorado. The AAA Four Diamond El Conquistador Resort & Las Casitas Village sits atop a 300-foot bluff on the eastern tip of the island. Its Arthur Hills Course rides wild elevation changes through narrow corridors in the jungle. The resort's private beach on Palomino Island is spectacular. The Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa has a nice location closer to the airport and right across the street from El Yunque, but the golf courses by Greg Norman and Tom/George Fazio aren't always in ideal shape. The new Royal Isabela Golf Links might already be the island's best and most scenic course, hugging oceanfront cliffs west of San Juan. Luxury casitas, coupled with a spa and fine restaurant, team up for an intimate escape.

3. Trade golf shoes for sandals: Puerto Rico features plenty of fine beaches. All the resorts have decent to good ones, but for a full day adventure, take the 90-minute ferry from Fajardo to Culebra Island to sink your toes into Flamenco Beach, designated the second-best beach in the world by the Discovery Channel. Abandoned tanks buried in sand still occupy the beach, once used for military exercises.

2, No passport necessary: Unlike much of the Caribbean, there is no passport required to visit this U.S. territory. Skipping customs avoids potential travel hassles.

1, Trump this: The most luxurious way to experience Puerto Rico would be to stay at the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort to watch the exciting final round of the PGA Tour event. After the tournament ends, relax at the resort's pool and beach, play its Robert Trent Jones Jr. course or ask your room's personal butler to cater to your every whim. Later, tackle the same Trump International course the pros played. That's like livin' the dream of a PGA Tour pro without the hassles of Q school.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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The magical moment that gives the Ocean Course at Rio Mar Country Club its name comes just around the corner from the 15th green. The beachfront par-3 16th hole occupies 238 yards of valuable oceanfront property. This setting is why millions of snowbirds flock to the Caribbean every winter, to hear the waves and feel the breeze.
Bay Hill has Arnold Palmer. The Dorado Beach Resort & Club has Chi Chi Rodriguez. Golfers playing any of the four courses at Dorado will likely run into Puerto Rico's most famous player. Rodriguez has a long history with the resort, working at the famed East Course during its heyday in the 1960s. These days, the East looks and plays better than ever thanks to a renovation by Robert Trent Jones Jr. finished in 2011.
While the PGA TOUR stars were duking it out at Doral in Miami for the 2014 WGC-Cadillac Championship, the tour's working class squared off on The Donald's "other" tour venue, Trump International Golf Club, during the 2014 Puerto Rico Open, presented by The field included Lee Janzen, John Daly, David Toms, Y.E. Yang and Trevor Immelman.
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Caribbean cool: The top 10 reasons for a golf trip to Puerto Rico
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