Puerto Rico is the oversea territory of the United States. The official name is the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The citizens of the country have U.S. citizenship. However, some rights of the Americans are not available for them. This island state used to be just a plantation. Nowadays, it is the Caribbean paradise for tourists and fans of resort vacations.
Despite its small territory, there are several wildlife sanctuaries and National parks in Puerto Rico. There, you can get acquainted with the unique flora and fauna of this country. Beautiful nature, fresh fruit, transparent water — these are the components of the resort paradise. You can shake up a calm vacation with tours to various cultural and historical places. Even though it's not cheap to come for a holiday here (due to the high demand of Puerto Rico among Americans), this place is definitely worth seeing.
The country has a marine, tropical climate with the average year-round temperature of +28 o C. It is a bit warmer in the south than in the north, and the central part of the island is always colder. There are no severe changes in temperature throughout the year. The amount of precipitations varies a lot depending on the region — approximately 900 mm in the south, and more than 2000 mm in the El Yunque region. Puerto Rico is located in the earthquake-prone zone and at risk of hurricanes, which typically happen in the season from June to November. There are several dozen mountain rivers and almost two dozen artificial lakes.
According to the administrative division, the country is divided into 78 municipalities headed by mayors. Every municipality consists of wards and those into sectors. This division is an ancient tradition: the first municipality of Can Juan appeared at the beginning of the XVI century, while the last — Florida — in 1971.
Map Puerto Rico
Where to go and what to see?
You will most definitely visit the northern region as its central city is the capital of San Juan. You can arrive at this place in a line boat as it is one of the largest cruise ports in the world. You may also fly to Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. Other airports provide civil flight connections between the islands. In San Jose, tourists admire the ancient architecture (Old San Juan) where they attend old castles and forts: Castillo San Felipe del Morro, San Cristóbal, El Morro, Santa Catalina's Palace, Monastery Convento de Los Dominicos. Just like any other capital, San Juan is the cultural center with a diversity of museums and art galleries. You can also explore the Luis Muñoz Rivera Park with the XVIII-century Armoury Chamber and Pavilion of Peace that has many displays. Enjoy a ride in a cable railway in Parque Luis Muñoz Marín and admire impressive views. And don't forget to get a tour of Bacardi Rum Factory. If you are looking for something extraordinary, go to the cock-fighting club and check out the traditional local entertainment. However, keep in mind that this is quite a violent spectacle that is done for the sake of bets.
The municipality of Carolina is located in the northeastern region. Here you can relax in luxurious hotels or head to the private Hacienda Campo Rico Rancho. It offers a chance to feed exotic animals, go horse riding, do archery, and head to a trip to jungles in special quadricycles.
The eastern region is renowned for El Yunque National Forest that is situated 40 km southeast from San Juan. The local citizens frequently call it the main attraction. Here you can enjoy a walk around tropical jungles, get to the Yokahú Observation Tower, swim in the waterfall, taste water from the mountain stream, or drink some coconut milk.
A large city-port Fajardo is also located in the east. It treats its guests to beautiful beaches where they can admire stunning sunsets every evening. The local cuisine is renowned for its freshly-cooked and delicious seafood. Take a special tram to take a tour of the beautiful mangrove of Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve and the historic Cape San Juan Light. Besides the architecture of the old town, Fajardo is famous for its proximity to one of the five bioluminescent bays of Puerto Rico. To see the neon, illuminated by plankton bay, you can take a tour in a kayak and admire this incredible spectacle in Laguna Grande. A similar place is nearby the island of Vieques, where the plankton is considered to be the brightest. This island also has marvelous beaches that are not so famous due to its remoteness. Besides, it has beaches for swimming, snorkeling, and surfing. By the way, in Fajardo, you can find a ship to get to Vieques and Culebra. You can also reach the latter by place as there is a small airport there. Dewey is the principal city in Culebra. The island itself is small and attractive to travelers who can't wait to lay on snow-white beaches (Flamenco Beach and other), admire the reefs, and dive.
Ponce is a central city for a visit in the south part of Puerto Rico. It had been the capital till 1898. It can be deservedly called the center of historical and cultural monuments. In this matter, it can even compete with the current capital. When you wander around Ponce, you will literally breathe in the spirit of the epoch as the ancient cathedrals (the majority of citizens of Puerto Rico are Catholics) neighbor on buildings in the Colonial style and fountains. The Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center recreates the village of the Arawak tribe — the first settlers of the city. In various museums, you can get acquainted with the history, culture, and music of Puerto Rico. The themed Parque de Bombas stands out significantly on the background of other attractions. This museum is devoted to the history of fire fighting on the island dozens of years ago. You can leave for a small Gilligan's Island from Ponce. Lovers of diving will appreciate the coral reefs and exotic fish in the neighboring waters.
Not far from Ponce, you shall find one of the largest complexes of karstic caves in the world — the Parque Nacional de las Cavernas del Río Camuy. Once, the Indian tribes used to hide in this cave system. Nowadays, tourists admire the stalactites, stalagmites, and ornaments made of calcareous rocks. Here you can use ropes and go down into the famous Cathedral Cave where the Taino Indians' petroglyphs were found. And the local underground river called Camuy is one of the largest in the world.
Though every beach in Puerto Rico is lovely, the west coast offers the best of them. The best beaches for water sports and diving can be found nearby Mayagüez. The city has the only zoo in Puerto Rico that has animals from North America and the Caribbean Sea Basin. The main attractions include the oldest Catholic church called Porta Coeli, which was built in 1609, Cabo Rojo, and Punta Higuera Lighthouses. By the way, you can take splendid landscape photographs from the lighthouses, especially at sunset. Mayagüez is one of the largest seaports in Puerto Rico. That's why there is no problem taking a motorboat tour or even visit another city from its harbor if you don't mind traveling by water.
The Arecibo Observatory is the attractions that made Puerto Rico famous in terms of scientific-researches. It has one of the largest radio telescopes in the world (304 meters in diameter). The observatory is located almost 500 meters up in the mountains, fifteen kilometers away from the town of Arecibo in the northwest of the island. Here you can admire the views and learn more about how humanity is trying to explore space with the help of an enormous aluminum "plate".
Things to consider when going to Puerto Rico
- You must have an American Visa to visit Puerto Rico.
- The locals understand English but mainly communicate in Spanish. The Spanish culture predominates.
- Even though Puerto Rico is considered to be a safe country, you still should be careful late in the evenings and at night. It mainly concerns such districts as Old Juan in the capital, where the poor people live.
- The long haul bus service is underdeveloped here. Therefore, renting a car, taking civilian flights, or moving by water are the best options. It's convenient to use a taxi to move around the city.
- Many beaches do not have lifeguards, so try to avoid swimming alone. Be extremely careful if you swim during the breaking waves, and do not forget to check out the weather forecast before heading to the beach.
- Nudism is strictly forbidden in public places on the territory of Puerto Rico.