PUERTO RICO OVERVIEW
For citizens of the US, there is something especially appealing about Puerto Rico – all the fun and sun of the Caribbean, no passport required! Even if you do require documentation to get there, though, there’s something for everyone on this island of just four million people, even though it’s about the same size as Connecticut. Perhaps best of all, visitors are more likely to be able to rub elbows with the locals here than on any other Caribbean island. This is partly due to some overcrowding in the capital city of San Juan, but also because Puerto Ricans are just as committed to having a good time as are the island’s millions of yearly tourists.
Languages:Officially Spanish and English, but Spanish is more common.
Airport:The island has three international airports: Luiz Muñoz Marín International Airport in Carolina, Mercedita Airport in Ponce, and Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla.
Time Zone:Atlantic Standard Time (GMT -4); Puerto Rico does not use Daylight Saving Time
Currency: US Dollars
Entry Requirements: US citizens do not require documentation to enter Puerto Rico, though government-issued photo ID is required to board a plane.
WHERE TO STAY
San Juan is the capital city and has a fascinating history, so it’s well worth checking out, even if you have your heart set on a resort vacation. Nearby, El Yunque rainforest is home to some 250 species of trees and flowers, innumerable varieties of animals, and unique Taíno petroglyphs. The north coast is made up of a series of white-sand beaches, each more gorgeous than the last, and the nearby resorts are astounding in terms of both value and offerings. The southwest of the country is home to Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second largest city, as well as a rich history and a population who take tremendous pride in that history, their culture, and their local lore. The southeast has some of the most and least developed areas on the entire island. Offshore there are smaller islands, the most famous of which is Vieques, perfect for travelers who really just want to get away.
Like much of the Caribbean, the cuisine of Puerto Rico has its roots around the world. Many of the most common ingredients, like taro, cassava, and pineapple, have been used since time immemorial, long before Columbus even dreamed of sailing across the ocean. Still other influences came from Spain, and the Spanish conquistadors that were the first to colonize the region. Early colonists also included Dutch, French, Italian, and even Chinese immigrants, who all brought their native cuisine with them. When the slave trade took Africans to the Americas, they brought their food as well. Puerto Rico’s most popular dishes include mofongo, rice and beans, empanadas, and fried plantains.
Puerto Rico’s climate seems to be tailor-made for idyllic vacations. With yearly average temperatures of 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, the weather is only rarely too hot or too cold. Rainfall is more common on the north coast, and the hottest, wettest time of the year is generally August. In general, though, the cold weather is more or less limited to the mountains of the Cordillera, where the lowest temperature on record for the country (39°F) was recorded. Hurricanes are of course a concern when travelling to the island from June to November, but warning systems are advanced enough to give visitors plenty of notice.
INSIDER TIPS FROM OUR TRAVEL EXPERTS
As an unincorporated territory of the United States, Puerto Rico is rather unique. It has a rather dual heritage. While English is common in areas visited by tourists, in most of the country the primary language remains Spanish. This nation-wide duality provokes strong feelings in many. Some take pride in their American citizenship and would be happy to see their country become the 51st state. Others push for full independence. Still others are happy to continue as they are and maintain the status quo. As Puerto Rican writer René Marqués put it, “Puerto Rico has two languages, and two citizenships, two basic philosophies of life, two flags, two anthems, two loyalties.” This dualism makes Puerto Rico an island unlike any other, and it is certainly one worthy of a visit.