Puerto Rico is loved by visitors for its almost ethereal charm. There are hundreds of miles of coastline with some of the best Caribbean beaches. Some beaches are in famous communities such as Montego Bay with its dazzling Doctor’s Cave Beach; then there are some hidden gems such as Green Beach on Vieques Island, an isolated area with calm waters making it an excellent choice for families. Whatever season visitors come to explore this Puerto Rican magic, the weather, which holds steady at around 80 degrees throughout the year, is as inviting as its people.
About Puerto Rico
The island of Puerto Rico, located in the Greater Antilles chain, is a U.S. territory, and its citizens are U.S. citizens. It is located 1,000 miles from Florida and is surrounded by both the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean. There are three nearby islands, Vieques, Culebra, and Mona Lisa, that are an administrative part of the larger island. Puerto Rico is the smallest island in the Greater Antilles chain, only 111 miles by 40 miles. Its capital is San Juan.
No passport is required to travel from the United States to Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico was originally settled by the Taino tribe. In 1492, Spaniard Ponce de Leon accompanied Christopher Columbus on one of his voyages in search of gold. De Leon became governor of Hispaniola and was subsequently made governor of Puerto Rico in 1509.
Following Puerto Rico’s conquest by Spain, gold was soon found. The Spaniards imported slaves from Africa to handle the thriving tobacco, sugar, and coffee industries that were Puerto Rico’s primary exports. Chinese immigrants soon followed, as did the Italians, Germans, and French.
By 1898, Spain granted Puerto Rico its independence. This allowed the island to trade with other countries, including the U.S. Its independence was short-lived, however. Following the Spanish-American War, it was ceded to the United States.
Puerto Rico has two languages – or rather, its own versions of two languages. Spanish has been spoken on the island since the 15th century. Ninety-five percent of Puerto Ricans speak English in business and school. It is also the official language of the government. The Puerto Rican Spanish is mingled with the ancient Taino dialect.
Although English is the official government language, it is not popular. It was introduced in 1898, when the island was ceded to the U.S., but only 10 percent of islanders speak it regularly basis. In tourist areas, Puerto Rico has developed its own mixed language of “Spanglish.
The US dollar is Puerto Rico’s currency, but they refer to it as a peso.
What Is Puerto Rico Most Known For?
Music and art are an integral part of Puerto Rican life.
Regardless of artistic preference, Puerto Rico has its own interpretation. The colorful exhibits at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico date back to the 17th century. The garden is filled with sculptures and has a relaxing koi pond in the middle of San Juan’s bustle. Whether your style is contemporary, classic, urban, or full of history, Puerto Rico has works of art that will inspire you with the island’s distinct interpretation of Caribbean culture.
The nearby Museo de Arte Contemporaneo promotes and exhibits mid-twentieth century Caribbean and Latin American artists.
While Puerto Rican visitors can be enchanted by official exhibitions, a lot of its art is more informal – bursting with murals from buildings and bridges, and other places. Art is not an intellectual issue here as much as it is a part of the daily culture and intended to be viewed and understood as a part of everyday life.
The San Juan district of Santurce is especially art-laden. Every corner is rich with artistic creativity. It has turned into the largest museum and open-air art gallery in the Caribbean. The neighborhood is also home to an abundance of art galleries, but simply walking the streets is an experience. In Santurce’s Calle Cerra, there is an annual graffiti-drawing contest, and each year, the drawings become bigger and bolder in their interpretation of the Caribbean culture.
Along with its art, Puerto Rico delivers a culture filled with vibrant music and dance that reflects its diversity. The dance-craze is led by the Bomba, a dance started by slaves as a means of self-expression. Every type of feeling, from joy to sadness, is put into this dance. Everything depends on the rhythm, along with at least one dancer and singer. Men dominate the dance, while women create aggressive skirt-swinging moves. The old Bomba was an expression of slavery and oppression; modern Bomba has become a strive for women and sexual equality. In Santurce, there is nightly Bomba dancing at the La Terraza de Bonanza. Visitors are free to get with the rhythm and dance along.
Another spicy Puerto Rican dance is the salsa, with its intricate footwork and artful hip-swaying. In a reverse of geography, salsa originated with Puerto Rican musicians in New York during the 1960s before it exploded onto the island itself. Major Puerto Rican musicians have had a part in the creation of the salsa, including the current and more romantic (and explicit) version.
In the Santurce district, visitors can dance nightly to the rhythm of salsa at La Placita de Santurce and Calle Loíza. Want some food with your salsa? Learn the fundamentals of swinging your hips at El Patio de Sole in San Juan, to be followed by a free, authentic Puerto Rican meal of rice with beans, salad, and some chicken. That’s the very definition of dancing for your supper
Best Regions to Visit In Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico, small as it is, is officially divided into several regions.
Metro San Juan
This is where the majority of Puerto Rican visitors come and spend time. This is Puerto Rico’s cultural center, with its cobblestoned streets and 15th-century architecture. It is the place for exquisite dining and shopping, and it has the most exciting Puerto Rican nightlife and art exhibits. Visitors can see important sites such as the two largest Spanish fortresses in the Caribbeans, the El Morro, and San Cristóbal.
Old San Juan is not lacking bars. Piso Viejo has live entertainment and salsa classes. For beer aficionados, El Tap has 46 different taps.
Dance through the night at the La Factoria, named one of the World’s 50 Best Bars. It is also the only Latin American bar nominated for the TOTC Spirited Award, TW50BB, and James Beard Award in 2018. Their cocktails are lethal.
East Coast (Porta Antillas)
Puerto Rico’s east coast is named Porta Antillas. This is an area filled with breathtaking beaches for the entire family or secluded beachfront nooks for visitors looking for romance. There are plenty of uncrowded beaches made for fantastic snorkeling and diving.
South Coast (Porto Caribe)
Porta Caribe, on the south end of the island, has the only beaches on the Caribbean side. Here, the waves are calm and warm. The natural attractions of the Porto Caribe include Ponce, the island’s second-largest city with a number of museums, and the Hacienda Buena Vista, which offers various horse riding tours through the area (including the beach). Children seven years old or older can request the Pony Tour. Also in Porta Caribe is the Castillo Serralles, a museum of the Serralles family that produced rum and offers a step back in time. The house, with its original furniture and artwork, has a grand view of Ponce. Tours are from one hour to one and a half hours.
West Coast (Porta Del Sol)
Porta Del Sol is where visitors will find Rincon, known as the “town of beautiful sunsets” along miles and miles of beaches. Puerto Rico’s west coast is a surfer’s paradise and the host to several surfing competitions. The water is warm and at its best between September and May. The beaches are also ideal for diving and snorkeling.
North Coast (Porta Atlantico)
Porta Atlantico has great beaches and more. Camuy River Cave Park offers a wonderful cave adventure. Cueva del Indio & Seven Arches is a spectacular natural wonder that served as one of the filming locations for Pirates of the Caribbean. Puerto Rico’s northern coast is a geographical marvel.
Best All-Inclusive Breakfast Resort or Hotel in Puerto Rico: Copamarina
The Copamarina has a relaxing beach for strolling and for simply relishing the fresh sea air while lounging in a hammock. There is a playground for children and tennis lessons for adults. Guests can find their inner tranquility at the Ni Spa, to be followed by some fine dining at three in-house restaurants.
The resort offers several cruises, from daytime to sailing under the stars. Couples can enjoy a romance package that includes a $75 credit for a romantic dinner for two.
The special all-inclusive breakfast package includes $20 credit per adult and $14 per child. Children under five eat for free.
Best Resort or Hotel for Couples in Puerto Rico: Wyndham Grand Rio Mar
Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort has luxury suites overlooking the ocean, the pool, or the rain forest. Nine restaurants offer delicious dining, and guests can indulge in endless activities. Play golf on a championship course with an unbelievable view or revive body and soul at the Mandara Spa. The beach is perfect for a game of handball or swimming.
The Wyndham has several outstanding wedding packages to fulfill everyone’s romantic dreams. From the rainforest to stunning beaches, there are few more romantic getaways.
The tennis center offers evening play as well as lessons. The Resort has three pools and a sundeck overlooking the beach for just simply relaxing. Guests can rent a romantic private cabana, as well.
The onsite casino beckons with slots, tables, and live music on weekends.
Best Resort or Hotel for Families in Puerto Rico: The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan
The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan is surrounded by two miles of sandy white beach and water. Its pool overlooks the beach. Guests can choose from five different restaurants, and the spa offers natural treatments such coffee and coconuts for glowing skin. The Ritz-Carlton is located just a few minutes from the excitement of Old San Juan’s nightlife.
The resort provides supervised activities for children between the ages of 4 and 12 which introduces them to the island wonders. They can also play games while their parents explore on their own.
Puerto Rico FAQ
No passport is required to travel from the United States to Puerto Rico. United States citizens and permanent residents do not need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands. The Real ID Act will be in effect as of May 2023. State IDs must be compliant with the Real ID laws or you may need a passport to travel.
Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory. As a U.S. territory, it is neither a state nor an independent country. Puerto Rico’s residents are U.S. citizens. However, while subject to U.S. federal laws, island-based Puerto Ricans can’t vote in presidential elections and lack voting representation in Congress.