PUERTO RICO TRAVEL GUIDE
Things To Do
City Guide By Region
Hotels In Puerto Rico
Discover Enchanting Island of Puerto Rico
Known as the Island of Enchantment, Puerto Rico’s natural scenery and charismatic people draw travelers who love the island’s white sand beaches, crystal clear blue waters, vibrant cities, and colorful and diverse flora. For those who like to hike, Puerto Rico’s tropical rainforest, spectacular mountains, captivating waterfalls, and spellbinding caves add to the lure of the island. The island’s diverse culture and mesmerizing beauty enchant locals and travelers alike.
You will find that Puerto Ricans display an easygoing demeanor while being passionate about their culture. Remember to pack your dancing shoes if you travel to the island, as you may be invited to dance the merengue or salsa. The cultural heritage of the people mixes Taino, Spanish, and African customs and traditions. To fully appreciate the culture, add several musical and outdoor dining hot spots to your travel itinerary so you can get the total island experience.
Make sure you check our travel guidelines before planning your trip.
Where Puerto Rico Is Located
A U.S. territory, Puerto Rico represents a tropical Caribbean travel destination, and is the smallest island of the Greater Antilles in the eastern Caribbean Sea. It sits 78 miles (125 km) east of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The highest point on the island is Cerro La Punta ascending 1,338 meters or approximately 4,400 feet. The official languages of Puerto Rico are both English and Spanish, with some of the people mixing the two languages and speaking Spanglish. San Juan, the capital, invites further exploration with its iconic buildings and landmarks.
If you are from the U.S., it is easy to travel to Puerto Rico because the Commonwealth is a U.S. territory. Therefore, you do not need to get a passport, although you do need a valid I.D. Most travelers either take a cruise ship or take a flight.
The island receives over 1,300 non-stop flights annually, with most being direct from major U.S. cities. The temperature spans from 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit most times, with the temperature settling around 60 degrees Fahrenheit in island’s central mountains in December and January. While around 3.6 million people live on the island, almost 5 million Puerto Ricans now call the mainland U.S. home.
A Beach Lover’s Paradise
If you love the beach and ocean, Puerto is the place to go. The island features 300 miles of coast as well as almost the same number of beaches. Do you love to shop? If so, the largest shopping center in the Caribbean is found in Puerto Rico – Plaza Las Americas. In addition, the only rainforest in the U.S. Forest System is on the isle. El Yunque receives 120 inches of precipitation annually.
Although Puerto Rico is considered a U.S. territory, it still competes individually in competitions, such as the Olympics and the Miss Universe Contest. Part of an archipelago, Puerto Rico represents all things tropical, as it features one of the top 10 recognized beaches in the world – Flamenco Beach, located in , adds to the exotic, laid back feel of the island system.
To engage in the history and culture of Puerto Rico, a trip to Old San Juan is in order. The city, which covers 500 years of history, displays cobblestone streets that are both colorful and lively. Visitors ride free trolleys, which take them to celebrated landmarks, such as Castillo San Cristobal, La Fortaleza, and El Morro. Island travelers may also participate in guided tours where they can get a more in-depth look at Old San Juan’s historic buildings or sample the local cuisine.
Found in Rio Grande, on the island’s east side, the rainforest, El Yunque, boasts 240 types of trees, along with native animals, such as the coqui frog, and a unique array of birds. The El Yunque National Forest extends over 28,000 acres, which are home to 25 waterfalls, including ancient Taino petroglyphs. Visitors can horseback ride, zipline, or hike. You can see a spectacular view of the verdant valley below from the top of El Yunque as well.
Doing any type of activity in the rainforest will surely work up an appetite – enough to check out authentic Afro-Caribbean specialties in the coastal community of Pinones. Visitors buy foods at the small dining stands, called chinchorros, which feature fritters made from oysters, fresh local fish, plantains, and plenty of seasoning in the form of sazon. Quench your thirst with cool coconut water, which you can sip directly from the coconut.
Would you like to get closer to the locals? If so, you don’t want to miss a visit to Guavate, which is part of the town, Cayey, located in the island’s center. The site is popular for it lechoneras, or outdoor restaurants, which serve slow-roasted pork. Enjoy the cool and temperate air, and feast at places, such as El Rancho Original, Lechonera Los Pinos, and Lechonera El Mojito.
La Parguera in Lajas
If you want to spot a dolphin or manatee, the best place to visit is La Parguera in Lajas, about a 2 ½- hour trip from San Juan. Situated on Puerto Rico’s southwest side, the village features the authentic Puerto Rican cocktail, the Malecon, and a waterfront section that features small shops and lovely sea views. Snorkel or scuba dive, hike one of several trails, or birdwatch at your leisure.
Vieques and Culebra
Two nearby islands, Vieques and Culebra, also should not be missed during a visit to Puerto Rico. While Vieques is located about 15 miles east of Puerto Rico, Culebra sits almost 20 miles from Puerto Rico’s coast. Both islands feature beaches that are frequently listed on the world’s best beaches. You can make a day trip out of the excursions if you travel from Puerto Rico by ferry. Travel to Flamenco Beach on Culebra or visit the bioluminescent waters of Mosquito Bay in Vieques. Either way, you will love the casual and relaxed vibe.
What is fascinating about Mosquito Bay is its concentration of plankton, or dinoflagellates, ranging in number from 1,000,000 to 2,1000,000 for each gallon of water. The mesmerizing bioluminescence created by the single-celled organisms lights up the bay’s aqua-green water, giving it a star-like quality. Puerto Rico is home to 3 of these kinds of bays – part of what gives the island its enchanting, if not magnetic, character and charm.
Puerto Rico: Territory Information
Puerto Rico is officially known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in English. In Spanish, the official name is written as Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico which can be literally translated as the
Associated Free State of Puerto Rico. The Spanish version of the official name, Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico, is what appears on Puerto Rico’s constitution.
Puerto Rico today is classified as an unincorporated territory of the United States. The Puerto Rican people are both Americans and citizens of the United States. Puerto Ricans can travel freely between the United States mainland and the island.
- Official name: Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
- Nicknames: Boriken, Borinquen, Island of Enchantment, Porto Rico, Rich Port
- Government: Democratic Republic
- Capital: San Juan
- Largest cities: San Juan, Ponce, Mayaguez, Caguas, Bayamon, Guaynabo
- Points of interest: Viejo San Juan, El Yunque Rainforest, Cueva Ventana, Castillo San Felipe del Morro, lovely beaches
- Abbreviation: PR
- Nationality: Puerto Rican
- Population: 3,195,153 (2018)
- Primary ethnicity: Hispanic
- Ethnic groups: White 76%, Black 12%, Other 9%, Mixed 3%
- Official languages: Spanish, English
- National anthem: La Borinquena
- Area: 9,104 km² (3,515 mi²)
- Average temperature: 82 °F (28 °C)
- Climate: tropical rainforest
- Highest elevation: 4,390 ft (1,340 m)
- Location: Caribbean region of North America
- Calling code: +1-787, +1-939
- Coordinates: 18°15’N, 66°30’W
- Currency: United States Dollar (USD) ($)
- Driving side: right
- Time zone: Atlantic Standard Time (AST) (GMT/UTC – 4:00)
Puerto Rico is an archipelago or group of islands which includes the main island and several smaller islands. The main island of Puerto Rico is approximately 100 miles long and 35 miles wide. There are over 143 islands, atolls, cays, and islets. However, only the main island, Vieques, and Culebra are inhabited.
Travel To Puerto Rico
Do you need a passport to go to Puerto Rico?
Passport and visa requirements are the same as for the mainland of the United States. Citizens of the United States can use their state issued driver’s license to enter and exit the island. Citizens of the European Union must show a passport, however, the visa waiver program applies to most EU countries.
Is Puerto Rico part of United States?
Yes, Puerto Rico is part of the United States. Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory in 1898 following the Spanish–American War. U.S. citizenship was extended to all Puerto Ricans in 1917. Later in 1952, Puerto Ricans adopted a new constitution which established Puerto Rico as a commonwealth.
Do they speak English in Puerto Rico?
Both Spanish and English are official languages in Puerto Rico, however, less than 10% of Puerto Ricans speak English. Spanish is the dominant language of business, education, and daily life on the island. If you are traveling in the capital city of San Juan, you will likely encounter plenty of English speaking help.
What is Puerto Rico known for?
Puerto Rico is known for white sandy beaches, clear blue waters, and lush nature parks. The island has a tropical rain forest feel with the safety and luxury of San Juan always nearby. The world famous Bacardi Rum factory is in San Juan as well.
Is it safe to travel to Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico is considered to be as safe as other major tourist areas within the United States. Day trips with an experienced guide is highly recommended for those who are not familiar with the island. Once you get a feel for the island, you can then begin to travel more freely on your own.
How much is a dollar worth in Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico’s monetary unit is the United States Dollar (USD, US$). Puerto Ricans may occasionally refer to the US Dollar as the peso or dolar, however, the currency is the same. If you are visiting the island of Puerto Rico from the European Union, type EUR to USD in your browser for the current exchange rate.
How expensive is Puerto Rico?
A mid-range hotel in San Juan will cost $50 to $150 per night on average. Daily meals and bottled water for those hot days will cost around $30 to $40 per person. Transportation, day tours, and rental car costs will vary based on your travel itinerary.