Literally meaning “rich port”, Puerto Rico is rich in a number of ways. With some of the most breathtaking beaches in the Caribbean Sea, this territory also has lots of unspoiled wilderness that can make for everything from a quiet and romantic getaway to an adventure-filled vacation full of vigorous outdoor activities.
About Puerto Rico
Although it is normally thought of as being one island, Puerto Rico actually consists of a main island and several smaller ones that surround it. Many of them are uninhabited year round, and the island Mona is only inhabited by workers with the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources. It is a mostly mountainous territory with several natural lakes and rivers along with some rainforest area. There are 78 municipalities recognized by the Puerto Rican government, with agricultural products such as sugar being its primary exports. Spanish and English are spoken equally here, and the local currency recognized is the U.S. dollar.
Puerto Rico as a U.S. Territory
Puerto Rico officially became a U.S. territory, when Spain ceded these islands to the United States after being defeated in the Spanish-American War. It wasn’t until 1917 that residents of Puerto Rico were granted U.S. citizenship. Because they have not adopted statehood, Puerto Ricans are not eligible to vote in presidential elections, but do elect their own governor. Even though they do not have elected representatives in Congress, the legislature still passes laws that govern many of the functions of this territory.
In all, Puerto Rico comprises more than 5,300 square miles of territory. Of that, over 3,400 square miles is land, while the rest consists of water. The main island is by far the largest, stretching 110 miles from east to west and 40 miles at its widest point going north to south. It contains more than 300 miles of coast-land. Puerto Rico is the smallest island in the Greater Antilles, which is the region consisting of Cuba, Jamaica and Hispaniola Island.
Puerto Rico can be found in between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It lies approximately 237 miles east of the Dominican Republic and around 110 miles west of the U.S. Virgin Islands. This territory is situated between 18 degrees north longitude and 66 degrees west latitude. It is approximately 762 miles from Cuba, around 1,000 miles from Key West, Florida, and nearly 840 miles from the Bahamas.
Puerto Rico is in a tropical climate zone, with temperatures fluctuating very little from season to season. The average temperature here is around 80 degrees Fahrenheit in low-lying areas, and around 70 degrees Fahrenheit in mountainous areas. High winds are also possible along Puerto Rico’s mountain ranges. The months between April and November are when most of the rain in this territory falls. Tropical cyclones are possible from time to time as well.
The beaches of Puerto Rico are highlighted by deep blue waters and toasty brown sand dotted with mature sweeping palm trees. Cana Gorda is in a somewhat wooded area, being fairly close to the Guanica Forest Reserve. This beach is an excellent location for spotting birds, wildlife and marine animals. Flamenco has been called the “best beach in America”, and features rolling sand dunes in a somewhat secluded atmosphere. The beaches along Isla Verde are popular locations for surfing, water skiing and para-sailing, while numerous holiday events take place on Seven Seas beach.
Historically and culturally speaking, Puerto Rico’s capital of San Juan boasts lots of attractions for visitors to enjoy. It is brimming with ancient architecture, some of which dates to the 1600s. Many of the historic buildings are located in a section of town known as Old San Juan. Here, tourists can stroll cobblestone streets while checking out the ruins of several old forts. There’s also plenty of shopping opportunities including a craft market that offers handmade jewelry, furniture and housewares. San Juan also boasts lots of fine dining and entertainment outside of its historic district as well.
Visitors here often enjoy going horseback riding by the sea, as Puerto Rico is home to its own equine breed, the Paso Fino. Horseback riding and hiking can also be enjoyed inside many of the nature preserves on the main island. This territory’s Yellow Reef is an ideal spot for snorkeling and scuba diving, with a number of companies offering lessons or guided tours. Deep sea fishing charters abound on the main island, with some of the popular catch including mackerel and tuna. The municipalities of Dorado and Aguadilla boast world-class golf courses that lure players from around the world. Camping, bird watching, surfing and swimming are also popular activities enjoyed by visitors here.
Museo de Arte de Ponce
This is a historical museum located in the city of Ponce. It has been recently renovated, and includes artwork from some local contemporary artists. There is also an extensive collection of European art on display here. Special activities are available for children, and these activities aim to increase their appreciation and love of art. There is a snack bar on site that overlooks a scenic area of town, providing a peaceful place to relax after viewing the exhibits on display here.
A biobay is a rare ecosystem found in only a few places in the world. It exists whenever rare organisms known as dinoflagellates inhabit the water. When these creatures become agitated, they let off light that emits a warm glow. Puerto Rico’s Vieques biobay has a higher concentration of these organisms than any other biobay on earth. During a nighttime visit, guests could notice the oars of a canoe, fish or even their skin glowing from the light of dinoflagellates. Guided tours are offered on a nightly basis, and are especially enchanting when it rains because droplets of water hitting the surface of the biobay will glow as well.
There is no off-season as far as tourism in Puerto Rico goes. Whether you arrive by air or by sea, you’ll find these islands to have plenty of fun things to see and do. The diversity offered by Puerto Rico makes it an excellent destination for families or single adults alike.