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San Juan, Puerto Rico
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Puerto Rico Travel Notes

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Puerto Rico Travel and Tourism on Travel Notes

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Plan your perfect escape with our comprehensive Puerto Rico travel guide. Explore sun-soaked beaches, historic sites, and vibrant local experiences.

About Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island known for its rich history and culture, exceptional food, pristine beaches, majestic mountains, relaxation, and adventure.

Puerto Rico lies to the east of the Dominican Republic, while further to the east lie the Virgin Islands.

Travel Map Mapping Puerto Rico

Map of Puerto Rico

Map of Puerto Rico

Discovered by Columbus in 1493, the Spaniards renamed the island San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico, after John the Baptist.

The country consists of the large island of Puerto Rico, Isla Mona to the west, and Islas de Culebra and de Vieques to the east.

San Juan is the capital and largest city of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico Overview

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the Caribbean.

Commonwealth Status

Puerto Rico is officially known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

The relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States is governed by the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act, which established the island's current political status as an unincorporated territory.

Culture

Puerto Rican culture is a mix of Taíno, African, and Spanish influences.

This cultural fusion is evident in the island's music, dance, art, and cuisine.

Economy

The economy of Puerto Rico is diverse, with manufacturing, tourism, and services playing significant roles.

The island has faced economic challenges, and in 2016, it declared a form of bankruptcy; leading to the oversight of its finances by a federally appointed board.

Geography

Puerto Rico is an archipelago in the north-eastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of the Virgin Islands.

It consists of the main island of Puerto Rico and several smaller islands.

History

Puerto Rico was originally inhabited by the Taíno people before Christopher Columbus arrived in 1493.

It became a Spanish colony and remained under Spanish rule until the United States acquired it in 1898, after the Spanish-American War.

Hurricane Maria

In 2017, Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria; one of the strongest hurricanes to make landfall on the island.

The hurricane caused extensive damage to infrastructure, homes, and the power grid, leading to an humanitarian crisis.

Official Languages

Spanish and English are the official languages of Puerto Rico.

Political Status

Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, which means it is subject to U.S. federal laws but does not have voting representation in the U.S. Congress.

The political status of Puerto Rico has been a topic of debate, with some advocating for statehood, independence, or maintaining the current territorial status.

Tourism

Puerto Rico is a popular tourist destination, known for its beautiful beaches, historic sites, vibrant culture, and tropical climate.

Visiting Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico offers a diverse range of attractions; making it a fantastic destination for those seeking a mix of history, culture, nature, and relaxation.

Remember to check travel advisories and local guidelines before planning your trip to Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico Highlights

Beaches

Puerto Rico boasts some stunning beaches.

Visit Flamenco Beach on Culebra Island, Playa Buyé in Cabo Rojo, or Luquillo Beach on the main island for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports.

Bioluminescent Bays

Puerto Rico is home to several bioluminescent bays, such as Mosquito Bay in Vieques and Laguna Grande in Fajardo.

Experience the magical glow of the water caused by microscopic organisms when disturbed.

Camuy River Cave Park

Explore the underground wonders of the Camuy River Cave Park, home to one of the world's largest cave networks.

Guided tours allow you to discover impressive stalactites and stalagmites.

Coffee Plantations

Puerto Rico has a rich coffee culture.

Take a tour of a coffee plantation in the central mountains to learn about the island's coffee production and enjoy freshly brewed local coffee.

Cueva Ventana

Explore the 'Window Cave', a popular cave system located in Arecibo, for breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

El Yunque National Forest

Experience the beauty of the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System.

El Yunque National Forest offers hiking trails, waterfalls, and diverse flora and fauna.

Local Cuisine

Indulge in Puerto Rican cuisine, which is a delicious blend of Spanish, African, and Taíno influences.

Try mofongo, tostones, arroz con gandules, and other local dishes.

Music and Dance

Immerse yourself in the vibrant music scene of Puerto Rico where salsa, merengue, and reggaeton are popular genres.

Attend a live music performance or dance the night away in one of the local clubs.

Old San Juan

Explore the historic district of San Juan, characterised by colourful colonial buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, and historic forts such as El Morro and Castillo San Cristobal.

The area is rich in history and offers beautiful views of the sea.

Ponce

Visit the city of Ponce on the southern coast, known for its colonial architecture, museums, and the colourful Parque de Bombas; an historic firehouse.

San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico

From the Spanish base of Santo Domingo, Ponce de Leon sailed to Puerto Rico in 1508, and became the island's first governor.

In 1521, Ponce de Leon was mortally wounded while searching for the fountain of youth in Florida, and died in Cuba.

In the same year, mosquitoes around the original settlement of Caparra plagued the Spaniards and forced them to move across the bay and settle on the headland.

It's not certain when the name of the island became that of the town, or the rich port the name of the island; probably when the Spaniards found out that the rivers would not yield them with golden riches, or perhaps it was to bless the new settlement with the name of a patron saint.

Spain began to build a considerable and wealthy empire in the Americas, and this in turn attracted the French, British and Dutch to plunder what they could.

All Spanish settlements and shipping were at risk.

San Juan

The capital of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, is in the north-eastern part of the island; facing the Atlantic Ocean.

Map of San Juan

Map of San Juan

Old San Juan, the historical part of the city, lies on a small island connected to the mainland by bridges and a causeway.

As the Casa Blanca stronghold, built as a house for the heirs of Ponce de Leon, in 1525, would do little against a serious land attack, and La Fortaleza (completed in 1540 and now the governors house) was in a foolish position in the inner harbour, Oviedo suggested that a more secure fort be built on the commanding headland.

Emperor Charles V, Charles I of Spain authorised the construction of the El Morro fortress, in 1539, to protect the harbour from capture. If the enemy were to obtain such a strategic port, they would be free to attack the Spanish fleet, and rob Spain of her treasures, at will.

During the increased fortifications of El Morro, financed by stolen treasures from Mexico, the Spaniards had frequent visits by the British. Francis Drake made a brave attempt to snatch a cargo of gold and silver that awaited transportation to Spain in La Fortaleza, and the Earl of Cumberland made a successful land attack.

In 1625 the Dutch attacked from the landslide of El Morro, and burnt the city on their retreat. The land defences were also reinforced with massive surroundings walls and San Cristobal fort on the eastern shore.

The San Juan gate would open from the quay, where visiting high government officials were met by local dignitaries and escorted up the hill to the Cathedral; which now contains the remains of Juan Ponce de Leon.

The two convoys that left Spain each year needed to be guaranteed a safe passage. With Spain controlling Santo Domingo and San Juan, the convoys could bring supplies from Spain and continue across the Caribbean.

One would head for Veracruz to pick up Mexican silver and Philippine merchandise that had travelled across the Pacific, while the other would take on pearls at Cartagena and Peruvian treasure at Portobello, on the Isthmus of Panama.

The two fleets would meet at Havana for the homeward voyage -- past the shores of Florida, and on to Spain.

In 1586, after Havana had already been sacked and Sir Francis Drake humiliated the Spaniards by breaking into the cities of Santo Domingo, Cartagena and St Augustine, Don Juan de Tejeda and the military engineer, Juan Bautista Antonelli, were sent to the Caribbean to plan and strengthen Spanish defences.

Airlines and Airports.

San Juan is considered the hub of the Caribbean with American Airlines running daily flights to numerous US cities and other Caribbean destinations.

Puerto Rico's association with America has meant that fast food drive-ins now offer rations in polystyrene shells, not nearly as savoury as oysters; although there are some savoury places to eat as well.

Cruise Lines.

Many Cruise ships make San Juan a regular port of call.

Daily signs go up around the tourist shops in Old San Juan welcoming the liners by name, offering free cocktails and gifts to purchasing customers, along with lucky cabin number draws.

San Juan Dining - Ummo Argentinian Grill:
If taste buds could dance, they’d be doing the tango at Ummo.

Condado Beach

On the mainland, east of old San Juan, is the high-rise luxury hotels and condominiums; popular with tourists who like to make a quick tour of the historical sights and then get to work on their tan.

Puerto Rico Tourism

Getting Around Puerto Rico

The publicos (shared taxis) have set routes and are a great way to travel cheaply, from plaza to plaza, around the island of Puerto Rico.

Discover Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a place where the old world is mashed up with the new on an island that is small in size but offers an immense bounty of one-of-a-kind experiences.

Rich history and culture, exceptional food, pristine beaches, majestic mountains, relaxation, adventure; all packed into one sun-kissed, Caribbean paradise.

Explore Puerto Rico

Whatever your idea of paradise may be you'll find it in Puerto Rico.

Discover its past and present as you explore its 78 municipalities.

Go to Puerto Rico

Enjoy the hidden treasures of Puerto Rico, its attractions, year-round events and, local tourism opportunities.

Puerto Rico Attractions

Puerto Rico is packed with enough unique attractions and fascinating sights to keep you occupied for weeks.

Puerto Rico Convention Center

The Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan is the largest and most technologically advanced in the Caribbean.

Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association

The Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association represents the shared interests of its more than 400 corporate members, including hotels, restaurants, tour companies, suppliers of hospitality goods and services, airlines, cruise lines and educational institutions.

What To Do in Puerto Rico

Arguably the most beautiful city in the Caribbean, a leisurely walk through Old San Juan is one of the most pleasant experiences anyone could have in Puerto Rico.

There's plenty more to see and do on the island as well.

Puerto Rico Accommodation

Small Inns of Puerto Rico

Usually family owned and managed, often tucked into the most interesting or unusual corners of the island, and always with attractive prices and personalised service, the small inns and hotels of Puerto Rico are very special places.

Puerto Rico Travel Guides

Fodor's Puerto Rico (Travel Guide) Lonely Planet Puerto Rico (Travel Guide)

Puerto Rico Travel Guides - Puerto Rico Maps.

Weather in the Caribbean:
Local weather forecasts for destinations around the Caribbean region.

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