Capital City: San Juan
Official Languages: Spanish and English
Currency: US Dollar
Welcome to the historical, interesting, diverse and beautiful island of Puerto Rico!
The history of this group of islands is rich, filled with stories of pirates, slaves, local tribes, religion and battles. Today you will find a peaceful place that is proud of its past and hopeful for the future. The beaches range from calm and family friendly to wild with 20ft waves for surfers.The beaches are perfect but when you get tired of sunbathing you can immerse yourself in the local culture by exploring downtown San Juan and the small towns that surround the city. The islands have some truly unique ecological sites such as the only rain forest in the Caribbean and two phosphorescent bays. The history and culture of Puerto Rico make this group of islands unique. The four hundred year Spanish has made this island feel like a small part of Spain. The islands are now a true cultural mix with a combination of the descendants of African slaves and the local Taino Indians as well as a large group of Spanish, Chinese, French, German and Italian immigrants.
Must see places in Puerto Rico
Ojo del Buey
This area is commonly known as the Ox’s Eye, the name comes from the huge rock formation in the area that looks like the head of an Ox. Legend has it that this is where the infamous local pirate, Robert Cofresi, hid his treasure and it has never been found. Challenge the kids to look for the treasure and turn it into a fun game.
The observatory has a visitor’s centre that allows visitors to find out about the important work being done by the largest telescope on earth. The centre runs a number of exhibits that teach adults and children about the earth, our solar system, star, galaxies and the tools that science uses to find out more about the universe. There is an observation platform from which you can see the 305 meter wide telescope.
Tibes Indian Ceremonial Centre
This amazing historical site features a one thousand five hundred year old Taino village and much of it remains intact. A cemetery was found on the site with skeletons dating back to 700AD. You are free to move around the grounds and explore on your own. An informative talk about the history of the village is provided and takes place at the entrance to the village. The site is still an area of very productive archaeological study about the early tribes of the Caribbean.
The fort of El Murro rises 140ft above the sea and with its 18ft thick walls it truly is an impressive military stronghold. El Murro was never penetrated despite many attacks from the other colonists and it stands as a reminder of how fiercely the Spaniards protected this port and country. The fort holds a mini museum and explains the history of the building in an interesting way. Adults will love the views and historical aspects while children will love climbing over the walls and pretending to be soldiers.
This is the number one tourist attraction in Puerto Rico. The water luminescence is caused by dinoflagellates a type of oceanic plankton that produce emerald green and ultramarine illumination when the water is physically moved or touched. The bay is best viewed at night by kayak tour. A very dark sky with a thin moon, after a day of bright sunlight will give the best conditions for bright neon illumination.
This building is the oldest executive mansion in continues use in the world. It was built in 1533 for the defence of San Juan and from the 16th century to today it has been the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico. In 1983 it was listed by UNESCO as a historic World Heritage Site.
The El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rain forest in the Caribbean and in the United States National Forestry System. You can see over four hundred different plant species in this forest that is noted for its biodiversity. There are more than a dozen well maintained hiking trails through the forest as well as picnic areas, rivers, waterfalls, stone towers and a visitor’s centre.
Hacienda San Pedro
This small coffee farm has an attached tasting room and museum. You can take a tour of the coffee making process from the green bean to dark roast espresso. The tasting room and shop has some of the best gourmet blends you will ever taste. You can even buy green coffee beans here to try your hand at roasting.
La Monserrate Beach Park
Commonly known as Luquillo Beach, this stunning beach is one of the most popular in Puerto Rico. The beachfront is huge with fine white sand and swaying palm trees. The rain forest serves as a stunning backdrop to this idyllic scene. The water is warm, calm and crystal clear.
San Jose Church
The church of San Jose was built in 1532 and is one of very few remaining examples of Spanish Gothic architecture from the 16th century. It stands as an interesting example of Spain’s Catholic missionary past and how it changed the future of the Caribbean. The building was recently added to a list of America’s most endangered historic places and work is being done to salvage this beautiful church.
Things to do in Puerto Rico
Wander around old San Juan and look at the beautiful buildings either on your own or with a guided tour.
Spend time relaxing on the beach with a Pina Colada and a good book
Explore the islands
Explore the smaller islands that are part of Puerto Rico
Bloody Bay Wall, Little Cayman, Cayman Islands is voted the best site in the Caymans, this marine park’s heart-stopping coral wall reaches astounding depths of almost 2000 meters. Visibility here is unequalled, and divers won’t soon forget navigating their way through forests of giant fans to encounter eagle rays, turtles, and the region’s orange and purple tube sponges
Best time to visit
Tourists visit Puerto Rico from mid-December to mid-April
Peak season runs from mid-December to mid-April as vistors from the North flee the cold climates. The off season with slightly lower prices runs from May to November. The hurricane season officially lasts from 1 June to the 30 November but the most damaging storms usually hit in August.
Did you know?
San Sebastian Street Festival (January) Held in Old San Juan this street festival comprises of nightly celebrations with music, processions and food stalls as well as a small art and craft section.
Coffee Harvest Festival (February) This festival is held in Maricao and celebrates the coffee harvest with a parade, folk music, food, coffee tastings and demonstrations of coffee preparation.
Carnival (February) Puerto Rico’s carnival celebrations feature float parades, street parties and all night dancing. One of the most colourful is in Ponce where the revellers all wear brightly painted horned masks.
Heineken JazzFest (May) This annual jazz celebration is held in a scenic open air pavilion on San Juan’s oceanfront. Musicians from all over the world are flown in for this week long celebration of Jazz.
San Juan Bautista Day (June) A weeklong festival held in every village or city in Puerto Rico celebrating the islands patron saint. Traditionally people walk backwards into the sea three times to ensure good luck for the coming year.
Jayuya Indian Festival (November) This fiesta celebrates the culture and heritage of the original inhabitants of the islands the Taino Indians. Traditional food is sold and the air is filled with music from this vibrant culture. Games and competitions are held throughout the day.
Hatillo Masks Festival (December) Held in the town of Hatillo this traditional festival represents the biblical story of King Herod and his ordering of the death of all infant boys. Men with colourful masks and costumes representing the soldiers run through the town from early morning. This is followed by a celebration with music and food.
- Arroz con Gandules
- If you are a US citizen you don’t need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico but bring some form of ID as it is often required at hotel check-in.
- Leave the beaten tourist path to get better deals on food and drink. That beer in your hotel will be a quarter of the price in a local bar.
- All Puerto Ricans speak English but Spanish is the language of daily life so brush up on your Spanish or buy a phrase book.
- Tipping is the same as in the US and 15 -20% is generally considered standard and a higher tip for exceptional service.
- Credit cards are accepted everywhere but bring some dollars for tips, street food and souvenirs.