A Few Puerto Rico Facts
- The earliest inhabitants of Puerto Rico are believed to have lived there as early as 2000 BC.
- The first European to discover Puerto Rico was Christopher Columbus in 1493 on his second voyage to the New World.
- Juan Ponce de León founded the island’s first settlement on August 8. 1508.
- Old San Juan dates back to the 1520s.
- The English translation of Puerto Rico means rich port, an apt description.
- Puerto Rico’s capital city is San Juan.
- The official language is Spanish, although most locals speak at least some English.
- U.S. citizens don’t need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico.
- The local currency is the U.S. dollar.
Puerto Rico’s Major Vacation Spots
Puerto Rico can be divided into roughly 5 separate tourist destinations. They are:
San Juan is Puerto Rico’s largest city and busiest port. If you are taking a cruise San Juan is where you will disembark. San Juan’s primary allure for tourists is Old San Juan, the city’s oldest section. Old San Juan is home to numerous historical sites including UNESCO World Heritage sites La Fortaleza, the forts of El Morro, San Cristóbal, and El Cañuelo, and the old City Wall. Additionally, Old San Juan has many good shopping and dining options.
Ponce is Puerto Rico’s second largest city and is located on the southern part of the island. Most people visit Ponce for its museums, which include the Museum of Puerto Rican Music, the Ponce Museum of Art, Castillo Serralles, Tibes Indian Ceremonial Center, and Museo de la Historia de Ponce.
Rincon is on Puerto Rico’s west coast and is home to many of the best surfing beaches on the island including Domes, Marias, Tres Palmas, Sandy Beach, Pools Beach, and Rincon Town Beach Plaza. This is the destination for people who want to hang out on the beach in a low-key atmosphere.
Fajardo and Rio Grande
These two regions are located on Puerto Rico’s northeastern coast. They are known for their beaches and proximity to El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the US National Forest System. Two of Puerto Rico’s most luxurious resorts are also located here. The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort is in Rio Grande and the El Conquistador Resort is in Fajardo.
Spanish Virgin Islands
Vieques and Culebra are the two largest and best-known Puerto Rican out islands; small islands off the main island known as the Spanish Virgin Islands. These islands have the most beautiful beaches in all of Puerto Rico. You can access them for a day trip or longer by ferry from Fajardo, flight from San Juan, or private charter boat.
Hotels in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico Hotels
According to tripadvisor, there are 315 hotels, B&Bs, and inns on Puerto Rico and its out islands. The majority are found in or near San Juan, but you can find lodging anywhere you wish to go on Puerto Rico or the Spanish Virgin islands. Some of the better-known hotels include:
- Hotel Convento in Old San Juan
- Horned Dorset Primavera in Rincon
- La Concha Resort in San Juan
- Marriott San Juan Resort in San Juan
- W Retreat and Spa in Vieques
- The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort in Rio Grande
- Courtyard by Marriott Isla Verde Beach in Isla Verde
- Ritz Carlton in Isla Verde
- Caribe Hilton in San Juan
- Embassy Suites in Isla Verde
- InterContinental San Juan Resort and Casino in Isla Verde
- El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo
- Lazy Parrot Inn in Rincon
All Inclusive Puerto Rico Vacations
Unlike many Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico isn’t a great place to find all-inclusive hotel deals. In fact, Copamarina Beach Resort in Guanica – on the island’s southern coast – is Puerto Rico’s only all-inclusive hotel.
Puerto Rico Vacation Rentals
In addition to hotels, there are rental homes and condos available in Puerto Rico. You can find them through Internet companies such as VRBO, homeaway, and airbnb, or by contacting local real estate agents.
Things to Do in Puerto Rico
Sightseeing – Puerto Rico offers lots of choices when it comes to sightseeing. Are you a cultural sightseer? Then you will enjoy Puerto Rico’s many art and history museums, old forts, cathedrals, and lighthouses. Are you interested in the rum industry? Bacardi Rum has tours of its factory in San Juan. Are nature and the natural world where your interests lie? You won’t want to miss El Yunque National Forest, Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve, Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, and Arecibo Observatory.
Dining – Puerto Rico offers diners their choice of pretty much any cuisine from traditional Puerto Rican fare to the finest in continental cooking. In fact, according to Travel + Leisure magazine San Juan is the #5 best burger city in 2012. “It’s not just the burgers, either: this year, readers applauded the local foodie renaissance, giving it first place for both its ethnic cuisine and street food.”
Casinos – There are over 20 casinos in Puerto Rico, most of them in hotels. The legal age to gamble – and drink – in Puerto Rico is 18.
Shopping – There is something for everyone when it comes to shopping in Puerto Rico. You can visit malls, outlet centers, and small, specialty shops. Plaza las Americas in San Juan is the largest shopping center in the Caribbean with more then 300 stores. Puerto Rico Premium Outlets in Barceloneta offers discount shopping at numerous name brand stores. And you can find many one-of-a-kind items at the various independent retail shops throughout Puerto Rico.
Water Sports – Puerto Rico is a water sports mecca. Among the activities you can enjoy are swimming, surfing, kitesurfing, windsurfing, kayaking, snorkeling, and boat charters.
Land Sports – Puerto Rico has numerous sports that can be enjoyed on land too. They include hiking, golf, and horseback riding.
Extreme Adventures – In addition to some of the more extreme water sports already mentioned, you can go ziplining, explore caves and sinkholes, and kayak in one of the world’s only bioluminescent bays.
Planning Your Puerto Rican Vacation
Some things you may want to consider when planning your vacation to Puerto Rico are …
How much do you want to spend? This should be your first decision. You can often find Puerto Rico vacation deals at travel consolidator websites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Cheap Caribbean.
How do you want to book your Puerto Rico vacation? Are you interested in Puerto Rico vacation packages or do you prefer to look for independent Puerto Rico vacation deals from individual hotels and airlines? Booking a package is definitely faster and may be cheaper, but booking independently provides you with more choices and, contrary to popular belief, can even be less expensive.
Where do you want to go while you are there? When planning your vacation to Puerto Rico you will want to orient yourself since Puerto Rico is a fairly large island. Use this map of Puerto Rico to find the places you want to visit.
What time of year do you want to visit? / What’s the weather in Puerto Rico? Puerto Rico is blessed with a tropical climate so the weather is mild year round with temperatures ranging from 70° to 90°F (21.1° ? 32.2°C). April through November are Puerto Rico’s wettest months. The official hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, but the instances of a major hurricane hitting Puerto Rico are relatively rare.
Puerto Rico makes a wonderful vacation destination for people who love the beach. It’s also a good choice for history and architecture lovers, foodies, and gamblers.
To many joyful beach experiences!
— Lisa Dworkin