Puerto Rico Travel Guide
To the untrained eye, Puerto Rico seems like any other Caribbean island nation. Ever since the Spanish-American War at the end of the 19th century though, this territory has been a possession of the United States.
Its official distinction is that of a commonwealth, which permits it a number of ways by which it can govern its own affairs.
However, the preponderance of big cars, the ubiquity of fast food chains, and the omnipresence of the Stars and Stripes on flag poles everywhere will let you know what country you are in during your visit here.
Regardless of this fact, Puerto Rico is a territory that is unlike most other places in America, as its Spanish colonial architecture and forts, striking Caribbean beaches, and the proud culture of its inhabitants make this place distinctly different from nearby US states like Florida.
Currency: U.S. Dollars
Languages: Spanish, English
What To Do
Shortly after landing in Puerto Rico, your first order of business should be to explore San Juan National Historic Site.
This federally protected land protects landmarks such as Castillo San Felipe del Morro and the old city walls of San Juan.
Granted a UNESCO world heritage site designation for being a fine example of European military architecture in the New World, dedicating a good part of your first morning or evening to exploring these fortifications should be the first thing that you do after getting over any jet lag that you may be suffering upon arrival.
When you are done checking out the forts and city walls that used to protect San Juan from pirates and foreign militaries, walking the streets of Old San Juan is a great way to round out your first day in Puerto Rico.
Lined with colorful buildings that are excellent examples of Spanish colonial architecture, you can make an entire day of wandering from Boutique to restaurant to bar, while being in awe the whole time.
When you aren’t people watching from one of its cafes or its plazas, be sure to check out Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, which is where the remains of famous Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon are buried.
When you are finished exploring San Juan, head to the other side of the island to check out the city that bears the name of the aforementioned explorer.
It is here in Ponce where you’ll find Museo de Arte de Ponce, which is considered by many experts to be one of the Caribbean’s finest art museums. Housing an impressive collection of European and Puerto Rican art, you’ll have your hands full viewing the 4,500 pieces that are located throughout the halls of this fine institution.
El Yunque National Forest has the unique distinction of being the only National Forest within U.S. territory to be a tropical rainforest.
With near continuous rainfall throughout the year, the lushness of the vegetation creates an atmosphere that one would typically think of when they envision a jungle in their minds.
Of all the fauna that one can observe within this park, keep your eyes open for the Coqui. A frog that is endemic to Puerto Rico, it is something of an icon on this island.
There are many beaches that can be found throughout Puerto Rico, but none of them have generated the buzz that Flamenco Beach has over the years.
Located on the smaller outer island of Culebra off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, this mile-long Horseshoe Beach is the stuff of dreams.
Soft white sand, turquoise water, and local vendors selling fresh seafood and tropical fruit such as mangoes are all things that you can find here, making it a great place to relax for a few days during your trip to this US territory.
What to Eat
If you are looking for a local meal that isn’t terribly heavy, then seeking out some Mofongo should be your top priority. Consisting of mashed plantains combined with chicharron, bacon and garlic, this popular side dish is often served with fried meat or chicken soup.
Those looking to eat a dish that is commonly considered to be the national dish of Puerto Rico will want to search for restaurants that serve Arroz con Gandules.
This dish is created by combining rice, pigeon peas and pork together in a big pot that simmers all day.
The creation of this meal is no small undertaking, as the rice is seasoned and left to marinate for as long as a day before it is eaten by its intended guests.
When the time comes for a sweet ending to a meal that you are having in Puerto Rico, make sure one of the desserts that you have is Tembleque.
Unofficially Puerto Rico’s national dessert, this delectable treat is created by combining rice, sugar, coconut milk, rum, cinnamon, and orange blossom.