Puerto Rico is the smallest island of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean, located east of the Dominican Republic. The vitality of the region comes from 500+ years of rich history and the blending of different cultures, which extends to almost every aspect of the island’s identity. You will experience it in every sight, taste, and sound during your stay.
Since Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, locals are American citizens, and American travelers can enter the Island without carrying a passport. But no matter your citizenship here is some important information and travel tips from which you can greatly benefit.
When it comes to things to see and do, the possibilities are nearly endless:
- kayak the bioluminescent bays
- experience a local rum tasting, coffee tasting, or an agro-tour
- play golf on the many courses in the region
- enjoy plenty of watersports, including snorkeling, paddle boarding, body rafting, boat cruises, and more
- explore the Spanish colonial architecture or the City of Ponce (known as the Pearl of the South)
- hike to see waterfalls in the rainforest
- attend a festival
- visit a museum for contemporary art
- experience the plentiful nightlife including several casinos
- shop till you drop
The hardest part will be to choose from so many options, but you can hang out on one of the island’s many beautiful beaches until you decide.
People and Population
The people are extremely friendly — for example, when you pass by locals walking through the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, they will greet you with “buenos días” (good morning), even if they do not know you. And if they sit near you in a restaurant while you taste a Mallorca (popular local pastry) and a coffee, they will say “buen provecho” (enjoy your meal), just for the sake of courtesy.
There are approximately 3.6 million people in Puerto Rico. Most of the population identifies as Christian. Puerto Rican society is educated with a literacy level that exceeds 93%. It is also inclusive, with same-sex marriage laws and other statutes that protect common-law marriages’ rights.
The currency used in Puerto Rico is the U.S. dollar.
Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States where the official languages are Spanish and English. You may come across people who speak a mixture of both or “Spanglish,” given the influence of the U.S. on the Island.
The climate in Puerto Rico is warm and tropical (i.e., expect an afternoon shower during the summer months). The temperature fluctuates between 70 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year, with the central mountainous area seeing lows of approximately 60 degrees during the winter months of December and January.
The legal age to consume alcoholic beverages in Puerto Rico is 18 years.
In Puerto Rico, there is a 4GLTE network; 5G is available at some locations. However, in remote areas, cellular service and data coverage can be spotty. Always plan ahead if you’re headed to the mountains, for example. American travelers do not need to opt for international plans to make calls since their phones will work perfectly on the Island.
You’ll find a wide variety of shopping in Puerto Rico. Whether you’re searching for souvenirs, locally-made hand-crafted items, or major brands, you can peruse and purchase from malls, outlet stores, designer boutiques, and local shops. For an upscale experience with designer shops, visit the Mall of San Juan.
You can get to Puerto Rico by air or by sea. Airlines such as Delta, American Airlines, United, Southwest, Jet Blue, and Spirit Airlines have direct flights to the Island. The island receives over 1,300 weekly non-stop flights and almost 1,000 direct flights. Most of these come from cities like New York, Boston, Orlando, Philadelphia, Houston, Baltimore, Washington, and Chicago.
Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) is the largest airport in Puerto Rico. With over 20 different airlines, SJU has more than 21,000 passengers arriving and departing daily.
Whether you are a domestic or international traveler, here is all the information you might need once you arrive in Puerto Rico:
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) manages all the security checkpoints within the airport and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) has improved its programs to facilitate the entrance of international travelers.
Travelers visiting Puerto Rico from the U.S. arrive at the lower level of the airport and must walk a few steps towards Terminal A or B to claim their baggage. Passengers then exit to the airport’s public area to catch a ride to their destination.
For international flights, exit the gate and proceed to the CBP processing area. Recently, CBP inaugurated 14 Federal Inspection Stations to reduce the time passengers spend on custom inspections. This new system can process as many as 400 passengers per hour.
Once travelers clear CBP Primary Inspection, they must claim all their baggage and proceed to U.S. Customs and Agriculture. Luggage porters are available in the baggage claim area to help travelers who need assistance transporting their belongings. After clearing customs, travelers may proceed to exit the airport.
The airport has a designated Relief Area for the passengers’ service animals. This space is available 24 hours a day and it’s located in Terminal B, close to the boarding gate B-2. The airport asks the owners to clean the area after use, using the bags and trashcans provided.
For travelers coming directly from a cruise whose flights leave later, the airport has a storage facility where passengers can leave their belongings, explore the city of San Juan and then return in time to board their flight.
There is a Banco Popular de Puerto Rico branch between Terminals B and C of the arrival level inside the airport that exchanges currency for those traveling internationally.
If you plan to explore the island on your own, you will find approximately 14 different car rental companies with outlets located at the airport. Rentals can be arranged before your visit or upon arrival.
Taxis can be found when exiting the airport through Terminal B and C. The Metropolitan Bus Authority buses are located in Terminals A and D at the Departure Level. Rideshares like Uber can pick you up at the designated area on the ground floor of Terminals A and B.
Interesting facts about Puerto Rico include:
- The island has almost 300 miles of coastline and nearly the same number of beaches.
- Flamenco Beach, in Culebra, has been recognized as one of the Top 10 Beaches in the world on multiple occasions.
- Although Puerto Rico is an American territory, it competes as an individual country in Miss Universe’s contests and the Olympics.
- Puerto Rico has the largest shopping center in the Caribbean, Plaza Las Américas, and the most extensive rum factory globally, Casa Bacardí.
- El Yunque is the only rainforest in the U.S. Forest System and is in Puerto Rico. The forest receives over 120 inches of rain every year.
- The remains of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León are in a tomb inside the San Juan Cathedral.
- The piña colada was invented in Puerto Rico.
Source: Puerto Rico Tourism Board – Discover Puerto Rico
Photo Credits include Lead via Teahub.io
Remaining Photos via Pixabay, CuteWallpaper, and Wallpaper Cave