Puerto Rico is an unincorporated U.S. territory in the Caribbean Sea known for its varied landscapes, amazing food, historical landmarks, and rich cultural traditions. With only around 3,500 square miles of land, Puerto Rico is smaller than Connecticut. Travel from the capital city of San Juan to the smaller islands just off the east coast, and you will find a delightful mix of nature and history. The aptly labeled “Isla del Encanto” (Island of Enchantment) certainly lives up to its nickname.
Old San Juan
The hub of Puerto Rico’s oldest architecture, the historical district of Old San Juan provides visual evidence of the island’s mottled past. Many of the buildings are carefully restored to preserve their Spanish Colonial history and updated to incorporate modern architectural designs. A colorful blend of old and new, the popular area is an aesthetic delight for all who walk its cobbled streets.
Arguably the most well-known historical monument on the island, Castillo San Felipe Del Morro is an iconic Spanish fortress overlooking San Juan bay. The popular tourist destination was built between the 16th and 18th centuries and is designated as a World Heritage Site. Visitors can spend hours wandering the multiple levels of the fortress, lounging around on its lawn, and enjoying the breathtaking scenery surrounding it.
The downtown San Juan area is the perfect place for picking up souvenirs and indulging in local delicacies. Meander in and out of the local shops, head to Café el Punto for some of the best local fare in town, or grab a pina colada at Barrachina.
Vieques and Culebra
While Puerto Rico is an archipelago comprised of more than 140 islands, only three of its islands are inhabited. In addition to the big island, the much smaller islands of Vieques and Culebra are accessible for tourists and offer more pristine beaches than the shores of San Juan. Many visit the smaller islands to enjoy the slow pace and secluded shores, while others come to enjoy water activities such as kayaking or snorkeling. Vieques is also well-known for hosting a bioluminescent bay.
The islands can be reached via ferry service from the east coast town of Fajardo, or you can opt for a quick flight on a tiny plane from the Ceiba International Airport (also in Fajardo).
Situated just west of Fajardo, El Yunque rainforest is an easy one-hour car trip from San Juan. A hike on the trails of the rainforest is rewarded with beautiful views, native plant species, and the chance to spot an elusive Puerto Rican parrot. Waterfalls cascade into pools where you can cool down after working up a sweat.
Visitors are often serenaded by the sounds of Puerto Rico’s coqui frogs, who live abundantly in the rainforest and are well known for the loud chirp of the males’ mating calls. You will have to look carefully to spot one of these noisy amphibians, as mature coquis are about the size of a quarter and the younger ones could rest on your fingertip.
There is Something for Everyone in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico’s many offerings make it an ideal destination to please adventurers, beach-lovers, and history buffs alike. The island is a treat for the senses, an escape for overworked minds, and a cultural delight for everyone.