Puerto Rico: The When What and Why

Puerto Rico: The When What and Why

Geography

Where exactly is Puerto Rico? It is an archipelago between the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Most people live on the largest and most north of about 70 islands which is also called Puerto Rico. Only two more islands (Culebra, Vieques) are inhibited all year round. Nearest neighboring countries are the Virgin Islands on the East and the Dominican Republic on the West.

map-of-puerto-rico-in-atlantic-ocean

Puerto Rico is technically part of the USA with a territorial status. This means it’s not one of its states, not part of its federal tax system, and has no voting rights at electoral campaigns. Non-US tourists, however, need an American visa for visiting Puerto Rico.

More than 60% of Puerto Rico is covered by mountains with the Cordillera Central as the main chain, but considering the size very various, what means it includes sand beaches, caves, deserts, rivers, valleys, and tropical forest. Climate is a tropical marine, which means it is mostly sunny and warm. Temperature mostly varies from 20 to 27 degrees Celsius. Rain is relatively evenly distributed all year round with a hurricane season from November to April.

map-of-puerto-rico

History

First inhabitants of Puerto Rico were Ortoiroids who arrived from continental South America between 3000 and 2000 BC. Several different tribes followed in the next centuries until in the 15th century Christopherus Colombus found Taino people. The majority were killed thanks to smallpox and other European diseases in just a few decades.

Puerto Rico was one of the major strategic locations of the Spanish Empire for centuries and one of their last two colonies (other being Cuba) in the so-called New World. After the American-Spanish war, it became a territory of the USA in 1898. Several steps were later made to improve its political status but it’s still far from being an independent country.

puerto-rico-strategic-position

For historical reasons, two official languages are spoken in Puerto Rico with Spanish dominating the English.

Useful Data:

Official Name: Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico / Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
Abbreviation: PR
Population: 3,2 Mio (2018)
Language: Spanish, English (officially bilingual)
Currency: dollar (often called peso or dolar)
Area Code: +1
Zip Code: 00601 (Adjuntas) to 00988 (Carolina)
Capital: San Juan
National Anthem: La Borinquena
Time Zone: UTC-4 (AST – Atlantic Standard Time), no Daylight Saving Time
Drinking Age: 18
Unoficial Symbol: Coqui frog

photo-of-coqui-frog

Credit: https://amazingfacts.myblog.de/amazingfacts/art/13758312/Amazing-Facts-About-Puerto-Rico

Famous People from Puerto Rico:

Movie: Benicio del Toro, Joaquin Phoenix, Raul Julia, Rita Moreno, Rosie Perez
Music: Daddy Yankee, Jennifer Lopez, Jose Feliciano, Luis Fosi, Pedro Flores, Ricky Martin

Sport: Felix (Tito) Trinidad, Juan (Chi Chi) Rodriguez, Monica Puig Marchan, Rebekah Collberg, Robert Alomar

Economy

Two major economic activities create the majority of Puerto Rican income: manufacturing and services. Among manufacturing pharmaceuticals lead before electronics, petrochemicals, and textiles. Tourism and the financial industry are top sources of money. Puerto Rico is poor on natural resources, so it imports raw materials, food (about 85 percent of food eaten in the country), fertilizers, …

Hurricanes and tax changes in the last decades didn’t help Puerto Rican economy where more than 15% of people suffer from unemployment. Many emigrated to the USA. Since 2006 more people born in Puerto Rico live out of their country than in Puerto Rico. Tourism will definitely play an important part in the future.

Major Attractions

Beaches

There are hundreds of spectacular beaches in Puerto Rico. It’s a true paradise for resting in the shades of palms, snorkeling, sun tanning, surfing, watersports. Most of the major beach destinations offer additional bonuses in entertainment activities, lively nightlife, long romantic walks, historical sightseeing, and tasty beach dining.

It’s hard to pick just a few of the top beaches in Puerto Rico, so it’s probably better to explore them on your own, depending on your preferences and resources. Several are located just at San Juan, others need 10- to 20-minute flights from one of the airports to more distant locations.

Bioluminescent Bays

Puerto Rico has three of only five known bioluminescent bays in the world. Bioluminescence is a process of emitting the light by a living organism. Fireflies are probably best-known organisms capable of bioluminescence, but some algae, namely dinoflagellates can make it too. Dinoflagellates are present in all oceans but they need to be in very high concentrations to be seen emitting the light by a naked eye.

Mosquito Bay in Vieques is officially the brightest bio bay in the world. After hurricane Maria, the number of dinoflagellates almost doubled. Thanks to the lack of light produced by cities this remote bay offers a unique night spectacle for everybody who enjoys in such phenomena. Laguna Grande, although less spectacular, is much more visited thanks to its proximity to San Juan. And there is Parguera, the only one on the list accessible by motorboats.

Some agencies organize tours with night swimmings, divings or observings through the glass bottoms of boats. Another advantage of bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico is their year-round activity, not self-evident in other areas. A price for such trip varies between 50 and 100 US dollars.

Caves

Several caves in Puerto Rico attract tourists each by its specific charm. Tanam River Cave, for instance, offers a bit of adrenaline with tubing and zip lining. Cueva del Viento has interesting animals living in it. Don’t miss a spectacular view from Cueva Ventana. And there’s a legend about Pozo de Jacinto, where you should never mention a cow …

puerto-rico-cave-photo

Rio Camuy Caves are one of the largest known cave systems in the world. There are breathtaking formations of stalactites, stalagmites, and other karst characteristics. There is home to numerous bats as well.

El Yunque

El Yunque is a national park and the only tropical forest on the list of US national parks. It’s easily accessible from San Juan. La Mina Trail is popular among hikers with several waterfalls and lovely plants along the road. It is so popular it may be a bit crowded sometimes, so it’s best to take it in the early hours. Another signature point is probably La Coca, one of the most picturesque waterfalls on the island.

Yokahu Tower is another popular tourist point in El Yunque. It’s an observation tower with 480 meters of height offering the best view in the park. There is another panoramic tower in El Yunque though but Mount Britton Tower is considered inferior because its view is not so great. Well, you should check it for yourself. And don’t forget the map!

Observatory

The Arecibo Observatory, with the largest telescope in the world for more than half a century is popular among tourists as well, partly thanks to some beautiful caves in the neighborhood. Arecibo Observatory offers self-guided and VIP tours, a movie about the work in the observatory, and can be even driven to the edge of the large reflector by which the facility is best known.

Mona Island

Isla de Mona is sometimes called The Caribbean Galapagos. It has crystal clear water, cliffs, rich marine life, coral reefs, endemic plants, and animals, and, believe it or not, some sandy beaches as well. It is very hard to get there but worth is you would like to experience real wildlife in the environment without human influence.

If you would like to visit Mona Island, you need to think about it as an adventure, not a trip. You need to well-plan it, get loads of permits, take care of food, medicine (there are poisonous plants there, for instance), and have a lot of sun protection. Then you also need to experience a few hours of a boat ride through a relatively dangerous sea to get there and back.

photo-of-beach-at-night-in-puerto-rico

Waterfalls

Huge amounts of rain and mountainous terrain predispose a large number of waterfalls in Puerto Rico. Some of them became internationally known tourist attractions. Salta de Dona Juana is probably the most known of all. while it’s impressive with about 100 meters of height it’s relatively far from other attractions, so it tends to be a pretty quiet place to visit.

Las Delicias is not so huge, but a very family friendly family trip with the ability to take interesting photos from behind the fall. Another family-friendly trip may be Gozalandia. Two charming waterfalls are just part of many attractions waiting for the visitors of this park.

El Ataud is actually a series of several waterfalls with the biggest on the top of the hill. You can jump from there about 30 meters in depth. It shares some similarities with La Planta which is an ex-dam turned into artificial waterfall created to offer some adrenaline to tourists who seek it. Do you dare to jump into the depths of these waters?

We could go on and on with things to do in Puerto Rico, but you already got a general idea, right? Go there, check the facts and write visit our guest book. Is there anything really indispensable we should add?

Best Time to Go to Puerto Rico

There is no uniform answer to this question because each tourist has its own specific wishes and expectations. But in general, the weather begins in December and lasts through the first half of April. This time of year is a bit more crowded and expensive than the rest of the year. The end of high season in April is marked by a bit lower temperatures and prices of facilities.

This ’best buy’ time lasts until June when a rainy summer begins. Rainy season is not very rainy – in most cases, this means a sunny day and up to half an hour of rain in the afternoon. But there is also a possibility of hurricanes, which lasts up to the end of November when the most visited season starts again.

puerto-rico-port-san-juan

If you are looking for beach and other sun-related activities, warmer months may be a better choice because the ocean can be very refreshing. Same is true for mountaineering because the temperature in the mountains will be up to 20 degrees lower and more enjoyable for hiking. On the other hand, you may find different time better for caves or bioluminescent bays. Careful planning can save you a considerable amount of money and give you the most experience in a limited amount of time.

Major Festivals

Music
Fiesta de la Calle San Sebastian – third Thursday to Sunday in January
Casals Festival – two weeks in February and March
Festival de la Ballena – two days in March or April
La Campechada – a week in May
Jazz Festival – four days in May or June
Festival Playero los Tubos – four days in June
The Puerto Rico Salsa Congress – weekend at the end of July
Le Lo Lai Festival – a week in October

Food and Drink
Fiesta del Acabe del Cafe (Coffee Harvest Festival) – three days in February
Festival de la China Dulce (Orange Festival) – a weekend in March
Saborea Puerto Rico Festival – four days in May
Festival del Pescao en Cabo Rojo – a weekend in July
Festival de la Pina Paradisiaca (Pineapple Festival) – three days at the beginning of June
Mayaguezano, Festival del Mango – weekend in June
Festival del Macabeo (Banana Fritter Festival) – a weekend in December

historic-sights-in-puerto-rico

Other
El Dia de los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day) – January 6
Festival de la Novilla – third weekend in January
Maraton San Blas – one day February
Ponce Carnival – seven days before Ash Wednesday
Noche de San Juan – June 23rd
Flower Festival – ten days in June and July
Festival de Santiago Apóstol – last weekend in July
Jayuya Indigenous Festival – three days at the end of November
Hatillo Masks Festival – four days in December

Please note: dates and locations are often variable. Apart from these festivals, there are also numerous others. They say it’s always a party in Puerto Rico!