Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean Sea’s Greater Antilles region, east of the Dominican Republic and west of the Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico (Spanish for “rich port”) is composed of an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands, the largest of which are Vieques, Culebra, and Mona. Puerto Ricans often call the island Borinquen, from Borikén, its indigenous Taino name. The island is also frequently referred to in Spanish as “La Isla del Encanto,” which means “The Island of Enchantment.”
Puerto Rico is 100 miles long by 35 miles wide and, due to its geographic location at the center of the Antilles, has been a crossroads of cultures, and despite the influx of diverse cultures, Puerto Rico has been a part of the United States since 1898 and Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917.
Puerto Rico features a temperate climate, averaging 83°F in the winter and 85°F in the summer. Trade winds cool the coastal towns and temperatures fall in the higher mountains.
Many of Puerto Rico’s tourism attractions lie in and around San Juan. These include El Yunque National Forest, a cool, mountainous sub-tropical rainforest. There are no entrance fees to visit the forest; travelers just drive up to the El Portal Visitors Center. A one-hour guided tour by the Forest Service costs $5.
Guánica State Forest (Bosque Estatal de Guánica) is a small, dry forest reserve east of San Juan, the largest remaining tract of tropical dry coastal forest in the world. Guánica was designated an international Biosphere Reserve in 1981; the park comprising much of the dry forest is known as “el bosque seco de Guánica.”
The San Juan National Historic Site features forts San Cristóbal, San Felipe del Morro and San Juan de la Cruz, also called El Cañuelo, plus bastions, powder houses and three-fourths of the city wall. All these defensive fortifications surround the old, colonial portion of San Juan, and are among the oldest and best-preserved Spanish fortifications in the Western Hemisphere.
The Rio Camuy Caverns are located in the northwest. Visitors here may opt for a 45-minute guided walking tour of the main cave, Cueva Clara, including a view of the world’s third-largest underground river, and an enormous sinkhole. Caja de Muertos Island, or Caja de Muertos for short, is an uninhabited island off Puerto Rico’s southern coast. The island’s native turtle population is protected, and hikers and beachgoers are often visit the island, which can be reached by ferry or through diving tour operators from the La Guancha Boardwalk sector of Ponce Playa.
The bioluminescent bays in Fajardo and Vieques are created by microscopic organisms living throughout the water. As they dart away from movement, the organisms glow brightly. Visitors can take a kayak or boat tour during a new moon to witness the spectacle; the organisms are hard to see during a full moon and impossible to see in sunlight. The biolumicescent bay in Lajas is famous among attractions of this sort and also features shore-side kiosks and restaurants.