When you dream of a tropical Caribbean getaway, you might think of destinations such as Punta Cana, Cancun, or perhaps Jamaica, but don’t forget, right in the heart of the Caribbean you’ll find Puerto Rico, a small island that offers you a wide selection of amazing experiences, including incredible beaches; rich history and culture; tasty traditional dishes; dizzying mountains; and hundreds of adventures. First, some useful facts about “the Isle of Enchantment”:
- This tropical paradise composed of the main island, four smaller islands, and hundreds of cays and islets bursting with beauty.
- With its warm tropical climate and temperatures that range between 22⁰ and 26⁰ Celsius (70⁰-79⁰ Fahrenheit) all year round, you’ll definitely feel like you picked the right place to enjoy summer again.
- Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States; locals are U.S. citizens, and visitors from that country may enter without a passport.
- The currency is the U.S. dollar.
- You’ll likely come across people speaking a mix of Spanish and English – dubbed “Spanglish” – as this destination has been heavily influenced by the United States.
- You can arrive by air – with more than 1,300 nonstop weekly flights and almost 1,000 direct flights – or by sea, like the millions of cruise ship passengers who arrive in the port of capital and largest city San Juan.
And now for our five must-see destinations!
Old San Juan is celebrating no less than its 500th anniversary since its founding in 1521. In fact, this historic gem is the oldest city in the United States including its territories, and the second oldest in the Americas. Actually itself a little island, connected to the rest of metro San Juan by bridges, will welcome you with open arms to its charming cobblestone streets and colourful buildings dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. If your inner explorer wants to be steeped in history, visiting El Viejo San Juan‘s incredible fortresses, majestic city walls, grand plazas, beautiful balconies, and hidden courtyards will definitely offer a trip in time.
And don’t forget, if you visit through June 2022 you’ll also be able to enjoy myriad special concerts, festivals, tours, and much more put on for SanJuan500.
Declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the United States Forest Service, and this natural wonder has great cultural as well as spiritual value for Puerto Ricans.
Located in the Luquillo mountains an hour east of San Juan, it consists of 11,500 hectares (more than 28,000 acres), in which you’ll be able to explore hiking trails; cool down under a waterfall in one of many natural pools; or simply enjoy the landscape and unique wildlife in natural gem.
This magical destination off the island’s eastern coast is one of the jewels of Puerto Rico thanks to its incredible marine life; its water sports; its impressive nature; and its hypnotic white-sand beaches. You’ll fall in love with its countless natural charms and its colorful marine life in more than 20 cays – tiny islets formed by a coral reef, with shallow beaches.
It’s the perfect spot if you want to work on your tan on one of Culebra’s most acclaimed strands, Flamenco Beach (top). Rated as one of the most beautiful white-sand beaches in the world, it’s ideal for snorkeling or diving, swimming, or just plain relaxing, as it has practically no waves.
But if you’re looking to explore the mysteries of the deep, you’ll be glad you came, as you can dive the four most famous beaches. At Tamarindo, Carlos Rosario, Punta Soldado, and Punta Melones you’ll thrill at the sight of sea turtles, rays, fish of all colors, starfish and all manner of corals, among many other species.
One thing is certain: whatever option you choose, Culebra will make you feel like you’re living in a dream.
Puerto Rican poet Luis Llorens Torres nicknamed Vieques “Isla Nena”, alluding to the fact that many Puerto Ricans think of it as their island’s “little sister”. But though small of size, this island offers incomparable beauty thanks to impressive landscapes, unexplored spaces and unforgettable experiences.
Considered one of the wildlife refuges with the greatest ecological diversity in the Caribbean, more than 60 percent of the island is covered by the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge.
You can relax on its beaches, coastal lagoons, wooded areas and mangrove wetlands, or if you’re looking for adrenaline, try any of the many activities that this natural wonder offers.
Out on Puerto Rico’s west coast, known as the “city of beautiful sunsets”, Rincón is the ideal place for both professional surfers and beginners (and don’t worry if you’re still new to the sport, as there are different surfing outfits ready to teach you how to master the waves safely). If on the other hand you feel comfortable riding the gnarliest waves, you can visit beaches such as María, Sandy, Tres Palmas, and Domes. This last hosts an annual international surfing championship as well as several beach festivals throughout the year.
And if your dream is to commune with colourful marine life, you can book guided diving excursions or snorkeling expeditions to discover the great diversity and the beautiful corals that hug the coast. One of the areas that we recommend is the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve, an icon for its great variety of coral reefs and marine species.
Photo | Sharan Singh