Puerto Rico stands out as one of the most popular destinations in the eastern Caribbean. This tropical island boasts an alluring assortment of tropical beaches and intriguing cultural attractions, offering tourists a wide variety of settings to explore. Vacationers should familiarize themselves with the quirks of travel here in order to make the most of their trip.
Canon at El Morro Fort
Getting There and Around
Luis Munoz International Airport handles incoming and outgoing flights in Puerto Rico. The airport lies 9 miles outside of the capital of San Juan, and a bevy of taxis and shuttle buses carry visitors on the 30-minutes drive into town. Tourists also can get to San Juan with numerous cruise and ferry lines. As for domestic travel, several airlines offer connecting flights around the island, but flying is fairly impractical given Puerto Rico’s compact geography. Tourists can instead take advantage of cheap coach bus services, which link almost all cities and towns to San Juan. Public buses also cover urban routes, though taxis provide a more speedy and reliable option for visitors, according to Frommer’s.
Attractions in San Juan
San Juan sits on the northern coast of the island, and it’s old town center dates to 1521 and brims with Spanish colonial architecture. Designated as a US National Historic Zone, Old San Juan has numerous attractions, including the forts of San Cristobal and San Felipe del Morro and the San Juan Bautista cathedral. Outside of the city center stretches New San Juan, with its modern high-rises and bustling shopping malls. Districts like Santurce, Isla Verda and Ocean Park have everything from resorts and casinos to discos and upscale restaurants.
Attractions Outside the Capital
Central Puerto Rico has the Cerro de Punto, the tallest mountain peak on the island. Nearby are the Camuy Caves and the Arecibo Observatory, which houses the largest radar radio telescope on the planet. Eastern Puerto Rico is home to El Yunque, the lone rain forest within the US National Forest system. El Yunque’s 28,000 acres of verdant jungles encompass myriad hiking trails and splashing waterfalls, offering tourists a truly tropical experience. Western Puerto Rico features two mid-size towns in Mayaguez and San German, as well as the beach villages of Rincon and Aguadilla. Ponce, the second largest city in Puerto Rico, lies to the south. Horse-drawn carriages rumble along Ponce’s charming plazas, leading tourists to Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral. In addition, travelers might opt to visit Puerto Rico’s tiny outlying islands, such as Culebra and Vieques.
Entry and Exit Requirements
Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States, which means that US citizens can visit the island without a visa or customs inspection. US citizens need only a government-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license to be allowed entry. Tourists from other nations, including Canada, must present a valid passport. A visa also might be required, depending on a traveler’s country of origin and citizenship. US citizens will have their luggage inspected by USDA agents when returning to the mainland. The USDA prohibits standard items, such as produce and animals.
When to Go
Puerto Rico enjoys constantly warm temperatures with a short rainy season spanning July through September. Frommer’s warns tourists that hurricanes occur occasionally between June and November, but forecasts generally give adequate notice of storms. The peak tourist season lasts from December through April, and Fodor’s recommends that budget-minded travelers avoid this pricey period. Visitors can find affordable rates all over the island during the off-season on everything from hotels to tours and package deals.
- canon at el morro image by robert lerich from Fotolia.com