Less than a three-hour flight from Miami you will find Puerto Rico, a tropical island located in the northeast of the Caribbean Sea, between the Dominican Republic and the US Virgin Islands. On this island, you’ll discover a wide range of landscapes, rich culture, history, and delicious food. From the dreamy beaches of Vieques and Culebra to the tropical jungle of El Yunque and the history-filled streets of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico offers tours for every taste. Since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, Americans do not require a passport to travel and you can pay for everything with U.S. dollars. Learn more about the island for your next Puerto Rican tours here!
Before Christopher Columbus arrival in Puerto Rico in 1493, Puerto Rico’s local Taíno population called the island Borinquén, and referred to themselves as boricua (a term that is still used today). Today, many Puerto Rican towns retain their Taíno names, such as Utuado, Mayagüez and Caguas. After enslavement and disease, the Taino population was decimated, while African slaves took their place as laborers in order to produce crops such as sugar cane, ginger, tobacco, and coffee.
Christopher Columbus first called the island San Juan Bautista, but because of the gold found in rivers, it was soon known as Puerto Rico, or “rich port” and the capital city took the name San Juan. After centuries of Spanish rule, Spain ceded the island to the United States after the Spanish-American war in 1898, but it wasn’t until 1917 that Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens and it was even later when Puerto Rico became a commonwealth of the United States in 1952.
Today Puerto Rican culture such as music and food is a result of the Spanish, indigenous Taíno, African, and North American cultures that have inhabited the island. With a population of approximately 3.4 million, the official languages are Spanish and English, though Spanish is the daily used language.
Puerto Rican cuisine or as locals call it “Cocina Criolla” is a blend of African, European and Taino influences. The cuisine can be traced back to the Tainos, who were on a diet of vegetables, tropical fruit, and seafood. The Spanish added beef, pork, rice, wheat, and olive oil to the island’s gastronomy. When the Spanish began planting sugarcane and importing slaves from Africa, who brought with them okra, coconuts, gandules (pigeon peas in English), taro and many other ingredients. The combination of flavors and ingredients throughout history resulted in the unique blend of today’s Puerto Rican cuisine.
Crunchy garlicky fried plantains, slow-roasted delectable pork, and flavorful rice and beans are some of the amazing popular dishes in Puerto Rico. Mofongo is the unofficial main attraction of Puerto Rican cuisine, which is traditionally made from deep-fried green plantain pieces that are mashed with garlic and other seasonings. Mofongo can either be served as a side dish or it can be stuffed with all kinds of meat, such as chicken, octopus, steak, seafood or pork. You can also participate in a chinchorreo, which is bar hopping but for food. The street food in Puerto Rico is a must-try, most street food are frituras (fried food), which include delicious alcapurrias (made from mashed plantains, taro root, and/or yucca), bacalaitos (salt cod fritters), or piononos (deep-fried, stuffed plantains). Don’t miss out on other famous local food on your Puerto Rican tours such as tostones, pasteles, arroz con gandules, coquito, and tembleque.
There are various ways to travel within Puerto Rico, depending on where you’re planning to stay. If you plan to explore Puerto Rico independently for most parts of the island outside San Juan the best way to travel is by car. Be sure to use a GPS and carry spare change for the occasional toll. In Old San Juan, you can explore most places on foot and for longer distances, you can look for Taxi Turistico at designated taxi stands at various points in San Juan. You also have the option of using buses. Tourists will be most interested in two lines: the A5, which travels from Old San Juan to Isla Verde, and the B21, which runs between Old San Juan, Condado, and the Plaza Las Américas Mall in Hato Rey.
If you plan to go to Vieques and/or Culebra you have two options. You can take the Ferry from Fajardo, which will take you on a 45-minute ride to one of the islands. It’s cheap and efficient, but be aware that it can get packed on long weekends and popular holidays. Another option to travel to the island municipalities is taking a small plane with airlines such as Air Flamenco, Vieques Air, and Link Cape Air.
With summer-like weather all year round, Puerto Rico is the perfect destination for your tropical getaway trip.
If you love history and culture, be sure to tour the historic district of Old San Juan with its colorful streets where you can find El Morro, a fort built by the Spanish in 1540 to protect the island from attacks.
If you want an adventure in nature, see El Yunque Rain Forest, located 24 miles southeast of San Juan. Experience the lush forest with endemic flora and fauna, as you walk through the path that takes you past waterfalls and natural pools. You can also discover another natural wonder like the striking Rio Camuy Caves located at the northwestern town of Camuy being one of the largest cave systems in the world.
Relax on the lovely beaches of on the island of Culebra, such as Playa Flamenco considered one of Puerto Rico’s best beaches, with soft white sands and clear blue water.
You also have the option of participating in water sports on beaches like Luquillo Beach near San Juan. Not only is it great for families, but you can learn how to surf and has the perfect conditions for snorkelers and scuba divers. For a unique and magical experience, you can also visit one of the three bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico. There are only five in the world!
Don’t forget to check out different holidays that are celebrated in Puerto Rico to join in on the fun. Puerto Rico is proud of having the longest holiday season in the world. The holiday season ends the third weekend of January with the island’s most lively and colorful festival, las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián or la SanSe. The streets of Old San Juan fill up with artists and artisans, some streets have stages for live music and performances. In the evening the party starts and the street are filled up with people and music.