Located at the gateway to the Caribbean, the island of Puerto Rico is 110 miles long and 35 miles wide. San Juan, the capital city is a unique juxtaposition of old and new -- with modern business structures and services as well as traditional Puerto Rican and colonial Spanish flavors in Old San Juan. Puerto Rico's second largest city, Ponce is just 90 minutes from San Juan by car. In 1493 Columbus claimed Puerto Rico for Spain, and the island remained under Spanish rule until 1898 when Spain ceded the island to the U.S. in the Spanish-American War. In 1917, under the Jones Act, Puerto Rico's residents became U.S. citizens and the island became a commonwealth of the U.S. in 1952.
Getting There - Puerto Rico is easily accessible to visitors with its three major airports. The island's largest airport, the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, is located in the Isla Verde section of San Juan, minutes from the Condado area.
Airlines - Most major hubs including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. offer daily non-stop service to San Juan. Airlines serving Puerto Rico include American, Continental, Delta, USAir, United, Jet Blue, Northwest, Iberia, Spirit, and Air Canada, among others. American Airlines has made San Juan its hub for all flights to other Caribbean destinations.
Customs and Passports - Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States, and U.S. citizens do not need passports to visit the Island although a drivers license type ID is required. Visitors of other nationalities must have passports. When leaving Puerto Rico to return to the U.S. mainland, checked luggage will be examined for agricultural purposes.
Language - Both Spanish and English are the island's official languages. English is widely spoken, especially in San Juan. This is a good place to try our your Spanish. Language barriers will not be problem here. You'll feel right at home.
Currency - The US dollar is the official currency. There is no need to worry about converting your dollars into local currency while trying to bargain for shopping deals here.
Accommodations - About 14,000 guest rooms ensure that island guests will be easily accommodated in Puerto Rico's world-class hotels and resorts.
Meeting Facilities - Puerto Rico's quarter million square feet of meeting space also makes the island ideal for meetings and incentive programs. Luxurious hotels and resorts, located conveniently throughout the island, reflect Puerto Rico's lush beauty and can accommodate groups of all sizes.
Recreation/Entertainment - Puerto Rico offers 272 miles of coastline and hundreds of beaches. Water sport lovers will enjoy activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, deep-sea fishing, kayaking and windsurfing. Sports enthusiasts also appreciate the more than 100 tennis courts and 12 championship golf courses located throughout the island. The island offers some of the finest dining in the Caribbean -- visitors can feast on Puerto Rican specialties -- a mix of Spanish, Creole and Indian flavors -- or choose to sample cuisines from around the world. Puerto Rico offers visitors a wide variety of nighttime and cultural activities including international casinos and nightclubs typically located in major hotels, and theater, dance, opera and outdoor concerts.
Casinos - Casino gambling is alive and well in Puerto Rico. You'll find them located at some of the better hotels on the island including Hotel El Convento, Diamond Palace Hotel, San Juan Marriott Resort, Condado Plaza Hotel, Embassy Suites Hotel, and the El San Juan Hotel. Open to anyone who has money to gamble, you'll find some of your favorite games played there.
Shopping - From local crafts to international designer luggage, Puerto Rico offers shoppers a multitude of shops and factory outlets. Calle del Cristo is the main shopping area in Old San Juan where visitors will find discounted high quality gold and jewelry, as well as major outlets such as Ralph Lauren. The area of Condado is famous for its chic stores located in Ashford Avenue like Louis Vuitton and Cartier. In the San Juan metro area there are many malls that offer specialty stores for clothing, fine foods, home accessories, arts and crafts and more. The most recognized of all is Plaza Las Américas, located in the heart of San Juan. It is currently the Caribbean’s largest shopping center with more than 186 stores. Other large malls around the island are Plaza Carolina, located 20 minutes away from the International Airport; Plaza del Caribe in Ponce; Las Catalinas Mall in Caguas; and Montehiedra Town Center in Río Piedras.
Located in the northern part of the island, you will find Prime Retail Outlets, in the municipality of Barceloneta. On the northeastern part of Puerto Rico is located the recently inaugurated Belz Factory Outlet World, in the town of Canóvanas.
Shopping malls around the island usually open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Crafts - Traditional & popular crafts steeped in Puerto Rican history include santos -- small, wooden figures of saints and religious scenes; mundillo -- intricate, handmade bobbin lace; and vejigantes -- island masks made of papier mache or coconut.
Sightseeing - Historical Old San Juan -- the only walled city in the Caribbean -- is a haven for history buffs. The city boasts four fortresses from the Spanish colonial empire. Visitors can walk the cobblestone streets of the old city or visit the myriad historic sites and buildings dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. Outside San Juan, visitors can explore the unique El Yunque Rainforest, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest system. The island's oldest natural wonder, the Camuy Caves is the site of one of the longest underground river systems in the world. Certain to amaze visitors is Caguana Indian Ceremonial Park, a treasured preservation of stone monoliths and petroglyphs dating from 800 A.D. Man-made attractions include the Arecibo Observatory, the site of the largest radio/radar telescope in the world. Attractions include Serrallés Castle, San Felipe del Morro, Isla Ratones, Plazuela de La Rogativa,
Tours - Check these tours available in Puerto Rico with El Yunque Rainforest, El Yunque Rainforest and Luquillo Beach, El Yunque Rainforest Hiking, Night Tales in Old San Juan, Rum Distillery and Old San Juan, San Juan Food Market, Captain Duck Tours, Ponce the Pearl and a Rio Camuy Cave Park and Arecibo Observatory tour. Or how about leisurely catamaran sail to Icacos.
Vacation Packages - Hotels are not cheap in Puerto Rico. A great way to save money is by buying a vacation package that includes air and hotel. The Vacation Outlet store can offer some surprisingly good package deals at times. It's worth at least a look!
Recommended Books - Deceptively small in size, these two books pack a punch in useful informative detail. The Insight guides to Puerto Rico and the Lonely Planet Puerto Rico are all you need to read to get a better idea of the tourist aspects of Puerto Rico.
Pictures and Posters - For me, posters are an iconic category for any country. They usually convey a sense of knowledge, awe and beauty about the people, places, history, culture and things they show. With an island theme such as Puerto Rico, they are sure to revitalize any winter weary would be traveler. A couple of my favorites include San Felipe Fort and Kiteboarding along Condado's Beaches. I have also posted and annotated more 300 Puerto Rico photos that I took while on a trip there in Sep 2006. They include photos of five hotels that I either toured or stayed at along with some of the top island attractions. Guess which ones where my favorites!
Climate - The year-round tropical climate has average temperatures between 70°F-80°F. check out current weather conditions at the National Weather Service Forecast Office for areas in Puerto Rico including San Juan, Ponce, Mayaguez and Aquadilla. If you are concerned about the weather you can also see any the Hazardous Weather Outlook.
Ground Transportation - Taxis, buses and rental cars offer visitors convenient ground transportation. Tour operators also service the area. Easily identifiable "Taxi Turistico" or tourist taxis operate on a fare-zone basis between the airport or cruise ship pier and designated tourist zones including Old San Juan and the San Juan resorts. All other times they are hired on a metered basis or rented unmetered for an hourly rate.
Tipping Guidelines - At restaurants, nightclubs and hotel dining rooms, 15% of the bill is considered an appropriate tip. Fixed service charges are not usually included in the bill, except for special functions or banquets. Also, in tourist areas, some restaurants add a 15% service to the bill.
Clothing - Lightweight summer clothes are appropriate. At certain establishments informal eveningwear is required -- jackets for men and dresses or dressy pants for women. Short pants are worn only for sporty occasions.