About Puerto Rico
Both Spanish and English are the official languages, the local currency is the U.S. dollar, and no visas or passports are required to enter Puerto Rico from the United States. Mail is sent through the US Postal Service at the same rates as on the mainland.
Puerto Rico is 100 long by 35 miles wide and as a result of its geographical position in the center of the arc of the Antilles, Puerto Rico is essentially a crossroads of Hispanic and Anglo cultures. Despite it's very diverse influx of cultures, Puerto Rico has been a part of the United States since 1898 and Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917.
The North of Puerto Rico is considered the hub of the Island and located in the heart of San Juan. San Juan has three main parts; the old San Juan, the beach and the resort area. Its largest city is Isla Verde with Blue Flag beaches attracting many to enjoy various beach and water sports on the white sands and pristine clear waters. Its other major attractions and entertainment include historic plazas and sights, a diverse music venue, elite museums, a very modern shopping center known as Plaza Las Americas with over 300 stores and many world-class hotels and restaurants.
The South: Porta Caribe
Situated in Ponce, the second largest city on the Island's southwest coast and nestled in the Cordillera Central Foothills. Ponce and the area were founded in 1692 by Ponce de Leon, grandson of Senora de la Guadalupe. It is a region that is rich with old Puerto Rican culture and statuesque nineteenth century architect such as the Catedral de Nuestro in the historic downtown plaza. It has been a major contributor to various political, social, economic and cultural developments for Puerto Rico in particular by way of the many historic museums and parks. Most notably, is the world-class famous art museum, Museo de Arte de Ponce, which holds the finest collection of European art in the Caribbean as well as other important Puerto Rican works. Amongst this historical treasure there are the beaches of Guanica and Ponce to enjoy, world-class fishing excursions, hiking, fine dining and quaint accommodations.
The West: Porta del Sol
This western region of the Island known as Porta Del Sol, was discovered by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in November of 1493. It is a region that has seen great growth over the years and seemingly been rediscovered by travelers simply delighting in the aura and solitude of the many coastal small towns of Isabella and Aguadilla, or the cultural excitement of the larger southwest port city Mayaguez's with it's first rate zoo, historic theatre and beautiful plaza filled with shops and fine dining. A great many enjoyable outdoor areas, adventures and activities can also be found throughout the Island in beach sports or lounging at the active, family friendly public beach on Rincon Bay, hiking and exploring caves within the Guajataca Forest or scuba diving, deep sea fishing, water skiing, leisure boating and cruising on the surrounding beautiful and scenic seas, rivers and lakes.
The East of Puerto Rico is centrally located in the city of Fajardo not far from Marin International Airport. Historically speaking, it is known for being discovered by Christopher Columbus on November 18, 1493. Two of the most popular small islands, Culebra and Vieques sit just off the Fajardo coastline surrounded by the beautiful coral reefs, bio bays and two pristine Blue Flag beaches Luquillo and Flamenco. It offers comfortable hotel and small inn accommodations but is probably best known for its lovely and unique Paradores throughout the region. Attractions and activities include, water sports such as snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, kayaking, deep sea fishing, hiking in the El Yunque Forest, trips to nearby bio bays and Islands, relaxing or playing sports on the beaches and fine dining.
Since the first humans came ashore thousands of years ago, the island that is now known as Puerto Rico has sheltered Indians, Spaniards, Africans and Anglos. The Spaniards had the earliest and greatest influence to the Island at their arrival in 1493. During their 400-year tenure the Spaniards laid the bedrock of the language and culture. They built cities and towns, fortresses and churches, lighthouses and roadways. They brought slaves from Africa to work in the fields, who, in turn, contributed the spice of their culture, enriching the language, music and diets.
Close to 4 million people live on the "Island of Enchantment," with more than a million in the greater San Juan metropolitan area alone. It is a vibrant, modern, bilingual, multicultural society, one that has been molded by Spanish, African, Indian and U.S. influences. Residents of Puerto Rico have much in common with their fellow Americans in the continental United States, yet they retain a decidedly Hispanic heritage.
The climate is as close to perfect as it can get, averaging 83°F (22.7°C) in the winter and 85°F (29.4°C) in the summer. In other words, it's always summer! The trade winds cool the coastal towns and the temperature decreases as you go up into the higher mountains.
Puerto Rico is in the Atlantic Time Zone, but does not observe Daylight Savings Time. The island uses standard U.S. electric current. European appliances require an adapter.
There are no customs duties on articles bought in Puerto Rico and taken to the U.S. mainland. Major credit cards are accepted at most businesses, and ATMs connected to major US and international networks are easy to find.
Business hours are similar to those on the mainland, 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM weekdays (the siesta has pretty much disappeared). Most stores are open Saturdays, and all of the larger towns have shopping malls that are open evenings and Sundays.