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Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a self governing island commonwealth of the United States in the Caribbean Sea east of the Dominican Republic in the northeastern Caribbean. Puerto Rico, the smallest of the Greater Antilles, consists of the main island of Puerto Rico and several smaller islands and keys, including Vieques, Mona, and Culebra. San Juan is the capital and largest city of Puerto Rico. Other important cities are Caguas, Ponce, and Mayagüez.

Puerto Rico is bordered by the Caribbean Sea on the south and the Atlantic Ocean on the north. The island is separated from the Dominican Republic by the Mona Passage. The Virgin Islands is situated to the east of Puerto Rico. The island is crossed by mountain ranges, mainly the Cordillera Central, which rises to 1,388 m in the Cerro de Punta.

History

Puerto Rico was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. At that time the island was inhabited by Tainos. In the 16th century the island was colonized by the Spanish and after the Spanish American War, the island was ceded to the United States in 1898. In 1917, Puerto Ricans were granted United States citizenship although the residents do not vote in federal elections and do not pay federal taxes on their local earnings. The island was proclaimed commonwealth status in 1952 and has been upheld by various plebiscites since the 1960s.

Tourism

The major economic activity of Puerto Rico is tourism, supplying an approximate $1.8 billion. Puerto Rico is the most diverse island in the Caribbean with a wide range of attractions and places to visit in every nook and corner. Tourists can explore exotic hideaways, mountains and valleys, miles of white sandy beaches and many other natural wonders in the island of Puerto Rico.

Drive off to the historic town of San German dotted with old-world style Spanish homes. The town is home to the first church which was ever built in the New World. For those who love surfing can visit the Rincon town, one of the best surfing spots in the island. The town of Cabo Roja, with its scenic un-crowded beaches and beautiful lighthouses, offers tourists an ideal place to enjoy the best sunsets in Puerto Rico. The town is also renowned for exotic seafood restaurants. Tourists can experience the natural wonder of bioluminescence in the town of Lajas.

Another popular tourist destination in Puerto Rico is the island of Vieques. Renowned as the new capital of weddings and honeymoons of Puerto Rico, the island of Vieques offers pristine, virgin, and secluded beaches for tourists to enjoy their perfect vacation. Las Cabezas Nature Reserve, just 45 minutes from the island capital, comprises of mangrove stands, forest land, coral reefs, beaches, lagoons, and cliffs.

Located in the eastern region of the main island is the Caribbean National Forest, which is home to the majority (13 of 16) of species of coquí. This tropical rainforest is also known as El Yunque, after the name of its highest peak. The forest is also home to over 240 plants and 50 bird species. One can also find the Puerto Rican Parrot, one of the top 10 endangered birds in the world, in the Caribbean National Forest.

Other tourist attractions include Botanical Gardens, Pinones Forest Reserve, Rio Camuy Cave Park (site of the world's largest underground river), Cabo Rojo Lighthouse (El Faro), Bacardi Rum Plant (largest rum distillery in the world), Caguana Indian Ceremonial Park, and Castillo San Cristobal.

Scenic and Historic Spots

When it’s a family getaway that you are looking for, the top choice should be always be Puerto Rico.  This island is family-friendly with its many beaches, waterfalls, native villages, and historic sites.  Creating an itinerary for the family would be quite easy as there are many scenic spots to visit. 

As a family, you can explore the forests as well as drink in the rich culture of Old San Juan (and set foot at the very place where the Spaniards stood out in El Morro).  You can also take a drive to Ponce down south and pay a visit to Taino Village where the native Taino Indians used to live. 

Ever tried horseback riding?  Puerto Rico would be a nice place to begin such an activity.  The guided Tropical Trail Rides is a great way to see the country while learning to ride a horse.  La Guancha offers a unique attraction as there are many dolphins in the area during the summer season.  Yet another tourist attraction is Plaza las Delicias where the older fire station is to be found. 

Food that is uniquely Puerto Rican

The local Ponce ice cream is such a craze over at Los Chinos (this would be a real competitor to the Italian Gelato!)—and this is just to start it off.  Puerto Rican food is to die for where local restaurants serve the best Comida Criolla.  If you are looking for foods that are categorized as exotic, then better look for Bacalaitos, Alcapurrias, Rellenos de Papa, Sorullitos de Maiz, and many more.  

When it comes to the main dishes, these are the most popular: Arroz con Pollo, Arroz con Gandules, and Pernil.  If you have visited Puerto Rico without tasting these palatable dishes, then you missed one-half of your life!

Colorful Events

Puerto Rico has numerous events throughout the year.  The most popular are the so-called Fiestas Patronales or the Patron Saint Festivals.  These events are held in honor of the municipal patron saints.  Such festivals often have religious processions that begin at the town square.  Other festival activities include games, rides, live entertainment, more parades, and local food tasting.

For art lovers, the Festival La Casita is the best event to go to.  This is the time when Puerto Rican artists such as musicians, dancers, sculptors and painters are featured at the San Juan La Casita tourism center.  

Sports Activities

The island has much to offer when it comes to families that are interested in sports.  Golf clubs, tennis courts and hiking areas dot the island and are especially concentrated at the Dorado Beach, Palmas del Mar and Cerromar Beach.  Those who are into water sports would love the scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, and snorkeling activities off at the Condado-Isla coast in San Juan.  Many tourists flock the island throughout the year because of these grand places and exciting activities—so don’t be left out.   

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Transportation

The Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, located in Carolina, 5 km south-east of San Juan, is Puerto Rico's main international gateway, and serves as the Caribbean hub for American Airlines and American Eagle. The airport is also the islandís primary connection to the mainland United States. There are several car rental agencies at the airport and taxis and buses are plenty for short trip into San Juan.