Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of the Dominican Republic, about 1,000 miles southeast of Miami, Florida. Living on one of the most densely populated islands in the world, the Puerto Ricans have all the warmth and charm of the sunshine that constantly surrounds them. This is a place where diverse worlds and cultures have fused to create a place of sharp contrasts.
Let's consider that the people of Puerto Rico represent a cultural and racial mix. During the early 18th century, the Spaniard in order to populate the country took Taino Indian women as brides. Later on as labor was needed to maintain crops and build roads, African slaves were imported, followed by the importation of Chinese immigrants, then continued with the arrival of Italians, French, German, and even Lebanese people. American expatriates came to the island after 1898. The most significant new immigrant population arrived in the 1960's, when thousands of Cubans fled from Fidel Castro's Communist state.
This historic intermingling has resulted in amazing diversity in Puerto Rican cuisine and music. These among hundreds of Puerto Rican customs and traditions are what define Puerto Rico.
The architecture, which mixes Spanish colonial with ultra-modern, is a clear indication of this. Current restoration and renewal projects focus on Old San Juan and the city of Ponce. It is estimated that there are at least 400 structures of historic value in Old San Juan, including some of the finest examples of Spanish colonial architecture in the New World.
Old San Juan was Spain's major center of commerce and military power in the West Indies for nearly four centuries. Spain ordered that the city be protected by sandstone walls and massive fortresses, since the island was the first port of call for galleons entering the West Indies and the last safe harbor for ships, laden with treasures, making the return trip to Cadiz or Seville.
Because Old San Juan had no space for expansion, new buildings had to be erected to the east of the old town, in what is known today as the modern city of San Juan. Thus, most of the old structures have survived more or less since the 16th century. The most notable of these include El Morro Fortress, the San Juan Cathedral, and the Dominican Convent. Casa Blanca, a mansion built for the island's first governor, Ponce de León, still stands.
On a walking tour of Old San Juan, you will see an architectural melange of buildings that range from the style popular during the Spanish Conquest to the neoclassical style of the 19th century. The most significant of all is El Morro Fortress, largest in the Caribbean, which has stood guard over San Juan Bay for more than four centuries. In 1973 it was declared a World Heritage Site, putting it in the same class as Versalles, the Taj Mahal, and the Egyptian pyramids.
Another is the cuisine, where the flavors and ingredients passed down through the generations have blended into a distinctly exotic mix.
Although tiny, Puerto Rico has miles of palm-lined beaches on four coastlines. Even better, the climate is a balmy average of 80 degrees fahrenheit all year round, making for perfect beach weather. However, if you plan to visit the mountainous interior, known for its spectacular waterfalls and deep wilderness, make sure you bring something warmer for the evenings. It's cool all year round.
While Puerto Rico is especially known for its blue marlin, numerous other billfish and big game fish thrive here as well. Fisherman with their own equipment can try Lake Dos Bocas in Utuado and Lake Guajataca in Quebradillas.
Puerto Rico's magnificently conditioned links stood up to the world's best golfers. Both the ladies PGA Tour and the Senior PGA Tour finish their season in Puerto Rico.
For hikers, there are Commonwealth Forest Reserves scattered around the island. These range from bird-filled mangrove forest along the coast to dense sierra palm forest in the mountains.
Puerto Rico is known for its easy access to coral reefs and their natural beauty. You will find a vast variety of places where you can obtain boats, equipment and certified professionals to make this experience and unforgettable one.
The San Juan/Carolina area is the commercial hub and the place to find the major shopping areas and many excellent restaurants.
The heavily forested El Yunque and Mosquito Bay, renowned for its phosphorescence are popular attractions. As are Vieques and Culebra, offshore islands with panoramic views, secluded beaches and excellent snorkeling.
Although hot and humid, the south is extremely dry and rich in architectural heritage. The west, on the other hand, is renowned for its diving and surfing. Not surprisingly, some of the islands best beaches are found here.
Humpback Whales are migratory giants of the ocean. Puerto Rico falls within their migratory route to the North Atlantic, where they are more comfortable during the summer months. With the adults being known to grow to more than fifty feet in length and weigh in at an incredible fifty tons, these gentle beasts are a sight to behold.
Like all tropical islands, the nights hold an excitement all of their own and you’re sure to go home with many unforgettable memories.