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Puerto Rico's Natural Wonders

From a coastline of nearly 300 sandy beaches to maze-like caves to bioluminescent pools, there’s much to explore here. Puerto Rico is home to three of the five bioluminescent bays in the world (Laguna Grande in Fajardo, Mosquito Bay on Vieques and La Parguera in Lajas). These bays are an awe-inspiring sight at night, packed with millions of single-celled organisms that light up the water like glowing stars. The island is also home to several caves, including Cueva Ventana (“Window Cave”) in Arecibo and the famous Cañón de Tanamá in Utuado, where visitors can explore a network of caverns, canyons and tunnels amid limestone cliffs.

 

Adventures in Puerto Rico

From land to sea, there’s plenty to keep visitors busy in Puerto Rico. Tour the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System, El Yunque, to witness a wide variety of plant and animal species – some only found here. Located in northeastern Puerto Rico, the forest has several trails for hiking and is also home to ancient petroglyphs. Architecture lovers will want to explore some of the centuries-old buildings here, including historically significant forts and museums. Cool off in the water by swimming, surfing, rafting, tubing or kayaking in both ocean and river waters.

 

Dining Gems

All of that adventure-seeking will work up an appetite, so save room for local favorites. Regional specialties include fried plantains called tostones, beef-stuffed fried pastries known as pastelillos and mashed green plantains called mofongo. Quench your thirst with a creamy and tropical piña colada cocktail; Medalla, a local favorite lager; or any number of rum-based cocktails made with locally produced Bacardí, Don Q and other rums. From high-end dining to street food, there are dining options on the island for every mood and occasion.

 

The Basics

Puerto Rico is a collection of islands in the Caribbean, a former Spanish colony that’s now a commonwealth of the USA. The archipelago’s Spanish heritage remains prominent today in many forms, from architecture to food, music and language. English is also widely spoken, and the U.S. dollar is used throughout the island. Visiting Puerto Rico is like visiting any U.S. state. A bonus: Year-round temperatures range between 21 and 27 degrees Celsius.

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Fun Fact

Puerto Ricans dancing salsa at local festival
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Puerto Ricans are called “boricuas,” which references the island’s indigenous name Borikén, which translates to “the great land of the valiant Lord.”

Ice-cold piña colada cocktails, the official drink of Puerto Rico
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The piña colada is the official drink of Puerto Rico, and there is a long-standing fight over who created the original recipe for the cocktail.

Plaza Las Américas mall in San Juan, Puerto Rico
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San Juan’s Plaza Las Américas is the largest shopping mall in the Caribbean. Shoppers here can score finds from both local and international brands.

Must see places

Exploring the waterfalls of El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico

El Yunque National Forest

An 11,700-hectare tropical rainforest awaits visitors to El Yunque, where trails take you through the ferns, past the parrots and deep into the heart of Puerto Rican paradise. 

 

Castillo San Felipe del Morro in San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico

San Juan National Historic Site

Learn about Puerto Rico’s complex history at this World Heritage Site. Highlights include Castillo San Felipe del Morro, known as “El Morro,” a six-level fortress that has helped defend the island for centuries, but is now admired as a stunning architectural work. Nearby, La Fortaleza, which is now the Governor’s House, poses atop a massive fort area featuring the City Wall, built between the 16th and 19th centuries and designed to protect the Bay of San Juan.

Soaring over the landscape on The Monster zip line in Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park in Puerto Rico

Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park

A dizzying combination of natural preserve and adventure, this eco-park’s "The Monster" is the world’s second longest zip line, sending you soaring over the lush landscape.

Flamenco Beach in Culebra, Puerto Rico

Flamenco Beach

Culebra Island’s celebrated beach is a major destination for sunbathing, soaking up the local scene and water sports. Gentle, shallow turquoise waters make for prime swimming and snorkeling conditions.

View through Cueva Ventana in Arecibo, Puerto Rico

Cueva Ventana

In Arecibo, hike among stalagmites and stalactites through a mountain up to the opening of the aptly named Cueva Ventana ("Window Cave" in English). After your excursion underground, you'll be in awe of the cave's grand view overlooking the valley, river and town below from your perch on the cliffside.

Looking out from the farmers market to the surrounding La Placita de Santurce in Puerto Rico

Plaza del Mercado

This weekend hot spot, also known as La Placita, switches from a bustling produce market during the day to a festive drinking, eating and dancing destination when the sun goes down.

Browsing artwork in the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico

Museo de Arte de Ponce

Stroll through galleries filled with more than 4,000 works of art, largely created by European masters like Rubens, El Greco, Velazquez and Lichtenstein.

Riding the trolley during the Casa Bacardi tour in Puerto Rico

Casa Bacardí

Tour the Art Deco grounds of this family-run rum distillery, where some 100,000 liters of the sweet liquor are produced daily.

Inside Puerto Rico’s Museum of Art and Design of Miramar (MADMi)

Museum of Art and Design of Miramar (MADMi)

Located in the eye-popping 1913 Casa Rosada (Pink House, in English), this interactive museum celebrates art-making and creativity of all kinds and mediums, but particularly the historical and aesthetic development of industrial design.

Overlooking the bioluminescent Mosquito Bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico, during the daytime

Mosquito Bay

The water shines brighter in Puerto Rico – literally! In Vieques, be captivated by the magic of Mosquito Bay’s glow-in-the-dark wonder, as you kayak through the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay. Be sure to visit at night during a new moon to make the most of this surreal adventure.

Aerial view of a pristine beach in Manatí, Puerto Rico
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