Puerto Rico is a Caribbean Island that is a territory of the United States, so venturing to this island is a breeze for Americans. A driver’s license suffices for identification, eliminating the need for a passport. This ease of entry translates to seamless travel, making it an ideal destination to experience the Caribbean. Beyond its practical appeal, Puerto Rico captivates with its rich culture and the warmth of its people. Here are 7 ways to really see Puerto Rico that will allow you to experience what the island has to offer its visitors.
1. Water Fun
No matter where you are going to in the Caribbean, the beaches and ocean are an essential part of the trip. But if you really want to experience the Caribbean at its best, Puerto Rico is the place to go.
One of the best places to visit in Puerto Rico is Culebra, a small island off the eastern coast of the mainland. Culebra is known for its stunning beaches, clear waters, and abundant marine life. Flamingo Beach, in particular, is a must-visit for any snorkeler or scuba diver. With its shallow waters, colorful coral reefs, and diverse fish species, Flamingo Beach is a snorkeling and diving paradise.
Another great place to visit is Vieques, an island off the eastern coast of the mainland. Vieques is home to a beautiful bioluminescent bay, where the water glows at night. This is a truly magical experience that you won’t want to miss.
2. An Old Spanish Fort
Castillo San Cristóbal is a testament to Spanish colonial might and military ingenuity. This fortress overlooks the San Juan Bay and once guarded the narrow land entrance to Old San Juan.
The sheer scale of Castillo San Cristóbal is awe-inspiring. Covering 27 acres, the fortress boasted six stories of fortifications, including massive ramparts, underground tunnels, and strategically placed gun batteries. Its design, a masterpiece of 18th-century military engineering, incorporated cutting-edge principles of defense, such as interlocking bastions and multidirectional firing angles.
The construction of Castillo San Cristóbal was a monumental undertaking, requiring the labor of thousands of workers over a period of nearly two centuries. The fortress’s walls were built from locally quarried stone, while skilled artisans crafted woodwork, ironwork, and stonework to adorn its interior and exterior.
The fortress played a pivotal role in defending Puerto Rico from numerous attacks, including the infamous British assault of 1797, during which Castillo San Cristóbal endured a relentless bombardment for nearly two months. The fortress’s resilience and the bravery of its defenders ultimately repelled the invaders, preserving Spanish control over the island.
Today, Castillo San Cristóbal stands as a cherished symbol of Puerto Rico’s rich history and cultural heritage. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fortress offers visitors a glimpse into the island’s colonial past and a chance to explore its passageways and breathtaking views of the San Juan Bay.
Puerto Rico is an island that knows how to party, and they know how to do it well. There are typically festivals going on every month, all year long. These festivals are highlighted with parades, music, food, drinks, and dancing. They are a convergence of true Puerto Rican culture.
The best months for these festivals are December and January, and daytime is the best time to experience them. At night, they tend to get a lot more crowded and rowdier (although some might say that makes it the best time!).
4. Great Drinks
Puerto Rico is considered to be the King of Rum, and they certainly embrace the moniker! There are amazing innovative mixologists all over the island who are using Puerto Rican rum and native fruits (like passion fruits, mangoes, papayas, and more) to create a perfect taste of Puerto Rico. Many of these mixologists also compete internationally, so it’s a lot of fun to watch them work.
Be sure to sample the island’s signature cocktail, the Piña Colada, a refreshing blend of rum, pineapple, and coconut.
Mojitos are also widely enjoyed in bars and restaurants across Puerto Rico. The refreshing combination of mint, lime, and white rum, infused with soda water and sugar, pairs perfectly with the island’s climate.
5. The Food
Often hailed as the “Dining Capital of the Caribbean,” Puerto Rico’s cuisine is a harmonious blend of Taino (the native people of Puerto Rico), American, and Spanish cuisines.
These different influences, which have evolved over the centuries, combine to generate amazing dishes like mofongo (mashed plantains) and Arroz con gandules y Lechon (rice with pigeon peas and pork).
The island’s cuisine is an intricate tapestry woven from the threads of Taino, the native people of Puerto Rico, who brought their indigenous ingredients and cooking techniques to the table. The Spanish colonizers added their European flair, introducing new flavors and spices that transformed the culinary landscape. And the influx of American influences further enriched the island’s cuisine, bringing a touch of modernity and innovation.
From these diverse influences emerged a cuisine that is both vibrant and authentic. Mofongo, a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine, is a testament to the island’s ingenuity. These mashed green plantains are fried and seasoned, and are often served with garlic sauce or alongside savory meats and seafood.
Another iconic dish that is the essence of Puerto Rican cuisine is Arroz con gandules y Lechon. This famous dish consists of fragrant rice infused with pigeon peas and tender roasted pork.
6. Bacardi Rum Factory
The Bacardi Factory in Puerto Rico is the largest in the world, and it can bottle up to a staggering 100,000 bottles of rum a day!
Aside from just touring the factory itself, you can also go on a tasting tour. This tour allows visitors to learn all about the rum, the bottling process, and the different flavors and tastes that Bacardi manufactures. It is an important part of Puerto Rico, and it is a lot of fun!
7. Old San Juan
San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico, and Old San Juan is the colonial remnants of San Juan’s days as a Spanish colonial city. Old San Juan is the oldest city in the Western Hemisphere.
Old San Juan is not just a destination; it’s an experience. You can go on guided tours to learn of the 500+ years of history in this area of the city. Aside from colonial history, there is amazing food and bars all over Old San Juan, so you can make a whole day out of your visit there.
Stroll along cobblestone streets lined with pretty pastel-hued buildings, their balconies adorned with vibrant bougainvillea. These architectural gems, with their wrought-iron balconies and shuttered windows, evoke a time when Spanish aristocrats strolled these same paths.
Step through the imposing gates of El Morro, the iconic fortress that once guarded Puerto Rico’s shores. Its ramparts whisper tales of pirates and conquistadors, of battles won and lost. As you wander through its passages, you can imagine the soldiers who once stood sentry, their eyes scanning the horizon for invaders.
Venture into the Cathedral Basilica Menor de San Juan Bautista. The cathedral is a beautiful example of Renaissance architecture, with a grand façade and a soaring interior. It’s also home to the tomb of Juan Ponce de León, the Spanish explorer who claimed Puerto Rico for the crown in 1508.
As the sun begins to set, soak in the breathtaking views from Paseo de la Princesa, a waterfront promenade that offers panoramic vistas of the Atlantic Ocean and the Condado Lagoon.
Your Puerto Rican Adventure Awaits
Hurricane Maria destroyed much of Puerto Rico in 2017, and it has been a long, hard road to rebuilding. The resilience of the people of Puerto Rico is evident when you see how far they have come since then.
Tourism is an integral part of their economy, and it is an important part of how they have rebuilt their island. Your fun trip to Puerto Rico is not just for you, but for the Island of Puerto Rico itself.
It’s the perfect destination to escape the winter blues and soak up the sun on the island’s pristine beaches; indulge in a girls’ trip filled with pampering spa treatments, vibrant nightlife, and delicious culinary delights; or embark on a gastronomic adventure that would satisfy even the most discerning foodie.
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