Travel Fundamentals for Puerto Rico

Familiarize yourself with all the basic facts that will help make your trip to Puerto Rico go smoothly

Photo credit: © Jinlide |

Puerto Rico is a beautiful and diverse island with much to offer its visitors. From quiet small towns to bustling cities filled with art galleries and museums, casinos, and nightlife, visitors will find activities to suit every whim in Puerto Rico.

You can sunbathe on white-sand beaches, hike through dense forests, explore misty jungles, or scour red deserts. With all there is to do, you'll want to arm yourself with basic knowledge about the island and its people. The regional information below and the practical tips in the following articles will go far toward helping you get the best experience out of your trip to this exceptional island.


Area Description
Ponce, Mayagüez & San Germán For those who want to see a less urban side of Puerto Rico, Ponce, on the south shore, and Mayagüez, on the west coast, make good centers for sightseeing. From either Ponce or Mayagüez you can take a side trip to historic San Germán, Puerto Rico's second-oldest city and site of the oldest church in the New World. Ponce, Puerto Rico's second-largest city, has received much attention because of its inner-city restoration and is home to the island's premier art gallery. Puerto Rico's third-largest city, Mayagüez, is a port city on the west coast. Although it may not be as architecturally remarkable as Ponce, it's a fine base for exploring and enjoying some very good beaches. San Germán and Ponce are home to some of the finest Puerto Rican colonial architecture in the Caribbean. Mayagüez and Ponce also attract beach lovers. Playa de Ponce, for example, is far less crowded than the beaches along San Juan's coastal strip. The area also lures hikers to Puerto Rico's government national forest reserves, the best of which lie outside Ponce. One of the biggest adventure jaunts in Puerto Rico, a trip to Mona Island, can also be explored from the coast near Mayagüez.
Western Puerto Rico The scenery of western Puerto Rico varies from red desert to dense green forest. The interior has such attractions as the Taíno Indian Ceremonial Park, Río Camuy Cave Park, Arecibo Observatory, and the Karst Country. Along the west and south coasts are white sandy beaches and world-class surfing conditions. The waters of the Atlantic on the northwest coast tend to be rough, and while they are ideal for surfing, the conditions are not always good for swimming, especially for children. Stone monoliths, some decorated with petroglyphs, remain as evidence of the Taíno Indians, who inhabited this western part of Puerto Rico some eight centuries ago. Western Puerto Rico, particularly its southwestern sector, is where the Puerto Ricans themselves go for vacations by the sea, and with few exceptions, only locals and a few adventurous visitors head for the southwestern sector of the island. This is the real Puerto Rico; unmarred by high-rise resorts and posh restaurants.
Eastern Puerto Rico The northeast corner of the island, about 45 minutes from San Juan, contains the island's major attractions, El Yunque rainforest and Luquillo Beach, as well as a variety of landscapes, ranging from miles of forest to palm groves and beach side settlements. Here you will find Wyndham El Conquistador Resort and Fajardo, a preeminent sailor's haven where you can catch ferries to the islands of Vieques and Culebra. San Juan itself is a bustling city with that is both modern and historic in architecture and atmosphere. While it has always been renowned for its rich culture and historic attractions, a transformation has occurred in recent years that has made San Juan one of North America's hottest urban destinations.
Vieques & Culebra The Islands of Vieques and Culebra are usually known as day trips and short jaunts for vacationers but are also where many Puerto Ricans go for their own vacations. Sandy beaches and low prices are powerful attractions of both islands. Culebra still seems to lounge in the early 1950s while Vieques is fast becoming one of the hottest tropical destinations in the Caribbean. The unspoiled beaches and stylish inns have created quite a buzz. Vieques, which has more tourist facilities than Culebra, lies 7 miles (11km) off the eastern coast of the Puerto Rican "mainland." It is visited mainly for its white-sand beaches. Culebra, 18 miles (29km) east of the Puerto Rican "mainland" and 14 miles (23km) west of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, is surrounded by coral reefs and edged with nearly deserted, powdery, white-sand beaches. Much of the island has been designated a wildlife refuge by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

You can learn everything you need to know about traveling to and around Puerto Rico by selecting from our numerous Travel Basics articles located on the menu to the left. Whether you need to know what documentation is required to enter the country, or which currency to use, you'll find the information here.


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