Glorious beaches with warm sands and azure water, endless sun and the mildest of breezes – but there is more to it than that. And the type of travellers who book flights to Puerto Rico ranges from families and couples to eco-tourists or partygoers.
Its society is a blend of Spanish, African, Indian and US influences that has more in common with other Caribbean countries than the US. Its people are warm, friendly and fiercely proud of their country. The island is rich in natural resources, rain forests, and ancient volcanic mountains. Among its many ancient buildings and monuments are some that date back 500 years to the Conquistadors.
Sports enthusiasts coming off a flight to Puerto Rico will relish the outdoor activities including hiking, birding, diving and caving. The golf and tennis courts are among the best in the West Indies and there is also horseback riding, superlative scuba diving, and deep-sea fishing. When the sun goes down, there are many ways to party – gambling, extravagant shows, all-night salsa dancing, or dinner in a quiet local restaurant.
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Puerto Rico has a tropical climate with sunny days almost year-round and average temperatures of 26 degrees. It’s humid too, with levels hovering between 74 and 81 per cent. Temperatures along the coast are moderated by the cooling sea breezes; inland, temperatures are in the 22 to 26-degree range. May to October are the rainiest months. The north coast gets double the amount of rain as the south coast, about 1,550mm (61 inches) compared to 910mm (36 inches). January to April are the driest months. Hurricane season runs from June to November and the island is at greatest risk between August and October.
Travellers taking flights to San Juan can get taxis and buses at the airport into town, and some hotels run courtesy vans. Puerto Rico is 161km long by 56km wide (100 miles by 37 miles) with some of the best scenery in the Caribbean. Although best seen by car, be aware that the locals drive erratically and that speeds are posted in miles and distances in kilometres. To see the island’s interior, and get a few thrills, take La Ruta Panoramica along the mountains. The panorama is dazzling but be prepared for passages with precipitous drops on both sides of the road and sections without dividers.
In a major city or resort you may not need a car. Sightseeing on foot is often fun and you can take a publico. Publicos are minivans that service most towns on the island. They don’t have set schedules, but you can flag one down. Publicos are identified by “P” or “PD” on the license plate.
Taxis are available in San Juan and major tourist areas. Tour buses and ferries are another option for getting around, as is chartering a boat or plane. There are also several airlines that fly to small airports in Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands.