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This Caribbean island has all the earmarks of paradise — white-sand beaches, turquoise water, and waving palms. Surfers and snorkelers cavort in the water where tropical fish dart among the reefs. But it’s also mountainous, and threaded with misty rainforest, rivers, and mangroves.
Puerto Rico’s capital city, San Juan, is a pulsing metropolis with a patchwork of architectural identities, open-air cafes, lively plazas, and a thriving nightlife. Shaped by centuries of colonization, Puerto Rico’s history is one of repression and revolution. Today it’s a territory of the United States, and the island’s complicated history is evident in the massive stone fortresses that dot its shoreline and in its unique culture pieced together from indigenous, invading, and immigrant populations. This legacy is perhaps most evident in the country’s culinary traditions, which include vibrant dishes made with fried plantain, fresh seafood, slow-cooked pork, and frituras — delicious deep-fried treats sold at street kiosks that come in a variety of forms.
There are two international airports in Puerto Rico. The largest, Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU), is located just 13 minutes from San Juan. Rafael Hernández Airport (BQN) is two hours outside the capital city, in Aguadilla. Taxis are the easiest way to get to and from the airports. There are also car rentals available, which can be a great way to see the island, as you can circumnavigate the island in a day. Otherwise, taxis are the main form of transport, along with local public buses and trolleys — some of which navigate key attractions in the towns and cities. There is no island-wide public transit. Ridesharing is common only around San Juan.
Puerto Rico is warm and sunny year round. Dry season is roughly December through April, during which time crowds are a bit higher. Summers can be hotter and rainer than other seasons. Hurricane season runs from June to November. Thanks to the balmy weather, outdoor events are common. One of the largest is the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, a musical street party that takes over San Juan during the third weekend of January.
This lush and beautiful rainforest is one of Puerto Rico’s most incredible natural wonders. El Yunque National Forest is overgrown with fronds, vines, and tropical flowers and studded with rivers and rushing waterfalls. Networks of hiking trails carry you through the forest, which is home to bats, mongooses, frogs, and more than 97 species of bird.
Puerto Rico’s historic capital is an impressive mashup of architectural styles, where you’ll find imposing stone fortresses, ornate cemeteries, and candy-colored houses. Its streets open into welcoming plazas where musicians conjure a festive atmosphere. The city also houses top-notch museums such as the Museo de Casa Blanca, devoted to 16th- and 17th-century artifacts, and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico, home to artworks created in Puerto Rico during the mid-20th century and beyond.
Located on the island of Culebra — a 45-minute ferry ride from the town of Ceiba — this white-sand beach, ringed by palms and lapped by calm waters, is often considered one of the world’s finest. It’s outfitted with everything you need to enjoy the day, including restrooms, food vendors, and showers. Wander down the beach to spy abandoned tanks — relics of the island’s past as a US Navy outpost — painted in brilliant colors.