Puerto Rico may be a tiny island but it makes a really big splash! Located about 120 miles southeast of Florida, this island paradise will entice you by engaging all of your senses. And the best part of all ? there?s no passport required for US citizens!
Puerto Rico was so named after Columbus arrived in 1493 and immediately claimed it for Spain. Never before had he sailed into such a ?rich port? with all its beautiful and exotic natural beauty. Prior to his arrival, the indigenous people, known as the Ta?nos, referred to their homeland as Borinqu?n. (To this day, Puerto Ricans call themselves ?Boricuas? in honor of their ancestors). The arrival of Columbus opened up a whole new world of commerce to the European explorers who began transporting African captives to the island in the slave trade. By the time America took control of the island in 1898 after claiming victory in the Spanish-American war, the people and culture of Puerto Rico had become a mix of Native American, European and African ancestry whose influences are still evident throughout the island. Today, Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States and its residents are US citizens. But some on the island want official statehood status while others want total independence. Even now, this issue remains as hot as the climate itself.
As mentioned, this island with its rich historic past will engage all five of your senses. Let?s begin with the aroma and taste of the unique dishes of Puerto Rico that have survived for generations. Rice and beans are a must along with another traditional dish known as mofongo. This is a mashed plantain served with meat or fish inside and is said to have been a creation of African slaves. You?ll also find pinchos everywhere! These delicious chucks of meat on a skewer like kebabs are perfectly seasoned and so flavorful. Tropical fruits like mangoes, plantains and coconuts abound in Puerto Rico and can be bought at many roadside stands. Of course, there?s no shortage of tempting seafood. And don?t forget the drinks: Whether it?s the ritual hot coffee with milk (caf? con leche) in the morning or the signature pi?a colada in the evening, Puerto Rican cuisine is unique, diverse and sure to please all palates! Bon appetite? or should I say buen provecho!
Next, feel the warm, soft sand between your toes on any one of the many stunning and spectacular beaches in Puerto Rico. If you like miles of picturesque white sand, aquamarine water and mild waves, then you?ve come to the right place! My favorite is Luquillo Beach because it is one big day-long splash party and picnic! Whichever beach you choose, you?ll feel the delightful combination of cool ocean breezes and warm summer sun all year ?round as you relax and enjoy a little slice of heaven on earth!
You?ll hear Spanish and English spoken all over the island and that?s a good thing because you?ll be singing and dancing to the rhythms of salsa music everywhere! Puerto Ricans invented salsa which draws on influences from lots of horns from Spain and polyrhythmic drums from Africa. This music is guaranteed to get you out of your seat, moving your feet and swaying your hips to its hypnotic beat! One other sound you?re sure to hear in Puerto Rico is made by the tiny tree frogs known ?coqu?? (pronounced ?coke key?) who will make its presence known by singing its name repeatedly at night.
See history like you?ve never seen it before in Puerto Rico. Visit the remains of a Ta?no village to see evidence of a people who once ruled their homeland with their own language, traditions, religion and culture. Wander through the dungeons of a 16th century Spanish fort at Castillo San Crist?bal in Old San Juan. See the iconic El Morro, a World Heritage site, where you can travel back in time to view the ocean through cannon embankments and understand how it must have felt to be a lookout to warn about invading pirates or Dutch and English ships. Don?t miss a visit to El Museo de la Ra?z Africana which displays many artifacts from the slave trade along with a look at the African heritage that has shaped much of Puerto Rican arts, crafts, music and religion today. In Fajardo, visit the most amazing bioluminescent bay that you?ll ever see. And did you know that the only rain forest in the United States is found in Puerto Rico? Take a trip to El Yunque Tropical Forest to experience the wonders and beauty of nature by hiking scenic trails and splashing under the waterfalls. Finally, no visit to Puerto Rico would be complete without a trip to the Bacardi Rum Factory. This is a favorite attraction for all ages but only the grown-ups get a free drink!
Puerto Rico may be geographically small but it has produced some powerhouse talent from across all spectrums. Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Roberto Clemente, Ricky Martin, Rita Moreno and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, just to name a few, are among those of proud Puerto Rican heritage. When you come to experience all that Puerto Rico has to share, you will delight your senses and enjoy a tremendous sense of pride, too!