NEED TO KNOW
Language: English, Spanish
Capital City: San Juan
Population: 3.9 million
Area: 3,500 square miles
Telephone Calling Code(s): 787, 939
Electricity: 120V, 60 Hz
Currency: As of Dec 30, 2008:
1 United States Dollars = $1.00 US Calculate Other Amounts
Puerto Rico, a United States territory, does not require a visa or passport for citizens of the United States.
GOOD TO KNOW
Lay of the Land
The capitalpolitically, socially, and culturallyof Puerto Rico is San Juan, located on the northeast coast. Perhaps best known for its colonial-era neighborhood of Old San Juan, set on a separate island, the city actually encompasses 18 barrios, or districts, and the metropolitan area is home to over two million people. Popular areas for visitors (read: beaches, hotels, casinos) include Condado, Ocean Park, and Isla Verde, all of which lie directly east from Old San Juan along the Atlantic Ocean.
The eye-popping rain forest of El Yunque is roughly 25 miles east of the capital; about 10 miles beyond is the coastal city of Fajardo, home to the splendid Reserva Natural Las Cabezas de San Juan as well as the famed El Conquistador resort.
On the island's southern coast is the city of Ponce, a destination for those headed to the Hacienda Buena Vista coffee plantation, and the warmer waters of the Caribbean (our hotel pick for the area: the Copamarina in Guánica). Puerto Rico's northern and western coasts are becoming better known for their relaxed, less frequented beachesparticularly Rincón, beloved by surfers and kiteboarders.
Lastly, there are the two small, separate islands to the east of Puerto Rico proper, the fashionable but still wonderfully underdeveloped Vieques and the tiny, absolutely undeveloped Culebra. Both can be reached by plane or ferry.
When to Go
Puerto Rico's low season runs from May to November, when the weather is warmest, wettest, and most at risk of tropical storms and hurricanes. The high season, between December and April, is crowded with Americans, Canadians, and Europeans escaping punishing winters back home. If you can put up with the crowds (and elevated prices), winter is the time to go. Year-round, however, the weather is warm, as are the ocean tempratures.
How to Get There
Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan (SJU) is one of the Caribbean's largest. It's directly linked to most major cities in the mainland United States via large airlines like American, Continental, and JetBlue. The airport also has connections to many other Caribbean islands.
Flying to Mercedita Airport in Ponce (PSE) or Rafael Hernández Aiport in Aguadilla (BQN) will get you to the southern and western coasts more directly than by flying through San Juan. JetBlue flies to both; a handful of other carriers serves each.
Taxis are the best bet for travel within San Juanparticularly for those with limited knowledge of Spanish. For the rest of Puerto Rico, you'll need a car. Rental is fairly simplealthough driving around San Juan and the nearby countryside can be hectic. Most of the major hotels have the usual franchises on-site, and concierges can arrange for cars to be delivered to the hotel. Major car rental agencies also have branches in San Juan and at the airport.
January: 1, New Year's Day; 6, Epiphany; second Monday, Birthday of Eugenio María de Hostos; third Monday, Martin Luther King Day
February: Second Monday, Presidents' Day
Spring: Friday before Easter, Good Friday; Easter
March: 22, Emancipation of the Slaves
April: Third Friday, José de Diego Day
May: Fourth Monday, Memorial Day
July: 4, U.S. Independence Day; 15, Luis Muñoz Rivera's Birthday; 25, Constitution Day; 26, José Celso Barbosa's Birthday
September: First Monday, Labor Day
October: Second Monday, Columbus Day
November: 11, Veterans Day; 19, Discovery of Puerto Rico Day; fourth Thursday, Thanksgiving Day
December: 25, Christmas Day