Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Puerto Rico in 1492 on his second voyage of discovery, and originally named it San Juan Bautista in honor of Saint John the Baptist. The name of the island's present day capital, San Juan, honors the name Columbus first gave the island. It was then settled by explorer Ponce de Leon, and the island was under Spanish possession for over four centuries.
Puerto Rico became United States territory under the Treaty of Paris, which also ended the Spanish-American War. The United States passed Law 5600 giving Puerto Rico authorization to create and approve its own constitution. The relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico is known in English as a commonwealth. There is no precise Spanish equivalent to this word; thus, it is translated as estado libre associado (literally, "freely-associated state").
The culture of Puerto Rico is nearly independent from the 50 states. The culture is identically carribean, but closely related to the culture of Spain with a few African and native influences. When travelling to Puerto Rico, one will get the feeling that they are in another country (most likely Spain). But of course you're not, due to the U.S. flag being flown everywhere reminding you that you are still on U.S. soil and other noticeable mainland influences including numerous strip malls, basketball, and the popular love affair with large cars.
Puerto Rico has a tropical marine climate, which is mild and has little seasonal temperature variation. Temperatures range from 21˚C to 32˚C (70˚F to 90˚F), and tend to be lower at night and up in the mountains. Year-round trade winds help ensure the sub tropical climate. The average annual temperature is 26°C (80°F). Rainfall is abundant along the north coast and in the highlands, but light along the south coast. Hurricane season spans between June and November, where rain showers occur once a day, almost every day. Periodic droughts sometimes affect the island.
Puerto Rico is mostly mountainous, although there is a coastal plain belt in the north. The mountains drop precipitously to the sea on the west coast. There are sandy beaches along most of the coast. There are many small rivers about the island, and the high central mountains ensure the land is well watered, although the south coast is relatively dry. The coastal plain belt in the north is fertile. Puerto Rico's highest point is at Cerro de Punta, which is 1,338m (4,390 ft) above sea level.
The island of Puerto Rico is a rectangular shape and is the smallest, most eastern island of the Greater Antilles. It has almost 580km (360 mi) of coast. In addition to the principal island, the commonwealth islands include [wiki=341ad103ddf01627be953939176ea55b]Vieques[/wiki], [wiki=318dcc327de945ba431b70051aab1280]Culebra[/wiki], Culebrita, Palomino, Mona, Monito, and various others isolated islands. Puerto Rico is surrounded by deep ocean waters. To the west, Puerto Rico is separated from Hispaniola by the Mona Passage which is about 120km (75 mi) wide and as much as 3,300m (2 mi) deep. The Puerto Rico trench, 8,000m deep (5 mi), is located off the northern coast. Off the south coast is the 5,466m (3.4 mi) deep Venezuelan Basin of the Caribbean. Because Puerto Rico is relatively short in width, it does not have any long rivers or large lakes. The Rio de la Plata is the longest river in the island of Puerto Rico, which flows to the northern coast and drains into the Atlantic Ocean about 18km (11 miles) west of San Juan. Puerto Rico does not have any natural lakes; however, it does have 15 reservoirs.
[wiki=1fc0c1647d77074b7933c9762680a9a0]Guánica[/wiki] - Puerto Rico's Dry Natural Forest (Bosque Seco de Guánica)
*[wiki=1c2237c8847b738cc983efe654ed6151]Lajas[/wiki] - bioluminescent bay in [wiki=1ecd39ed66b8f60a75e4aba6e49de19c]La Parguera[/wiki]
* [wiki=2cd794ef6cbd52854b5acc413d5247ca]Ponce[/wiki] - Puerto Rico's second-largest city
* [wiki=bb0ad085fd29539f07e988927d993841]Salinas[/wiki] - Salinas Speedway, 400 m racetrack
*[wiki=a1269f199117c006db8a901730966533]Rincón[/wiki] - known as the "Surfing Capital" of the Caribbean
[wiki=1c33d51fbcef8437da82362e533773ad]Luquillo[/wiki] - best public beach, reef-protected swimming area with views of El Yunque Rainforest
*[wiki=fa4abf7996d0979f8df0833c257c866e]Fajardo[/wiki] - marina, bioluminescent bay, ferries to [wiki=341ad103ddf01627be953939176ea55b]Vieques[/wiki] and [wiki=318dcc327de945ba431b70051aab1280]Culebra[/wiki]
*[wiki=a66a1c4d379e69cf95b031249f2895aa]Río Grande[/wiki] - entrance to El Yunque Rainforest
[wiki=8dde2ef0cf52c8a3537284a43cd3e96e]Arecibo[/wiki] - home of the world's largest radio telescope
*[wiki=c715faebccac7f2bc511131aee8eb767]Aguadilla[/wiki] - surfing and Thai Food
*[wiki=ec6b2431948d569636d5c8c90bbb2eb1]Camuy[/wiki] - large cave system
* [wiki=d3e82d82fad1996f55594289a592a4e5]Dorado[/wiki] - public park, Nolos Morales Beach, sheltered family area
*[wiki=5784bb169b7443336d36812a6b9329a0]Isabela[/wiki] - more surfing
For travel within the United States, any TSA-compliant document, such as your state-issued driver's license or identification card, is sufficient identification to board a flight to or from Puerto Rico, as with any other domestic flight.
Puerto Rico choose to follow the Maindland US entry reqirements. As with the Mainland, any non-US citizen must follow the Visa Waiver Program. American, American Samoan citizens don't need a passport nor visa to travel to Puerto Rico. Only some form of government ID(example; a driver's license) is needed for proof of citizenship. Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Palau only need a passport to enter. Citizens of Canada do not require a visa for entry, and can study and work under the [wiki=f253efe302d32ab264a76e0ce65be769#Common US Visa/Residence Statuses]TN Status[/wiki]. Any citizen of Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Palau, and the US/American Samoa citizen can live, work and travel freely for a unlimited time while in Puerto Rico.
Travel under the Visa Waiver Program is limited to tourism or business purposes only; neither employment nor journalism is permitted with a Visa Waiver. The 90-day limit cannot be extended nor will travel to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean reset the 90-day limit. Take care if transiting through the US on a trip exceeding 90 days to Canada and/or Mexico. See [wiki=f253efe302d32ab264a76e0ce65be769#Visa Waiver Program requirements]Visa Waivr Program requirements[/wiki] for the U.S. Mainland for more information.
All travelers arriving in Puerto Rico from outside the United States (including U.S. citizens) must meet the requirements for entry (or re-entry) to the [wiki=f253efe302d32ab264a76e0ce65be769#Get in]United States[/wiki].
Puerto Rico's main airport is Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in [wiki=11fbf1415e73b006235434340c5a01de]Carolina[/wiki], near [wiki=08d73e9c4219e3f5c003b9474230fc24]San Juan[/wiki]. Jet Blue, United, and Spirit also fly to smaller airports in the cities of [wiki=c715faebccac7f2bc511131aee8eb767]Aguadilla[/wiki] and [wiki=2cd794ef6cbd52854b5acc413d5247ca]Ponce[/wiki].
Most U.S. and many international airlines offer direct flights from many cities to Puerto Rico. Flights are economical and numerous. SJU is the biggest and most modern airport in the Caribbean and offers all the conveniences and services (McDonalds, Dominos, Starbucks, etc.) of a major city airport. American Eagle operates a hub at SJU, and airlines like Caribbean Sun, Liat, and Cape Air offer cheap and easy connections to most Caribbean islands.
If you have lots of luggage, beware there are no baggage carts in the domestic terminal, although there are plenty of baggage porters available to help you for a tip or fee. Luggage carts are available in the international terminal of the airport. At the exit, a porter will assist you with your luggage for a fee.
Transferring from the airport to your hotel usually requires taking a taxi, although some hotels provide complimentary transportation to their properties in special buses. Puerto Rico Tourism Company representatives at the airport will assist you in finding the right transportation. All major car rental agencies are located at the airport, and others offer free transportation to their off-airport sites.
Typical flight times (eastbound flights are slightly longer due to headwinds):
*[wiki=0f5de708d2f6808ffb0c3893b2b8964a]Miami[/wiki] 2.5 hours
*[wiki=7647b2d875a94093cbc99f6f2cbfda77]Charlotte[/wiki] 3 hours
*[wiki=3064b320cef260c8f077f7c12a080f33]Philadelphia[/wiki] 3.5 hours
*[wiki=f92ca0b9177f41b3bd99f6f96dd292a4]Washington D.C.[/wiki] 3.5 hours
*[wiki=8b1c40ce6629723de95905617aaf5743]Atlanta[/wiki] 3.5 hours
*[wiki=cb725823157e6b10da8fa376c2e1b013]Boston[/wiki] 4 hours
*[wiki=d97e023dce2bb237a0d44f46d8ee9438]New York[/wiki] 4 hours
*[wiki=704139eabed7f1e95d3a98916289f06a]Dallas-Fort Worth[/wiki] 4 ¼ hours
*[wiki=948ce72be6c871b84f6d0dab24f209ed]Toronto[/wiki] 4 ¼ hours
*[wiki=a25b2dff7d13c650e6c7e6bfb3bba5a3]Houston[/wiki] 4.5 hours
*[wiki=9cfa1e69f507d007a516eb3e9f5074e2]Chicago[/wiki] 5 hours
*[wiki=0b4596f8efe110dc55bbe564213dfb33]Mexico City[/wiki] 5 ¾ hours
*[wiki=d0aa2dffa0da83f1f34681308d04db5d]Los Angeles[/wiki] 7.5 hours
*[wiki=6314044c3803213e9fd3f3ecf8c90d65]Madrid[/wiki] 7 ¾ hours
*[wiki=e20d37a5d7fcc4c35be6fc18a8e71bfa]Paris[/wiki] 10 hours
*[wiki=59ead8d1e124ccfb79f3ace06f43e703]London[/wiki] 12 hours
A commercial ferry service connects the west coast city of [wiki=783da342da43dd72d4cedd66b0e37e40]Mayaguez[/wiki] and [wiki=29cb8691e1843d307a8d831219167549]Santo Domingo[/wiki] in the Dominican Republic. This service is very popular and convenient way to travel between both cities. More than a million passengers visit the island on [wiki=33705032f9f8fc5b55aedee04ed80de2]cruise ships[/wiki] every year, whether on one of the many cruise lines whose homeport is San Juan, or on one of the visiting lines. No passport is required for U.S./American Samoan citizens who use this service. There are also daily ferry connections from the neaby U.S. territory of [wiki=979881e66028e3f1631aad68175a1344]U.S. Virgin Islands[/wiki] to Puerto Rico. Again, U.S./American Samoan citizens in the U.S. virgin Islands don't need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico and vice versa. It is also possible for you to rent a boat and travel from the U.S. Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico and vice versa without being intercepted by U.S. border patrol.
Official tourism company-sponsored taxis on the Island are clean, clearly identifiable, and reliable. Look for the white taxis with the official logo and Taxi Turístico on the front doors.
Under a recently instituted Tourism Taxi Program, set rates have been established for travel between San Juan's major tourist zones. Rates are as follows:
Additional metered rates are available which are not to/from the major tourist areas in San Juan:
Several taxi company numbers:
If you are planning to explore outside of San Juan, renting a car is by far the most convenient way to get around. Rentals are available from the airport as well as larger hotels. Rental cars can be had for as little as $28 a day. Note that SJU has no rental car agencies in the main terminal but Avis and Hertz are on the airport grounds close by, while everyone else is located much farther away outside the airport.
Many U.S. mainland car insurance policies will cover insured drivers involved in rental car accidents that occur anywhere in the United States, including outlying territories like Puerto Rico, so check with your own insurer before you rent a car in Puerto Rico. If you have such coverage, you can probably decline collision insurance from the car rental company and request only the loss damage waiver.
Red lights and stop signs are treated like yield signs late at night (approximately from 10pm to 4am) because of the island's extremely high car-jacking rate.
The roads can be quite bad, with potholes, missing manhole covers, giant speed bumps in the middle of major thoroughfares, and uneven pavement. Lane markings are often faint or non-existent since Puerto Rico can't afford to implement modern thermoplastic striping; regular paint fades fast under the harsh tropical sun and frequent rain. Be cautious of other drivers, as turn signals are not commonly used or adhered to. Most natives do not drive like mainlanders are used to. Watch out for cars pulling out in front of you, or crossing an intersection, even if you have right of way. Also, there are many cars with non-functional head lights or tail lights, making driving in traffic even more dangerous. If you are not a very confident, even aggressive driver, you may not wish to drive in urban areas. Speed limits are considered suggestions for the locals (particularly taxi drivers), but high fines should make wise tourists cautious.
Parking in the Old Town of San Juan is virtually non-existent (there is a public parking lot called "La Puntilla" which, on weekends, charges a fixed rate for the entire day, and it always has available parking spaces) and traffic in all major cities is bad during rush hour (8am-10am & 4pm-6pm), so give yourself plenty of time coming and going.
Road signs are Spanish language versions of their U.S. counterparts, so you shouldn't have trouble figuring them out. However, note that distances are in kilometers, while speed limits are in miles. Gas is also sold by the liter, not by the gallon, and it's a little bit cheaper than on the mainland.
In addition to the regular free highway (carretera) network, there are four major toll roads (autopistas) on Puerto Rico. They're much faster and less congested than the regular highways, and it's worth using them if in any kind of hurry. Tolls for a 2-axle car range from $0.50 and $1.50.
Since 2011, the PR government has been converting all toll roads to electronic toll collection (AutoExpreso) only and removing cash toll booths from toll plazas. Some but not all toll plazas still have a human-staffed "R" lane where drivers can purchase AutoExpreso tags or add more money to their accounts. Most rental car agencies now put AutoExpreso tags on all cars and automatically pass through all tolls incurred to the credit card presented at the time of rental, plus a per-day service fee for each day on which the tag was actually used.
Off the main highways, roads in Puerto Rico quickly become narrow, twisty and turny, especially up in the mountains. Roads that are only one-and-a-half lanes wide are common, so do like the locals do and beep before driving into blind curves. Signage is often minimal. At intersections, highway numbers are nearly always signposted but destinations are not, so a detailed highway map will come in handy.
Navigating a car can be very challenging because most locals give directions by landmark rather by address and using maps in PR can be very challenging for visitors. Google Maps in particular is fairly horrible in PR and the wary traveler does not trust it at all. Common problems include street names either missing or incorrect, and address lookups & business entries (POI's) either give no result or being completely wrong. Time estimates from Google Maps are often wildly off as they fail to account for unexpected traffic jams caused by PR's frequent car accidents, police actions, torrential rainstorms, power outages, and other bizarre contingencies.
If you are still a Google Maps fan and an Android user, note that Google Maps Navigation does not work in PR, although "Get Directions" does (but again, you can't trust it). Other online maps suffer the same issues. Alternative apps like Waze and Mapquest do work well in Puerto Rico. Note that the larger metro areas, especially San Juan, can have several streets with the same name, so it's important to know the neighborhood (urbanization) name when communicating with taxi drivers, etc.
Police cars are easy to spot, as by local regulation, they must keep their blue light bar continuously illuminated any time they are in motion. Avoid getting a speeding ticket: fines start at $50 plus $5 for each mile above the speed limit.
As of 2013, there have been recent installments of traffic cameras throughout Puerto Rico and drivers can expect fines for traffic violations.
A público (also known as colectivo and pisicorre) is a shared taxi service and is much cheaper than taking a taxi around the island, and depending on your travel aspirations, might be cheaper than renting a car. Públicos, which run Monday-Friday, can be identified by their yellow license plates with the word "PUBLICO" written on top of the license plate. The "main" público station is in Río Piedras, a suburb of [wiki=1af2a83405609130262cb21b2651a300]San Juan[/wiki].
There are two ways of getting on a público. The easier way is to call the local público stand the day before and ask them to pick you up at an agreed time (your hotel or guesthouse can probably arrange this, and unlike you, they probably know which of the multitude of companies is going your way). This is convenient, but it'll cost a few bucks extra and you'll be in for a wait as the car collects all the other departing passengers. The cheaper way is to just show up at the público terminal (or, in smaller towns, the town square) as early as you can (6-7 a.m. is normal) and wait for others to show up; as soon as enough have collected, which may take minutes or hours, you're off. Públicos taper off in the afternoon and stop running entirely before dark, usually around 4 p.m.
Públicos can make frequent stops to pick up or drop off passengers and may take a while to get to their destination terminal, but you can also request to be dropped off elsewhere if it's along the way or you pay a little extra. Prices vary depending on the size of the público and the distance being traveled. For example, a small público that can seat three or four passengers from [wiki=2cd794ef6cbd52854b5acc413d5247ca]Ponce[/wiki] to [wiki=1af2a83405609130262cb21b2651a300]San Juan[/wiki] will cost roughly $15, while a 15-passenger público that is traveling between San Juan and [wiki=fa4abf7996d0979f8df0833c257c866e]Fajardo[/wiki] will cost about $5 each person.
Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses, also known in English as Metropolitan Bus Authority or by its initials in Spanish, AMA, is a public bus transit system based in San Juan. The AMA provides daily bus transportation to residents of San Juan, Guaynabo, Bayamón, Trujillo Alto, Cataño, and Carolina through a network of 30 bus routes, including 2 express routes and 3 "metrobus" routes. Its fleet consists of 277 regular buses and 54 paratransit vans for handicapped persons. Its ridership is estimated at 112,000 on work days.
The daily, weekend, and holiday bus service from 4:30am to 10pm with the exception of a few routes that are limited to certain hours as well as the express routes.
There are two routes which are very reliable: M-I & M-II, commonly called Metrobus. Metrobus M1 transit between Old San Juan to Santurce downtown, Hato Rey Golden Mile banking zone and Rio Piedras downtown where a nice open walking street mall and great bargains could be found, the Paseo De Diego. The Metrobus II transit from Santurce to Bayamon city, passing Hato Rey, including Plaza Las Americas Mall and to Guaynabo City. Many interesting places could be found on the routes, like the remains of the first European settlement on the island and the oldest under USA government, the Caparra Ruins (Ruinas de Caparra Museum).
As a tourist staying in the Isla Verde hotel district, be aware there is a bus line going to and from Old San Juan. It costs only 75 cents, but takes 45 minutes to an hour and the right bus comes by irregularly. The bus till only takes quarters and no bills, so plan ahead. So the trade-off is between low cost versus your time and convenience. In the rainy months, standing at the bus stop can be uncomfortable. One good way to get from SJU, the San Juan Airport, is to take the [url=http://www.puertoricodaytrips.com/wp-post-images/san-juan-bus-routes.png]B40[/url] to Isla Verde, then transfer to the T5. Buses in San Juan do not have a system of using transfers the way they do in the US, so bring lots of quarters.
Tren Urbano ("Urban Train") is a 17.2km (10.7 mile) fully automated rapid transit that serves the metropolitan area of San Juan, which includes the municipalities of San Juan, Bayamón, and Guaynabo. Tren Urbano consists of 16 stations on a single line.
The Tren Urbano complements other forms of public transportation on the island such as the public bus system, taxis, water ferries, and shuttles. The entire mass transportation system has been dubbed the Alternativa de Transporte Integrado ("Integrated Transportation Alternative") or "ATI". Its services are very reliable and are almost always on time.
Ferries depart from [wiki=1af2a83405609130262cb21b2651a300]San Juan[/wiki] and [wiki=fa4abf7996d0979f8df0833c257c866e]Fajardo[/wiki] and the most popular arrivals are Cataño, Vieques Island, Culebra Island. The [wiki=783da342da43dd72d4cedd66b0e37e40]Mayaguez[/wiki] ferry travels between the [wiki=662c15622f9c9c5decc0db80edb6c416]Dominican Republic[/wiki] and Puerto Rico.
When the Spanish settlers colonized Puerto Rico in the early 16th century, many thousands of Taíno people lived on the island. Taíno words like hamaca ("hammock"), hurakán ("hurricane"), and tobacco came into general Spanish as the two cultures blended. Puerto Ricans still use many Taíno words that are not part of the international Spanish lexicon. The Taino influence in Puerto Rican Spanish is most evident in geographical names, such as Mayagüez, Guaynabo, Humacao or Jayuya. You will also find Taino words in different parts of the Caribbean.
The first African slaves were brought to the island in the 16th century. Although 31 different African tribes have been recorded in Puerto Rico, it is the Congo from Central Africa that is considered to have had the most impact on Puerto Rican Spanish. Many of these words are used today.
Places that take credit cards often take only Visa and MasterCard. Large hotels and car rental places will likely take Discover and American Express. Many places only take cash. Consider bringing enough cash with you to warrant only one or two withdrawals if you will be subject to transaction fees.
There are plenty of ATMs in Puerto Rico. Most are linked to the Cirrus, Plus, American Express, and Discover networks. You may be subject to multiple ATM fees unless your financial institution is a member of Allpoint, a surcharge-free ATM network located all over the island.
The only bank that has mainland US branches is Banco Popular. None of the big four US banks have retail branches or ATMs in Puerto Rico. However, Bank of America customers can withdraw from ScotiaBank ATMs surcharge free, as both of these banks belong to the global ATM alliance.
For general fashion shopping, check out the Belz Factory Outlets (Canovanas) and Puerto Rico Premium Outlets (Barceloneta). They feature major brand name stores like Polo, Tommy Hilfiger, Banana Republic, Puma, Gap, PacSun, etc.
Most large cities on the island have a large regional mall with familiar international stores.
If you're looking for local crafts of all sorts, and want to pay less than in Old San Juan while getting to know the island, try going to town festivals. Artisans from around the island come to these festivals to sell their wares: from typical foods, candies, coffee and tobacco to clothing, accessories, paintings and home décor. Some of these festivals are better than others, though: be sure to ask for recommendations. One of the most popular (yet remote) festivals is the "Festival de las Chinas" or Orange Festival in Las Marías.
Don't forget that Puerto Rico is a large rum-producing island. Hand made cigars can still be found in San Juan, Old San Juan, and Puerta de Tierra. Also a wide variety of imported goods from all over the world are available. Local artesanías include wooden carvings, musical instruments, lace, ceramics, hammocks, masks and basket-work. Located in every busy city are gift shops with the typical tee-shirts, shot glasses, and other gifts that say Puerto Rico to bring home to friends and family. Make sure to visit the Distileria Serralles, the home of Don Q, one of the oldest rums made in Puerto Rico (whose logo is visible in the window of most PR bars). You would not only enjoy tours of the process of making rum, but a little taste of the rum. They also have a museum and it is an enjoyable place for a warm afternoon in the Enchanted Island.
For many years, the most prestigious large U.S. retail fashion goods chain present on Puerto Rico was the department store chain Macy's, whose sole store in the Caribbean is located at the Plaza Las Americas mall in San Juan. While significantly larger than the average Macy's store, the Plaza Las Americas store is still smaller than Macy's regional flagship stores on the mainland. Thus, it is of less interest to tourists from the U.S. mainland or who plan to visit the U.S. mainland shortly.
Historically, because Puerto Rico has a high crime rate and its per capita income has lagged far behind the mainland, many of the most elite and upscale luxury U.S. and international retailers (e.g., Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue) refrained from entering the Puerto Rican market. Instead, they preferred to serve Caribbean and South American customers out of their stores in Miami, Florida. During the 2000s, the Caribbean gradually accumulated enough wealthy "baby boomer" U.S. and European expatriates to make it attractive to those brands. In September 2012, Taubman Centers and New Century Development broke ground on the long-expected Mall of San Juan, which finally became the first true upscale shopping mall in the Caribbean when it opened in March 2015 with Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue as the anchor tenants.
Home to fine designer stores such as Cartier, Gucci, Ferragamo, Mont Blanc and Dior
* Currently the largest and most upscale shopping mall in the Caribbean, although it is actually mid-to-upscale by mainland U.S. standards. It offers a wide array of stores, eating facilities, and a multi-screen movie theater. Most major U.S. mainland and European mass retailers are located in the mall.
Authentic Puerto Rican food (comida criolla) can be summed up in two words: plantains and pork, usually served up with rice and beans (arroz y habichuelas). It is rarely if ever spicy, and to many visitors' surprise has very little in common with Mexican cooking.
Plantains (plátanos) are essentially savory bananas and the primary source of starch back in the bad old days, although you will occasionally also encounter other tropical tubers like yuca (cassava) and ñame (white yam). Served with nearly every meal, incarnations include:
* mofongo - plantains mashed, fried, and mashed again, when stuffed (relleno) with seafood this is probably the best-known Puerto Rican dish of them all
* tostones - twice deep-fried plantain chips, best when freshly made
* sopa de plátanos - mashed plantain soup
The main meat eaten on Puerto Rico is pork (cerdo), with chicken a close second and beef and mutton way down the list. Seafood, surprisingly, is only a minor part of the traditional repertoire: the deep waters around Puerto Rico are poorly suited to fishing, and most of the seafood served in restaurants for tourists is in fact imported. Still, fresh local fish can be found in restaurants across the east and west coast of the island, especially in Naguabo or Cabo Rojo respectively. Common fish used include chillo (red snapper), pulpo (octopus), jueyes (land crab) and carrucho (conch); the latter two are often served in salads which resemble ceviche in other parts of the Spanish-speaking world, served refreshingly cold with vinegar and lime juice.
The pinnacle of Puerto Rican porkcraft is undoubtedly lechón asado - roast whole suckling piglet. Slow-cooked over an open wood flame for hours, this succulent masterpiece rivals the best of any barbeque joint in the American South. Lechón is typcially served at specialty restaurants, often little more than roadside shacks, which serve mile-high portions accompanied by a dizzying array of very caloric side dishes (listed below). To experience authentic lechón, take a trip down Route 184, the Pork Highway (La Ruta del Lechón), in the island's southeast corner around the town of Guavate. This rural mountain community is famous for its many lechóneros, where you can kick back with a fantastic meal and a Medalla while watching the sun set over the scenic Cordillera Central mountains.
Other incarnations of pork Boricua-style include:
* chicharrones - crispy dry pork rinds, Puerto Rico's favorite snack
* chuletas - huge, juicy pork chops, available grilled or deep fried.
* cuajo - slow-cooked pork stomach
* longaniza - pork sausage flavored with annatto, similar to but less spicy than chorizo
* morcilla - savory blood sausage (black pudding)
* pernil - pork shoulder with oregano and garlic
A few other puertorriqueño classics include:
* alcapurria - fritter made from mashed tubers and vegetables stuffed with meat, chicken, or crab
* arroz con gandules - rice with pigeon peas, the unofficial national dish of Puerto Rico
* arroz con jueyes - rice with crab meat
* asopao - a spicy tomato stew with rice and chicken or seafood
* bacalaitos - salted cod fritters
* empanadillas - fried pastries stuffed with cheese, meat or lobster, similar to what Jamaicans call a patty
* quenepas - a green grape-like fruit common in summer, don't eat the skin or seeds (and watch where you put them, they stain clothes easily)
* sofrito - a fragrant sauce of sweet pepper, herbs, garlic and oil, used as base and seasoning for many dishes
Meals in sit-down restaurants tend to be fairly pricey and most touristy restaurants will happily charge $10-30 for main dishes. Restaurants geared for locals may not appear much cheaper, but the quality (and quantity) of food is usually considerably better. It's not uncommon for restaurants to charge tourists more than locals, so bring along a local friend if you can! Note that many restaurants are closed on Mondays and Tuesday.
If you want to eat like a local, look for places that are out of the way. There is a roadside food stand or 10 at every corner when you get out of the cities. Deep-fried foods are the most common, but they serve everything from octopus salad to rum in a coconut. You might want to think twice and consult your stomach before choosing some items - but do be willing to try new things. Most of the roadside stand food is fantastic, and if you're not hung up with the need for a table, you might have dinner on a beach, chomping on all sorts of seafood fritters at $1 a pop, drinking rum from a coconut. At the end of dinner, you can see all the stars. In the southwest of the island, in [wiki=9f939cd2d32a3506e9c15919ba4669b2]Boqueron[/wiki], you might find fresh oysters and clams for sale at 25 cents a piece. The beach at Piñones is a particularly well-kept secret; the numerous food stands lining this lovely beach west of Isla Verde offer a dizzying variety of cholesterol-laden traditional Puerto Rican foods such as bacalaítos (fried codfish fritters), empanaditas (fried pastry dough stuffed with meat, potatoes, or plantains), and chicarrones (crispy fried pork skins).
If you are really lucky, you might get invited to a pork roast. It's not just food, it's a day-long affair - and it's an unforgettable cultural experience. Folks sing, drink, hang out telling stories, and help turning the pig as it roasts; when it's ready, you'll likely find yourself served a succulent cut of pork paired with arroz con gandules (rice and beans).
Typical fast food restaurants, such as McDonald's and Wendy's are numerous in Puerto Rico and identical to their American counterparts. Some feel, however, that fried chicken restaurants are somewhat different in PR. Pollo Tropical is a fast food restaurant unique to Puerto Rico that serves more traditional Puerto Rican
Finally, there are some wonderful restaurants, and like everywhere, the best are found mostly near the metropolitan areas. Old San Juan is probably your best bet for a 4-star meal in a 4-star restaurant. However if your experimental nature wanes, there are lots of "Americanized" opportunities in and around San Juan. Good luck, keep your eyes open for the next roadside stand, and make sure to take advantage of all the sports to counteract the moving buffet.
Strict vegetarians will have a tough time in Puerto Rico, although the larger towns have restaurants that can cater to their tastes. Traditionally almost all Puerto Rican food is prepared with lard, and while this has been largely supplanted by cheaper corn oil, mofongo is still commonly made using lard, bacon or both.
Puerto Rico is generally much more LGBT-friendly than other Caribbean nations. Homosexual acts are legal, LGBT people are protected by law from discrimination, and there are many gay-friendly areas in San Juan and Ponce. As in the United States, youth are much more accepting of LGBT people than the older generation.
Nevertheless, attitudes towards homosexuality in Puerto Rico are still at least as conservative as those found in the American Bible Belt, due to the island's Roman Catholic heritage and a culture that places a lot of emphasis on machismo. Open hostility is rare, especially toward foreigners, but be prepared for stares or criticism.
Puerto Rico has a modern cell phone network. With one major exception, all the major US carriers are represented and offer domestic non-roaming service for US subscribers with nationwide plans. As of 2014, AT&T has the best coverage on the island, while T-Mobile runs a close second. Sprint works in some areas, but is not as reliable. Verizon phones work, displaying "Extended" without incurring roaming charges (you may have to enable data roaming to use 3G). Other CDMA carriers will also roam on Claro or Sprint. For non-US travelers, AT&T and T-Mobile are the GSM carriers; Sprint and Claro are CDMA and are probably not compatible with your phone.
Public access internet penetration is not as good as in the Mainland U.S. or Europe yet. Internet cafes exist but are not very common, although some cafes, such as Starbucks, and restaurants, such as Subway, provide free Wi-Fi. Some of the major metro areas provide free WiFi zones, such as along Paseo de la Princesa in Old San Juan, but these tend to be slow and unreliable. There is no free Wi-Fi at the primary airport, Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU). Most hotels provide wired or wireless (or both) internet for guests, either for free or a fee, however many motels do not.
Puerto Rico has continually strived to improve Internet access across the island.
The United States Postal Service provides mail service to the island. See the section on mail in the [wiki=f253efe302d32ab264a76e0ce65be769]United States[/wiki] article for more information.