Puerto Rico  is a Caribbean island that is a self-governing commonwealth of the United States of America. Located in the Caribbean Sea to the east of the Dominican Republic and west of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico lies on a key shipping lane to the Panama Canal, the Mona Passage.
Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Puerto Rico in 1493 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. The island became United States territory under the Treaty of Paris, which also ended the Spanish-American War. The United States passed Law 600 giving Puerto Rico authorization to create and approve its own constitution. The relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico is known as a commonwealth.
Puerto Rico has a tropical marine climate, which is mild and has little seasonal temperature variation. Temperatures range from 70˚F to 90˚F (21˚C to 32˚C), and tend to be lower at night and up in the mountains. Year round trade winds take part in ensuring 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 precipitous 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 1,338 m above sea level.
The island of Puerto Rico is a rectangular shape and is the smallest, most eastern island of the Great Antilles. It measures alomst 580 km of coast. In addition to the principal island, the commonwealth islands include Vieques, Culebra, Culebrita, Palomino, Mona, Monito and various others isolated islands. Puerto Rico is surrounded by deep ocean waters. To the west PPuerto Rico is seperated from Hispaniola by the Mona Passage which is about 75 miles wide and about 3,300 miles deep. The 28,000 foot deep Puerto Rico trench is located off the northern coast. Off the south coast is the 16,400 foot deep Venezuelan Basin of the Caribbean. Because Puerto Rico is relatively short in width it does not have any long rivers or large lakes. Grande de Arecibo is the longest river in Puerto Rico which flows to the northern coast. Puerto Rico does not have any natural lakes but it does however have 15 reservoirs.
- Puerto Rico - the main island itself
- Vieques, also known as Isla Nena or Little Island, is a small, rural island approximately 6 miles East of the big island of Puerto Rico.
- San Juan - the capital - has one of the biggest and best natural harbors in the Caribbean
- Arecibo - home of the world's largest radio telescope
- Dorado - Nice Public Park, Nolos Morales Beach, Sheltered Family area
- Luquillo - best public beach, reef protected swimming area with views of El Yunque. Rainforest
- Ponce - Puerto Rico's second city
- Mayaguez - Puerto Rico's third city
- El Yunque National Forest
- Guánica State Forest (Bosque Estatal de Guánica) is also the name of a small dry forest reserve east and west of the town, the largest remaining tract of tropical dry coastal forest in the world, and designated an international Biosphere Reserve in 1981. The park comprising much of the dry forest is known as el bosque seco de Guánica.
- San Juan National Historic Site - includes forts San Cristóbal, San Felipe del Morro, and San Juan de la Cruz, also called El Cañuelo, plus bastions, powder houses, and three fourths of the city wall. All these defensive fortifications surround the old, colonial portion of San Juan, Puerto Rico and are among the oldest and best preserved Spanish fortifications of the Americas.
- Mona Island, off of the west coast of PR, half way to the Dominican Republic, this island is a secluded island only inhabited by wildlife. You can only go to the island by appointment.
- Rio Camuy Caverns in the north/northwest; a 45 minute guided walking tour of the main cave, Cueva Clara, including a view of the "3rd largest underground river in the world" and an enormous sinkhole.
- La Parguera - Fishing village.
- Caja de Muertos Island, or Caja de Muertos for short, is an uninhabited island off the southern coast of Puerto Rico. The island is protected because of its native turtle traffic. Hikers and beachgoers are often seen in the island, which can be reached by ferry or through diving tour operators from the La Guancha Boardwalk sector of Ponce Playa.
Since Puerto Rico is a US territory, US citizens do not need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico, from the US or vice versa. Meaning that US citizens can travel freely to and from Puerto Rico without going through immigrations or customs. US citizens only need some form of government issued identification, including a picture to enter Puerto Rico. A driver's license should suffice or a photo-identification card used by non-drivers. However, for temporary residents (H1B, F-1 student, J-1 visas etc..) traveling directly from a state to Puerto Rico would only require a driver's license. Though bringing a valid passport and supporting documents is highly advised. This also means you do not need a valid visa to travel from a state directly to Puerto Rico. Travelers from outside the United States should have the same requirements that are neede to enter the United States.
Puerto Rico's main airport is Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (IATA: SJU) in Carolina, near San Juan. Jet Blue, Continental and Delta Connection also fly to smaller airports in the cities of Aguadilla and Ponce.
As Puerto Rico is part of the US commonwealth, U.S. Immigration and Customs Laws and Regulations apply.Travel between the mainland and San Juan, Ponce and Aguadilla is the same as if it were between two mainland cities.
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 (outbound flights are slightly longer due to headwinds):
- Chicago 5 hours
- Los Angeles 7.5 hours
- Madrid 7 ¾ hours
- New York 4 hours
- Dallas-Fort Worth 4 ¼ hours
- Atlanta 3.5 hours
- Toronto 4 ¼ hours
- Miami 2.5 hours
- Philadelphia 3.5 hours
- Boston 4 hours
- Providence 4 hours
- Washington D.C. 3.5 hours
- Europe 8 hours
- Paris 10 hours
- London 12 hours
- Mexico City 5 3/4
On your way back out of Puerto Rico, note that you'll be required to pass all your check-in bags through a US Dept of Agriculture inspection before checking in. The US Department of Agriculture will check to make sure that prohibited fruits are not being brought back to the homeland. Fruits such as avocado, papaya, coconut and plantain can be taken to the U.S., but mango, sour sop, passion fruit, and plants potted in soil cannot. Many agricultural products, including most fruits and vegetables, are in fact permitted , but will be checked for disease. Items such as Articles from Vietnam, North Korea, Kampuchea or Cuba, illegal publications, lottery tickets, chocolate liqueurs or pre-Columbian artifacts are not allowed back into the United States. Travelers carrying undeclared products will be fined on the spot. Cruise ship passengers with ship luggage tags are exempted. If you are carrying prescription drugs with you make sure to bring a copy of the presciption to prevent being held up. But for the most part traveling through customes is generally a quick and routine process.