Puerto Rico from a Locals Perspective

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By Norbert from Globotreks

Kayaking at Guayama

Puerto Rico, also known as the Island of Enchantment, is full of charms that are delivered through its abundant natural beauty and its year round Caribbean tropical weather.

I lived in Puerto Rico for over 23 years and I still get excited when I return to the island. Going back gives me the chance to see the island both as a tourist and as a local, allowing me to enjoy its sights and beauty like if I was experiencing them for the first time.

So, from my own perspective, here are 7 reasons why Puerto Rico does make a great destination for any traveler.

1. You can explore the oldest city in a U.S. territory

Old San Juan Fortress Walls
Old San Juan Fortress Walls

Puerto Rico has been part of the United States since 1898. But before this, Puerto Rico had already been developing its cities during the previous 405 years under Spain’s ruling.

For this reason, Old San Juan is considered to be the oldest city in the United States. Its seven-by-seven-block grid of cobblestone streets is lined with pastel-colored colonial buildings, plazas, churches, parks, and military fortresses.

Some must-see are San Felipe del Morro Fort and San Cristobal Fort, and a walk through Paseo de la Princesa.

2. For its natural diversity and off the beaten path sceneries.

Rapelling at Arecibo
Rapelling at Arecibo

I’m still marveled by how such a small island can have such a diverse ecosystem.

While the north coast tends to be a fertile coastal plain, the south tends to be much dryer and quite hot. On the west coast steep mountains rise from the sea, while the east shores are full of sandy beaches.

Throughout the island you will find a tropical rain forest, a dry forest, bioluminescent bays, a subterranean river cave system, pristine beaches, and world-class surfing and diving spots; all less than a three-hour drive apart.

For a taste of the natural diversity and a way to get off the beaten path, drive the astonishingly scenic Ruta Panorámica (Panoramic Route) throughout the center of the island, in my opinion one of the most beautiful routes in the island.

3. To experience a blend of cultures

Doves in front of Chapel of Christ the Savior
Doves in front of Chapel of Christ the Savior

I believe Puerto Rican culture is somewhat colorful and dynamic.

As you experience the daily life, you will see and hear the cultural melting pot that characterizes the island in everything from the language, food, dance, traditions, and everything in between.

The cultural and racial origins come from the Native Taíno; which was eventually mixed with the Spanish conquistadors and African Slaves.

This tripartite mix composes the framework of Puerto Rican culture; resulting in a contemporary society with practically no racial problems.

4. For its water sports and active adventures

Kayaking at Guayama
Kayaking at Guayama

Being a tropical island, water sports are big among the locals.

Diving enthusiasts prefer the east coast, while surfers love the waves north and west off Aguadilla and Rincon. There’s also a wide array of places around the island to go deep-sea fishing, snorkeling, and sailing.

While inland, the subterranean river caves of Rio Camuy, the world’s third largest subterranean river cave system, makes for a great caving adventure; and so does hiking to the top of El Yunque National Rainforest

5. Because it is not just one island

Puerto Rico is commonly thought to be a single island, but in reality it is a group of islands.

The main island, Puerto Rico, is surrounded by three small islands: Vieques, Culebra, and Mona. In addition, numerous smaller islands and cays sprinkle the Atlantic and Caribbean seas, among those: Monito, Desecheo, Caja de Muertos, and Guilligan’s Island.

Island hopping is one of the ways locals love to explore the island on any given weekend. Vieques and Culebra are considered to be “the way Puerto Rico used to be” – and I agree!

6. To enjoy delicious creole cuisine

Mofongo
Mofongo

Although Puerto Rican cooking is somewhat similar to Spanish, Cuban, and Mexican cuisine, it has a unique tasty blend of African, Taíno, and American influences.

We know this as Comida Criolla (Creole food), and it is one of the reasons why I love to go back often.

Puerto Ricans adore well-seasoned chicken, beef, fish, and shellfish. Most dishes are complemented with rice, beans, salad, and plantains. In fact, plantains are the single most popular side dish served on the island.

Desserts usually include some form of flan and coconut is among the most common dessert ingredients.

For drinks, natural juices and coffee are a common choice. Rum is the national drink, and you can buy it in almost any shade.

7. To relax and have fun at its beaches

Pine Grove Beach

Miles of publicly accessible shoreline is one reason most people visit Puerto Rico.

  • Condado Beach is one of the most popular beaches in San Juan; great for people-watching since it is always active and full of tourists and vendors.
  • Luquillo Beach has that postcard look with its beautiful half-moon shape.
  • And Flamenco Beach, in Culebra, is in my opinion one of the best beaches in Puerto Rico – three miles of pure beauty, waves, and sun.

If you like total seclusion, on the neighboring island of Vieques you can still find remote, almost-private-for-yourself beaches, like Blue Beach, Red Beach, and Green Beach.

In the end, it doesn’t matter which beach or sight you wish to experience, the best thing to do is to enjoy it, absorb the moment, and let yourself be enchanted!

Norbert Figueroa is an architect always looking for new experiences and inspiration to design his world through travel and to build an adventurous lifestyle. He shares tips and experiences at GloboTreks and at his facebook fan page to inspire others to get out there and live the life they want.

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29 thoughts on “Puerto Rico from a Locals Perspective”

  1. Great guest post from Norbert. He’s awesome and fun to chat with. Puerto Rico is such a beautiful island and loving the food.

  2. PR….it could stand for Puerto Rico or the great PR job that Norbert performed in reporting about this wonderful city. It is definitely on my to do list!

    1. Good to hear that Christine. There is a lot to see and do in Puerto Rico that is not often shown to the world. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to show some of the environments and culture I love and that I grew with.

  3. ¡Hola!

    Got this blog in my inbox through a Google alert for ‘Puerto Rico’. Love it! I think I’m going to be busy reading and enjoying the photos for a while.

    Warm Regards from Juncos, PR,

    Candy

    1. Hola Candy!

      So nice you found this through your Google alert! Hope it has served some good to you too, an experienced Puerto Rican. Enjoy Juncos, it is lovely there!

      Cheers from Carolina via New York! 🙂

      Norbert

    1. You’re welcome John! Glad you have enjoyed the post. It’s good to spread the word of the many good things the island has to offer. Without any doubt you will enjoy Puerto Rico when you have the chance to go.

  4. Hi happyfamilytravels!

    So cool you want to go there in the summer, nice choice! You will love it there!

    There are many spanish schools in the metropolitan area, especially in Isla Verde, Condado, and Santurce. Those are small districts between the airport and Old San Juan. I honestly don’t know how good or bad are most of them, but ones that I’ve heard mentioned constantly are Berlitz (right next to the airport), Inlingua, and PanAmerican. But they can be pricey. I recommend you check http://www.superpagespr.com (PRs yellow pages).

    I also recommend looking for a private tutor (since it’s for a family) or by checking with the University of Puerto Rico (they have spanish classes for the general public and is cheaper since it’s a public university). Or, once in Puerto Rico, check the mayor local newspapers like El Nuevo Dia and Primera Hora – they are packed with classified ads. I think Rosetta Stone can be a good option too.

    Let me know if you need any other recommendations or any help.

    Have fun there!!

  5. Norbert,

    I am so proud. You have painted a beautiful picture of the island to the people who have not been there. Thanks for making me remember the great things that make our island special.

    I haven’t been there in 4 years. This may be the year to return to visit family and friend. Also, to take my husband for the first time.

    1. Thank you so much Ruth! Like you said, the island is special, so it’s good for us to share it with the world!

      I’ve been out for three years, but I come and go often. You will surprised how much certain areas have changed in the last four year, but at the same time, other areas have kept that character that have made them unique. Yes, I do encourage you to go back. It will be great for you to rediscover the island while your husband experiences it for the first time.

      So good to have you around!

  6. There is only one thing I want to do in Puerto Rico, okay well two. The first is go to el yunque and jump off a cliff into the ocean and then go dance reggeaton. After that my life would be complete. Eso seria bien cabron! jajajaj 😛

    1. Marcello, you will enjoy a hike in El Yunque. I recommend you go to La Mina Waterfall and explore through some of the rivers. Really good for an adventurous experience. Many campers also say to have seen UFOs. Who knows?

      Cliffs… you will find most of them on the west, north-west part of the island. Many people go to several spots over there to do cliff diving. And last but not least, Reggaeton! If you want to dance Reggaeton, you must go to Carolina – its “birthplace”. This is the municipality right next to San Juan and there you will find the best night clubs with Reggaeton and Salsa. For other types of music, San Juan is your destination.

      hahaha! You know your Puerto Rican slang! 🙂

  7. So many reasons to go back to Puerto Rico! I had a lot of Puerto Rican friends in college and I had heard how amazing it was but had never gotten a chance to visit. Last year I finally did get to go, but it was a very brief trip. I definitely have to go back to experience El Yunque and some more of that delicious food!

    1. Hi Anis! So great you got to go to Puerto Rico. If you’re into hiking and outdoor activities, then El Yunque is a great option since it is near the metropolitan area. For delicious food, uff, there are so many choices… Old San Juan, Piñones, Guavate, Luquillo, Fajardo… yumm yumm yumm 🙂

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