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15 Must Know Facts Before Traveling to Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Facts

Puerto Rico is a small archipelago in the Caribbean. An archipelago is a group, chain or cluster of islands that form a collective identity. The country is not a US state but rather an incorporated US territory. The US Dollar is the currency and Joe Biden is also recognized as president. With a population of just over 3 million, the land is one of the most diverse areas anywhere in the world.

The country is amongst some of the most diverse places to visit. From distinct natural wonders to amazing architecture, from a rich history to a real ‘Pirate of the Caribbean’ that is part of ancient folklore, there is something for everyone to enjoy on this land. As a tourist space, Puerto Rico provides it all. It is definitely worth going to especially for the nature that it portrays.

If you are planning a visit to Puerto Rico, here are some interesting facts about the country that you need to know beforehand.

Amazing Things to Know about Puerto Rico

1. Puerto Rico is a US territory

It is located in the northeastern Caribbean Sea, roughly 70 miles east of the Dominican Republic and 40 miles west of the British and US Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico is a US territory as it is a commonwealth state.

The local currency is the same as the US, the citizens of Puerto Rico are considered US citizens and people living in mainland America can travel to the country visa-free. However, Puerto Ricans don’t have the right to vote in the US elections.

2. The Island has changed names several times

Before Christopher Columbus arrived on the island, the locals referred to it as Boriken, which meant “Land of the Valiant and Noble Lord” in their language.

In 1493, Columbus named the island San Juan Bautista after St. John the Baptist. In the early 1500s, the Spanish named the country Ciudad de Puerto Rico which translated to “Rich Port City” because of the gold and riches that they extracted from the land. Eventually, the name Puerto Rico stuck because a lot of traders began to refer to it by that name due to the prevalence of gold color throughout the country.

3. The land has one of the most varied landscapes on the planet

Puerto Rico is famous for having one of the most diverse natural landscapes anywhere. From mountains to valleys, from beaches to intricate cities, there is something for everyone to explore.

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Since the main island is small, most of these places are just a few drives away from one another making it easily accessible for travelers. It is really hard to get bored out there as you can visit the beach and a network of caves at the same time making a unique experience altogether.

4. Puerto Rico may be small in size but is big on experiences

If you are someone who enjoys a mix of man-made as well as natural wonders, Puerto Rico is the place to be for you.

From two of the oldest churches in the Americas to Juan Ponce de Leon’s tomb, you can take in a lot from history over your trip. Then you can visit the historic ruins outside of Old San Juan where a small museum and Ponce de Leon, Puerto Rico’s first governor’s home still exists. This is one of the most fascinating sites as it provides a picturesque view of the entire city too.

5. The island has some of the longest shorelines in the world

The country of Puerto Rico is just 5,515 square miles itself but being a group of islands, it has one of the biggest shorelines anywhere in the world.

The beautiful blue, crystal clear waters around the country hit almost 270 miles of land across the island providing tourists with the ideal opportunity to enjoy a lot of water activities.

Puerto Rico Shoreline

Moreover, it’s not just the stretch of land but also the variety of beaches where you can find coral-rich shores to white sand, black magnetic or red-ish sand across various areas.

6. The historic ruins outside San Juan are a popular tourist destination

The ruins in Caparra that are mentioned earlier lie just outside the capital. The place was abandoned between 1519 and 1521 when the capital was moved from there to where it is now.

Still, this place serves as an amazing reminder of the history that the country has had while providing tourists with the experiences that they are looking for in terms of exciting locations to visit.

7. Despite being a small island, Puerto Rico has one of the highest numbers of beauty queens

There are so many instances that indicate Puerto Rico’s potential as a land of beauty. One example is the global beauty pageant that has been won by the country multiple times over the contest’s 67-year history.

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There have been five winners from the country in 2006, 2001, 1993, 1985 and 1970.  The 5 winners are Marisol Malaret, Deborah Carthy Deu, Dayanara Torres, Denise Quinones, and Zuleyka Rivera. The amount of beauty you can find on these islands is therefore unparalleled.

8. Puerto Rico has its own observatory

Completed in 1963, the Arecibo Observatory’s 1000 ft. single-aperture radio telescope was the largest in the world until 2016 when China built the 1,640 feet Aperture Spherical Telescope.

Unfortunately, the observatory fell into negligence and the main telescope collapsed in December 2020. This marked an end to one of the accomplishments that were a crown jewel for Puerto Rico. The location however, is still open and serves as a unique tourist spot.

9. The country has a handful of uninhabited islands

Since Puerto Rico is an archipelago, it is made up of several islands. Only three of these, namely Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques, have active populations which leaves the remaining ones deserted.

The water and lands that constitute this diverse country are amazing and open to exploration from adventurous visitors. It is also relevant to mention here that a famous pirate, Confresi is part of the folklore that is told on this island.

It is said that his Robin Hood nature made him popular with the locals and some of his treasures are still buried on the islands.

10. It is considered the world’s oldest colony

Puerto Rico has been a colony since Christopher Columbus discovered it during his second voyage in 1493, but the reports are disputed because there was a tribe already inhabiting the island meaning that it had already been found before Columbus landed there.

It is fascinating to note that Columbus himself didn’t spend much time here. He declared it a Spanish colony, spent only two days there and left, never to return. Spain finally lost its claim to the land in 1898 when Americans won the battle for this area but the island still remains the world’s oldest colony.

11. The streets of Puerto Rico’s capital were paved with blue cobblestones

San Juan being the capital and main port city of Puerto Rico served as the main route from where all the riches were exported around the world.

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Given its importance in this regard, the Spanish paved routes across the city with grey-ish blue cobblestone which were made using iron slag and waste from iron smelting. Most of these stones have been replaced now but there are still some glimpses remaining through the capital city.

12. The US almost bought the country at one point

In 1890, following a suggestion from William H. Seward, the former Secretary of State under President Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, the US was planning to purchase both Puerto Rico and Cuba for a sum of almost $160 million but the proposal was rejected by the Spanish.

Over the next few years, Spain lost control of the island eventually to the US which showed that the former made a bad choice by not selling the land when being offered a good sum of money.

13. Puerto Rico has the largest cave network in the Western Hemisphere

Although the country is small, it has a vast network of 220 subterranean caves that are stretching more than 268 acres across the land.

This serves as a unique tourist natural spot. The Rio Camuy is also the third-largest underground river in the world that exists in Puerto Rico and has carved vast networks of caves throughout the land.

Top 7 Most Incredible Places to visit in Puerto Rico

We’ve established that Puerto Rico is a country worth visiting but with so much to see, it can be hard to pin-point which places to visit when visiting. Here are 7 places that should be on your list.


Puerto Rico is a unique land with rich culture, fascinating landscapes and architectural marvels that leave a person in awe. It is one of the best tourist destinations that should be on your bucket list when planning out the next international trip.

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