Puerto Rico Facts for Travelers and Tourists

puerto rico factsPuerto Rico is officially called the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and it’s located in the northeastern region of the Caribbean Sea. An unincorporated territory of the United States, Puerto Rico is composed of one large island and many smaller ones, making it an archipelago. Lying east of the Dominican Republic and west of the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico has a long and interesting history. Udemy.com offers several courses for travelers and tourists, including a course on how to travel the world using award points to get to interesting spots such as Puerto Rico, so check it out.  You can also learn how to pack and travel like a globetrotter whether you’re traveling to Europe, Asia or Puerto Rico and the Caribbean by checking out Udemy’s travel packing list blog for pointers.

Puerto Rico’s History

Christopher Columbus discovered Puerto Rico in 1493 on his second voyage to the Americas. The Italian seaman, venturing forth on behalf of Spain, named the Caribbean island San Juan Bautista, or Saint John the Baptist. By the time Columbus made landfall on Puerto Rico it had been occupied for several centuries by the Taino, a seafaring group of aboriginal people with origins in South America. Claiming Puerto Rico on behalf of Spain, the islands then became a colony of that European country for more than 400 years.

Several other European nations attempted to wrest control of Puerto Rico from the Spanish during that nation’s 400-plus year rule but were unsuccessful in doing so. It wasn’t until Spain gave up Puerto Rico to the United States in 1898, at the end of the Spanish-American War, that Spanish domination came to an end. Since 1898, the U.S. has handed over increasing autonomy to Puerto Rico, first granting American citizenship to its people in 1917, then the right to elect their own governor in 1948. At the request of the U.S., Puerto Rico adopted its own local territorial constitution in 1952 and has considered both complete independence as well as U.S. statehood on several occasions since then.

Puerto Rico’s Languages, Currency and Flag

Puerto Rico is officially bilingual, with Spanish and English being its two languages. Many citizens of Puerto Rico grow up learning to speak Spanish as well as English. In keeping with its status as a U.S. territory and a commonwealth, the official currency of Puerto Rico is the U.S. dollar, though residents typically refer to it as the peso or the “dolar,” which is Spanish for “dollar.”

The Caribbean territory’s flag consists of a blue triangle with a single large, white star placed on the left side and red and white horizontal stripes filling the remainder of the background on the right. Udemy offers many Spanish language courses and picking up at least a little Spanish speaking ability can help when traveling to Puerto Rico. The Udemy quick Spanish course can have you speaking the language today. If you already have some basic skills, you can check out Udemy’s conversational Spanish course, which will make it easier than ever to chat with the locals if you decide to take a trip to the country.

The Islands of Puerto Rico

Geographically classed as an archipelago or island chain, Puerto Rico’s large main island is also named Puerto Rico and is home to its capital San Juan. Other notable islands found within Puerto Rico are Vieques, Culebra and Mona. San Juan is home to 400,000 of Puerto Rico’s nearly 3.7 million citizens and is its largest population center, while Puerto Rico Island itself houses the majority of the population.

Economic Facts about Puerto Rico

1.  Puerto Ricans in general have a high standard of living relative to the rest of the world, at a per capita gross domestic product of about $26,000 annually as of 2014. The Caribbean island chain’s total GDP is nearly $98 billion.

2. The economy of Puerto Rico is multifaceted and benefits from a large amount of tourism as well as several other industries, including pharmaceuticals, technology and manufacturing.

3.  Puerto Rico exports a number of products such as tuna, electronics, medical equipment and rum. Like many island nations and territories, Puerto Rico imports a variety of commodities and goods that include oil, various foodstuffs and machinery.

4.  Though the U.S. is Puerto Rico’s main trading partner, the islands also engage in heavy trade with the United Kingdom and the Dominican Republic.

Interesting Tourist Facts about Puerto Rico

1.  Puerto Rican food is both tasty and spicy and is inspired by Spanish, American, African and British culinary influences.

2.  Puerto Ricans use many Taino-derived words to describe various food products and to name buildings as well as household products.

3.  In certain parts of Puerto Rico it isn’t unusual to hear a mix of Spanish and English, commonly called “Spanglish,” spoken by many people.

4.  Latin and Caribbean-inspired music abounds in Puerto Rico and is frequently heard during its many festivals and celebrations. Plena, bomba and trova as well as Meringue music and dancing are quite common.

5.  Puerto Rico also gained a healthy dose of Cuban-influenced culture when large numbers of Cubans fled to the island chain in the late-1960s to escape Fidel Castro’s takeover of their own country. Many traditional Cuban meals and other Cuban cultural hallmarks are now part of Puerto Rico’s own culture, in fact.

Puerto Rico’s Climate

Puerto Rico is located in the tropics and its rainy season normally runs from April through November. Tropical cyclones give to Puerto Rico about one-quarter of its total annual rainfall and summer temperatures rarely exceed the point where the climate becomes uncomfortably warm. Puerto Rico’s average year-round temperature is nearly 83 F, with a low of about 67 F and a high of about 86 F. Puerto Rico’s temperatures don’t fluctuate too much and a temperature swing between winter and summer months of only about 6 F is the norm.

The Caribbean island chain’s generally benign climate and status as a U.S. territory make travel to and from Puerto Rico easy for American tourists, as no visas or passports are required. San Juan’s international airport hosts many flights from the U.S. every day and from many large cities, including New York and Miami. Udemy offers many travel and tourism courses that include a very helpful course on safe travel abroad, such as to various Caribbean destinations. If you’ve decided that travel to Puerto Rico is for you, make Udemy’s travel and tourism courses your very first stop.