The Caribbean island of Puerto Rico in a recent referendum has voted in favour of becoming America’s 51st state. It was almost a reality had a group of US senators not blocked it.
Puerto Rico boasts more than 300 days of annual sunshine and 300 miles of coastline with more than 120 flights a week on 20 airlines to San Juan, its capital city.
It’s the fourth biggest Caribbean island behind Cuba, Hispaniola, and Jamaica. The country is comprised of the main island of Puerto Rico along with smaller islands off the coast boasting some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. US dollars are the local currency and Americans don’t have to show passports to enter, further encouraging US mainland tourism.
Puerto Rico was originally home to the indigenous Taino people. Ancient Taino rock carvings are to be found at La Cueva del Indio in Arecibo. Puerto Rico (translated from Spanish to mean ‘Rich Port’) was ruled by Spain for 400 years after the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1493. The country was acquired by the United States after the 1898 Spanish-American War, and Puerto Ricans have been considered US citizens for over 100 years.
PIÑA COLADA, PLEASE
Piña colada is the official drink of Puerto Rico
Although disputed, this classic cocktail was reportedly invented by bartender Ramon Marrero in San Juan’s Caribe Hilton in 1954.
Whatever its history, in 1978 the pina colada was declared the official drink of Puerto Rico – and it’s available just about everywhere.
The government of Puerto Rico officially recognizes 248 beaches, 44 of which have coastlines.
Often ranked among the world’s top beaches, Playa Flamenco on Culebra Island is best enjoyed on a day trip by boat (sailgetaway.com).
Along with pristine white sand and calm, shallow waters, it is notable for two rusty tanks dating from when the US Navy used the island for target practice between 1936 and 1975.
STREET ART AND SALSA
With a heritage encompassing Taino, Spanish, African and American traditions, Puerto Ricans call themselves Boricua – the word embracing the island’s art, music, dances and culture.
Art is abundant and visible throughout the island. From graffiti murals in the Santurce neighborhood of San Juan to the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (mapr.org). Puerto Rico is also responsible for reggaeton a blend of reggae, Latin American tunes, and hip-hop and for Salsa.
LIGHT UP THE NIGHT
Three of the world’s five bioluminescent bays are in Puerto Rico. This occurs due to the concentration of millions of microscopic sea organisms called dinoflagellates emitting a beautiful blue-green light. Join one of the evening kayak tours to see them at Laguna Grande, Mosquito Bay or La Parguera. Most tours won’t go out on nights with a full-moon, the darker the more pronounced the bioluminescent effect.
Toro Verde Adventure Park, in the Central Mountain Range, is home to an adrenaline-pumping zipline known as The Monster. Soar for a mile and a half over the hilltops of Orocovis while reaching speeds of 95mph (toroverdepr.com).
El Yunque has some superb hiking trails where, along the way, you may spot giant tree snails, Puerto Rican parrots and tiny coquis frogs (which make a sound like birdsong). Stop off for a refreshing dip in natural pools and shower under waterfalls (fs.usda.gov/elyunque).
Whatever warm adventure you are seeking, you are likely to find it on La Isla Del Encanto!