Beach at Culebra Island, Puerto Rico © Hmalaret
Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island with a difference. It has the
pristine beaches, tropical climate, crystal-blue sea and coconut
palms characteristic of its counterparts; but along with its
unmistakable Spanish colonial heritage, the island today is also
part of the United States Commonwealth, meaning it has a
first-world infrastructure mixed in with its traditional Latin
American culture. Hamburgers are as endemic as island dishes like
sancocho, and freeways connect shantytowns to strips of
high-rise beachfront hotels.
Exploring Puerto Rico, both around its coast and throughout its interior, is a delight. Roads are excellent and there are numerous interesting attractions and unrivalled experiences, from the world's largest radio telescope to the magical experience of swimming at night amongst tiny phosphorescent creatures on the offshore island of Vieques.
Historically Puerto Rico, like many other Caribbean islands, was originally inhabited by Taino Indians until the arrival of Christopher Columbus and the instigation of Spanish rule and settlement. The island's capital and larger towns have preserved their Spanish heritage as 'old quarter' tourist attractions, full of charm and interest. Puerto Rico is a hybrid of old and new which makes it an intriguing cultural destination, rather than just another tropical island paradise.