Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island, east of the Dominican Republic, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. It is mostly mountains with coastal plain belt in north, mountains precipitous to sea on west coast, and sandy beaches along most coastal areas. The highest point is Cerro de Punta at 1,338 meters (4,390 feet). Environmental issues include erosion, and occasional drought causing water shortages.
Since Puerto Rico is a possession of the United States, internationally designated environmental and cultural protected areas are generally listed as American. There are two official Biosphere Reserves in Puerto Rica, Luquillo Experimental Forest and Guanica State Forest. Luquillo Experimental Forest is part of the Long Term Ecological Research Network, for the study of ecological issues spanning decades, such as climate change. Guanica State Forest is considered to be the best preserved example of subtropical dry forest in the Caribbean. The USDA Forest Service operates the International Institute of Tropical Forestry in Puerto Rico, which supports Caribbean Foresters throughout the region. The popular El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rainforest in the United States national forest system. Due to the particular history of Puerto Rico, the equivalent of state parks are known as “national parks”, and managed by Compañía de Parques Nacionales de Puerto Rico, and include beaches, caves, urban parks, the zoo, and campgrounds. The Puerto Rican department of natural and environmental resources, DRNA (Departamento de Recursos Naturales y Ambientales), also operates a number of campgrounds. Caja de Muertos is an uninhabited island and protected turtle reserve, popular with day hikers and beachgoers, which can be reached by ferry from Ponce.
There are five designated United States National Park Service “National Natural Landmarks” in Puerto Rico, including Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge, Mona and Monita islands, and Puerto Mosquito. Located on the offshore island of Vieques, Puerto Mosquito is considered the best example of a bioluminescent bay in the U.S. Kayaking is permitted in the bay and may be arranged through local vendors, such as Island Adventures Biobay Eco-tours. East of Luquillo, there is another bioluminescent lagoon in Fajardo, with kayak tours operated by Eco Adventures, Kayaking Puerto Rico, Las Tortugas Adventures and Yokahú Kayak Trips. The whale watching season in Puerto Rico is between December and March and reaches its peak in February. With facilities in Bayamon and Manati, the Puerto Rico manatee conservation center, Centro de Conservación de Manatíes de Puerto Rico, operates a manatee (sea cow) rehabilitation project that accepts visitors by reservation. In Rincon, the historic lighthouse, Punta Higuero Light (Faro de Punta Higuero), is supposed to be one of the best vantage points for watching whales.
The Puerto Rican chapter of the Sierra Club has been particularly effective organizing a local coalition for the protection of the Northeast Ecological Corridor on the northeast coast, between Luquillo and Fajardo, critical nesting habitat for the endangered Leatherback seaturtle. The Puerto Rico Sierra Club also supports the annual seaturtle festival, Festival del Tinglar, every April in Luquillo. CORALations is a Puerto Rican NGO working to conserve healthy coral reefs through the establishment of “no-take” marine fishery reserves.
The El Yunque Rainforest Inn is conveniently nestled into the north side of El Yunque National Forest. Casa Cubuy Ecolodge is a family run bed and breakfast near the south entrance to El Yunque. Casa Picaflores is a rainforest ecolodge on the southeastern side of El Yunque National Forest. To the east of El Yunque is the Ceiba Country Inn bed and breakfast. Paradise Wellness is Chef Skai‘s a raw food retreat center in Luquillo. Casa del Mundo is a seasonal ecolodge on the Finca Guaraguao organic farm in the hills above Ponce, run by the husband and wife duo, Taino. The Bamboo Treehouse is an eco-resort in Rincon, pioneering the innovative “bamboo hooch”. Govardhan Gardens is Sadhu Govardhan’s organic farm is near Mayaguez, and does accommodate committed volunteers. For true eco adventurers, there is Rincon artist Magha Garcia’s permaculture project, Pachamama Forest Garden. Inland near Las Marias is the vegan guesthouse, Maravilla Mountain Inn.
The Ruta Panorámica is a self-guided 269 kilometer (167 mile) scenic route along secondary roads traversing the Cordillera Central, between Mayagüez and Maunabo. The San Juan company, Encantos Ecotours specializes in sailing dreams, sea rafting and kayaking adventures. Enchanted Island Eco Tours are a husband and wife team based in Fajardo. From their base in Fajardo, Eco Action Tours offer all kinds of nature tours. Puerto Rico Birding Trips is guide Julio Salgado’s bird watching tours.
One of the most popular natural attractions in Puerto Rico is the Camuy River Cave Park. The Río Camuy is the third largest underground river in the world, and has one of the largest cave systems in the western hemisphere. San Juan outfitter Aventuras Tierra Adentro specializes in caving adventures in the Río Camuy cave system. There is another, privately owned tourist cave near Utuado, called Cueva Ventana. The web portal Ziplinerider lists many Puerto Rico zip lines available. Yunke Zipline Adventure offers panoramic zip line adventure in the rainforest of the Sierra de Luquillo. Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park is supposed to have the world’s highest zip line in Orocovis, at the center of Puerto Rico.
Surfing Puerto Rico is an online guide to surfing Puerto Rico’s west coast. Kitesurf Puerto Rico is a kitesurfing school and shop located at Punta las Marias beach, in San Juan. Kiteboarding Puerto Rico is a school and shop also in Punta las Marias. 15 Knots is another kiteboarding school and shop in San Juan. The offshore islands of Vieques (aka Isla Nena) and Culebra, half way to the Virgin Islands, are preferred for scuba diving, for instance see Isla Nena Scuba and Culebra Divers. The Puerto Rican web portal Travel and Sports has an extensive listing of outdoor sports companies.
- Luquillo (Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico), 1976
- Guanica (Guanica State Forest, Puerto Rico), 1981
Puerto Rico was claimed by the Spanish Crown in 1493 following Columbus’ second voyage. In 1898, Puerto Rico was ceded to the US as a result of the Spanish-American War. Puerto Ricans were granted US citizenship in 1917. Popularly-elected governors have served since 1948. In 1952, a constitution was enacted providing for internal self government. In plebiscites held in 1967, 1993, and 1998, voters chose to retain commonwealth status; however, the independence movement in Puerto Rico has a long history. Puerto Rico has an exceptionally high level of violent crime, and has become a center for drug trafficking. (See Wikipedia Illegal drugs in Puerto Rico.)
There are a number of significant native American archaeological sites left on the island. In Ponce, the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center (Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Tibes) is the oldest native ceremonial and sports complex in Puerto Rico, as well as the largest indigenous cemetery. In Utuado, the Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Center (Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Caguana) consists of about thirty 700 year old, restored ball courts. In Arecibo, at the Cueva del Indio, there are Taino indian petroglyphs.
The institute of Puerto Rican culture, Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, is the government agency for cultural policy over arts, archaeology, museums, parks, monuments, historic zones, music, theater, dance, and the Archives and National Library. In particular, the music of Puerto Rico has become widely known. In Ponce, there is a museum of Puerto Rican music, Museo de la Música Puertorriqueña.
The Arecibo Observatory (aka National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center) radio telescope is undoubtedly one of the icons of built culture in Puerto Rico. In terms of built culture, people rave about the Hotel El Convento in San Juan. In Ponce, there is also the Buena Vista plantation, Hacienda Buena Vista, a preserved example of the island’s historic coffee culture.
The living culture of Old San Juan organic farmers market, Mercado Agrícola Natural, should not be missed. Foodie walking tours of Old San Juan are provided by Flavors of San Juan. There is a San Juan International Hostel available for budget accommodation. Ferry service between San Juan and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, is available on America Cruise Ferries. Sightseeing flights, adventure journeys and resort transfers are available in San Juan from Seaplanes In Paradise.
ICCROM Puerto Rico:
- Governing Tourism: Representation, Domination and Freedom in Puerto Rico: 1949 by R Rosa, 2012
- Implementation of a sustainable business cycle: the case of a tourism project in Puerto Rico by MM Santos, 2012
- Long-Term Impacts of Non-Sustainable Tourism and Urban Development in Small Tropical Islands Coastal Habitats in a Changing Climate: Lessons Learned from Puerto Rico by EA Hernández-Delgado & CE Ramos-Scharrón, 2012
- Water As A Focus For Ecotourism In The Karst Of Northern Puerto Rico by AB HALL, 2011
- Testing the empirical link between tourism and competitiveness: evidence from Puerto Rico by R Croes, MA Rivera, 2010
- A preliminary study of the value of the coastal tourism in Rincón, Puerto Rico by LH Pendleton, 2002
- Business as Pleasure: Culture, Tourism, and Nation in Puerto Rico in the 1930s by R Rosa, 2001
- La Parguera, Puerto Rico: Balancing Tourism Conservation and Resource Management by GH Krausse, 1994
- Tourism in Puerto Rico by N Melendez, 1990
- Tourism and the economy of Puerto Rico: an input-output approach by AL Ruíz, 1985
- The demand for tourism to Puerto Rico by JD Erden, SA Wandner, 1982
- Demand for international tourism and the economic development of Puerto Rico by JJ McMahon, 1973
- Puerto Rico And Tourism: The Struggle for Cultural Autonomy among Developing Nations: The Case of Puerto Rico and Its Tourist Industry by RC Mings, 1968
- Puerto Rico’s planned development of tourism by BR Carpenter, 1964