Puerto Rico is a microcosm, encapsulating cultures from much bigger countries and from thousands of years ago. Go to Old San Juan and you see the Spanish influence, go to Loiza and you find the African heritage, and go to the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center in Ponce and you get a glimpse of the Taíno culture. Not surprisingly, this melange works delightfully well. Our music is world-famous (ever heard of “Despacito”?), our food makes Anthony Bourdain’s mouth water, and our enthusiastic and celebratory spirit is simply contagious. It’s hard to believe all that tropical goodness comes from an island that’s just 100 miles long by 35 miles wide. Not bad, Borinquen. Not bad at all.
This combination of Puerto Rico’s celebrated allure and its proximity to the United States places the island on a pedestal for those seeking an adventure without the constraints of traveling to a foreign country — here you can forget about those pesky roaming charges, currency exchanges, and language barriers. For many travelers, visiting Puerto Rico means continuing with business as usual. English is the official second language, the dollar is the local currency, and mobile carriers put the island inside the US’s coverage map. On top of that convenience, Puerto Rico has an impressive repertoire of tourist draws, like 500-year-old castles, Instagram-worthy beaches, and a party on every corner. Plus, you can always get off the tattered tourist trails and enjoy the island like the locals do.
Traveling like a local is no easy feat; you have to do the research or have some connections. But I’m a Puerto Rican travel writer and I have your back. This short guide will help you navigate outside of the usual routes and take you on a journey to Puerto Rico’s soul. Dance with the locals, eat like the locals, and travel like the locals. Go back home knowing you really discovered Puerto Rico. Here’s where to go and what to do!