Lay of the Land
A four-lane highway connects the towns of Greater San Juan, located on the north coast. This is also where most of the island’s five-star resorts dot the sliver of land facing the Atlantic. In Old San Juan, two enormous colonial Spanish forts and other historical sights line blue-cobblestoned streets.
The specific neighborhoods within greater San Juan are acutely defined by their historical roots or by a growing collection of businesses and creative outlets with a shared esoteric specialty claiming a particular area. Santurce, with the group of influential galleries and design showrooms popping up, is an example.
Three bridges connect historical Old San Juan to an affluent residential area called Condado. The high-rise apartment buildings, luxury shopping and trendy restaurants of Condado curl around a lagoon of the same name, creating a strong resemblance to downtown Miami‘s South Beach. Santurce sits just below Condado.
The eastern region centers around El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest on U.S. soil, and stretches further east to Vieques and Culebra (eight and 12 miles off the island’s east coast, respectively). Fajardo—famous for its lagoon filled with tiny bioluminescent marine life – is the departure point for the ferry to Vieques.
Visitors staying in the north region should fly into San Juan’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (SJU). Those heading to the west side of Puerto Rico should fly into Aguadilla’s airport (BQN). There are fewer direct flights to this smaller airport, but it is only about 20 miles north of Rincón and 15 miles west of Isabela.
The ideal first choice for transportation is a helicopter, but for the most part, the best way to get around Puerto Rico is by car. Traffic is a significant influence and should always be factored in when estimating travel times. Those staying in a resort located within an hour’s drive of San Juan and who don’t have plans to leave the property can rely on taxis and hotel transfers. Renting a car is recommended for visitors staying anywhere in the island’s western region. Though the Horned Dorset hotel offers a complimentary shuttle to town, anyone interested in surfing or sampling outside cuisine will want the freedom of having a car.
- Currency: USD
- Language: Even though Spanish is the official language, English is widely spoken.
- Time Zone: EST, but Puerto Rico does not observe daylight savings time, which means that for half of the year, there is a time difference of one hour.
- Calling Codes: Since it is a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico has the same calling system and calling to the island and once on the island is the same as it is on the mainland. Most cellphone carriers however consider Puerto Rico another country, so be sure to check your plan to avoid international charges.