Puerto Rico may resemble an international travel destination for Americans, but in fact, in this article, you will learn 4 great reasons why Puerto Rico is an easy destination for U.S. families. Not only does it offer the benefits of a Caribbean getaway, but it does so with many of the comforts of home. Often known as a cruise ship destination, Puerto Rico has far more to offer than what you and your loved ones can see in one day. With impressive beaches, an expansive rainforest, chic and classic architecture and much more, this article will showcase why a one week stay to visit Puerto Rico will fit your family’s need for relaxation, adventure, and ease.
U.S. Citizens Do Not Need a Passport or Visa to Visit Puerto Rico
Consider the benefits of traveling to a Caribbean location, without the hassle of international immigration into another country and upon return to the United States. If you are a U.S. Citizen or legal, permanent resident, you do not need a passport to travel to visit Puerto Rico. Traveling to Puerto Rico requires the same proof of identification as traveling within and to another U.S. state. (However, Puerto Rico is not considered a state in the United States. It is currently categorized as an unincorporated territory of the United States). But, as a territory of the United States, you do not need a visa to visa or passport to visit.
What do you need? Similar to traveling within the United States, you will need proof of identification for travelers age 18 years of age or older. That includes a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another acceptable form of ID to fly within the United States. To learn more, visit the Transportation Security Administration. This change is effective on October 1, 2020.
Puerto Rico has Many Features and Comforts that Remind You of the United States
Puerto Rico is one of the larger islands located in the Caribbean, making it a closer destination for many travelers on the east or southeast regions of the United States. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory but not connected to the United States mainland. Arriving in Puerto Rico, you may feel like you are visiting another country. But, you will find many familiar brands, restaurants, and shopping centers. Here are some of the familiar things you will find in Puerto Rico:
- You use United States currency (dollars and cents) and items are priced in U.S. Dollars. You do not need to go through currency exchange if you bring U.S. Dollars.
- Calling the United States from Puerto Rico is a domestic U.S. call. No special phone plan required.
- Calling a Puerto Rican phone number from your U.S. mobile phone number is also considered a domestic U.S. call.
- You will find familiar local chains, like McDonald’s, Burger King, Walgreens, TJ Maxx, and even Ponderosa.
- If you find you need to ship items, you pay the domestic (not international rate) for shipping, similar to within the continental United States.
- The speed limit for driving uses miles per hour. But, note that the road signs for distance use kilometers.
Insider Tip: When using a rental car, you may have to refill the gasoline. If so, note that the gas stations in Puerto Rico use liters, not gallons.
One-of-a-Kind Places to Visit Puerto Rico
Getting a much-needed dose of Vitamin D is likely on your top list of reasons to visit Puerto Rico. There are so many activities that will help you do just that. Consider these one of a kind, unique destinations, only found in Puerto Rico.
- Tour Castillo de San Cristóbal. This amazing place boasts Fort El Morro. For a small entrance fee that supports the National Park Service, enjoy a leisurely stroll through El Morro. (For those that want to explore more, there are several, narrow steps that take you to the lower section). You will enjoy great sea views and panoramic views of the coastline, as the Fort was designed to protect the city from attacks by sea. Pack a kite ahead of time and bring your kite to fly in the green space that surrounds the Fort. This huge open space gets the right wind to fly kites almost year-round. To see more details ahead of your visit, the National Park Service has a “virtual tour” on its website, with 360° images of inside and around the fort.
- Panorama Platform. A 3 min walk from the Fort brings you to the Panorama Platform. To reach the Panorama Platform, you will have to walk from the Castle area of Fort El Morro, and head East to follow the Paseo del Morro trail, a paved sidewalk with the guardrail. As you walk the sidewalk, you will have a view of the La Perla neighborhood and an expansive view of the coast.
- Walk the sidewalks of Old San Juan. Within walking distance of the Fort, you can continue your walk through the pastel-colored buildings and streets of Old San Juan. Many old churches, museums, and street activities can be found here. Some older buildings have been transformed into local coffee restaurants, ice cream parlors, cigar shops, and souvenirs vendors. For a more formal experience, consider taking a walking tour of the city with a knowledgeable local guide. Walking inland, follow the path towards Plaza San José, where you will find plenty of benches under shady trees. It’s known for a nice spot when you find yourself needed a small break while strolling around Old San Juan. It’s a great spot to people watch. Keep an eye out for iguanas on the rocks. They are quiet and still but often share the rocks in the park for some shade, too.
- Hike El Yunque National Forest. As the one and only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System, this destination is one of the favorites of many people who visit Puerto. Many people find that most of the trails are accessible by car, giving accessibility to all ages. Upon entering, you can pick up a trail map and drive to designated parking spots. Trails are labeled based upon the level of effort and length of the hike. They vary from a five-minute trail to a more challenging 2-hour walk each way. Parking is also labeled on the map. Two of the easiest trails that offer amazing views are the Yokahu Tower, and the Juan Diego Creek and natural pool. On the way up or back down, you have the option to park and stop at two different natural waterfalls.
Insider Tip: Look up paid parking garages before you travel to Old San Juan or El Morro. These provide the most secure place to park as well as avoid potential parking tickets in city permit designated areas. Most parking garages offer a reasonable hourly rate fee for parking.
Insider Tip: You can download PDF maps to your smartphone, ahead of time, to have pre-downloaded trail guides. You can find this online at the United States Department of Agriculture.
Read More: The Best of Puerto Rico in 4 Days
Many People Speak English and Most Signs are in English and Spanish
When you visit Puerto Rico, you will experience that many Puerto Ricans speak English and most signs are in both English and Spanish. English is taught in most elementary school children in Puerto Rican public schools. Spanish does remain the primary language in Puerto Rico, but many people are bilingual. But, if you or your family speak little or no Spanish, you will not have to worry about language barriers in San Juan or the old San Juan areas. Using common Spanish greetings such as Hola (Hello), Como está (How are you?), Por favór (Please) and Grácias (Thank you) will be appreciated.
Most hotels have bilingual speakers to help you out if you are uncomfortable with speaking Spanish. But, note that vacation rental owners and contacts may not. If you choose to use a vacation rental for your stay, check the details of the reservation ahead of time. Many rentals list languages spoken on their postings and the reviews may include references to English speaking hosts.
Insider Tip: Consider downloading a translator app to your smartphone, such as Google Translate. Many people are willing to communicate using a translation app.
In conclusion, here are 4 reasons why you and your family should visit Puerto Rico. With many familiar comforts of the U.S. mainland, a trip to Puerto Rico combines the spirit of a Caribbean adventure with the ease of currency and phone networks, as well as not requiring a passport or visa. When planning your next vacation, consider taking a trip to visit Puerto Rico. It’s fun in the sun, new places to discover, and a whole lot of memories to store for a lifetime!
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