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Puerto Rico

Main attractions

El Morro - fortress of San Juan, Puerto Rico
El Morro - the old fortress of San Juan / blucolt, / CC BY 2.0

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States.

This large island (with several adjoining smaller islands) is rich both with interesting natural and man made landmarks. Highlights are:

  • Old San Juan and buildings in it - one of the oldest European cities in Americas. There are few cities even in Europe that rich with amazing Renaissance and Baroque architecture, with charming cobblestone streets and - none have the blue Caribbean sea as a backdrop.
  • Taíno heritage - in Puerto Rico are located some of the most impressive landmarks left by Taíno people, including the impressive Caguana and Tibes ceremonial centres and numerous petroglyph sites.
  • Ecosystems - on Puerto Rico are found several unique ecosystems, with multiple endemic species of plants and animals. Amazing are the bioluminescent bays - secluded sea bays with clean water, suitable for specific species of dynoflagellates which emit blue light when disturbed.

Natural landmarks

One of entrances in Camuy cave system, Puerto Rico
One of entrances in Camuy cave system / Jason Sturner, / CC BY 2.0

Caves and sinkholes

  • Camuy cave system - Camuy, Hatillo and Lares. Giant cave system with 17 entrances, not mapped yet. Not all caves are connected - currently system consists of some 220 caves with total length in excess of 15 km. Clara Cave contains 212 m long and up to 65 m high chamber. Rio Camuy is one of largest underground rivers in the world.
  • Cueva del Indio, Arecibo - Arecibo. This cave contains numerous Taíno petroglyphs - it was used for tribal meetings. Natural arches.
  • Cuevas de la Mora - Comerio. Cave system, former ceremonial centre of local people. Adorned with numerous petroglyphs - owls, heads, monkeys, turtles.
  • Cueva Ventana - Arecibo. Cave with picturesque sight from its entrance.
  • El Lado del Faro cave system - Mona island. Cave system with Taíno petroglyphs. Mona island is very rich with caves and many have Taíno petroglyphs.
  • Rio Encantado Cave system - Ciales. 21 km long and up to 344 m deep cave system with underground river - Rio Encantado.
  • Tanama River Cave - Lares. Natural arch - 300 m long and 40 m wide tunnel with Tanama river flowing through it.
  • Tri-Towns Sinkhole (Sumidero Tres Pueblos) - Camuy, Hatillo and Lares. Interesting sinkhole, some 120 m deep and 195 m wide. Camuy River flows through it, sinkhole is part of Camuy cave system.
El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico
El Yunque National Forest / Jeff Gunn, / CC BY 2.0

Ecosystems

  • Bioluminescent Bay (Mosquito Bay) - Vieques island. One of the most spectacular bioluminescence sites in the world. The bluish glow is caused by dynoflagellates which feed on the leaves of red mangrove trees.
  • Elaphoglossum serpens find on Cerro de Punta - the only find of this species of fern, found in one location of Cerro de Punta. Only 22 specimens are known, they grow on trees in one of the few cloud forests of Puerto Rico.
  • El Yunque National Forest - the only tropical rainforest in Puerto Rico. Beautiful area, where mountains raise up to 1,065 m. Rich with species of plants and animals, contains 23 species which are not found anywhere else in the world. Contains unique dwarf forest.
  • Guánica State Forest - peninsula in south-west of Puerto Rico. The best preserved subtropical dry forest in Caribbean. Although species diversity here is comparatively low, here are many rare species of plants. 16 species of plants are met only in this forest, also Puerto Rican Nightjar is found only here.
  • Mona Island ecosystem - Mona island. Small, isolated island which is surrounded by steep limestone cliffs. Well preserved ecosystem with endemic species of animals and plants, including the 1.2 m long Mona Ground Iguana (Cyclura cornuta stejnegeri) and six other species of reptiles. Sometimes this island is named "Galapagos of Caribbean".
La Mina Falls, Puerto Rico
La Mina Falls / Yinghai, / CC BY 2.0

Other natural landmarks

  • Chorro de Doña Juana - Villalba. Beautiful waterfall with three cascades, approximately 30 m tall.
  • La Mina Falls - El Yunque National Forest. Beautiful, some 12 m tall waterfall.
  • Salto Neblina - Barranquitas. More than 150 m tall waterfall, possibly the tallest in Puerto Rico.
  • San Cristobal Canyon - Barranquitas. Beautiful, some 200 m deep canyon, approximately 9 km long. Several waterfalls, including the magnificent Salto Neblina.
  • Villalba ceiba tree - Villalba. Enormous ceiba tree, circumference - 19.8 m.

Man made landmarks

Petroglyphs in Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Center, Puerto Rico
Petroglyphs in Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Center / Angel Luis Gonzalez-Bonilla, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Archaeological monuments

  • Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Center - Utuado. Important archaeological monument with 10 ceremonial ballcourts, petroglyphs and other values. Site was developed and in use approximately at 1200 - 1500 AD.
  • Cueva del Indio, Las Piedras - Las Piedras. These niches between the stones and its vicinities contain more then 200 Taíno petroglyphs. Contains an enclosure flanked with standing stones which also are adorned with petroglyphs.
  • El Hombre de Puerto Ferro - Vieques island. Site of prehistoric burial from sometimes around 1900 BC, belonging to Ortoiroid culture. Skeleton is buried among a setting of large boulders with rows of smaller boulders radiating outwards.
  • Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center - Ponce. Unique archaeological monument - ceremonial, sports center and cemetery of Taíno and Igneri people, inhabited sometimes around 400 - 1000 AD. It is possible that it served as astronomical observatory. Contains large stone constructions, alignments, ballparks, burials.
Street in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Street in Old San Juan / cogito ergo imago, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Historical cities

  • Old San Juan - San Juan. Oldest European settlement in Puerto Rico, historical quarter of San Juan. Cobblestone streets here are lined with historical buildings, many from the 16th and 17th century. City walls preserved.
  • Ponce Historic Zone - Ponce. Beautiful historical city quarters with ornate architecture from the late 19th and the early 20th centuries.
  • San Germán Historic District - San Germán. Historical quarters of the second oldest city in Puerto Rico, established in the early 16th century. Contains more than 100 historical buildings.

Fortifications

  • Castillo de San Cristóbal - San Juan. Largest Spanish built fortification in Americas, built in 1625 - 1783.
  • Castillo San Felipe del Morro - San Juan. Impressive fort. Construction was started by Spanish in 1539 and lasted for some 400 years. Outer walls are up to 6 m thick and up to 44 m high.
San Blas de Illescas of Coamo church, Puerto Rico
San Blas de Illescas of Coamo church / Mdavidjr, / public domain

Churches

  • Cathedral of San Juan Bautista - San Juan. One of the oldest churches in Americas, first wooden church built here in 1521. Current structure built in the 17th century. Explorer Juan Ponce de León is buried here.
  • Porta Coeli - San Germán. Old convent, constructed in 1609 by Dominicans. Reconstructed in the 18th century, when church was added. Contains a collection of religious paintings and wood carvings.
  • San Blas de Illescas of Coamo church - Coamo. Beautiful church in Baroque style, construction started in 1661, reconstructed in 1784.
  • San Francisco de Asís church in Aguada - Aguada. Enormous church in Art Deco style, built in 1924 - 1936. Beautiful stained glass.
  • San José Church - San Juan. Church in Late Gothic style, built in 1532 - 1735 by Dominicans. One of the oldest European built structures in Puerto Rico, one of the few structures in New World with distinct details of Gothic architecture.

Office buildings

  • Capitol of Puerto Rico - San Juan. Ornate, large building which houses the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico. Built in 1929 in Neo-Classicism style.
  • La Fortaleza (Palacio de Santa Catalina) - San Juan. Castle, oldest European governor's mansion in Americas, built in 1533 - 1540. Governor of Puerto Rico is located here up to this day.
  • Parque de Bombas - Ponce. Amazing firehouse building, landmark structure in Ponce city. This ornate wooden house was built in 1882 and painted in red and black.
  • United States Customs House in Mayagüez - Mayagüez. Beautiful building, constructed in Neo-Classicism and Neo-Renaissance styles in 1838.
Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico
Arecibo Observatory / Jason Sturner, / CC BY 2.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Arecibo Observatory - Arecibo. Site with the world's largest single-aperture telescope, visually very impressive structure. Diameter of the main collecting dish is 305 m - it is constructed, using a natural depression - sinkhole. Constructed in 1960 - 1963.
  • Casa Wiechers-Villaronga - Ponce. Beautiful city residence, built in Neo-Classicism style in 1912. Today here is housed Puerto Rican Museum of Architecture.
  • Hacienda Buena Vista - Ponce. One of the best preserved historical coffee plantations in Caribbean. Manor house built in 1833 in Spanish Colonial style. Preserved historical machinery.

List of described attractions

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States.

ArrowCathedral of San Juan BautistaChurches

Map of Puerto Rico

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