December 12, 2017

6 Things You May Not Know About Puerto Rico


Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend a luncheon here in Washington, DC given by the San Juan Marriott in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Since my family and I are flying to Puerto Rico for Spring Break in a few weeks, I was of course interested in learning more about the island. While I learned lots of fun facts about the rum, the frogs and the beaches, I also learned a few things you may not know about Puerto Rico, like…

You Can Use U.S. Dollars. Yes, no need to deal with currency exchange, they’ll take your U.S. dollars in Puerto Rico. This definitely takes the hassle out of getting local currency before a vacation, and then having to get back U.S. dollars (at a less favorable exchange rate) when you return home.

You Don’t Need a Passport. Since Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth of the United States you can travel freely to this beautiful island without a passport. Definitely makes last-minute trips a snap when you already have so many other planning details on your mind.

Puerto Rico is Home to Three of the World’s Bioluminescent Bays. There are seven “bio bays” around the world, and Puerto Rico is home to three of them. These bays glow with a bluish light (bright enough to read a book) when the microorganisms in the water are agitated at night. Three to check out are La Parguera (Lajas), La Laguna Grande (Fajardo) and Mosquito Bay (Vieques).

Puerto Rico is Home to the Only Tropical Rainforest in North America. In the entire U.S. National Forest Service, there is only one tropical rainforest, and it’s right in Puerto Rico. El Yunque is one hour from San Juan, and you and your kids will love hiking and the diversity of flora. Be sure to keep your eyes open for the coqui tree frog, the unofficial mascot of Puerto Rico.

You’ll Find the World’s Largest Single-Dish Radio Telescope Here. Did you ever see the movie Goldeneye or Contact? Well, at least a few scenes in each movie were shot at the Arecibo Observatory in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. More than 100,000 visitors stop in each year to enjoy interactive exhibits, audiovisual displays and to learn about basic astronomy.

Puerto Rico Was “Discovered” by Christopher Columbus. Shortly after discovering America, Christopher Columbus bumped into Puerto Rico on his second voyage, going ashore somewhere on the western shore of Puerto Rico. He and his men rested for a few days, then left the island. Puerto Rico was left unvisited by the Europeans for another 15 years.

I also learned a lot about the San Juan Marriott, and some of the fun offerings for families, like water slides in the hotel pools and the beach right on property. Every room has a refrigerator too, which is a bonus when you want to save money by keeping milk and juice boxes on hand for the kids. You can also take advantage of kite flying at the nearby El Morro fortress and shopping in El San Juan.

Photo Credit: George Oze  

Disclaimer:  My lunch was paid for by the San Juan Marriott, but the views and opinions expressed in this blog post are purely mine.


  1. Puerto Rico is a beatiful island.It’s full of great people, great places to see and great food among other things. I may be a little bias but please go see for yourself. Fyi, the US dollar is the only currency in the island so you couldn’t convert it to anything else because there is nothing to convert it to. There is plenty of places to go shopping as well and the island has most American brand stores available.

    • Erin Gifford says:

      Jen – Glad to hear you enjoyed the sights, the food and the people. Sounds like a perfect vacation spot. We can’t wait to go at the end of the month! 🙂

  2. Angelo Russo says:

    I recently visited Puerto Rico for a second time and I can reassure you I will visit for a third time. This island has so much diversity and so much to offer. It’s rich in history and the food is simply unique. San Juan, its capital city, is amazing, vibrant, cosmopolitan, a world-class city. The part called Old San Juan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Old San Juan is the Spanish Colonial zone of San Juan which boasts an abundance of shops, historic places, museums, open air cafés, restaurants, gracious homes, tree-shaded plazas, blocks of 16th and 17th-century buildings and blue cobblestone streets. The three forts that were built centuries ago are amazing! San Juan is like the Old World & the New World combined. In Old San Juan you find yourself in an old colonial zone dating back to the 1500’s and a short drive later you find yourself in modern San Juan, colorful, vibrant best known for its rich history, wide variety of cultural venues, beautiful sandy beaches, world-class restaurants, and unrivalled nightlife. But Puerto Rico is not all about San Juan. The El Yunque tropical rain forest, The Camuy Cave System, Vieques Island, Toro Verde Park, to mention a few, are attractions that must be experienced.So much to see & do that one trip is not enough. The Caribbean’s biggest shopping mall is also found in Puerto Rico. And for those who love surfing, Puerto Rico hosts international surfing competitions.

    • Erin Gifford says:

      WOW. This is great. Thanks so much, Angela, and so glad to hear you had such a great experience. I’m taking the kids the end of this month and cannot wait. Lots to do and explore, and so much more than beaches. Should be a fun experience! 🙂

  3. Monique says:


    I was born in this emerald island. I can tell you many hidden treasures about my island. i was born in Arecibo. I remember my dad taken me there to eat the best fried fish. Now i live in Massachusetts. i like living and working here too. i do miss my bright sunlight and the emeral water of the beaches. coming to puerto Rico is one of the best experiences one could have in their lives. Come to my island and walk in our hot sandy beaches. Come and visit the Old San Juan. just stop and drink a cold coconut water. Say hello to our friendly people. You be glad you did. Puerto rico does it better.

    • Erin Gifford says:

      Monique, thanks so much for taking the time to say some kind words about your beautiful island. I’m really excited to go with my family in a few weeks!

  4. Theresa de Mendonca says:

    I went to Puerto Rico with Gilbert Montanez of New Bedford, MA. We stood for 3 weeks this last summer of 2011. We saw Old San Juan, the Fortress and my very favorite El Yunque. We went to beaches and to outdoor eateries. I love the walmart in Carolina and we went to Humaco to visit The Lopez’s. I found their mailbox right away. It was a good time and would like to go again.

    • Erin Gifford says:

      Thanks, Theresa! We’re definitely going to El Yunque on our trip. Can’t wait. Puerto Rico looks so beautiful!

  5. Hi Erin–great tips on Puerto Rico. I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting PR yet but hope to soon. I had no idea about the bioluminescent bays…sounds incredible. I’ll look forward to hearing about your trip after you return!

  6. Puerto Rico is great place to visit and its good to do a little research on the place we are visiting. Thanks for the share! Its really informative, world’s largest single dish telescope is here is good to know.

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