Cruising around Puerto Rico


Populated for centuries by aboriginal peoples, the island was claimed by the Spanish Crown in 1493 following Columbus' second voyage to the Americas. In 1898, after 400 years of colonial rule that saw the indigenous population nearly exterminated and African slave labor introduced, Puerto Rico was ceded to the US as a result of the Spanish-American War.

Puerto Ricans were granted US citizenship in 1917. Popularly-elected governors have served since 1948. In 1952, a constitution was enacted providing for internal self government. In plebiscites held in 1967, 1993, and 1998, voters chose not to alter the existing political status.


Location: Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of the Dominican Republic
Geographic coordinates: 18 15 N, 66 30 W
Map references: Central America and the Caribbean
Area: total: 13,790 sq km
Land: 8,870 sq km
Water: 4,921 sq km


501 km

Maritime claims

Territorial sea: 12 nm
Exclusive economic zone: 200 nm


Tropical marine, mild; little seasonal temperature variation


Mostly mountains with coastal plain belt in north; mountains precipitous to sea on west coast; sandy beaches along most coastal areas

Elevation extremes

Lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
Highest point: Cerro de Punta 1,339 m


Puerto Rico has one of the most dynamic economies in the Caribbean region. A diverse industrial sector has far surpassed agriculture as the primary locus of economic activity and income. Encouraged by duty-free access to the US and by tax incentives, US firms have invested heavily in Puerto Rico since the 1950s.

US minimum wage laws apply. Sugar production has lost out to dairy production and other livestock products as the main source of income in the agricultural sector. Tourism has traditionally been an important source of income, with estimated arrivals of nearly 5 million tourists in 2004. Growth fell off in 2001-03, largely due to the slowdown in the US economy, and has recovered in 2004-2005.


Airports: 30 (2005)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 17
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 13
Railways: total: 96 km
Roadways: total: 25,645 km

Merchant marine

Total: 2 ships (1000 GRT or over) 45,662 GRT/32,223 DWT
By type: roll on/roll off 2
Foreign-owned: 2 (US 2)
Registered in other countries: 1 (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1) (2005)

Ports and terminals

Las Mareas, Mayaguez, San Juan 

Other Sailing Destinations in the Region

Anguilla - Antigua and Barbuda - Aruba - Bahamas - Barbados - British Virgin Islands - Cayman Islands - Cuba - Dominica - Dominican Republic - Grenada - Guadeloupe - Haiti - Jamaica - St. Kitts and Nevis - St. Lucia - Martinique - Montserrat - Netherlands Antilles - Puerto Rico - Trinidad and Tobago - Turks and Caicos - St. Vincent and the Grenadines - Virgin Islands (USA)

Further Reading

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