Puerto Rico is an archipelago consisting of the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands. With these 77 interesting facts about Puerto Rico, let’s learn about its history, culture, people, beaches, wildlife, trade, economy, caves, food, flag and more.
Historical facts about Puerto Rico
1. The name Puerto Rico (rich port) is derived from the abundant gold that the initial Spanish settlers found on the island.
“Puerto Rico is also home to the largest living reptile in the world – the leatherback sea turtle.”
2. Slaves were imported from Africa to help with the production of cattle, sugar cane, coffee and tobacco on the island.
3. Two-thirds of the island was a U.S. naval base for almost 60 years. The navy used the area extensively for bombing and military-training purposes. However, after the accidental death of a civilian, the area was abandoned as a Navy base and eventually became a wildlife reserve.
4. Puerto Rico was one of Spain’s last two colonies in the New World (the other being Cuba).
5. Discovered by Columbus: Puerto Rico was first discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, and several invasion attempts were made by the French, Dutch, and British. During his journey, he stayed on the island for two days.
6. Before discovery: It is notable here that Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492, one year before discovering Puerto Rico. Before his arrival, the archipelago was inhabited by Taíno Indians, who called it ‘Borinquen.’
7. Christopher Columbus named the island “San Juan Bautista” for St. John the Baptist.
8. Did you know that at one time, the U.S. planned to purchase Puerto Rico for a sum of $160 million? However, Spain refused (Puerto Rico was under Spanish treaty at the time).
9. During the Spanish-American War, U.S. acquired Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines under the treaty of Paris. The cost of the treaty to the U.S. was $20,000,000.
10. One particularly interesting stat to note is that the country’s population grew from 155,428 in 1800 to nearly one million in the 19th century.
11. Change of name: The island’s name was changed to “Porto Rico” in 1898 by the U.S. However, it was changed back to “Puerto Rico” in 1931.
Puerto Rico is unique for: pharmaceuticals, giant telescope, blue sand beaches, cave system and Bacardi rum
12. Barceloneta in Puerto Rico has the biggest pharmaceutical complex in the world (14 industries). Wondering why? The water in Barceloneta is so pure that it requires very little treatment for use in the manufacture of pharmaceutical products.
13. Barceloneta is also known as the “pineapple city” because of its extensive pineapple plantations.
14. If you want to visit the island, also be aware that Barceloneta is famous for its blue sand beaches. Now why the color blue? It is due to the high iron content in the sand, which gives it its blue color.
15. A giant telescope: For those who love to explore the skies and are interested in astronomy, note that Puerto Rico is also home to the largest single-aperture telescope ever constructed – “the Arecibo Observatory.” It has 40,000 aluminum panels, each measuring three feet by six feet. The telescope has been featured in some Hollywood movies, including GoldenEye, a popular installment in the “James Bond” film series.
16. Sight seeing – Cave system: The river gives existence to a beautiful and magnificent cave system known the world over – Camuy. The system features more 10 miles of caverns, 220 caves and 17 entrances. Experts believe that there are still another 800 caves that are yet to be explored. Today, a 268-acre park is built around the cave system, providing tourists insights into some of the best natural locations in the country.
17. Unique frog: A frog from the island, “Coqui,” is found only in Puerto Rico. It produces a distinct, high-pitched sound – “ko-kee, ko-kee” – especially at night. The frog is also the unofficial national symbol of the country. Sadly, it is a threatened species now.
18. Forest without snakes and bears: Puerto Rico also has the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. Forest System – El Yunque. And you may be surprised to learn that this forest is free from snakes, bears and threatening animals of any kind!
19. A barkless dog: Interestingly, Puerto Rico is void of any naturally existing land mammals. Present-day mammals including horses, cattle, cats, and dogs, have all been introduced to the island from elsewhere. A barkless dog once existed on the island, but it is extinct today.
20. Holiday shoppers beware: the “Plaza Las Americas” mall in San Juan is one of the the most profitable malls per square foot in the world.