The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, also known as Borinquen, is located in the northern Caribbean. Originally ceded to the United States at the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, it is now an “unincorporated territory” of the U.S. Puerto Rico is an archipelago, consisting of the main island of Puerto Rico and a group of smaller islands, including Caja de las Muertos, Vieques and Culebra. San Juan is the capital and largest city on the island of Puerto Rico, and home to many historical sites and tourist attractions. The official languages of Puerto Rico are English and Spanish, but Spanish is the dominant language spoken throughout the country. To learn more about Puerto Rico, visit www.seepuertorico.com.
Historical Sites & Tourist Attractions
Add some local history to your cultural exchange experience by visiting a nearby historical site or tourist attraction when living and working in the U.S.
The San Juan National Historic Site allows visitors to see fortifications from the 18th century when San Juan was a military outpost in colonial Puerto Rico. Guided tours, self-guided tours and an informational video are also available. The San Juan National Historic Site is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List!
The Castillo San Cristóbal is one of the attractions at the San Juan National Historic Site. The Fort was the largest fortification to be built by the Spanish in the “New World.” The nearby Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro) was built between 1539 and 1787 and had been attacked by several different countries since the 16th century. Today, visitors can tour the citadel or enjoy an outdoor picnic or fly a kite on the large esplande outside the fort.
Caguana Ceremonial Park & Museum in Utuado outside San Juan focuses on the indigenous Taino culture of Puerto Rico. The park has exhibits, artifacts like petroglyphs (rock carvings), and plazas where archaeologists believe political and ceremonial activities took place.
Arts & Culture
The United States offers a wide variety of cultural learning opportunities through the arts. Dance, music, theater, opera, art museums and festivals are just some of the options available to international visitors who wish to learn more about the U.S. and its culture.
Visit the Galeria Nacional (National Gallery) in San Juan to see works of art from Puerto Rican artists and artisans from the 18th century to today.
Museo de las Americas (Museum of the Americas) in San Juan is located in the Cuartel del Ballaja and includes four permanent exhibits. Temporary exhibits featuring work of local and regional artists, workshops, and educational programs are also featured in the museum.
The Museo de la Música Puertorriqueña in Ponce celebrates Puerto Rican music. See exhibits and musical artifacts and learn about how Native American, Spanish and African cultures have helped shape Puerto Rican music today.
Learn about architecture and the architectural history of Ponce and Puerto Rico at the Museo de la Arquitectura Ponceña. The museum is located in an elaborate historical house that was built in 1912.
The Museo de Arte de Ponce is a fine arts museum featuring European art from the 14th century to today, and also displays work from Puerto Rican artists. It is the largest art museum in the Caribbean. Guided tours are available in English and Spanish.
Sports & Recreation
Get a glimpse into a part of American culture by watching or participating in a favorite U.S. sport or recreational activity in your local area.
Learn about the history of baseball and sports in Puerto Rico at the Museo Francisco Pancho Coimbre in Ponce.
There are over 100 Puerto Rican baseball players in Major League Baseball in the United States. In Puerto Rico, you can see teams play from November to January in the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League.
After the winter season, the Caribbean World Series begins. The baseball tournament is hosted by one of the four member countries – Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Venezuela – and starts in February.
There are several Puerto Rican soccer leagues, including the Puerto Rico National Football League (LNFPR). Ten teams play in the LNFPR from April to September. Follow current news and updates on soccer in Puerto Rico on FIFA.com.
The United States is home to a variety of landscapes and climates to suit all types of outdoor activities. The courageous traveler can find extreme sports and outdoor adventure tours, while others may want to keep both feet on the ground in a national park or forest. Whatever your interests, take advantage of the many outdoor activities available during your time in the United States.
The Vieques Biobay is a bioluminescent bay that glows due to a high concentration of microorganisms called dinoflagellates. Visitors can take a tour via kayak or boat, to see the bay and, if permitted, swim in the glowing water. Tour guides include Island Adventures Biobay Tours, Kayaking Puerto Rico & Abe’s Biobay Tours.
Visit the Camuy River Cave Park is part of the third-largest cave system in the Western Hemisphere made up of 220 limestone caves that stretch over 10 miles. Guided tours take you through a section of the cave system, and the Cave Park also has outdoor areas with picnic tables, a playground and walking trails.
El Yunque, or “The Anvil,” is home to the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System. Located in the eastern part of Puerto Rico, El Yunque offers camping facilities, hiking trails, swimming areas, wildlife viewing and Taino petroglyphs (rock carvings). Visitors can learn more about the park at the El Portal Rain Forest Center.
One of the best ways to experience cultural exchange is through food and cooking. Visitors will enjoy exploring the regional specialties and local cuisine during their time in the United States
The cuisine of Puerto Rico, known to locals as “cocina criolla,” is the result of a blend of Spanish, African, American and Taíno (the indigenous culture) influences. Some examples of popular dishes and ingredients in Puerto Rico include:
- sopón de pollo con arroz (chicken soup with rice)
- frijoles negros (black bean soup)
- tortilla española
- carne guisada puertorriqueña (Puerto Rican beef stew)
And check out the Flavors of San Juan culture and food tours to learn more about the history, culture and cuisine of Puerto Rico from a local tour guide.
For a unique and local perspective on American culture, be sure to check out festivals and events near your cultural exchange program location. These events are a fun and interesting way to interact with locals and to learn more about American culture by experiencing it firsthand.
The Rincón International Film Festival in January promotes the culture and arts of Puerto Rico. Movies from Puerto Rican filmmakers along with international and American films are screened in English or with English subtitles, and the event also features special Spanish language and Puerto Rican film categories. Other film-related events are also held during the festival, like comedy nights, family events and beachfront screenings.
The Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián is an annual four-day street festival in San Juan with live music, food, art, and parades featuring oversized masks called cabezudos. The event takes place over the third weekend in January to celebrate the end of the holiday season.
The Carnaval de Ponce, or Carnaval Ponceño, is a weeklong celebration leading up to Ash Wednesday. Depending on the year, the festival is usually in February. The carnaval features costumed characters called Vejigantes, many parades, marching bands, floats, music, food and festivities.
Employers may be able to assist with housing during your time in the United States, but this is not always possible for all participants. When looking for housing during your cultural exchange program, consider the cost of the accommodation, the distance to your work place and the amount of time you will be in the United States.
It’s also important to avoid fraudulent housing. It is highly recommended that you secure short-term housing upon arrival (e.g. in a hostel) and conduct your housing search once you are in the U.S. Never give your financial information to a stranger over the Internet. Browse the Housing Information guides for InterExchange participants below for more tips and advice.
General Housing Information
- Housing information for Work and Travel USA participants
- Housing information for Career Training USA interns and trainees
Puerto Rico Housing Resources
Some examples of housing and accommodation resources for Puerto Rico participants include:
If you spend any time traveling within the continental United States, you can also try Hostelling International USA for affordable accommodation in many U.S. cities.
Public transportation options can be hit or miss, depending on your location in the United States. Buses are a common transportation option for short and long-term travel in the U.S., while some areas will also have trains, subways and other options
Tren Urbano operates in the San Juan area, Bayamón and Guaynabo.
AMA-Metrobus transport passengers in San Juan, Guaynabo, Bayamón, Cataño, Trujillo Alto and Carolina.
Public Transportation in the United States
Many of our participants spend time traveling in the United States. Here are some popular resources for inexpensive travel in the U.S.
Amtrak USA Rail Pass 1.800.USARAIL
Health & Safety
Participants in Guam can use the following resources in case of an emergency or extreme weather event in their area:
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) www.fema.gov and www.ready.gov
- Puerto Rico FEMA updates on Twitter @femaregion2
Help Your Community
Interact with others and expand your skill set by volunteering in your local community. Volunteer organizations are often looking for short-term volunteers or for individuals to help with a single event, making it a great option for InterExchange participants who wish to add to their cultural exchange experience during their time in the United States.
Pets Alive Puerto Rico is a sanctuary for stray dogs. Volunteers are welcome to donate their time and help with all types of tasks, including transporting dogs to the vet, helping out in the office and more.
Help build homes for families in need with Habitat for Humanity Puerto Rico in San Juan. Volunteers can help with construction, fundraising or in the office. No experience needed!
Look for local organizations and non-profits that may be in need of volunteers to help with special events or on an ongoing basis. Local festivals are also often in need of volunteers, and can sometimes give free tickets or other perks to their volunteers!
Get started today
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