Definición y áreas de interés        Proyecto Salón Hogar


L  a  G r a n  E n c i c l o p e d i a   I l u s t r a d a  d e l   P r o y e c t o  S a l ó n  H o g a r



Puerto Rico English version

map location, the antilles, surface features of puerto rico, maritime, forests & wildlife preserves, caverns, natural resources, hydrography, climate, natural hazards, energy, flora, fauna, society, government & politics, economy, industries, agriculture, capital & major cities

Map Location


Por: Profesora Rosa Valerio

The Antilles

The Island of Puerto Rico is part of the Caribbean archipelago, the Antilles. It's geographic coordinates are latitude 18-15 N and longitude 66-30 W, which puts it about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southeast of Miami, Florida U.S.A. The Antilles is a chain of islands located in the; Caribbean Sea; The largest islands Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica and Hispañola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) make up the Greater Antilles, Puerto Rico being the easternmost and smallest of this group. The Lesser Antilles, located east and southeast of Puerto Rico, are made up of dozens of smaller islands, including the Virgin Islands, Martinique, Barbados and Trinidad to name a few. Although the islands of the Antilles are relatively close in proximity and share a common history, a cultural and political diversity is characteristic of the region. And, Puerto Rico is without exception.

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (in Spanish, "Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico"), is a freely associated commonwealth of the United States, composed of one large island and several small islands named Culebra, Desecheo, Mona, and Vieques. A host of smaller cays and islets including Culebrita, Monito, and Palomino are associated with Puerto Rico, as well. 

Puerto Rico is bound at the north by the Atlantic Ocean and at the south by the Caribbean Sea. It is bound at the east by the Virgin Islands and on the west by La Hispañola.



Surface Features

Puerto Rico is a mountainous, tropical island roughly rectangular in shape. At it's widest points the Island measures  65 km (about 40 mi) from north to south and about 180 km (about 110 mi) from east to west. It's total area amounts to 9104 sq km (3515 sq mi), and it boasts more than 580 km (360 mi) of beautiful coastline.

Puerto Rico's geographic diversity includes several mountain ranges, a mountainous rain forest, karst areas, arid desert-like regions, beaches, caves, rivers and oceans. The prominent geographical features that characterize the island can be found in it's interior mountainous regions, karst areas and flatlands.


Interior Mountainous Regions

About 80% of  Puerto Rico's territory is mountainous and hilly. The principal mountain ranges include La Cordillera Central, La Sierra Bermeja, La Sierra de Cayey and La Sierra de Luquillo. These mountains reach about an average elevation of 915m (about 3000 ft).

The most prominent of these masses is a central mountain chain known as "La Cordillera Central." This geographical anomaly amounts to an extensive mountain range, that transects the length of the island east to west from Aibonito to the outskirts of Mayagüeze, and divides the country into distinct north and south regions. It's highest peak, and the country's highest point, is Cerro de Punta. This 1338 m (4,398 ft) point is located just south of Jayuya at the western outskirts of the Toro Negro Forest. For the most part, La Cordillera Central runs closer to the southern coast. The slopes are steeper on this side, as well. Rain fall is more frequent on the northern side.

At the west end of the island La Cordillera Central faces the sea in an abrupt steepness, but not before branching out to form La Sierra Bermeja mountain range. La Sierra Bermeja is the smallest branch of the Central Mountain ranges. With an elevation of about a 1000 ft., it extend from Guánica to the southwestern tip of the island.

The mountain rage of La Sierra de Cayey is an extension of La Cordillera Central. It begins at Cayey and runs east to Humacao. At the easternmost regions its elevation approaches only 400 ft. and concludes in a fork of two low ranges, the Sierra Guardarraya and Cuchillas de Panduras. These mountains extend southeast between Yabucoa and Patillas, and culminate near the southeast coast and the Caribbean Sea.

In their approach toward the eastern part of the island, the central mountains also branch tnortheastward and form another mountain chain, La Sierra De Luquillo. This mountain range runs from Gurabo to Fajardo, as several high peaks, including Toro Hill at 1,074m (3524 ft), El Yunque at 1,065m (3,494 ft) and El Pico Oeste at 1041m (3416 ft).


Karst Areas

*Karst regions are concentrated along several areas in northern Puerto Rico. Most of the formations extend from Aguadilla on the west coast to the center of the island. Scarce pockets of small hilly karst formations are scattered east all the way to Loíza.

Near the coast limestone deposits, a major characteristic of karst regions, form a vast regiment of rolling hills, that resemble haystacks laid arbitrarily across the land. These limestone deposits were formed by volcanic rock as the island rose out from the sea millions of years ago.

South of the coast, approaching the interior mountainous regions of the island, the most common features associated with this karst topography, include rolling hills, sinks, sinkhole underground streams and rivers, limestone plateaus and a labyrinth cave system (much of it unexplored).  

The process that creates these natural forms is simple, but takes millions of years to achieve. The ceilings of subterranean caverns eventually fold causing depressions at the surface of the ground. These impressions are what form the karst hills, sinks and sinkholes. Streams from rainwater drain into sinks, revealing the presence of caves underneath. Underground streams and rivers flowing through these caverns are constantly replenished, and as a result, the currents continuously wear away the porous limestone and creates more caverns and depressions.  This cycle has existed for countless millenniums.

Some places of interest with good examples of karst topography include Rio Abajo Forest, Guajataca Forest, Dos Bocas Lake, Rio Camuy Cave Park and several points on the Camuy River. Rio Abajo Forest, and Dos Bocas Lake have a fine display of tropical karst topography. Numerous cone-shaped hills covered in tropical vegetation make up the rolling landscape. The Guajataca Forest features some 25 miles of well-marked trails along it's typical karst landscapes. Here, you will find minerals ranging from stalagmites, stalactites and other sediment formations.

The Rio de Camuy Cave Park hosts one of the largest underground rivers in the world, the Rio de Camuy.  The Park also has an elaborate cave system.  Many of the caves are as yet unexplored. High ceilings, adorned by a diverse collections of crystalline stalactite formations, grounds laden with random shaped stalagmites and subterranean waterfalls are characteristic of these 45 million year old caves. Plants that inhabit these depths have very little pigmentation. The region is so dim that fish have evolved without eyes.



The flatland is a geographical feature known for it's low-lying and relatively flat regions. There are relatively few flatland regions in Puerto Rico. They include narrow stretches of coastal plains and inland valleys formed by the erosion of mountains millions of years ago.

The flatlands or coastal plains that surround the island are an extension of the submerged continental shelf that lies 200 meters deep. Fertile coastal plains that extend along the north coast reach about 19 km (about 12 mi) inland. Small rivers, streams and plenty of rain water common to this region, contributes to the landscape's lush appearance.

In contrast with the north, a tropical dry coastal plain, covering on average about 13 km (about 8 mi) inland, blankets the southern coast. Along the southwest coast the land is extremely arid and receives very little rain fall.

Small valleys are sparsely situated throughout the island, especially near the east and west coasts.  El Valle de Lajas is said to be the largest of them on the island.  




The temperature of the seawater surrounding Puerto Rico averages to some 27° C ( 81° F).  Variation in seawater temperature during the course of the year is negligible.

The lowest point in Puerto Rico is sea level (Caribbean Sea 0 m). The Island is flanked on all sides by a submerged continental shelve, that slopes from the shores to a depths of about 200 meters. Past this ledge the surrounding ocean waters become deep very quickly.

Two miles north of Puerto Rico, below the rough seas of the Atlantic, the ocean floor drops about 600 feet. At 45 miles (72.42 km) to 75 miles (120 km) out, the Oceans floor plunges deep into what is called the Puerto Rico Trench or Bronson's Deep. The depression, lies parallel to the northern coast and measures about 1,090 miles (1,750 km) long by 60 miles (100 km) wide. About 100 miles (160 km) northwest of Puerto Rico, situated within the west end of the Puerto Rico Trench, is the Milwaukee Deep. Measuring a depth of 27,493 feet (8,380 meters), it is considered the deepest depression in the North Atlantic Ocean. The Trench, which has it's beginnings in the Tertiary period, has been expanding for the past 70 million years. It is believed to belong to a Carribean system of strike-slip faults with characteristics similar to the Andreas fault in California. A diagram containing the outline and depth of known trenches surrounding Puerto Rico is available below. 

Click on the following image to enlarge it. To return to this page click the back button on your browser.

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Map of the Puerto Rico trench indicating the 2002 surveyed region within the larger 2003 proposed survey area. Image source provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) | U.S. Department of Commerce at

Off the West coast the Mona Passage divides Puerto Rico from Hispañola. This key shipping lane to the Panama's is about 75 miles (120 km) wide and more than 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) deep. To the South, the calmer Caribbean sea drops some 16,400 feet (5,000 meters) in what is known as the Venezuelan Basin.

Puerto Rico's economic zone claims sovereignty on 200 nautical miles (370 km/230 mi) offshore. This includes exclusive rights to research, environmental protection and seabed minerals development. The island's territorial waters, or boundaries that safeguard it's rights to fishing, and other permissions extends some 12 nautical miles out.


Forests & Wildlife Preserves

Scattered throughout the Island of Puerto Rico is a network of vast forests and wildlife refuges. Various grades of tropical jungles including rain forests, mangrove forests, a variety of karst regions and subtropical dry lands feature a wide variety of plant and tree species, intriguing trails, caves, cliffs and several water-holes

northern region, eastern region, central region, southern region, sister islands and islets


Northern Region

The land on the north side of Puerto Rico is generally wetter and lush with vegetation than land on the south side. Ample rainfall and streams that flow down from La Cordillera Central chain contributes to this fertile environment. Forests along the north side include the Guajataca State Forest Reserve, Rio Abajo State Forest, Cambalache State Forest, Vega Alta State Forest and Piñones Forest.

The Guajataca State Forest Reserve covers an area, near Aguadilla, in the northwest karst region of Puerto Rico.  The Rio Abajo State Forest Reserve, located in the north central part of the island, between Arecibo and Utuado, encompasses over 5,000 acres of karst woodlands, including limestone cave formations, trails and natural spring water holes, tied to a scenic backdrop of surrounding cliffs. The Reserve features the Camuy Caves, and Dos Bocas Lake.  East of this region, located near Barceloneta, stands the Cambalache State Forest. It's wonderful display of tropical karst landscape is defined by numerous lush cone-shaped hills spread randomly across the land. Beyond this, just west of Dorado, is a relatively small woodland known as the Vega Alta State Forest. Piñones Forest is a subtropical woodland along the northeast region, just east of Isla Verde, San Juan.


Eastern Region

El Yunque Rain Forest, known also as the Caribbean National Forest, rest in the north-most corner of the east coast. These 28,000 acres of wetlands are all that remain of the rain forest that covered much of the island more than five hundreds years ago. Cold mountain streams and waterfalls are plentiful. The National Forest of la Condesa lies just southwest of here. The State Forest of Ceiba is located adjacent to El Yunque, off the east coast of the Island. This forest features a subtropical dry woodland. The Humacao Wildlife Refuge is found South of Ceiba along the shore of the Humacao region. The Preserve includes the largest Pterocarpus trees in Puerto Rico and a lagoon system.


Central Region

The Cordillera Central, is an extensive mountain range that transects Puerto Rico from east to west along the Island's central region. Here, huge mountain forests blanket the country side at several locations from the ridge. The temperature is a typical 70 to 75 degrees during the day. At night it can drop to a cool 60 degrees. River water at high elevations is clean enough to drink. Forests along the Cordillera Central include Maricao Forest, the Susua State Forest, Lago Lucchetti Wildlife Refuge, Monte Guilarte State Forest, Toro Negro Forest, and Carite Forest.

The Maricao Forest is typical of the island's woodlands. Situated along the west end of the Cordillera Central vein, Maricao encompasses a vast territory northwest of Susua State Forest. It features 845 species of flora, and 278 species of trees of which 123 are endemic. Susúa State Forest is located in the western expanse of the Cordillera Central foothills, opposite Lago Lucchetti Wildlife Refuge. The Guilarte Forest Reserve is also located in this region, just west of Adjuntas. This Reserve features a small eucalyptus forest, trails and 105 species of trees. North of the town of Villalba, midway along the Cordillera Central, is the Toro Negro Forest. It boosts the highest peak, 1338 m (4,398 ft), along the Cordillera Central and the highest geological structure in all the island. It is also home to two of the highest lakes of the land, Lake Matrullas and Lake Guineo. Here you will find the Salto de Dona Juana (waterfall) and the San Cristobal Canyon, which measures 750 feet. The Carite or Guavate Forest is located in the eastern region of the Cordillera Central, east of Cayey. 


Southern Region

In general, there is less rainfall along the south side of the Cordillera Central Mountains, so the land on the south side of Puerto Rico is typically dryer than on the north side. This subtropical arid condition is evident in the Cactus, and scrub-brush flora and forests that flourish here. Forests along the south side of the island include the Punta Guaniquilla Reserve, Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge, Boqueron State Forest, La Parguera Nature Reserve, Guánica Dry Forest, Aguirre Forest Reserve, Punta Ballena Reserve, and Ines Maria Mendoza Nature Reserve.

At the southwest region of the island the Punta Guaniquilla Reserve and Bird Sanctuary portrays a good example of the diverse environments contained in these parts. In this arid heaven you will find lagoons, swamps, limestone and rock formations, caves, palm and mangrove forests, cactus and other scrub vegetation. At the southwest tip of the island in Boqueron, the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge and the Boqueron State Forest lies separated by the Sierra Bermeja. On the coast of Lajas, La Parguera Nature Reserve includes mangrove keys, inlets and estuaries. Some 1,640 acres of subtropical dry land known as Guánica Forest is located in the region between Ponce and Lajas. The Forest has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO because of it's unique dry forest vegetation. The mangrove forest of the Punta Ballena Reserve is contiguous with the Guánica Dry Forest, and is also a biosphere reserve. Further east lies the Aguerre Forest Reserve, located between Arroyo and Salinas. The region features various canals and mangroves. The Ines Maria Mendoza Nature Reserve in Punta Yegua is a peninsula by the sea, located at the southeast tip of Puerto Rico. Ortegon trees of the evergreen variety flourish here.


Sister Islands and Islets

Various sister islands and islets surrounding Puerto Rico's mainland serve as wildlife refuges. These preserved heavens include Isla De Mona Wildlife Refuge, Caja de Muertos Natural Reserve, Desecheo Island Wildlife Preserve and The Natural Reserve of Mosquito Port Bay.

Protected by the United States National Park Service and the Puerto Rican Natural Resources Department, la Isla de Mona Wildlife Refuge is located about 50 miles west of Cabo Rojo. This nature refuge is a well balanced ecosystem, and features many trails, limestone caves, cliffs and pristine shores. The variety of flora that thrives in this environment is matched only by that on the Galapagos Islands. The Island of Caja de Muertos is located 8.5 miles off Ponce's coast. The Natural Reserve includes caves, cliffs, coral reefs, and mangroves. Desecheo Island Federal Wildlife Preserve is located some 13 miles west of Rincon. This uninhabited island contains a well preserved marine ecosystem. The Natural Reserve of Mosquito Port Bay, in Vieques Island, includes one of the most brilliant bioluminescent bay in the world.




About 189 formations that qualify as cave systems exist on the Island of Puerto Rico. A few of these areas are some of the most astonishing geological creations this side of the globe. The following describes some significant and unique caves on the Island.


Río Camuy Caves

In the karst region of the north central part of the Island, one of the most spectacular and popular cave formations exists along some 300-acres of porous limestone, known collectively as the Rio Camuy cave system. This area features subterranean river caves with attributes that include high ceilings and curving walls adorned with an assortment of crystalline stalactite formations, floors carpeted by various shaped stalagmites, subterranean waterfalls and miles of uncharted canals.

The caves were known to be a sacred place for the indigenous Taino Indians, who believed that man was born from these cavities. Today we know that the subterranean formations are the sum of 45 million years of gradual transformation. As the Camuy River flows across this region, it's constant force erodes the surrounding limestone rock and shapes the caves in the process.

Some popular cave sites in this region include the Rio Camuy Mine, where semi-precious stones are common. In the Cathedral Cave (named for it's high ceiling) ancient pictographs by Taino Indians are inscribed on cave walls. And finally, the 170-foot high Cueva Clara has become a popular point for rappelling and amateur exploration. Plants and fish exist in these caverns, and have adapted to these dark recesses by evolving physically.


Cueva del Infierno

Cueva del Infierno is located near the Rio Camuy Caves, and comprises some 2,000 of it's own caverns. 


Cueva Del Indio

Cueva Del Indio is located on the north coast of Puerto Rico, just past the Hallows, in La Punta Caracoles. These ancient caves are know for the Indian Paintings inscribed on their walls.


La Cuerva del Viento

You'll find La Cuerva del Viento ("the cave of the wind"), west of the Río Camuy Cave Park, in the northern karst hills of the Guajataca Forest. This cave network includes 11 wind caves. Explorers can descend a ladder into a cavern where you'll find stalagmites, stalactites and other sediment formations.


Foza Aldea

Archaeological relics from the first century A.D. were found at cave sites, near the northeast coast around Foza Aldea.  This finding yielded conclusive evidence that Puerto Rico has been inhabited for at least two thousand years. 


Underwater caverns (Shacks Beach)

At the northwest coast near Shacks Beach, a maze of walls 40 feet deep are the framework for some underwater caverns.


Mona Island

Off the west coast mainland of Puerto Rico the uninhabited island of Mona hosts numerous caves.



Natural Resources

Puerto Rico's natural wealth includes some minor fishing, several rich soil types, and an abundance of mineral deposits.


Mineral Deposits

On the Island opportunity for mineral production is considerable. The worth from minerals presently being mined draws well over 160 million annually. 

Mining for minerals returns primarily construction materials, like cement, sand, gravel, and stone.  In lesser quantities, but by no means less valuable, mineral production of deposits such as limestone, clay, copper, magnesium, mercury, zinc, lead, cobalt, chromium, nickel, iron ore, peat, graphite, salt, and tin also exist.

Surveys have uncovered concentrations amounting to 35 million lbs. of copper, 1,241 oz. of gold and 6,295 oz. of silver at the center of the island near Adjuntas (Puerto Rico’s Mining region), Utuado, Jayuya, and Lares. Puerto Rico also has potential for on-shore and off-shore crude oil production. The decision to exploit these minerals is constantly weighted against the social and ecological costs such as air pollution, water pollution, and disruption of the natural landscape and soil.

The Puerto Rican State Forest in Adjuntas is a good example of officially preserved land that had once been destined for open pit-mining operations. On September of 1996, about 700 acres of this region were handed over to the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources by the government of Puerto Rico’s Land Authority for public use.



When it comes to soil, Puerto Rico contains almost every major soil group of the earth.  Tropical soils are considered uncultivable and of little agricultural worth. Yet, regions like Puerto Rico have traditionally provided high biomass products like bananas, coffee, sugar cane and tobacco.


Soil Classification

A scientific classification by the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, summarizes soil in Puerto Rico into five general types: humid coastal plains, semiarid coastal plains, humid uplands, semiarid uplands, and humid upland valleys.  Another classification by specialists at the University of Puerto Rico, summarizes the island's soils into coastal lowlands, alluvium, coastal plains, alluvium in terraces, upland dark, and upland reddish-purple.





There exists over 1,200 bodies of water in Puerto Rico that can be classified as either rivers, lakes, lagoons, mangroves and streams. The description below includes those aquatic formations noteworthy for their class.



Most of the island's rivers are narrow and shallow, extend relatively short distances, and for the most part, are not navigable by large vessels except in a few areas near the coast. There exists as many as 50 rivers most of which flow down from the northern mountain sides to the sea. Several of these bodies are utilized for electrical power and irrigation.

The northern rivers are longer, and have tranquil waters in comparison to the southern rivers. Rivers that flow from the north side of the Central Mountain Ranges sustain the lush coastal plain belt of the north. In the south where it is typically arid, smaller rivers and streams tend to dry up fast. In spite of this, heavy rainfall will quickly cause extreme flooding even under these circumstances.


Puerto Rico's longest rivers include Grande de Añasco, Rio Culebrinas, Grande de Arecibo, Rio de La Plata, Rio de Bayamón and Grande de Loíza. These rivers drain to the north coast, except for Añasco and Culebrinas which drain to the west.

On the western region of the Island, Rio Grande de Añasco extends out about 65 km, and is part of a system of rivers that flows down from the Cordillera Central. The river Añasco flanks the south side of the town of Añasco and ends at the west coast.  Also in this region is the Rio Culebrinas, which flows passed Lares and San Sebastian from 45 km in land, and comes to an end at the west coast between Aguada and Aguadilla.

El Grande de Arecibo extends about 55 km. It flows from one leg of Los Dos Bocas Lake, and continues north all the way to the coast. Rio de La Plata extends about 80 km from north to south, practically transecting the Island. The river forms out of Lago Carite, in the eastern region of the central mountain range. Just above Naranjito, the river flows in and out of Lago La Plata. It passes near Toa Alta and Toa Baja, then flanks Dorado to the east before draining into the Atlantic. Rio Bayamón extends 40 km from Lago de Cidra to the Atlantic coast. It crosses Guaynabo and Bayamón on it's way. Rio Grande de Loíza extends about 65 km from Lago Loíza, and flows north, zigzagging across Trujillo Alto, Carolina and Loíza.


The Rio Camuy is a popular river, but not for it's length or breadth. It has distinctive geological features rivaled around the world by only a few rivers in it's class. Located in the northwest quadrant of the island, the Camuy river flows north from the mountains and submerges below ground at several locations to become a subterranean river within the karsts regions of Camuy.



In Puerto Rico the typical lake is man made and relatively small. The reservoirs were formed by damming the major rivers to produce hydroelectric power and water for land irrigation. Some significant lakes worth mentioning are scattered throughout the north, central and south regions of the island.


North Lakes

On the north side of the island there are many lakes situated throughout the interior. Located between Caguas, Gurabo and Trujillo Alto, Lake Loíza (Carraizo) covers an area of about 84 square kilometers, and it is by far the largest lake in Puerto Rico. Lake La Plata has an area of 67 square kilometers, and is the second largest. It's located several miles north of Naranjito in the northeast quadrant of Puerto Rico. The third largest lake, Dos Boca's, is situated less than 5 miles northeast of Utuado. You'll find lake Guajataca in the northwest quadrant near the Guajataca Forest, and south of Quebradillas.


Central Lakes

Some popular lakes can also be found in Puerto Rico's central region. Lake Caonillas covers an area of 19 square kilometers east of the town of Utuado. Lake Garzas is a small lake, situated in the Guilarte Forest and west of the town of Adjuntas. Located in the Toro Negro Forest on the Cordillera Central Mountain Range, Lake Guineo and Lake Matrullas are two of the highest lakes on the island. Lake Cidra has an area amounting to 3 square kilometers. This is one of the smallest lakes on the island. It's located just east of the town of Cidra. Finally, Lago Guayo lies between Adjuntas and Lares.


South Lakes

On the south side of the island, visitors will find many spectacular lakes including Lake Guayabal. This basin is located in the Pastillo district of Juana Díaz. Lake Toa Vaca is situated south of the town of Villalba. Lake Carite is in the Carite Forest, southeast of Cayey.  Lake Patillas is located in Patillas. And, Lago Cerrillos is located just above the town of Ponce.



Noteworthy is a number of typical tropical lagoons located throughout the island. They include Laguna de Piñones and Laguna de Torrecillas in Piñones State Forest, Carolina; Laguna Los Corozos and Laguna San Jose off of Isla Verde, San Juan; Laguna Tortuguero in Manatí-Vega Baja; Laguna Joyuda, Laguna Cartagena and Laguna Boquerón, are all located in Cabo Rojo. You will also find Laguna de Guánica in Lajas; Laguna de las Salinas off of Ponce; Laguna de las Mareas in Guayama; Laguna Aguas Prietas in Fajardo; and Laguna Kiani and Laguna Anones, both located on the island of Vieques.


Mangroves, Thermal Pools & Streams

There are a few mangroves scattered throughout the island that are worth mentioning. In the southwest region, time has created an unique canal system in the mangroves of Lajas. At La Parguera Nature Reserve various inlets along the coast, offer an entrance to a maze of narrow channels known as the mangrove forest. Mangroves can also be found in Vieques and the Guanica state forest.

Other water masses known for their rare characteristics include "Los Baños de Coamo." These natural hot baths, located near the south central lake of Coamo feature natural thermal pools that are relaxing and invigorating.

There are more than 1,000 small streams on the island.  Streams are plentiful especially after heavy rains. Subterranean streams are abundant, especially in the northwest karsts region.




Puerto Rico's climate varies by location. The Island has tropical weather at low altitude and subtropical at higher altitudes. Winds, mountains and sea temperatures also play a major roll in the variations of rainfall and temperature throughout the land.



During the hot months warm seawater (about 81° F) surrounding the island, release vapors, that sweep above the cooler mountains on northeast trade winds to form rain.

The rainy season occurs between May and December. A dryer period appears around December and can last till March. The north region, and especially the mountain areas, receives the most precipitation. The southwestern coastal region is characterized by a dryer term. This disparity is evident in the 189 inches of annual rain that falls over El Yunque Rain Forest in the north and the 40 inches that fall on the city of Ponce in the south.

Annual rainfall averages about 1,550 mm (161 inches) in the north, 910 mm (36 inches) in the south, 101-381 cm (40-150 inches) in coastal regions and 508 cm (200 inches) in the mountains.



Though northeast trade winds regulate and cool the air considerably, the weather in Puerto Rico is typically warm, humid, with lots of sun, especially during the summer.

The average annual temperature varies from 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures along the interior, varies between 73 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The south is usually a few degrees higher than the north. The coolest temperatures on the island exist in the interior mountains.

Some record breaking temperatures in Puerto Rico include a recording of 4.4° C (40° F) in 1911 at Aibonito, and 39.4° C (103° F) in 1906 at San Lorenzo. 

The city of San Juan, receives some 1500 mm (some 59 in) of precipitation yearly. Average temperature ranges from 27° C (81° F) in July to 24° C  (75 ° F) in January.


Natural Hazards


Puerto Rico faces its share of hurricanes, which commonly cross the Caribbean from the east. Sometimes these power-wheeling cyclones come close enough to do serious damage.

During hurricane season, these natural phenomena's are more common between August and October.  Some have reached gale-force winds of over 200 mile per hour. Accompanied by torrential rain, these storms leave in their wake a trail of immense destruction. One of the most destructive hurricanes to reach Puerto Rico was San Ciriaco, which struck on Aug. 8, 1899.

Next to flooding, erosions (landslides) are ones of the greatest concerns when hurricanes hit. Roads can be blocked by debris, and wooden homes and other frail structures are no match for the enormous moving force. Small towns can be isolated for periods of time, leaving residents stranded without electricity and telephone service.

Evacuation plans put into affect by the Puerto Rico Civil Defense Department keeps fatalities to a minimum.



On the opposite end of the scale, periodic drought is another natural hazard  occasionally facing the people in Puerto Rico. Uncommon, yet searing temperature and the lack of rainfall causes water levels in reservoirs to drop considerably enough to warrant water rationing.





Puerto Rico uses thermal power plants, run on refined petroleum, to generate most of the islands electricity. Less than 1% of electricity is generated from hydroelectric technology. A hydroelectric installation generates electricity by utilizing the stored power derived from damming a river.  All of Puerto Rico's lake basins were created as a result of this process.


Energy Consumption

Oil is the dominant fuel in Puerto Rico. The amount of motor gasoline consumed is equivalent to 2,550,000 metric tons of coal. Energy Consumption is measured at 2,493 kwh per capita.




Numerous species of flora thrive in Puerto Rico. Common tropical species like the Coconut Palm and Banana tree are abundant all across the island. Species that are rare for the tropics, and those with traits exclusive to the Island are found in various areas of particular climates.

Some trees and shrubs are known for their radiant colored bloom. The Poinciana, a prickly tropical shrub with bright reddish blossoms, and the flamboyán, easily recognized by its blossoms of vivid color, are very popular around the island. The White Cedar looses its leaves beginning in April and blooms dazzling pink flowers by July. The Hibiscus (Thespesia grandiflora, Maga grandiflora and Montezuma) is the National Flower of Puerto Rico. Our national tree, the drought-resistant Ceiba or Silk-cotton grows primarily in the arid south. Some trees like the ancient Ausubo are a part of our islands history. Wood from the Ausubo was used to produce the structural beams in many of the historic buildings in Old San Juan. 


Some trees like the Sugar Cane, Quenepa, and Mango grow produce that is simply delectably right off the branch. The popular tropical Coconut Palm and Small Banana (niños) tree also bare fruit. Others, like the Gandules, Avacado and Green Banana tree, have been a part of the Puerto Rican diet for generations.  

You'll find unique and exotic species of flora in all of the Forests of Puerto Rico. The Caribbean National Forest (El Yunque) is no exception. Located in the northeastern section of the island, this lush 28,000-acre preserve contains some 240 varieties of trees and plants, including tree Ferns, Wild Orchids, Satinwood, Mahogany and Spanish Elm. 

Life grows just about everywhere on the island. Even in the subterranean Camuy River Caves, up north. Here, beneath the karsts region there is very little light, and plants with almost no pigmentation, have found their place through ions of evolution.


Mangroves are found throughout the island's coasts and are most impressive at the Guánica Dry Forest. The Forest is located in the dry south, and harbors some 700 plant species, of which 48 are endangered and 16 exist exclusively on the island. Scrub brush, cactus and other scrub species thrive in this arid environment.

50 miles off the west coast of Puerto Rico, a variety of unique species, can be found on the uninhabited island of Mona.



In Puerto Rico, many species of fauna thrive, from the heights of El Yunque Rainforest to the darkest recess of the Río Camuy caves.

Common livestock including cattle, horses, sheep, goats, pigs and fowl are the largest mammals to reside on the island. Iguanas and many small lizards are also natural inhabitants, though Iguana sightings have steadily grown rare on the mainland. The mongoose lives here as well, and was introduced to Puerto Rico as a means to control the rodent population on sugar cane plantations. 


Of the few indigenous animals that live in Puerto Rico, the small (up to an inch long) Coquí frog is the most obvious if not the most popular. At night these tree dweller chant a cricket like chirp, "ko-kee," continuously in harmonious syncopation. 

Another indigenous species the rare Puerto Rican Parrot (Amazona vittata) is less visible to the public. The almost foot tall bird lives in several secluded areas of the Caribbean National Forest (El Yunque), and is recognized for it's bright green coat, red forehead and wing feathers with a prominent shade of blue. It is one of two hundred or so species of birds that either live or migrate here annually.


Caves such as the Río Camuy and El Cueva del Infierno are known for their caverns, and the wildlife that resides within these subterranean dwellings. Various animals and insects reside here, including over 13 species of bats, the coquí frog, and the "guavá" arachnid.

The most pristine environment for wildlife can be found on Mona Island, off the west coast of the mainland. Comparable only by the Galapagos, this wildlife haven harbors a multitude of species, some of which are exclusive to Puerto Rico.

Barracuda, kingfish, lobster, mackerel, mullet, tuna, oysters and big game fish are common along the coastal waters off Puerto Rico. You'll find the rare leatherback turtles nest-hole on the island of Culebra, and during the winter season humpback whales migrate off the west coast.

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Fundación Educativa Héctor A. García