The geography of Puerto Rico describes an archipelago located between the Caribbean Sea and the North
Atlantic Ocean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of the Virgin Islands. The main island of Puerto Rico is
the smallest and most eastern of the Greater Antilles. With an area of 3,515 square miles (9,104 km²), it is the
third largest island in the United States and the 82nd largest island in the world. Various smaller islands and
cays, including Vieques, Culebra, Mona, Desecheo, and Caja de Muertos comprise the remainder of the
archipelago with only Culebra and Vieques being inhabited year-round. Mona is uninhabited through large parts
of the year except for employees of the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources.
The mainland measures some 100 miles by 35 nautical miles (170 km by 60 km), an area slightly less than
three times the size of Rhode Island, U.S.A.. It is mostly mountainous with large coastal areas in the north and
south regions of the island. Some beautiful beaches on the north-west side of the island are Jobos Beach,
Maria's Beach, Domes Beach and Sandy Beach. The main mountainous range is called La Cordillera Central
(The Central Range). The highest elevation point of Puerto Rico, Cerro de Punta (4,390 ft; 1,338 m), is located
in this range. Another important peak is El Yunque, located in the Sierra de Luquillo Mountains at the Caribbean
National Forest, with a maximum elevation of 3,494 feet (1,065 m). The capital, San Juan, is located on the main
island's north coast.
The archipelago of Puerto
Rico is located between
the Caribbean Sea and the
North Atlantic Ocean, east
of the Dominican Republic
and west of the Virgin
Islands. Located in the
Sea, Puerto Rico was key
to the Spanish Empire
since the early years of
exploration, conquest and
colonization of the New
The topography of the
main island is divided into
three major regions: the
which includes the
Cordillera Central, Sierra
de Luquillo Mountains,
Sierra de Cayey and Sierra
Bermeja, the coastal
plains and the northern
karst region. The
Cordillera Central extends
through the entire island,
dividing it into the northern
and southern region. The
mountain region accounts
for approximately 60% of
the land area.
The archipelago of
Culebra, located east of
Puerto Rico, north of
Vieques, and west of the
Virgin Islands, is
Main article: Climate of Puerto Rico
Located in the tropics, Puerto Rico enjoys an average temperature of 26 °C (80 °F) throughout the year. The seasons do not change very drastically. The temperature in the south is usually a few
degrees higher than the north and temperatures in the central interior mountains are always cooler than the rest of the island. The dry season spans from November to May while the wet season
coincides with the Atlantic hurricane season from June to November.
Rivers and lakes
Puerto Rico has 17 lakes (none of them natural) and more than 50 rivers. Most of these rivers are born in the Cordillera Central, Puerto Rico's principal mountain, range located across the center of
the island. The rivers in the north of the island are bigger and with higher flow capacity than those of the south. The south is thus drier and hotter than the north.
Flora and fauna
Main articles: Fauna of Puerto Rico and List of endemic flora of Puerto Rico
As of 1998, 239 plants, 16 birds and 39 amphibians/reptiles have been discovered that are endemic to the archipelago of Puerto Rico. The majority of these (234, 12 and 33 repectively) are found on
the main island. The most recognizable endemic species and a symbol of Puerto Rican pride is the Coquí, a small frog easily recognized by the sound from which it gets its name. The Caribbean
National Forest, a tropical rainforest is home to the majority (13 of 16) of species of coquí. It is also home to more than 240 plants, 26 of which are endemic and 50 bird species, including one of the
top 10 endangered birds in the world, the Puerto Rican Amazon.
Main article: Geology of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is composed of Cretaceous to Eocene volcanic and plutonic rocks, which are overlain by younger Oligocene to recent carbonates and other sedimentary rocks. Most of the caverns and
karst topography on the island occurs in the northern Oligocene to recent carbonates. The oldest rocks are approximately 190 million years old (Jurassic) and are located at Sierra Bermeja in the
southwest part of the island. These rocks may represent part of the oceanic crust and are believed to come from the Pacific Ocean realm. Puerto Rico lies at the boundary between the Caribbean and
North American plates. This means that it is currently being deformed by the tectonic stresses caused by the interaction of these plates. These stresses may cause earthquakes and tsunamis. These
seismic events, along with landslides, represent some of the most dangerous geologic hazards in the island and in the northeastern Caribbean. The most recent major earthquake occurred on
October 11, 1918 and had an estimated magnitude of 7.5 on the Richter scale. It originated off the coast of Aguadilla and was accompanied by a tsunami.
Lying about 120 km (75 miles) north of Puerto Rico in the Atlantic Ocean at the boundary between the Caribbean and North American plates is the Puerto Rico Trench, the largest and deepest trench in
the Atlantic. The trench is 1,754 km (1,090 miles) long and about 97 km (60 miles) wide. At its deepest point, named Milwaukee Depth, it is 8,380 m (27,493 feet) deep, or about 8.38 km (5.2 miles).
Main article: Municipalities of Puerto Rico
As an unincorporated territory of the United States, Puerto Rico does not have any first-order administrative divisions as defined by the U.S. Government, but there are 78 municipalities at the second
level. Municipalities are further subdivided into barrios, and those into sectors. Each municipality has a mayor and a municipal legislature elected for a 4 year term.
The first municipality (previously called "town") of Puerto Rico, San Juan, was founded in 1521. In the 16th century two more municipalities were established, Coamo (1570) and San Germán (1570).
Three more municipalities were established in the 17th century. These were Arecibo (1614), Aguada (1692) and Ponce (1692). The 18th and 19th century saw an increase in settlement in Puerto Rico
with 30 municipalities being established in the 18th century and 34 more in the 19th century. Only six municipalities were founded in the 20th century with the last, Florida, being founded in 1971.
Puerto Rico portal
^ a b c "Elevations and Distances in the United States". U.S Geological Survey (29 April 2005). Retrieved on 2006-11-09.
^ "ISLAND, county CULEBRA, state PR". Lat-Long.com. Retrieved on 2006-07-13.
^ Los Lagos de Puerto Rico (Spanish)
^ Island Directory.
^ LinktoPR.com - Fundación de los Pueblos (Spanish).
composed of the main island of Culebra and 28 uninhabited islets. Mainly mountainous, the island of Culebra possesses renowned beaches.