Puerto Rico is mostly mountainous, although there is a coastal plain belt in the north. The mountains drop precipitously to the sea on the west coast. There are sandy beaches along most of the coast. There are many small rivers about the island, and the high central mountains ensure the land is well watered, although the south coast is relatively dry. The coastal plain belt in the north is fertile. Puerto Rico's highest point is at Cerro de Punta, which is 1,338m 4,390 ft above sea level.
Puerto Rico has a tropical marine climate, which is mild and has little seasonal temperature variation. Temperatures range from 21˚C to 32˚C 70˚F to 90˚F, and tend to be lower at night and up in the mountains. Year-round trade winds help ensure the sub tropical climate. The average annual temperature is 26°C 80°F. Rainfall is abundant along the north coast and in the highlands, but light along the south coast. Hurricane season spans between June and November, where rain showers occur once a day, almost every day. Periodic droughts sometimes affect the island.
Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Puerto Rico in 1492 on his second voyage of discovery, and originally named it San Juan Bautista in honor of Saint John the Baptist. The name of the island's present day capital, San Juan, honors the name Columbus first gave the island. It was then settled by explorer Ponce de Leon, and the island was under Spanish possession for over four centuries.
Puerto Rico became United States territory under the Treaty of Paris, which also ended the Spanish–American War. The United States passed Law 5600 giving Puerto Rico authorization to create and approve its own constitution. The relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico is known in English as a commonwealth. There is no precise Spanish equivalent to this word; thus, it is translated as estado libre associado literally, "freely-associated state".
The culture of Puerto Rico is nearly independent from the 50 states. The culture is identically carribean, but closely related to the culture of Spain with a few African and native influences. When travelling to Puerto Rico, one will get the feeling that they are in another country most likely Spain. But of course you're not, due to the U.S. flag being flown everywhere reminding you that you are still on U.S. soil and other noticeable mainland influences including numerous strip malls, basketball, and the popular love affair with large cars.
The island of Puerto Rico is a rectangular shape and is the smallest, most eastern island of the Greater Antilles. It has almost 580km 360 mi of coast. In addition to the principal island, the commonwealth islands include Vieques, Culebra, Culebrita, Palomino, Mona, Monito, and various others isolated islands. Puerto Rico is surrounded by deep ocean waters. To the west, Puerto Rico is separated from Hispaniola by the Mona Passage which is about 120km 75 mi wide and as much as 3,300m 2 mi deep. The Puerto Rico trench, 8,000m deep 5 mi, is located off the northern coast. Off the south coast is the 5,466m 3.4 mi deep Venezuelan Basin of the Caribbean. Because Puerto Rico is relatively short in width, it does not have any long rivers or large lakes. The Rio de la Plata is the longest river in the island of Puerto Rico, which flows to the northern coast and drains into the Atlantic Ocean about 18km 11 miles west of San Juan. Puerto Rico does not have any natural lakes; however, it does have 15 reservoirs.