06/09/2014 09:15 am ET Updated Aug 09, 2014

What Makes Puerto Rico the Most Special Place in the U.S.A.

I'd like to share my viewpoint on why Puerto Rico truly deserves to have been chosen by USA Today readers as "The Best U.S. Island"; explained with the top ten reasons of what I think makes Puerto Rico the most special place in the U.S.A. Puerto Rico should be on any bucket list, and any must-repeat list as well.


#10: Gastronomy. Puerto Rican cuisine is the most vivid manifestation of our unique culture, which melds Taino indian, African, Spanish and U.S. influences and traditions.

#9: Music. Salsa, danza and myriad other forms of music can be heard everywhere, almost at any time. This includes the nocturnal sounds of our tiny singing tree frogs called "coquís."

#8: History. Since being discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, various cities and towns in Puerto Rico are the longest inhabited areas with people of non-native descent in the U.S.A.

#7. Rum. Only the finest rums come from Puerto Rico. The world's largest rum distillery is here. You can visit it and taste free samples.

#6. Beaches. Miles of sandy beaches on the main Island, and more in other islands of the Puerto Rico archipelago, including Vieques and Culebra.

#5. Nature. Tropical lushness. Underground rivers. El Yunque, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest system. An enviably wonderful year-round climate.

#4. Sport. World-class golfing and surfing. Exceptional fishing and scuba diving sites. In Puerto Rico, we are passionate about baseball, basketball, boxing, and increasingly soccer.

#3. Quirky. Despite the fact that anyone born in Puerto Rico is a U.S. citizen, no U.S. citizen residing in Puerto Rico has the right to vote for the U.S. President, or to have voting representation in the U.S. Congress.

#2. Modernity. First-time visitors to Puerto Rico are universally surprised by the range and quality of infrastructure and facilities in Puerto Rico. We have exceptionally convenient airplane access to the U.S. mainland; and the finest convention center, performing arts centers, symphonic hall, art museums, medical facilities, and general infrastructure south of the U.S. mainland shoreline. Think Miami, yet with far, far more beaches, cultural and nature-related experiences, and "Latin flavor."

#1. People. The friendliest and most joyful people of the Caribbean. Puerto Ricans have distinguished themselves in all fields of human endeavor. To list a just a very few: artists Rita Moreno, Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin, and Marc Anthony; baseball legend Roberto Clemente; and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Puerto Rico is the Most Special Place in the U.S.A.