Traveling to Puerto Rico is pretty easy for a U.S. citizen- no need for a passport and no need to exchange money.
A short 5-day trip full of culture, adventure and new experiences was exactly what we were looking for. And we found it everywhere we went on this island.
#1 SAN JUAN
San Juan is most likely where you’ll begin your journey, as it’s the capital and has the most popular airport. If you already know anything about Puerto Rico, you know Old San Juan is where you’ll find street after street of colorful buildings, old forts and churches to explore.
We stayed a total of 5 days and 4 nights. The first night we spent in a very rustic, very authentic Old San Juan 5th floor walk up. I fell in love with the view on Airbnb, but while I’m a sucker for living like a local, it was a bit too rustic for an extended period of time. Luckily our host was in the middle of renovations and offered us another one of his homes on the other side of the city for our second and third nights. It was nothing modern or luxurious, but it was the epitome of Old San Juan and we loved running into our host as we walked around town stopping in shops and cafés.
Here are a few of our favorite stops in Old San Juan:
Castillo San Felipe Del Morro
Old San Juan Cemetery
Cathedral of San Juan Batista
If you’re into rum and tropical drinks (I don’t know why you wouldn’t be) make sure you stop by the Hilton Caribe. While the original bar no longer exists, this is the location where the original piña colada was made. There was no way I was leaving without one.
A few places on our initial itinerary that we didn’t have time to see:
- Piñones Boardwalk & Food Huts
- Bacardi Factory
- Condado (Ocean Park Beach, Shopping, Nightlife)
#2 EL YUNQUE RAINFOREST
If you have a rental car, be sure to drive outside the city. You’ll find the best adventures in El Yunque Rainforest. We spent almost an entire day driving up and down the mountain, stopping at trails and waterfalls.
La Coca Falls, La Mina Falls, Juan Diego Falls & Yokahu Tower
Once we had our fill of San Juan and it’s surroundings, we ventured West in search of more hikes and attractions. We ended up in Arecibo, exploring its many caves. This was absolutely worth the trek.
La Cueva del Indio
#4 FAJARDO & ISLAS
The next day we went East in hopes of visiting one of the islands off the coast of Fajardo. We woke up before the sun rose to make sure we could get a seat on the ever-elusive ferry. This was a bit of a shot in the dark. There’s not a lot of information about how to get to either Isla de Culebra or Vieques. And no one answers the phone, so don’t even try. We were expecting long lines of people waiting to purchase their $4.50 ferry tickets. But as we walked up, we were the only ones in line. We grabbed breakfast at a local cafe and waited for our departure.
At the ticket office we told them we only had time to visit one island and they suggested Isla Culebra. It was a true oasis with what felt like a private beach and all the local food you can imagine. Just make sure to bring cash, the food huts don’t take credit cards.
Isla Culebra Ferry
Flamenco Beach & Military Tanks
After our all day excursion to the beach, we were hoping to hop on a tour boat to see the Bioluminescent Bays. Unfortunately we visited Puerto Rico in the middle of the Zika craze and felt it was best not to visit “Mosquito Bay”. I guess we’ll have to go back!
Also in Fajardo, there are boat rentals and snorkeling (for those who don’t want to spend all day on a beach that looks like came right out of a postcard.)
Instead of the boat tour we decided to drive down to Ponce where we heard about La Guancha Boardwalk. It was a pretty long drive, and while we had a great time feeding the pelicans and eating Mofongo, I probably wouldn’t make this part of the trip again. Although, we did feel like locals- I’m not sure we saw one other tourist there.
We drove back to San Juan and spent our last night of the trip at the Hilton Caribe. (I told you, I love me some piña coladas) Thanks to Hilton HHonors points, this was a luxurious end to our trip- where we spent most of our time applying aloe to sunburns from the day before. So worth it.
Stay tuned for more travel adventures.