VIVA PUERTO RICO:
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE „ISLAND OF ENCHANTMENT“
Thanks to sandy beaches, washed by Caribbean and tropical breeze Puerto Rico earned the nickname Island of Enchantment.
But Puerto Rico is so much more than „just“ eye pleasing beaches. It Lush jungle, History, nature, bustling cities make it a favourite getaway for the sun and surf crowd.
Rugged mountains and a verdant rain forest attract adventure travellers, and lavish hotels with ocean-side golf courses embrace vacationers who crave luxury.
All that is to say, there is a lot more to Puerto Rico than beaches. But if
That’s the obvious one. it is spectacular beaches one wants, there are plenty to be found, as is a bounty of water sports from surfing and diving to fishing and sailing. If you like hiking, sports, caves, bustling cities – Puerto Rico is still your place.
Thanks to its stable climate and temperature fluctuating between 75° to 85°F (24°-29°C). Puerto Rico is always a good idea.
The islands sees the best weather in winter from mid December to mid April which has its pros and cons. Shoulder season from April till June guarantee you will have less company October – mid December. More rain and less sunshine with August is the hottest but also the wettest month. It is also a hurricane season officially which is not reason to panic, it’s just something to check before planning the trip. And enjoy some of the off-season advantages July to September.
Even as a public transportation lover I must admit that Puerto Rico is best discovered on wheels if you want to cover more ground and enjoy more freedom. Everything is accessible by car and car rentals. Cheapest at the airport, save yourself some bucks and rent it.
However it is not legal to take a rental car from the main island on the ferry to Vieques or Culebra — you have to either rent another car on those islands or just use taxis and other forms of transport.
Public transportation in Puerto Rico does exist but is not always reliable.
Puerto Rico is not as big as its other Caribbean neighbours, for example Cuba, but it surely has lots of gems.
Puerto Rico’s capital city will most likely be the very first and very last stop of your trip so you might as well linger for a while. It surely deserves your attention.
The city can be divided into two parts. The first one is modern San Juan (Condado) where you will see the luxury hotels, casinos, nightclubs and many restaurants tall buildings, all inclusive resorts.
On the other side stands the Old town that wears Puerto Rican history on its sleeve. It is typical for the narrow cobble stone stress lined with colourful colonial houses.
It also homes a a bustling port for a cruise ships.
Situated between St. Thomas and the main island of Puerto Rico picturesque island of Culebra attracts beach bums thanks to its beaches that look like from a travel agency catalogue. The most popular one is Playa Flamenco. This breathtaking and serence beach was ranked as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Once you get there, you¨ll understand why.
Besides carribean waters and white sand beaches, A rusty, painted tank resting on the shore is a beautified marker of Culebra’s time as a US Navy gunnery and bombing practice range until 1975.
Accessing Culebra isn’t exactly easy but it’s absolutely worth the hustle. The most common way is by ferry from a port city of Fajardo. The small ferry leaves only few times a day and is not possible to book in advance. In high seasons the line can be pretty long and in the worst case you might not make it on the ferry.
After looking up
(You can also fly. If you book ahead the 10 minutes flight might be as cheap as 30 USD).
LUQUILLO BEACH AND FOOD KIOSKS
Luquillo is a little beach town in northeast of Puerto Rico which has two essential things that guarantee a good time – beach and food. Beautiful sand beach in Luquillo is lined with palm trees and famous food kiosks – row of about 60 ramshackle buildings offering Puerto Rican food popular with locals as well as visitors.
EL YUNQUE RAINFOREST
Hiking in the “only tropical rain forest under the American flag” should be on your list no matter how long you’re staying in PR for. This huge deep jungle offers very lush fauna and flora including Flora de maga, native flowers, and Puerto Rican parrots.
It is easy to navigate and homes several long trails, waterfalls and natural pools. I highly recommend hiking all the way up to the El Yunque peak which takes few hours of walking through the jungle. Due to the tropical climate the peak is almost always covered in the mist but on a bright day you might even see the Culebra Island.
Rincon can be characterized with two words: Surfer’s paradise. Everything in this cute beach town is about this sport as the large number of beaches prides themselves with world class breaks as well as swells for beginners and casual paddle boarders.
Besides surfing, Rincon is simply where young crowd comes to play and watch sunset. The town has a very local vibe and makes for a relaxing stop on your Puerto Rican vacation.
I couldn’t recommend driving to the southern west point of Puerto Rico enough as for me Cabo Rojo was probably the favourite stop.
Just 1,5 hours south of Rincon you can discover a different fauna of Pueto Rico – subtropical dry forest. The biggest attraction of Cabo Rojo area (for a reason) it a famous lighthouse Los Morrilos, known by locals as El Faro, was built in the end of 19th century over limestone cliffs that rise around 60 metres above sea level. Besides picturesque waves crushing into the cliffs the lighthouse is also surrounded by salt mines which have been important part of the industry since 16th century!
Another gem just a short walk from the lighthouse – La Playuela, a little tropical bay with white sand and blue waters.
Cueve Ventana (Window Cave in English) is a large set of caves located on the top of a limestone cliff near the town of Arecibo. It is very popular with tourists who come here mainly to see the end of a cave that, out of nowhere, uncovers a stunning view of the Río Grande de Arecibo (Arecibo river) valley.
And while the caves are interesting and the view from the ‘window’ is breathtaking, I can’t unfortunately say that I really enjoyed the eco tour given at Cueve Ventana. In my opinion the tour was not very well organised. It was taking way too long due to a large amount of people without giving us particularly interesting information. However it is nowadays the only way how to explore the caves.
The status of Puerto Rico can seem a bit confusing. Internationally, Puerto Rico is viewed as a country with its own identity but officially this Caribbean nation is under the US flag and Puerto Ricans were granted the U. S. Citizenship 100 years ago. (but still cannot vote for the president for example). So what does that actually mean?
Puerto Rico was given to the United States by Spain after the Spanish-American War in 1898 and has never become a state. Currently Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, belonging to the U.S. and being under the power of the U.S. Congress.
Either way, you see the American influences on every corner….for starters you can notice that there are the same fast foods brands, premium outlets and chain stores as you know from the US (even Walgreens and CVS), English is wildly spoken, baseball is admired and U.S. dollar as used as an official currency. Luckily Puerto Rico managed to keep their own culture as well so far and is still a great place to dance to rhythms of salsa and reggaeton while drinking rum, eating lechon and practising Spanish.