The island of Puerto Rico is situated in the northeast Caribbean region and is a popular destination for tourism because of its location, rich history and tropical climate all throughout the year. If you are planning a trip to Puerto Rico, you will be amazed with the diversity in natural attractions, activities, entertainment, modern amenities, services.
We visited Puerto Rico in 2013 and had one of the most amazing holiday time. Visit this place for its beautiful beaches, Bio-luminescent Bay tours (not to be missed), Rain forests, historic district of Old San Juan, nightlife, Spa resorts & hotels, shopping among other activities. Here is a compile of our experience and popular things to do in Puerto Rico.
When to visit: The peak season for travel in Puerto Rico is December to May when people from colder part of USA, plan their visit here. However, the weather is pleasant throughout the year with temperatures ranging from 70-85F. From my research I found that its much cheaper to visit here during off-peak seasons.
How to get here: San Juan’s Luis Muñoz Marín airport is one of the main hubs of Caribbean and Latin America and there are tons of flights from various destinations in US to here. The airport is close to San Juan, Isla Verde and Condodo towns where most of the tourists from US choose to stay. We choose to fly with ‘Alaska Airlines’ using their ‘Companion fare’ offer and it costed us $350 per head for a round trip from Seattle Area. Read on this post if you want to know more about companion fare offer.
Do I need visa/passport: If you have a valid U.S. visa, you do not need a visa to get to Puerto Rico. It is part of the United States commonwealth and travel there would be the same as any of the 50 states. And there is no need to carry passport too as there were no checks either while entering PR or back into US (Though we did carry it along as we weren’t sure then).
Where to Stay: I would recommend you to book a hotel in San Juan particularly Isla Verde or Condado areas. Almost all the popular US hotel chains are located here with incredible beach views: Ritz Carlton, Westin Rio Mar, Marriott Stellaris, El San Juan hotel, Hyatt Resorts, Wyndham El Conquistador Resort and others. Condodo area has good options for restaurants, water activities and private beaches. Booking a hotel is tricky and you should research thoroughly before booking. We used CheapCaribbean.com to book our beach resort in Condado area and our experience was good. Do checkout deals at Costco travel and other hotel sites like hotels.com and priceline.com too.
Things to do:
- Bioluminescent Bay tours – In my opinion, its an absolute must activity to do. Bioluminescence bay are special water enclosures which produce and emit glow (like blue light or neon in dark) by special organism known as plankton. There are only handful of Bioluminescence bay in the world and Puerto Rico has three of them. The mosquito bay in Fajardo is the most popular and brightest bay in this area. You could sign up for glass bottom night kayak tours to experience bioluminescence like none other. It is best experienced during a “New Moon” or “No-moon rise” phase, so should you plan your trip accordingly. Most of the kayak tour websites include an interactive moon phase calendar. These tours get booked quite early on favorable days so I would suggest you book them online soon. Kayakingpuertorico and Ecoadventurespr are two most popular bioluminescent bay tours.
- White Sand Beaches – Blue beach in Vieques and Flamenco Beach in Culebra have been consistently ranked as one of the best beaches around the planet and are most amazing beaches you will ever visit (trust me, I am not exaggerating). They have an absolute crystal clear waters with turquoise shade and sea beds are clearly visible with its diverse sea life and healthy corals. Isla Verde beach and Palomino Island are also popular for its gorgeous views and water activities.
- El Yunque Rainforest – It is a rainforest located in northeastern part of Puerto Rico and the only tropical rain forest in the United States National Forest System. It is known for amazing views of nature trails, waterfalls and other scenic views. It is about 45 mins drive from San Juan and you could easily spend half a day here. You can club your visit here with bioluminescent bay tour which is closeby and starts only during night times.
- Old San Juan Town – Old San Juan is an open living museum that houses over 500 historic buildings that include churches, museums, great shops, excellent restaurants, plazas and relaxing cafes. Its colorful and fun place to shop around and experience unique Puerto Rican cuisine like Mofongos. While in Old San Juan town, be sure to schedule a visit to the San Juan National Historic Site, which include the forts of San Cristóbal, San Felipe del Morro, San Juan de la Cruz (El Cañuelo) and the city walls.
- Arecibo Observatory – If you have interest in astronomy, visit this observatory. It is the world’s largest single-aperture radio telescope (305 metres in diameter)
- Islands of Vieques and Culebra – These two islands are about 30 mins ferry ride from Puerto Rico main island and are known for their white sand beaches with the typical laid-back vibe of Caribbean.
- It is recommended to rent a car here as going around points of interest is few miles apart. The roads are in good condition and you can use your US driving license and Auto insurance while renting. Avis and Hertz have a good presence here and offer good deals.
- Bioluminescent bay tours are best experienced during “new moon” or “no-moon” rise phases. So plan your tour accordingly. You can look up the moon calendar here.
- If you are with one of the major network providers like AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon, you will not be charged International Roaming charges for voice or data. So, you could use Google maps to get around the island without worrying about extra roaming charges.
- Do try out the local Puerto Rican cuisine like Mofongos and Pasteles. We really liked Mofongos which are available with chicken as well as vegetarian option.
- Most of the driving rules are the same as in the United States. But the writing on traffic signs is usually just in Spanish. So learn a few commonly used sign boards like Pare for Stop, Salida for exit, Ceda for yield. 🙂
- If you are flying from west coast of USA, be prepared for long flights. We stay in Seattle area and our flight was 9 hours with one hop but it was all worth it.