Say the word and we go...
When Drew and I wanted to take a trip together last summer (2017), that Bruno Mars song really made me think Puerto Rico was the place. ;) It had everything we wanted - both adventure and relaxation. Its beaches, rain forest, bio-luminescent bays, easy travel, night life, and variety of food lived up to all the hype. And even better, you can use US money and don't need a Passport as an American! Drew met me in San Juan after I was in Florida and he was in Nicaragua so, although hot, the weather seemed perfect to us too. DISCLAIMER: we took this trip prior to Hurricane Maria.
What we did...
Old San Juan: San Juan is the second oldest city established in the New World, one of the most historically significant destinations in the Caribbean & the Western Hemisphere. You can walk through 500-year-old forts with breathtaking views of the Atlantic, various UNESCO sites, historic churches, tour the second oldest cathedral in the Americas, visit museums, step foot into Ponce de Leon’s mansion, tour La Fortaleza palace, and so much more. You can spend a whole day walking around and exploring. We absolutely loved it!
Bacardi Distillery: Even if you don’t love rum, this was SO FUN! We returned to the Old San Juan area and explored a little more, and then took a super cheap ferry across the bay to the distillery. The tour was also inexpensive and came with a free cocktail at the end.
El Yunque Rain Forest: This was my favorite day! We left from the Marriott in San Juan via van, got there in about an hour, stopped at about 5 different places throughout the forest to explore, went swimming in the waterfalls, and learned about the different animals and plants.
Catamaran in the Caribbean: A MUST! We left from the Marriott about 8AM, got to the harbor in about 1.5 hours, and then were on the water all day. They provide lunch, snacks, unlimited drinks/cocktails, and snorkeling equipment. There is music playing the whole time, you will stop at several beaches for a few hours, and it is overall just SO FUN!
Bioluminescent Bay Excursion: I have to admit, the bioluminescent bay wasn’t quite as blue as I was expecting (it is very seasonal), but it was so fun to just kayak and be active. This is an evening excursion (you need the dark to see the glow) so you can just relax the whole morning before. I believe we left around 4 PM and were back around 10:30PM.
Day 1: Travel Day, Arrive in San Juan
· Check in to hotel or Bed & Breakfast in San Juan (stay here the duration of the trip)
· Enjoy the beaches (Isle Verde & Condado are SO beautiful)
· Dinner in San Juan (La Placita downtown area)
Day 2: Explore Historic San Juan
· Uber or taxi to Old San Juan
· Explore forts, the colorful streets, local coffee shops, museums, and cathedrals
Day 3: El Yunque National Forest
· Start at hotel, get picked up by tour group (explained below). Enjoy hiking, views, & waterfall swimming!
Day 4: Beach day, Evening Bioluminescent Bay Excursion
· Relax by the beach in the morning, maybe get a massage?
· Get picked up late afternoon by tour group (explained below), go kayaking, spend the evening admiring the magic blue bays!
Day 5: Bacardi Distillery
· Take a tour of the distillery, sample some rum, get a free complimentary cocktail!
Day 6: Island Catamaran
· Leave from the hotel (explained below) early in the morning, enjoy all day out on a Catamaran visiting beautiful, exclusive islands & snorkeling!
Day 7: Beaches, Relax, Fly out
End your trip with the beautiful beaches and no big plans
Wherever you choose to stay (we stayed half in a bed & breakfast and half in an Airbnb) you can go to any of the hotels to book and get picked up for excursions. We were in walking distance of the Marriott, so used that as our pickup/drop off.
Culebra is an island about 17 miles east of the Puerto Rician mainland. It is said Culebra has the most beautiful beaches in the world. It is quite expensive to stay on the island, but day trips are offered from both San Juan and Fajardo.
Vieques is another popular day trip island!
About Puerto Rico…
I had to look up/research Puerto Rico because it's relationship to the US was kinda unclear to me. Puerto Ricans are US citizens and can vote in presidential primaries, serve in the military, and use the same currency. It is technically owned by the US, but is an unincorporated territory, meaning it is not part of US. From what I picked up, some Puerto Ricans want to be admitted as a state and others want complete independence from the country. However, there is no doubt that the US is what brings a majority the money to the island, mostly in the form of tourism. The US manages immigration, foreign trade, and diplomacy as well. There is also a noticeable and extremely strong national identity (although not a "nation"). They are very happy to be from Puerto Rico as a whole and are not to be mistaken for another Caribbean Island.
I absolutely loved this trip and go back in a heartbeat. There is more to discover on the little island, too. We didn't check out the surfer scene, the mountains in the center of the island, and many other interesting places. Looks like we'll be taking more trips @Drew ;)
Any questions or comments? Ask away!