From exploring the historical city of Old San Juan, trekking deep into the jungle and lounging on white sandy beaches, Puerto Rico has activities for every holiday-goer.
Although Puerto Rico is a relatively small island renting a car is definitely the most efficient way to get around as public transport is reasonably limited. Cars can be rented from the airport or the San Juan city, I used Enterprise which cost around £32 per day. It is not necessary to have a car for the duration of your trip, Uber and public transport can be used to get around town. The local taxi service is definitely best avoided unless you fancy your chances haggling down a extortionate fare.
Staying in an AirBnB in San Juan, I found I was of walking distance from the local super market and the beach. I found this area had less of an authentic Puerto Rican feel as it was peppered with high-rise apartment buildings and chain restaurants and bars but it was a perfect base to explore from. It is a 10 minute drive from Old San Juan and a short walk to the main beach.
Puerto Rico offers something to everyone, but there are some treasures on the island that cannot be missed.
El Yunque Rain Forest
This rainforest located in the El Yunque mountains boast rare trees and birds throughout. The best way to explore the rainforest is to drive through the mountains to various hiking routes. It is possible to drive through to the top of the rainforest with only a 30-45 minute hike to the very top observation point. The hiking routes are well maintained, so even if hiking isn’t your passion you can soak up the atmosphere and take it slow. Hiking trails lead to waterfalls where you can lounge on rocks and bathe in the refreshing fresh water and panoramic views of San Juan and the coast line.
Points of recommendation: Bring a large bottle of water, a camera, a good packed-lunch and appropriate footwear for walking long distances on uneven terrain.
Old San Juan
Old San Juan offers history and culture starting with the historical fort which encompasses the town. For $5 you can enter the fort and walk along the wall which boarders the coast line. From the top of the fort there is panoramic views of the town. Although the harbor brings in hundreds of tourists to the town every day the character of the city remains. Old San Juan boasts independent coffee shops and restaurants which are ideal to escape the midday heat.
Recommendations: Get lost exploring the colourful streets of Old San Juan, but don’t forget to take regular breaks to stay cool and refreshed.
Flamenco Beach, Culebra Island
Rated one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world, no photograph will do this tranquil getaway any justice. Located on a small island off the Puerto Rican mainland it is important to get the early boat to have a full day here. If you decide to go to Culebra, you must leave San Juan at 7 am or earlier and drive one hour to Fajardo to get the 9am boat to Culebra. In Fajardo you can park your car for $5. The boat takes around 1 hour. Once off the boat you will be bombared will gold buggy rentals and coach taxis. It is best to take the taxi to Flamenco beach which will cost $5 for a round trip. From there you can explore other beaches on the island or drink in the breath-taking turquoise sea with a cold beer in hand. The return ferry is at 7pm.
Recommendations: If you can AVOID the weekend and bring a cooler with drinks and snacks, although the food stools are located close to the beach and are not too pricey. On the beach there is not much shade so bring an umbrella for cover.
Cabo Rojo Lighthouse
As you can see from my photo, I arrived at the lighthouse on a moody, wet afternoon, but the views were spectacular nonetheless. Although from San Juan it is a tiring four hour drive, it is worth it. The salt flats surrounding the lighthouse complement the bright blue water, and I can imagine with a bit of sun it would have looked even better! Although the walk up to the lighthouse wasn’t taxing, it also was not a pleasant experience in the rain (tantrums were had, flip-flops were thrown). But once at the top you can sit on the cliff edge and watch the waves crash against the rocks under your feet. It is a beautiful place to watch the sun setting over the sea.
Recommendations: Pick a sunny day and spend the afternoon exploring the beaches surrounding the lighthouse before watching the sunset from the cliffs.
The Parque Nacional de las Cavernas del Río Camuy – Caves
Located in Camuy, this cave system is the work of tens of thousands of years. For $18 per adult a tour guide will drive you in a open-roof trolley 200 feet down to the cave entrance. A headphone guide will take you to different stations explaining the significance of the cave. There is an area where the cave opens and you are invited to drink water from the springs escalating down the mountainside.