What Makes this Island One of My Favorite’s in The World?
My love for Puerto Rico wasn’t instant. It was a love that grew over the span of six years as I explored the nooks and cranny’s of this magnific island. I grew up living just high enough to overlook the peeks of El Yunque’s smallest mountains from the left and the Caribbean Sea on the right. You’d think I would have held an immediate spark of affection for Puerto Rico from the moment I set foot on the sandy beaches that line my hometown of Luquillo, but after living in Central America for most of my life, it took some getting used to. I remember feeling uneasy with the movements and the shift of energy; this place carry’s an enchantment all it’s own and it hasn’t always been on the same page as me.
The feeling of Puerto Rico is very distinctly Caribbean. From the way Puerto Rican’s speak, to the way they dance, to the food they eat. It’s an island with a history that makes for a very unique experience. You’ll see it in the architecture of Old San Juan and the trees in the rain forest. It’s the kind of place that you’ll love forever, once you let into your heart. They say that once you’ve seen every island in the Caribbean, you’ve seen them all; don’t believe what “they” say. It’s so not true.
You Can’t Miss…
Getting out of the city
Most visitors come to Puerto Rico and never leave “La Area Metro” (the metropolitan area which mostly consists of San Juan). It’s true that there are great beaches like Ocean Park and Isla Verde, lots of shopping, delicious food, and most of the stereotypical reasons people come to Puerto Rico in the first place. However, if you don’t get out to areas like La Parguera, Ricon, and even Humacao, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. Look for excursions to Parque de las Cavernas del Río Camuy (huge natural limestone caves), book a night at Palmas Del Mar in Humacao, and try surfing lessons in Ricon. Throughout the year, many parts of Puerto Rico also host historical events and festivals to celebrate and educate about the indigenous ancestors of the island, Tianos. You might even be able to spot some of the hieroglyphs throughout the island.
Renting a Boat & Visiting Vieques or Culebra Islands
Isla Culebra and Isla Vieques are two small islands just off of Puerto Rico. You can catch a ferry from the docks in Luquillo and be there in no time. Every year they hold a regatta (a series of boat races) in Culebra, and locals with boats dock up side by side for a lively weekend of drinking, dancing, and indulgence. It’s one of the best times of the year. You can go snorkeling, scuba diving, or just lay on the white sandy beaches.
Waterfall Scouting in El Yunque
One of the most amazing parts of El Yunque National Forest is the plethora of waterfalls found in this beautiful, Caribbean rain forest. As a kid I loved to spend a full day hiking with my father and end up enveloped in fresh forest water. La Mina Falls
You Must Try…
Dough made out of yucca (a root similar to a potato) filled with ground beef, crab, or pulled chicken and then deliciously fried.
Little meat pies wrapped with sweet plantains.
Agua de Coco (Coconut Water):
Let’s get real, I know you know this already. Why would you go to the Caribbean and not try Coconut Water… but just in case you’re forgetful, I thought I’d add this in here. Puerto Rico’s coconuts are some of the sweetest I’ve ever tasted!
Slow roasted pork, seasoned to perfection. You’ll be licking your fingers! Lechón is typically eaten with rice and beans.
My favorite type of juice! In English it’s called passion fruit, and you may have tasted it before. However, I can assure you that you have never tried juice this fresh or delicious outside of a tropical island.
You Might Not Know…
Americans don’t need passports to enter PR from the USA
All you need is a government issued ID like a driver’s license. Pretty cool, eh? If you plan to island hop through the Caribbean, however, you will definitely need a passport.
Almost everyone speaks English
This is a bit of a sweeping statement, and it’s true that you’ll run into some people who don’t, but generally it is very easy for English speakers to travel through Puerto Rico. Both languages are taught in most schools and most public information is provided in both English and Spanish.
If You’re on a Budget:
Hang Out in Public Places
The forts and other historic areas of Puerto Rico may cost a bit to visit, but their surrounding areas are almost just as beautiful and free. You can bring snacks, beverages and a blanket to sit on, which is something many locals do on the weekends.
Avoid Major Hotels
In a lot of Caribbean locations resorts are affordable and convenient. This is not the case in Puerto Rico. Most resorts and big hotels are very expensive and luxurious, and all-inclusive accommodations are not common. I definitely recommend you look for a hostel or smaller hotel instead.