Puerto Rico was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, and has attracted explorers like Juan Ponce de León and pirates like Roberto Cofresí. Today, it’s a U.S. Territory, and the capital San Juan is the oldest city in the U.S.
This island is home to the only tropical rain forest in the U.S., the largest fort in the hemisphere, surrounded by 270 sandy beaches, and bio-luminescent bays that glow at night.
Islanders say there are over 200 underground caves at Rio Camuy Cave Park, limestone formations, an unusual desert — the Guanica dry forest, and more rivers than roads. Flora and fauna, frogs, lizards, birds thrive in this Caribbean paradise.
San Juan’s charming Old town has a vibrant nightlife with salsa dancing, casinos, bars. The people are friendly and the culture is a blend of African, Indian and Spanish influences. Don’t miss local dishes like Mofongo, the Puerto Rican chocolate, coffee, and rum.
We only had 2 days in Puerto Rico, and spent most of our time on the north side of the island between the beaches along Condado, Isla Verde to Bahia, and visited Old San Juan, before embarking on a Windstar Cruise through the Virgin Islands.
Sharing our list of recommendations on what to do, where to stay & dine in Puerto Rico.
Good to Note…this list will continue to grow when we return to visit Puerto Rico. Also, U.S. citizens do not need a passport to visit Puerto Rico.
Old San Juan: Take a Walking Tour of Old San Juan with Local Guide – Javier Ruiz. He is a local and knows the history and streets of Old San Juan.
We met him at Plaza Colon and he gave us an overview of the city and led us through the old town, stopping at churches, squares and navigated us through the quaint cobblestone streets lined with colorful Spanish colonial buildings.
His knowledge and insights are helpful to first time visitors. Contact him to book a tour at: Javier Ruiz email: WalkSanJuan@gmail.com or mobile: (787) 525-6905
- San Juan Forts: Visit National Historic Sites – the 16th century El Morro (San Felipe del Morro) with 18 ft. thick walls, and World Heritage Site – Castillo San Cristobal. These fortresses open up to spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean to the north.
- Stroll the Waterfront (El Malecon): Exit the Old San Juan town through the San Juan Gate, and walk the waterfront that hugs the Fort Wall and continue to Paseo de la Princesa, the main center of Old San Juan.
- Art Galleries & Museums: On Saturdays, stroll along the waterfront and you’ll find an arts and crafts market.
Outside of San Juan:
- El Yunque: The only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Parks, located in northeastern Puerto Rico. Visitors follow trails under treetops up to high-altitude forest and to waterfalls. Look for the ancient petroglyphs by the indigenous Taíno people.
- Ponce: This town is known for its Creole architecture, seafront boardwalks, and art galleries, this is a must stop on an island tour.
- Rincón: Heard this town is a surfer’s paradise! Next trip, hope to visit this town and stay at the Horned Dorset Primavera, a beautiful mansion converted into a luxury boutique bed and breakfast.
- Scenic Routes:
- Condado to Fajardo (Northeastern side of the Island) – Go to Condado, Ocean Park, Isla Verde, Piñones via road 187 to rio grande. Continue to Luquillo to the Croabas Lagoon in Fajardo.
- There’s the Panaramic Route that is one of the most scenic routes in the U.S., click here.
- Julie Schwietert of Matador Network recommends a variety of routes with detailed information about villages and places to stop along the way, click here.
VIP Luxury Transportation drove us to Bahia from San Juan, and suggested this scenic route to see the Northeastern side of the island. We hope to return and see more of Puerto Rico!
STAY & DINE
WHERE TO STAY
Tryp by Wyndham Isla Verde: We looked at a variety of hotels near the San Juan airport, and found Tryp by Wyndham central to the airport and the beautiful Isla Verde Beach. The hotel is decorated with color and cosmopolitan-chic style. A fantastic value for visitors who want to sleep close to the airport.
Photos courtesy of Tryp by Wyndham Isla Verde
The rooms are modern and spacious, with Keurig coffeemakers, free wi-fi and large HD TV’s. The ocean-view rooms can sleep up to 8 guests in a single room.
We arrived after midnight, and the transfer from the airport to the hotel was only a 5 mins drive. We were greeted with smiles at reception and check-in was efficient and quick. Feeling jetlagged, we were able to get to our rooms and get a good night sleep.
Don’t Miss! A dip in the hotel pool and a walk across the street to the Isla Verde beach.
If you want to spend a few days in Puerto Rico in a remote beach area with luxury accommodations, check into the Bahia St. Regis. We visited this resort, the first AAA Five Diamond resort in Puerto Rico, and a 5-star luxury hotel for a site tour. The resort is located on 483 acres and is an Audubon certified nature sanctuary with trails, lagoons, and a sea turtle nesting site.
Guests can tee off at the Robert Trent Jones, Jr. golf course, surrender to its Remède Spa pampering, or savor Jean-Georges’ acclaimed cuisine, lounge at the pool or the beach.
If you have time to dine at the Beach Club, with views of the Atlantic Ocean. One of Puerto Rico’s top chefs, Jose Enrique Montes presents a menu of American cuisine with Puerto Rican influence. Order the tuna cerviche with pineapple and a coconut mojito – delish!
We worked with three limousine companies to accommodate our airport and cruise transfers, as well as sightseeing tours of Puerto Rico. Each of these companies were professional, punctual, and friendly.
- ROYAL STAR LIMOUSINE has been servicing customers since 1988 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. They aim to “exceed expectations” with their reliable, affordable, professional chauffeured services.
Their team of drivers are professional, and ensure a stress free experience from reservation to billing. Call (787) 253-2355 OR email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- VIP LUXURY TRANSPORTATION SERVICES VIP Limo Puerto Rico offers transportation services to individuals, families, and business travelers, including airport transfers, limousine services, wedding transportation services and Puerto Rico tours.
VIP Luxury provided us with a 1/2 day island sightseeing tour. Email at email@example.com or call (787) 619-2004
- ELITE CHAUFFEURS PR offers limousine services in San Juan and throughout Puerto Rico. They provide full-service luxury transportation services – prompt, reliable, safe and luxurious transportation, catering to all transfers needs within city and island wide. Their chauffeurs provide nothing but quality service and meet the high expectations of our customers every need. Email Elite Chauffeurs: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jet Blue: Our airline of choice to fly from Seattle to San Juan, Puerto Rico is Jet Blue. JetBlue offers flights to 90+ destinations with free inflight entertainment, free brand-name snacks and drinks, lots of legroom and award-winning service.
JetBlue Airways aims to provide superior service in every aspect of their customer’s air travel experience. They even offer a Bill of Rights for their customers!
Good to note: Jet Blue and Cape Air are Partners
Cape Air: We flew Cape Air to/from Puerto Rico to Vieques. With up to 100 flights a day in Puerto Rico, the USVI and the BVI, we flew when we wanted to, and easily connected with major carriers. Cape Air serves 40 destinations across the Northeast, Cape Cod & the Islands, the Midwest, Eastern Montana, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands and Micronesia. Cape Air Founder & CEO, Dan Wolf goal is to “Make our customers happy and have a good time doing it.”
Global Adventuress thanks Windstar Cruises for hosting our cruise, Jet Blue and Cape Air for hosting our flights, and the transportation services companies – VIP Limo Puerto Rico, Elite Chauffeurs, and Royal Star Limousine for hosting our transfers.
Windstar Cruises, a boutique small ship cruises that deliver a casually elegant vacation with visits to smaller harbors, in-port overnights & immersive cultural experiences.
Special thanks to Javier Ruiz for the walking tour of Old San Juan, and the companies below who provided products for this trip, also featured in our photos on Instagram, click here!
Raden: Our favorite suitcase for this Caribbean trip is Raden! Called the “Smart Suitcase” since Raden delivers a seamless travel experience by pairing the world’s best materials with technology – built-in charger, weight sensor, and location awareness, connecting seamlessly to the Raden mobile app. Raden cases are super light and incredibly strong, gliding smoothly across airport terminals and city sidewalks. And there are several FUN colors to choose from. We selected the checked bag A28, 28” in the Lavender – it stood out at the baggage carousel and was easy to find. There’s also the A22, a 22” Carry On suitcase that is “smart” too. Can’t wait to travel with the carry on soon.
Get your smart suitcase at www.Raden.com
Gretchen Scott: We are traveling this spring and summer in some of Gretchen Scott’s tunics, skorts, skirts and dresses! Her designs are versatile and can be worn on vacation, and also when you return to home and work.
Gretchen’s mantra is, “Laugh More; Gripe Less; Ignore Critics; Say Yes; Order Dessert; Love Life ®.” She has traveled the world, “looking and hoping always to see – really see.” She is convinced that is what makes for great design, “knowledge of what exists, along with a wide open view of it – coupled with the ability to interpret it cleverly.”
Find your vacation wardrobe at: www.GretchenScottDesigns.com
HATS! Looking for some fun hats for your vacation or trips to the beach? Here are some Etsy shops that sell fantastic hats with clever sayings:
Panmilli: www.etsy.com/shop/panmilli based in Toronto.
Bits and Pieces: www.etsy.com/shop/hatsbybits based in London.