Must-Dos​ of Puerto Rico

Despacito, This is how we did it down in Puerto Rico. No, I am not going to sing the whole song, I am going do it poquito poquito. (Bit By Bit) list down the Must Dos of Puerto Rico. So to be honest Puerto Rico got so much popularity after this song. No, we visited Puerto Rico in 2015, 2 years before the song was published. Today we are going to take you through our experience in Puerto Rico, our honeymoon destination.

This post is going to cover Things to see, Hidden Treasures, a brief about car rentals, stay, in shot a custom-made 7 day Trip.

Introduction to Puerto Rico:

Puerto Rico is a tiny Island, east of Dominican Republic & is one of the points of the Bermuda Triangles, other than Miami & Bermuda. The island is only 177km wide & 65kms long. Hence we chose to base ourselves in San Juan’s Mont Caribe guest house for 7 days.

This is how we did it in Puerto Rico:

Landed at San Juan international airport from New York at 5 in the evening, Picked our fancy drive, Mustang Convertible from Herts Car Rentals. ( Remember it’s a honeymoon;) & then checked into our budget accommodation. (Quite a contrast;)

* Name of the accommodation:  Mont Caribe Guest House:

This guest house rates average, but location wise it worked perfect, it is in the neighbourhood called OCEAN PARK which is very centrally located in the city of San Juan. Parking was included in the booking. It was a 2 bedroom apt, but we were lucky to have the whole apt to us. In the evening we checked in & went to a restaurant in ocean park. I would suggest you look at more options.  Cost I paid for 6 days with Mont Caribe 392$ tax inclusive. 

Day 1: Old San Juan & Castillo San Felipe Del Morro.

Old San Juan:

What is Old San Juan?

The oldest settlement within Puerto Rico, Old San Juan, is a Barrio (a district) of San Juan.    Old San Juan will readily remind you of ancient Spanish architecture, Where the city is characterized by its narrow, blue cobblestone streets, & flat-roofed brick & stone buildings, which date back to the 16th & 17th century, when  Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony.

Things to do:

DIY walking tours, nearby beaches, dining, night-life & of course there is Castillo San Felipe Del Morro & Castillo San Cristobal, which are the 2 prominent tourist attraction. More on both the Castillo’s mentioned below. There are plenty of souvenir shops and bars. Parking here is like any other busy city centre. So, choose to park in one of the paid multi-storied parking & walk around in peace of mind.

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Castillo San Felipe Del Morro & Castillo San Cristobal:

In 1983 this castle was declared a WORLD HERITAGE SITE by UNESCO. The original fortress was built to defend the port of San Juan by controlling the entry to this harbour. The castle still houses cannon barrels & cannon balls from the Spanish empire. Castillo Del Morro also has a lighthouse which overlooks the Caribbean Sea.

Time Needed:

Dedicate one whole day for The Old San Juan as there are plenty of things to see.

Tickets Price for both the Castle: Total of 7$/person valid for 24 hours for adults.

Pictures:

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Loads of Iguana around.

Day 2: Cavernas De Camuy & Arecibo Observatory:
Cavernas De Camuy:

What is Cavernas De Camuy?

The literal meaning of the Spanish name is Caves of the Camuy (River). There are about  2000 caves in Puerto Rico out of which 415 have been explored by geologist & of what I remember from our geologist from Cavernas de Camuy mentioning only 199 are accessible for tourist. Be ready to be awestruck as soon as you enter, this natural wonder. Cavernas De Camuy formally named PARQUE LAS CAVERNAS DEL RIO CAMUY is one of the largest cave networks in the world & the 3rd largest underground cave system in the world.  The main part of the cave is massive with a ceiling of over 10 stories high. The caves are formed due to the acidic river water running through massive limestone (Calcium Carbonate deposits).

Things to Do in there:

The park authorities manage about 300 acres of this park & offer both walking & “The Rio Camuy Cavern Tour”. This is what we chose. This tour starts with a toy train ride which takes you to the mouth of the Rio Camuy Caves. As you ride down to the mouth of the caves you will feel a significant drop in temperatures due to the humidity as high as 95%. The initial entrance of the tunnel is through steep descending steps, but later it is on easy walkways with side rails. This whole tour is guided & narrated by the geologist & the cave experts. After the ticket point, the caves can only be accessed by the guided tour.

Distance from San Juan City Center:

97km/60.2 Miles. Follow your GPS or google maps as there is not much signage on freeways for any of the tourist attractions.

Timings:

For timings & ticket info visit their official website. In 2015 we paid around $12/person. Just a tip; wear good hiking shoes & carry spare clothing as the humidity is really high. The 1st tour starts at 10AM & the last trolley leaves at 03:30PM.

Time Needed:

Allow about 2.5 to 3 hours for the whole trip. After this we headed to our next stop Arecibo Observatory:

Pictures:

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The Arecibo Observatory.

What is Arecibo Observatory?

The Arecibo Observatory was the LARGEST RADIO TELESCOPE in the world until 2018, till the Chinese took over. This observatory boast of 1000 foot wide radio telescope, which intercepts cosmic radio waves. On September 21st, 2017 Hurricane Maria, caused significant structural damage to the dish telescope. This place is still open for visitors as the repair works are carried on.

Distance from Cavernas De Camuy:

16km/10 miles.  Adviseable to download  Google offline map. The last 5km of the drive off the freeway is windy & beautiful dense forest & expect no mobile reception.

Timings: Visit their official website for updated visitor hours.

Things to do:

There are self-guided tours. Inside the observatory, you will find associates running demonstrations of their projects, who are extremely friendly & they would guide you through their subject. I vaguely remember a table which carried a subject about Carbon. The associate ran us through the whole study through live demonstration which was quite interesting & proved her subject.

Time Needed:

This will depend on your interest in the subject. But if you are like me, who would tour around & stop only at the tables that interest you, then I would say about an hour and a half would be just about right. There are cafes & small eateries inside. There is a viewing deck to see the dish telescope & the panoramic view of the observatory. There is a souvenir shop as well. If you have a drone this spot is ideal to get an aerial shot of the telescope.

Pictures:

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Day 3: Cueva Ventana & Gozalandia Waterfalls.
Cueva Ventana:

What is Cueva Ventana?

Cueva Ventana literally means the window cave. A guided tour leads to this beautiful window like a cave with the view of the Arecibo valley.  This cave is carved out of limestone like Cavernas De Camuy, however, the views are unique to itself. But unlike Camuy caves this cave is smaller in size. For Insect Lovers this cave is a paradise. The cave is swarmed with cockroaches, snakes & bats. The Hour-long walking guided tour takes you to go through the natural cave & also through plenty of plants & trees, some of which are near extinction.

Timings:

For timings & ticket info visit their official website.

Price in 2015 were 19$+ tax.

Things to do in there:

After the ticket point, the caves can only be accessed by the guided tour. There is only one option of the walking guided tour.

Distance from San Juan City Center:

88km/54.6 miles. Follow your GPS or google maps.

Time needed:

Allow roughly an hour for the whole tour.

Pictures:

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After Cueva Ventana we headed to our next stop:

Gozalandia Waterfalls.

What are Gozalandia waterfalls?

It is considered as the hidden treasure of Puerto Rico. The water falls into a pool almost 20 feet deep. An easy forest hike leads you to this beautiful wonder.

Distance from Cueva Venta:

52km/32.3 Miles. The route getting there could get confusing has it is not well-marked, is windy and leads you through small villages.

Things to do:

You could take a dip in the pool. Bear in mind the falls could get extremely crowded as this is a popular weekend getaway for the locals. There is a restaurant at the parking area, which serves good food, but the service could be slow as it gets crowded.

Pictures:

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Day 4:  Cueva Del Indio & Bacardi Distillery
Cueva Del Indio.

This is indeed an actual hidden treasure of Puerto Rico. This Cave can be visited without any guided tour. Unlike the other limestone caves carved by rivers, these caves are carved by the sea into the limestone rocks and Tiano Indian drawings carved into the walls, that’s why the name, Cueva Del Indio. When we visited, this place could be accessed free of charge, but apparently, now there is an entry fee of $5 per person as it has gained popularity.

Things to do:

To get access to the caves, you will have a decent hike onto gigantic seaside rocks. Then there were no marked trails, so we had to figure out our way up. After getting to the centre of the caves, we found a wooden ladder left by adventure enthusiasts for others to climb down to a pit where one gets a closer view of the sea waves splashing against the cave walls. Beware of honey bee hives at the pits. 

Distance from San Juan City Center:

74km/46 miles. Follow GPS or google maps.

Time Needed:

Approximately 1 hour. Or as much as you like.

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After finishing your expedition at Cueva Del Indio, it is suggestible to pay a visit to Salitre Meson Costero, Seafood restaurant Bar & grill. It is 4.2km East of Cueva Del Indio on the 681 highway. It is a very prominent place, hard to miss it. This also offers an unpaved helipad & people coming here to have food in their personal helicopters is a common site.

Pictures: Of the food we ate & the restaurant.

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Bacardi Distillery

This is a must do the historic tour. We, unfortunately, missed it. But I have added it in this post for the benefit of the readers so you can add it into your itinerary & make sure to visit it unlike us;)

For more details visit their official website.

Day 5: El Yunque National Park:

What is El Yunque National Park?

This is a tropical rainforest. This is the smallest rain forest maintained by the US forest services yet it is one of the most biologically diverse National forest hosting hundreds of animals & plants species some of which are only found here Like the Coqui frog. Currently, this National Park is closed for public visits after its facilities have been severely impacted by hurricane Irma & Maria.

Things to do:

La Mina Trail & Waterfall, Cocoa Falls, Yokahu Tower & many more. You can take your car inside the national park. The roads were in very good condition. It is a good picnic spot. Plenty Of waterfalls, Trails & natural pools.

Time Needed:

Dedicate one whole day for El Yunque National Park. Also if you are not planning to camp overnight ensure to check with the forest rangers the closing time before which you will have to exit the national park. If you prefer a HALF DAY TOUR that too is possible.

Distance from San Juan City Center:

47km/29.3 miles. The road inside the national parks is windy.

Pictures:

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Day 6: Vieques Island:

Why Vieques Island? 

From Puerto Rico, we went to island south-east of Puerto Rico, Vieques Islands. There are couple ways to reach this island. The reason we chose Vieques is that Vieques Island has a Mosquito Bay which has been recorded in the world by GUINNESS WORLD RECORD for its BRIGHTEST BIOLUMINESCENT BAY. Puerto Rico has 3 bays with bioluminescent, out if which the brightest is in Mosquito Bay, Vieques, The 2nd brightest is in Fajardo & the 3rd in La Parguera, the town of Lajas. To make the most of your Bio Bay tour plan your trip to Vieques on a new moon day. Darker the skies, brighter the bioluminescence. Vieques won Best Island in the Caribbean both in 2012 and 2008 & Top 10 Islands of the Caribbean in 2013 and 2014.  Vieques Is gaining its popularity yet you will get your peace & quietness here. You will have a chance to relax & unwind in this island.

How to get there?

There a couple of options to get to Vieques. You can take a flight from any of the major U.S cities. from San Juan, there are few airlines that fly to Vieques. The other option is to take a ferry from Fajardo. The ferry takes approximately 2 hours or less.

Time Needed:

1 day for Vieques Island & 1 hour in the night for the bioluminescence tour.

Things to do:

Bioluminescence is must do. It is ones in the lifetime experience to see this natural wonder.  Take the Kayaking tour as they take you to the spots where the boats can reach the bioluminescence is brighter. You can rent a bike & go around the island during the day. To know more about the island, tours & preservation of the bioluminescence check out the below website. Could Not take any pictures of the bioluminescence as kayaking & clicking pictures were just impossible & anyways my pictures would not do justice to what we witnessed at bioluminescent-bay 

Stay:

We stayed in a Lazy hostel. Very popular amongst the back-packers. A clean place to stay. The hostel bar faces the sea. Staff in the Lazy hostel were extremely friendly. Food was good. They made good vanilla killer cocktails & chicken wings. Stay for 1 night cost us 72.24$.

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Day 7: Culebra:

Culebra is east of Puerto Rico & north-east of Vieques. Like Vieques, this island is also on a quieter side another perfect place to unwind.  In the north-west of Culebra is the Flamenco Beach which ranks the 3rd best beach in the world.

How to get there?

There are ferries to Culebra from Fajardo, & small airlines too. This time we chose to fly in one of the smaller planes. It took us around 10 mins to reach to Culebra.

Things to do:

We rented a golf cart for a day which was quite exciting & took it around the island. It was the best way to get around Culebra. Flamenco beach is a white sandy beach with Turquoise waters. Rented the golf cart from Carlos Jeep Rentals for 25$ day fuel excluded. Picture attached below. There are FULL DAY TOURS that you can consider to save on your stay & travelling cost.

Stay:

We stayed in Culebra Island Villas. It was a 1 bedroom apartment with a beautiful view of the creek. Stay for 1 night cost us 110$. 

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Cost for the entire trip:

Total cost for the stay in Puerto Rico, Vieques & Culebra: 572.24$

The car cost was expensive since we chose a convertible & 2 days it was just parked at Fajardo ferry terminal: Car cost for 7 days was 1500$. you can definitely choose a less expensive car.

Food & activities for 2 people for 7 days I would say around 700$.

Total Cost of the trip for 2 people: 2,772.24$.

You can plan your trip the way you like. Mix & match the above destinations. We left Puerto Rico for 2 days in between to go to Vieques & Culebra as the new moon night was in between our trip so we had to plan in such that Puerto Rico was split for 1st 3 days, then Vieques & Culebra & back to Puerto Rico. You can customize your trip as per your requirement.

Evenings were usually spent at Conrado district in San Juan hopping popular bars and restaurants.

I hope you have enjoyed reading. Hope you enjoy as much as we did. Please share your pictures I would like to be a part of your experience through your pictures. Enjoy & Safe Travels.

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12 Comments on “Must-Dos​ of Puerto Rico

  1. Omg! Puerto Rico is definitely an amazing place!
    I love all your travel photos.
    The places are very nice and worth to visit.

    xoxo,
    THE TEACHERNISTA

  2. I love knowing about new places. An avid traveler myself, I would love to visit this place.

  3. Looks like you guys had an amazing trip! Those caverns sound really cool. I wonder how much has changed since the hurricane came through.

  4. This place sounds and looks beautiful. And I have to say, your hair is quite lovely.

  5. What a great list!!! I love Puerto Rico, been once as a child (1 day post-cruise) and last time for a week about 10 years ago with some girl friends. We had so much fun in San Juan and some beach that I can’t remember the name of. Hoping to take my hubby and our 3 kids some time soon!! From NYC it’s just a skip away!!

  6. Puerto Rico looks like an amazing place to visit… you guys seem to have had so much fun, and I love all of the pictures

  7. Puerto Rico has been on my wander list for a long time. The only thing holding me back was that no one would go with me. I’m considering going solo as I’ve been seeing so many independent women do!

  8. That looks like an amazing trip. So much adventure and not a bad price for an island vacation. I love the waterfall and ocean pictures. Looks like a lot of fun.

  9. This place looks amazing. I love the rocks around the ocean. You took pictures very well.

  10. These all look like great places to visit in Puerto Rico! The waterfalls looked amazing, I would love to see them one day. Thanks for sharing!

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