Puerto Rico Travel Guide
WHAT TO DO IN PUERTO RICO
Chris and I fell in love with Puerto Rico when we traveled there for the first time on our one year wedding anniversary, which inspired our decision to become a Puerto Rico Wedding Photographer team. Turquoise water, lush rainforest, and cotton candy colored houses dotting the coastline make it a perfect Caribbean destination. Below I’m sharing all the details you’ll need to plan your next getaway!
How do I get to Puerto Rico?
If you’re a US Citizen, it’s crazy easy to get to Puerto Rico! Puerto Rico isn’t technically a state, but it is an unincorporated territory of the US. This basically means you don’t need a passport to travel there, just your license or state issued ID. From Connecticut, Puerto Rico is just a four hour plane ride away, and airports all over the US have direct flights. I recommend Jet Blue, mostly for the extra leg room.
Driving around the island isn’t bad (but you do have to watch for pot holes), and rental cars are available near the airport, which makes getting around the island simple.
Extra tip: Verizon actually works on the island, so if you have Verizon as your carrier you can use your GPS!
What time of the year should I go to Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico is beautiful all year round, but our favorite months to visit are during the Winter here in New England. Any time from November – March is our favorite time to visit. You should prepare for rain no matter what time of year you go, but so far, we haven’t had to cancel any of our plans due to rain or hurricanes!
What part of the island should I stay on?
I have two recommendations here, depending on what kind of vacation you’d like to have. We’ve stayed in Palmas del Mar more than once, which is a beautiful destination with many resorts to choose from in the area. If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation on the beach, don’t want to do a lot of exploring, and like the idea of an all-inclusive resort, it’s perfect. Palmas del Mar is about an hour from San Juan, so you’ll need a rental car if you stay here!
My other recommendation is to stay in one of the amazing boutique hotels in Old San Juan, or an Airbnb in Old San Juan. If waking up to the sounds of a bustling city, walking down the street for a waffle and excellent espresso, and exploring a European-esque city sound like your cup of tea then Old San Juan is perfect! Hotel el Convento is a favorite of mine, it’s right by the Puerta De San Juan and walking distance to everything Old San Juan has to offer.
11 Things to do in Puerto Rico
- Explore Old San Juan
Old San Juan is my favorite part of the island. It’s always bustling with activity, and there’s no shortage of great places to eat or stop for a quick espresso. The European architecture is so beautiful, and it feels like walking the streets of Italy or Spain. You can see the Puerta De San Juan, or walk the Paseo de la Princesa all the way down to where cruise ships dock (and where the food trucks hang out!)
- Go Kayaking in the Bioluminescent Bay
The first time we visited Puerto Rico we had one of my favorite adventures to date – we tried kayaking in one of three bioluminescent bays (or “bio bay”) on the island. You set off in your two person kayak at sunset, with a small group and group leader. Paddling through a winding river in the jungle as it slowly got dark was definitely an experience! Once we reached the bio bay it was dark, and our group leader left us to paddle the bay alone. As you sweep your paddle, or even your hands, through the water of the bay it sparkles and lights up with thousands of tiny organisms. As fish swim through the water, you can see them leaving glowing trails like comets!
- Learn how to surf
Learning how to surf has been on Chris’ bucket list for quite a while, and we finally got to check it off this year! We tried surfing at La Pared in Luquillo, a gorgeous beach with white sands and perfect waves. Brian Ramos was our instructor, a local from Puerto Rico and a former Puerto Rico National Surf Champion! I won’t lie, surfing is fun but not for the faint of heart. I completely wiped out every single time, but Chris got the hang of it and was pretty good by the end of our two hours there!
- Explore El Yunque
If you go to Luquillo to try surfing, try exploring El Yunque later that afternoon. It’s just a short drive from the beach, and is the only National Park that’s a tropical rainforest. You can choose to drive or hike (but beware if you drive, there are a lot of twists and turns, and massive potholes throughout the trail!) There are waterfalls you can rinse off in after a strenuous hike.
- Visit a Coffee Hacienda (we tried Hacienda Muñoz)
Puerto Rico is known for it’s incredible coffee, which is one of the reasons I love visiting this island so much. Coffee has been in Puerto Rico since the 1700s, and they definitely have it down to an art. It’s rumored that Alto Grande Super Premium Coffee from Puerto Rico is served at the Vatican (one of three coffees in the world classified with super premium quality!) The best way to experience Puerto Rican coffee culture is to visit a coffee hacienda.
Hacienda Muñoz is on the Eastern part of the island, about 40 minutes from Old San Juan. Peacocks strut around the property, where you can either take a tour with a guide or do a self-guided walk through the plantation. There’s a wonderful cafe where you can sample espresso and lattes made with the coffee they’ve grown and roasted right there!
- Try Gourmet Waffles at Waffle-era
Waffle-era gets its own bullet point because that’s how much I love it. Located in Old San Juan, it’s indisputably one of our favorite restaurants on the island, with fantastic coffee and of course, amazing gourmet waffles. They use a technique to brew their coffee called siphon-fire-brewing, brewed to order with a system that “replicated the traditional Puertorirican ‘cafe colao’ slow brewed filtered method.” Honestly, I’m not 100% sure what that means, but it looks complicated and is completely delicious.
My favorite waffle, which I unashamedly order every time we visit, is their creme brulee waffle. It’s served on a bed of chocolate and honey, and the classic crunchy creme brulee on top is amazing!
(Gotta get the ‘gram!)
- Relax on the Beach
Puerto Rico isn’t short on incredible beaches to visit. Any of the island’s coasts has incredible beaches, but Flamenco Beach is known as one of the best ones. The only downside is that it’s in Culebra, meaning you’ll have to take a ferry or small plane there (we recommend the plane…we’ve been warned about how unreliable and slow the ferry is by many locals!)
- Do a Rum tasting at Bacardi
If you like rum, Casa Bacardi is a must visit while on the island! You can learn about the fascinating history of Bacardi, and sample some delicious rum. The cost of a tasting includes a tour, tasting of five Bacardi rums, a commemorative Bacardi cup and a cocktail to finish off your afternoon. You can even fill your own bottle of rum from one of their casks and get it engraved!
- Visit Castillo San Cristóbal
If you’re a history buff, you’ll love taking a tour of one of the forts on the island. Castillo San Cristóbal (or Fort San Cristóbal) was originally built to protect the island from attack, and is now a popular tourist destination.
- Experience Nightlife
La Plaza del Mercado in Santurce is a hot spot to visit if you’re looking to experience some nightlife in Puerto Rico. There are restaurants and bars lining the streets, where people enjoy local music and even jump up to dance in the streets. Simply walk around the square and choose a place to sit and people watch, or even get up to dance yourself! One of our favorite spots here is Asere Cubano, recommended to us by a local couple (whose photos are featured on our Puerto Rico Wedding Photographer page!) They have a wonderful selection of appetizers and an extensive cocktail list with unique creations.
- Try Some Local Gourmet
Every time we visit a new place, Chris and I like to try as many local restaurants as possible. Santaella, a gourmet restaurant from chef Jose Santaella, came highly recommended and didn’t disappoint. The restaurant features an incredible indoor tropical garden and unique dishes that were incredible. Santaella is right by La Plaza del Mercado, and combining a dinner at Santaella and drinks at Asere for a night out is a perfect date night!
We hope you enjoyed our Puerto Rico Travel Guide! If you’ve been to the island and have suggestions for what we should do next, leave a comment!