If I could choose one vacation to experience all over again it would be my week-long trip to the Island of Enchantment – Puerto Rico. Miles of white sandy beaches, turquois blue water, and tropical forests make the Island of Puerto Rico a true gem. This place definitely stole a piece of my heart. We decided to rent a car for our week in Puerto Rico so that we could wander freely while on the island. I would highly recommend renting a car if you want to see the best that the Island of Enchantment has to offer.
Where to Stay in Puerto Rico
If you plan to stay put in San Juan, you can find a variety of popular hotels to choose from. Some of the more well-known are the Hyatt Place, Mariott Resort & Casino, and The Condado Plaza Hilton which range in price from $140-$210 per night. If you want a more authentic Puerto Rican experience I would recommend renting an Airbnb. We decided to go this route and rented an amazing condo just steps from a local beach in Manati, PR. Our condo was so cozy and decorated with lovely beach décor that really gave it that island vibe. My favorite part of our Airbnb stay was being able to walk to the beach or lounge on the balcony with a cup of coffee (or Pina Colada!) Our Airbnb was in a gated community and we also had our own outdoor grilling area where we prepared several beach-side meals. A surf n’ turf dinner just tastes better when enjoyed steps away from the ocean.
Be sure to check out my guide to the best Airbnb’s in Puerto Rico!
El Yunque National Rainforest
First on the list is a trip through El Yunque National Rainforest. Trust me, you will not be disappointed! The roads twist and turn through some of the most dense and beautiful tropical foliage I have ever seen.
Next time I visit Puerto Rico I plan to spend a few days just exploring the rain forest, hiking waterfall trails, and getting up-close and personal with mother nature’s tropical side.
Walking the streets of Old San Juan
When it comes to must-sees while visiting Puerto Rico, a walking tour of Old San Juan is at the top of that list. The historic streets found in OSJ are full of bright colorful buildings and plenty of photo opportunities. Be sure to try a pocillo (espresso), cortadito (espresso with steamed milk), or café con leche (latte) at one of the local coffee shops in downtown San Juan. Puerto Rico is known for it’s coffee production and there are still many coffee plantations spread out across the island.
While in San Juan you’ll definitely want to spend some time at the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a historical seaside fort that was built over a 250 year timespan (1539-1790). El Morro was used as a military fort during the First and Second World Wars. The views of the sea from El Morro will take your breath away and you can just feel the history while walking through the old stone walls of the fort.
Beaches, Beaches, Beaches!
When you’re done exploring all that San Juan has to offer, it’s time to venture out to some of the best beaches in the world! Flamenco Beach on the Island of Culebra is hands-down one of my favorite beaches of all time (and I’ve been to many beaches in my lifetime!) To get to Culebra you’ll need to take a ferry. We opted for the ferry out of Fajardo and spent about 1.5 hours on the ferry before arriving in Culebra. It only cost $4.25 per person when we visited, which is a real bargain for budget travelers. Once we arrived in Culebra we were able to rent a golf cart to get around on the island. We had such a blast driving the golf cart and exploring all of the beautiful beaches on Culebra island. Culebra offered some of the best snorkeling so be sure to bring your snorkel gear. I was fortunate enough to spot a sea turtle while snorkeling at Playa Tamarindo!
Another lesser-known but breathtaking beach experience is the one located on Guilligan’s Island, a tiny undeveloped island a few miles off the coast of Guanica, PR. You can easily catch a ferry to the island. Unfortunately we had just missed the ferry when we arrived, but luckily there was a local fisherman who offered to “taxi” us to the island for $20 in his small fishing boat. He even offered to pick us up at a designated time a few hours later! We felt like VIPs aboard our own charter boat!
When we arrived on the island it was full of locals who were picknicking and hanging out in the warm turquois waters around the mangroves. This is very much a “locals spot.” We were able to spend a few hours snorkeling and shell-searching in the shallow Caribbean waters that surround the island. I saw puffer fish, angel fish, and a wide array of shells! Much to our surprise, our friendly fisherman friend returned right on time to pick us up a few hours later and taxi us back to the main island.
For a whole new level of beach adventure, you’ll need to make time to visit one of the Bioluminescent Bays in Puerto Rico. There are 3 total in PR – Mosquito Bay which is located on the island of Vieques, Laguna Grande in Fajardo, and La Paguera in Lajas. What is a bioluminescent bay, you ask? Well, it is a beach that glows bright blue-green at night due to tiny plankton called dinoflagellates. Does it get more magical than a beach that glows at night? I think not.
One of the best unplanned stops that we made while driving around Puerto Rico was the Cueva Del Indio (Indian Cave) park where you can see petroglyphs and climb around in old Indian caves right along the seaside. Also, they have some beautiful natural rock arches that make for some absolutely stunning ocean views.
Other must-see beaches while visiting Puerto Rico include:
- Rincon Beach
- Crash Boat Beach
- Playa Isla Verde
- Sun Bay Beach
- Luquillo Beach
Whether you want to spend your time lounging on the sandy white beaches, swimming in the clear turquois Caribbean waters, sipping coffee in Old San Juan, or road-tripping through El Yunque Rainforest, Puerto Rico is a must-experience! I can’t wait to plan my next adventure to the Island of Enchantment. ❤