Note: This is compilation of information from a friend of mine. I will write about the memorable experience of mine visiting this gorgeous island in 2009 very soon.
Feel free to rent a car and drive in Puerto Rico, but make sure you get the insurance...peace of mind since there are lots of holes in the road and all the cars have dings....Driving in Puerto Rico is a "little" different than in the U.S.
- If there is free transportation from the airport to the hotel ("La Concha"), then it is best to rent the car at next to the hotel as it is ~20% cheaper and you do not have to deal with returning it at the airport. There are several diff car rental places next to the hotel.
- Roads are marked and maps are pretty accurate (not as much as in the US, but you can get around easy)
- People honk their horns all the time (different!)....just to say "hey! I'm going your way", so do not get upset if you hear people honking at you all the time. Honk back as needed!
- After 12:00PM, you do not have to wait for a green light. Red lights are just stop signs (Stop, look around and proceed). Please note that since this is Puerto Rico, people will start doing this stop and go after 10:00PM. If you get stopped because of this, let the police officer know that you were told that you can run these lights after 10:00PM (worked for me last time they stopped me...well...either that or they did not know what to do w an US driver's license).
- Parking spots are very tight in San Juan (small and not too many of them)! If you're going to "La Placita" there is a public underground parking right next to it. If you're going to the ports or lower part of San Juan, there is a public parking next to the left of "Fortaleza" street.
San Juan Area
- Fort - San Felipe del Morro ("El Morro")
- "Parque de las Palomas"
- "La Catedral" de San Juan
- Bacardi Rum Distillery - Is the largest in the world, 15-minute drive from San Juan. Note: If you want to visit this one, take your time....no good if you're tired...
- Deep Sea Fishing - Check with the hotel or call the different nautical clubs to rent a boat
- Scuba Diving - Check with the hotel (good Scuba rental place next to Caribe Hilton "El Escambron")
- "Dorado Beach" ("Chi-Chi's place) - next to "Embassy Suites" in Dorado (30 min from San Juan)
- "El Conquistador" - Hotel in Fajardo (outside city) - Tried this one last time I went to Puerto Rico. Great!!
- "El Morro" - There is an underground public parking structure in front of the fort's grassy area
- Touring "El Morro" interesting in terms of its history (pirate attacks , its defenses, etc.)...check out video inside the fort.
- Windy! We had a lot of fun last time we went there with a group of friends just flying kites in the afternoon.... You can buy them for $2 on a stall right as you enter the grassy area next to the Plaza.
- If it is hot by "El Morro" and you want to quench your thirst, try the "Piraguas" (shaved ice) or the "Helado de Coco" (coconut ice cream), there are carts all over Old San Juan which sell them.
- Once you finish with "El Morro" you can walk up to "La Placita" and go down "La Fortaleza" street...there are all sorts of small souvenir and outlet shops (Note: Prices are not the best, so be careful....you can always negotiate)
- If you want something to eat in
San Juan during the day, "Melao" ("In" place right now in San
Juan for lunch) which is at the end of the strip where the cruise ships
dock in San Juan. We also went to "El Patio de Sam" in "La Placita" and had a
snack last year. You can probably order "tostones" (fried green plantains) and
"sorullitos de maiz" (corn fritters) with "mojo de ajo" (garlic sauce) if you
want to taste something typical.
- There is also "La Bombonera" which is a cafeteria which has been open for ~70+ years in lower San Juan. If you go there, make sure you try a "Mallorca" (sweet bread with white powdery sugar on top). If I remember correctly, they also served a good "Caldo Gallego" (soup) and "Arroz con habichuelas y bistec encebollado" (rice and beans with flat iron steak and onions)
- If you want to go out to eat at night,I recommend the "Budda Thai"...it is a "Tapas" style place with a mix of Puerto Rican and Asian cuisine. You'll need reservations. Another place which is very similar to this one is the "Dragon Fly" in San Juan.
- If you like "Ceviche" (I could take it or leave it), a new one we just tried this year was the "PeruRican" in #2 street just outside San Juan. I really liked this little restaurant! The "Ceviche" was excellent! If you go, make sure you get the "Ceviche" with "tostones de yuca or platano" and an "Suspiro" for dessert.
- If you like "food stalls", my brother tells me there is a nice restaurant in "Pinones"
"El San Juan" Hotel - "Party" hotel -> Catamaran, Parasailing, Jet Ski, Salsa, electric slide, night club, beach bar
Nice places to go have a drink at night or while you're at the beach. The "Caribe Hilton" is famous for their "Mojitos" and "Pina Coladas". We also tried the "Cranberry with Don Q Limon" and it was very refreshing. I do not think they are that different from anywhere else, but it is a nice place to have a drink and take a safe walk in the back of the hotel (private beach, hammocks and small pier overlooking the ocean). The "El San Juan" is like any other beach hotel during the day. Fun place, especially by the ocean bar!. It has a casino and a couple of night clubs if you're looking for nighttime entertainment/dancing....
Note: Do not go for a beach walk at night in front of the "Isla Verde" hotels ("El San Juan", etc.)....beach is not safe at night!
- "Plaza Las Americas" - Mall ~15 minutes from "Isla Verde" where everyone goes to shop and eat on the 3rd floor...
- All sorts of stores in "Old San Juan"....it is nice to take a walk
El Yunque -
The Caribbean National Forest, often called "El Yunque", has the highest visitation of any natural site in Puerto Rico. The "El Portal Rain Forest Center" has some interesting exhibits in English and Spanish if you're interested in learning more about the rain forest (did not do much for me) . There is also a small observation fort on the left as you go up the road which has a great view once you climb thru all those steps! Make sure you continue up the road towards a place called "Coca Falls". You'll see the sign on your left right next to the parking area. Park the car and walk into the rain forest ~1/2 mile....at the end you'll find a waterfall where you can go refresh, swim, etc. It is cold!
Mosquitoes: Make sure you take some "Deet" mosquito repellent with you when you go to the rain forest! Also, if you're allergic to mosquito bites, make sure you apply it at night.
If you continue down the main highway instead of turning right to go to "El Yunque" you'll find "Luquillo Beach". Just before "Luquillo Beach" are the food stalls. They've great food, but make sure you get a clean one! Try some of the typical food like the "Bacalaitos" (Codfish fitters) and something to drink like "Agua de Coco" (Coconnut water). The beach is open to the public and is very pretty.
Note: You can probably do both "El Yunque" and "Luquillo" on the same day...
Note: You can probably do both "El Yunque" and "Luquillo" on the same day...
BioBays - "Bahia Fosforecente" - 3 different places to go at night...
- Las Croabas
- La Parguera
- Vieques Mosquito Bioluminescent
There are several you can go to at night. Best time to go is when there is no moon..last time we went on an "adventure Kayak" run for $35 in "Las Croabas" in Fajardo. We like this place best so far, but keep in mind you'll be kayaking thru mangroves at night, so it will be an "adventure" (smelly, wet, safe...lots of fun!).Info: "The Kayak Rental"
Eco Tour / Cycling - Expeditions
The bay in "La Parguera" has boats that take you there, but it is a big boat and not as much fun. It is far enough away that you would want to stay in a "Parador" (small Motel) in Lajas (just next to where you would take the boat) . I've heard good things about the bay in Vieques, but have never been there....would need to check the ferry times to make sure it works for you....
This area is known as the Milla de Oro del Buen Comer (The Gourmet Golden Mile) because of the strip of seafood restaurants along the waterfront road.
Vieques or Culebra
Small islands off the coast of Puerto Rico. You can take a govt ferry for a very small fee and spend the day in their beaches. Fun!
Arecibo Radio Telescope & ObservatoryThe Arecibo Ionospheric Observatory is open Wednesday to Friday from 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM and Saturday, Sunday and most holidays from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. I've not seen it, but am told that is quite impressive to see such a big radar taking basically the entire mountain.
Gilligan’s Island - Guánica
This is a pretty beach off the coast of Puerto Rico. There is a boat you can take for ~$7 which takes you there and back every hour on the hour. If you want to go, make sure you call the day before to make sure the boat is operating that day.
There is also the "Parque de Bombas" and museum in Ponce and the "Cuevas de Camuy", but these are more sightseeing tours.