Puerto Rico was my favourite destination in the Caribbean in terms of positive vibes and atmosphere and it is a place where I will surely return to. Our original plan was to spend more time here since we were going to depart for our Caribbean cruise from San Juan. However the connections from Europe are not ideal and getting there involved more connections and was more expensive. Therefore we had to change our plans. I do not regret staying in Barbados, but I would highly recommend anyone visiting the Caribbean staying for a couple of nights in Puerto Rico.
Tips for anyone visiting Puerto Rico:
Puerto Rico is politically United States of America territory, so security and passport controls are the same. You need to check your visa requirements and if your country is eligible you need to apply for the ESTA prior your arrival. Make sure to apply at least two weeks prior departure since approval make take a couple of days. You need to print the papers confirming approval as you need to show them at passport control.
- If you are visiting for a day, do not plan too much! Puerto Rico, unlike other islands of the Caribbean, is quite large and you can visit only a small area during one day.
- Allow some time in San Juan as the capital (even if you do not love cities) is very charming.
- If you have the luxury to do so, I highly recommend visiting during the weekend as there is live music along the streets of San Juan.
Here are some ideas if you are planning to visit Puerto Rico for a day:
El Yunque National Park
El Yunque is the only rainforest in the United States of America territory. We had a good dose of beaches and we wanted to experience something different in Puerto Rico. El Yunque proved to be the ideal place for us nature lovers and wanted something different from beaches. You can opt to book a tour or rent a car and drive yourself from San Juan to the park which is roughly an hour away. Since we visited Puerto Rico a year and a half after Hurricane Irma, we found that most of the trekking trails in the park are still closed. This time we were not looking for any trekking since the temperature was too hot to do so. We opted to drive in the park and stop at waterfalls and viewpoints that stretch to the coast.
We did not actually visit this place for the beach, we wanted a good place to eat next to the beach and this place happened to be close to El Yunque so we decided to go there. There is a wide choice of restaurants and grills along the beach all displaying fish, lobsters and other local foods that are simply irresistible. We loved the atmosphere here and since it was a Sunday, there were a lot of people on the beach and we just loved the atmosphere. There were families doing picnics on the beach, groups of friends playing instruments and singing and the atmosphere was exactly like what is portrayed in the music videos of Reggaeton hits.
Allow at least a couple of hours to explore the historic centre of San Juan. The city with its colourful buildings and wooden balconies is very charming 🙂 Going around with a stroller was not ideal, I must admit, as the roads are very bumpy being in cobblestone. We started our walk from Plaza Arturo Somohano and we made our way up towards the castle of San Cristóbal. We walked along the coast on Calle Norzagaray with the bastions (watch out for iguanas here!) and the ocean on one side and the bars with live music on the other. Again there were a lot of people dancing in the streets to Reggaeton music and it felt like being in the music video of Despacito 🙂 Again here we were able to see the effects of hurricane Irma, as there are still several abandoned and destroyed buildings. However most of the historical centre has been restored to its original beauty. Luckily we had ample time and stayed until dark in San Juan before making it back to the ship. However as explained above, Puerto Rico deserves much more than a day visit. I will surely return to explore more of this island. Find more information on Puerto Rico on the official tourism website.