Are you going to Puerto Rico? YES!! I’m on a mission to get people to visit this island of enchantment like we did. I had heard such negative opinions about Puerto Rico that my mind was blown after this trip! I don’t know where these negative opinions came from! I have it on good authority that Puerto Rico is more beautiful than Hawaii and much friendlier on the budget! I don’t recommend that you try to see it all. It’s a very big, interesting, and enchanting island. Take your time and maybe you can get some inspiration from our week well-spent in Puerto Rico exploring Humacao (Palmas del Mar), El Yunque, Luquillo beach, Vieques, and Old San Juan.
Getting to Puerto Rico…
It’s not the easiest place to get to. Flights can be a little pricey and they are at the most unusual times. We took an overnight flight from Houston with United. We left Houston close to midnight and arrived around 4:30 a.m. in San Juan (SJO). We were a little unsure how this would work out, but some good friends picked us up at the airport and drove us to Palmas del Mar in Humacao where we stayed in an airbnb. Since we hadn’t been approved for early check-in, we relaxed on the beach, watched the sunrise and enjoyed a cup of coffee as we walked around the harbor and town. Taxis and Ubers are moderately priced – not super cheap but not overly priced either. We were told that an Uber from San Juan to Humacao would probably cost around $40.
Palmas del Mar is a stunning resort community. Staying at the hotels or resorts in Palmas del Mar would be very pricey, but there are excellent options on airbnb if you search for Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico. This community is like another world! Nobody drives cars! We all get around driving golf carts. It feels a little like playing “grown-up” when you go out to dinner driving a golf cart and honk at each other from your dinky golf cart. We felt like royalty driving our golf cart from our “home” to the beach or up on the mountaintop to look at the mansions and take in the ocean views. Las Palmas is a wonderful place to stay. You could just walk around but the golf cart is nice for exploring the amazing houses! It is certainly not the cheapest place to stay but an airbnb is a great option for such a fun and safe community, and it’s about a 30 minute drive to El Yunque or Luquillo.
El yunque ….
The rain forest has been almost completely re-opened after hurricane Maria. It is a rain forest, so plan on catching some sprinkles everywhere you go. We didn’t spend a lot of time here, but if you love to hike, I’d recommend staying in El Yunque so you can really explore the trails and stunning waterfalls. We climbed Yokahu tower and then stopped at a waterfall. We didn’t swim, but you can! We followed a foot trail up the side of the waterfall for quite a while. It was some pretty steep climbing and lots of mud. There may be more developed trails, but if you love adventure, there are plenty of foot trails that will take you on some great adventures to hidden waterfalls and streams. Just keep your hands free to grab onto support and wear good hiking shoes or sturdy sandals! My #1 advice is to pack bug spray and reapply if you don’t want to be eaten alive. Also, I would recommend a rain jacket – not just because it rains, but because it can feel pretty chilly compared to the beach.
We explored this beach on our way back from El Yunque. If you are hungry for Puerto Rican food, this would be your one-stop shop. In front of the beach, facing the road, you will find wall to wall open-air restaurants frying up all the common Puerto Rican dishes – great place to get empanadas. Luquillo beach was the prettiest beach we visited on this side of the island. There is some decent snorkeling out around the rocks and you can swim around the back side into some pretty deep waters, but we found that most of the fish were in the warmer, shallower waters. The water is really clear and blue, but you will find some trash on the ocean floor which is disappointing. In general, it’s a lovely beach and popular among the locals, so you won’t have the beach to yourself here. There are also some water sports if you feel like hiring a jet ski or kayak.
San Juan…. Don’t miss San Juan! You just need a day or two but read all about our memorable San Juan experience here.
This post wouldn’t be complete without food. Our friends treated us to dinner at La Estacion….WOW!!! If you can ask around or use your phones to find this hidden gem, it is so worth it! The portions are huge and the meat is to die for. Even the bread was so delicious. I ordered the matahambre and it did exactly that, “killed my hunger.”
Traditional Puerto Rican food is not the greatest or healthiest in my opinion. It tends to be very greasy and mostly fried, so other than empanadas once in a while, we made our own meals with friends. If you try to stay health conscious, I wouldn’t be hitting up the Puerto Rican food stands every night, but there are plenty of options, especially in Vieques or Old San Juan!
Please go and enjoy the USA’s best kept secret, and let me know what you saw and did! I can’t wait to hear what places you discovered on this island of enchantment.