When I told people I was visiting Puerto Rico, I was often met with an unusual reaction or response, mainly asking 'why do you want to go there?!'. For me, I have always wanted to visit Puerto Rico and I'm really happy I finally got the chance to! Following Hurricane Maria, I was a little skeptical to visit, as I didn't know what to expect, in terms of the island's tourism and well being etc. However, after doing some research, reading blogs and watching vlogs, I found tourism was very much encouraged by the island, in order to help it rebuild.
We* flew from Miami to Puerto Rico, which was roughly a 2.5 hour flight. Flying into Puerto Rico, the unfortunate damage from hurricane Maria is evident, such as flattened and destroyed trees. Nevertheless, I was determined to see Puerto Rico for its true beauty and for all it had to offer.
We stayed in San Juan during our ten day stay in Puerto Rico. San Juan is the cosmopolitan capital of Puerto Rico and has alot going on. We stayed in a local guest house in the Condado beach area, which was the perfect spot. It is a lively, upmarket area full of restaurants and hotels, which feels very safe! The La Concha hotel is also located within Condado and is very much a luxury resort - if you fancy splashing the cash!
Wherever you are staying in Condado, you are not far from Condado Beach - which was literally a ten minute walk from our hotel. It is a lovely little beach, despite the tide bringing in lots of seaweed throughout the night and there are sun loungers and umbrellas available for hire. We were lucky enough to celebrate 4th July with the locals. The locals all flocked to the beach, bringing their big portable speakers, blasting Latin music, which was pretty cool!
You can also go paddle boarding on the lagoon in Condado. I personally didn't do it, but our hotel had a great view of the lagoon, so it was good to see each morning.
If you like to salsa, then La Factoria and Piso Viejo are the best bars to be! La Factoria is located within Old San Juan and is where they filmed parts of the Despacito video. There are several rooms/bars and a live band on Sundays and Mondays - you can expect to dance salsa all night long! Piso Veijo is more of a local salsa bar, which is even better if you don't want to be with fellow tourists. Everyone watches you dance here, so expect an audience but don't be put off by this!
On one afternoon, we hired a Catamaran to take us on a two-hour sunset sail around San Juan Bay, which offered the most amazing views of the island. The catamaran was chartered through Sail PR and we were even lucky enough to drive the boat! As an extra bonus we also saw dolphins swimming, which was magical!FYI - the boat departs from San Juan Bay Marina, which is a lovely setting to have a walk around beforehand.
Isla Verde is also another beach town to visit, which is nearby San Juan by car. Again, it has lots of hotels and restaurants on offer, as well more beautiful beaches.
OLD SAN JUAN
Old San Juan is a ten minute Uber from Condado. Here, you'll find narrow streets, lined with beautifully coloured buildings, which are very Instagram friendly. We really loved Old San Juan - bear in mind the streets are quiet on a Monday, as the locals are recovering from the weekend. The best way to explore Old San Juan is by foot and to simply let yourself get lost. Old San Juan itself is quite small, so technically you can't really get lost, as the streets are all laid out in a grid system, so at some point you'll find yourself passing the same bar/restaurant twice, which also helps you get your bearings. A particular popuar pizza restaurant, which always a has a queue outside, is Pirilo. The pizza is amazing!
If you are in Old San Juan, you can't not visit El Morro, which is the history of Old San Juan. I don't want to turn this into a history lesson, but long story short, El Morro was built to defend San Juan from seaborne enemies. It is a beautiful walk up to the actual fort, as it's super windy with families flying kites. There is a small entrance fee and lots of photo opportunities once you're in!
EL YUNQUE NATIONAL FOREST ZIPLINING
Located in El Yunque Rainforest, we were really excited to go ziplining in the wonderful Puerto Rican rainforest! We went through gorgeous hiking trails, eleven ziplines and three rappels. If you are a thrill seeker, then you must do this when in Puerto Rico! It's so much fun literally gliding through the forest - FYI, the ziplines get longer and faster as you progress through the rainforest. The guides were so lovely, making us feel at ease. We booked this through the La Concha hotel resort, which worked out a little pricier, as it included a pick up and drop off from the hotel - but well worth it! It took around forty minutes to get there via car from San Juan.
On one day, we hired the most lovely driver to take us to the North West coast of Puerto Rico, to an area called Aguadilla. We visited Crash Boat Beach, the Old Aguadilla Lighthouse Ruin, as well as Borinquen Beach, which was so beautiful. The ocean views from the lighthouse ruin were amazing! A big thing in the North-West of Puerto Rico is the Taino Indian face, which is a massive sculpture which has been carved into rock, which represents Puerto Rican heritage and culture. Aguadilla is a fun day out, with such scenic views. The North-West is known for its surfing, as the waves are huge on this coast! We were lucky enough to watch our driver indulge in some surfing, which was very cool! As Puerto Rico is quite a small island, the drive from San Juan to Aguadilla is only roughly 1.5 hours.
I really enjoyed visiting Puerto Rico - a very beautiful island with great beaches, greenery and scenic views. The Puerto Rican people are very friendly and upbeat, despite the devastating chaos that Hurricane Maria brought. I would say, if you didn't know Puerto Rico had been hit by a category 5 hurricane, you wouldn't even know, as they have done an excellent job restoring as much of the island as they can. One thing I loved about Puerto Rico is that there are amazing bakeries, which offer the best sweets, from mini doughnuts to pastries. I would say despite being on technically what is a Caribbean island (location wise), you almost forget Puerto Rico is U.S owned, but you are soon reminded by just how expensive San Juan is. The cost of things (hotels, food etc) are very much on the pricier side - at times even more expensive than Miami/U.S mainland. If you head out of San Juan though, the prices do come down! FYI - I would also say that San Juan is especially busy with lots of mainland Americans on vacation, which I don't blame them as it's a beautiful holiday destination. It's interesting, as I was doing my research prior to visiting Puerto Rico, I read alot of guides which said Uber wasn't available and it would be difficult travelling around the island and that many Puerto Ricans do not speak English. Let me assure you that Uber is very much available around Puerto Rico and lots of locals speak English. We did not have a problem with either of these things. I had also read that Puerto Rico was very unsafe - when do they never say this about anywhere?! We were safe and felt very safe throughout our stay. I guess there will be unsafe areas and neighbourhoods, but you would be a fool to visit these places. Puerto Rico, you have been a pleasure, you wonderful little island!
*me and my sister.
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All statements and recommendations are purely my own opinion. I have not been paid to feature or advertise any product, brand or service in this post.