“Let’s not travel to tick things off lists or collect half hearted semi treasures to be placed in dusty drawers in empty rooms. Rather, we’ll travel to find grounds and rooftops and tiny hidden parks, where we’ll sit and dismiss the passing time, spun in the city’s web til we’ve surrendered, content to be spent and consumed. I need to feel a place while I’m in it. -Victoria Erickson
Honestly, what could be better than heading to the Caribbean WITHOUT a passport? Puerto Rico is an easy ride from the east coast, yet when you land you’ll be incapsulated in a completely different world.
We stayed in Condado Beach, San Juan, which was an easy ride from the airport (less than 15 minutes). The area is a bit touristy, but the beach is gorgeous. I went in early March, and it wasn’t crowded at all. The weather couldn’t have been better: it was at least 80 degrees every day, and there was a consistent breeze that didn’t leave you feeling hot and sticky on the beach.
Head to the beach! We stayed one block from Condado Beach, and woke up early to pick our sandy spot. Pick up some Coronas and enjoy your day.
We left around 4 to go back and get ready before heading to Old San Juan. I highly recommend you find time to fit this area in; you’ll find the del Morro Fortress, jewelry shops, outdoor restaurants, and pastel colored buildings. Head to the fort, go shopping, get a pitcher of sangria at dinner, then end your evening listening to live music at the waterfront.
This was a relaxing day for us. We went back to Condado Beach, then grabbed dinner and went shopping around our Airbnb. We ended the afternoon by picking up a rental car, which we needed for Day #3 and #4.
Get up bright and early for a trip to Culebra Island. This is a LONG day, but so so worth it. Before the sun came up, we took the rental car to the Culebra Ferry Dock, which was about an hour drive. We purchased a package through Kayaking Puerto Rico, which included a roundtrip ferry ticket, pick up from the dock, kayaking, snorkeling with sea turtles, then a stop at Flamenco Beach.
If you have a light stomach… I would maybe consider paying for a flight to the island (not too expensive and way faster), instead of the ferry ride. Let’s just say that they hand every single passenger a puke bag once seated.
Kayaking, then jumping off to snorkel with the sea turtles was the highlight of my trip. I’ve been wanting to do this for years. The tour guides find the turtles for you and make sure everyone gets a peak. Then you kayak over to a coral reef and jump ship again. The day is exhausting, and you’ll definitely feel it in your muscles the next day — but don’t hesitate to book this excursion. I highly recommend taking a GoPro to get some underwater photos!
A quick stop at Flamenco Beach (listed as one of the top 5 beautiful beaches in the world) leaves you wanting more. They give you enough time to grab some food from a stall, and sit on the beach for a bit, but then it’s back to the ferry.
The El Yunque Rainforest is a MUST if you’re in PR. It offers views like no other. You’ll need a car for this trip as well, so keep your rental for the total of 2 days before returning. We got up early to beat the heat, and drove to the heart of the rainforest. This day is completely free, as long as you don’t stop in the El Yunque Visitor Center (which you definitely don’t have to).
You can drive your car straight up the mountain to the hiking trails. I would save a map to your phone, so you can choose what trails you want to hike, then drive to them. You can find a map here. We chose to tackle the El Yunque Peak (the longest trail), then to La Mina Falls.
The trek to the peak of the mountain was roughly 5 miles roundtrip, took 4 hours to complete, and had us 3.3k feet in the air. It was the hardest hike of my life, but without a doubt the most beautiful. Next, we hit the La Mina Trail so that we could cool off in the waterfalls. Be prepared for a ton of steps with this part. We spent a full day exploring, but you can choose to stay and do as much as you’d like to here. They have food stalls, places to fill up water bottles, and resting areas. All together, my iPhone app said that we walked/hiked 9 miles. Yes… you read that right: 9 miles.
We started our last day at Casa Bacardi. For a small fee you get a tour of the grounds with a history lesson about the rum, then a drink at their lovely outdoor bar in a complimentary souvenir glass. Sit for a while, enjoy your daiquiri, then grab an Uber and head back to the beach. Obviously our priorities laid with the sand and waves this trip.
To say the least, I BADLY want to go back. I want a chance to explore some different parts of the island and I want to kayak in a bioluminescent bay. You always leave a place wanting more, right?
Until next time Puerto Rico.