Puerto Rico Guide
Five Things First Time Travellers To Puerto Rico Should Know
- Learn some Spanish. Very few people speak English once you leave the big cities. Before your trip, memorise a few essential words and phrases. It will go a long way to making your trip more enjoyable.
- Beware of dengue fever. Make sure you pack mosquito repellent and wear long-sleeve shirts and pants in the evening.
- Don't drink the water. It's also advised to avoid ice cubes and vegetables that haven't been washed with tap water. To make sure you don't get sick, stick to the sealed bottled water found in any of the local supermarkets.
- Hurricane season is from June to November. If you don't want to risk your trip being ruined by bad storms, avoid booking your trip between these months.
- There is a tipping culture in Puerto Rico. The general rule of thumb is to tip your server 15-20% of your total bill. Taxi drivers receive 15% of the fare and housekeeping usually gets USD 2 per day.
Best Time To Visit Puerto Rico
The best time to visit Puerto Rico is from April to June. You'll escape the crowds of the winter season and arrive just before the summer storms. Room rates will also start to drop, and you'll be able to splurge at four-star hotels for less than USD 150 per night. Springtime also sees some Puerto Rico's top events take place. If you're a foodie, try to plan your trip around SoFo Culinary Week and Calle Fortaleza.
Fall is another great time for a trip to Puerto Rico. Between October and December, the winter crowds have yet to arrive, and you'll have better luck snagging a deal. The weather is also pleasant, and the summer storms have started to fade away.
Puerto Rico's winter lasts from December to April. The season boasts the country's best weather, making it the busiest and most expensive time to visit. But if you book your trip well in advance, you might be able to lock in some deals before prices skyrocket.
The least popular time to visit Puerto Rico is during its summer months. Temperatures soar, and the chance of hurricanes keeps the crowds away. But if you are on a budget and don't mind the less than ideal weather, prices for hotels will be at their lowest.
Puerto Rico Cities
San Juan is the historic capital city of Puerto Rico. It's more than 500 years old, and the entire town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walk past the hundreds of 16th and 17th Spanish colonial buildings and visit the quaint shops and restaurants.
Its highlights include the 16th century El Morro Fort, the Fortaleza and the neoclassical San Juan Cathedral which houses the tomb of Ponce de Leon.
Ponce is one of Puerto Rico's most beautiful cities. Called the Pearl of the South, its town centre is full of well-preserved colonial architecture and Spanish mansions.
Its most notable buildings include the Old Ponce Fire Station, the city's cathedral and the many museums dedicated to Puerto Rico's history, art and culture.
Rincon is Puerto Rico's ultimate beach town. Located on the west coast, it's known as the island's surf capital. Surfers from all over the world come here to brave its towering 15 foot high waves.
Rincon's coastline is also rich with marine life. It's one of the best places in Puerto Rico for whale watching. Plan your trip between January and March to watch the humpback whales make their annual migration.
Top Attractions in Puerto Rico
El Yunque National Forest
El Yunque National Park is one of Puerto Rico's most visited natural attractions. Located in the Luquillo Mountains, it covers 43 square miles and is the only tropical rainforest found in the US.
But what makes the national park unique is its diverse flora and fauna. It's home to 50 species of orchid and boasts 240 types of trees. It's also a sanctuary for many of Puerto Rico's endemic animals like the coqui tree frog, Puerto Rican Parrot and pygmy anole.
The best way to explore El Yunque is to tackle one of the many hiking trails. The most popular one leads to the beautiful La Mina Falls. It is the only waterfall in the rainforest, and it is open to the public for swimming.
Culebra is a haven for divers. Located 17 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico, it's home to some of the best coral reefs in the entire Caribbean. The waters are clear, and there is little to no surf, making the conditions ideal for exploring its depths.
Back on land, more than a third of the island is a nature reserve. Its hidden coves and rugged terrain offer challenging hikes with epic views over the landscape.
If one day is not enough to explore Culebra, there are a few eco-resorts on the island that will suit any budget.
Vieques is one of Puerto Rico's top destinations thanks to a unique phenomenon. At night, Mosquito Bay's waters are lit up by a large concentration of bioluminescence.
The best time to experience this natural wonder is during a New Moon phase. Hire out a boat or kayak after dark, and watch as the water lights up around you.
But this is not all the island of Vieques has to offer. It's also home to miles of secluded beaches and a National Wildlife Refuge that is teeming with flora and fauna. For history buffs, you can learn about the US army's occupation of the island and visit the Puerto Ferro Archeological Site.
Arecibo Radio Telescope
If you love geeking out about the universe, a visit to the Arecibo Radio Telescope is a must. It's the largest single-dish radio telescope in the world and is an important astronomy research centre.
Scientists from around the world have come here to study the faraway planets, the moon and the earth's ionosphere. It's also where the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence program is based and where Jodie Foster filmed the movie Contact.
If you want to visit the observatory, you can either drive there yourself or join an organised tour. If you decide to go with a group, most tours will also include a trip to the stunning Camuy Caves nearby.
Rio Camuy Caves
Rio Camuy Caves is the third largest cave system in the world. Spanning across 268 acres, the caves were used by the indigenous population for centuries.
Today, it's one of the best day trips from San Juan, but you need to get there early. Only a set number of tickets are released each day to help protect the caverns. If you're planning on going, try to arrive an hour before the park opens to make sure you're at the front of the line.
Once inside, you'll descend into a 200-foot sinkhole on board a trolley bus. The whole tour takes about two hours and is a fascinating look into one of Puerto Rico's unique natural attractions.
Major International Airports in Puerto Rico
- Luis Munoz Marin International Airport
- Rafael Hernandez Airport
- Mercedita International Airport
- Antonio Rivera Rodríguez Airport