It took 11 years since we moved to the US for my husband and me to visit this island. It used to be on the top of our US places to visit list but since there are so many islands in the Caribbean to visit we thought… Puerto Rico can wait. Oh boy… little did we know that we were missing so much and if we had known better then we have flown there the moment we had the chance.
I am from the Philippines, a beautiful tropical island while my husband originates from Cape Town, one of the most charming cities on earth so you should figure out that yes, we would know what a perfect travel destination looks like. In that regard, we have to say that yes… Puerto Rico definitely counts as one…
Let me start with the weather, ease, and security
Puerto Rico is a tropical destination so expect to get warm weather whole year round but also a fair bit of rain. Yes, it rains almost every day somewhere on the island even if it’s just for a couple of hours. The Islands of Puerto Rico travel guide gives you great information on the weather which can help you to plan your travel.
For those of you who are US based, you should rejoice, after all, it is a US territory. There are non-stop and direct flights from all over the US to the main airport of San Juan and double easy because you don’t need a passport (your US Driver’s License or State ID should do but it is still recommended for foreigners to bring proof of immigration status). Additionally, you don’t need to change currency, there are no foreign transaction fees, they speak English – even though the main language of the island is Spanish – and your phone works without those nasty roaming charges. Yay! Even your health insurance should still cover you while you’re there so likely the travel insurance you have with a credit card will suffice (I always recommend you have some level of travel insurance to cover those unexpected events that can happen while on the road).
Puerto Rico is generally safe but of course, you have to exercise some precautions. We felt very safe as we walked around San Juan and also while we were driving around the island.The local driving habits are laid back island style but without that disregard for traffic laws often associated with Latin America and the Caribean so I can say it is a pretty pleasant experience and is well within the comfort zone of all but the most timid of drivers. I recommend that you consider hiring a car which will open up more possibilities to explore and discover the island – as well as getting those impulsive photo shots along the way.
Back to the issue of safety… here are few suggestions to keep you safe during your trip:
- Always be on alert with your belongings. I always suggest using a sling or belt bag and keeping a low profile. People wearing high-end name brands or expensive jewelry are often the targets of opportunistic thieves.
- Take tours from reliable operators; you can get a suggested list from the tourism office or your travel agent can help you find one.
- For health and safety use insect repellents to avoid the spread of the likes of the Zika virus.
Let us talk about adventure
Seriously, they packed a whole lot of adventure into one small island. What kind of adventure do you want? Name it and they have it… Diving? Snorkeling? Caving? Rafting? Trekking? Hiking? Ziplining? Snow boarding errrrr no. We did few of these activities with the kids and they were fun and full of discoveries for all.
Of course, you can’t miss the El Yunque National Park, the ONLY tropical rainforest in the National Forest system. We decided to take a hike to see La Mina waterfalls, we took the Big Tree Trail which is rated moderate difficulty and we saw both young and old on the trail. Well… the kids are naturals. They looked like they were locals 🙂
During our walk, we saw huge trees, beautiful out-of-the-ordinary ferns, palm-sized snails, birds (you hear a lot more than you see) and lot mores. Fun indeed!
Turn around a bend and suddenly we see the waterfalls… the raging and roaring La Mina waterfalls. There were heavy rains the night before we visited so the water wasn’t safe for swimming.
El Yunque Rainforest, simply your perfect place to be with nature. We ended our visit with a delicious local meal at one of the pitstops in the mountains.
Tip: Visit early morning to avoid the crowds. This is the most popular attraction in Puerto Rico so it can get very crowded. It won’t stop you from enjoying this amazing place but it may be harder to snap that perfect family shot.
Christopher Columbus arrived in Puerto Rico in 1493. Let’s face it… It is rich in history and culture.
Old San Juan is the main center of history, a walled city which represents the past and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Spending a day or 2 in the city can be fun for everyone – young and old but it can be tiring too. So, make sure to wear comfortable shoes and wear your best attitude:) Take breaks in the many pictureque squares, observe the artworks or the locals, savor some street food, chill in one of the many cafes or even let the kids feed the birds while you look on.
Tip: There is a free trolley that helps you get around the city but take note that it can be busy especially during peak season or when cruise ships are in the port. Walking is still a great option and you never know what gem you may discover in the many picturesque alleys.
Sunset is beautiful so you might want to go to the Fort just before the sun goes down.
Fact: Old San Juan is populated by many stray cats. Apparently a long time ago, the city had problems with rats, so cats were brought to the island to help get rid of those rats. Well…. they did their job but unfortunately, they breed out of control. The Save the Gato organization is trying the help with their various programs.
The PR beaches will keep you wanting to keep coming back
If you have been following my blog, you’ll know my family and I are suckers for the beach. Just put us on the beach and we are all great. If you are in the Caribbean then, of course, you’ll want to see beautiful beaches. In this regard, Puerto Rico offers up one of the most pristine beaches in the world, Palomino Island. My family got the chance to visit this private island which is owned and operated by El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort and Spa.
Where to stay? Well…there are a lot of options for you, from the modest to the luxurious. Depending on what budget and what type of activities you want to do while on the island, varied choices of accommodation are available – from hotels & resorts, Small Inns and Paradores de Puerto Rico. The Paradores is a network of small inns located outside the metropolitan area, run by Puerto Rican families with their distinctive warmth and charm, highlighting the history, gastronomy and cultural diversity, while emphasizing the roots of their Puerto Rican hospitality.
During our visit, we stayed at El Conquistador Resorts & Spa, a beautiful Waldorf Astoria property. It is perched atop a cliff, overlooking the Caribbean Sea on one side & Atlantic Ocean on the other. The gorgeous views, the private island which is Isla Palomino, relaxing Waldorf Astoria spa, beautiful golf course or the water park – it’s all part of this Caribbean bliss.
We had a wonderful time on the property and wish we could have stayed longer.
The resort has a collection of major works of art, paintings and sculptures from famous artists.
The best part for the kids is the Coqui water park; a major plus especially if you have kids who love the thrill of water slides. Mine just couldn’t stop… Well… Daddy had a blast as well:)
Food is so rich and so good…
I didn’t know before but wow…. Puerto Rican food is so delicious; actually, some of the dishes are similar to those in the Philippines probably thanks to the Spaniards who colonized both. Below are a few of the popular food items that we tasted.
Fact: Pina Colada is the Puerto Rican National Drink and this iconic cocktail was invented in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico, you had me at Hello!!!
So, I don’t know with you but since it is so easy to visit Puerto Rico from the US and now that I know how much there is to do, I am sure that this is just the start of many trips to this beautiful island.
If you want to know more about Puerto Rico and needed help for your next family getaway, please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy and Safe travels.