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San Juan & Beyond, Puerto Rico Travel Guide

Puerto Rico is a hotspot destination for many people in the east region looking for a seamless getaway, so I was excited to go and craft my own experience on the island. 

Puerto Rico offers travelers an array of experiences, from exploring historic Spanish colonial architecture in Old San Juan to lounging on its well-known beaches along the coast. 

I had the pleasure of spending a long weekend in Puerto Rico, and it’s safe to say that it’s a destination worth exploring!

I mainly spent my time in San Juan, but did venture a bit out to other regions in Puerto Rico that weren’t too far from the capital city. 

In this Puerto Rico travel guide, I will recap my trip and share some tips and insights I gathered along the way to help you plan your adventure on the island. 

Christina Jane in San Juan, Puerto Rico
In this blog post, I’ll recap my trip and cover what you need to know about traveling to Puerto Rico!

Table of Contents

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Disclaimer: This blog post is sponsored by Discover Puerto Rico, however all views are my own. Sponsorships help me to keep writing these helpful, detailed blog posts that help make your trip easier!  

And Another Disclaimer: This blog post also may contain affiliate links which means that if you book one of these activities using my link (which I know you will because you loved how helpful this blog post is *wink*) I am going to receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting BCJ! 

Getting to San Juan from Washington D.C.: Flight Details

Planning this trip to Puerto Rico started with winning free flights for two from Avelo Airlines through an Instagram sweepstakes I entered!

I am based in the Washington D.C. area at the time of writing this blog post, but the giveaway required that I fly out of the Wilmington Airport in Delaware (ILG) to the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan(SJU).

This required some logistics planning, but thankfully, being temporarily located in the East means easy access to convenient Amtrak routes.

This was my journey to Puerto Rico:

  • Amtrak Train from Washington D.C. to Wilmington, Delaware: 1 hour 41 minutes
  • Uber from the Wilmington Amtrak Station to the ILG Airport: 10 minutes
  • Wait Time in Wilmington: 3 hours 
  • Flight from Wilmington to San Juan: 3 hours 50 minutes

Flying with Avelo Airlines

While my flight was free due to winning the giveaway, Avelo Airlines offers flights to Puerto Rico that usually start at $100 one-way. 

Avelo Airlines is a budget airline company I’ve been wanting to fly with since they launched in 2021. 

As a first-time flyer with the airline, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but my experience with Avelo was great.

Checking in for my flight was seamless. The Wilmington Airport is very small, with Avelo being the only airline flying out of the airport, so there wasn’t much happening there.

However, the Avelo staff was very friendly and efficient at getting everyone ready to go for the flight. 

I was pleasantly surprised that Avelo offered complimentary snacks on the flight, as I had not expected this. 

You can read my full Avelo Airlines Review here!

Entry Requirements 

United States citizens and permanent residents don’t need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico since it is a territory of the U.S.

Stepping into Puerto Rico was like stepping into any other U.S. state.

The entry process was smooth, with no questions or immigration booths to navigate.

I disembarked the plane, collected my bags, and left the airport without any issues, truly experiencing the benefits of various travel privileges. 

According to the main tourism website, travelers from other countries visiting Puerto Rico have the same visa and passport requirements that would apply if visiting the mainland United States, so I highly recommend looking into the requirements that apply according to your nationality.

History of Puerto Rico As A U.S Territory

Puerto Rico became a U.S. territory in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. This means that Puerto Rico is technically part of the United States, and Puerto Ricans have U.S. citizenship.

It also means that Puerto Rico is governed by several U.S. federal laws and its own. 

Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, and there are a few complexities and thoughts that the international affairs professional in me won’t get into in this post, but I thought I’d share what this briefly means in this Puerto Rico travel guide in case there’s any confusion! 

Christina Jane standing in front of the Castillo San Felipe del Morro sign
One thing I enjoyed about traveling to Puerto Rico is learning about certain aspects of the history.

Money in Puerto Rico 

The currency used in Puerto Rico is the United States Dollar (USD).

Everything was priced according to the U.S. dollar.  

I found that things were generally less than they would be in the States, like Uber rides.

Card payment is accepted at most facilities so you can rely on that, but I highly recommend having cash on you with a range of denominations for small food stalls and item purchases and other cash-only spontaneous opportunities you may find yourself having while traveling around Puerto Rico!

I had about $40 in cash for a 4.5-day trip and didn’t use it all, but keep in mind that I did not make many purchases using cash. 

There are also ATMs around San Juan from which to retrieve cash. 

Coconut
I didn’t find Puerto Rico to be super cash-centered, but you’ll want to have some cash on you for buys like this!

Language Spoken in Puerto Rico

Both English and Spanish are the official languages in Puerto Rico. 

If you are not a Spanish speaker, you may find yourself in a few situations where it will be difficult to communicate due to the language barrier, but many people speak both English and Spanish. 

As always, when navigating countries where you are not fluent in the official language, I recommend downloading Spanish from Google Translate so you can use it even when you don’t have data.

Also, prepare a list of key phrases on how to ask how much things cost, directions, basic introductions, etc., so you can converse with locals and aim to respect the culture. 

A stop sign in Puerto Rico  in Spanish
Many signs in Puerto Rico are in Spanish, but are written in English as well.

Time Zone 

Puerto Rico’s time zone is Atlantic Standard Time, which is GMT -4. 

This means that the time in Puerto Rico is usually the same as EST time, but since Puerto Rico doesn’t observe Daylight Saving Time, it will be one hour behind EST time during that period.

Weather 

Puerto Rico has a tropical climate, which means that warm temperatures can be expected throughout the year. 

Average temperatures range from 75°F  and 85°F year-round.

However, as a tropical destination, Puerto Rico is known to have wet and dry seasons. 

The dry season typically spans from December to April, with the wet season from May to November.

I traveled to Puerto Rico in late April and experienced a lot of rain during my trip. 

Thankfully, the days and times I planned certain activities meant that the rain did not impact my itinerary for the most part.

It did impact my visit to the El Yunque Forest, as the park had a one-hour delayed opening and prevented visitors from getting into any bodies of water that day for safety reasons.

There was also heavy rain which made it a bit difficult to start hiking, but in a way it did add to the experience!

It’s important to note that daily rain showers are to be expected in El Yunque, often brief but intense, so dress accordingly or bring layers!

Throughout the rain, the temperature was still always warm and bearable. 

I would be mindful of the month you visit and pack light jackets, windbreakers, and loose-fitted long-sleeve shirts to account for the weather you may experience. 

Safety 

Prior to traveling to Puerto Rico I will say that I had not heard much about any crime(s) and what the safety climate was like on the island. 

On my way to my accommodation after landing in San Juan, one of my Uber drivers mentioned that the city was safe, which is always great to hear.

During my time in Puerto Rico, I never felt unsafe. I did not travel alone on this trip, and I’m sure that helped with feeling secure, but the island really feels like its sole purpose is for people to relax and unwind, and that purpose carries on into the general atmosphere. 

As always, use common sense safety measures like opting for reliable transportation to places, avoiding poorly lit areas, be aware of petty theft, and more to stay safe.  

Christina Jane in Puerto Rico
I thankfully, never felt unsafe during my time in Puerto Rico.

Cellular Service in Puerto Rico 

Researching how to get SIM cards when traveling to another destination is part of my travel preparation. 

However, because Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, I passively assumed that I would have phone service there and, of course, I found myself without any service for most of my trip!

For the most part, US travelers don’t need an international or special cellphone plan when traveling to Puerto Rico since most 4G LTE network works with the majority of mainland service providers. Luckily, most hotels around the Island have Wi-Fi available.

I tried to get an e-SIM card from Holafly while on the island, a company that has equipped me with reliable service on a past trip, but it was not working well.

So, don’t be like me!

Before your arrival, double-check whether Puerto Rico is covered by your cellular plan. 

If not, you can either attempt to get an e-SIM (before you land in Puerto Rico) or find a local Claro store when you land to get a physical SIM card. 

Do you need a SIM card in Puerto Rico? 

I highly recommend having a SIM card when traveling in Puerto Rico.

This is mainly because you will need data and service to order Uber and even research directions and places to visit while you’re out and about. 

WiFi was not readily available when I went out, so I could not depend on it when traveling.

To avoid any issues, it’s best to have your phone data intact and working. 

A beach in Puerto Rico
You may find yourself wandering to different areas in Puerto Rico and reliable phone service is important for this. | Photo by Ethan Jameson

Getting Around

There are several ways to get around Puerto Rico, some more common and easier to incorporate into your itinerary as a short-term visitor. 

Uber 

Uber is available in Puerto Rico and is the easiest option, aside from walking. 

Using Uber in Puerto Rico was efficient for me, as drivers typically arrived within 10 minutes at the most. It can be hard getting an Uber from Old San Juan when it gets super busy, with a few cancellations bound to happen, but it was nothing that wasn’t common, being that it is a popular area. 

Walking 

Don’t underestimate the power of walking when you’re in Puerto Rico! Many hotels and Airbnb properties are located in neighborhoods where it is likely easy to walk to where you need to go. 

Sidewalks are available throughout the city, and I felt safe walking around San Juan even at night, as many people were also out. 

I recommend always checking routes on Google Maps to see if you can walk there and save some coins on transportation. 

The streets of Old San Juan
I did quite a bit of walking in Puerto Rico and found it to be a great money saver! | Photo by Zixi Zhou

Public Bus 

I love learning about the public transportation systems in the places I visit. In Puerto Rico, public transportation is available throughout the San Juan metro area.

The Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP) has designed a network of 30 bus routes that serve the entire metro area.

The bus costs about $0.75 and passes through areas such as San Juan, Toa Baja, Cataño, Bayamón, Guaynabo, San Juan, and Carolina.

However, you have to have a card to ride the bus, and I was also limited in time, so I have to add it to my list of things to do in Puerto Rico on my next trip there! 

Rent A Car 

While I don’t recommend renting a car or driving in San Juan because parking is limited and there isn’t as much of a need to do so, having a car comes in handy when going outside of the city. 

We knew we would be having early mornings and late nights outside of San Juan on the trip, so we decided to rent a car from Urban Rentals PR

This company is owned by the same people who owned/managed the Airbnb we stayed in, which is how I learned about the company. 

A Toyota Yaris from Urban Rentals PR
Renting a car in Puerto Rico helped make my trip smoother and reach a lot more destinations.

We rented their Toyota Yaris for $55/day and had it for two days without any issues. The paperwork required was very light, with the requirement of a valid license, and after that, everything else was a breeze. 

It was so convenient to just get up and go, hop from destination to destination, and cross off all the activities on our list! 

Train   

There is also a train in Puerto Rico, which I plan to take the next time I am on the island! 

It’s called Tren Urbano and runs across 16 stations within San Juan, Guaynabo, and Bayamón from 5:30 am – 11:30 pm, according to the website. 

Rates are typically $1.50, with reduced rates available for seniors, students, and other specific groups of people. 

Train tracks
Puerto Rico does have a train system! | Photo by Antoine Beauvillain

Taxi 

Taxis are also all around Puerto Rico and can be hailed from the streets. 

Aside from seeing taxis at the airport when I first arrived, I honestly did not pay much attention to taxis in Puerto Rico since they were not the form of transportation I used during my trip. 

However, if you feel that you will want to use them, you can read more about taxis in Puerto Rico here

Where I Stayed: Hotel + Airbnb  

Several hotel establishments are sprinkled throughout Puerto Rico, especially in San Juan, and Airbnb is a reliable resource for finding accommodation.

During my time on the island, I stayed in both a hotel and an Airbnb, two stays I will break down in this section. 

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Trópica Beach Hotel 

The first half of my trip was spent at the Trópica Beach Hotel. From what I gathered during my research, this boutique hotel is considered one of the more popular options in the city, and it was a great option based on my conversations with locals.

The hotel is in the Condado area of San Juan, only 10 minutes away from the SJU airport.

Its allure is that it is about 5 minutes away from Ocean Park Beach and many great attractions in the area. 

Amenities 

Dulcesalado Restaurant 

Attached directly to the hotel’s lobby, Dulcesalado is a beer garden, coffee shop, and ice cream parlor all in one. 

Serving flavors that span the world’s global culinary scene while incorporating Caribbean flavors, the restaurant is a great touch to the hotel’s charm and is an easy option to go for as a guest in the hotel. 

Patio Seating 

Within the same area as the plunge pool, the Trópica Beach Hotel has several tables and seats to unwind in the open air while enjoying the surroundings. 

With comfortable furnishings that successfully evoke the boho theme, the patio seating creates an intimate yet casual atmosphere, perfect for leisurely conversations, a meal outdoors, or a pool day. 

Plunge Pool 

The property has a 4 feet pool that makes a great backdrop for pictures as well!  

Plunge Pool at the hotel
The pool at Trópica is not large but is great for a quick cool off.
Beach Access 

Ocean Park Beach is a five-minute walk away from Trópica, which attracts many guests. 

Beach access close to the hotel offers guests even more of a retreat.

The proximity to the ocean means beachside picnics, sunset walks, or morning swims that you can add to your agenda while in Puerto Rico. 

Inside the Room

Traveling with a friend, I stayed in the Double Room at the hotel. The room was on the second floor and contained two beds and one bathroom. 

My first impression was that the room was spacious for two people with plenty of room to walk around without feeling like you were on top of each other. 

During my stay, the room was listed for $243/night for a total of about $470.

Double Bed Room in Trópica Beach Hotel
Double Bed Room at Tropica Beach Hotel
Bedroom Features

The features of the bedroom I stayed in were:

  • Two Queen-sized beds
  • En-suite bathroom
  • Air conditioning 
  • Huge mounted Smart flat screen TV
  • Mini fridge 
  • Standing clothing organizer 
Bathroom

The features of the bathroom are: 

  • Standing shower 
  • Shampoo, conditioner, soap 
  • Several multi-sized towels 
  • Hairdryer 

My Review of the Hotel  

I found that the hotel reminded me of a hostel more than anything. It has a very lively, upbeat feel to it, with music always playing and chatter coming from the restaurant portion of the hotel.  

The hotel is in a pretty good location that was not too far from a lot of the places on my itinerary, which was a pro!

It was very easy to get in and out for the most part, whether we were walking or taking an Uber to our next location. 

There is not a lot of parking space in front of the hotel or a designated spot for Ubers to wait, so if you are taking Uber, make sure to always be on time and ready to get in the car ASAP to avoid missing rides (like we did!)

The starting price of the rooms for a single is nice, taking account the location of the property and amenities offered to guests. 

Service by the Trópica Beach Hotel staff was absolutely amazing. It was always very easy getting in contact with a staff member if I ever needed anything and they were very kind and hospitable throughout my stay. 

I didn’t experience any issues at the hotel during my stay.

I wouldn’t be eager to stay here again based more on personal preference and not necessarily a reflection of anything done by the hotel, but you can expect to have a great stay if you do.  

Insider Tip: You can ask for complimentary sunscreen at the check-in desk at any time during your stay! 

Rosalina Ocean Park Airbnb

I spent the second half of my trip at the Rosalina Ocean Park property, which I found through Airbnb. 

At a rate of about $129/night, Airbnb caught my attention as an affordable and quick stay for the days I planned to venture out of San Juan while on my trip. 

Rosalina Ocean Park
Rosalina Ocean Park Airbnb in San Juan | Photo by Airbnb

Amenities 

Two Pools/Courtyard Areas 

The pools at this property were gorgeous, and you could have them to yourself most of the time because there never seemed to be too many guests there at once. 

The courtyard has seating areas and poolside chairs available.

Whether you want to enjoy a morning coffee or a lively evening in the pool, the courtyard adds a great vibe to the ambiance. 

Airbnb in Puerto Rico
Rosalina Ocean Park Airbnb in San Juan | Photo by Airbnb
Coffee Station 

For coffee lovers worldwide, the property has a mini coffee bar that is freshly brewed every morning for guests to start their day. 

Bedroom Features

The features of the bedroom I stayed in were:

  • One queen-sized bed
  • En-suite bathroom
  • Mini Fridge 
  • Microwave 
  • Flat screen TV

My Review of the Airbnb   

This Airbnb is a great option for a quick stay in San Juan.

I will say that the room is a bit small for two people, and it’s easy to get cluttered with luggage everywhere, but it works and is even better if you are traveling alone. 

I love that the property also offers great rates on rental cars, which made our trip even more successful.

I wouldn’t mind staying here again if I were traveling solo, but it would probably not be a first choice as I would want to explore other properties in the area.

Where I Ate

I did not get to check out the food scene in Puerto Rico as much as I would have liked to due to many of my tours being back-to-back and the way my schedule panned out. 

However, here are a few places I did visit:

Puerto Criollo 

I’m going to go ahead and lead with the best place I ate at in Puerto Rico because I will be thinking about this meal for at least the next few weeks!

Puerto Criollo is located in Old San Juan and serves authentic Puerto Rican cuisine. 

The reviews made it clear that the restaurant wasn’t anything fancy, but the food was amazing, and that was all I needed to hear to give it a try because those are always the best places, and I was right. 

Mofongo is a staple Puerto Rican dish made from fried green plantains mashed into a mound and commonly served with sauce and/or meat.

Mofongo Dish
Mofongo is such a popular dish in Puerto Rico and was the #1 thing I wanted to try!

I really wanted to try the dish while on my trip, so I ordered a mofongo with creamy garlic sauce and chicken ($24), rice and beans ($6), and chicken wings ($14). 

Everything I had was extremely delicious.

The mofongo was well cooked, the chicken wings well-seasoned, and the rice and beans pair were perfect. 

If I had time, I would definitely have eaten here again.

If you go, be sure to try the stuffed avocados, and let me know what they were like in the comments!

Cayo Caribe

Cayo Caribe is a restaurant with several branches throughout Puerto Rico that specializes in seafood and Puerto Rican cuisine. 

I went to the Ashford Avenue location in San Juan for dinner, and it honestly wasn’t that great of an experience. 

The restaurant was extremely crowded, and the service we received was not great at all. I had an interesting tipping experience here as well.

I was actually forced to tip and told that the minimum HAD to be 15% by our server. As someone who tips nearly every day, I have no issue tipping, but I was taken aback by this, especially givien the issues with the service.

I ordered an empanada, tostones, and rice, which I had to send back because the grains were hard and crunchy, only to have the replacement be in the same condition. 

The empanada was delicious but was also not served hot.

I think a lot of the issues we experienced here were due to how busy it was and how overwhelmed the servers seemed to be. 

Still, the restaurant is popular for a reason, so I recommend going to another location, preferably one that allows you to set a reservation, for a possible better experience. 

Ana’s Cafe Restaurant 

I found Ana’s Cafe on a whim one early morning before a busy day of activities, and it seemed to be a local, lowkey spot at Calle Loíza in of Santurce. 

From breakfast to lunch and dinner, Ana’s Cafe has a range of dishes, but I wanted breakfast, so I ordered eggs with pressed pieces of bread while my friend ordered a club sandwich. 

The service was incredible here, and the food was really good.

If you’re looking for a less expensive spot, especially in comparison to the spots in Old San Juan, I highly recommend Ana’s Cafe for a budget-friendly place to eat! 

We were pleasantly surprised when we received our bill. We expected it to be much more for the value. 

Our price breakdown was as follows: 

  • Club Sandwich $9.00
  • Eggs and Bread: $6
  • Hot Chocolate $2.00
  • Orange Juice $5 

Pilao Cafe

Pilao Café is a cozy coffee shop that can be found amidst the cobblestone streets and colorful colonial buildings of Old San Juan. 

Pilao Café was another quick “before a busy travel day” stop, but can also be great if you’re seeking a taste of Puerto Rican pastries and breakfast options.

As I stepped inside Pilao Café, I was warmly greeted and immediately fell in love with the ambiance and decor. 

Whether you prefer a classic espresso or one of their freshly baked pastries, it’s a great place to have a bite.

Barrachina 

Barrachina has been around for over 40 years and is called the “Birthplace of the Piña Colada,” as it is one of the local spots that claims to have created the famous drink was first made in 1963.

Knowing the history behind this place, we could not leave Puerto Rico without trying the drink, so we headed to Barrachina to do so. 

We originally planned to have dinner at the restaurant, but Barrachina doesn’t accept reservations, and there were no tables available, so we settled for a seat at the bar where our drinks were prepared. 

Piña Colada
The hype is REAL! The BEST Piña Colada my mouth has tasted 🙂

The hype is real because it is the best piña colada I have ever had in my life, and I wish that was an exaggeration. 

It was made just right—not too sweet and not an overpowering flavor of pineapple. 

So it is worth coming here just to try the piña colada! 

If you want to eat here, the menu features an array of Caribbean-inspired dishes, including fresh seafood, grilled meats, and tropical cocktails. I would try to come earlier as it is a popular dinner spot.

La Coffeetera  

In search of another quick breakfast option, I came across La Coffeetera, a coffee shop in Ocean Park. 

La Coffeetera prides itself on sourcing the finest locally grown beans for delicious roasted coffee. 

As a non-coffee drinker, I opted for French toast sticks topped with fresh fruit, granola, and syrup paired with one of their flavored passionfruit mimosas for a simple yet tasty quick bite. 

  • French Toast Sticks: $11
  • Passionfruit Mimosa: ~$10 

Street Food in Piñones 

We drove back and forth from San Juan to Loíza quite a bit on this trip and, in the middle of the drive, came across an area known as Piñones. 

Street Food in Pinones
There was food laid out like this, made on the grill, and made fresh!

It turns out Piñones is known for its food kiosks and roadside stands along the PR 187 road, each serving a selection of local delicacies. 

From crispy alcapurrias (deep-fried fritters stuffed with seasoned meat or seafood) to empanadillas and grilled skewers, the options are diverse, and it’s a great way to try a lot of everything all in one place.

There is also a stunning beach right across the food stall area if you want to go for a swim before or after your eats!

Things to Do in Puerto Rico   

What’s a Puerto Rico travel guide without including the variety of activities Puerto Rico has to offer?

From soaking in surreal views of the water to learning the rhythms and flows of the cultural dance Bomba, you are almost guaranteed a good time on the island. 

In this section, I’ll provide you with a list of things to do in Puerto Rico and share my personal experiences with participating in these activities.

Dine 100 Feet in the Sky 

One of my favorite things I did in Puerto Rico was having my first dining-in-the-sky experience. It was definitely a highlight of my trip! 

FlyDining is a company in San Juan that suspends its guests 100 feet in the air while they enjoy a quick happy hour or multiple-course meal–all while enjoying stunning views of the city.

I chose to do FlyDining’s Brunch, featuring a 3-course meal that includes unlimited bubbly, sodas & juices.

For 45 minutes, we were taken up to the sky while being served by designated servers on our side of the table.

My brunch course included the following:

  1. Yogurt Parfait 
  2. Pancakes with Sausage and Bacon  or Turkey Sandwich with Fries
  3. Chocolate Cake or French Toast 

As someone who doesn’t do the best with heights, this was a “do it scared” moment for me! It was very nerve-wracking the first 10-20 minutes in the sky.

I actually couldn’t even eat my first course because I was so nervous.

However, once I got used to the feeling, I was fine and was able to enjoy it and can say that I would do it again! 

This is a great way to celebrate a special occasion in Puerto Rico or opt for a special activity on the island. 

Take A Mixology Class at Casa Bacardí

As the world’s largest rum distillery, visiting Casa BACARDÍ is a must when traveling to Puerto Rico, especially for the first time!

The Casa Bacardí property is located in Cataño. It conducts different tours and classes you can take to learn about the origins of the facility, Bacardi rum in Puerto Rico, and more. 

I took the mixology class and got hands-on while learning how to create two cocktails. 

The class was led by an instructor who gave everyone step-by-step instructions as we mixed and matched different ingredients to make delicious drinks. 

Many classes at Casa Bacardí also include a tour of the facility using their trolley service, so I highly recommend booking a class!

Take Home A Souvenir at the Haitian Art Gallery 

You can imagine my excitement, when I found out there was a Haitian Art and Crafts Gallery/Shop in Puerto Rico! 

It’s in Old San Juan and the store has a wide variety of handcrafted wood sculptures, artwork, wall pieces, storage chests and many other items available for sale. 

Most if not all of the pieces are said to be crafted by artisans in Haiti. 

The store is stunning with each wall covered with paintings, masks, and plates, each telling its own story of Haitian life, folklore, and spirituality. 

It was refreshing to see another store capturing the culture of Haiti. 

Christina Jane inside of the Haitian Art Gallery
I was surprised to see a Haitian Art Gallery in Puerto Rico, but I’m so glad we got to go inside!

Ride the Cataño Ferry 

A visit to Casa Bacardi also presents the opportunity to ride the Cataño Ferry

The ferry is available to board from Pier 2 in Old San Juan and costs $0.50/person each way. 

The ferry runs about every 30 minutes and travels from Old San Juan to Cataño in about 12- 15 minutes. 

Whether you choose to sit inside of the ferry or climb the stairs onto its rooftop, riding the ferry is a great way to see Old San Juan from an alternative angle while getting to see another side of Puerto Rico. 

Casa Bacardí is still about 10 minutes away when you reach the other side, so be sure to include transportation when purchasing your ticket for a tour or class to catch the van that will be waiting outside of the Cataño Pier or prepare to take an Uber. 

Admire the Street Art in Santurce

Santurce is a vibrant San Juan neighborhood with a positive reputation for its captivating street art scene.

From colorful murals found on the sides of buildings to thought-provoking graffiti pieces, Santurce’s streets are essentially an open-air gallery showcasing the creativity and talent of local and international artists.

Calle Cerra is a street in Santurce that is popular for finding some of the main works of art the area is known for. 

Take time to dissect the messages being conveyed through the work and even use the murals as a stunning backdrop to create tangible memories of your time in Puerto Rico.

Have a Beach Day at One of Puerto Rico’s Many Beaches 

Puerto Rico has many beaches of all sizes scattered around the island and is one of the many things on the island that you can look forward to enjoying on your trip. 

I spent some time at the Balneario La Monserrate Beach in Luquillo, which is about 40 minutes away from San Juan. 

This beach did have a changing area ($2 for all-day access into the showers and changing areas, but there is also another for free), food and drink stands, and water activity rentals. 

It was a small-mid-sized beach with very minimal crowding, which was perfect for the vibe I was going for! 

We did have to pay $4 for parking and I recommend bringing towels and chairs if you can, in case they run out. 

Christina Jane at the Beach
With so many beautiful beaches to visit, having a beach day is a must!

Walk the Grounds of Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Castillo San Felipe del Morro is an iconic symbol of Puerto Rico’s rich history and resilience. 

The fort was built by Spain to guard San Juan’s harbor, which essentially meant having control over the Caribbean Sea and access to the riches of the New World. 

Today, Castillo San Felipe del Morro is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Puerto Rico’s most visited attractions. 

Beyond its historical significance, El Morro has incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean and San Juan Bay, making it a beautiful spot to see the island’s coastline.

Learn About Afro-Puerto Rican Art 

Located an hour away from San Juan in Loiza, the Estudio de Arte by Samuel Lind is both the art studio and home of artist Samuel Lind. 

Christina Jane at the Samuel Lind Art Studio
Visiting Samuel Lind’s studio was one of my favorite experiences in Puerto Rico!

Raised in Loiza, Samuel Samuel incorporates Afro-Puerto Rican subjects, earthly concepts, nature, changes in the world, and more in various art forms. The pieces are so beautiful, with each one telling a story. 

I had the pleasure of visiting his studio on a day that it was unexpectedly closed. 

Despite this, Samuel welcomed my friend and I into his home and we got a personal tour from his son. 

This was one of my highlights in Puerto Rico because Samuel was so inspired by the shape and power behind my friend’s eyes that he wanted to capture them for a potential future piece, and I just loved even getting to see that spark in him as an artist in action. 

His work was also unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and was very thought-provoking. 

I’m so happy we made the journey to Loiza for this studio. 

Spend A Day Hiking and Swimming in El Yunque 

You’ve probably come across the El Yunque National Forest when researching Puerto Rico, as it is one of the most famous attractions on the island. 

El Yunque is in the northeastern part of Puerto Rico and is a captivating natural environment. 

Christina Jane at El Yunque Forest
El Yunque is a popular spot in Puerto Rico and for all the right reasons!

El Yunque is in the northeastern part of Puerto Rico and only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System.

Composed of hiking trails, towering peaks, cascading waterfalls, and bodies of water, the rainforest is the perfect place for a serene and intimate time in nature. 

The day I visited El Yunque, it had been raining all night and morning, so unfortunately, the forest administration told visitors not to go into any bodies of water, so swimming was off-limits. 

It was raining pretty hard the entire time as well, so I opted for a hike on one of the easy trails in the forest, Caimitillo. Despite the rain, I felt so at peace in the forest and can’t wait to return in the future. 

I highly recommend renting a vehicle and driving up to El Yunque for more freedom with routes and exploration of the forest, but many companies offer tours to the rainforest if you don’t want the task of planning!

Race Through Various Landscapes of Loíza  

If you’re in the mood for a thrilling activity during your time in Puerto Rico, you’ll love going for a ride through Carrito Tour PR, the company that offers go-karting through Loiza. 

Booked through WhatsApp or calling the company, you can opt for a one hour led tour around the town. 

Race through the vibrant streets, cultural landmarks, and beaches in a colorful, open-air cart. 

In the middle of the tour, you’ll enjoy a brief stop at one of Loiza’s beaches and breathtaking tropical scenery. 

Go Horseback Riding in the Carabalí Rainforest 

Horseback riding in Hacienda Carabalí is an activity I honestly did not expect to enjoy as much as I did, given my history of not enjoying horseback riding. 

I booked a horseback riding session anyway, which took me to Hacienda Carabalí, in the eastern town of Luquillo, for a one-hour ride.

The staff assigned all riders a horse according to their weight, then we were off to start the trail that spanned the foothills of El Yunque National Forest and rode along the banks of the Mameyes River.avelo

This tour completely changed my opinion about horseback riding.

I was extremely nervous in the beginning and almost backed out, but by the end, I was plotting ways to incorporate more horseback riding into my life!

It was such a soothing experience and ride going through lush sceneries throughout the property in a low-stimulating environment. 

Dance Bomba With A Local Instructor 

Bomba is a traditional Afro-Puerto Rican music and dance style that originated during African slavery in Puerto Rico.

Combining percussion, song, and dance, Bomba is often performed in a call-and-response fashion between the lead drummer and the dancers. 

Every Tuesday and Thursday, instructor(s) Jose A Catala or Sheila Osorio host a one-hour Bomba class at Ocean Park Beach in San Juan. 

The instructors provide the skirts needed for the dance and walk you through a series of different dance moves that are popular in Bomba. 

Everyone in the class was very supportive and well-spirited as we cheered each other on, taking turns to showcase what we learned in a circle. 

Dancing Bomba with a local instructor not only allows you to learn the dance but also embrace a tradition within Puerto Rican identity. 

More Things to Do in Puerto Rico:

There are so many activities in Puerto Rico that I wish I had time to embark on but did not get a chance to, so here’s a quick list of even more things to do in Puerto Rico that you can do: 

Frequently Asked Questions  

Is Puerto Rico A U.S. State?

Puerto Rico is not a U.S. state but a territory of the United States. 

As a territory, Puerto Rico is governed by the United States under the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950. 

Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birth, but some matters are complex because they do not have voting representation in the U.S. Congress, and they cannot vote in presidential elections unless they establish residency in one of the 50 states. 

Puerto Rico has its own government and constitution, and its residents are subject to Puerto Rican laws and regulations, in addition to certain federal laws and regulations that apply to all U.S. territories.

Christina Jane in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is so colorful with so much art to take in!

Do I Need A Passport to Travel to Puerto Rico?

If you are a U.S. citizen, you do not need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico. Since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, it is considered domestic travel for U.S. citizens. 

If you are not a U.S. citizen or are traveling from another country, you may need a passport and possibly a visa, depending on your nationality. 

It’s always best to check your country’s requirements for the most current information on entry requirements before traveling.

When is the best time to visit Puerto Rico?

I would aim to visit Puerto Rico during its dry season and from Wednesday – Sunday. I experienced a lot of rain on my trip due to visiting during the rainy season. 

I also noticed that quite a few businesses were closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. I planned my trip according to when businesses stated they would be open online, and was shocked to see that they were closed when we arrived in Puerto Rico. 

I found a Reddit thread where other travelers experienced the same. 

To avoid this, I think it’s safer to avoid those two days if you can, but there is still so much to do even if you travel to the island on those days. 

What should I pack for a trip to Puerto Rico?

Here is a quick packing list of what I recommend packing when visiting Puerto Rico:

What is the legal drinking age in Puerto Rico?

The legal drinking age in Puerto Rico is 18 years old. 

Casa Bacardí Sign
I was asked for my ID at Casa Bacardí!

Final Thoughts on Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico was my first U.S. territory and an excellent getaway destination. 

There is an abundance of activities to do in Puerto Rico that I think fits all types of travelers, from the adventurous to the relaxed, so there is plenty to do, regardless of your preference. 

I loved the cultural activities that I got to participate in and experience, making me fall in love with certain aspects of Puerto Rico.

It was easy to travel in and out of the island, making it a place that I will revisit again. 

San Juan, as expected, had more of a Miami feel to it, but as I ventured away from the capital to places like Loiza and Cataño, I saw sides of Puerto Rico that I can’t wait to explore further. 

Ponce and Rincón are areas in Puerto Rico I hope to visit in the future and capture more of the island’s beauty. 

I hope this Puerto Rico travel guide was helpful for you as you plan your trip to Puerto Rico!

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Christina Jane Travel Writer

About The Blogger

I’m Christina, a travel blogger and content creator from Fort Myers, Florida.

Being Christina Jane is my way of inviting you to join me on my travel ventures by sharing the knowledge gained from my adventures and experiences— both good and bad.

This travel blog is filled with helpful travel tips, information, and is a recollection of the lessons I’ve learned and experiences I’ve had while traveling.

My goal is to curate a space that interconnects my love for travel and transparency and I hope you will join me on that journey. 

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Also, opinions and posts expressed on this blog are of my own accord. 

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