Puerto Rico is such an amazing place. I was there earlier this year in April and am now a little obsessed. It was one of the best places I have ever visited and I cannot say enough about how fun Puerto Rico is. If I were talking to you in person I could go on and on and show you the hundreds of pictures I took while I was there. For now, here are some highlights that will inspire your wanderlust.
My friends and I had a trip planned last fall that unfortunately got cancelled due to Hurricane Maria. Earlier this Spring when it still felt like late winter, we all talked about planning a new trip to escape the cold weather in Nashville. We decided on Puerto Rico because we all had Southwest credits from the cancelled trip. Out trip was five days and four nights. We decided to travel all around the island and stay at four different places. We explored from Fajardo to Ponce to Boqueron to Cabo Rojo to Rincon to Dorado and back to San Juan. I fell in love with the island and will definitely be going back. The main things that make Puerto Rico a dream getaway are its beauty, convenience and culture.
The main draw of the island is the gorgeous beaches. Around Puerto Rico, each beach has its own fun vibe. Some beaches feel familiar like the gulf coast beaches around which I grew up whereas others are white sand with crystal clear water. In some places there are little hidden beaches on lagoons. They are all so incredibly beautiful and relaxing. There are also intense rock cliffs and lava rock hills. I’m a huge fan of climbing on rocks and the views from the top of the cliffs were absolutely stunning. We got to explore the El Yunque rainforest which had been very damaged by the hurricane but was slowing being opened back up when we visited. It is so vibrantly green and tropical. The most mind blowing thing that I would 100% recommend is the bioluminescent bay. I’m not lying when I say it was one of the most epic experiences I have ever had. The world only has 5 bio bays and Puerto Rico is home to 3 of them. I was geeking out the entire time. The boat ride from the closest city to the bay is under millions of stars which was amazing just by itself. The feeling of jumping into the water and being surrounded by thousands of glittery dinoflagellates lighting up around me is something I will never forget. My friends and I swam in the water for a while just laughing about how surreal the whole experience felt. I did not want to leave the magical place. None of my pictures were able to capture the wonder of the bio bay and all the go pro footage is completely black. I want to return and see the other two bays on Puerto Rico. Every place we went on the trip was full of so much beauty. There are so many places we did not have time to explore so I definitely want to go back and see more of the island.
One of the best parts of traveling to Puerto Rico is how easy it is to plan the trip. Puerto Rico is part of America so you do not need a passport to get there. Traveling from Nashville, my friends and I only had one connecting flight so it was not a long travel day. Southwest flies to PR which is the best because they are my favorite airline. Flights to Puerto Rico were cheaper than it is for me to get to my hometown of Houston. For lodging, we did two nights in hotels and two nights at Airbnb’s and everything was great. The Airbnb places were a little more residential whereas the hotels were in generally tourist areas. It was fun to have both types of experiences. There is a slight language barrier because the main language the people speak is Spanish. The majority of people were pretty fluent in English as well though so it was not a big deal. I would suggest trying to pick up some easy common Spanish phrases before you go to impress the locals. Speaking of locals, that brings me to my next point.
Everyone in Puerto Rico was so nice to us as tourists. The culture is very friendly. We traveled to so many places across the island and never had a negative experience with any of the locals. One night in particular, we found a cool restaurant at a local hotel. We sat at the bar and hung out with the bartenders for a few hours! We talked about the hurricane and how it affected them and the whole time I was amazed by how resilient they were. It was an awful time for Puerto Rico but they rebuilt and are strong. As a culture built on tourism, they are so happy for people to be able to visit again after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. On all the beaches, everyone is just having a really good time. There is so much history on the island as well. A few of the places I got to see were the Cabo Rojo lighthouse, Parque de Bombas in Ponce (historic firehouse) and Old San Juan. It was awesome to see buildings that have stood the test of time and have played a part in the story of Puerto Rico. Another part of the culture that I loved was the food in Puerto Rico. Every place we went I tried to go out of my comfort zone and try new things. I had empanadillas, tostones, mofongo and quite a few seafood dishes throughout the trip. In addition to standard fish and shrimp type seafood, I also tried conch and octopus which were delicious. We had meals that were super casual roadside diners as well as fancy dinners. There were a few fish dishes I was not super into but overall loved most of the food that I had while in Puerto Rico.
My advice to you would be to book a trip. Buy a flight and figure out the rest. You could do a quick long weekend or stay for 10 days. I promise you will not get bored. Wake up for sunrise and make sure to catch the sunsets. Learn a bit of Spanish. Make sure you pack sunscreen and bug spray (sneaky sand fleas will get you during golden hour). Be open to new experiences. Drink some Medalla and Bacardi. Go with the flow and enjoy every moment.