About Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island and unincorporated U.S. territory. When you imagine Puerto Rico you probably envision the Old San Juan neighborhood with it’s colorful Spanish colonial buildings and El Morro and La Fortaleza, the huge centuries-old fortresses. The highly developed tourism industry of Puerto Rico includes world-class hotels, a vibrant city life, historical sites, a landscape of mountains, waterfalls, the El Yunque tropical rainforest and gorgeous beaches.
Unfortunately in 2017, Puerto Rico was battered by Hurricane Maria, which caused widespread destruction throughout the island. Still, tourists are encouraged to visit, and are needed more than ever to help this treasure of a Caribbean Island rebuild. If anything, visit Puerto Rico for the people, who’s resilience, strength and courage are an inspiration to all.
Puerto Rico Travel Info
Language: The official language of Puerto Rico is Spanish which is spoken by over seventy percent of the population. The second dialect spoken widely in Puerto Rico is English.
Currency: US Dollar.
Visa: Visa requirements are the same for Puerto Rico as it is for the USA. Although US citizens do not require a passport, they must still carry government issued ID.
Electricity: Puerto Rico operates on 120 volts with a frequency of 60 Hz. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
Puerto Rico Festivals & Celebrations
Festival de Dia De Reyes: The most important festival in the Puerto Rican calendar is Festival de Dia De Reyes (Three Kings Day), celebrated annually on 6th January. Although on this day families visit each other yet huge parades are being carried out in some pockets. Each year tourists and natives flock to Old San Juan to celebrate this festival.
San Sebastian Festival: San Sebastian Festival is one of the few biggest festivals of Puerto Rico that takes place annually in the third week of January. The festival occurs on the San Sebastian Street situated in Old San Juan. The celebrations are done to honor Saint Sebastian who gave his life for his religion. The event includes a huge parade, foods, drinks, stalls selling artifacts and dance performances.
Carnaval de Ponce: Carnaval de Ponce also is known as Carnaval Ponceno is celebrated annually in February and concludes just before Ash Wednesday. The events feature live music, drinks and foods, a parade in honor of carnival’s King as well as Queen and burial of Sardine that symbolize the elimination of sins. This carnival resembles with the Mardi Gras of New Orleans, Venice’s Carnival and Carnival of Rio de Janeiro and therefore is attended by a huge number of tourists.
Safety In Puerto Rico
Hurricanes will be the main safety concern for travelers visiting Puerto Rico. Rest assured Puerto Rico will be re-built and it’s infrastructure will be hurricane-proofed as much as possible. Thefts and scams targeting tourists are prevalent in all big cities around the world so be mindful of this when in San Juan particularly. Based on my own travel experiences in the Caribbean, I wouldn’t leave home without travel insurance no matter how safe the destination is considered. For this reason I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks or months before you plan to visit Puerto Rico.
Top Things To Do In Puerto Rico
Bioluminescent Mosquito Bay
This is one such spot in Puerto Rico which attracts a lot of travelers. In day light, Bioluminescent Mosquito Bay is like any other Caribbean hideout, but as soon as the dark starts to creep in, the waters, as well as the sky, starts emitting a bluish glow from the microorganisms that live there. Each gallon of water contains more than 700,000 such microorganisms. It is an amazing phenomenon that is unique to this place only.
Visit El Morro
El Morro is a six storied fortress that withstood two World Wars. It has now emerged as one of the major places of Puerto Rico that attracts history lovers from around the world. El Morro is situated inside San Juan National Historic Site. El Morro was built between the periods of 1539 till 1589. The fortress is full of mysterious tunnels, dark prison cells, and barracks where history lovers can experience this magnificent piece of architecture. It is recommended to take a guided tour of the fortress to understand the significance of everything.
Enjoy a beach day at Flamenco Beach
The Culebra Island, situated towards the eastern side of Puerto Rico, is home to aesthetic Flamenco beach. The Flamenco beach is a perfect beach for snorkelers as well as for families. The beach is full of world-class facilities like showers, bathrooms and is dotted with stalls selling foods. Flamenco beach also has a campground in its vicinity; to do camping here, you have to pay $20 and also have to bring your own stuff.
Hike the El Yunque National Rainforest
El Yunque National Rainforest, also known as the Caribbean National Forest is the sole lush tropical rainforest in the United States. It has also emerged as a hiking destination for travelers. The forest has many unambiguous hiking trails. The two most popular are Big Tree Trail and La Mina. Many travelers visiting El Yunque National Rainforest agree that it cannot be covered in a day; therefore, many choose to stay back and camp.
Lose yourself at Castillo de San Cristobal
Castillo de San Cristobal is a fort that was built to protect Old San Juan from various land attacks. Do come here if you want to get amazed by this majestic and significant historical site. The best timings to visit San Cristobal are during the early morning or early evening. Castillo de San Cristobal is worth a visit if you are visiting El Morro.
Relax at Carolina Beach
Situated in the vicinity of Isla Verde area of San Juan, this long Carolina Beach is famous among both locals and travelers from all parts of the country. Travelers admire the white gold sand and warm water. Since it is very famous Carolina Beach is normally full of crowd, so the best time to visit is early morning or early evening. Although there are ample stalls selling refreshments, yet you can bring almost anything you feel like.
Explore Museo de Arte de Ponce
After undergoing an elaborate renovation, the Museo de Arte de Ponce was reopened in early 2010. Currently, the Museo de Arte de Ponce is home to over 4500 different artifacts from Africa, Americas, and Europe dating back to 14th century. The museum remains open six days a week except on Tuesday. Entry fee for adults is $6 whereas for children (under 12 years) the entry fee is $3. It is recommended to take a guided tour of this museum.
Stroll in Parque de las Cavernas del Rio Camuy
Situated towards the southwest of San Juan, the Parque de las Cavernas del Rio Camuy is a huge park within numerous caves. The park has trams leading to caves that are home to crabs, bats, and tarantulas. There are certain tricks to make the most out of your tour to Parque de las Cavernas del Rio Camuy; during rain, several caves are shut so keeping a close track of weather conditions will benefit you.
Explore Old San Juan
Old San Juan is the cultural epitome of Puerto Rico, home to many ancient buildings. The streets of Old San Juan are dotted with ancient churches, castles and some restored buildings that are now refurbished into excellent restaurants, great shops, and casual cafes. Old San Juan is ever changing, offering travelers something new in their next visit.
Spend a day on Tamarindo Beach
The beauty of Tamarindo is captivating; I would suggest you bring along your snorkeling gear to witness why do beach lovers love coming back to Tamarindo again and again. Although the waters are calm yet I advise you to use basic safety practices while visiting this beach, since there is no lifeguard present on site.
Other than these top things to do in Puerto Rico, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Be prepared to be flexible because sometimes other travelers that you meet on your travels will have the best suggestions for things to do in Puerto Rico that are off the beaten path.
What To Eat In Puerto Rico
The cuisine of Puerto Rico is a mix of cultures, recipes, and ingredients. The food is influenced by the Tainos, Africans, and the Spanish. The local dishes that are most significant to the island are listed below.
Mofongo: Mofongo is the most favorite food of Puerto Rica. This is a delicious and satiating mixture of mashed plantain, and seasonings and includes a variety of fillings like vegetables, steak, shrimp, pork, and seafood. Mofongo can match everyone’s dietary preferences.
Lechon: Lechon is a suckling pig that is pit roasted and is among the several traditional foods that are worth traveling to the country. The dish is so famous that there is a road dedicated to it called the Ruta del Lechon.
Azon con Gandules: Azon con Gandules is unofficially the national dish of Puerto Rico. Pigeon peas and rice are served with a secret Puerto Rican sauce called sofrito. The dish is made of pork, ham, chorizo, olives, and red pepper. The dish is especially influenced by the Spanish.
Asopao: This savory soup is cooked with chicken and rice. This is an all-time favorite and can be found in all the restaurants and local eateries. The dish can come in different variants including shellfish, chicken, pork, ham, olives, peppers, and tomatoes.
Alcapurrias: Fried finger foods are a favorite among the islanders. There is an array of fried delicacies such as cuchifritos, alcapurrias, bacalaitos, frituras and bunuelos to name a few that can be sampled at any street vendor.
Where To Stay In Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is a very affordable place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Puerto Rico is easy even if you’re on a tight budget. Puerto Rico hostels and dormitories make travel here very affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget.
Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best accommodation options have already been snapped up. Puerto Rico is a very popular year-round destination.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Puerto Rico.
If you’re backpacking in Puerto Rico or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in the Caribbean very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
Puerto Rico Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit Puerto Rico
If you want hot and sunny days with little rain, like most people traveling to Puerto Rico then visit during the winter season from December to March. However, expect prices to be higher during this popular time. Rainy season in Puerto Rico is from April to November while the main hurricane season is from June to November. In my opinion, the best time to visit Puerto Rico is from mid April to June, right after the busy winter season and just before the rainy summer. Spring weather is also very pleasant, and temperatures remain in the mid 80s on most days.
Puerto Rico Travel Budget
Puerto Rico is generally an affordable destination for travelers on a tight budget. The cost of your trip to Puerto Rico really depends on the level of comfort you will want while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between $35 to $50 a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $50 to $100 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants then budget about $250 plus a day.
- Budget: $15 – $35
- Mid-range: $35 – $100
- Splurge: $100 +
Meal For One
- Budget: $8 – $25
- Mid-range: $25 – $60
- Splurge: $60 +
Puerto Rico Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to Puerto Rico, like most places in the Caribbean is easy, just remember to pack lightweight and breathable clothing for dry season and warm, waterproof clothing for trips during the rainy season. Be prepared for the weather to get extremely hot during the summer so pack a high factor sunscreen and a sun hat. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need while you’re in Puerto Rico. Prices are generally higher in smaller boutiques (aimed at tourists) than they would be online so expect to pay a premium if you don’t have the option of shopping around due to time restraints on your Caribbean trip.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Puerto Rico include a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to Puerto Rico check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Caribbean Packing List For Female Travelers.