Back in December/January, I took a week long trip to Puerto Rico with Jake, his brother, and his sister-in-law. We divided our time to stay a portion of the trip on the east side of the island, the west side, and in the city of San Juan. For the first third, we rented a car and stayed in Luquillo on the east side in an AirBnB.
To be completely honest, I wouldn’t recommend it. There wasn’t much to do here and the beaches were subpar. I also probably have PTSD from the all the sand flea/fly bites I received (60+) from a beach here. However, I would definitely recommend taking a sailing excursion! We booked one of the catamaran trips via viator.com that left from Fajardo and went to a nearby deserted island. They provided snorkeling gear as well and brought us to a beautiful area where there was a ton of coral and pretty fishies!
After the excusion, we drove to San Juan and stayed at another AirBnB. The city is very small and 100% walkable so rental cars are unnecessary. Wandering around all day aimlessly, exploring the vibrant city of San Juan was the best part! We visited castles, ate delicious Puerto Rican food (Yelp was our best friend), stumbled upon a pigeon park, and just took in all the beautiful and brightly colored buildings.
Next, we rented a car and took a half day trip to El Yunque rainforest. We originally bought a tour but had to cancel it for some reason. (I can’t remember why..it was half a year ago okay!) We looked up a trail on the interwebs and drove towards it early one morning. I stocked up on bug spray just in case but I don’t think we needed it, especially not early in the morning. It was actually a very nice and relaxing “hike” to a waterfall and it wasn’t hot either with the shade provided by the foliage. I don’t think we missed out by not having a tour guide and what’s better than free anyway?
For the last part of the trip, we drove to Rincon on the west side and stayed at yet another AirBnB. This area is known for the surfing beaches and has hosted surfing competitions. While Luquillo and San Juan were very Puerto Rican, Rincon seemed to comprise of displaced Americans or other non-Puerto Ricans which I found very interesting! We spent our time hanging out at the beach (no sand flies here as far as I could tell) which was nice and relaxing and checked out a couple yummy places to eat. (Again, Yelp!!!)
It was really one of the best vacations and I made a travel vlog to remember it by!
Tips for a Puerto Rican vaca:
- Book rental cars ASAP!!! We didn’t think to book a rental car that much in advance so when we did a couple weeks before the trip, ALL THE REPUTABLE CAR RENTAL PLACES HAD 0 CARS AVAILABLE!!! For the first leg, we rented from Allied Car & Truck Rental which was the absolute worst and a huge ripoff (my Yelp review linked). For the last leg, we rented from Charlie Car Rental and they were leaps and bounds better. If you book far enough in advance, you can shop around for better car rental places!
- Beware of sand flies!!!!!!! My body was ATTACKED by them when we went to the beach in the early evening. I couldn’t really feel them bite me at the time and the bites didn’t show up until ~12 hours later. I woke up in the middle of the night scratching my entire body because I was so itchy. I thought it was bed bugs at first but nope I was covered in 60+ bites from sand flies. The bites looked like little red welts that were intensely itchy. I literally couldn’t sleep at night and had to wear leggings to bed to prevent the sheets from brushing against my legs and aggravating the bites. I eventually got my hands on some Cortizone 10 and oral Benadryl which helped me sleep at night and reduced the intense itching to a manageable level.
- Spend most of the time San Juan! In retrospect, I wish we had broken up the trip into two legs: San Juan and beach (Rincon). So many excursions have pickups/dropoffs from San Juan anyway that there’s no need to stay on the east side of the island (unless you just want to).
- Everybody speaks English. I only had to pull out my broken Spanish once to talk to someone at Allied…
Our next big trip is London/Iceland in September and I can’t wait!!!!!! Look out for that recap after!