One of my main travel goals for my research appointment to Florida was to try and get a glimpse of central and south America. It’s a part of the world I’ve never been to but always wanted to explore. Though I failed that mission, I was able to get a little bit closer than before with a trip to Puerto Rico. I honestly knew nothing about Puerto Rico before I went there, aside from some vague references from West Side Story, and only when I got the tickets and started making visa preparations did I realize the Puerto Rican affiliation with the United States and was exposed to some of the local history and politics. The richness of that small island with its gorgeous beaches, friendly locals, colonial history and unique culture completely won me over. I was lucky to meet wonderful people along the way and experience some amazing adventures.
With a flight going through Miami, and an unbelievably cheap upgraded rental car waiting for me at the airport (8US$/day through Hotwire, and they gave me a bigger car and waived the gas costs because my booked car wasn’t available), and an Airbnb host in central San Juan next to a beach I had the best start possible. The Airbnb host took me out for drinks with his exotic Latino lover and sat down with me for a few hours to give me the intro for his opinion about the Puerto-Rican relationship with the United States. There was a referendum vote a week before that and the Puerto Rican were split regarding what affiliation they wanted with the states. Next day I set to explore the old city of San Juan, and the day later was already cruising the island towards the south, then west, up north and then back east to San Juan and the El Yunque rainforest. There were a few things I thought of doing, like exploring the smaller islands, but time was limited, and I wasn’t sure what to do with the car. But, even without that – it was a wonderful trip.
A summary of the Instagram photos I took during the trip:
Has a beautiful old down with world class forts and a few small museums. But the real charm lies with just walking its streets and exploring the local culture and cuisine.
- Castillo de San Felipe del Morro : San Juan
- Cathedral de San Juan Bautista : Old San Juan
- Castillo San Cristobal : San Juan
- Casa Museo Felisa Rincon de Gautier : Museum in Old San Juan
- Bacardi Distillery Tour : San Juan
If you’re looking for a recommended stay, I stayed with At Wind Chimes Boutique Hotel for 3 nights and it was fantastic (3 star boutique hotel, 135US$ all together, a real bargain).
Ponce, down south is Puerto Rico’s second biggest town with a compact historical downtown that offers several wonderful residential houses and little museums. One of the museums, the art museum, is definitely world class and a real treat.
- Casas Armstrong-Poventud & Wiechers-Villaronga : Ponce Historic Houses
- Ponce Museum of Music
- El Museo Castillo Serralles : Ponce
- Ponce Museum of Art : Puerto Rico
Further west to the most south-western side of the island is Cabo Rojo, with some of the most spectacular panoramic views I’ve ever seen…
Up from Caba Rojo I made my way to Mayaguez and explored the surf beaches of Rincon:
Then east into central Puerto Rico to see the magnificent Camuy Caves and the world’s biggest observatory – Arecibo.
Up north all the way to Arecibo
The then back to San Juan. The last day I spent touring the only national rain forest in the area – the El Yunque…
What I would recommend :
- Day 1/2 – San Juan
- Day 3 – Ponce
- Day 4 – Cabo Rojo and Rincon
- Day 5 – Arecibo and Camuy Caves
- Day 6 – El Yunque rainforest