If you are interested in visiting a great destination with amazing beaches and a lot of different things to do, one spot you should consider is Puerto Rico. While vacationing in Puerto Rico, these are seven places that you should consider putting on your vacation list.
Located along the Northeast coast of Puerto Rico’s “big island” is a less urban oasis called Carolina. It is a fantastic ride down route 187 along the sandy Caribbean coast and through lush tropical forests. Along this road, find numerous bars and restaurants where you can relax with cold Medalla beers and hot Puerto Rican empanadas. These are Puerto Rican fried pastries stuffed with meat, cheese, seafood, or vegetables. Carolina is a great place to mingle with friendly locals and learn more about Puerto Rican food and culture. There are several resorts that straddle between Carolina and San Juan including the Ritz-Carlton, San Juan Water Beach Club Resort, as well as the El San Juan Hotel Casino.
2) El Yunque Rainforest
Not too far inland from Carolina is El Yunque National Forest. El Yunque is special because it is the only tropical rain-forest included within the United State’s National Forest System. It is a great place to go hiking and observe species of flora and fauna that do not exist in other US states or territories. For example, species unique to Puerto Rico include the coqui frogs, which are named for the onomatopoeia sound of their croaking. There are plenty of tours that go to El Yunque Rainforest. If you’d like to stay nearby, consider the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Las Casitas Village, Gran Melia, or else the Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa.
3) Bacardi Distillery
Both rum fans and history buffs can enjoy the Bacardi Distillery, located just south across the bay from Old San Juan. The distillery offers free tours, along with free samples, that give visitors a chance to learn more about Bacardi Rum’s history, distillation process, quality control and varieties. Did we mention that the tour serves free Bacardi? There are also more in depth tours available that include transportation from your hotel. To get to the Bacardi Distillery on your own, there is a ferry from San Juan connecting to tourist shuttles, which means getting to the distillery (or perhaps more importantly, getting back) is incredibly easy. The drinking age in Puerto Rico is 18 and over.
4) El Morro
Located at the head of the Old San Juan’s peninsula, where it once strategically guarded the bay, is the World Heritage Site known as El Morro. This sixteenth century landmark is said to be the oldest surviving European fort in North America. Explore the inside of El Morro Castillo, which houses a museum as well as antique cannons and weaponry. Climb various levels of this citadel to terraces and windows that allow visitors to appreciate breathtaking views of both the sea and San Juan. The exterior grounds around El Morro are also worth exploring, boasting an expansive lawn leading up to the fort, which is situated next to a historic seaside cemetery. To be close to El Morro and other Old San Juan attractions, there are many choices for accommodation for your Puerto Rico vacation. These include the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino, the Condado Plaza Hilton, the Caribe Hilton San Juan, or the San Juan Marriott Resort.
5) North Beaches
Puerto Rico is an island of gorgeous beaches. Locals like to boast that nowhere on the entire big island would it take more than an hour’s drive to reach the ocean. The best way to explore the beaches of Puerto Rico is to rent a car and hug the coastline. There are roads along the Northern coast of the island, west of San Juan and not too far from the Arecibo Observatory, that open to miles of white sand beaches entirely void of crowds. Stretches of narrow, one-lane highways, such as Puerto Rico’s route 681, can lead to solitary havens of tropical paradise. Keep in mind, while Puerto Rico is known for having the best roads in the Caribbean, some of the back roads are not as well maintained. However, taking the roads less traveled will be well worth the reward of discovering your own secluded beaches.
6) Cabo Rojo
On the Southwestern most point of Puerto Rico is a stunning destination called Cabo Rojo. It can only be reached by route 301, which turns into a long dirt road as it winds through the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge. Most visit Cabo Rojo to lounge around the Playa Sucia, a white sand beach that wraps like a horseshoe around a pristine, sparkling, aqua marine bay. These waters are shallow and great for swimming, especially with children. Cabo Rojo means “cape red” in Spanish, and is named after the red colored pools that are found just steps inland from the beach. Hike up to the Los Morillos Lighthouse at the top of a small mountain and find an incredible vantage point. Facing north, you can see the crystal blue ocean in contrast to the brackish red pools. Look to the south and find yourself at the precipice of towering cliffs dropping down to the ocean. Notice the dryer, more arid climate of Puerto Rico’s southwestern region in contrast to the northeast’s tropic humidity.
The island of Culebra, a word that means “snake” in Spanish, might be one of the most beautiful and fun destinations on earth. You can reach Culebra by taking a ferry from the big island, and on a good day, there is a good chance of spotting a few rainbows at sea. Consider staying at El Conquistado Resort, which is near the ferry in the town of Fajardo. Culebra is an active traveler’s island fantasy come to life. Surf’s up at Brava Beach, or go camping and hiking at the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge. Wake up to the beauty of Flamenco Bay, a great place to swim in warm, gentle currents and relax beneath the swaying palm tress. Relish in the gorgeous white sand and the crystal clear waters. During the day, rest on the sand and soak up some sun. At night, if you’re lucky, you may find yourself surrounded by the glowing, shimmering, phosphorescent algae that light up the surface like fireflies of the sea. Best of all, the snorkeling on Culebra is superb, most notably at the spectacular Tamarindo and Melores beaches. Encounter underwater wildlife including various species of fish, sea turtles, and large manta rays. When in need of more civilized recreation, head to Culebra’s port town for shopping, karaoke, as well as live salsa music and dancing. Last but not least, no trip to Culebra is complete without a meal at Zaco’s Tacos, one of the greatest taco joints in all of Puerto Rico.
Note: Since this territory is part of The United States, Puerto Rican resorts do not offer all-inclusive packages. On the plus side, there’s no need to worry about changing your money because Puerto Rico uses the US dollar. Best of all, passports are not required for US citizens to visit Puerto Rico.