When I think of the word “island”, the beach is the first thing to come to mind. Beach bumming isn’t always my preferred activity of choice, though. Luckily there is much more to do when it comes to destinations like Puerto Rico!
The island is a mountain, which means outdoor activities galore. In this blog, I’ll be going through some of my favorite adventure spots in Puerto Rico from Old San Juan to the Yunque Rain Forest to the Bioluminescent Bays. Since Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, as a U.S. citizen, you do not need a passport to get here, which makes travel even easier!
Please keep in mind, though, that I am writing this blog approximately six months after Hurricane Maria. While the island is beginning to recover now, there are still areas that have no power or even running water. The hurricane destroyed most of eastern Puerto Rico including Yunque. I am in no way, shape or form, trying to make you see the island in its current conditions with rose-tinted glasses, but I am highlighting the areas that are open and beginning to flourish again. I do believe that if you’re not going to volunteer or donate to a cause that can help more parts of the island recover, you can still use your tourism dollar to make a difference.
Where to Say
In my previous blog, “Your Guide for Exploring San Juan”, I recommend staying in San Juan during the duration of your trip. San Juan is more touristy than most cities on the island, but with the number of businesses, hotels, restaurants, etc., you’ll have an easier time going from destination to destination, then coming “home” with plenty of food options and even nightlife activities. I should mention, though, that there are some nice places in the Fajardo area that are well worth the stay. This includes Airbnb and such.
Where to Eat
Again, on my previous blog, I list out places to eat in the San Juan area, which you can see here. Honestly, though, I prefer eating on the go. Usually, when I’m traveling around a place, I’m busy going from destination to destination, so eating at various restaurants isn’t on the top of my list. Puerto Rico has plenty of grocery stores you can stop in and get the same foods you’d enjoy otherwise. There’s usually fresh fruit and other great snacks available, especially if you’re getting ready for a beach day. If you don’t want to sit around and wait to eat, I highly recommend hitting the local market near your place of stay and getting foods to go!
What to Do
Here’s my favorite part. There are so many things to do on the entire island that it’s hard to get bored! Below is a mix of activities I did on my most recent stay to Puerto Rico as well as my first stay about two years ago. While the island is recovering from the hurricane, some areas still need work. As with any place, it helps to do your research. I would even recommend calling your hotel as you make your itinerary. Someone at the front desk will usually be up to date with the conditions of specific areas of the island.
While I have not been to the BioBay, Puerto Rico is home to two of them. The largest in the world is located off the coast of Vieques, a sub-island. From what I understand, the bays look as though you’re paddling through glitter. Who doesn’t want to see that? Kayak tours to the bays can be made with various companies. You can read more about the Fajardo BioBay (smaller than the one on Vieques), here.
Black Sand Beach
My second time visiting Puerto Rico, I was set up to explore mainly San Juan. There came a day when I was itching for adventure. With no car and not very much expendable cash, I was a stuck in my hotel. I had seen some waterfalls on the western part of the island and was dying to get there. After speaking with the front desk staff at the AC Hotel, they didn’t hesitate to contact Mario.
Mario was awesome. There are not too many other words I’d used to describe him. After telling him about the waterfalls and how much my friend and I were wanting to explore, he put together one heck of an itinerary for the day!
Culebra is a sub-island of Puerto Rico and is one of the top ten beaches in the world, Flamenco Beach. This is some of the clearest water I’ve ever been in. It was nice and warm too! Going on a catamaran or booking a boat ride to the island is the best way to get there. Bring your snorkeling gear! You’re going to want to swim for a while. Here is some more information on the catamaran the Marriott team had booked for me on my most recent trip!
During my first trip to PR, my friends and I took a two-hour one which brought us into some of the larger caverns. There is also the option to book a longer canyoneering tour. I’ve heard at one point you’ll be required to take a leap of faith into a black hole, where there is a pool of water waiting for you. If you’re the super adventurous type, that one is probably for you! You can read more about the Camuy Caves here.
San Sebastian Waterfalls
This is another area Mario took me to on my second time to Puerto Rico. You can easily get there on your own, but if you don’t have a car, book a guide. You will need some cash to park in the lot, but once you’re there, you’ll be greeted with a small restaurant and two waterfalls you can swim in. Closer to sunset is when this area is empty. My favorite part was most definitely the rope swing. If you’ve never been on a rope swing before, this is the perfect place to try it!
Viejo (Old) San Juan
Old San Juan is a mix of colors and cobblestone streets. You can also visit the more historic parts of the city like the El Morro and San Cristobal Forts. There’s even a cat sanctuary there! To get some more in-depth details on things to do in San Juan and Old San Juan, you can check out my guide here.
The Yunque Rainforest was hit hard by the hurricane in 2017. Trees were uprooted and the main road leading into the forest was destroyed. Yunque is coming back to life, though. Some hotels have connections with tour group companies that have permissions to visit parts of the forest. Should you choose to take one of these tours, you can hike along the river and see parts of Yunque that were previously unreachable because of the dense tree line. Since the tours are based on the number of folks interested, the best way to go about booking is to ask your hotel about it!
Puerto Rico has plenty to see and do as an adventure enthusiast. It's definitely a U.S. gem no one should miss. Comment down below and let us know your dream island adventure!
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Dani is the Founder of Mountain Chicks and the primary author of the Mtn Chicks Blog. Here you'll find outdoor tips, travel experiences, gear reviews and more.