Puerto Rico holidays

Experience Puerto Rico

Experience [destination]

Best Places to Visit

San Juan is often the first stop for many visitors. With no end of museums, restaurants and bars, it's the US but with a distinctly Caribbean twist. Among the fast food restaurants and big brand shops, there are plenty of places to enjoy a drop of the local rum and learn a few steps of the famous salsa dance.

Outside of the capital, there is plenty to see and do. The bioluminescent bays found in Vieques and Fajardo are must-visits. The tiny organisms that live in these bays give off an eerie glow when darting around and can only be seen at night. Taking a night boat tour is, therefore, the best way to see them. Lajas boasts a bioluminescent bay which attracts more tourists than the bays of Vieques and Fajardo, with many restaurants and bars along it.

Puerto Rico has many natural attractions to visit. El Yunque Rainforest is a must-see for visitors. With a huge variety of plant and animal life, it's a great place to hike or simply stroll through, with many trails across the forest. Many trails lead to Yokau Tower, which has a great view across the forest canopy, or to La Mina Waterfalls, which are cool and refreshing - ideal after a long trek.

Lake Guajataka is ideal for water sports, with kayaking especially popular here. However, for those looking to get into the water (as opposed to on it) it has to be the beaches around Fajardo. This is the perfect site for snorkelling and there are some fantastic snorkelling sites just off the coast. Rinic'n is another amazing beach. Known as the California of Puerto Rico, it offers the best waves for those looking to surf.

For those wanting to experience the history of the country, there is the San Juan National Historic Site. This site in made up of San Cristobal, San Juan de la Cruz and San Felipe del Morro, along with numerous bastions and parts of the city wall. These structures make up the defensive fortifications of the old, colonial San Juan and are among some of the oldest and best preserved in the Caribbean.

Top Landmarks

El Yunque National Forest is easily one of the best landmarks on the island. With hiking trails throughout the forest, visitors can spend days exploring the stunning terrain. The humidity and wet weather make it green and lush, with plenty of wildlife year round.

Gu'nica State Forest, also known as Bosque Estatal de Gu'nica, is a small forest reserve. With a much drier climate than that of El Yunque, the park was designated an international biosphere reserve as the largest piece of tropical dry coastal forest left in the world.

Rio Camuy Caverns, found in the north-west of the country, are a significant landmark and a must-see for visitors. Numerous caves surround this huge underground river, the largest being Cueva Clara.

Mona Island, just off the west coast, is a secluded island that is inhabited only by wildlife. To ensure it continues to thrive, there are limited trips here throughout the year. However, it is worth booking with one of them as this untouched piece of land is a great place to see the local wildlife.

Caja de Muertos island is another uninhabited island which is protected by the government due to its native turtles. Hikers can explore the terrain while divers can discover the stunning reefs and plentiful sea life.

Entertainment

San Juan is easily the best place to head for a night out. It offers the widest variety of bars and clubs, with all kinds of music tastes catered for.

Wet and Liquid is a bar for the hip and cool crowd, with smart shoes and fashionable attire a must here. It is a great place to spot celebrities and generally just look cool. For those seeking a more relaxed night out, El Batey is unashamedly bohemian. The hang out of the creatives in San Juan, it's the perfect place to sample the local rum.

La Rumba doesn't get going to later in the evening, but once it does, it's hard to see when the fun will end. The live band play salsa music through to the early hours and as the locals show off their skills, tourists are more than welcome to have a go.

Many of the beach resorts have numerous beach-side bars for tourists to relax in and are often calmer and cheaper than the bars in San Juan. Either way, visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to nightlife.

San Juan is also known for its casinos. Many of the luxury hotels here have 24-hour, Vegas-worthy casinos and for those wanting to gamble, San Juan is easily the best place for it.

Golf is hugely popular in Puerto Rico. The Trump International Golf Club was designed by professionals and is an 18-hole mega course of championship proportions.

Cinemas can be found across the island. The majority show the latest Hollywood blockbusters in English but always check beforehand to avoid sitting through a dubbed version.

Dining Out

Puerto Rican cuisine is varied and delicious. Fish with plantain fritters, also known as tostones, is a Caribbean twist to traditional fish and chips. Tostones are fried twice and best eaten when piping hot. Fish restaurants across the country serve them, but the best are often found on the sea front. However, seafood doesn't form the central part of the local cuisine.

Plantains, a sort of savoury banana, come with pretty much every meal. Mofongo, or mashed plantain, is best served with relleno, a mix of fresh seafood, while pork chops, rice and beans with plantain is a common meal.

Chicharrones, dry pork rinds, are a popular snack, while chuleas, huge pork chops that are deep fried, are served on an evening. For those wanting to try a speciality dish, lech'n asado, or roast suckling pig, is served in many of the traditional restaurants. These restaurants can sometimes be a little more expensive than regular eateries.

For those wanting a quick snack, roadside food stands are found at every corner and attract locals in abundance. They serve anything from blood sausage to octopus salad and are perfect for those wanting to try new dishes.

Beach

In a country like Puerto Rico, it's difficult to find a beach that isn't worth spending a few hours on. From remote spots to bustling resorts, this country boasts them all. However, Playa de Ponce is often named as one of the top sites. Found on the coast of Puerto Rico's second largest city, this beach boasts the best waters for swimming. It is considerably calmer than the north coast beaches and the water is crystal clear.

Romance

With such a stunning coastline, there are numerous secluded spots for couples to retreat to. Rosado Beach is perfect for alone time. Found to the east of Cabo Rojo, it is convenient enough to reach but due to the slightly more difficult access routes than those of other beaches, it is clear of the crowds that are often found elsewhere. Here, couples will feel like they are the only people for miles.

Family

Luquillo Beach is only a few miles east of San Juan and is the perfect family destination. This section of the coast has calm waters which are ideal for children to paddle in. There are numerous picnic areas along with many amenities, which mean the family can enjoy their time without any undue stress. On top of this, the beach is stunning, making it the perfect backdrop to those holiday snaps.

Adventure

There are many activities that can be enjoyed in Puerto Rico, from hiking to zip wiring. However, for adventure-seekers, it is all about the waters. Rincón is the best place in the country for surfing, with instruction available for beginners. Scuba diving is a must at many of the beach resorts, but Playa Esperanza is easily one of the best places to try this sport. Stunning coral and amazing sea life make snorkelling here a must.

Need to know

Need to know [destination]

Language

Spanish and English are both official languages in Puerto Rico. However, Spanish is easily the most widely spoken language. Fewer than 20 percent of locals speak English fluently, but everyone working in the tourist industry is fluent and many citizens have some basic knowledge of the language. Most menus and road signs are in Spanish so a phrase book may come in handy.

Currency

Puerto Rico is a US territory, and the currency used is the US dollar. Exchange rates when changing pounds sterling or euro tend to remain relatively stable. Currency can be exchanged at any bank or money exchange point. Some large hotels can exchange cash for a fee. All malls and banks have ATMs that accept foreign cards, and many can be found on the streets in the cities and large towns. Credit cards are accepted for large purchases, but there is often a charge.

Visas

Those visiting from outside of the US will need to meet the same requirements as those entering the United States. Many countries are part of the visa waiver programme, including the UK, which means UK nationals can enter visa-free for up to 90 days. However, UK citizens must still arrange travel authorization online before travel.

Climate

With a tropical climate, Puerto Rico has consistently warm temperatures throughout the year, with little seasonal variation. Temperatures remain between 22°C and 32°C, although they can be a few degrees lower in the mountains. Rainfall is common along the north coast but is rare along the south coast. Hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season from December to May.

Main Airports

The main airport in Puerto Rico is Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, found just outside of San Juan in Carolina. Some budget airlines fly into the much smaller airports of Aguadilla International Airport and Ponce International Airport. As the country is part of the US commonwealth, US immigration and customs laws and regulations apply. Flying from the mainland US to Puerto Rico is considered a domestic flight.

Flight Options

It is possible to fly direct to Puerto Rico from London-Gatwick with British Airways and from London-Gatwick to San Juan with Iberia Airlines. Virgin Atlantic Airways and British Airways both fly to mainland US, where many services to Puerto Rico can be picked up from either Miami or New York. Flying direct to Puerto Rico from London with no stopover takes around 9 hours.

Travel Advice

Many airlines, such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways, offer cheap flights to the US. Visitors can then get a flight with a domestic airline such as American Eagle, Caribbean Sun and Cape Air to Puerto Rico. All of these carriers offer cheap flights with daily services. The only downside to this travel option is that it adds to the journey time by a few hours. Getting to your hotel or San Juan from the airport requires a taxi, with many available at the airport. Some hotels provide a free pick-up service; visitors should check with their accommodation before arriving.

Other Transport Options

A ferry service operates between Mayaguez, on the west coast, to Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic. This is a popular way to reach Puerto Rico for both tourists and locals. Thousands of cruise ships head to the Puerto Rican port of San Juan each year. Booking a cruise around the islands is a great way to see several countries.

Getting Around

In and around San Juan, the public bus service or the train are the best ways to get around. Both are inexpensive and reliable, with an extensive network across the area. However, for those wanting to explore the rest of the island, renting a car is the best way to do this. The road network can be a bit worn out in places, but it is extensive and makes getting to remote areas easy.

Bus

Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuse, known as AMA or by its English name, Metropolitan Bus Authority, is the public bus system for San Juan. The network links San Juan with the surrounding towns such as Guaynabo, Catano and Carolina. There are many cheap and comfortable buses that run daily from 04:00 until around 22:00.

Car

All of the major car rental companies such as Hertz and Eurocar have rental points at the airports and large hotels. Renting a car is cheap and insurance is usually included. Traffic in San Juan can be tricky to negotiate, but elsewhere it presents much less of a problem. Although all highways are free, there are a few toll roads in Puerto Rico.

Train

Tren Urbano, also known as Urban Train, is an impressive train service that runs through San Juan and the surrounding area. The line consists of 16 stops, making it easy to navigate. It compliments the bus service and is a reliable way to get around. Fares are reasonable, with unlimited travel passes available for those wanting to hop on and off.

MAP

PUERTO RICO`S WEATHER TODAY

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AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

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FACTS

  1. The coqui is a small native frog found across the island that regularly crops up in local culture and is an unofficial mascot of the country. Puerto Ricans say: Soy de Aqui Como el coqui (I'm as Puerto Rican as a coqui) to express their nationality.
  2. With a land area of roughly 3,500 square miles, Puerto Rico is roughly the same size as the state of Connecticut.
  3. Known for its white sand beaches and coral reefs, Puerto Rico has 501km of coastline.

FACTS

  1. The coqui is a small native frog found across the island that regularly crops up in local culture and is an unofficial mascot of the country. Puerto Ricans say: Soy de Aqui Como el coqui (I'm as Puerto Rican as a coqui) to express their nationality.
  2. With a land area of roughly 3,500 square miles, Puerto Rico is roughly the same size as the state of Connecticut.
  3. Known for its white sand beaches and coral reefs, Puerto Rico has 501km of coastline.

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