I just returned from a fantastic getaway to Puerto Rico! If you are looking for an adventure and some R&R, consider this U.S. territory (no passport needed for U.S. citizens, same money, many english-speakers, etc.) for your next island vacation. Here are my key tips for exploring Puerto Rico - 1.) Get out of San Juan, 2.) Find the best mofongo at the top of the rain forest, and 3.) Enjoy a deserted island paradise.
1.) Get out of San Juan
No offense to the approximately 2 million people who call the San Juan area home, but unless it is your first time to the island, the WWG recommends getting out of the city as soon as possible to make the most of your getaway to Puerto Rico. First timers, take a day to tour Old San Juan (mainly the historical fort pictured below) and have nice dinner out (my travel buddy and I enjoyed a wonderful, wine-paired meal at Marmalade – check out the Yelp reviews here.) And then, get the heck out of dodge! I think on my next voyage to Puerto Rico (and yes, I want to go back soon), I will take a flight out of the city as soon as possible to the make the most of what I loved about Puerto Rico.
2.) Find the best mofongo at the top of the rain forest.
If you like nature and hiking, then check out Puerto Rico’s rain forest, El Yunque, which is an easy day trip to the southeast of San Juan. My travel buddy and I stayed at an economical ecolodge in the southern portion of El Yunque, called Casa Cubuy, which is definitely ‘away from it all’. If you plan on lodging there, expect basic accommodations in the middle of a rain forest paradise. Here’s a calendar-ready pic, in my opinion, from a strenuous hike around the rivers near Casa Cubuy. It was fantastic!
Oh and down the road from Casa Bubuy was a restaurant with the best mofongo from this trip. What is mofongo, you ask? Well, it is a traditional Puerto Rico dish made with a base of mashed potato-consistency plantains covered in meat or fish. At the Mountain View restaurant, you don’t go for the ambiance, you go for the mofongo. The chef’s best are made with fish, shrimp, and lots of butter and garlic. Yum, yum, yum! If you are staying at Casa Cubuy, you must try the mofongo, even if aren’t thrilled with the Mountain View’s bar-on-the-side-of-the-road vibe.
3.) Enjoy a deserted island paradise.
Are you looking for rest and relaxation? Do you like beaches with crystal clear water, white sand, and virtually no people? Well then, look no further than the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. This island near the Virgin Islands is about a 20 minute flight from San Juan and a world away from the mega-resorts of San Juan’s tourist zone. I loved it! My travel buddy and I stayed at the Malecon House in Esperanza, which is in the middle of everything you could possibly need for a few days in paradise. Here’s a view of the sailboats on the water just off the Malecon in Esperanza.
The WWG does not recommend a car if you are only staying for a few nights. If you stay longer, it may be helpful to rent a car for a day or two to check out more beaches. However, if you are happy with the tranquil waters off Sun Bay and the handful of fab restaurants on the Malecon (I really liked Bili for tapas flair, Duffy’s for a great beach bar atmosphere, and El Quenepo for an elegant dinner), you can easily survive by just hiring a taxi to and from the airport or ferry.
Oh and Vieques is the headquarters for tours of the most concentrated bio-luminescent bay in the world. Think of magical, white fire crystals floating after your kayak paddle (or hand/foot if you are adventurous). My travel buddy and I did the full day tour with Abe’s. It was a good tour, but next time, I would probably just do the night-time bio-bay tour because I was pretty tired from the day of snorkeling and kayaking by the time we got to the main event – the bio-bay tour.
Hopefully by following those tips, you will have as much fun as I did in Puerto Rico. And maybe I’ll see you there – I can’t wait to go back!
The Wandering Wine Girl