Old San Juan reminds me of the streets of Havana Vieja. Ambling narrow streets, colorful buildings, and almost purposefully derelict. I’d visited Puerto Rico while in college, but didn’t stay in San Juan so was grateful for the chance to explore the city.
My favorite part of the trip was exploring El Yunque National Forest – the only rainforest in the United States. I cannot recommend the Rainforest Inn highly enough – it is a bed and breakfast located inside the rainforest itself, run by a lovely retired couple. We stayed in the jungle suite, which came complete with a hanging bed from the ceiling, and were rocked to sleep every night by the sounds of the rainforest.
Fajardo is probably most well known for El Conquistador resort, which is less of a hotel/resort and more of a small city. The property is massive, and includes a private beach accessible only by a ferry from the hotel marina. Our daily commute included riding on the funicular (time lapse below).
Without question, however, the best part about staying in Fajardo is visiting the Bioluminescent bay. The bay is accessible only by kayaking through a mangrove canal at night. What makes the bay so special is the microorganisms found living in the water, which light up upon contact. The photos online do not do justice to its beauty. It is not like floating in a pool of glowing water. As cheesy as this may sound, I would describe it as paddling in a dark sky and having stars light up as your paddle meets the water.
Culebra is a sleepy little island off of the eastern coast of Puerto Rico – an island that time forgot. We took a tiny plane over (which seated maybe 10 people). Everything (including each passenger) needed to be weighed. We rented a golf car as our primary mode of transport – commuting to and from playa Flamenco, which is said to be among the top 10 beaches in the world.
Must-do activity in Culebra: snorkeling with sea turtles! We woke up early in the morning for an invigorating sea kayak trip out to a couple locations off the island and jumped into the water with mask and fins. The wildlife was unbelievable – we spotted many turtles, eagle rays and more.
- San Juan: El San Juan
- El Yunque: Rainforest Inn (be sure to request the jungle suite!)
- Fajardo: El Conquistador Resort
- Culebra: Casa Robinson (run by Mr. Robinson himself – who is the former police chief in Culebra. The accommodations are basic, but clean and close to the beach. Mr. Robinson will also personally come pick you up from the airport if you tell him when you are arriving.)
- We had a great experience with Kayaking Puerto Rico both in Fajardo and Culebra. The guides were very knowledgable, friendly, and equipped with underwater cameras. The photos were loaded to facebook, which I was grateful for I was camera-less on both excursions.
- Leave plenty of time to explore El Yunque – there are some fantastic trails, which we sadly did not have enough time to explore. Bring a bathing suit for swimming at the foot of a waterfall :)