DH and I are taking a whirlwind trip to Puerto Rico at the beginning of December. Our 3 must sees are El Yunque, Old San Juan and Vieques. What else should we try to include? We travel a lot and like to try new things and get away from some of the touristy stuff in general.
“While the rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats.” Mark Twain
Oh, DH, DS and I did that same trip in 2010. We went to Vieques first, stayed there for five days, two days at El Yunque and two days in San Juan. It was a blast.
We flew straight to Vieques (three planes from Boston, the last one VERY small!) and took the ferry from Vieques to Fajardo. Rented a car in Fajardo and drove to El Yunque.
On Vieques, we stayed at the Seagate Hotel. The woman who runs it founded the Vieques Humane Society and there are rescue animals all over the property, including horses, dogs, cats and chickens. We had a little troop of Satos (PR street dogs) who hung out outside our door and greeted us enthusiastically every time we came and went. There are some not so well cared for horses on Vieques...the wild horses are in much better shape than many of the ones with "owners", ownership of horses is a little nebulous.
We actually got rained out of the Rain Forest! We stayed in a nice place on the side of a mountain, with great views, but it rained so hard it washed out the road...fortunately, we saw half the road go and moved the rental car down below it (scary moment!) before the rest went. Rain Forest was closed to to flooding, but we were able to see a bit and to the visitor's center.
We were in San Juan on a Sunday, and I'd recommend that....on Sundays everyone comes out to fly kites on the grounds of El Morro...it's pretty cool. I got our San Juan hotel on Priceline and that was the way to go, we got a nice room at a nice hotel for short money. San Juan is VERY touristy and people pour off of cruise ships. Nearly all the stores and restaurants in Old San Juan are eager to make a buck off of you and some of the folks in them can be kind of rude about it. We had a crappy waitress in one place, who wrote herself in a great big tip...nice try.
I have lots of phone numbers and stuff, but they are at work and I likely won't be there for a couple of days due to our friend Sandy...but I can retrieve them for you when I get back.
It was beautiful. The Old City tour was nice, but yes, touristy. Heck, I even did the Bacardi tour, it was fun but not a must-do if your time is limited. But if you like flan you have to try Cafe Mallorca's cheese flan - OMG, cheese flan. It tastes totally like flan, but the texture is sooo creamy and thick! Like a flan/cheesecake hybrid but tasting only of flan. Flaaan...
My highlights were the hike in the El Yunque rainforest (we went to the Yokahu observatory, and the La Mina waterfall), and kayaking in the bioluminescent lagoon in the San Cabezas de San Juan nature reserve. That was magical.
Just go to Vieques, don't bother with the main island! Well, unless you like shopping...
But seriously, DH and I toured PR 3 years ago, went to Vieques, Fajardo, Utuado (sp?), Rincon and San Juan. Drove across the middle of the big island, that was a pretty sweet car trip. We went back the next year and just went to Vieques as we like the beach vacation with minimal tourists. The Bio Bay on V is the world's brightest, definately check it out! El Yunque was pretty sweet. Snorkling over by Culebra (we took a catamaran tour) was by far the best, though we did see a sea turtle, lion fish and a giant sea star at Red Beach on Vieques.
We stayed at the Esperanza Inn on Vieques, Jay and Lisa are top notch! Highly recommend staying there, just close enough to the Malecon without all the street noise. You may end up taking a critter home from Lisa, they help out some of the strays and usually find homes with their guests!
I went in March 2008 and that's how I fell in love with Paso Finos. We stayed in a gorgeous condo in Rincon. Right on the beach. Rincon is a good 2.5 - 3 hour drive from San Juan, but it's got gorgeous beaches, great restaurants, and very friendly helpful people. It's been a surfer's paradise for years.
Armando del Fuego, Best Boy Ever (almost always)
Member of the Not Too Klassy For Boxed Wine Clique
Proud owner of The Roadkill Cafe
I agree with Heliodoro...we'd go to just Vieques the next trip. We enjoyed that the most and I was glad we planned most of our trip there. We went the third week in April and that was good timing, the high season had just ended, so rates were lower, there weren't too many "touristy" types from the new W hotel, but restaurants were still all open and there was still a moderate amount of activity on the Malecon.
I brushed up on my high school Spanish before we went, but only REALLY needed it a few times: when we picked up an old man and his little grandson on Vieques and gave them a ride, at a McDonald's in Fajardo of all places, at a bar in Farjardo where we stopped and asked for directions and with a young boy on the ferry who wanted to play with my son. Everyone else spoke English far better than my Spanish. People are very willing to practice with you, though, unlike in Quebec where they sometimes get impatient with my trying to practice French.