If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen the live I saved to my feed where I gave tips on traveling Puerto Rico. Though you may have wanted to write them down while I was speaking. This post will save you the trouble and is going to cover the tips I gave in the live along with others I forgot to mention. Save this post for when you’re planning your trip to my favorite place, Puerto Rico!
There are three major airports in Puerto Rico one in the West, one in the East, and one in the South. The most popular is the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, which is where many tourists land, especially if you plan to stay in the East. This airport will leave you in Carolina, near the capital of San Juan. Although if you are interested in less touristy parts of the island you may want to land at Rafael Hernandez Airport in Aguadilla on the west side of the island. And last but not least is the Mercedita International Airport in Ponce in the South. The last two were shuttered from the start of the Pandemic, causing all commercial flights to the Airport in Carolina, but it has been reported that they are reopening.
Renting a car in Puerto Rico is pretty easy. You may notice when you book your car that there is no option to put insurance on it at the time of check out. This is because insurance is applied at the rental car counter when you pick up the car. The agent at the counter will ask you if/how you plan to put insurance on the car. Whether that be credit card, your own insurance, etc. So please don’t freak out at the time of checkout online, or when you’re at the counter picking up your car, this is completely normal.
Stores in Puerto Rico have slowly transitioned to having to bring your own bags, including grocery stores. You can buy bags if you wish, but many people just bring their own or put their purchase in the car as is. When I travel I usually try to find a local grocery store to buy basics such as breakfast foods, water, and juice. I usually eat breakfast in the place I’m staying as not to waste more money than I have to. I prefer to spend it on experiences and good dinners. Stores are pretty standard there, and very similar to the ones in the states, you’ll be able to find almost if not everything you need via local chains like ECONO.
How to Plan
Puerto Rico has so much to see and do! To put it plainly if you’re bored, that’s your fault! Seriously, it has options for those who prefer adventure, lazy beach days, historical sites, museums, cities, mountains, waterfalls, cultural demonstrations as well as the only rainforest in the United States. So decide what you want to see or do according to what interest you the most! For this last trip in January/ February and my previous one in April/May I used Instagram to get a lot of ideas on what I wanted to see and do.
Slowly I compiled saved posts in a folder I named Puerto Rico, and as my trip got closer I looked into my folder to see what posts corresponded to the location I would be staying. Most recently I broke that folder down into separate folders into what to see, do, and where to eat. That way when I go next time I can find what I saved faster. You could also break them down under the names of towns.
My next step was to buy any tickets for activities I wanted to do well in advance for specific days during my trip and note it in my calendar on my phone. A good tip to remember is to print out your vouchers/tickets to activities and put them somewhere safe in your personal bag. That way if you can’t bring up your ticket on your phone, you’ll have a physical ticket. It really sucks if your internet is weak and a ticket doesn’t come up at the entrance of your activity.
During this trip, I went ATVing, visited the new welcome center for the rainforest, El Yunque, took a Bomba dance class, went ziplining, and visited historical sites and beaches that were all on my bucket list. Some of which required tickets in advance as mentioned above.
This is not to say you won’t travel further than the part of the island you’re staying, because I whole heartily encourage that! The island is small, so don’t be afraid to get in the car and travel all over. I just find having specific destinations and activities I want to see planned out in advance extremely helpful.
Lastly, I like to leave some empty days within my itinerary just to be spontaneous. Perhaps to relax on a beach or visit the rainforest or a historical site. And remember Puerto Rico is in the tropics, so it can be rainy there, the weather may change your plans for you, so stay flexible.
Visiting Other Islands
Many people don’t realize that Puerto Rico includes other smaller islands surrounding the main island. The most popular are Vieques, Culebra, and Isla de Mona. To get to these islands you have a few options. Charter a boat, take a ferry or buy a plane ticket for a small plane to take you. When I visited Vieques in April/ May I bought a plane ticket for a small plane to take me via Vieques Airlink.
Unfortunately, the ferries to and from the main island can be unreliable due to boats not working and other issues that may occur. Although the ferry is cheaper I didn’t want to waste a day waiting for a ferry that might not come. So my advice is to buy a plane ticket, charter a private plane, or book a private boat for the day. Keep in mind the smaller islands are more rural and were hit even harder by Hurricanes in the past than the main island. You might have to shell out more money to be more comfortable if that is something that’s non-negotiable for you.
Google Maps vs GPS
In Puerto Rico, your best bet for getting good directions while driving will be GOOGLE MAPS. GPS does work, but Google Maps will give you more detailed directions and is more reliable. If you ask someone for directions, they will most likely ask if you have Google Maps before anything. I found that even when I bought tickets to go Ziplining and other activities the directions were given via Google Maps, it’s the most popular way to get around. Another tip to remember is roads are marked in kilometers there not miles. If you are lost or need a tow truck (as we have in the past) you will get asked what kilometer marker you’re closest to. Using Google Maps during times like this is helpful as well. People will also tell you directions in kilometers as opposed to miles, so keep that in mind.
By the way, gas was cheaper there at the time although the cost of goods there can be higher due to the need of importing a lot of items. Thanks, Jones Act.
Malls and Shopping
Malls there are like the ones we have here, they contain many stores you’ll recognize and local chains as well. Sizing of the clothes is the same, as well as the prices. Like the states, there are higher-end malls with luxury brands, which you can find in San Juan, or mid-tier malls which hold your less expensive brands. One store we discovered on this last trip was SOLA. This is a store I will always have in mind when planning trips to Puerto Rico, as I will purposefully want to buy from it all the time. This store was found out of a desperate need for clothes when Frontier lost our luggage and we needed clothes.
The closest thing I can compare this store to is Charming Charlie. Very pretty clothes, and accessories perfect for the office, leisure time, or special event. When we visited they had a sale going on, so the prices were reasonable. They’re not the cheapest but not the most expensive either. It’s a must in my opinion if you want retail therapy and your luggage can handle it.
With these tips and info, I hope to have helped you plan your trip to Puerto Rico. I have many other tips to share but as to not make this post way too long I’ll share them at a later date. Let me know any questions on traveling Puerto Rico in the comments or on social media.