A Local’s Guide to Puerto Rico

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I did a Puerto Rico travel guide the first time I visited the caribbean island, but I have to say, I barely scratched the surface with that one! This trip was so different for Ryan and me for a few reasons, but mainly because we didn’t work as much as we usually do. We actually took the time to have fun, relax, and let loose. And for the first time, we went on a trip with someone else! We were joined by our friends Erica and René, who is from Puerto Rico – that’s where the “local” part comes in. Although René moved away from Puerto Rico, his family still lives near San Juan (my family lives further from the main tourist areas – in Ponce).

It was so awesome to have a local with us the whole time, and on top of that, we had some of René’s family join us for part of the time. Navigating an unfamiliar place, especially when English isn’t the primary language, can be worlds different with a local. Not only does it make the whole group feel more comfortable and safe, but we often had a better time mingling with the people we came across on a daily basis.

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Since I already did a travel guide with all the basic info like how to get there, safety, language, and currency, I’ll focus this post on the new things I did all over the island. Here’s where we went and where we stayed!

Last time I went to Puerto Rico, I stayed in a hotel, so this time I lived like a local by staying in an apartment: Casa Saffra. Read the full post on it here. The apartment we rented was in La Placita, an area that is slowly becoming more and more popular for tourists, but still not saturated at all (like Old San Juan). In fact, we didn’t see any other tourists in La Placita while we were there – it was all locals. We stopped by the market to grab fruits and eggs and ate at the local restaurants. It was amazing!

Read my full post on Casa Saffra here.

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What to do in Puerto Rico

There’s so much more to do in Puerto Rico besides Old San Juan and El Yunque – and so much I still have left to explore! But here’s what we did:

We went on a catamaran to Icacos! While I typically prefer private boat tours, this public snorkeling getaway was actually awesome. We made friends with people on the boat and had an absolute blast. It was probably my favorite thing we did!

Read all about our catamaran day here.

We went out west – all the way to Cabo Rojo! The Cabo Rojo Lighthouse is on the very south west tip of the island, so we headed that way to not only see that, but to also see the famous pink salt lakes. Erica and I were so excited to take some pretty photos with the gorgeous lakes only to discover that the lakes were straight up brown. Turns out, they are only pink during the summer months. Good to know for next time! But we didn’t let the trip go to waste and headed to Cabo Rojo Lighthouse before the sunset. The best part is, we found a hidden beach. It was incredible and we had it totally to ourselves! Watch the drone video on my Instagram here!

Read the full post with info on how to get to the hidden beach here.

 

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We went up the mountain and across the river to Utuado. Believe it or not, we actually discovered Utuado on Instagram! More specifically, Cañon Blanco – White Canyon in English. After driving for almost two hours, we made it to Utuado, only to discover that we had another 30 minutes to get to Cañon Blanco, so if you want to go here, just GPS to Cañon Blanco. I wanted to go because I loved the all white rocks and the flowing river, so I was delighted to realize that we had Cañon Blanco to ourselves, just like the hidden beach in Cabo Rojo! We got some drone footage, climbed the rocks, and searched for the famous couch rock. We didn’t find it, but honestly, I loved just walking around and looking at the mountains in the distance. Puerto Rico has such a variety of terrain, it’s amazing!

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We took the ferry to Culebra. Culebra was at the top of my list this visit since I didn’t have time to go last time. It was absolutely gorgeous! The ferry leaves from Fajardo and you should really get there an hour before your ferry leaves, but we got lucky and our ferry did not sell out. We went on a weekday, so that definitely made a difference. The high-speed catamaran got there in about 45 minutes. It was awesome! Erica has been before and she said it took much longer, so I’m glad they started this route!

Instead of grabbing a ride to the beach in one of the shuttles, we opted to rent a jeep. I’m so glad we did, because we ended up going to another beach besides Flamenco, which is the popular beach to go to. Plus it was only $35, so not bad at all! A few things to note: Flamenco is gorgeous, but it’s not free. You have to pay to get in and pay to park–and it’s cash only. We had to drive 10 minutes back to town to go to an ATM. I believe it was $5 to park and $2 per person to enter. The food shacks are delicious, but not cheap. We ended up spending over $50 on food alone. Finally, you can’t fly drones on Flamenco. We did head over to Turtle beach after and we were able to fly our drone, but we were horrendously attacked by gnats and mosquitoes, so we didn’t last long!

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The trip was seriously amazing and I’m so sad it has come to an end! I will absolutely be back to Puerto Rico. Like I said, there’s still so much more to do!

Do you have any recommendations on what to do in Puerto Rico?

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Photos by Ryan Carpenter.