Puerto Rico Trip: 11 Things You Must Know Before you Travel

Puerto Rico Trip: 11 Things You Must Know Before you Travel

Planning a trip to Puerto Rico soon, but wondering about safety, how to get around, the culture, the best beaches to visit..etc? 

I got you!!

To prepare you for this beautiful island, I put together this list of answers to questions you may have and things you need to know before you go on your Puerto Rico trip.

1. What Travel Documents Do You Need to Enter Puerto Rico from the US?

American Citizens and US Green Card holders (permanent residents) can travel to Puerto Rico using their driver’s license or national ID! 

You do not need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico if you permanently reside in the US. 

For citizens of different countries, you can check your visa requirements here. These are the same requirements as for entering the USA.

2. Is It Safe to Vacation in Puerto Rico?

If you are wondering if Puerto Rico is ready for tourism in 2019/2020 after hurricane Maria, then I can assure that it is VERY ready for you!

There are plenty of restaurants, hotels/Airbnbs and tour companies in full business.

Solo Female Traveler on a Puerto Rico Trip

Puerto Rico is pretty safe to travel to and I felt safe traveling as a solo female traveler. However, I have to admit that it is more fun to travel to Puerto Rico with a group of friends or as a couple vs. solo. 

I would say Puerto Rico is just as safe as New York City, so practice common sense and do not wander around San Juan by yourself at night. 

3. What is the Best Way to Travel in Puerto Rico? Do you need to Rent a Car?

Puerto Rico does not have a reliable public transportation system and most—if not all—Puerto Ricans have cars to get around.

In San Juan, it is pretty easy and affordable to get around using Uber. You can uber from San Juan to neighboring towns but it will be difficult to get around once you are there. 

Female Traveler at El Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico

I would recommend renting a car if you are leaving the San Juan area and wanting to explore El Yunque Rainforest or other towns. Check out car rentals in Puerto Rico here.

If you end up flying from San Juan to the neighboring islands such as Vieques or Culebra, you could rent anything from golf carts to jeeps from local shops once you’re on these islands.

Motorcycles are not recommended in Vieques because of the “wild” horses. 

4. What are the Best Months to Travel to Puerto Rico?

Best will depend on what you are looking for…

The High Season in Puerto Rico, which is the busiest and most expensive time to travel, starts from mid-December to April. But hey, you will be escaping the winter, making new friends and enjoying more of what Puerto Rico has to offer! 

There are usually flight deals from the US during the high season but you will want to book everything in advance. Hotels/hostels and Airbnb’s book up very fast and so do the internal flights, ferries, and tours!

When is the Best Time to go on a Puerto Rico Trip


The cheapest and calmest time to travel to Puerto Rico is during the Low Season or Off Shoulder Season (right before the high season). It starts from the end of April to June and from September to early November. 

This is ideal for those who can take time off during these months, prefer a calmer vacation and are looking to save some money.

September is the cheapest month to fly to Puerto Rico. Check September flight deals here.

Avoid July and April (Easter week) because that is high season for the locals. 

5. Can you use US Dollars in Puerto Rico? And do you need to Bring Cash?


Puerto Rico is a US territory which means they use the US Dollar. 

Many restaurants and hotels accept all major credit cards just like the US, however, you should always carry smaller cash bills for taxis, tours, public cars, or tips. 

6. How Much does a Puerto Rico Trip Cost?

Flights to Puerto Rico from the US range from $150-$500 depending on the season you choose to travel. Check flight prices on Momondo.

Food and Drinks

The food in Puerto Rico is incredibly delicious but expensive—think NYC restaurant prices!

Cost of a Puerto Rico Trip
Mofongo is Puerto Rico’s National Dish. This meal cost $8 at a local restaurant.
  • A meal at an average restaurant is between $8-$12
  • A meal at a nice restaurant is between $15-$30

Drinks at bars are between $8-$15 (beer is cheaper of course)

Accommodation

Accommodation in Puerto Rico is not cheap either because there aren’t that many hostels. The few hostels that do exist are not any cheaper than Airbnbs.

I recommend splitting an Airbnb with friends as this is the most budget-friendly option.

Airbnb in Puerto Rico

The price range for accommodation is between $40-$150/night. If you look you can find rooms or dorm beds starting at $20. Click here to browse through various accommodations in Puerto Rico.

I think I spent about $800 total during my 7 days Puerto Rico trip but I was doing it the backpacker budget way—Couchsurfing a few nights, cooking some of my meals, hitchhiking and splitting accommodation costs with a friend. 

I created a complete guide on how to travel the world on a student budget here.

7. How many Vacation Days do you Need for a Puerto Rico Trip?

The main island of Puerto Rico is pretty small.

If you rent a car, you will be able to see most of the major landmarks in just 4 days but I recommend staying 6-7 days to soak in all of the island’s goodness!

For a full Puerto Rico trip itinerary including where to stay, eat, party and the best beaches to visit, click here.

4 Day Trip

A 4-day Puerto Rico trip would be ideal if you just want to visit San Juan, see the Old Town and visit a few beaches nearby San Juan. You will be able to either fit in a day trip to Vieques or El Yunque Rainforest. However, you will be moving very quickly if you try to squeeze a lot of activities.

6-7 Day Trip

A 6-7 day Puerto Rico trip would be perfect to actually relax and enjoy the different beaches that Puerto Rico has to offer. With 6 to 7 days you can spend a night or two at El Yunque Rainforest (which I highly recommend) and visit both Vieques and Culebra islands. 

8. What are the Best Beaches in Puerto Rico?

The best beach in Puerto Rico, in my opinion, is Caracas “Red” Beach in Vieques Island.

Best Beaches to Visit in Puerto Rico
Caracas Beach in Vieques, Puerto Rico

But there are plenty of other visit-worthy beaches around the island…


San Juan

  • Isla Verde
  • Ocean Park Beach 

Vieques

  • Caracas or Red Beach
  • La Chiva Beach
  • Playa Negra or Black Sand Beach 

Culebra

  • Flamenco Beach
  • Zoni Beach
  • Tamarindo Beach

9. How Do You Get to Vieques or Culebra Island from the Main Island?

You have a few options if you are going from San Juan to Vieques or Culebra island:

The Most Time-Efficient Option 

Flying directly from San Juan to Vieques or Culebra.

It costs between $70-$250 one-way and takes around 30 mins. 

Book in advance for cheap flights to the neighboring islands.

The Most Cost-Effective Option

Drive or uber to Ceiba Ferry Terminal and ride the ferry to Vieques or Culebra.

Puerto Rico Trip Guide on transportation
Ferry Ride in Puerto Rico

The drive is about 45-50mins from San Juan to the ferry terminal in Ceiba and the ferry ride is 50 mins and costs $2. 

You can read my full Puerto Rico Trip itinerary for more details on how to travel between the islands.

10. Do You Need to Know Spanish to Travel in Puerto Rico?

Puerto Ricans speak both English and Spanish. 

But I did notice that some of the older generations or the more authentic local businesses do not speak English.

Although not crucial, I highly recommend knowing some Spanish and trying to use it to communicate. It shows respect to the locals that do choose to use Spanish to communicate and makes you a better world traveler!

11. Which is the Best Bioluminescent Bay in Puerto Rico? And Can you Swim in the Bioluminescent Bay in Puerto Rico?

The best bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico is Mosquito Bay in Vieques. According to my personal experience and other travelers.

Why is Mosquito Bay the best?

  • It is the brightest bay in Puerto Rico due to the number of mangroves surrounding the bay
  • Since it is on the island of Vieques, it is less visited compared to the closer bio bays in Fajardo (Laguna Grande) and Lajas (La Parguera)
  • No swimming is allowed at this bio bay to conserve the ecosystem, making it even brighter!

Technically, you should not swim in the bioluminescent bays because of the fragile ecosystem that can be disrupted by chemicals on our bodies such as lotions, sunscreen and laundry detergent in our clothes.

However, at the La Parguera bay, you are allowed to swim, making it the least bright out of the three.

If I answered all your questions, please do let me know down below in the comments!

If you still have more questions about Puerto Rico, please also comment below and I will get to you ASAP.

Follow along on my adventures @__girgis.

Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary for Beach & Nature Lovers

Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary for Beach & Nature Lovers

In this blog post, I will share with you a complete Puerto Rico travel itinerary to satisfy the beach bums and nature lovers amongst us.  

Why Puerto Rico? 

Puerto Rico is home to the Rainforest, bioluminescent bays, many picture-perfect Caribbean beaches and delicious Mofongo (the national dish made with root veggies). Need we say more? 

Aside from all its natural beauty, Puerto Rico is JUST so easy to travel to if you live in America!

Best Beach in Puerto Rico
Caracas Beach, Vieques Island

If you are a US citizen or a US Green Card holder, this beautiful tropical island needs to be on your travel list now. Why? 

Because it is a hop and skip away from the US (4hrs non-stop from NYC!!) and requires you to carry nothing else but a National ID or Driver’s Licence to enter the island. 

There is no need to exchange currencies if you use US dollars because they also use the US dollar. The majority of people speak Spanish and English, but yeah, that’s no excuse not to try practicing your Spanish

Here is Your Complete Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary

San Juan

This is the main town that you will most likely fly into. It is known for the Old Town of San Juan filled with Spanish Colonial buildings, forts like San Cristobal Castle and El Morro, upscale restaurants and the buzzing nightlight

Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary
Walking around San Juan

However, there is much more to explore outside of the Old Town.

How to Get Here?

Take an Uber from the airport into town. Uber is very affordable and reliable in the San Juan area, use it to get around instead of renting a car, just yet

Rides cost anywhere from $5-$15 around town.

Where to Stay in San Juan

I recommend Airbnb for affordable and unique stays. If you are looking for budget options, there are also a few hostels, I stayed at Villa Eshta. Or you can stay at Hotel Stay at Marre right on the beach. Book in advance the winter is high season in PR. 

Must-Do in San Juan

After walking around the Old Town and visiting the fortress, you will want to spend a day at Ocean Park Beach sipping on Pina Coladas from Numero Uno Beach Bar while sitting on bean bags watching the sunset. For another tropical day at the beach visit Isla Verde Beach.  

Check out the Santurce area of clubs and restaurants!

Ocean Park Beach in Puerto Rico
Delicious Drinks at Numero Uno Beach Bar

Where to Eat in San Juan?

For breakfast and HUGE smoothies head over to Pinkys in Calle Loiza. The best tacos in town are at Acapulco.

Green Smoothies for Breakfast at Pinkys in San Juan
Big Smoothie Portions at Pinkys

Enjoy an upscale dinner and amazing service at Verde Mesa in Old Town (Vegetarian/Allergy-friendly!).  But for really authentic traditional and affordable food head over to La Placita (The Central Market area) and eat at La Alcapurria, say hi to the lovely owner Irvin!

Restaurants in San Juan, Puerto Rico Travel Guide
Beautiful interiors of Verde Mesa in Old San Juan

All the restaurants mentioned above are vegetarian-friendly! 

Where to Drink in San Juan?

La Placita is a fun place to dance and drink. When you get there look for an outdoors bar called El Coco de Luis for cheap drinks. Or head over to Old Town to La Factoria (rated the top 50 bars in the world) for anything from wine to tiki mixed drinks. 

El Yunque Rainforest 

Puerto Rico Itinerary for El Yunque Rainforest
El Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico

This is not something you want to miss on your Puerto Rico trip. Many people visit El Yunque as a day trip but in my humble expert opinion, it is worth a night’s stay (or two) in the mountains and jungle near the Rainforest!

How to Get Here?  

Now would be the time to rent a car. It is about a 45-50 mins drive from San Juan. There are NO reliable public buses but you can also Uber from San Juan. Uber costs between $30-$50. 

Where to Stay in El Yunque

I highly recommend spending a night or two in the mountains, you won’t regret it! I stayed at Elemental Eco Retreat Airbnb, which was truly a magical place.

Best Airbnb's in Puerto Rico
The View at Elemental Eco Retreat

Must-Do Trails in El Yunque Rainforest *

*Note that hiking El Yunque Rainforest is appropriate for all fitness levels and ages. There is also no entrance fees!

When you enter the rainforest you’ll first stop at La Coca Falls and the Yokahu Tower. If you continue to drive up the road, you’ll come across a 5 mins trail that leads up to another beautiful waterfall/natural pool called Juan Diego Waterfall.

El Yunque Rainforest Puerto Rico travel itinerary
Juan Deigo Waterfall at El Yunque Rainforest

For an easy-moderate hike, keep driving until you see signs for Mt. Britton Trail. This is a 45 mins one-way hike on paved roads leading up to a tower with stunning views of the forest. 

The longest hike in the park is 2 hrs one-way and its called Caimitillo/El Yunque Trails leading up to El Yunque peak. 

Hiking El Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico

Make sure to be out by 6 pm as that is when the gates close. 

Where to Eat in El Yunque?

There are no restaurants in the El Yunque rainforest. There were also no restaurants close enough by our Airbnb. I recommend going to Walmart in San Juan and packing enough food and snacks for this trip. Or if you have rented a car you can drive to the nearby towns for restaurants.   

Vieques Island

Best Beaches in Vieques
Caracas or Red Beach in Vieques Island

Vieques is an island off of the main island of Puerto Rico known for its stunning Carribean beaches and arguably one of the best of the Biolumencent Bays in Puerto Rico. It is 45 mins by ferry from the town of Ceiba. I recommend spending at least 2-3 days here.

How to Get Here?  

You have a few options depending on where you are and how much time/money you have. 

Ferry from Ceiba to Vieques
Ferry from Ceiba to Vieques

From El Yunque Rainforest to Vieques:

Drive to Ceiba Ferry Terminal in Ceiba, about a 45-50 mins drive from the Rainforest. If you did not rent a car, then make sure you organize for an uber to pick you up beforehand, ours cost $50. 

From San Juan to Vieques:

You can still drive to Ceiba Ferry Terminal, it’s about a 1-hour drive and then catch the ferry to Vieques. But the most time-efficient option would be to fly straight into Vieques. This a 30 mins flight from San Juan International Airport. I heard its such an awesome experience and the views are great! 

Flights range anywhere between $70-$250 one-way. Book in advance for cheap flights to Vieques.

Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary to Nearby Islands
Bring your Rental Car on the Ferry

Ferry Tickets to the Nearby Islands of Puerto Rico

If you take the ferry, you can purchase your ferry tickets in advance online here or arrive at the Ceiba Ferry Terminal early enough to buy them there in person. The cost is $2 for a one-way ticket at the ferry terminal

How to Get Around Vieques Island

If you didn’t bring your rental car on the ferry, then you can rent a vehicle* once you’re on the island or even better, rent a golf cart

Or 

You can take private taxis. This is the number to call (787) 741-8294 to request a pick-up. They cost $10 or $15 to almost anywhere on the island.

How to get around in Puerto Rico
Gua Guas in Puerto Rico

Another option is public cars called Gua Gua. These stop by the ferry terminal or in Esperanza and can take you to Caracas beach for $5 each way. 

*They don’t recommend renting motorcycles because of the horses that roam free. Watch out for those at night! 

Where to Stay in Vieques

I stayed at Casa Arena. This is a beautiful Airbnb with a pool & private access to the beach. You’ll need a car if you stay there because it’s away from the main area. 

Airbnbs in Vieques
The View from our Balcony at Casa Arena

If you want to be in the main area of the island stay on Esperanza. There is Lazy Hostel or a nice hotel called El Blok, both are right on the main beach in Esperanza. Here are other great hotel options around the island; Malecon House and Isla Hermosa Guesthouse.

Must-Do in Vieques

Caracas or Red beach (the most beautiful beach on the island of PR!), La Chiva beach, Black Sand beach, Sun Bay beach & the Bioluminescent Bay (Mosquito Bay), of course. If you like the nightlife, then check out the Isabel II square for some hot bachata and merengue tunes. 

Female traveler at Sun Bay Beach in Vieques Puerto rico
Beautiful Shell at Sun Bay Beach in Vieques

I recommend Vieques Kayak tour company and Harold as your tour guide. I had an incredible time with them! 

Black Sand Beach, Puerto Rico Travel Guide
Playa Negra or Black Sand Beach in Vieques

Pro Tip: Make sure to check out the beach at night to see the stars, but go with a group for safety. 

Where to Eat in Vieques Island?

Puerto Rico Vegetarian Food Guide
Vegetarian Mofongo at El Guayacan

Bananas for a variety of foods and fun drinks, El Guayacán for traditional Puerto Rican food (the mofongo can be made vegetarian here), Lazy Jacks for cheap bar food and El Blok for high-end food.

Culebra Island  

Culebra is another island off of the main island of Puerto Rico. It is smaller in size than Vieques, known for it’s Flamenco Beach with the navy tank in the water and Tamarindo Beach for snorkeling with sea turtles. This island is ideal for a day trip from San Juan or Vieques.

Guide to Puerto Rico's beaches
Flamenco Beach in Culebra Island

How to Get Here?  

This will depend on which part of Puerto Rico you are getting to Culebra Island.

To get from Vieques to Culebra:

The cheapest option would be to catch the earliest ferry leaving Vieques to Ceiba Ferry Terminal. At the ferry terminal, you will catch the next ferry going to Culebra. This route takes about 2 hours but will cost you $4 total

Alternatively, you can book a flight from Vieques to Culebra, but it will stop in SJU.

To get from San Juan to Culebra:

You can fly directly from San Juan International Airport (book it in advance here) or you can take an uber to Ceiba Ferry Terminal and catch a $2 ferry to Culebra. Here is the ferry schedule. 

Where to Stay in Culebra

Here are some nice places to stay in Culebra; Villa del Sol 302, and Villa Ensenada Honda.
You can either stay for a night on the island or do what I did and head back to San Juan after exploring. You can take the evening ferry back or fly back to SJ.

Must-Do in Culebra Island  

Flamenco Beach ($2 entrance fees), Zoni Beach and Tamarindo Beach for snorkeling with turtles.

Flamenco Beach in Culebra Island
A Navy Tank in the Middle of the Ocean at Flamenco Beach

When you get off the ferry, you will find a lot of Gua Guas (public cars) shouting out the names of the popular beaches. It is very safe to ride these cars and it only costs $3 to get to Flamenco Beach!

Where to Eat in Culebra? 

Puerto Rico Culebra Travel Itinerary

Culebra is a very small island so your options are limited here. There is a decent supermarket on the island if you want to cook but Zaco Tacos is a must-try for REALLY good tacos. 

For Bonus Savings: Use Rakuten to get cashback on your bookings! Also here is $40 off your first Airbnb stay. 

Make sure you pack light so you can easily hop in Ubers and the ferries, here is your complete guide to packing and traveling light!

I hope this Puerto Rico travel guide helps you plan your upcoming trip but If you still have questions, do not hesitate to contact me here.