8 Things To Do In Puerto Rico
Right after returning from Jane's birthday trip to Canada, we were already brainstorming about our next adventure. Keep in mind, we had just come back from snowy Canada, so we were definitely gonna go somewhere tropical. Our Puerto Rican friend Brigitte mentioned how there are sometimes really cheap flights from Fort Lauderdale into the city of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. We didn't think much of it until we saw the price of the ticket ($83 roundtrip)! Such a cheap plane ticket to one of the beautiful islands of the Caribbean? Sign us up! However, we were reluctant to buy the tickets right then and there and instead waited and waited. Eventually, the tickets went up to about $213 round trip with luggage. We had missed our opportunity for extremely cheap tickets, but we were for sure not going to miss the opportunity to buy these before they increased even more.
Spring Break came faster than expected, and before we knew it, we were on a flight to Aguadilla. Packed with a bunch of bathing suits, we set out on our tropical adventure.
8 Things We Did in 8 Days
Our first day on the island, we visited our friend Brigitte's family members who live in Quebradillas. As a proper welcoming, Brigitte's uncle decided to take us paddle boarding in the river!
Jane and I had never been paddle boarding before. Even though we were completely full and lethargic, we were more than ready to get on our boards to explore the Guajataca River.
Paddle boarding is actually a lot harder than it looks. Brigitte's uncle taught us that the wider the paddle board, the easier it is to stand on them. I thought I had very good balance until I tried to stand on the smallest paddle board. It only took 3 seconds until I fell into the river. I eventually chose the wider paddle board and was able to keep my balance and paddle with it.
While paddle boarding, we had trees on both sides and no sight of the town. Paddling through the river is a lot nicer than the ocean since there are no waves to rock the board and make us fall. We were a little worried about animals lurking in the river waters, but there were nothing but fish, ducks, and turtles. Our first experience on paddle boards turned out to be a success. I fell from the board only once after going too fast and running into a tree. It was getting pretty hot so taking a nice dip in the river wasn't too bad.
On our second day, we were up bright and early to set off on our next adventure. Since Brigitte had been to Puerto Rico many times before, she knew all the best spots. She took us to a beach about 2 hours from our Airbnb in Isabela. The town was called Manati and we visited one of its most beautiful beaches: Playa Mar Chiquita.
The beach was a beautiful crystal blue. The rocks around it made it almost a perfect circle except for one small opening leading to the open ocean. This small opening allowed for some of the most violent waves to come into the beach. The waves were so strong that it was hard to even get into the water without being tossed and turned by the waves. The farther you went out, the more the waves would try and suck you in. The beach was beautiful but dangerous. Our friend Brigitte tried to escape the nasty waves, but was pulled back into the seamy Poseidon. In her own words: "I almost died!"
We didn't go in the water too many times. We thought it would be a lot smarter to watch the waves from afar. We had a nice picnic on the beach while watching the waves crash on to the rocks. We made sandwiches and drank mojitos and piña coladas. Afterwards, we climbed the rocks a bit. It was a great way to end our day in Playa Mar Chiquita.
Crash Boat Beach
When going to Puerto Rico, we knew that we would scuba dive. Brigitte had gone diving in Puerto Rico many times before, and she was going to show us some great spots. We rented our dive gear and made our way to the famous Crash Boat Beach. Crash Boat is known for its clear waters and its awesome diving. Since we were staying in Isabela, we were only 20 minutes away from the beach.
The only down side to scuba diving is having to put on all your gear and then having to carry it to the dive spot from the car. We suited up in the parking lot and walked to the end of the pier, secured our masks and regulators, took one giant step and before we knew it were on our way down to the bottom. The visibility in the water was amazing! The piers serve as a place for coral to grow, which then attracts many other animals. Under the different piers you could see schools of beautifully colored fish swimming around, fish that would camouflage with the sand, and rows and rows of coral. Life under the water surface is filled with wonderful colors and creatures. Crash Boat Beach definitely demonstrates this.
For those of you who aren't scuba divers, no need to despair! This pier serves as an amazing place to cliff dive! Tourists around us were doing flips and dives into the water! Some people would even swim out to the pier on the right, climb this weird box (adding a couple feet up), and dive off that!
If you aren't comfortable with scuba diving, you can also consider snorkeling! With a simple mask to help you see under the water, you can see all the fish and corral just as clear as you would scuba diving. Some of the fish aren't shy and will swim around you! If you want to take it a step further, free dive to the bottom and join the divers.
The Monster – World's Longest Zip-Line
The island of Puerto Rico is known for many things, but not many people know that it holds the world's longest zip-line. For those thrill seekers out there this should definitely be on your list. This zip-line is a whopping 7,234 ft (2205 m) long, 1,200 ft (366 m) high, and lasts about 2 minutes. The zip-line can be found in Orocovis in the Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park. The zip-line takes you through the forest, around the mountains, and gives you an priceless view of the river and valley. The park allows GoPros, but only to wear on your helmet; so make sure to bring a helmet clip or you'll have to buy one there.
When you're at the top waiting to be launched on the line, there's a ton of different feelings and thoughts. The feeling of fear only lasts from the time you arrive at the launching point, to the very last moment before you're moving along the cable. The immediate feeling I had after being launched was feeling like I was flying. My arms were free so I threw a Super Man pose in there. The view, however, will make you almost forget the fact that you're only attached to a cable 1,200 feet above the ground. Seeing the forest and the mountains from above was like a dream. The great team at Toro Verde was even nice enough to provide us with our top speed stats. Our average speed was 95mph! That's almost as fast as I drive on the expressway... just kidding.
Fun Fact: El Yunque is the only rainforest on US soil!
We got to El Yunque in the afternoon and we thought we would have enough time to explore enough to fulfill our needs. Boy, were we wrong! We only managed to complete one short trail before it started pouring on us! What else should we have expected? It's a RAINforest!
La Mina Falls
The round trip to La Mina Falls is about 1.6 miles (2.57km) long. We parked our car and made a couple cocktails in the back of our Jeep to get us ready for the journey. Once we were all loose and goose, we made our way to the waterfall. Instead of taking the trail, like any person would, we decided to take the scenic route! We decided it was smart for us to get in the river - that eventually flowed down the waterfall - and hop along the rocks that struck out of the river. Long story short, there were injuries. Just walking along the slippery rocks, we had several falls. Once we found a way to get back on the paved path, we had to push and pull our group back to land. We slowly made our way to the waterfall. All injuries were forgotten once we got to the waterfall! It was all about swimming and enjoying ourselves before we had to leave! Beware, the water is freezing! Thank God we had those cocktails in us to warm us up!
The island of Culebra was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. White sand beaches, crystal clear waters, sea turtles, and much more. The island was the experience of a lifetime and I would urge anyone who goes to Puerto Rico to visit Culebra. If you get a chance, try to stay more than one day! Hotels are avaible on the island, as well as camping on the beach!
Getting to Celubra
There's two ways to reach the island. You can take a sea plane from San Juan, or you can take a ferry from the town of Fajardo. Taking a plane is definitely the easiest option, but will come out much more expensive. Rates are about $105 roundtrip. The ferry, however, is $4.50 roundtrip. However, there's a catch. You need to get there very early (we got there at 5 AM) to stand in the ticket line and wait until the ticket booth opens; otherwise the 9 AM ticket could get sold out. According to the guy at our parking lot, you can get the tickets a week in advance. For more information about getting to Culebra you can visit the Isla Culebra Website.
The ferry ride was about 45 minutes long. The day we went it was very windy with huge waves, so the boat was rocking side to side. Almost everyone on our boat became seasick.
After getting dropped off at Culebra, you will be overrun by companies trying to get you to rent their Jeeps or golf carts. If you want to explore the island fully, then I would suggest renting one of these. It will allow you to get anywhere in a short period of time, while also allowing you to explore the entire island and look for hidden gems. Companies, such as Carlos Jeep Rental or Jerry's Jeep Rental, will rent you Jeeps and golf carts. We were only on the island for the day, so instead of a rental we got into a passenger bus that drove us to the main attractions. The buses run at about 5$ per person. We went from the port to Flamenco to Tamarindo back to the port for $15.
Our first stop was the famous Flamenco Beach. Bold and beautiful, the beach was like being in paradise. You can tan on the white sand or take a dip in the blue waters of the Caribbean. The beach is a great place to relax, have a picnic, and spend the day. Flamenco beach also has a unique piece of history. It has a number of tanks from World War II that are now covered in graffiti and have become a popular attraction.
After Flamenco Beach, we decided to explore another famous beach, Tamarindo. Tamarindo Beach is known for being a great place for turtle watching. Jane and I love sea turtles so you bet we definitely checked it out. You don't need to do a snorkel tour to see the turtles. All you need is your own mask and possibly a snorkel and fins. Swim out on the sand path (to avoid sea urchins) and follow the blue path in the water, and eventually you'll see the turtles. The downside to seeing the turtles was seeing how many of them were hurt: there were turtles who were missing limbs. We have to remember that our actions can have a huge negative effect on the environment that's why it is important to try to preserve our environment instead of hurting it. Not littering, recycling, and reducing your carbon footprint are some ways to help out our planet. Any small amount is better than nothing.
Carabali Rainforest Adventure (ATV)
Riding ATVS was one of the best experiences in Puerto Rico. It was all made possible by the great team in Carabali Rainforest Park. We rode through hundreds of acres of forest and mud. There are different groups of people on ATVs and each of them has a guide. You have to stay in a line with all the other ATVs, but if you're the last ATV you can lag behind and then go really fast to catch up. The tour guides were really nice and helpful. They showed us how to maneuver the ATVs and helped us out if there were any issues. They gave us some history about the island, took some awesome pictures, and even gave us a native souvenir. They even stopped at a river and let us swim and jump off some rocks. They showed us how the Natives turned the minerals from river rocks into paint and used it to paint their bodies for ceremonial purposes by drawing on everyones arms and faces. Riding ATVs through the bumpy forest was extremely enjoyable. It can get even more fun if you pretend that you're in Jurassic Park and there are dinosaurs around.
Being our last day on the island, we only had a small amount of time to explore the capital. In the area known as old San Juan, you can find beautifully colored houses, cathedrals, and forts all resembling spanish architecture. We were only able to visit the Castillo San Cristobal in Old San Juan. This was an old Spanish fort that later became a National Historic Site. Inside the fort, you can see old canons, watch towers, and an amazing view of the ocean. The fort is run by the National Park Service so if you have a U.S National Park Annual Pass you can get in for free!
What Else Do You Recommend?
Even though we were in Puerto Rico for 8 days, we missed out on one thing that was very high on our list!
Vieques is another island off the coast of Puerto Rico. Like Culebra, it is also known for its beautiful beaches! However, it is probably most famous for containing the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. This is definitely a unique experience and something we have never seen before! It would have been amazing to see the brightest one in the world, but don't worry, we will be back!