Over the years, we've been to resorts in Mexico, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, but Puerto Rico is the one place where there's so much to see and do. Actually, because of my experience with PR as a sight-seeing destination, we were actually confused in other places - wait, we can't leave the resort? There are no historic sites or monuments? There are no rain forests to hike through? What about the art museums and bookstores?
The Age of COVID 19
These are tips and updates as of May 2021, as we're stepping out carefully. My family is vaccinated so we felt safe enough to venture forth. However, we followed the Travel Guidelines on the Puerto Rico tourism site.
- We needed to get tested 72 hours prior to arrival and post our tests to the online portal.
- We all received texts and emails with our special QR codes.
- After we retrieved our bags, we presented our codes to the health officers. They scanned it and took our temperatures before we proceeded.
Subsequently, we received a daily email alerts (for 2 weeks) asking us if we were experiencing any symptoms listed. We would need to confirm Yes or No. If you do not reply - all of us thought this was a spam at first - you will receive a phone call from a health official.
Restaurants and shops offered hand sanitizers and frequently insisted we comply. Also, mask wearing signs were all over, including at the open air historic sites. Even if someone was working outside, they wore their masks. I know it's a challenge to get vaccines outside of the mainland US, but you respect everyone.
Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan)On our previous trips, we stayed fairly close to Old San Juan so we could go via bus or taxi. This time we stayed in Dorado so it was a bit of a crazy drive. (The drive is straight forward highways, however, people drive pretty nuts so it gets stressful). If you want to see everything at relaxed paced and enjoy the route - sit in the bars or the plazas, fly a kite by El Morro or visit the shops and galleries -- I would recommend this as 1 full day tour or 2 half-days tours. The city is built on hills and it could be quite hot, so be ready to go up and down hills. Someone advised us to download the app Visit A City, which gave us a perfect walking tour of San Juan. We wished we had found this earlier!
Puerto Rico's El Yunque rain forest is a must see. I remember on my previous trips how we took the precarious drive up the mountain and hiking towards the waterfalls, and the lush views of the forests are so beautiful.
However, the new process is to make reservations online as they are limiting the number of visitors. Someone advised us to get our reservations as soon as possible. Unfortunately, acquiring reservations is difficult to procure - we logged in at 11:56 to get the 12:00 release of tickets, but at 12:02, they were all gone. Therefore, we decided to let it go.list of waterfalls to visit in Puerto Rico. After consulting maps and checking reviews, we decided to go ahead with La Canoa Falls or the El Hippie Waterfalls. This is on the other side of the main Rio Grande entrance to the rain forest, and we drove through small towns. We loved this part because majority of the island is going to be rural. You see green mangoes and lemons on trees in someone's yard... fields with cows and horses grazing. The square houses with the iron screens reminded us of Indian houses - tropical environments need to have those types of structures to help keep cool. We enjoyed the drive though the small towns, but on the way back, we got on the main highway fairly quickly.
Post-Vacation Site Suggestiontown of Naguabo; it would've been nice to check this out since we were right there. We did drive through Luquillo Beach and we marveled at the unique terrain with grass and pine trees mixed in with the palm trees and sand.
Post-Vacation Restaurant Suggestions
Puerto Rico has so many nice restaurants with Carribbean staples, as well as American mainstays
like Subway and Applebee's. For travelers, it's easy to find food within your budget anywhere, as well as Walmart and Costco if you need to stock up at a rental.
On my first trip to the Barcardi Rum Factory, I fell in love. It was just a quiet tour and we got simple rum samples under a wide patio surrounded by palm trees. I wanted to work there - why not? The second time we went, I was disappointed because it was way too touristy with specialty cocktails sold under the patio. Much like Disney World as we spent time watching movies and taking rides.
So, this time we did not go, though I was interested in old time's sake. However, you apparently need to make reservations two weeks in advance and tickets are $15 now. I'm surprised they're charging because one would think they made enough by dropping all the tourists off at the gift shop where you buy bottles to take home.
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