We love to travel and so before making our final move from US we wanted to make a trip which would perfectly sum up our adventurous chapter in US. The trip was more special as it was our three-months old first international trip. As first-time parents, we were really curious about choosing a location that would be both adventurous and relaxed so after doing some research Puerto Rico seemed to be the perfect destination. Puerto Rico offers something for everyone. From beautiful palmed-lined beaches some with calm water and others with huge waves perfect for all kind of beach lovers (families or hard-core surfers) to tropical rainforest and nighttime wonders of the Bioluminescent Bay for nature lovers. And to top it all culture, charm and pristine colonial architecture of historic San Juan, old forts, quaint towns, small villages, beautiful islands, caves, and a rugged mountainous interior. It seemed perfect and indeed was a perfect vacation‼
Our brief itinerary:
Day 0: Arrive in San Juan
Day 1: Old San Juan
Day 2: El Yunque rainforest, Luquillo beach
Day 3: Ponce, Bio Bay
Day 4: Old San Juan. Fly out.
We took an early morning flight from Chicago and landed at the San Juan airport at around 2 PM after a 5 hour flight and headed directly to pick up our pre-booked rented car. We did some research online and found that renting a car is the best option when you are on a short trip and plan to cover lot of thing. It not only saves time but is easy on your pocket as well J. There was a long queue at the rental office and we had to wait for around 1 and a half hour for our car to arrive. If you are renting a car make sure to use GPS on your phone or rent a one. After picking up our car we headed straight to our Hotel Four Point Sheraton. We were greeted nicely and allotted a room in no time. It was around 5:30 PM when we reached our hotel so we decided to start exploring the city next day. We checked beforehand that Walgreens was nearby our hotel so we used the evening to buy some supplies for our trip and after having dinner at subway we went for an early nap.
Day 1: We headed straight to Old San Juan which was number one on our to-do list. After parking our car we started to walk on the narrow cobble stone streets of Old San Juan. We were immediately taken aback by the enchanting colonial architecture of the brightly multi-coloured stone building (many dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries) on both sides of the cobblestone street. We found a man with colourful birds and Puerto Rican Parrots, and we got some good shots with them. Next stop was The Puerto Rico Tourism Company. We gathered necessary information and maps and headed to the Bahia de San Jaun (San Juan Bay) where we saw the Cruise Ships in the port. From there we headed towards Paseo de la Princesa which is a lovely tree lined promenade with beautiful gardens, benches, statuary, and cafes and at the end of which we found the magnificent Raices Fountain. This is a great place to take photographs and also enjoys some local Puerto Rican foods from the street vendors. Continuing on this trail we went through the San Juan Gate walked up a lovely tree-lined street to the San Juan Cathedral. (This was the same path many sailors took after a long voyage to the cathedral, to thank God for a safe journey.) After visiting the cathedral we enjoyed piragua which is shaved frozen ice drenched in tropical flavored syrups like guava, guanabana, and coconut. A must try. From here we headed towards El Morro Fort, or officially Castillo de San Felipe del Morro. After exploring the 6 levels that make up this magnificent fortification we wandered around the outside of El Morro for more spectacular views. The large green field in front of the fort is extremely popular spot for locals to picnic and fly kites. There are also great views of the San Juan Cemetery and San Juan Bay perfect for clicking some pictures. From here we headed back to Old San Juan City and after having dinner at Tantra,(perfect destination if your are looking for Indian food) an India Restaurant we headed to our hotel.
Old San Jaun
Puerto Rico Tourism Company
A ship at the San Jaun Bay
Trail to the San Jaun Gate
Road from San Jaun gate to the Cathedral
San Jaun Cathedral
View on our way to the el Morro Fort Vie
Castillo de San Felipe del Morro
Views from El Yunque Fort
Day 2: Next day we planned to explore the cool mountains and semi tropical El Yunque Rain Forest. Since Puerto Rico trip is incomplete without visiting a beach we decided to go to Luquillo beach which is one of the better beaches around Puerto Rico, not very crowded, calm and warm waters and seemed perfect for us as we were travelling with a baby. We spent an hour or so here. Then we headed straight for El Yunque Rain Forest which is the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System. We reached EL Portal Visitor Centre and collected maps and other information to start exploring the rainforest. The best way to see the forest is on foot but we decided to take a slow drive up and down the mountain. Exploring can be done on your own or take a guided tour. We chose to explore on our own. The drive was beautiful. The rainforest trail was covered with beautiful views on both sides. There were many small waterfalls and spots to take pictures. We stopped at many locations to take pictures including La Coca Water Fall and Yokahu Tower. According to ancient Indian Legend, the good spirit ‘Yuquiyu’ ( or ‘Yokahu’ ) reigned on his mighty mountain-top throne, protecting Puerto Rico and its people. We did start the Big Tree Trail which can only be taken on foot, but we returned half way as it was drizzling and so was getting very cold for the baby. We drove back to San Juan, had dinner at Tantra and returned to our hotel.
Waterfall on our way to rainforest
View from Yokahu Tower
Day 3: Puerto Rico is also known for its awesome Nighttime Bioluminescent and Bio Bay Kayaking but we planned to skip that and instead go for a guided tour for Bio Bay as my husband really wanted to try it. I planned to accompany him on the boat ride but not to get into the water. We planned to visit Ponce on our way to La Parguera for Bio bay Tour. Ponce is another interesting city to visit. It’s a 2 hour scenic drive from San Juan. Ponce is more of a historical centre loaded with museums and cultural venues. We visited Ponce Cathedral and Parque de Bombas which is the city’s oldest firehouse building and is the most recognizable landmark. We did some souvenirs shopping and headed for our next destination. We pre-booked a bio bay tour with Paradise Scuba and Snorkeling Centre, upon reaching there we were greeting nicely. We boarded on the ship at around 6 PMish and were immediately provided dinner. It was delicious was more closer to Indian food in taste J. After 20 minutes ride we reached the location and everyone aboard got into the sea to experience the spectacular bioluminescence view for around 20 minutes before heading back to the dock.
Some pictures clicked on our way to Ponce
A Park in Ponce
Parque de BomBas
View from the ship
Day 4: We had a return flight today so we decided walking around in the colorful streets of San Juan one last time, taking pictures and doing some shopping. We bought some souvenirs and cigars! After one final meal at the Parrot Club, we headed out to the airport for flying out. It was a fun trip and we had a really good time. Thank you Puerto Rico for giving us such an amazing life-time experience.