One of the first things we did once we arrived in Puerto Rico was go on a private guided food tour that Lisa had setup. We had our own guide who took us around to various spots in San Juan and beyond. After visiting a local farmers market in San Juan, we headed out east towards Loiza.
We discovered a soft drink here that we enjoyed while in Puerto Rico. It’s a coconut soda.
In addition to the mofongo, we also tried alcapurrias for the first time.
We stopped at a small roadside restaurant in La Torre where we got to make mofongo.
We split our trip into two portions. We stayed in Old San Juan for the first half, where we used it as a home base for exploring the big island.
There are two forts in Old San Juan. We visited Castillo San Felipe del Morro, or “Del Morro” for short. It is part of the national parks system.
Walking up to Del Morro, there were groups of kids everywhere flying kites.
Walking around Old San Juan
We found a spot near the northern end of the city (but before La Perla) that we enjoyed. The view of the sea and the party vibes were what we were looking for.
Trying a variety of Puerto Rican foods at a restaurant recommended by a local, Deaverdura.
We spent a lot of time walking around Old San Juan.
We visited the Santurce neighborhood a few times during our time in San Juan. There is a food truck area (Lote 23) that we found more local food at than what we were getting in Old San Juan. We even found some rainbow eucalyptus trees, Lisa’s favorite!
We rented a car for a few days and drove west towards Rincon, checking out different towns and stops along the way. This is Arecibo Beach, a little over halfway between San Juan and Rincon.
The lighthouse at Arecibo Beach.
Crash boat beach was recommended by our tour guide from early in the trip. We really enjoyed this beach. The piers are all decommissioned, and you can jump from them into the crystal-clear water.
This beach had a more local vibe, and the water was very calm.
We visited the town of Isabella during one of our drives to the western part of the island.
We lucked out and got tickets to El Yunque National Forest for one of our days during the trip. We didn’t realize beforehand that they are hard to score last-minute. This is one of many waterfalls in the park, Gozalandia Falls.
Another waterfall in El Yunque, Juan Diego Creek.
We hiked up the Mount Britton trail to the top, where there is a small tower that provides sweeping views of the island. This is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Park system.
Views of the coast from Mount Britton. Apparently El Yunque is known for paranormal activity at night. It was pretty neat seeing a mountain covered in palm trees and tropical vegetation.
One of Puerto Rico’s more famous spots is the Guavarte “Meat Highway.” This became famous after Anthony Bourdain featured it in an episode. It was ok. The locals seemed to love it. I think we were both spoiled from the great BBQ we are accustomed to in Georgia.
The second half of our trip was to the island of Vieques. To get to Vieques, you take a ferry from Ceiba, on the eastern shore of the “Big Island.”
The journey to Vieques took quite a while, between the Uber ride from San Juan to Ceiba (almost an hour and a half), to waiting on the ferry, to the actual ferry ride.
We really wanted to visit Vieques to visit the Bioluminescent Bay – the brightest in the world. Visiting the bay was otherworldly. We don’t have any photos or videos, as we were in kayaks in the middle of the bay at night. The bay did not disappoint.
The ferry ride from the big island to Vieques take 30 minutes. This is a view of the big island (with El Yunque) as we were leaving.
One of the many beaches we visited during our time in Vieques. This is Caracas Beach, not far from Esperanza.
We stayed in the town of Esperanza during our time in Vieques. Horses roam all over the island. The horses aren’t wild – they are all owned by locals. They don’t fence them in though, so they wander around the whole island.
Sun Bay Beach. This beach is in-between the Bioluminescent Bay and Esperanza.
There was a local in town selling Limbers that were delicious. We ended up going back multiple times. I had never had a Limber before. Apparently they’re big in Puerto Rican neighborhoods in NYC. They are an iced/frozen dessert that is made and served in a small plastic cup.
We left Vieques early morning the day we were leaving Puerto Rico. We made our way back to Old San Juan where we spent some time walking around one last time before our early evening flight back home.
Trying an Empanada in back in Old San Juan.
Old San Juan was cool, but we probably planned a little too much time here. We ended up walking just about every street.
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