Hello, I am planning to take my husband and daughter on a family 2017 Easter break vacation for two weeks to Puerto Rico. I would love to be at an affordable beach property (budget, not all inclusive or too isolated). We want to photograph the old architecture, see the bioluminscent caves and explore the island. Any suggestions would be most welcome, expecially if we could afford to stay on the beach. We plan to rent a car, but we will also consider a guide for a day or two. I don't want a super fancy resort, just something modest, but with beach access, a pool and not too far away from the main attractions. I have studied Mexico destinations and observed that most resorts there are isolated from the people and that does not appeal to me, I want to be able to easily access town. Thanks for all your great advice
To start with "in San Juan on the beach and budget friendly" doesn't really go together. Well, depending on what you consider budget friendly. You can do it someplace nice in the $250 a night range. You might actually be better served by splitting the trip into two parts - one week in old san juan, and one week elsewhere. Puerto rico is more or less 125 miles by 40 miles, so it covers a lot of area, but with not a lot of population really. So most resorts aren't actually that isolate from the small towns. Las Palmas in Humacao is a little bit of an exception to that, as it is a bit isolate, but even there it's only a 10-15 minute drive to a mcdonalds or walmart. Or to someplace worth eating. Actually there is an awesome chinese restaurant inside the resort Blue Hawaii. If you like chinese food at all, you have to try some on the island. In San Juan, go to Cathay. Surprisingly, you'll find that other than crab rangoon, everything in the good chinese restaurants in Puerto Rico is on a par with what you'll find in Chinatown in Hawaii (or San Fran). I mention the crab rangoon as in puerto rico, they actually put crab in them. They're mostly crab, with just a touch of anything else as a binder. The first time I bit into one I almost spit it out as it wasn't the texture I was expecting. Once I got the taste though, boy was that good.
And there isn't a road worthwhile north/south or east/west except along the coastline for the most part. I generally in a 1 week vacation put as much as 800 miles on a rental car, to be able to visit all the things I want to see. So spending a week in san juan at say the Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel & Casino(around $125 a night) and then spending a separate week in Aguadilla or Rincón (Puerto Rico) might suit you better. It will make it so that you'll have a good central spot for each week to visit a lot of the island, without spending hours driving daily. And trust me, the traffic can be horrendous.
I haven't stayed anywhere in Rincon, but the Casa Verde Hotel at least has very nice food + friendly staff at their Saltaire restaurant, which was named the best place to eat in western puerto rico 3 years in a row. Those are awesome beaches, and put you in a spot that is better for exploring the west half of the island. San Juan is good for the city, and some of the east coast things like the
There aren't any bioluminescent caves, there are 3 separate bioluminescent bays (plus quite a few non-bioluminescent caves). You've got Vieques which is the brightest of the 3, but as you can see on the map is remote. For visiting there, you have to spend the night at a hotel on the tiny island, as the ferry back and forth to the mainland stops at 8pm. Then there's Fajardo where for around $75 a person you can do a kayak trip to the bay. But in some ways the best (and the worst) is La Parguera. It's in the middle of roughly nowhere, you'll find a lot less english speakers than elsewhere on the island but... for $8 each you can go out on a small boat and actually swim in the water, or for the $75 a person you'd pay in Fajardo you can if you book enough in advance do a snorkeling trip that includes food. It's a good 3 hour + drive from old san juan though. There are a number of hotels and cozy inn type places in Fajardo, but it is far from most everything else.
Mostly though, you'll want to bring an appetite. the food all over the island is excellent. If you're in the San Juan area, going to Hato Rey isn't very far, they have a nice mall to walk through, and what I think is one of the best restaurants I've ever eaten in,
On that northwestern side as well is Cueva del Indio which is pretty amazing. Not what i'd call the safest caves (rickety ladders, etc) but amazing to see. Trippy is giving me grief uploading photos or i'd share some. Funny, almost half the photos that are on here are ones for puerto rico are one's i've taken :)
Also in that area is Christopher Columbus Statue, you can't miss it driving to those caves. It's around 300 feet tall, and up on a hillside. It's right near the Gasolina Beach Club, you ought to try the frozen sangriia drink, but I like the original Gasolina best.
If you're feeling extra adventurous, you can rent cabins from the puerto rico park services http://www2.pr.gov/Agencias/cdpn/areasvacacionales/Pages/default.aspx for dirt cheap for part of your trip. They are scattered across the island, many of them lakeside, a good portion of them with AC, all of them with at least kitchenettes and for $57.50 a night if you buy the pack of 10 nights up front. Utuado is one of the spots, they have the Tanama River Adventures where you can go cave tubing, and they have other nice spots. you'd have to look into it more yourself to see if it's worth it, but it could save enough doing a week of that at $575 buying 10 days but losing a couple to cover spending $200+ a night to be somewhere really nice like El Conquistador Resort Golf Club for a few days.
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Hi Fritzi! I am Puerto Rican and I would love to help with your questions. Areas you can check to rent a beach property is the area of Ocean Park (in San Juan), Aguadilla or Cabo Rojo. I suggest Ocean Park as is in the capital and you´ll be easy access to visit Old San Juan and all the capital attractions. But If I can suggest you something better, is better if you rent different places to stay during your trip. You can stay few nights in San Juan (not necessarily beach front) and other few nights in Aguadilla or Cabo Rojo and 1 night in Fajardo. This way I think will be better for you to visit the most important places from the Island. A list of to do: Old San Juan, Bioluminescent Bay in Fajardo & Culebra), Cueva del Indio, Cueva Ventana, Cuevas De Camuy, Arecibo Observatory, Tanamá, Bacardi Distillery Entry, Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park, El Yunque National Forest among a lot other attractions. Enjoy the Island!
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Puerto Rico is the same size as the Big Island (Hawaii), so it's small enough to stay in one spot and take day trips from there with your rental car. It only takes about 2.5-3 hours to drive from one end of the island to the other. Puerto Rico is not the same as Mexico or some of the other Caribbean islands - it's not particularly known for its beaches so there are few all inclusive resorts that are "isolated from the people." It's very easy to stay in a nice place and be able to easily access the culture. I'd recommend staying in San Juan as it's only about 45 minutes from the marina with the boats going to Bioluminescent Bay and it's the hub of the island in every respect. I'd recommend the Caribe Hilton - it's the nicest place in town in my opinion but there are good deals to be had if you book in advance. The beach is meh, but the pool is decent and it's located just a 15-20 min walk away from Old San Juan where the best Spanish architecture is. And for your day trips elsewhere on the island it's located close to PR's main highway. If you want something a bit more quaint and rural, then I'd recommend staying in Rincon (Puerto Rico) on the west side of the island. The Casa Verde Hotel and Rincon Beach Resort are nice places with beaches as good as you'll find in PR and again there are deals to be had.
I'm sure Lisa Howard's daughter would be interested in the connection Fidel Castro had with Puerto Rico...there's a small but excellent museum in Ponce - the Ponce History Museum - with a good exhibit on this.
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My family has a home in Puerto Rico, we have been there for 4 years. It's beautiful and humid. You may have some bad hair days, so bring a hat. It's always 85 degrees. We stayed in several places before we purchased a place on the east part of the island in Palmas del Mar which we have lovingly nicknamed "Disney". It is a beautiful community that was built by a Texas Company. You will be close to many things there like, the rain forest, Culebra and Vieques islands, Monkey Island and only 45 minutes from Old San Juan. There are beaches, many different places to stay, an equestrian center and 2 golf courses. My family went to Bioluminescent Bay in Fajardo in November, which we have been to many times before and it was barely lit up. Not sure what is going on there right now, but do some research before you pay money to go to that. I hear that one of the best bio bays in the world in on Vieques but that would require an overnight stay unless you have some kind of private boat. I have not done that one as of yet. Culebra is one of my favorite places to visit there. You can get there by small plane or ferry and then rent a golf cart to run around the island and swim with the turtles. If you want to see clear water, you will have to venture out to one of the island mentioned above or take a snorkeling trip. That is probably the biggest shocker to friends and family when they come to visit. Two of our favorite excursions are ATV through the foothills of the rain forest and taking a small rubber boat over to some of the islands snorkeling. Enjoy!! Have a great adventure.
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