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Tips for Puerto Rico in May?
Old 03-26-2009, 11:33 AM   #1
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Tips for Puerto Rico in May?

We're going to Puerto Rico for the first time for 5 nights at the end of May. Want to spend some time relaxing on the beach and some time exploring. Still need to do more research on tripadvisor but do you all have any recommendations on:
  • Whether to stay in San Juan the whole time or move to a hotel somewhere else (the rainforest)?
  • Good but affordable hotel or B&B (the Marriotts are close to $200/night with all their ridiculous fees)?
  • Worth it to get a rental car or not?
  • Worth it to take el cheapo ferry to one of the small islands? Can you do that as a day trip or would you have to lodge there?
The biobay sounds awesome. Radiotelescope at Arecibo might be worth a stop. Other good things to do/see? Any photos you want to share are appreciated.

I read the old threads on PR:

West coast of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico soon -- any tips?
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Old 03-26-2009, 01:45 PM   #2
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  • Whether to stay in San Juan the whole time or move to a hotel somewhere else (the rainforest)?
You say you want to split your 5 days between the beach and exploring. 5 days is not a lot of time, so you should stay in an area where you can do both within relatively close distances. Since this will be your first time in Puerto Rico, I would suggest you stay in a San Juan area beachfront hotel for the first 2-3 nights and do your beach thing there. That also allows you to explore the old San Juan forts, and walk the old cobblestone streets to see historic buildings, do some shopping, etc.

For the next 2-3 nights you might consider staying on the east end of the island, where you can see the rain forest and do some trips to offshore islands.

  • Good but affordable hotel or B&B (the Marriotts are close to $200/night with all their ridiculous fees)?
Puerto Rico is not a cheap island to visit, but you can do much better than $200 per night. Since DW and I are "locals" during the winter in our condo, we're not the best to offer hotel advice. But we've heard good things about the Ceiba Country Inn B&B on the east side, not sure of the prices. For the San Juan area, the Caribe Hilton is right on the beach and close to old San Juan, but probably pricey.

  • Worth it to get a rental car or not?
Yes it is, but you have to choose when to use it. I would not drive into old San Juan, try to get a tour from your hotel, or hire a cab by the hour if not too expensive. Not that you can't drive in there but be prepared for traffic and confusing streets. It's a 500 year old city, and the traffic patterns aren't exactly up to date. You should use the car to drive to the east coast, the roads are modern and you won't have any problems.

  • Worth it to take el cheapo ferry to one of the small islands? Can you do that as a day trip or would you have to lodge there?
Remember, you only have 5 days :-) Yes, if you have a day, you can do a day trip on the $3 ferry to either Culebra or Vieques. With limited time, I would take the morning ferry from Fajardo to Culebra that leaves around 9AM (but check the time) and returns around 4PM. At Culebra you take a taxi to Flamenco beach (the taxis are all there waiting) which was named as one the top ten beaches in the world by the travel channel. The taxis bring you back to the ferry and you will be back in your hotel that evening.

"The biobay sounds awesome. Radiotelescope at Arecibo might be worth a stop. Other good things to do/see? Any photos you want to share are appreciated."

The best biobay is in Vieques, but there is one in Fajardo. However, forget it, unless you will be there on a night with no moon. You will be disappointed if there is any moonlight, because you can't see the phosphorescence. In case you are there during a new moon, the Vieques bay is one of the most impressive natural wonders I've seen anywhere in the world. But you have to stay overnight to see it. If you want to do the Fajardo one, there are kayak tours that leave every night, and your hotel will have info. If you do stay at the Ceiba Inn or any other hotel on the east coast, you will only be 20 minutes from either the cheapo ferries or the Fajardo biobay. If you have a couple of hours to spare, go into El Conquistador hotel for the view, it's just fantastic, way up on a high bluff, and on a clear day you can see all the way to St Thomas. There is also a guided tour of the Fajardo lighthouse that takes you on a small trolley car through mangroves, hills, and beaches, and they tell you all about the history and ecology of the area. It's run by a nonprofit land trust, and you need reservations. They do an english language tour. But, that may be a lot in 5 days.

The radiotelescope is in the opposite direction from San Juan and is an all day trip, so you can put that off to another time.

Let me know if you have specific questions, and PM me if you like.
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Old 03-26-2009, 07:49 PM   #3
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+1 on the Vieques biobay. It is truly amazing. You probably don't have time on this trip, though.

SJU is a neat city, but I think the highlight is Old San Juan. We actually stay in Viejo San Juan when possible and I could easily spend 3 or e days just strolling around the place drinking it in.

Definately get out of San Juan, but don't rent a car until you leave the city. Cabs and buses are easy in SJU, but driving and parking are awful (Old San Juan driving/parking is like Manhattan, but in a smaller space with tinier roads). If you want to experience the rainforest in a relaitively peaceful atmosphere (no tour buses), I have the perfect place: Casa Cubuy Ecolodge in the El Yunque rain forest/ Puerto Rico Hotel Bed and breakfast We have been there multiple times. It is on the back side of El Yunque (rain forest) away from SJU, and the road that used to go through El Yunque got mudslided over a few decades ago and left that way. This place backs up to the rainforest and you can walk up the remains of the road to get into the back of the park and at the same time get an amazing vista view of the valley below. They also have a path down to the River Cubuy and the rainforest park is on the other side of teh river. It is in a rural area, though, so don't expect any nightlife.

On the way back to SJU, you might think about stopping for some beach time at Luquiilo (on the way). I have never been, but I hear the beaches are way better than those handier to SJU.

And the next time you plan a trip to PR, spend a few nights (or a week) on Vieques. If I run away, that is the first place anyone should look if they want to find me. But they probably wouldn't be able to bring me back...
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Old 03-27-2009, 07:40 AM   #4
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I have the perfect place: ...

On the way back to SJU, you might think about stopping for some beach time at Luquiilo (on the way). I have never been, but I hear the beaches are way better than those handier to SJU.
Now that you mention it, we've driven up to that Casa Cabuy. Sure is a long way up there, but beautiful views along the way. And pretty remote, as you said, it's a natural hideaway to be with nature. I understand the Ceiba Inn is like that as well, though closer in. I've never been there, but was talking with a retired couple who had just come from there and they loved it. According to them it's run by a couple from Rhode Island.

Yet another place I've heard about in the rain forest is the welll - named Rain Forest Inn run by a couple by the name of Humphreys.
Puerto Rico bed and breakfast at the edge of the EL Yunque rainforest of Puerto Rico

Luquillo beach is one of six "blue flag" beaches on the island. The blue flag designation is a new one that recognizes the best beaches across the caribbean in terms of water quality, cleanliness, facilities, etc. There's another one in Fajardo, Seven Seas, and we prefer it to Luquillo because it's smaller and not so busy. But none of the beaches on the main island compare with the beauty of the beaches in Vieques or Culebra.

For soupxcan: When you drive from San Juan to Fajardo on the east coast, you will drive right by the main entrance to the El Yunque rain forest. It's run by the US Forest Service and they have a new multi-million dollar visitor's center a couple of miles inside the entrance. It's a great orientation to the forest with lots of open air exhibits. Worth spending an hour there before taking the road up the mountain to see and hike the actual forest. And, just beyond the rain forest you will drive by Luquillo beach that, as brewer said, you can see on the way there or back.

BTW, we'll be at the Vieques biobay at the end of April during the new moon, will try to take photos.

Here's a couple of photos you might like. The first one is of a secret beach we know about, with El Yunque in the background. We ain't saying where it is

The second one is again of El Yunque, taken from a sailboat.



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Old 03-27-2009, 07:44 AM   #5
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Agree that none of the Boricua beaches compare to what I have seen on Vieques.

That first shot looks like some of the views from the west/NW coast of Vieques.
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Old 03-27-2009, 09:58 AM   #6
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Agree that none of the Boricua beaches compare to what I have seen on Vieques.
There's a couple of beaches in Culebra that compare with and IMHO are better than the ones in Vieques. The best one there is one that you can't walk or drive to, you need a boat to get to it, which makes it really special.

Quote:
That first shot looks like some of the views from the west/NW coast of Vieques.
You're right, but if you notice the mountains are too close. It's actually in the NE of Puerto Rico, within 30 minutes of your Casa Cabuy. You can't drive to it -- the tire tracks you see were of a fisheries and wildlife AWD vehicle. It's about a 30 minute hike from the closest place to park. If you're interested, next time you're at Camuy PM me and I can give you the secret map and secret handshake but you have to keep it to yourself under threat of a coconut attack.
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Old 03-27-2009, 08:00 PM   #7
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I spent 12 days in Luquillo, Puerto Rico at the first of the year. And, I would actually recommend that as an option if you are mainly interested in vegging on the beach and seeing the rain forest. There are miles of great beaches and you are just a few minutes drive from the El Yunque park entrance.

We drove into San Juan and parked near the cruise ships in a cheap/free public parking lot and just hiked up the big hill into Old San Juan to visit the fort, museums, etc. for a day.

That also puts you closer to Fajardo if you do want to see one of the outter islands; but, if you are only there for five days, I would not kill a day on that trip even though the beaches are beautiful.

I stayed in a condo rather than a hotel and was pleased; but, I am not particularly picky: It was an older building; but, it did sit across the street from the beach and had a spectacular view. PM me if you are interested in contact information. I will also look for some pictures that I took off the balconies.

Note: I am pretty sure that I walked accross FinallyRetired's private beach a couple of times while I was there.
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Old 03-28-2009, 08:40 AM   #8
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Note: I am pretty sure that I walked accross FinallyRetired's private beach a couple of times while I was there.


I thought I saw footsteps...

Good tips about Luquillo. But a day trip to Culebra is very doable and worthwile, you might try it next time. And take the cargo ferry back instead of the passenger ferry. It goes slower, you sit outside and watch the sunset, and they're too busy with the cargo to worry about beer in your backpack.
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Old 03-29-2009, 12:23 PM   #9
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FinallyRetired,

Thanks for the cargo ferry tip. I definitely plan to head back to Puerto Rico; and, I will take this advice. (The passenger ferry to/from Culebra may have been the first ferry I have used where I could not buy a drink on-board.)

The women (my girlfriend and her daughter) had to see Flamingo Beach because they had seen it featured on all those Best Beaches shows. And, it is definitely a beautiful place. If I ever get down there alone, I'm bringing a tent and spending some time in the camp that joins that beach.

Thanks again.
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Old 04-21-2009, 08:02 AM   #10
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How reliable is the ferry between Farjado and Vieques? The guide book makes it sound bad, but they could be exaggerating.

We were thinking of the following itenary, what do you think?

Mon: arrive at 3PM, pick up rental car, drive to Casa Cubuy in El Yunque
Tues: explore El Yunque
Wed: Check out, drive to Farjado, take ferry to Vieques, check into some hotel there (Mi Pana?)
Thurs: explore Vieques
Fri: Return ferry to Fajardo. Drive to San Juan and return rental car. Stay one night there and explore old san juan.
Sat: Last sight seeing, depart at 3PM for home.
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Old 04-21-2009, 10:56 AM   #11
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How reliable is the ferry between Farjado and Vieques? The guide book makes it sound bad, but they could be exaggerating.
I've caught it maybe 10-12 times and have never had to wait more than 30 minutes past the scheduled time. The only problem times are when there is a serious storm, when you wouldn't want to go anyway (mainly a problem during hurricane season), or during a big three-day weekend when it can get full. Other than that, just check the times because they change from weekday to weekend, and be there at least an hour before so you can park in a secure spot (best is the parking lot on the right just before you make a left turn to the ferry dock) and get tickets (get round trip). The ferries now are bigger and more modern that the ones they used to have, so the guide book may be behind.

Quote:
We were thinking of the following itenary, what do you think?

Mon: arrive at 3PM, pick up rental car, drive to Casa Cubuy in El Yunque
Tues: explore El Yunque
That will work, but you can do El Yunque in half a day, and spend the other half day on the beach at Luquillo.

Quote:
Wed: Check out, drive to Farjado, take ferry to Vieques, check into some hotel there (Mi Pana?)
That will work as well. Better get reservations in Vieques well in advance, the small hotels tend to fill up quickly. We usually stay at Casa Alta Vista, a mid-range hotel with rooms in the low $80s, but they usually require a two night stay. The morning ferry gets there around 10:30 so you will have a half day to explore Vieques. You might want to rent a car (get reservations in advance) and drive around the fort at Isabel Segunda, go around Esperanza, and just get acquainted with the island. You can also do some easy kayak trips from a shop in Esperanza.

Quote:
Thurs: explore Vieques
If you have a car (get a 4 wheel drive) this would be a good day to go to some of them many hidden beaches on the east side of the island. Just drive until you see one you like, drive up to the beach, and you may have it to yourself. Leave no valuables in the car and leave it unlocked so if a thief comes by they won't break a window. Unfortunately, with the rise in tourists there's been a rise in petty thievery as well.

Quote:
Fri: Return ferry to Fajardo. Drive to San Juan and return rental car. Stay one night there and explore old san juan.
Sat: Last sight seeing, depart at 3PM for home.
Sounds good. Have a great trip!
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Old 04-21-2009, 08:01 PM   #12
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soup, I think that your itinerary or finallyretired's modifications are great. However, you should be aware that the frequent ferry to Vieques will not take your rental car and many rental car companies prohibit you taking their vehicles to Vieques. I would instead suggest that you find a rental car company that will let you drop the car off in Fajardo, rent a separate car (Jeep, ideally) in Vieques. When you come back from Vieques, just catch a cab back to San Juan rather than rent another car. There are lots of cabbies, but if you want a tried and true guy you can try this driver (whose name escapes me at the moment even though I can picture him): What and How

miPana is OK and not a bad choice. However, we much prefer Ted's Guest House: Ted's Apartments Ted is a nice guy, his place is pleasant, and the location is ideal. Its our first choice whenever we go to Vieques and I only know about miPana because the last time we went he was booked up.

Have a great time. If you have time in Old San Juan, hit the Seralles/Don Q rum tasting room by the cruise ship docks. The Grand Anejo is spectacular and not sold outside of PR.
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Old 04-22-2009, 08:00 AM   #13
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I would instead suggest that you find a rental car company that will let you drop the car off in Fajardo, rent a separate car (Jeep, ideally) in Vieques.
Good point, brew. Soup, it's also important that you reserve the Vieques car (jeep) in advance because they run out. I'm going this weekend and couldn't find a car, so I'm arranging to be taken around by "publicos." These are private cars/vans that are licensed to take you from preset point to preset point (ie, ferry dock to town), but you can also arrange for them to take you for a couple of hour tour. A jeep is about $ 80-90 a day, two day min, and you might try this guy:
Vieques Island Car and Jeep Rentals - Vieques, Puerto Rico
If you do it by publico the charge is about $100 per tour for a 6-person van, you might get a cheaper rate for two people.

Also, soup, if you are going to be there on a new moon (no moon), you most definitely want to go to the bio bay, and I recommend these people:
Island Adventures Biobay Tours, Vieques Island - Puerto Rico
They have a pontoon boat and let you swim around in the bay. We've also done it by kayak, but the pontoon is much better because you have more time in the bay itself instead of paddling out there, and they are not as rushed.

In May, new moon is 24 May. We're going this weekend which is the April new moon.
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Old 04-23-2009, 12:34 PM   #14
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You all are great, thanks for the tips. I've shortened the stay at Casa Cubuy to one night, see the rainforest in the morning then catch the afternoon ferry to Vieques. I looked at dropping the rental car off at Farjado but for our length of trip its easier just to leave it there and drive it back to San Juan when we return. I called Ted's Apartment but he sold it, it's now the Esperanza Inn. We'll be there for 2 nights. Most of the rental car companies were booked up but we found one, Martineau, that still had cars. Booked the biobay tour with Island Adventures and the moon should be mostly gone that night. Ferry back to San Juan on Thursday, but still need to research a hotel or B&B near Old SJ.
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Old 04-26-2009, 07:17 PM   #15
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Had a great weekend in Vieques. The biobay is just as bright as ever on a moonless night. Swimming around with your whole body glowing is one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had. Reminds me of the movie "cocoon." Went to 4 or 5 beaches, and I still think Pata Prieta, or Secret Beach, is our favorite.

Oh, also saw more wild horses than I've ever seen before. Driving around the island we must have seen 40-50 fully grown wild horses, from singles to groups of 5 or 10. They say locals ride them around whenever they can rope them, then set them free. Not sure I'd want to try.
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Old 05-26-2009, 08:29 AM   #16
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Well, we made it back. The trip was more of an adventure than we expected, but still fun. Casa Cubuy was a great location in the rainforest but a little more rustic than I thought it would be. Wasn't a problem to live without TV and AC for a day, but then they said their septic system was having problems and you couldn't flush your toilet paper...that was a little gross. We did their optional dinner and it was ok for $18/person but overpriced for what you got (fairly generic chicken and pasta). The breakfast was really good. Spectacular views of the forest. I am a light sleeper and the coqui frogs made for a less than restful night. If I were going to do it again, I'd see El Yunque as a day trip from San Juan rather than spend the night in the forest.

We didn't have any problems catching the ferry to Vieques. The Esperanza Inn (formerly Ted's Apartments) was a nice place to stay. The owners were super friendly and very helpful. Our rental jeep from Martineau was a complete POS and should not have been on the road. The first day out it developed an electrical problem and wouldn't start. I'm glad the problem happened at the Inn rather than leaving us stranded at a remote beach. They swapped the jeep out for one in slightly better condition (though far below what you would expect for $65/day from a mainland rental car company). We had fun exploring the island - lots of wild horses. Went to Sun Bay and Green Beach. Did the biobay tour with Island Adventures, I would recommend them for their electric boat over the kayak operators - I think most people would be worn out from the paddling. Biobay was really cool. One "surprise" in Vieques was the thousands of roosters that constantly squak. I didn't really feel like getting up at 5:30AM on vacation, but the roosters had other ideas...unfortunately, even with the windows shut and the A/C on, they still woke us up.

The next day we were rear ended by a local. Some minor damage to our bumper, hers fell off completely. I was ready to drive off but she wanted to call the cops. Turns out she just got out of the hospital and was on some kind of medication. In the US we call that a DUI but in Vieques the cops let her off with a warning. I was worried that Martineau would try to charge us for the small hole in the bumper but they said it was ok (the bumper had several larger holes/dents in it already).

Things calmed down in San Juan. The Andalucia Guest House was very nice, the hosts were very friendly and had great recommendations on places to go. We were finally able to get a decent nights sleep. I am glad I kept the rental car - although driving in to old San Juan is not recommended, it was fine for a one day visit, just don't expect to get anywhere quickly. Checked out old San Juan, got some free drinks at the DonQ tasting room, went to the Fort San Felipe del Morro, drove over to the Plaza Las Americas (the biggest mall in the Caribbean). On the last day we did the Bacardi tour before heading to the airport.

In retrospect, 3 different hotels for 5 nights was too much packing/unpacking/moving around for us. We were a little burned out by the itinerary by the end of the week. Next time we'll scale back our ambitions and try to relax more.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg el yunque valley.jpg (291.0 KB, 0 views)
File Type: jpg san juan fort el morro .jpg (246.4 KB, 0 views)
File Type: jpg vieques esperanza beach.jpg (205.8 KB, 0 views)
File Type: jpg vieques green beach.jpg (219.9 KB, 1 views)
File Type: jpg view from casa cubuy.jpg (191.5 KB, 0 views)
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Old 05-26-2009, 05:18 PM   #17
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Heh, forgot to mention the Vieques roosters.

Sounds like a pretty good trip, if not as mellow as you'd expected.
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Old 05-26-2009, 10:47 PM   #18
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Heh, forgot to mention the Vieques roosters.
Your young'uns were probably up before the roosters anyway...
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Old 05-27-2009, 08:14 PM   #19
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Glad you got to see so much, though I was afraid from the start that your itinerary might be a bit too ambitious. The good thing is that you got a good perspective of what the island has to offer, and can fine tune any future visits. I'm glad you did the biobay, it's unique in the world, hopefully there wasn't much moonlight when you saw it. About the roosters, welcome to island living :-)
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