Travel days are either perfect or full of deep breaths and polite smiles.
From 1) realizing my alarm was not set to vibrate to 2) an accident that brought traffic to a standstill for 45 minutes just a mere 10 minutes from the airport to 3) a grin and bear it weather delay, what turned out to be a simple plan saw me arriving checking into my room at 11 PM.
This was one of those deep breaths and polite smiles travel days.
Lesson #1: Always double check what time it is when you arrive.
This way, you can wake up the next day without getting confused as to what time it is. Especially if you rely on a watch or a smartphone to tell time and forget to sync both to the local time.
As it turns out, Puerto Rico does not observe Daylight Saving Time (DST), so in the winter months, Puerto Rico is an hour ahead of New York or Miami.
Likewise, in the summers, Puerto Rico is actually at the same time as New York or Miami. This can get confusing when you are visiting Puerto Rico when DST changes like it did when we were there.
Staying at the Luquillo Sunrise Beach Hotel
It was not until 1 AM that I finally fell asleep after catching up on my emails so I was not motivated to wake up before the sun rose. It was a good sleep that simply melted away any bubbling frustration that yesterday’s travel day created.
The hotel is quite deserving of its name. I did manage to wake up to this view just after sunrise around 7 AM. It was easy to see why this place is well recommended for those who are seeking a genuine experience (not a resort experience).
I did manage to wake up the next morning (just after the sun started rising) to capture a sunrise which turned out to be BRIGHT! Unfortunately, I did not have the right filters for my camera at the time but did manage to make use of the sun/windscreen on the balcony to help mute the brightness.
Getting around Puerto Rico with Waze
If you have a rental car and Waze installed on your smartphone, you will be able to find your way from the airport easily as the breeze blowing in from the coast. The wireless service is mostly 3G on the island with a pretty good signal for GPS navigation so you shouldn’t have too much of an issue if you are using Waze.
You can easily drive from coast to coast in a matter of hours. We were able to drive from San Juan to Cabo Rojo (southwestern corner) in 2.5 hours. Even Luquillo which is a perfect spot for exploring nearby areas was only 45 minutes at the most east of San Juan.
Luquillo is a very nice beach town that is slowly developing to become a featured designation.
Enjoy a day trip to nearby Balneario Monserrate
Luquillo is also situated near one of Puerto Rico’s five Blue Flag beaches, Balneario Monserrate (also known as Playa Luquillo or Monserrate Balneario). While the entire 300 miles of beaches on Puerto Rico is public, this is one of the beaches managed by the government where you can find changing rooms, lifeguards when available, and few features not available elsewhere.
In any case, this is a fantastic beach to enjoy the view of El Yunque National Park in the distance. Note that it is currently open from Wednesday to Sundays only so you may want to check for the latest updates.
Eat where the locals eat
There’s plenty of options to choose from when it comes to eating out. While it’s hard to say which one was the best, I would have to say that Bagua was my favorite restaurant. This is a truly local place in the heart of the San Juan hotel zone but you would have to look twice or you will miss it.
Don’t forget to try the mofongo dishes
You won’t have to look hard to find a mofongo dish. It’s basically a plantain-stuffed dish. The recipe will vary from place to place. For example, Bagua had a delicious shrimp mofongo appetizer in a garlic butter sauce and KasaVista stuffed me silly with their tasty conch and octopus mofongo.
Get out of your hotel and explore!
As with anywhere you go, it always makes your experience more memorable if you get out and explore. Six days is obviously not enough time to explore Puerto Rico but it was a great starting point because we now know where we want to return to take our time exploring next time.
You can explore the only rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System, El Yunque National Forest, for a half day if you are not a hiker. There are a few spots where you can get out and enjoy the view as well as a waterfall. The visitor center is an excellent place to stop and learn more about rainforests.
It’s kind of hard to not visit the old forts in San Juan National Historic Site. It is full of amazing views and awesome tunnels to walk through. Be a modern day pirate and plunder forth taking home priceless photos!
One of the nicest surprises of Puerto Rico, the lighthouse is situated on the southwestern-most point offering up amazing views. I have to credit PRDayTrips.com for bringing this awesome spot to my attention.