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katieling Feb 22nd, 2004 09:20 AM

6 nights in PR, advice please!
My boy friend and I are going to PR in March for 6 nights. We are going to pick up a car from the airport. We?ll first stay in Condado Coral Princess Inn for 2 nights and drive to west cost to stay at Parador Joyudo beach for 3 nights, and then come back to Coral Princess for a night to catch a plane leaving early next morning. Both of us are nature lovers, but we are also very interested at the history and architecture of the island. We would like to drive all over the island to see it all if we can!

Anyway, I have these questions below. It is quite long. Please read on...Thanks in advance

1) Do we need car better then a compact one for traveling? I saw some messages said that the road is rough.

2) Any comments about the two hotels that we are going to stay?

3) How much day light do we get this time of the year?

4) Any public holidays in March when attractions will be closed?

5) Is the water safe to drink anywhere on the island?

6) Some sites like keep warning the readers about car theft on the beaches and robbery in the rain forest. Is it really that bad? Can two of us hike or hang out at the beach by ourselves. Can the car be left...let's say by the ferry pier to Culebra or park entrance at El Yunque? Also, is it any worse in the west coast?

7) I heard that the bio bay in Phosporescent bay is not as good comparing to the one near Fajardo. Is that true?

8) Is it worth taking a kayak tour in of the bio bays?

9) Any good recommendation for place to eat nearby Joyuda Beach?

10) Which trails are recommended to hike in El Yunque with beautiful waterfalls?

11) Any other forests or nature reserve worth visit other than El Yunque?

12) We want to tour old San Juan the day we arrive. We come in at 3pm. Do we have time to see the forts and the church before they close down for the day?

13) Things that we must see or do: Arecibo Telescope, old San Juan and Forts, El Yunque, hiking in the forest, one of the bio bays, hang out on the beach at the hotel for swimming and snorkeling, scuba diving, Culerba Island and its beach, Mona Island or Gullians Island, lighthouse near Cabo Rojo. Optional: Rum distillery, Camuy Caverns, Guanica's Dry Forest, other lighthouses. Questions: can we fit all of these in 5.5 days? Any suggestions on the itineraries?

Many Thanks


carrotstick Feb 23rd, 2004 06:44 AM

Hi Katie- you'll love Puerto Rico! Here's some answers for your questions.

1) A compact car should be fine. On the main island, the roads are not too rough, especially if you stick to the main roads. The back roads through the mountains are twisty, though.

2) Don't know about these two hotels- maybe someone else can help?
3) has historic sunrise/sunset info.
4) Don't know about this, but is the official toruism site and should have info.
5) Is the water safe to drink anywhere on the island? The water is definitely safe to drink in San Juan and throughout the island.

6) When I lived in Puerto Rico, I had no problems with crime. There is crime, just like everyplace else. Just take the standard precautions (don't leave expensive stuff out in view in the car) and I don't think you'll have a problem.

7) don't know this one.
8) or this one.
9) or this one.
10) I recommend you check with the Forest Service office when you get to El Yunque and ask which waterfalls are best when you are visiting.
11) the nature reserve at the Fajardo lighthouse is interesting and has big iguanas.
12) You'll be pushing it to do Old San Juan the day you arrive. I suggest that you wander around the old city that day, have dinner and then go back the next day to see the fort and other sites.
13) Things that we must see or do: Arecibo Telescope, old San Juan and Forts, El Yunque, hiking in the forest, one of the bio bays, hang out on the beach at the hotel for swimming and snorkeling, scuba diving, Culerba Island and its beach, Mona Island or Gullians Island, lighthouse near Cabo Rojo. Optional: Rum distillery, Camuy Caverns, Guanica's Dry Forest, other lighthouses. Questions: can we fit all of these in 5.5 days? Any suggestions on the itineraries?
**Honestly, I do not think you can do all of this in your 5.5 days. Especially since going to Culebra or Mona will take an entire day each. I would skip the snorkeling day at your hotel and do that on Culebra. The Old San Juan tour and Bacardi distillery can be done on the same day. Arecibo is cool and I think you could do that while you are driving to the west coast.

Whatever you do, take time to relax and enjoy the wonderful people of Puerto Rico!

katieling Feb 23rd, 2004 10:02 AM

Hi carrotstick,

Thanks for taking the time to read my message. Your answer is very helpful!


PRnative Feb 23rd, 2004 12:33 PM

Hi. Here's my 2 cents:

1. A compact car will be fine. The only really rough road you might encounter, considering the spots you've mentioned, is the one leading to the Cabo Rojo lighthouse. Once you get close to the lighthouse, it turns into a very bumpy dirt road. If it's rained recently, it might be impassable in a compact car. But, if it's dry, and you go slowly and carefully, you can get to the lighthouse.

2. Haven't stayed in either, but from what I've seen and heard, at least the Coral Princess Inn is pretty nice.

3. Daylight doesn't vary by much in that part of the tropics. The sun will start setting probably around 6:30pm. Most of the year, it doesn't really get dark until 7pm.

4. No major holidays in March this year (holy week is in April), but March 22 is a local government holiday (emancipation day). Many government-run facilities, like the cave park and the public beaches are closed certain days of the week, though, so check the guidebooks or for schedules.

5. water is safe to drink, & many hotels and restaurants use purified water anyway.

6. In general, avoid parking in very desolate areas. But mostly, just take common sense measures like locking the car and not leaving any bags, objects that might tempt a thief within sight in the car. There's a parking lot near the Fajardo pier that's cheap and safe. Locals leave their cars there routinely when taking the ferries.

7. The Vieques biobay is the most intense. The Fajardo biobay doesn't have as high a concentration of glowing plankton, but it's much better than the one in La Parguera.

8. Definitely. The glowing waters are amazing to see, unless you have the bad luck to go during a full moon or when there's been a lot of water turbulence.

9. Joyuda is famous for it's many, many good seafood restaurants. I'm not a seafood eater myself, but among the most recommended are usually El Bohio & Tino's.

10. I believe La Mina falls is one of the largest that's easily accessible from a marked trail. You can reach it from La Mina trail or Big Tree (or some similar name, don't remember exactly)trail.

11. Pinones, near Isla Verde resort area, is a strip with mostly undeveloped beach (only a few beachfront shacks and restaurants) and a trail/boardwalk that snakes along the beach and mangrove reserve. I love this area.
Another good option is Las Cabezas de San Juan reserve. This is an escorted tour through the protected area and you have to make reservations. This is in Fajardo, not far from the rain forest, so you can combine it with your rain forest visit. Seven Seas public beach is next to Cabezas de San Juan and is a pretty, shallow, clear beach if you want to take a dip after touring the reserve.

Another good nature excursion is to rent a boat out of La Parguera to explore the mangrove channels and cays.

There are also very lush forest reserves in the central mountain, like Guajataca and Toro Negro. But, I don't think you'll be able to fit these in on just 6 nights (though Guajataca is not too far from the Arecibo Observatory, you might be able to combine it. It would be a very long day, though).

12. Agree with post above. Forts, museums, and other entry-controlled sights will be closed by 4:30 - 5.

13. Sights: Be forewarned that a lot of people don't enjoy the Arecibo Observatory. Science buffs get a kick out of it, but a lot of people think it's too out of the way for what you see. Forget about Mona Island. You can't do that as a daytrip. Culebra might be doable as a daytrip, but it'll be a bit rushed. I'm not sure on 5.5 days you could fit it in. Gilligan's Island is also probably not worth it, given you're short itinerary. I would also drop the rum distillery. If you have limited time in San Juan, IMHO, it's better to spend it soaking up Old San Juan, going to Pinones and El Yunque, and spending any extra time on the beach. You might even have to drop both the Arecibo Observatory and the Camuy Caves.

This what I think is doable for your 6 night trip:
Day 1: as suggested above, visit Old San Juan in the evening to walk around, enjoy the architecture, and sample the good dining and nightlife.
Day 2: combine a couple of these -- a visit to Pinones and then to El Yunque; or El Yunque and Luquillo or Seven Seas beaches (public beaches are best visited on weekdays); or El Yunque and Cabezas de San Juan reserve (and perhaps Seven Seas, depending how much time you spend at the rain forest).

You can do a night tour of the Fajardo (Las Croabas) biobay on night 1 (if you don't stay for the OSJ nightlife) or night 2.
Day 3: spend this day visiting the Old San Juan sights that were closed when you arrived and go to the rum factory or relax on Condado beach. You could invert days 2 & 3, but it makes more sense to stay in San Juan this day, and do the eastern PR sights on day 2 to make your trip west shorter.
Days 4 & 5 -- combine some relaxing beach time near your hotel with visits to the Cabo Rojo lighthouse, La Parguera (for good diving and tours of the mangroves), or the Guanica dry forest & adjacent beaches. You might be able to sneak in a visit to the caves or the observatory on the day you head back to San Juan if you drive north towards Isabela before heading east. Or you can visit some of the usually empty beaches on the northwest, around Aguadilla & Isabela on your way to San Juan along this route. Another thing that you could fit in on your return to San Juan along this route is the Bacardi factory. There's also a nicely renovated lighthouse in Vega Baja, along this northern west to east route.

katieling Feb 23rd, 2004 01:40 PM

Thanks PRnative.
So what do you think about the Joyuda Beach area? We pick this hotel because both of us want a nice little resort on a beach without too many tourists, and we really like see the west coast...less commerialized and get to meet some real local people. But from what I've found out so far on the internet, nobody seems to know about Joyuda Beach. I begin to worry if there is really a nice and swimmable beach by the hotel, although the hotel website says so.


ariadna Feb 25th, 2004 02:01 PM

I agree with PRnative, except about the Pinones Beach. It's very beautiful, but you have to be extremely careful, if you don't want robbed. In Puerto Rico, as a general rule, you should try to avoid isolated places. If you stick to that rule you shouldn't have any problems.

Also, you might want to see other cities, like Ponce or San German. They are very nice and you can see them in one day. San German has one of the first churches ever built in the Americas. In Ponce you can see the old part of the city, including the old fire house. If you want to spend some more time in Ponce, you can visit the Hacienda Buena Vista (it's like a 2 or 3 hours tour), it was a coffee plantation. I think you have to make reservations for that one.

If you decide to visit the Camuy Caverns (they are really nice), you can stop to a town nearby called Lares. In the town square they sell ice cream made from vegetables.

I wouldn't bother visiting the Bacardi Distillery. But Guanica's dry forest is said to be worth it.

Hope I could help!

ariadna Feb 25th, 2004 02:04 PM

I forgot to tell you, you might want to see a little bit more of San Juan than Old San Juan, just so you can get a feel for the place. You can drive around El Condado, Isla Verde, Hato Rey and you might find it interesting to visit the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras. It has some nice beginning of the century buildings.

katieling Feb 26th, 2004 11:31 AM

Thanks for your tips, ariadna! The coffee plantation sounds really cool and the veggie ice cream sounds good too. I think we'll definitely go to Ponce.

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