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Need details on Puerto Rico itenarary for beach/nature lovers

Need details on Puerto Rico itenarary for beach/nature lovers

Jul 10th, 2003, 06:31 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 11
Need details on Puerto Rico itenarary for beach/nature lovers

We are leaving last week of July for Puerto Rico then Barbados--I found the airfare was much cheaper to stopover a few days at SJU than to fly straight to BGI. My (tentative) plan is to rent a car to travel to Camuy for the caves, then Rincon for surfing, Mayaguez for the zoo and Mona, then back to El Yunque and possibly Vieques. This is a lot to pack into 3 and a half days, so I have a few questions someone may be able to answer, or guide me to (or away from!) certain areas.
1. Are the big fort and Bacardi plant worth the time? We are more interested in the eco/nature attractions than tourist traps, but I've heard those two are must-sees.
2. Is it true you need to get to the caves in Camuy really early on a Saturday morning to ensure entry?
3. Is there any good surfing in Rincon this time of year?
4. Is Rincon a good place for lodging? I'm considering LemonTree, Coconut Palms Inn,VillaCofresi and Beside the Point.
5. Any advice for a day trip to Mona--is it worth it? How about the zoo?
6. Best place to eat in Mayaguez?

I realize that if we do all of those things, there may not be time to do the rainforest AND Vieques...but I've read the biobay is not to be missed. However, if we spend the last night in Vieques, I'm concerned about getting back to SJU in time for a 10:30 am departure. So I'm also seeking lodging options near the airport for that last night, but NOT "in San Juan" necessarily, unless it's a place with a lot of character.
Sorry for such a long post--I'm just tired of scrolling through web pages and leafing through generic tourism guides for answers to all these questions.

VirginTraveler is offline  
Jul 11th, 2003, 04:23 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 509
I say skip the Bacardi plant. The tour is fine, but since you're trying to pack so much in and you are looking for more eco-stuff, then it's not going to be worth it.

I've always been able to get into the Camuy Caverns, getting there by 9 AM. It is less than 1.5 hours away from San Juan. Call ahead though, because they are sometimes closed on holidays - and there are plenty of those in Puerto Rico (for example - the 25th and the 27th of July are holidays).

My final advice is that you will have to choose Vieques and El Yunque *OR* to Rincon and Mona. There is no way you will be able to go to both places in 3 days. There is no direct transportation between both and you will lose a lot of time driving and ferrying. I have not been to Mona, but I do know that it is a longish boat ride. I think Mona would be an increadibly interesting trip - completely virgin and no construction of any kind. If you do decide to go, please post a report.
Mariarosa is offline  
Jul 11th, 2003, 06:11 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 575
Vieques would take a full day. Mona would probably take a full day as well. It would appear one would have to go considering your time limitatation. Caves on a Saturday - get there as early as possible. The Caves are a very popular destination for locals. I would skip Barcardi. The first ferry leaves Vieques at 7 AM. You would be cutting things a little to close so it might not be a good idea to overnight in Vieques. The fort is an interesting visit and could be combined with a walking tour of Old San Juan - at least half a day. To make El Yunque a worthwhile visit you should hike a trail or two - requires at least half a day.
Rob is offline  
Jul 11th, 2003, 10:34 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 18
Camuy Caves is excellent for the eco-traveller. Yes, get there early because the park has limited entrance. The Mayaguez Zoo is lovely, not as big as the stateside Zoo's and parts of it is still under construction. Mona Island- the most pristine place in PR as far as beaches and diving. Mona is a 3 hr boat ride (each way) and usually unless you hire a private boat, you may have to stay a night or two (charter boats). Also, Mona as well has limited entry (100 people max) and you will need a permit to get on or near it's shores.

The Fort is lovely but you can see that in less than 2 hours. Skip Bacardi unless you really need to know how rum is made.

Surfing in Rincon during the end of July and beginning of Aug is very rare. The only way we get surf that time of year is if there is a tropical storm and we usually do not see storm generated surf until Mid-Sep. If you really want to surf then you need to try the north shore (Aguadilla & Isabela-Jobos beach), small waves but it's the best you can get for this time of year.

For lodging, The Lemon Tree is a very nice place to stay, it's on the water and away from the noise of a crowded bar during happy hour (like 2 of the others).

Warning, in order to get to Vieques you will need to catch a ferry and sometimes if the ferry is full you may have to wait for the next one. Their weekend schedules are different than the weekdays and may conflict with your travel schedule.

Personal opinion, El Yunque will give you more for your money and there is much more to see (eco-wise) than the bio bay of Vieques.

Don't know much about restaurants in Mayaguez, Rincon has a few nice ones. My all time favorite is "Wasabi" on Ashford Ave, in Condado, San Juan.

For a car rental, go to Charlie Car rental. They have good rates. Better than the "big name" ones.

Whatever you decide to do, enjoy! Have a safe trip.
scuba2work is offline  
Jul 11th, 2003, 03:44 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 11
Thank you all for the suggestions. So far we've eliminated Vieques from our plans--too much time and uncertainty for just a night. Is Charlie Car at/near SJU? We'd like to head west as soon as we land...I've heard rush hour in San Juan is unpleasant. How many hours to Aguadilla or Rincon?
The Lemon Tree sounds like my kind of place...is it convenient to Mayaguez? I'm verrry intrigued by Mona Island, and would appreciate any specific numbers or sites for it. We've made sure to schedule a day for El Yunque, then back to San Juan and maybe a meal at Wasabi! Thanks again everyone.
VirginTraveler is offline  
Jul 12th, 2003, 05:09 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 509

Here is the website for Charlie: http://www.charliecars.com/ They have a booth at SJU airport.

Yes, Rincon is convenient to Mayaguez.

You may want to contact different tour or SCUBA operators in the west coast to plan your Mona trip in advance. I think the boat ride is long enough that you will probably need to camp overnight in Mona. Here is a *very* useful website where you can search by town (e.g., Mayaguez, Rincon, Cabo Rojo) or by type (e.g., Tours-Nature/Adventure).

Good luck and post a report when you return. I'm very curious about Mona.
Mariarosa is offline  
Jul 13th, 2003, 09:06 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 5
Dear Virgin Traveler: For eco diversity, I highly recommend Puerto Rico. You're planning way to much though for such a short stay. I would suggest staying in San Juan where you can then rent a car for day 1: all day trip to rain forest/Luquillo Beach for hiking then swimming; day 2: all day trip to Camuy. 1 1/2 hour drive so do leave early (7-8am) as caves will close once they reach their max capacity. This is a great easy drive passing pineapple fields and then traveling in island through the mountains. I would pass on Rincon this trip and plan a late fall/early spring trip for best surfing. Forget Mona as it takes a good day just to get there by boat and once there, very remote but for hard core bringing all provisions you can overnight in tent you bring yourself. I'd also pass on Mayaguez Zoo being not too exciting if you've ever been to a zoo. Personally, I find Mayaguez too industrialized and not fun at all. I do suggest Old San Juan and its forts, museums and outdoor cafes all with authentic Spanish charm. Bacardi? Eh...the most fun may be taking ferry across bay to Catano where you can catch van to facilities. Vieques is another 'next trip' destination unless you fly over from San Juan. Otherwise, by the time you drive to Fajardo, catch ferry over, it's almost time to catch last ferry back to return, unless you plan to spend a night in Vieques. All in all, you'll either need to lengthen your stay considerably or plan to return. Given your interests, there's way to much to see in a 3 1/2 day stay.

sammyito is offline  
Jul 14th, 2003, 03:49 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 11
Dear sammyito,
Thanks for the extremely helpful advice about how to spend our time on this trip. There are so many things to do but they are time consuming. I appreciate you steering me away from the tourist traps. We'll be staying 4 nights in San Juan, close enough to Camuy and El Yunque for day trips, as well as seeing the city.
VirginTraveler is offline  

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