Favorite thing: This is crazy I know, but the view from the porch in the women's bathroom in El Morro is amazing! It is high enough and there is nothing in front to block a complete view. I'd say it is the best view at El Morro!
There is still an existing class system in Puerto Rico- meaning that the rich have their own maids/helpers. This is a remnant from the Spanish regime. The landowners (hacienderos) have their own helpers/workers (not considered employees) in their plantations.
The rich people (the older ones) do not eat in the same place as their workers.
The rich people also go to private schools and it is a status symbol to them while the poor people go to the public schools.
Travelling with a big group is really difficult and a real challenge because each one has their own agendum.
If you are travelling with a group and you know that each one is very responsible, it is better to have a meeting place that is at the center of San Juan and that it is easy to find and divide the group into two or three's or four's (depending how large your group) and let their group decide where to go. Decide on what time you are to meet at the designated meeting place.
In old San Juan, our meeting place was at the front of the Department of Tourism - which is close to the parking lot where we parked our van and it is easier to find. We decided to split our group and have one leader and they decided where to go - visit the El Morro castle or go shopping.
When you decide to visit the El Morro castle, understand that there's a lot of walking involved and it is very far to walk (for young ones, it is okay but not to elderly people). Consider the time you walk to the front of the castle and going inside to explore the castle and have enough time to get back to your meeting place.
Four hours is about right to explore only one castle and still have a lot of time to check the local stores in old San Juan.
If I were to decide, I would stay two days in old San Juan so I have enough time to explore the two castles. I was not able to explore the San Cristobal Castle because of lack of time and I kind of regret it in the end. I just saw the front of it.
Fondest memory: Shopping in San Juan is so nice because they have so many unique arts and crafts. I just love window shopping and looking at the doors of old San Juan. I also love checking out the old castle of the San Felipe Del Morro.
We are very lucky to be able to explore almost half of Puerto Rico for a very cheap price. We only paid for our airfare and our food and accommodation was all donated by the Rotarians. And, we were sponsored by the local Rotarians of Humacao, Maricao, Yauco, Ponce, and Gurabo.
The flora and fauna in Puerto Rico is gorgeous. They have beautiful mountains crowded with lush trees! And, those trees and flowers are beautiful...
Fondest memory: I just loved taking pictures of the wild flowers
The food in Puerto Rico is so great. I had the best Spanish rice! Their tamales are also great! And, those fried planteens are delicious!
The best thing about the Spanish food is that they mix their rice with black beans or pigeon peas. This is very healthy. I also like the idea of having planteens as the side dish!
Fondest memory: The food is wonderful! I love our cook in Maricao. She is the best! She can feed a batallion! I had the best stove-baked turkey!
The first night in Indiera, Maricao, I slept fine because I was extremely tired from travelling. That night, the Cocqui noise didn't bother me at all. Cocqui is a small frog and they make this noise that sounds like Ko-ki. There are so many of them and they make this very loud noise.
The second night, the Cocqui noise was louder and it gets magnified all over the forest where we were staying. But, since it also rained at night, the noise of the Cocqui and the rain were great sounds for me and it made me fall asleep and slept better!
I love the noise of the Cocqui to be honest. I kind of miss it.
Fondest memory: The flora and fauna in Puerto Rico is a bliss. It is so green and beautiful. It's a paradise...
Get used to the weather of Puerto Rico. It sometimes rain early in the morning and then the whole afternoon it becomes sunny.
Before our group left for Puerto Rico, we invited a Puerto Rican guy to give us information about the weather of Puerto Rico. He told us that growing up in Puerto Rico, they used to play with the rain since it rains almost everyday. But, he said that it only rains in the morning and then all of a sudden, it will stop. He also said that the raindrops are huge!
My first day in Puerto Rico, I found out that the raindrops are huge. These would fall like a bomb on our windshield driving from the airport to our destination. It rained for about two hours and then it stopped.
This was the weather for the whole week we were up in the jungles of Indiera Alta- a four-hour drive from the Old San Juan.
I got used to the weather on the third day and I just loved listening to the raindrops in the morning...
Fondest memory: I got used to listening to the music of the rain and accompanied by the sound of the frogs called "Cocqui"!
I love the flora and the fauna of Puerto Rico and I will definitely come back here- maybe to buy my own retirement home!
Driving in Puerto Rico is a lot of fun. A lot of people warned me that Puerto Ricans drive badly but the reality is that they drive in the subjective. That is to say, they drive as if the rules of the road are a bit fuzzy or open to interpretation or common sense. Instead of saying something like "You must stop for a red light" you should think of it as "You should stop for a red light" as in it is highly recommended and you usually will, but there may be certain times when you don't should common sense or circumstance dictate. This attitude is remarkably easy to adopt and in some ways makes more sense than mindlessly adhering to abstract rules.
Fondest memory: Puerto Ricans merge when they think they have enough room. You "should" have at least two car lengths to merge, but if it is a clear day and traffic is moving at a consistent speed, your car is small... hey, why not?
One thing that slowly dawned on me over the course of our visit, was that Puerto Rico is not very touristy. Old San Juan is, but the city and island as a whole are not. Puerto Rico is a wowrking and comparatively thriving island economy, with the business of finance and education, government and commerce taking place in San Juan and most manufacturing located in Ponce. The smaller cities tend to struggle, but are easygoing towns that focus on the sea and fishing, or the nuts and bolts of rural life as everywhere else. Rural Puerto Rico does a lot of things like road maintenance, staff hospitals, retail work, fix cars etc.
Fondest memory: The best thing about Puerto Rico's non-touristy aspect is that you go local with surprising ease. You don't get out of the tourist areas, there are none. You don't seek out local restaurants, they're all around you. You shop in the same stores locals do, you eat the same foods and drink in the same open air bars, eat the same mallorcas they do, because that's all there is! Sure, they have chain restaurants, but even in those, you will be surrounded by local people, not tourists.
Correct! So, just be prepared for the worst (e.g., torrential rains, heavy downpours, gloomy skies, etc.) around then, but also that the weather may be on your side this August as the climate is changing with "global warming." We may never know. Let's hope for the best.
Good Luck & Enjoy Beautiful Puerto Rico!
There are surprisingly many things to do & see in Puerto Rico. And it is just more than beaches, crazy parties, rums and casinos. I had the wonderful privilege of being "toured around" by locals and had seen pretty much everything the island has to offer through their eyes. I have a list of year-round events, but I don't have the file with me right now. As for places to go & see, these are some of the things I remember:
1.) A scenic coastal drive throughout the island. Be careful about the narrow roads in the inner/mountainous & hilly parts.
2.) An island getaway to either Culebra or Vieques.
3.) Old San Jan (many museums and art galleries abound including the Pablo Casals Museum. There are also fabulous cafes.)
4.) A folklorico show by traditional Puerto Rican dancers from the preeminent dance company (It was in the summertime and I believe the performance was in the courtyard of the San Cristobal fort).
5.) El Morro & San Cristobal forts
6.) Old San Juan City Wall
7.) A bay cruise with views of the city
8.) El Yunque National Rainforest in the Luquillo Mountains
9.) Luquillo Beach with food vendors selling delicious local fare
10.) Ponce in the south and its surrounding beaches. There is also a boardwalk there where you can "hang out" at night and check out the feel & vibe of the area. There are also the following: the Indian Ceremonial Park, the sugar mill & the rum museum, and the Museum of Art.
11.) The Tibes Indian Ceremonial Center is close to Ponce. There is a small museum/exhibit area and a semi-Taino Indian Village has been built.
12.)La Parguera: the Phosphorescent/Bioluminescent Bay. Definitely don't miss this experience especially on a moonless night. I believe there are also phosphorescent bays in Vieques and/or Fajardo.
13.) Camuy Caves (a large cave system with its underground river--it's pretty amazing!)
14.) Arecibo Observatory
15.) Caguana Indian Ceremonial Park (close to the observatory)
16.) A drive through sleepy/colonial towns is a wonderful way to experience PR.
17.) Sailing with friends around the South of PR was awesome! I heard that it only takes 8 hours to sail to Saint Maarten from there. Unfortunately, we were running out of time.
18.) Overall, I found these things about my PR experience: splendid wanderings in old San Juan (you never know what you may find--a cool local bookstore, a cozy cafe, etc.), spectacular drives, fantastic sailing opportunities & unforgettable people!
Enjoy Beautiful Puerto Rico!
Fondest memory: The scenic drives, the points of interest, the activities and the people!
I just had a long conversation with my good PR friend about the concerns you've raised here regarding the weather. Similar to what was noted in the above on-line link re: temperature, the subjective conclusion of people who know PR the best because they come from there is that the tropical weather of PR makes it an ideal location year-round as it does not change much throughout the year. The only real problem you need to be worried about is that of the annual tropical storms/hurricanes that peak around late July to September. Per my friend, sometimes luck may be on your side since this comes later during the season (sometimes between August-Sept.). Sometimes there may be downpours, but it stops a few hours later and the sun shines brightly again. Also know that it depends where you position yourselves in Puerto Rico. The northern part (e.g., San Juan, other areas close to the El Yunque National Rainforest, etc.) gets the heaviest amount of rainfall, but the south (e.g., Salinas, Ponce, etc.) less so. Please don't think that my earlier posts were that of a dissuading nature, I am merely cautioning you about what you will potentially encounter weather-wise as part of your travel-related planning. My friend graciously has compiled a list for you to peruse regarding feasts in August all over PR. I will e-mail it to you as soon as I receive it. As for the heat, well, it will not change...it will be warm to hot, but I often referred my experience with weather in PR as "warm" rather than "hot" because we made sure to stay around the coastal part where we got a nice sea breeze all the time. That made the difference, I think. As for the activities, we were all over PR in the few weeks we were there and actively pursued outdoor-type activities. Sailing is GREAT if you get to do it privately, but it may be too much of a stretch in August when you may not know when the storms/hurricanes strike. You don't want to be in the middle of it out there in the open water and risk having the boat capsize.
Good Luck & Enjoy!
Fondest memory: Our drive all over the island of Puerto Rico and the sailing with friends.
You might see in the trees of El Yunque these metal objects, huge pipes which are being used for conservation efforts for the green parrot. These are a bit rusty and snugly situated in the trees. You will also notice that there are camouflaged decks from which the scientists can observe the birds if they do use the pipes for nesting.
Why save them? Because they are so critically endangered (1994)and it has been a symbol of Puerto Rico! Its natural habitat has been removed and so in 2006, the estimates were that there were only about 40 parrots in the wild and 143 in captivitiy…what they have done now is that have a hatchling area where parrots of a similar species have helped in the reproductive cycle.
The green parrot is the only remaining native parrot in Puerto Rico.
Our guide Jose said if any of us sees one – he’ll drop dead because he has never seen one. It is about 12 inches (30 cm) with a red forehead and white rings around the eyes. The problems is they reproduce only once a year and sexual maturity is not until 4 years of age. And their diet is mainly from the forest canopy and wild fruits and flowers which have been disappearing from the archicpelago.
Regarding your question about what immigration papers they check in Puerto Rico if you're arriving from NY or NJ:
Just arrived in Puerto Rico yesterday and nothing was checked...as in nothing. We just got our luggages and that was it...no immigration...Of course we had our US pasports, birth certificates for the kids and driver's licences but they did not even look at it...it was just confusing to find out where our luggages we coming out of because we did not listen to the flight attendant when we were landing..there are no compuer screens to show where your luggages are (carousels 1-8).
Even leaving NY (La Guardia) we had to check in through the domestic counter - not considered International...
El Morro was awesome. There is no doubt that this is a must see in Puerto Rico. The history is amazing and the views are breathtaking!
Fondest memory: Walking the grounds of El Morro and the adjoining Cemetery are a photographic dream!