El Morro (“The Promontory”) is perhaps the most famous historic structure in Puerto Rico. Begun in 1539, the mighty fortress was built on a narrow point overlooking the San Juan Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. It would prove a formidable stronghold, successfully repelling every naval attack on the city. In fact, El Morro fell only once, in 1598, to a land assault by British soldiers under the command of the Earl of Cumberland. Today, El Morro and its sister fort, Castillo San Cristóbal, are National Historic Sites and the oldest European constructions in the U.S. National Park Service. You can visit the venerable fort, walk among its ramparts, explore its dungeons, and imagine, for an instance, the rigors of colonial life in the 16th century
We took the ferry to Catano, and hopped the local bus which dropped us off right in front of the Bacardi Factory. We registered in the office and waited for the tram, which took us all around the Bacardi grounds. You don't actually get to go inside the factory, but you do get a history of rum making and sugar processing in a simulated factory. It is really more interesting than I am making it sound. :-) After the tour, you get coupons for FREE drinks at the bar area, so you can sample the rum. The bartenders will mix a drink for you, or you can have it straight up. **Please remember to tip your bartender**
We really enjoyed this excursion - although, you really need to remember how to ask the bus driver to return you to the ferry dock... Since we didn't (and had imbibed some at Bacardi), we just watched out the window until we saw the dock, then pulled the cord on the bus... :-)
Driving outside of San Juan at night, the sounds of the tropics were music to my ears...(especially for a desert girl from the city). The majority of the noise heard is from the Coqui frog that are everywhere- but SO SMALL! We were lucky enough to spot one of these Coqui frogs at our resort. Can you find one?
The beaches are obviously surrounding this lovely isle. So you can find a place to go almost any town that you will find yourself in. Therefore, you must ask yourself what kind of water are you looking for? On the Northside of the island you will have lots of strong waves. You can surf or body board until your hearts content. Crash boat or Hobo's beaches are excellent places to even watch the locals surf. On the south side of the island, the water is calm. The snorkeling is excellent and the water is clear.
When you go to La Parguera it is a must to rent a boat for the day. The rates run you $20-35 an hr. There are tons of mangrove keys in the bay to explore. The locals anchor their boats at the keys and party all day. The snorkeling is really enjoyable around the mangroves. Be careful driving your boat because there is a lot of wild life like sea turtles and many sand bars!
Gillian's Island in Guanica area is a $7 treat! You ferry out to the mangrove key to spend your day playing in the sandbar, snorkeling, and drinking. Mary Lee's by the Sea is where you'll take the ferry. Once you spend the day on this tiny little island, take any ferry you want back to Mary Lee's. We saw baby baracoudas, tiger fish and sea urchins.
**Make sure you take a cooler with snacks and drinks, because there isn't any place to buy anything. Also, it gets really filled up. We choose to skip the main beach and find a little secluded mangrove area for ourselves.**
One the south side of the island, it gets dry! So dry in fact that cacti are growing like weeds! How unusual that this small island can have such a diverse terrain?! Apparently, it has to do with how the mountains are high enough that they don't allow the rain to pass over to the other side of the mountain. Again, I have to push for my recommendation of the road trip or day trips to see the different terrain! Btw, Bosque Seco means Dry Forest.
I'd recommend taking Route 333 to the dead end. Then hike the Meseta Trail. The trail runs along the coast. The Cliffs are completely awe inspiring. And don't for get our water, you'll need it!
The Observatory in Arecibo should be one of the wonders of the world. The size is unbelievable! It costs $10 per person. They have a 2 story museum and the radio telescope outside viewing platform. There are Spanish and English presentations about the telescope. My favorite fact is about the kind of shoes they must wear to clean up the reflector. To stand on the reflector you can't weigh more than 150lbs!
By the way, this is the exact location from the James Bond Movie Golden Eye. Pretty Cool!
There is no cell phone usage allowed, it doesn't matter, there isn't service anyway. And the trek up to the observatory is a workout, I don't recommend flip flops!
I know there is a ton of reviews on El Yunque. But I just loved it! The path to La Mina Falls is probably the most busy, but very enjoyable. It is a serious hike up and down steep hills to finally find the destination of the falls and the pool where you can swim. The pool is very cold, fyi. They have paved most of the path which helps the muddiness. But be prepared, it rains! We hiked through 2 downpours. At the tourist center you can buy ponchos and umbrellas.
**Please just suffer the rain if you forget to buy rain protection. People were pulling leaves off of the trees and that is just stupid. Damaging the forest and it hardly provides much rain protection.***
OPEN daily 7.30am-6pm, $4 per person entrance
The Caves of Camuy are the 3rd largest in the world. $15 per person. There is a tour guide, but they provide an audio tour (English & Spanish). The audio tour is excellent! It is educational and has great music. I'm big on caves, so I'd totally recommend coming here. Get there early, if you plan to come after 11am, then you might as well not. The first day, we did and we had to come back the next day. If that happens to you, then I recommend the Observatory. It isn't very busy, but be prepared for a serious walk up a hill!
Riding a horse on the beach is/was on my bucket list. What sounds more amazing to do on an island? I totally recommend Tropical Trail Rides in Isabela. 2.5hr ride for $45. They take you down the beach to a cave area, where you stop for about 20mins. You can explore the caves or watch the surf. The guides are bilingual and the owner of the farm is from Missouri. Elizabeth answers the phone and is very helpful at giving directions to the farm. The place sits back off the road, so I do recommend that you call or use GPS. They do two tours daily. The horse do fit all experience ranges. I liked this company because I am a more experienced rider and I didn't feel like it was boring where the horses followed without any help from the rider. The guide gets the horse to trot often so it keeps it interesting.
This is quite a sight! The entire fort is lined with windows where canons stood ready to protect the island. The cost is $3 per person to enter. And the fort is open to explore. There isn't much to see except the view and 3 or 4 rooms with information about the fort. Quite interestingly, the last time the fort was used was in the Spanish - American War with the US Navy in 1898. It took 200 years for the fort to be constructed, but today the ocean salt is eating it slowly every day. The black that covers the walls is it's slow deconstruction.
In the front yard of the fort many people come to fly kites and enjoy the sunny day. It is all very beautiful!
La mina is one of the biggest attractions in El Yunque. You must do the hour hike to reach the falls. Be prepared it does rain in the rain forest! We were caught in a downpour 2 times. The falls can be reached from two different paths. Supposedly "big tree" is the easiest. Over all it isn't bad. The hills can be very steep, but the path is paved which helps with the muddiness and the slipperiness. Once you reach the falls you can swim in the pool. That wasn't an option for me because it was really cold water!
La Coca Falls is right next to the main road. I'm glad we stopped there early in the morning to take pictures because as we were driving out in the afternoon is was packed. I don't think I could have got a picture without a million people in it!
On the southside of the island you can find oyster and clam sellers on the sides of the streets. You can get a dozen and a slice of lime for $5. They have tons of condiments for your pleasure. Our particular shucker recommended ketchup, lime juice, and a drop of hot sauce. He was right, it was perfect!