We called a taxi from the Hilton Hotel to the harbour as we had to start our cruise in the caribbean region. Well, after 25 minutes, through the city center, we finally reached the harbour. We spent about 40 dollars if I'm not wrong, and we left the taxi very happy... Well, when we came back, we took again a taxi and...? 2 to 3 minutes later we arrived at the Hilton! Price: 7 or 8 USD...
Fun Alternatives: When boarding a taxi, now i use to say: "pls go there, it's about x minutes"...........
The Bacardi rum tour is a tourist trap...albeit, one that rewards you with 2 drinks of your choice! The ferry ride is free from San Juan and the tour is free! The only thing you pay for is the taxi ride from the dock to the plant...3.00 if you share with a few people! You can take a local bus for nearly nothing if you don't mind taking a tour of the city going the long way around!
Unique Suggestions: The tour is what it is! I was hoping to see the inner workings of the plant! No! Thats not what you get...you get a history lesson and 2 free drinks! Oh well...could be a lot worse!
You do not have to join a tour to visit the sites! Old San Juan, El Morro, San Christobal, El Yunque, the Rio Camuy caves, Arebico Radio dish are all easily day trips out of San Juan and you do not need to join pricey tours to see them. When we first arrived the concierge at our hotel told us that El Yunque was not accessible by car and that she could hook us up with a tour. I called the Visitor's Center for the park and the concierge's info was completely false. We drove there ourselves (thanks to our handy Lonely Planet guide book instructions), parking was free and there are no park fees if you pass the first visitor's center (there are 4 info centers in the park). AND the tour buses cannot navigate the winding roads to get to the free visitor's center further on in the park (km marker 11.6) where all of the great trails start. You can do almost anything on Puerto Rico via rental car, so always double check the info you are getting from tour operators or anyone who might be getting a commission from a tour sale. Our Lonely Planet guide book contained phone numbers for all the major (and many minor sites) as well as days and hours open. I called the day before each day we made a day trip and we saved a ton of money and time, just doing it ourselves in the car we had already rented.
In the big city things will be more costly. Get away to smaller towns & find stores like Pitusa, Kmart or Walmart. They'll usually have somethings puertorican that you can buy to take home with you. The small local clothing stores also have a nice variety of items.
Unique Suggestions: Just take out money only what you think you'll need to spend. Then put the rest away in your 'safety' place like money belt.
Fun Alternatives: Like stated before... go to a smaller town or even the suburbs of the big city. You'll find something. Just ask the locals in the suburb or small town. Like for instance..San Lorenzo is the town of the good samaritans. Friendly people... If you look on the web @ beachfront rentals 'cottages' be ware that some places might show the beach looking really nice & when you get there the beach is nothing like the picture!
With a string of hotels come tourist traps. In Isla Verde, there are many of both. The best places to eat are the ones that have the more rundown look. Lupi's on Ave Isla Verde is a popular place among tourist. For this reason, the food is expensive as well as the drinks. It does have a good atmosphere, though. Oyster Bar is another popular place that tourists flock to. Steer clear. Piu Bello has decent gelato, but the food is terrible and the service is much worse. Make sure you look over your check so they billed you correctly. Some chupacabres try to take advantage of tourists.
Unique Suggestions: Don't go drinking at Lupi's or there will be an empty wallet. If you want Mexican, it's the place to go, but otherwise walk a little further to Metropol or even Edith Cafe.
Fun Alternatives: Metropol is the best bang for your buck in the San Juan metro area. It's great Cuban food with a fun and busy atmosphere. I ate there 15 times during the summer, had a different dish, and thoroughly enjoyed each one.
Robbery and theft does happen occasionally as any place else, but you need not be concerned. Just don't be too careless. Women can wear as much jewelry as they want anywhere (as the locals do) with no fear.
The peak tourist season is between December and April, but this has more to do with the climate in U.S. mainland than anything else. The best time to avoid the crowds is the low season between May and November, which is also hurricane season (June-November).
Climate and Time
An agreeable climate is one of Puerto Rico's most attractive characteristics. Puerto Rico has a tropical marine climate, with an average annual temperature of 82 °F (28 °C). Puerto Rico enjoys year round summer temperatures. The dry season is December to March. Note that temperatures in the mountains are significantly cooler than the coast, so if you intend to travel inland bring a sweater for the evenings regardless of when you visit. Annual rainfall is 62 inches.
I stayed at the Wyndham in Old San Juan and my flight got in late. I thought we were going to experience Pinones, so I didn't eat all day. Because it was so late, all those little stands shut down and I was left with only a few choices. Kina suggested Senor Frogs because it was right behind my hotel. I had only been here for an hour, keep in mind, so even though I wasn't thrilled with the idea of going to a touristy place like Senor Frogs from my first PR meal, I went along with it. She was showing me around, afterall and I was very grateful for the company. I didn't know it was spring break still and I certainly didn't know that San Juan was a spring break destination. It was SO crowded and I felt out of place because I wasn't dressed like a whore (sorry) All I wanted was to eat but it ended up being this whole ordeal...we finally got served, I watched a lot of girls fall down drunk (which the sign at Senor Frogs states is perfectly acceptable) and after my flight, this is not the place I wanted to be in. I liked Senor Frogs in college, I suppose...but it's just not something I pictured when I pictured Old San Juan
Unique Suggestions: There's this drink...I can't remember what it is right now...a rum drink, but it also has about 6 other kinds of liquor in it. It will make you feel better. Also, just don't go in March.
Kina assured me this place is pretty good when it's not spring break...more "ethnic" is what she said. I would have preferred that over the things we had to contend with.
Fun Alternatives: There are lots of other places to go. As soon as we ate, we got out of there.
It is hard to resist taking a tour of the rainforest, El Yunque -- not too often you get to see a tropical rainforest. El Yunque itself is quite lovely. The 'trap' is that nearly all the tour vans stop at a roadside stand for a refreshment. Don't get anything in a coconut. It is not as refreshing as you might need if you're hot and thirsty. Also, the guides really stick around hoping you'll buy some of the shop's tacky souvenirs. You can if you want to, but it's nothing you can't find at the airport for less -- if those are the kind of things you want to bring back.
Since most people who come to Puerto Rico visit San Juan, Ponce is too far away, and is not worth the trip. As compared to the beauty of San Juan, or the multitude of beaches and parks this island has to offer, Ponce does not measure up. I think it's only listed in the guide books because of its' size. The best part of Ponce was the drive from it, because we took the scenic mountain road (see tip).
This a large observatory run by Columbia University, located in Northern Puerto Rico. If you like techie stuff, or just enjoy observatories, come on in- but otherwise I don't recommend it. There is an intersting museum that goes with it- bit it's not worth your time.
Believe it or not, just about all the tourist traps in Puerto Rico can be found around the capital, San Juan. Taxis, scam artists, petty thiefs around the big hotels, etc. Get out into the island, and it all pretty much disappears. It is in the island where you will find how humble the people are, and how proud to show you their island. Their hospitality is totally disarming, and you'll discover that the islanders want nothing to do with their capital.
Old San Juan is overrated, but the old fort is worth checking out. The US National park service oversees it, and it's worth the US$2 admission just to get the map of the fort. Lots of good information.
Old San Juan makes a big deal about it's 'historic' buildings. There were just too many cars to really check it out.
Avoid eating at fancy restaurants that are mainly for tourists (the locals would be loca to pay such fee for a meal). My friends and I walked around to find a local restuarant and we walked for awhile despite starvation. We found this great little place (alas, I don't remember the name. Lesson learned - bring a note pad and write things down!). We learend that even at these local eateries, most of the servers speak some English so venture out and try the local cuisine. Your wallet as well as your mouth will be happy.
There's a lot of drug addicts begging for money around the streets or at the traffic lights, DO NOT GIVE THEM MONEY!!! they are nasty!! but not everything is bad!! here's a picture of me windsurfing at Punta las Marias!!!