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Trip Around The Island – The Amazing Puerto Rico

Our Trip Around The Island Of The Enchanted Island of Puerto Rico:

As I sit here remembering our recent (two weeks ago) trip around the island, I feel so very grateful and unbelievably lucky to live here. No matter what the learning curve is and no matter what the adjustments we have had to make, now more than ever, I truly feel that Puerto Rico is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, not to mention lived in.

If you are just visiting Puerto Rico, you may be wondering if you could do a road trip around the island.

The answer is: “you absolutely can and here are some things to help you plan.”

Picture this:

You are driving along a highway through beautiful, green, lush mountains and as your round one of the mountain tops, all of a sudden you find yourself in the desert. Then, you continue on and find where the desert meets the Caribbean…wow!

Salinas Puerto RicoThat was our experience. I do not mean this like it was a nice gradual change in landscape between lush tropical island and desert; it really felt like it changed as soon as we crossed over the top of the mountain.

And, I don’t mean it’s a little drier than the rain forest type of mountains.

More like the high mountains in northern Arizona or perhaps even Nevada – no I’m not kidding. That truly was our experience on this drive around the island of Puerto Rico.

But let me back up a bit..

We did a road trip around the island for our anniversary. We started in Luquillo, of course, (our current hometown) and we headed south. We did this against the Google Maps and GPS recommendations because we wanted to see “ALL” of the island. So, we decided to take the long route:

Here were our impressions from the road trip, as well as a few tips for you:

  1. [ezcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””] [/ezcol_1half] [ezcol_1half_end id=”” class=”” style=””]The entire trip around the island takes only about 6-7 hours driving depending on traffic. Add to that any breaks you may want to take. I highly recommend doing this over a 2 day period at least, because even though it can be done in one, it will be one heck of a long day in the car. Our trip took about 7 hours driving time and we stopped in Rincon for a couple of nights – it was our anniversary after all :-).[/ezcol_1half_end]
  2. Humacao is technically not that far from us but we were both shocked at how big it was since we hadn’t visited before (don’t judge me, I had to get about 4 months of beach before I was willing to leave). It is a city of about 60,000 people and like Luquillo, it is nestled between ocean (Caribbean) and the mountains. Beautiful. We will go back to explore it more sometime.
  3. I had heard that there is desert in Puerto Rico but hearing is not the same as seeing – when people say desert, they mean a real desert! The south and southeast part of the island is very dry and you can find barren landscapes, mountains, and cactus growing there – yet it is quite beautiful. The scenario I described above was shocking, breathtaking, and amazingly scenic.Desert Puerto Rico
  4. The aqua blue waters of the Caribbean as you come down route PR52 through the desert are amazing. We went through on a hazy day but it was still gorgeous to see the stark harmony of the desert and the blue waters joining together as we came around the mountains – this was around Salinas. That sight alone was worth the drive!
  5. Ponce was not what we expected. Because it is in the dry desert part of the island it seemed much less run down than the rainforest side that we live on. That humidity and rain really beat things up here. Ponce was clean and neat comparing to our region and we liked it a lot – at least as far as cities go.
  6. Although the temperatures were hotter in the south, it did not seem as hot to us because the humidity was lower. We actually really liked it.
  7. Rincón was great, very much like a surfer town you would expect to find in California. Again very pretty but I will say that our beaches here in Luquillo are far more picturesque – perhaps I am partial. Rincón does have some crazy surf waves though, sometimes 20 feet high!Rincón
  8. North side was full of mogotes – something I have never seen before and found unique and pretty. These are steep-sided small hills (usually limestone) which are seen to either stand-alone or form chains and are covered by lush greenery. They were extremely picturesque along the highway.
  9. Each part of the island is very distinctive in both how it looks and how it feels. We were surprised by the changes in landscape, rainforest to desert, high mountains to plains, and all the hills and valleys in between. Each area was very different and each incredibly beautiful in its own way.

It is hard to believe that one “small” island can have so much diversity. When people ask me, if I have gotten “island fever” (a feeling of restlessness of wanting to get of the island and get to the mainland) yet – I say: Hell NO! There is too much to see right here. I highly recommend doing a trip around the island.

Now that we have scoped out the perimeter, we have identified areas we want to go back to – which is just about everywhere – ha ha ha. Next up my impressions of Rincón.

Joanna

About Joanna

is a Polish American living in Arizona with her husband Tim. She is a founding partner of JTR Tech and she is proud to be a professional geek. She had dreamt of living abroad for many years. So, she and Tim created AbroadDreams.com to document the process of making their dream of moving abroad come true. They spent 2 years in Puerto Rico and several months in Spain and Poland. Now they are exploring the American Southwest.

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13 comments

  1. Glad you made the trip around the island! When we came here on our honeymoon nearly ten years ago we took two whole weeks just to do a road trip around and through the mountains of the island. Isn’t it great and amazing how much is on one little island?! We ended up staying extra nights in Rincon then too! That trip helped us to identify which areas we really loved and we are of course now living here! I hope you had a chance to do some of the ruta panoramica as well as the hot springs of Coamo. But if not, there’s always the next road trip. It’s interesting to see your perspectives on the various places of this island.

    Oh and we recently went to Ponce again and I agree that as far as big cities go, it’s one of my favorites on the island. In case you missed it: http://www.lifetransplanet.com/2015/06/01/ponce-es-ponce/

    • Thanks Cassie,
      That was a nice post on Ponce you did. We only had a couple of hours, so basically just drove though it but we will definitely go back and explore it more.
      Joanna

  2. “It is hard to believe that one “small” island can have so much diversity.”

    I think this says it all. Great to know there’s a word for those beautiful mountain things one sees in the Cuban countryside…mogotes!

    I’m anticipating the Rincón post because I always wanted to live in a tropical Santa Cruz (one of California’s hippie towns). Others have warned me that living there would mean I wouldn’t interact w/ locals but I doubt Rincón’s almost 15K population is made up of just Americans, lol.

    • Hi Adam,
      Thanks for commenting. I will get the Rincón post up soon. I will tell you that I found it to be MUCH more expensive than where we live but no doubt it has a cool vibe 🙂
      Joanna-

    • Adam, we live here in Rincón (we have a blog called LifeTransPlanet.com if you want to learn more about our move and day to day life in beautiful Rincón and Puerto Rico). While there may be a larger portion of stateside transplants in Rincón it is by far no where near the majority. From what I’ve read I think it’s about 10% full-time people like us who came from the states. The primary industry is tourism though and so it gets a lot more activity from northerners which may make it seem even more like a gringo hotspot. During the winter tourist season it can swell up to maybe 20% during what people here call “the season” aka the surf season.

      • Good to know, Cassie. I’ll be sure to check out your blog, too. What’s been hard for me to gauge thus far is what Rincón is really like visually as when I look it up on Google Images, I find beaches and a shot or two of the town (similar to the difficulty in looking up San Juan where it mostly just shows pics of OSJ). Since I have a history of blogging, I may have to start my own upon arrival slated for early winter. The more the merrier!

      • Those are interesting statistics on the population. I would say it’s probably about the same here. We were only in Rincón for 2 nights but it seemed like there were a lot of Americans even during the off season. We talked to our hosts and some of the restaurant staff and they all said that it’s difficult to learn Spanish in Rincón because there are so many mainlanders. The restaurants we stopped in were all owned by Americans, I’m pretty sure, and so was the vast majority of the wait staff – that’s quite different from our area in Luquillo. The Art Walk in the Plaza was cool but I’d say about half of the artists were North Americans too. So, we got the impression that the town was full of northerners but as I said, we were only there for two nights and it was our anniversary, so it was just a quick trip. We’ll be back to explore more soon 🙂 Would love to meet you guys!
        Joanna

        • Adam,
          I have actually heard that from a few people (about not knowing what the real Rincón looks like). In response to someone asking, I made a post with pictures I had on hand if you would like to check it out: http://www.lifetransplanet.com/2015/03/27/a-tour-around-rincon-in-pictures. But definitely, when you get here, I would love to see another blog come out. Let me know and I will link to you!

          Joanna,
          What I have found is that stateside folks search out “gringo” establishments, and events (or places that seem friendly to northerners) whether it be in the name of the place, the sign, the number of people hanging out, etc. It just comes naturally. Even on our honeymoon, we randomly found ourselves at Calypso, a great Margaritaville-style bar that the locals call “the gringo bar.”

          And often, people seek out friends who can speak the same language as them (it’s pretty easy to see why that would happen), so it could be harder for people to learn Spanish if they exclusively hang around English-speakers. There definitely are quite a few stateside people here, and probably a greater percentage than the general population of Rincón are servicing, in one way or another, the tourism industry (and they would meet others like them to become friends with too). There are some places on the other side of the coin that almost exclusively serve local Puerto Rican clientele however, and a person would already have to know Spanish to work there. Especially in the summer, we see a lot more people come into town from the San Juan metro area for summer vacations.

          In the neighborhoods is where you would find the numbers balance out. We are the only people originally from the states in our neighborhood of at least 20 houses for example. Or if you went to the Catholic church on Sunday, it would be very unlikely for you to spot a single northerner inside, and it is PACKED with people. I’ve also never seen “gringos” work at Econo or any of the banks/professional industries for that matter.

          Next time you plan a trip here, let us know and we can show you some of the “underground” scenes of Rincón and the west coast. We’d love to do the same in Luquillo some day 🙂

          • Hi Cassie,
            Thanks for commenting. Great info! We would love to see some of the “underground” Rincón! We have the same situation here, all the large businesses, like banks, grocery stores, ect. have local staff but I was talking more about the restaurants and local shops. You would be hard pressed to find north American wait staff here, outside of maybe one or two restaurants – and we have a lot of restaurants for a small town (over 60). Our Catholic church holds 3 masses on Sunday, 2 are in Spanish and 1 in English. As you would expect, the two in Spanish are packed with locals and the one in English is all Gringos. Anyway, I will send you an email (if that’s OK) and see if we can see the local side of Rincón soon 🙂
            Joanna-

  3. You guys are such advocates of Puerto Rico, the government there should offer you a pension. 🙂 Only partly kidding.
    On the other hand, the official news about PR is not that great. Dubbed “America’s Greece” or “Greece on the Caribbean” the island is drowning in debt it probably can’t repay. The population is aging quickly, mostly due to massive emigration of people below 30 to the US.

    • Hi Vlad,
      Ha ha, a pension would be nice but no way will that happen here. I totally agree on the negative publicity. Bottom line is this: PR is not a state but the expectations are the same because it’s a territory. Economy and debt suck. Lack of jobs is driving the young (and educated) people off the island. People that leave do nothing but bad-mouth PR. A couple days ago there was a hearing on PR statehood status in Congress and I have to say that it’s long overdue. Something needs to change, either PR needs to become a state and get a full state status (including all federal funding) or it needs to become an independent nation and be allowed to deal with its own problems. As it currently is, U.S. controls and puts restrictions on everything here, citizens have to pay into Medicaid and SS but don’t get the same benefits as on the mainland, and the local government rubs everyone blind – why? because they can. Statehood would solve a lot of problems and I can see good argument for it but I also think that letting PR do its own thing could be a good thing, either way but status quo is not working politically or economically. Just my 2.5 cents…:-)

      • Great reply! You are really seeing PR as your home, not just a place to stay for a while – that is inspiring. I so want to see this beautiful island myself.