Since we have been living in Puerto Rico, we have had LOTs of visitors – friends, family, and acquaintances. But we’ve also been contacted by complete strangers asking about visiting Puerto Rico. Everyone has lots of questions and everyone wants all their individual topics covered. Many questions are about planning a trip to Puerto Rico.
Here is the thing folks: we do work and we do have lives, so we can’t possibly answer every single request we receive. But, I thought it would be useful to write a post on how to plan a trip to Puerto Rico. Perhaps I may have an ulterior motive in that I can point people to this post in the future, when more questions arise.
So, here it goes…
Here are the basic steps to planning a trip here:
- Choose your time frame (specific dates will limit your options but general month or week(s) will be helpful)
- Decide where you want to stay. An area of the island where you want to visit (Rincon, San Juan, Luquillo, etc.) is good to have because it is unlikely you’ll be able to see everything. You can drive around the island but unless you have at least 2 weeks, you won’t really experience much. I always recommend Luquillo, but you probably already know why 🙂
- Reserve your flights.
- Get your lodging (never get lodging first).
- Reserve a car.
- Plan your excursions.
Voilà! You have a trip plan!
Let’s look closer at each one of these steps.
Trip To Puerto Rico: When to go
Tips for finding cheap flights:
- Be flexible on your dates. The more flexible you are the more likely you will find a good deal.
- Check 3 days prior and 3 days after of your preferred dates
- Fly on a weekday. Flights are generally much cheaper. Tuesdays and Thursdays are particularly good.
- Avoid traveling on US federal holidays. Yes, they are the same here and lots of people visit family on the island during the holidays.
Trip To Puerto Rico: Flights to Puerto Rico
For best deals, expect to be flying into San Juan (SJU) – our capital city. This is our biggest international airport and typically flights are cheapest. Although, for visitors to the west side of the island, Aguadilla (BQN) airport has become quite popular, especially since JetBlue started flying direct flights there from some cities. For a full listing of airports in Puerto Rico, see Wikipedia’s page.
There are many US airlines that offer flights to Puerto Rico. The best ones depend on where you’re flying from. Obviously flights from the east coast are going to be the cheapest and the shorter the distance, the cheaper your flights will be.
We like flying Southwest Airlines (SWA) because they offer direct flights from several cities in the US. However, SWA really raises their prices around the holidays, so I only recommend them during low travel times.
JetBlue is another budget airline that offers some direct flights to Puerto Rico and has become popular here. If you’re looking for deals on flights it is best to do your research.
I recommend the following websites:
When I’m planning a trip to Puerto Rico or anywhere else, I usually check all three, as well as SWA’s site and JetBlue’s to find the best deals.
For international flights, you also have some options direct to San Juan (SJU). We flew Iberia, see my post on flying Iberia to Spain and had a good experience. Other international airlines, like Norwegian Air and Air Europa, also fly here for cheap. You can typically find them on the same websites I listed above.
Trip To Puerto Rico: Renting a car
Do I really need a car?
YES, YOU DO!
I said it before and I’ll say it again. You should rent a car when you visit Puerto Rico. Even if you opt for one of the fancy resorts with an all-inclusive plan, it would be a shame if you didn’t get out and at least see a little of the local scenery. Puerto Rico is a driving island, and just like anywhere else in US, you will need a car to see anything.
Tip: make sure that if you’re renting at the airport, you choose a rental agency that is actually in the terminal. Some of them, like Dollar Car Rental, look like they are in terminal but they are actually a ways out and you need to take a “shuttle” to get your wheels. This can be a major pain and I highly recommend to sticking to a rental from within terminal only.
If you’re doubtful on this point, consider your trip back home. How will you time your car return when you have to take a “shuttle” that may or may not be reliable, and make sure you are at the airport on time? The answer is, you have to be there WAY in advance. I, for one, prefer not to spend too much time waiting at the airport if I can avoid it.
Here is a list of the companies in the terminal:
Trip To Puerto Rico: Where to stay in PR
If you’re coming to visit us, obviously, the answer is Luquillo – ha ha ha. Clearly I’m partial to this area of the island but it’s with good reason. Check out this post on Luquillo, The Perfect Spot For First Time Visitors. I think it speaks for itself. Truly, this is a unique place. We have the rainforest – the wettest spot on the island, 12-miles of incredible beach front, and one of the driest spots on the island, the Cabezas De San Juan (in Fajardo), literally within a few miles apart. How cool is that?
That being said, we get a lot of questions about visiting other parts of the island, especially Rincon on the west side. Here is the thing: Puerto Rico is a beautiful island. It all depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to surf and prefer lots of English spoken, then by all means go to Rincon, the surfing there is phenomenal. But, if you want to see beautiful rock formations right on the beaches, then go to Cabo Rojo. Alternatively, if you are interested in hiking the rainforest and walking the beaches for miles, come to Luquillo. So, the choice is totally up to you.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What do I like to do on my vacation?
- What do I want to see on this trip to Puerto Rico?
- Do I want more or less English spoken?
- How close to I want to be from airport/shopping/Bio-Luminescent bays/etc.?
Tip: pick a spot as your home base because every area in Puerto Rico has a ton to see and do. You will not experience it all to the fullest in one week. So concentrate on one area and perhaps a drive around the rest of the island but understand that you will need to come back again (and it is addictive) to see it all 🙂
Trip To Puerto Rico: Finding lodging
This is perhaps the most common question we get. People read our blog and they become interested in Luquillo and want to know where to stay. This question comes equally often from strangers through the blog and family and friends that know us. So, let me explain.
Luquillo is a small, sea-side town and we do not have hotels in Luquillo but we do have lots of lodging options. Unless you are staying for a long time (a month or longer), your best bet for lodging are condo rentals via AirBNB. There are lots of them, in gated communities, in local neighborhoods, at the skirt of the rainforest, or directly on the beach. If you want to go cheap, check out single rooms for rent – many of them also available from AirBNB. I highly recommend AirBNB because Tim and I have been using them for about 4-5 years and we no longer use hotels. They are that good.
If you feel more comfortable with a hotel room, then we do have an inn you can choose – Luquillo Sunrise Beach Inn. It’s a quaint little accommodation, right across from the beach and very popular.
For those that are willing to pay a higher price for more luxury, both adjacent towns of Rio Grande and Fajardo have large resort-type hotels. They are still very close to Luquillo (within 10 miles) and can be a good option.
A note about hostels: there was recently a hostel that opened in Luquillo. It is in the heart of the Pueblo, so you have to be comfortable with “living local” among a pretty poor area but it is an option.
In summary for Luquillo:
- For condo and room rentals: try AirBNB or Homeaway – I prefer AirBNB for nightly rentals. This also applies to other areas of Puerto Rico.
- For small inn on the beach: Luquillo Sunrise Beach Inn
- Hostel – we don’t know much about it yet
- Resorts in nearby towns: El Conquistador and Wyndham Rio Mar – both of these resorts offer all-inclusive options.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering: unless you are our closest family, No, you can’t stay with us 🙂 And yes, this question has been asked before.
Trip To Puerto Rico: Excursions
This links back directly to the area you want to stay in. Luquillo is excellent for proximity to San Juan, rainforest, beach activities, bio-luminescent bay, and the off-shore islands with famous beaches. But there is much more to do and see on the island: giant radio telescopes, coffee plantations, the pork highway, etc., etc., etc..
So, you have many choices. We live in Luquillo, so I tell all of our visitors that the following are must-sees when in our town:
- El Yunque Rainforest – awesome hiking and nature.
- Old San Juan and the forts – El Morro and San Cristóbal
- Beach – snorkeling, swimming, surfing, etc.
- Bio-luminescent Bay in Fajardo or Vieques. Check lunar cycle for best times to go.
- Luquillo Food Kioskos for awesome local cuisine.
If that doesn’t fill up your week, then I don’t know what will 🙂 For more info about Luquillo Puerto Rico, see LuquilloPR website.
Keep in mind that if there is a “seasonal” activity you want to do, you will need to do a little research to make sure that it can be done during the time you visit. For example, if you want to see whales, check their migratory patterns and what time of year they are in Puerto Rico. The same goes for turtles, BioBays, snorkeling trips, etc.
Happy planning of your next awesome trip to Puerto Rico!