Puerto Rico

A super fun trip to Puerto Rico during 2024/1/5 ~ 2024/1/10 with my dear friend Xujun.

Jian at the Castillo de San Cristóbal in the old San Juan

We made a five-day travel plan staying in Puerto Rico. Below was our rough goings and stayings:

  1. Arrival at the main island: (flight) 2024/01/05 afternoon, check in the Casa Isabel hotel, located in the Condoda Region of the main island;
  2. Stay in the main island: 2024/01/05 ~ 2024/01/08, check out in the morning of 01/08;
    • 2024/01/06: The old San Juan
    • 2024/01/07: The EI Yunque National Forest
    • 2024/01/08: The Conda beach
  3. Heading to the Vieques island: (take helicopter) 2024/01/8 2 p.m. ~ 2024/01/09, check in the Seagate hotel in the afternoon of 01/08, check out in the morning of 01/09;
  4. Back to the main island: (ferry) 2024/01/09 2 p.m. ~ 2024/01/10, check in the Hotel Villa del Sol, located near the San Juan airport.

2024/01/06: The old San Juan

the Castillo de San Cristóbal

the Castillo San Felipe del Morro

the Castillo San Felipe del Morro

the Castillo San Felipe del Morro

the Castillo San Felipe del Morro

super good!!! Nice weather, temperature and views around the Old San Juan! If you live in the condado region, it's only gonna cost you 10~15$ to get to the first castle (Castillo de San Cristobal). We went to the castle at 2 pm and bought the ticket at the entrance (both castles have sales for the ticket;10 $ per person). After visiting the first castle (about 40 minutes), we went along the road near the coastline for 15 min to get to the second castle (Castillo San Felipe del Morro). The second castle located at the very corner has better views for sunset (around 6 pm). There is a large playgroud where lots of families with kids were playing around, flying kites and so on. (Strongly recommend you to go down to the back (or backyard?) of the castle which is closer to the sea). The blocks below the line formed by the two castles have a lot of colorful old houses. These are almost all bars, stores, or local museums. Overall, a very nice but a little tired trip. A lot of beautiful views.

Restaurant in the Condada region:

  1. Casa Caribe (seafood restaurant): Mojito (tradditional); grilled shrimp taco; Chicharrones de Pollo. Rating: It’s okay to me and it is a very popular local restaurant (It's a pity we didn't order yellow tail snipers.). 30~40$ per person
  2. Silk oriental (aisan food): Silk fired rice; Lo mien noodle (w beef); salmon roll. Rating: very tasty and asian style; waiting time is fine depending on your dining time. 20~30$ per person.
  3. Bebo’s cafe (Puerto Rico food): Shrimp mofongo; crab meat stew; Veal with garlic sauce; Pina Colada. Rating: It is probably the most popular local restaurant near our hotel. Always many people inside and many of them are local people! Food is a little bit salty but very PR-stylish (and all dishes are very generous! We even had to ask for two more boxes to bring our extra food home). The waiting time is very long (we waited for 20 min to get sited and 40 min to finally get our food) though maybe because we were late ~ 8 pm which was exactly the busiest time of the day for the restaurant(go early!); Pina Colada is a local Puerto Rico drink. It has rum and cream and other staffs, very delicious! It’s a little bit sweet but I like it! 30~40 dollars per person (if you don't order too much, 25~35 dollars).

2024/01/07: The EI Yunque National Forest

It's all about hiking and water activities to go to the EI Yunque National Forest. Things you need to prepare prior to the trip: buy a one-time use water shoes from walmart (~ 7$); waterproof plastic case (optional); insect repellent.

Water activities at the rainforest

Overall it's a very exciting and rewarding experience. I did not want to try the water sliding initially but tried eventually and I was glad I did! We booked the trip to EI Yunque on the Tripadvisor which costed us ~70$ per person. The service included pickups and guidance to the rainforest, which was totally worth it! The guide contacted us the day before and told us what to bring for the trip (bathing/swimming suit; water shoes; towels; protein bars and water). During the trip, the guide first showed us many interesting plants unique to the rainforest and relevant interesting facts while hiking to the waterfall, where we had a lot of fun doing water activities. The hike took almost 20 minutes. The water activity included water sliding, diving and swinging. I had to say I got some scratches when bumping to rocks. The waterfall is very natural and beautiful. The water is clear and clean and a little cold, which is even nicer given the hot noon temperature. We took a lot of great pictures and videos. We arrived at ~8:30 and got back to our hotel at 1:00 pm.

2024/01/08: The Condado beach

Jian at the Condada beach

A very nice beach to seat around, walk around and play around. The breezy wind kisses your cheeks with such a nice temperature. The beach was only 3 minutes away from our hotel. Many people were playing different sports at the beach. Also people were surfing, swiming, or playing the waves.

2024/01/08: Riding the helicopter from the main island to the Vieques

The fun helicopter trip

It was a small helicopter with 8~10 seats. It took us to fly overseas along the coastlines. The noise was a little loud (too loud to talk to each other) but the view looking down over was definitely stunning and eye-opening. The flight lasted for half an hour. At the terminal, a nice lady working there helped us contact a taxi company which got us to the hotel – the sea gate hotel.

2024/01/08: The Vieques island

Jian at The black sand beach

Sunset at the Vieques island and dinner

The biobay trip in the Vieques island

Jian at the Vieques island

Jian at the Caracas beach

Ferry port at the Vieques island

The Seagate hotel: it is a nice self-design and self-constructed house with a small swimming pool, a large yard where the owner, a nice lady, raises chickens and horses, and has also several other buildings. A super cozy environment indeed and there were a lot of wild animals around, such as wild horses and big lizards. The owner lady was super nice providing us all kinds of guidance to the beaches, restaurants and taxi drivers. The only downside was at night there were a lot of noises (mostly chicken, wind and barks from dogs). I had a hard time falling asleep. An advice is to wear ear blockers or your ipods playing some soothing music to help you. Still, highly recommended! It was about a 25-minutes drive to the biobay pickup location (we selected the Taino company for the biobay trip and this was the main purpose of going to thi island). Another aspect in this island was that there was no uber service and you need to contact the local drivers for going around the beaches and restaurant in the Vieques island. The phone number for our nice driver is: +1 939 226 7618 (Mike). Usually it only takes 7 ~ 10 dollars (also depending on the time calling the driver) to go to beaches or restaurants.
Nice beaches: we went to the black sand beach (super super nice!!!). There was a company running a horseback riding business. We did not order a ride but it looks fun. The most famous beach in the Vieques is the Caracas beach, which has the most beautiful views and well-equipped utilities, safety guard etc. There was also another beach near the caracas beach which took us ~10~15 to walk along a trail to get to the location. Very few people went to this beach (highly recommended). On the coastal line, you can also find many palm trees and you can even get the coconut and drink the liquid inside.
Restaurant: the Bili. We ordered the sampler, the yellow sniper and the lobster (see pictures above)!!! ALL SUPER DELICIOUS! Especially the sniper! One thing about the restaurant is that near it there is a nice spot for sunset. Make sure you go early at 5~6 to get dinner otherwise it will get really crowded and many people will be waiting! (you can also see how delicious it must be!). After finishing dinner, you can go and see the sunset (adjust your dinner time according to the actual sunset time of the day).
The biobay trip: It was at 7:30 pm and already dark, which was a good time to go to the biobay and see those glowing planktons/fishes. The road to the bay was so rugged but fortunately it only lasted 15~20 minutes. We got on a boat which has a transparent bottom. When we paddle the boat, we could see very clearly the glowing creatures (the glowing planktons, small fishes and shark babies) in the bay. The sky was also very clear and you could see a lot of the stars and constellations. The guide also introduced why the creatures in the biobay could glow and the stars in the sky. Very interesting trip for both fun and knowledge.
Ferry trip from the Vieques to the main island (Ceiba): the ferry trip was calm and nice. It was not noisy as some people online suggested it to be. The boarding time was one hour before taking off. People will stay inside the ferry. Therefore, you could not see the view directly from inside. There are a few windows. But we decided to take a nap. The whole trip was about 1 hour and we got to Ceiba, which is a town on the main island. (Later, we took an uber to get to the hotel near the San Juan airport.)