We got a chance to visit the only rainforest in US on our trip to Puerto Rico, a Caribbean island and union territory of US.
We landed in San Juan, Puerto Rico’s Capital late night collected our rental car from the airport and went straight to our airbnb accommodation which was 5 mins away from the airport. We got some good night sleep which helped us get an early headstart next day.
El Yunque Rainforest:
Driving inside El Yunque through uphill narrow roads in midst of lush greenery with the sound of birds chirping and small water falls all around will sure get you in zappy mood.
It was fascinating to see giant bugs, chameleons and beautiful butterflies inside the forest, infact there was a black chameleon or was it some other insect in the parking lot welcoming us 🙂
We reached El Yunque at 8:30 am and before starting the hike on La Mina trail we enjoyed some refreshing coconut water.
You can stop in between to take pictures of Coca falls which is at the beginning of majority of the trails. Walking at a medium pace in our hiking shoes, which by the way is essential due to slippery terrain at times, took us 40 minutes to reach the falls. We swam to get underneath the falls and once our bodies got used to the chilly water we had a great time! Spending 3.5 hours at El Yunque we then went to Fajardo to buy our tickets to Culebra!!
Tip: Make sure to arrive early to beat the crowd like we did else crowded trail and falls can be a dampener!
Once we secured our 3pm ferry tickets to Culebra we headed for much needed lunch to soothe our growling stomachs. You can read more about the awesome Puerto Rican food here.
We reached Culebra at 4:30 pm and immediately headed to Flamenco beach to setup our tent. Yes we got a bit adventurous and decided to camp at Flamenco beach for 1 night. Campgrounds at Flamenco are very clean and organized and there are a few kiosks at the entrance that sell water, food and essential items for your camping needs. It was close to new moon that night so you can imagine the starry night we enjoyed from our tent with music in the background, glad we had cellular network there 🙂
You can get everything from tent rentals to beach umbrellas, chairs, golf carts – a common sight on this island, right opposite the ferry terminal.
Flamenco beach, ranked amongst top 10 beaches in the world is truly beautiful with white sand and clear waters. We spent our morning at the beach before wrapping up to explore couple other places on the island. Ferry ticket window at Culebra opens up only an hour before the departure unlike Fajardo so you don’t have to line up well in advance.
After soaking enough sun and getting quite a bit of unwanted tan we headed back to San Juan.
There are several parking lots near Fajardo terminal where you can park your car overnight when going to Vieques or Culebra. You could also hit San Juan beaches like Condado, Occean Park, Luquillo, Pine Grove if you do not have enough time to go to Culebra.
Old San Juan a.k.a OSJ
Old San Juan deserves 1 full day to visit the historic site and wander on blue cobbled streets admiring the colorful houses while sipping on pina colada and medalla. Atmosphere is vibrant and zesty in Old San Juan especially on weekends with so many tourists and locals hitting the area. There is a local Puerto Rican music festival which as per the locals takes places once every month and we were lucky to be there that day, total fun!
We set out by 10 am to see the San Juan historic site which comprises of San Felipe Fort Del Morro, Castillo San Cristobal and San Juan Gate. Both the forts have breathtaking views of the ocean. They both are about 15-20 mins apart by foot, there is a free hop on hop off trolley that runs throughout the area which you can make use of to conserve some energy.
It was an enjoyable morning at both the forts however the highlight were colored houses with beautiful doors on both sides of the narrow cobbled streets lined up with several cafes, bars and restaurants.
Soaking in the Puerto Rican culture we had scrumptious lunch in Old San Juan and headed off to the airport for our flight back home.