Caribbean Vacation Beyond The Beach

Caribbean Vacation Beyond The Beach

Thinking about a tropical vacation beyond the beach? Think Puerto Rico.

Why Puerto Rico? Unlike many of the other Caribbean islands that mainly offer little outside of resort and beach, Puerto Rico is an adventure destination for those seeking fun. Although it has amazing beaches, like Culebra and Vieques, (both voted in the top 10 of the Caribbean), Puerto Rico has much more to offer. If you want to truly experience it, Puerto Rico will offer you culture, beauty, adventure and relaxation in one stop.

Culture – El Viejo San Juan is the Oldest city in US territory (Older than Florida’s St. Augustine). Here you can walk the cobblestone streets lined with boutiques, upscale shops and amazing restaurants. It is also home to El Morro, the war fort built by Spanish settlers. Architecture, color, museums, people playing dominos in the square, and all surrounded by stunning ocean views. From here you can also take a boat small boat ride across the bay to Cataño and head to the Bacardi distillery for a free tour and complimentary samples of their rum specialties. Old San Juan is a must! The city of Ponce to the south also has old Spaniard charm and features historic buildings such as the Castle of Serralles originally owed by the DonQ rum family.

Nightlife – Puerto Rico is a fusion of cultures and rhythm, and it is made evident by the variety of its nightlife. In the areas of Isla Verde and trendy Condado, both off San Juan, you will find rows of hotels with casinos and huge lobby areas offering live band entertainment on weekends. Some hotels also have great clubs like Brava in the San Juan Hotel & Casino, or Wet at the Water & Beach Club, a roof top bar featuring spectacular views of the coast line. If salsa is what you seek, salsa you will get in Old San Juan. For getting down with locals for some merengue and bachata, the adventurous tourist can venture out into Piñones where the party is on the street beachside. For a more laid back atmosphere, on the west coast of the island lies the surf town of Rincon, where many of the beachfront hotels and restaurant bars also light up the night with entertainment and mojitos.

Adventure – Zipline through mountains in Toro Verde. Horseback ride on the beach of Isabella. Ride ATVs at the foothills of the rainforest at Hacienda Caribali. Go river tubing through caves in Utuado. Kayak at night through the bioluminescent bay in Fajardo. Hike to the top of El Yunque rainforest. Stop for a dip in any of the hundreds of waterfalls and rivers throughout the island. Explore the caves of Camuy. Visit the largest telescope in the world. Charter a catamaran for a day (surprisingly affordable in groups). Snorkel off the island cay. Rent a Jeep and go off-road. Jet Ski through the mangroves. Golf oceanside in Dorado or Fajardo. You name it; Puerto Rico is likely to have it.

Natural Beauty – The central area of the island is filled with a beautiful mountain region called La Cordillera. A road trip through here is an adventure of natural beauty and you can enjoy local food for half the price of San Juan. Isla de Mona, Gilligan’s Island, Palominito and Caja de Muertos are inhabited islands that feature pristine beaches and endless tropical beauty. The El Yunque Rainforest almost goes without mentioning, as that is obviously something you should not miss. The area of Cabo Rojo is one rarely visited by many tourists, yet one of the most stunning. Climb up to the lighthouse off playa sucia and you will find yourself on top of a rocky cliff similar to those of Mexico’s Cabo San Lucas. The beaches of Culebra, Vieques, Crashboat, Rincon and Luquillo are all worth mentioning but each has their individual features and style.

Relaxation – among all of the sightseeing, dancing and adventure, you may need a day to just relax. If just laying out by the pool or beach won’t quite be enough, Puerto Rico has spa resorts too! Some of the hotels with amazing spas are El Conquistador, The W Vieques, Wyndham Rio Mar, The Gran Melia, Marriot San Juan and Bahia Salinas, and many more!

Dining – Due to its great American influence Puerto Rico features many of the chain restaurants we find in the US, but you have not had Puerto Rico until you have eaten it. The gastro travel options are infinite. Worthy mentions are Tasca Ole in Fajardo, a tapas restaurant with a Spaniard and Puertorrican fusion cuisine. Viejo San Juan has Raices for traditional island dishes. Drive through the mountains and up to Guavate for row of local kiosks and country style food featuring roast pork and other traditional dishes. For family style dining in the mountains, head to Vaca Brava in Barranquitas for large portions and amazing meats. El Cerro de Nandy is a mountain top adventure restaurant only reached by 4x4 vehicles. The fishing towns of Dorado, Piñones, Aguadilla and Naguabos’ Malecon feature the best seafood in the island. Too many possibilities to mention them all, and something to cater to everyone from fine dining, to local and chain.  

Puerto Rico is unique, as not many places can combine such a varied array of different vacation fun opportunities. If all you want is pristine beach and layout by the pool, Puerto Rico is not for you. Your money will be better spent in the Dominican Republic or St. Thomas in an all-inclusive. Here you need to get into a vehicle and go out into the island, move around and adventure into your destination, and that, I promise is part of the fun.


By the way, Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the US and, therefore, it does not require a passport for travel. English is usually spoken by locals in the tourist frequented areas. Puerto Rico is also relatively small and all of these activities can be done by just driving from one spot to another in a few hours.

Have fun!


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Dated: March 18th 2014
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