Just a few hours away from many major East Coast destinations, Puerto Rico is a vibrant, tourist-friendly island known for its beautiful beaches, warm hospitality and incredible ecosystem. After sustaining severe damage from Hurricane Maria in fall 2017, Puerto Rico is once again ready for tourism — one of the island's major industries. While there's no better time to visit than now, here are a few mistakes to avoid when planning your trip to Puerto Rico.
1. MAKING IT SOLELY A CRUISE STOP
Many travelers first experience Puerto Rico as a stop (or starting point) on a cruise. While we love cruising, the diverse island of Puerto Rico warrants more attention than just a two-hour tour of Old San Juan. A week or more on the island, with excursions to the Arecibo Observatory, El Yunque National Forest and Fajardo, will give you a full taste of the Island of Enchantment.
2. RELYING ON PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
Puerto Rico is easy to navigate, but it's not a place where you can regularly hop on the city bus and expect to get where you're going. While taxis and public transportation are easy enough to find in the heart of the city, exploring further afield (which you should do) requires a car. Some of Puerto Rico's best beaches are hidden and otherwise inaccessible without driving. Plus, there's no better place to enjoy authentic mofongo or lechon than a locals-only roadside cafe.
3. ADHERING TO A TIGHT SCHEDULE
Ever heard the phrase "island time"? It applies here. Locals' laid-back attitudes mean nothing happens in a rush. Does that bar claim to open at 5 p.m.? Don't get frustrated if it's 5:30 p.m. and there's no painkiller in sight. In fact, your trip to Puerto Rico will be best spent going with the flow. This isn't New York City, where you'll have a calendar packed with Broadway curtain times and dinner reservations. Instead of stressing about sticking to your itinerary, take a deep breath and give an off-the-beaten-path spot a chance.
4. STAYING ONLY IN SAN JUAN
Even though traffic can occasionally slow things down, nothing on the island is more than two hours away. San Juan, with its colorful colonial buildings and rowdy nightlife, is a worthy destination unto itself, but part of Puerto Rico's appeal is its diverse ecosystems. El Yunque National Forest alone offers more than 28,000 acres of hiking, waterfalls and wildlife, while Rincon, on the island's west coast, has famous beaches and great swells for surfers.
5. SPEAKING ONLY ENGLISH
Puerto Rico is a United States territory, but Spanish is the primary language written and spoken across the island. English is still widely spoken in many areas, so don't fret if your high school Spanish isn't polished. That being said, your experience will be much richer if you learn at least a few pleasantries in Spanish, such as "please," "thank you," "good morning/evening" and "how are you?"