Puerto Rico is a common destination for US travelers because of the three magic words: No passport required! For European travelers it is still something new, even though there are more direct flights from Europe than ever. The Caribbean is a very special place, and that is something you need to know before visiting any island, but especially Puerto Rico.
If you heard all your life that on this island we’re all bilingual and we can speak perfect English, I am sorry to tell you but that is totally FALSE! English is widely spoken in tourist areas, but if you want to see more you will definitely struggle with the language. Here you can find a list of useful phrases, because, our Spanish is quite different from others you might be familiar to.
- Hola – Hello
- ¿Que hay? – Whats up?
- Gracias – Thanks
- Por favor – Please
- ¿Dónde está…? – Where is…?
- Guagua – Bus
- Sorbeto – Straw
- Cerveza – Beer
- ¿Me puede ayudar? – Can you help me?
Food and drinks to try
If there is something you will enjoy about Puerto Rico, even more than beaches and sightseeing, it is the food. I must warn you that you will find a lot of fried food and a lot of sweets here! These are a few of the ones I would totally recommend to try:
- Mofongo: Coming to Puerto Rico and simply not trying something made out of plantain is a NO. Mofongo is made out of mashed fried plantain, pork rinds and garlic. You can eat it by itself or it can be filled with meats such as chicken or flank steak or even shrimp. In some places they serve it with red sauce and others in garlic sauce (I prefer garlic!)
- Tostones: These are fried plantain that are not mashed. In some restaurants they make them in a way they can be filled with meats, but most of the time you eat them just as a side dish of any meat.
- Bacalaitos and Alcapurrias: How can I describe these fried goodies? Bacalaitos are made out of what bacalau actually is: cod fish. They mix the fish in wheat and fry them to create one of the most delicious and sinful dishes. Alcapurrias are also fried and they can me made filled with beef or crab. Its batter is made out of a mixture of plantain and white yam. The magical place where even the air smell like fried goodies is Piñones and is a 10 minutes drive from the airport!
- Pan sobao: This bread can be translated like “kneaded bread” but is one of the most delicious things you can try. It is sweet, soft and once you start eating a bit you just can’t stop! It its pretty cheap to buy a pound of it, so, I definitely suggest to try it.
- Piña Colada: That amazing drink that even has a song with its name. It is still a huge debate where it was actually invented. In old San Juan you will find in Barrachina Restaurant a sign that claims that it was invented there, but there’s another version that says that it was created in the Caribe Hilton hotel. What I suggest is that, while you hear all the stories about it, try it and ask if they can use Palo Viejo rum to combine it with the pineapple juice and the coconut rum. Definitely, that is my favorite version of it!
Things to see or do:
There is something you need to understand before coming to Puerto Rico: Public transportation is not reliable at all! If you want to go from one side of the island to another you can count on buses called Publicos. The catch with these buses is that if no one is doing the same trip as you, you will have to pay your ticket and the ticket of all the people who are not getting on the bus in order to make the trip sustainable. Your other choice may be taxis. Going from one side of the island to the other can cost $100. Your safest and cheapest option when it comes to transportation might be renting a car. I have to say BE CAREFUL! Puerto Ricans are crazy drivers (told by someone whose nose still hurts thanks to a car accident!) and you will find that GPS will not work really well here.
El Morro and San Cristobal Forts – These forts are right in Old San Juan and they date from colonial times. You definitely need to visit them while in San Juan and there is a fare that allow you to see both.
El Yunque Rainforest – It Is a hike that everyone loves. The forrest is filled with amazing views and rivers that you need to see.
Caves in Camuy and Arecibo – Cueva Ventana in Arecibo is becoming a popular spot. The cool thing about this cave is that it has a view from it where you have an amazing view of the towns below it. The Cave park in Camuy has a guided tour and you can see different caves. I definitely recommend both.
The beaches – There are beaches all around the island! In San Juan, the most popular ones are Isla Verde and Ocean Park. They can be a little crowded during weekend but there are still worth seeing
Culebra – Culebra is a small island that is part of Puerto Rico. There you can find Flamenco beach, which has been named several times as one of the most beautiful beaches on earth. You can reach them by a ferry that you need to take from Fajardo.
Bioluminiscent bays – There are three of these bays around the island: Fajardo, Lajas and Vieques. Theres a debate about which one is the best, I believe all of them have a beauty of their own and that definitely, seeing them glowing at night is an amazing thing to do if you’re visiting.
Bacardi Rum Factory – You need to see this place that produce a huge amount of the rum that is sold and consumed in the world. The tour shows you the whole process and at the end you will get of course, free samples!
Meet the Author
Brenda is a 26 year old Puerto Rican travel blogger who runs the blog Traveleira.com. She is a Foreign Languages and Literature graduate who has a huge passion for traveling and sports. She also works as a freelance translator and foreign languages teacher.
Be sure to keep an eye out for more travel guides by travel bloggers from around the world like this one for Spain!