Puerto Rico | First Impressions and Planning


The doubt we had turned into a blessing when we realized we do not need a visa to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the Caribbean Sea and hence, what makes it so easy to travel is that we don't need a separate visa to travel to Puerto Rico from USA. If you can enter USA you can enter here! So pack your bags and leave, like right now!

What was our plan?

We were going to stay in Puerto Rico for 5 days. And this was our plan:

1. San Juan (1.5 days)
2. La Parguera Bioluminescence Swim / Pink Salt Flats of Cabo Rojo/ Vaga Baja at Puerto Nuevo  (1/2 day)
3. Culebra / Flamenco Beach
4. Culebra / Town
5. Vieques / Kayaking in Mosquito Bioluminescent Bay

Recommended Trip for the same plan as ours:

1. San Juan (2 days)
2. Drive to La Paguerra (1 day) Stay overnight there!
3. Culebra (2 days)
4. Vieques (2 days)

Estimated Days to cover minimum at length to avoid making it hectic: 7 days.

Our JetBlue experiences

This was our first-time flying JetBlue from Newark (New Jersey). I won’t say it was the best airline - I still prefer Southwest over it anyway or even United. It’s just that we booked flights very last minute, and the ticket prices were cheapest on JetBlue to San Juan.

Some of the things that I did not like about JetBlue was - their erratic time reschedules where they would mail us the flight has been delayed then they would message us that they are trying to make it on time so be there on time and then the flight is slightly delayed. The flight eventually was delayed by an hour however the messages prompted us to be on time so we kind of wasted like an hour of time.

The leg space between each seat is good in JetBlue although the crew just vanishes with the condiments. They literally run from one end to another without paying much attention to the whoever might want it. Overall, an ok experience for the price.

Is language a problem in Puerto Rico?

Even though Puerto Rico has heavy Spanish influences where speaking Spanish can actually get you by more easily. We figured out people were legit sweet even if you do not know the language. You can speak in English, almost everyone does understand. The only one instance where we felt uneasiness was when we were calling Publicos Taxi in Culebra islands (some taxi drivers did not understand English, but hey we chose the ones who did!) A little Ola and Gracious too can bring smile to the people.

Getting to Old San Juan from Airport in 75 Cents

Getting to Old San Juan by bus is very economical. Taxis do costs around $22 and it may just be easier to get on the bus T5 and get off at the last stop  i.e Terminal Covadonga than take a taxi. For odd hours, such as ours was, as our JetBlue flight landed at 3:45 am, there was no buses around.

The buses typically run at 6am on Weekends but we chose to stay at the airport lobby. Try out the Cappuccino at Aeromeals and the local Puerto Rican souvenirs at El Market when in lobby. We ate at Meson, the sandwiches were ok.

We also noted the various airlines Airport has. You may have never heard of their names (Copa Airlines, Cape Air, Air Flamenco, Vieques Airlink, Seaborne) etc. - these are small little airlines that run between islands. You may/may not find them on online search engines.

A confusing Bus Station

In San Juan Airport, if you are not aware, you might be standing next to the bus stop without knowing that it is a bus stop. The bus stops are called “Parada” and usually the sign is just on one side of the board. So, if you are standing on other side of the board, you might think well it could just be something. That’s how we missed the bus stop the first time and walked all the way till the next stop outside the airport as that was what our google map was showing and one of the persons, we met directed us that way. Even then the sign was so insignificant on the side of the road, that until a random Taxi driver pointed to us, we thought that we are fooled by google.

Now, it wasn’t that people did not try to help us. One of the ladies said to us, that go to the 1st floor then walk outside, there’ll be a smiley and that’s where bus stop is. Other person, when we reached the 1st floor, said to us, that the bus stop was on the ground floor, near to Budget Car Rental. Either case, did not land us, where the legit bus stop was until the bus driver picked us at one stop next where we were standing and dropped us at the Airport Bus Stop.

Now coming to where the Airport Bus Stop is. The Airport Bus Stop is near to the Big “I LOVE Puerto Rico” sign and near to exit of “Meson Sandwiches”. The Meson Sandwiches exit was where the bus stop with the smiley is.

Despite what the bus frequency was shown on google, the timings were mismatch for the bus T5. So, I guess the Google wasn’t updated on the timings as we got into the bus in 2 minutes of standing at the bus stop whereas the google was showing us 25 minutes. We got into the bus with our luggage. No problem. You need to have an exact change at the bus. Just get down at the last station Terminal Covadonga and start walking.


Staying at Isla Verde or Old San Juan?

To be honest, I would prefer the surreal Old San Juan over Isla Verde any day.

We stayed at Old San Juan Guesthouse ($108 nightly) that was within walking distance to all prime spots in Old San Juan. The owner was kind enough to store our luggage as we arrived too early for check in and was also willing to help us should we need anything. The location was so prime, that we could walk any hour of the day at our ease without having to first drop in the city and start our journey thereafter.

Depending on what your budget is, you may find cheaper accommodation that this in Old San Juan (we saw one in booking.com for $70), however we booked very last minute and hence this was one of the best options that time! Book in advance to same money especially during weekends.

The view from the roof of Old San Juan Guesthouse! That's Fort Cristobal.

That is indeed very important to consider. For example, both for New Orleans and for Old San Juan, we felt staying within the premises of the city was the best decision as one also need to include transportation fees and other factors should they consider living at distance.

We also shouldn’t rent cars in these cities unless we are going to go to other places as the main cities are usually walkable or transport friendly already. Plus parking and driving in those narrow streets ain't that great...

On our last day of our stay we stayed at Isla Verde for a few hours after we returned our car.  The Isla Verde beach reminded me of Miami Beach with buildings & condos next to it so if you are into beaches in the city, you might want to be here but I would still prefer Old San Juan.

                                                                            Isla Verde

Things to be careful about in Puerto Rico

Sand Bugs (No-see-ums) we got badly bitten by them, Zika (we heard of them in Puerto Rico in 2017  and google says there is a decline in cases however I still saw a warning at the Vieques airport for Pregnant women to avoid Zika areas so I am not sure what's going on with it) and Sun Tan (it gets hot!).  


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