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Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico ticks all the boxes for a picture-perfect Caribbean island holiday. Its white sandy beaches can compete with any in the world and vary from metropolitan cocktail heavens and bustling surfing hotspots to quiet island get-a-ways. Easily accessible diving and snorkelling spots and the excellent bioluminescent bays offer great maritime experiences. Still, there's more to this tropical island than sunny beach life. The Spanish-American influences make for a fun melting pot of culture with an abundance of heritage to explore and some delightful food to enjoy.

As Puerto Rico is a self-governing commonwealth of the United States of America, it's a particularly hassle-free and therefore popular destination for US citizens - but well worth any trip to get there. It is known as the "Island of Enchantment".

Regions

Cities

  • San Juan — the capital has one of the biggest and best natural harbors in the Caribbean
  • Arecibo — home of the world's largest radio telescope
  • Aguadilla — surfing and Thai food
  • Caguas
  • Carolina — Luis Muñoz Marín Airport, Isla Verde club scene, hotels and casinos
  • Fajardo — marina, bioluminescent bay, ferries to Vieques and Culebra
  • Mayagüez
  • Ponce — Puerto Rico's second city hosts a number of important museums like the Ponce Art Museum and the Museum of Puerto Rican Music, as well as the Tibes Ceremonial Indigenous Center, a Taino Amerindian site, to the north
  • San Germán- Home to the Oldest Catholic Church in the Caribbean, Porta Coeli

Other destinations

  • Guánica State Forest - (Bosque Estatal de Guánica) is also the name of a small dry forest reserve east and west of the town, the largest remaining tract of tropical dry coastal forest in the world, and designated an international Biosphere Reserve in 1981. The park comprising much of the dry forest is known as el bosque seco de Guánica.
  • San Juan National Historic Site - includes forts San Cristóbal, San Felipe del Morro, and San Juan de la Cruz, also called El Cañuelo, plus bastions, powder houses, and three fourths of the city wall. All these defensive fortifications surround the old, colonial portion of San Juan, Puerto Rico and are among the oldest and best preserved Spanish fortifications of the Americas.
  • Mona Island (off of the west coast of PR, half way to the Dominican Republic) - this island is a secluded island only inhabited by wildlife. You can only go to the island by appointment.
  • Rio Camuy Caverns (in the north/northwest) - a 45-minute guided walking tour of the main cave, Cueva Clara, including a view of the "3rd largest underground river in the world" and an enormous sinkhole.
  • Bioluminescent bay at La Parguera
  • Caja de Muertos Island, or Caja de Muertos for short - is an uninhabited island off the southern coast of Puerto Rico. The name means "Box of the Dead", which some have linked to the "Dead Man's Chest" of pirate lore. The island is protected because of its native turtle traffic. Hikers and beachgoers are often seen in the island, which can be reached by ferry or through diving tour operators from the La Guancha Boardwalk sector of Ponce Playa.

Understand

History

Puerto Rico was originally named San Juan Bautista in honor of Saint John the Baptist. The name of the island's present day capital, San Juan, honors the name (Spanish for "Rich Port") that Christopher Columbus first gave the island. It was then settled by explorer Ponce de Leon and the island was under Spanish possession for over four centuries. The island became United States territory under the Treaty of Paris, which also ended the Spanish-American War. The United States passed Law 600 giving Puerto Rico authorization to create and approve its own constitution, with the United States Congress approval. The relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico is known in English as a "commonwealth". There is no precise Spanish equivalent to this word; thus locally it is translated as "Estado Libre Asociado" (literally, "associated free state"). Most laws passed by Congress apply to Puerto Rico as they do in the fifty states. While Puerto Rico in general enjoys a greater degree of autonomy than one of the US states, including the right to send its own team to the Olympics, its residents are neither entitled to representation in congress nor allocated electoral college votes in presidential elections.

Climate

Puerto Rico has a tropical marine climate, which is mild and has little seasonal temperature variation. Temperatures range from 70 to 90 ?F (21 to 32 ?C), and tend to be lower at night and up in the mountains. Year round trade winds take part in ensuring the sub tropical climate. The average annual temperature is 26 °C (80 °F). Rainfall is abundant along the north coast and in the highlands, but light along the south coast. Hurricane season spans between June and November, where rain showers occur once a day, almost every day. Periodic droughts sometimes affect the island.

Terrain

Puerto Rico is mostly mountainous, although there is a coastal plain belt in the north. The mountains drop precipitously to the sea on the west coast. There are sandy beaches along most of the coast. There are many small rivers about the island and the high central mountains ensure the land is well watered, although the south coast is relatively dry. The coastal plain belt in the north is fertile. Puerto Rico's highest point is at Cerro de Punta, which is 1,338m above sea level.

Geography

The island of Puerto Rico is a rectangular shape and is the smallest, most eastern island of the Greater Antilles. It measures almost 580km of coast. In addition to the principal island, the commonwealth islands include Vieques, Culebra, Culebrita, Palomino, Mona, Monito and various other isolated islands. Puerto Rico is surrounded by deep ocean waters. To the west Puerto Rico is separated from Hispaniola by the Mona Passage which is about 120 km wide and as much as 3,300m deep. The 8,000m deep Puerto Rico trench is located off the northern coast. Off the south coast is the 5,466m deep Venezuelan Basin of the Caribbean. Because Puerto Rico is relatively short in width it does not have any long rivers or large lakes. Grande de Arecibo is the longest river in Puerto Rico which flows to the northern coast. Puerto Rico does not have any natural lakes but it does however have 15 reservoirs.

Talk

See also: Spanish phrasebook

Both Spanish and English are the official languages of Puerto Rico, but Spanish is without a doubt the dominant language. Fewer than 20 percent of Puerto Ricans speak English fluently, according to the 1990 U.S. Census. Spanish is the mother tongue of all native Puerto Ricans, and any traffic signs and such are written exclusively in Spanish, with the exception of San Juan and Guaynabo. Even in tourist areas of San Juan, employees at fast-food restaurants generally have a somewhat limited comprehension of English. However, people who are highly educated or those who work in the tourism industry are almost always fluent in English. Locals in less touristed areas of the island can usually manage basic English, as it is taught as a compulsory second language in most schools.

That said, as anywhere, it's respectful to try make an effort and try to learn at least the basics of Spanish. Average Puerto Ricans appreciate efforts to learn the most widely spoken language of their territory, and most are more than happy to help you with your pronunciation. If you're already familiar with the language, be aware that Puerto Rican Spanish speakers have a very distinct accent, similar to the Cuban accent, which is full of local jargon and slang unfamiliar to many outside the island. Puerto Ricans also have a tendency to "swallow" consonants that occur in the middle of a word. Puerto Ricans also speak at a relatively faster speed than Central Americans or Mexicans. It is not offensive to ask someone to repeat themselves or speak slower if you have trouble understanding them.

Examples of words that are unique to Puerto Rican Spanish include:

  • chína - orange (ordinarily naranja)
  • zafacón - trash can (basurero) zafacon comes from zafa in southern Spain derived from an Arab word zafa meaning trash container.
  • chavo - penny (centavo)
  • menudo - loose change, moneda is coin
  • flahlai - flashlight (linterna)
  • wikén - weekend (fín de semana)
  • Guagua - bus (autobus) guagua is Spanish, autobus is an anglicism just like futbol.

Taino influence When the Spanish settlers colonized Puerto Rico in the early 16th century, many thousands of Taíno people lived on the island. Taíno words like hamaca (meaning “hammock”) and huracán (meaning "hurricane") and tobacco came into general Spanish as the two cultures blended. Puerto Ricans still use many Taíno words that are not part of the international Spanish lexicon. The Taino influence in Puerto Rican Spanish is most evident in geographical names, such as Mayagüez, Guaynabo, Humacao or Jayuya. You will also find Taino words in different parts of the Caribbean.

African influence

The first African slaves were brought to the island in the 16th century. Although 31 different African tribes have been recorded in Puerto Rico, it is the Kongo from Central Africa that is considered to have had the most impact on Puerto Rican Spanish. Many of these words are used today.

Get in

Since Puerto Rico is a US territory, travelers from outside the United States must meet the same requirements that are needed to enter the United States. For travel within the United States, there are no passport controls between the US mainland and Puerto Rico, or vice versa. There are also no customs inspections for travel to and from the US mainland, but the USDA does perform agricultural inspections of luggage bound from Puerto Rico to the US mainland.

By plane

Puerto Rico's main airport is Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (IATA: SJU) in Carolina, near San Juan. American Airlines, Delta Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United have service from the United States; Air Canada Rouge and WestJet from Canada; American from Venezuela; Avianca from Colombia; Copa Airlines from Panama; JetBlue and PAWA Dominicana from the Dominican Republic; and Volaris from Mexico; and Air Europa and Norwegian Air Shuttle from Europe. Cape Air and Vieques Air Link provide domestic air service from other points in Puerto Rico. Liat offers service from St. Lucia. JetBlue, United, and Spirit have service to the airport in Aguadilla and JetBlue has service to Ponce.

Ceiba Airport has service to Puerto Rican island-cities of Vieques and Culebra on MN Aviation and Vieques Air Link.

As Puerto Rico is part of the US commonwealth, U.S. Immigration and Customs Laws and Regulations apply. Travel between the mainland and San JuanPonce and Aguadilla is the same as if it were between two mainland cities.

Most U.S. and many international airlines offer direct flights from many cities to Puerto Rico. Flights are economical and numerous. SJU is the biggest and most modern airport in the Caribbean and offers all the conveniences and services (McDonalds, Dominos, Starbucks, etc.) of a major city airport. San Juan's airport has five concourses (labeled terminals A-E) split across two terminals which are connected. JetBlue and Cape Air operate hubs at San Juan.

A secondary commercial airport in San Juan, Fernando Ribas Dominicci Airport, also known as Isla Grande Airport, has limited air service to the Dominican Republic, the United States Virgin Islands, Culebra and Vieques on Cape Air and Vieques Air Link. Ribas Dominicci Airport is located right by old San Juan and close to the Condado Beach and Caribe Hilton Hotels.

If you have lots of luggage, beware there are no baggage carts in the domestic terminal, although there are plenty of baggage porters available to help you for a tip or fee. Luggage Carts are available in the international terminal of the airport. At the exit, a porter will assist you with your luggage for a fee.

Transferring from the airport to your hotel usually requires taking a taxi, although some hotels provide complimentary transportation to their properties in special buses. Puerto Rico Tourism Company representatives at the airport will assist you in finding the right transportation. All major car rental agencies are located at the airport, and others offer free transportation to their off-airport sites.

Typical flight times (outbound flights are slightly longer due to headwinds):

  • Miami 2.5 hours
  • Orlando 2.5 hours
  • Charlotte 3 hours
  • Philadelphia 3.5 hours
  • Washington D.C. 3.5 hours
  • Atlanta 3.5 hours
  • Boston 4 hours
  • New York 4 hours
  • Dallas/Fort Worth 4 ¼ hours
  • Toronto 4 ¼ hours
  • Chicago 5 hours
  • Frankfurt am Main 11 hours
  • Madrid 9 hours

Customs

When departing Puerto Rico to the mainland, your bags will be inspected by the US Department of Agriculture before departure. Generally the same rules apply as when returning to the United States from a foreign country, although certain local fruits such as avocado, papaya, coconut and plantain may be brought back; mangos, sour sop, passion fruit, and plants potted in soil may not. In any event, all agricultural items will be checked for disease. If you are carrying prescription drugs (especially prescription narcotics) with you, you must have the original prescription with you, or a letter from your physician.

Cruise ship passengers with ship luggage tags are exempt from customs screenings.

By boat

A commercial ferry service connects the west coast city of Mayaguez and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. This service is very popular and convenient way to travel between both cities. Also, more than a million passengers visit the island on cruise ships every year, whether on one of the many cruise lines whose homeport is San Juan, or on one of the visiting lines. No passport is required for U.S. citizens who use this service.

Get around

Public transportation in Puerto Rico is fairly bad: outside the Metro Area (San Juan, GuaynaboCarolina and Bayamon), there are no scheduled buses or trains. Most travelers choose to rent their own cars, but intrepid budget travelers can also explore the shared cab (público) system.

By taxi

Official Tourism Company-sponsored taxis on the Island are clean, clearly identifiable and reliable. Look for the white taxis with the official logo and the "Taxi Turístico" on the front doors.

Under a recently instituted Tourism Taxi Program, set rates have been established for travel between San Juan's major tourist zones. See San Juan#By taxi for details.

Official Puerto Rico Tourist Taxi

http://www.cabspr.com/ (787) 969-3260

Several other taxi company numbers:

Asociación Dueños de Taxi de Carolina (787) 762-6066

Asociación Dueños de Taxi de Cataño y Levittown (787) 795-5286

Cooperativa de Servicio Capetillo Taxi (787) 758-7000

Cooperativa de Taxis de Bayamón (787) 785-2998

Cooperativa Major Taxi Cabs (787) 723-2460 or 723-1300

Metro-Taxi Cab. Inc. (787) 725-2870

Ocean Crew Transport (787) 645-8294 or 724-4829

Rochdale Radio Taxi (787) 721-1900

Santana Taxi Service, Inc. (787) 562-9836

By car

If you are planning to explore outside of San Juan, renting a car is by far the most convenient way to get around. Rentals are available from the airport as well as larger hotels. There are sometimes long waits of up to an hour when renting a car at that airport, especially with some companies. Rental cars can be had for as little as $28 a day.

Many U.S. mainland car insurance policies will cover insured drivers involved in rental car accidents that occur anywhere in the United States, including outlying territories like Puerto Rico, so check with your own insurer before you rent a car in Puerto Rico. If you have such coverage, you can probably decline collision insurance from the car rental company and request only the loss damage waiver.

Red lights and stop signs are treated like yield signs late at night (only from 12AM to 5AM) due to security measures.

The roads can be quite bad, with potholes and uneven pavement. Be cautious of other drivers, as turn signals are not commonly used or adhered to. Most natives do not drive like mainlanders are used to. Watch out for cars pulling out in front of you, or crossing an intersection, even if you have right of way. Also, there are many cars with non-functional head lights or tail lights, making driving in traffic even more dangerous. If you are not a very confident, even aggressive driver, you may not wish to drive in urban areas. Speed limits are considered suggestions for the locals (particularly taxi drivers), but high fines should make wise tourists cautious.

Parking in the Old Town of San Juan is virtually non-existent. There is a public parking lot called "La Puntilla". On weekends you only pay a fixed rate for the whole day and on weekdays you will pay less than $5 for a full day. The lot usually has available parking spaces. Traffic in all major cities is bad during rush hour (8AM-10AM, 4PM-6PM), so give yourself plenty of time coming and going.

Road signs are Spanish language versions of their U.S. counterparts. However, note that distances are in kilometers, while speed limits are in miles. Gas is also sold by the liter, not by the gallon, and it's a little bit cheaper than on the mainland.

In addition to the regular free highway (carretera) network, there are three toll roads (autopista) on Puerto Rico. They're much faster and less congested than the highways, and it's worth using them if in any kind of hurry. Tolls for a 2-axle car range from $0.50 and $1.50. The lanes on the left are reserved for people with RFID (Autoexpreso) toll passes (an electronic pass typically called a speed or E-Z pass in the states), which you probably won't have on your rental car. Lanes marked with an "A" generally accept only coins. If you need change, head for the lanes marked with a "C", usually the furthest to the right. Note that if you are heading to Ponce on PR-52, the autopista toll system has gone all RFID, so head to the first "C" booth you come to and buy a travel card if they will let you, or they might require you to buy the Autoexpreso RFID tag for $10. If you put $10 on the tag it will get you to Ponce and back once.

Off the main highways, roads in Puerto Rico quickly become narrow, twisty and turny, especially up in the mountains. Roads that are only one-and-a-half lanes wide are common, so do like the locals do and beep before driving into blind curves. Signage is often minimal, although intersections do almost always show the road numbers, so a detailed highway map will come in handy. Expect hairpin turns in the mountains - experience driving in West Virginia can help a good deal here. Don't be surprised if you see chickens in the middle of the road - Puerto Rico is one place where the local fowl are still trying to figure out the old joke. They are harmless to vehicles - just drive around them or wait for them to move aside.

Navigating a car can be very challenging because most locals give directions by landmark rather by address and using maps in Puerto Rico can be very challenging for visitors. Google Maps has lately been improving and now most small roads and all major roads are covered. Google Navigation doesn't work. Slight problems include street names either missing or incorrect, and address lookups & business entries (POI's) either give no result or are wrong. Other online maps suffer the same issues. Note that the larger metro areas, especially San Juan, can have several streets with the same name, so it's important to know the neighborhood (urbanization) name when communicating with taxi drivers, etc.

Police cars are easy to spot, as by local regulation, they must keep their blue light bar continuously illuminated any time they are in motion. Avoid getting a speeding ticket: fines start at $50 + $5 for each mile above the speed limit. It is also against the law to talk or text on a phone while driving, except when using BlueTooth or a speakerphone. The fine for talking or texting on the phone is $50.

By público

A público is a shared taxi service and is much cheaper than taking a taxi around the island, and depending on your travel aspirations, might be cheaper than renting a car. Públicos can be identified by their yellow license plates with the word "PUBLICO" written on top of the license plate. The "main" público station is in Río Piedras, a suburb of San Juan. They're also known as colectivos and pisicorres.

There are two ways of getting on a público. The easier way is to call the local público stand the day before and ask them to pick you up at an agreed time. (Your hotel or guesthouse can probably arrange this, and unlike you, they probably know which of the multitude of companies is going your way.) This is convenient, but it'll cost a few bucks extra and you'll be in for a wait as the car collects all the other departing passengers. The cheaper way is to just show up at the público terminal (or, in smaller towns, the town square) as early as you can (6-7AM is normal) and wait for others to show up; as soon as enough have collected, which may take minutes or hours, you're off. Públicos taper off in the afternoon and stop running entirely before dark.

Públicos can make frequent stops to pick up or drop off passengers and may take a while to get to their destination terminal, but you can also request to be dropped off elsewhere if it's along the way or you pay a little extra. Prices vary depending on the size of the público and the distance being traveled. As an example, a small público that can seat three or four passengers from Ponce to San Juan will cost roughly $15, while a 15 passenger público that is traveling between San Juan and Fajardo will cost about $5 each person.

By ferry

Ferries depart from San Juan and Fajardo & the most popular arrivals are Cataño, Vieques Island & Culebra Island. Also the Mayaguez ferry travels between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Location Contact Information Mayagüez, Puerto Rico 787-832-4800 787-832-4905 San Juan, Puerto Rico 787-725-2643 787-725-2646 Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic 809-688-4400 Santiago, Dominican Republic 809-724-8771

By train

Tren Urbano — or Urban Train in English — is a 17.2 km (10.7 mile) fully automated rapid transit that serves the metropolitan area of San Juan, which includes the municipalities of San Juan, Bayamón, and Guaynabo. Tren Urbano consists of 16 stations on a single line.

The Tren Urbano complements other forms of public transportation on the island such as the public bus system, taxis, water ferries and shuttles. The entire mass transportation system has been dubbed the “Alternativa de Transporte Integrado” (Integrated Transportation Alternative) or “ATI”.

Its services are very reliable and are almost always on time.

Fares - A single trip costs $0.75 including a 2-hour public (AMA) bus transfer period. If you exit the station and wish to get back on the train the full fare must be re-paid; there is no train to train transfer period. Students and Seniors (60–74 years old) with ID pay 35 cents per trip. Senior citizens older than 75 and children under 6 ride for free. Several unlimited passes are also available.

A stored-value multi-use farecard may be used for travel on buses as well as on trains. The value on the card is automatically deducted each time it is used. It is a system similar to the Metrocard system used in New York City.

By bus

Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses, also known in English as Metropolitan Bus Authority or by its initials in Spanish, AMA, is a public bus transit system based in San Juan, Puerto Rico

The AMA provides daily bus transportation to residents of San JuanGuaynabo, Bayamón, Trujillo Alto, Cataño, and Carolina through a network of 30 bus routes, including 2 express routes and 3 "Metrobus" routes. Its fleet consists of 277 regular buses and 54 paratransit vans for handicapped persons. Its ridership is estimated at 112,000 on work days.

The daily, weekend and holiday bus service from 4:30AM to 10PM with the exception of a few routes that are limited to certain hours and the express routes.

There are two routes which are very reliable, M-I & M-II, commonly called Metrobus (metroboos). MetroBus M1 transit between Old San Juan to Santurce downtown, Hato Rey Golden Mile banking zone and Rio Piedras downtown where a nice open walking street mall and great bargains could be found, the Paseo De Diego. The Metrobus II transit from Santurce to Bayamon city, passing Hato Rey, including Plaza Las Americas Mall and to Guaynabo City. Many interesting places could be found on the routes, like the remains of the first European settlement on the island and the oldest under USA government, the Caparra Ruins (Ruinas de Caparra Museum).

As a tourist staying in the Isla Verde hotel district, be aware there is a bus line going to and from Old San Juan. It costs only 75 cents, but takes 45 minutes to an hour and the right bus comes by irregularly. The bus till only takes quarters and no bills, so plan ahead. So the trade-off is between low cost versus your time and convenience. In the rainy months, standing at the bus stop can be uncomfortable.

By air

Cape Air flies between San Juan-both SJU and Isla Grande airports-and Culebra, Mayaguez and ViequesVieques Air Link flies between San Juan, Culebra and Vieques, with onward connections from it's Vieques hub to other Caribbean islands. Vieques Air Link also flies from Culebra to Vieques and from Ceiba to Vieques. Air Culebra also flies from San Juan to Culebra and Vieques as does Air Flamenco. Air Culebra also flies from Ceiba to Culebra. MN Aviation provides charter flights between San Juan, Culebra and Vieques and from Ceiba to Culebra and Vieques. Tickets from San Juan-SJU to Vieques on Vieques Air Link cost around $250 return (2015), and the flight takes about 30 minutes.

See

There is one UNESCO World Heritage Site on Puerto Rico, namely La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site.

Coffee Plantations Coffee, sugar cane, and tobacco were the three main agricultural products exported by Puerto Rico in the old days. Sugar cane was produced in the hot low-lands by the sea while tobacco and coffee were grown in the mountainous interior of Puerto Rico. A few coffee plantations are still active or have been turned into museums. Most of them can be found and visited in the mountains region just North of Ponce.

Bioluminescent Bays The bioluminescent bays near Fajardo and in Vieques are a soul-healing experience that should not be missed. The microscopic organisms that live in every drop of water in these bays will glow when they dart away from movement. Take a kayak or boat tour during a new moon for the best results; they're hard to see during a full moon and impossible to see in sunlight. The bioluminescent bay in Lajas is by far the most famous one to visit with many kiosks and restaurants there for the traveler to enjoy as well as boat tours.

Do

Blue Flag in Puerto Rico The Blue Flag Program, initiated in Europe since 1987 has been modified for implementation in the Caribbean. It is a voluntary program and it has proven along the years to be a very effective strategy to guarantee the best quality in beach services for bathers in different parts of the world.

Casinos In the metropolitan area in San Juan they have luxurious hotels with casinos similar to Las Vegas...if you like to gamble, San Juan will be a great place to stay while vacationing in the island.

El Yunque El Yunque, Puerto Rico's rainforest is a must see. It spreads out over a mountain, so if you walk uphill from the road you're in an amazing rain forest. At any altitude you'll see numerous varieties of plant and animal life. If you're lucky you can catch a glimpse of the endangered Puerto Rican parrot & hear the song of the local Coqui tree frog. There are many hiking trails and the Yokahu tower is a great spot to see the forest from above. There are also two trails that lead you straight down to La Mina waterfalls. You can swim at the bottom of the falls in the cold refreshing water. There are short hiking trails and long hiking trails and they do overlap. Pay close attention to the signs to ensure that you do not bite off more than you can chew.

Since it is a rain forest, expect it to rain daily and frequently. This means you may wish to leave your expensive Louis Vuitton hand-bag at the hotel.

Golf The Trump International Golf Club has Puerto Rico’s first course designed by PGA Professional Tom Kite. Comprised of two 18-hole championship courses, the Championship and the International.

Horseback riding Whether you're dreaming about spectacular surfing waves, a challenging golf course, or the perfect sunbathing beach, Puerto Rico offers the active traveler a tremendous array of opportunities. Surfing and golf compete with tennis, fishing, kayaking, scuba diving, and horseback riding, not to mention windsurfing and parasailing, for your active time. The island has over 15 championship golf courses a short drive away from the San Juan metropolitan area.

Learn about the different character of Puerto Rico's favorite beaches, or find out where to participate in your favorite sports. The hardest part will be choosing what to do first.

Outdoor adventures There is plenty to do outside the metropolitan areas. Many small family owned tour companies provide guided tours of the Central Mountains in Utuado near Río Tanama, Repelling in Arecibo, kayak tours of Lake Guajataka, and horse back riding on the beach in Aguadilla. Some of the tour operators also provide low cost or free lodging. Let's Go Puerto Rico has listed a few of these outfitters or you can simply do an internet search with the name of the area you would like to visit to find things to do. The individual towns also have yearly festivals listed in the tourism guides available at both major airports.

Snorkel and scuba dive Puerto Rico's coastlines and minor islands such as Vieques and Culebra are best. They each contain scenic landscapes and a diverse population of wildlife. But be sure that if you book with a snorkel trip—that they guarantee you will be taken to true snorkeling sites. Dive operators (for instance, the outfit named Sea Ventures) have been known to book snorkelers on day trips along with scuba divers, taking them all to deep water sites suited only to scuba diving!

Buy

Money

Puerto Rico uses the U.S. dollar, denoted by the symbol "$" (ISO code: USD).

There are plenty of ATMs around the commonwealth. Most are linked to the Cirrus, Plus, American Express and Discover networks.

Shopping

Plaza las Americas is the largest shopping mall in the Caribbean and one of the largest in Latin America. It offers a wide array of stores, eating facilities, and a multi-screen movie theater. Most major U.S. mainland and European mass retailers are located in the mall.

The Condado section of San Juan is home to fine designer stores such as Cartier, Gucci, Ferragamo, Mont Blanc and Dior.

You might want to check out the Belz Factory Outlets and Puerto Rico Premium Outlets (Barceloneta). They house stores like Polo Ralph Lauren, Hilfiger, Banana Republic, Puma, Gap, PacSun, etc.

Most of the large cities on the island have a large regional mall with very familiar international stores.

If you're looking for local crafts of all sorts, and want to pay less than in Old San Juan while getting to know the island, try going to town festivals. Artisans from around the island come to these festivals to sell their wares: from typical foods, candies, coffee and tobacco to clothing, accessories, paintings and home décor. Some of these festivals are better than others, though: be sure to ask for recommendations. One of the most popular (yet remote) festivals is the "Festival de las Chinas" or Orange Festival in Las Marías.

Don't forget that Puerto Rico is a large rum-producing island. Hand made cigars can still be found in San Juan, Old San Juan, and Puerta de Tierra. Also a wide variety of imported goods from all over the world are available. Local artesanías include wooden carvings, musical instruments, lace, ceramics, hammocks, masks and basket-work. Located in every busy city are gift shops with the typical tee-shirts, shot glasses, and other gifts that say Puerto Rico to bring home to friends and family. Make sure to visit the Distileria Serralles, the home of Don Q, one of the oldest rums made in Puerto Rico. You would not only enjoy tours of the process of making rum, but a little taste of the rum. They also have a museum and it is an enjoyable place for a warm afternoon in the Enchanted Island.

Eat

Puerto Rico is a drive-through buffet. All you need is a car, an appetite (the bigger the better), time, and the realization that your swimsuit won't fit as well when you get to your destination. The island has the most diverse culinary offerings in the entire Caribbean. There's something for everyone. You can enjoy the finest Puerto Rican food at most traditional town squares and also (for those of you who get homesick) have a steak at a place like Morton's.

Cuisine

Authentic Puerto Rican food (comida criolla) can be summed up in two words: plantains and pork, usually served up with rice and beans (arroz y habichuelas). It is rarely if ever spicy, and to many visitors' surprise has very little in common with Mexican cooking.

Plantains (plátanos) are essentially savory bananas and the primary source of starch back in the bad old days, although you will occasionally also encounter cassava (yuca) and other tropical tubers. Served with nearly every meal, incarnations include:

  • mofongo — plantains mashed, fried, and mashed again, when filled up (relleno) with seafood this is probably the best-known Puerto Rican dish of them all
  • tostones — twice deep-fried plantain chips, best when freshly made.
  • amarillos — sweet fried plantain.
  • sopa de plátanos — mashed plantain soup

The main meat eaten on Puerto Rico is pork (cerdo), with chicken a close second and beef and mutton way down the list. Seafood, surprisingly, is only a minor part of the traditional repertoire: the deep waters around Puerto Rico are poorly suited to fishing, and most of the seafood served in restaurants for tourists is in fact imported. Still, fresh local fish can be found in restaurants across the east and west coast of the island, especially in Naguabo or Cabo Rojo respectively.

  • chicharrones — crispy dry pork rinds.
  • chuletas — huge, juicy pork chops, available grilled or deep fried.
  • lechón asado — roast suckling pig, this is the pinnacle of Puerto Rican porkcraft. Served at specialty restaurants, with the Cayey city's barrio of Guavate off the San Juan-Ponce highway being particularly famous.
  • morcilla — blood sausage
  • pernil de cerdo — pork shoulder with oregano and garlic

A few other puertorriqueño classics include:

  • arroz con gandules — rice with pigeon peas, the unofficial national dish of Puerto Rico
  • arroz con jueyes — rice with land crab meat
  • asopao — a spicy tomato stew with rice and chicken or seafood
  • bacalaitos — salted cod fritters
  • chillo — red snapper, the most common fresh fish on the island
  • empanadillas — fritters of cheese, meat or lobster
  • sofrito — a fragrant sauce of sweet pepper, herbs, garlic and oil, used as base and seasoning for many dishes
  • quenepas — a green grape-like fruit common in summer, don't eat the skin or seeds (and watch where you put them, they stain clothes easily)
  • sorrullos — corn sticks, which come either sweet or salty

Places to eat

Meals in sit-down restaurants tend to be fairly pricey and most touristy restaurants will happily charge $10–30 for main dishes. Restaurants geared for locals may not appear much cheaper, but the quality (and quantity) of food is usually considerably better. It's not uncommon for restaurants to charge tourists more than locals, so bring along a local friend if you can! Note that many restaurants are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

If you want to eat like a local, look for places that are out of the way. There is a roadside food stand or 10 at every corner when you get out of the cities. Deep-fried foods are the most common, but they serve everything from octopus salad to rum in a coconut. You might want to think twice and consult your stomach before choosing some items - but do be willing to try new things. Most of the roadside stand food is fantastic, and if you're not hung up with the need for a table, you might have dinner on a beach, chomping on all sorts of seafood fritters at $1 a pop, drinking rum from a coconut. At the end of dinner, you can see all the stars. In the southwest of the island, in Boqueron, you might find fresh oysters and clams for sale at 25 cents a piece.

If you are really lucky, you might get invited to a pork roast. It's not just food - it's a whole day - and it's cultural. Folks singing, drinking, hanging out telling stories, and checking to see if the pig is ready, and staying on topic, you'll find the pig likely paired with arroz con gandules.

Typical fast food restaurants, such as McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Wendy's are numerous in Puerto Rico and are almost identical to their American counterparts with minor exceptions.

Finally, there are some wonderful restaurants, and like everywhere, the best are found mostly near the metropolitan areas. Old San Juan is probably your best bet for a high quality meal in a 5-star restaurant. However if your experimental nature wanes, there are lots of "Americanized" opportunities in and around San Juan. Good luck, keep your eyes open for the next roadside stand, and make sure to take advantage of all the sports to counteract the moving buffet.

Dietary restrictions

Strict vegetarians will have a tough time in Puerto Rico, although the larger towns have restaurants that can cater to their tastes. Traditionally almost all Puerto Rican food is prepared with lard, and while this has been largely supplanted by cheaper corn oil, mofongo is still commonly made using lard, bacon or both.

Drink

Unlike most U.S. territories and states, Puerto Rico's drinking age is 18. That, coupled with the fact that the U.S. does not require U.S. residents to have a passport to travel between Puerto Rico and the continental U.S., means Puerto Rico is becoming increasingly popular during spring break. Beer and hard liquor is available at almost every grocery store, convenience store, panadería (bakery), connell cabinet shops, and meat shop. There are many bars just off the sidewalk that cater to those of age, especially in San Juan and Old San Juan.

Puerto Rico is obviously famous for its rum and rum drinks, and is the birthplace of the world renowned Piña Colada. Several rums are made in Puerto Rico, including Bacardì, Captain Morgan and Don Q. Rum is, unfortunately, not a connoisseur's drink in the same way as wine or whiskey, and you may get a few odd looks if you ask for it straight since it is almost always drunk as a mixer. The best rum available in Puerto Rico is known as Ron de Barrilito. It isn't available in the mainland US, and is considered to be the closest to the rums distilled in the Caribbean in the 17th and 18th centuries, both in taste and the way it is distilled. It has an amber-brown color and a delicious, clean, slightly sweet taste. Very refreshing on a hot day with ice and a mint leaf.

The local moonshine is known as pitorro or cañita, distilled (like rum) from fermented sugarcane. It is then poured into a jug with other flavorings such as grapes, prunes, breadfruit seeds, raisins, dates, mango, grapefruit, guava, pineapple, and even cheese or raw meat. Its production, while illegal, is widespread and a sort of national pastime. If you are lucky enough to be invited to a Puerto Rican home around Christmastime, it is likely that someone will eventually bring out a bottle of it. Use caution as it is quite strong, sometimes reaching 80% alcohol by volume (although typical alcohol levels are closer to 40-50%).

During Christmas season, Puertoricans also drink "Coquito," an eggnog-like alcoholic beverage made with rum, egg yolks, coconut milk, coconut cream, sweet condensed milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. It is almost always homemade, and is often given as a gift during the Christmas holidays. It is delicious, but very caloric. It will also make you very sick if you drink too much of it, so be careful if someone offers you some.

Most stores stock a locally produced beer called Medalla Light that can be purchased for $1–$2 each. Medalla Light is only sold in Puerto Rico, and is first in the Puerto Rican market share. It is comparable in taste to American light beers, i.e. bland and watery. Other beer options for the discriminating drinker include Presidente, a light Pilsner beer from nearby Dominican Republic (note: it's a different brew from the Dominican version), and Beck's. Beck's imported to Puerto Rico and the rest of the Caribbean is a different brew from the one that makes it to the U.S., and is considered by many to be better. Other beers which have popularity on the island are Budweiser (Bud Lite is not available or very difficult to find), Heineken, Corona and Coors Light, which happen to be one of the prime international markets. Many other imported beers are also available, but usually at a higher price.

Most of the beers sold vary from 10- to 12-ounce bottles or cans. The portions are small (compared to the Mainland) in order to be consumed before the beer has time to warm up.

Tap water is treated and is officially safe to drink, although somewhat metallic-tasting.

If you are an avid coffee drinker, you may find heaven in Puerto Rico. Nearly every place to eat, from the most expensive restaurants to the lowliest street vendors, serves coffee that is cheap, powerful, and delicious. Puerto Ricans drink their coffee in a way particular to the Caribbean, known as a café cortadito, which is espresso coffee served with sweetened steamed milk. A cup of coffee at a good panadería is rarely more than $1.50. Although coffee was once a formidable component of Puerto Rico's agriculture, its domestic production has declined significantly and most coffee sold in Puerto Rico is actually from Brazil or Colombia. However, indigenous coffee is experiencing a comeback, with a variety of excellent brands such as Alto Grande, Yaucono, Altura, and Café Rico. Puerto Rico's best coffee is now some of the most expensive and exclusive in the world, and a box of estate-grown coffee is an indispensable souvenir for the passionate coffee lover.

As a legacy of Puerto Rico's status as one of centers of world sugercane production, nearly everything is drunk or eaten with sugar added. This includes coffee, teas, and alcoholic drinks, as well as breakfast foods such as avena (hot oatmeal-like cereal) and mallorcas (heavy egg buns with powdered sugar and jam). Be aware of this if you are diabetic.

Sleep

There are over 12,000 hotel rooms in Puerto Rico and 50% are located in the San Juan area.

  • All major international hotel chains have properties in Puerto Rico. Guests can expect a high level of service even in lower quality properties. The San Juan area is very popular and perennially full of visitors but also suffers from a shortage of hotel rooms which results in high prices during the winter season. New developments on the horizon look to alleviate this problem.

International chains such as Sheraton, Westin, Marriott, Hilton, Ritz-Carlton, Holiday Inn as well as some luxurious independent resorts offer very reliable accommodations. There is a boom underway in boutique hotel construction which promise a higher level of service and Miami-chic appeal. Most large cities have at least one international chain hotel.

There are properties to rent, buy, or lease available, whether it is a quiet home or a vacation rental. There are also many fully furnished apartments you can rent by the day, week and month, especially in Old San Juan. These are usually inexpensive, clean and comfortable and owned by trustworthy people. They are located mostly in the residential area, which is safe (day and night), and within walking distance to everything from museums to nightlife.

See the San Juan section for contact numbers for hotels and short-term rental apartments.

Learn

Most universities in Puerto Rico are accredited by US authorities and they offer quality educational programs. It's very easy to find Spanish courses as well as learn to dance salsa. Puerto Rico has 3 ABA-accredited law schools which are very competitive. The University of Puerto Rico Law School is very friendly towards international students and is a great option for foreigners looking for a quality, cheap education (subsidized by the government) that is less than 10 minutes from a beach!

Also the island has major medical teaching centers which are internationally acclaimed such as the University of Puerto Rico Center for Medical Sciences and the Ponce School of Medicine.

Work

There is a small international workforce on the island. In general, it's possible to find a nice job on the island doing various things. The island is full of international businesses which look for skilled labor all the time. Tourism is obviously a big industry for Puerto Rico. Also, the majority of pharmaceutical companies can be found here and the island plays a very important part in pharmaceutical manufacturing for the U.S. and other places in the world.

Stay safe

If you look at the statistics, it's clear that Puerto Rico has a crime problem, but tourists generally encounter no major problems when simply applying commons sense. The tourist areas of San Juan and Ponce are heavily patrolled by police, and violent crime directed against tourists is extremely rare. The main problem is theft: never leave your belongings unattended anywhere (on the beach, in a restaurant/bar, etc.) The crime rate is lowest in the wealthier suburbs outside major metropolitan areas, such as Isla Verde, Condado, San Patricio, and Guaynabo. Car theft is a minor issue, so park your car in a garage and don't leave valuables inside.

After the traditionally high murder statistics peaked in 2011, the FBI increased its involvement in Puerto Rico, taking charge of a large number of cases as well as addressing corruption and other problems in the island's police force. This FBI involvement and other initiatives to increase public safety seem to be paying off, as the island has seen a promising decline in heavy crime over the past few years. Like all cities in the US, serious crime is concentrated in the densely populated metropolitan cities of San Juan and Ponce. Most of it is committed by the youth or young adults, and almost always there's a connection to the drug trade. Puerto Rico's history of rampant and staggering drug smuggling during the 1970s is now mostly over thanks to a beefed-up law enforcement presence, but the island's location still makes it a major point of entry for narcotics into the US. Make sure to stay away from public housing complexes known as caseríos, which are numerous and widespread throughout the island, and avoid shanty slums as well (La Perla in San Juan). These are frequently the location of drug dealers and other illegal activity as well as violent crime. If you must venture into such a location, do so during the day, try to blend in and avoid attracting attention, and be polite at all times.

Beggars are depressingly common in large cities and tourist attractions. Avoid giving them money, as most are either drug addicts or scam artists. If you feel you are being harassed, a firm "No" will usually suffice.

Stay healthy

Freshwater lakes and streams in metropolitan areas are often polluted so avoid going in for a dip. You can, however, find freshwater streams and ponds in the rain forest that are safe to swim in. Generally, if you see Puerto Ricans swimming in it then you are probably okay, especially high in the rain forest. Puerto Rico is a tropical island, but is free of most diseases that plague many other tropical countries of the Caribbean and the world. Tap water is safe to drink almost everywhere, and your hosts will let you know if their water is suspect. Bottled water, if necessary, is available, at grocery and drugstores in gallons, and most small stores have bottled water as well.

Medical facilities are easily available all around the Island, and there are many trained physicians and specialists in many medical fields. There are a number of government as well as private hospitals. Health services are fairly expensive. Keep in mind that a visit to the doctor may not be as prompt as one is used to, and it is common to have to wait quite some time to be seen (three to four hours would not be exceptional).

Visitors should expect a high level of quality in their medical service - it is comparable to the U.S. mainland. Drug stores are plentiful and very well stocked. Walgreens is the biggest and most popular pharmacy chain, although Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and Costco offer medicines, as do numerous smaller local chains.

Respect

Politeness and a simple smile will get you far. Unspoken rules regarding personal space differ somewhat from the American mainland; people generally stand closer together when socializing. For either gender, it is very common to customarily kiss on one cheek when greeting a female. This is never done by a male to another male (except between relatives). Puerto Rican society is generally very social, and you will commonly see neighbors out at night chatting with each other.

It is wise in some cases to avoid discussing the island's politics, especially with regards to its political status with the United States. Arguments are often very passionate, and can lead to heated debates. In the same manner it may be wise not to discuss the political parties either, as Puerto Ricans can be very passionate about the party they affiliate with. Puerto Rico has 3 political parties, marked (among other things) by different stances towards the relation to the United States: PNP (statehood), PPD (commonwealth) and PIP (independence). PNP and PPD share the majority of the voters, whilst PIP has a relatively negative rating.

It is fairly common for attractive women to have cat calls, whistles, and loud compliments directed at them. These are usually harmless and it is best to just ignore them.

Puerto Ricans love board games. Some would even say that the national game of Puerto Rico is dominos. It is a very common pastime, especially among older people. In some rural towns, it is common to see old men playing dominos in parks or the town square. Chess is also popular. Either a chess set or a box of dominos makes a great gift.

Respect for the elderly is very highly valued in Puerto Rico. When saying goodbye to an older person, it is a gesture of great respect to say "Bendicíon" (a request for his/her blessing), to which s/he will respond, "Díos te lo bendigan" ("May God bless you").

LGBTQ visitors will find Puerto Rico a far more tolerant destination than many in the Caribbean (particularly the Anglophone Caribbean). Same-sex marriage was legalized in July 2015, and discrimination in public accommodations against LGBTQ people is against the law. Nevertheless, Puerto Rico is still far behind Western Europe in this respect, and more comparable to the American South than the US coasts in its attitudes. Open displays of affection will be met with stares and catcalls, but the likelihood that a tourist will encounter open hostility is very low. Youth are usually much more open than the older generation. The most gay-friendly areas are in San Juan, particularly Condado, Santurce and Hato Rey.

Connect

Cellular Phones

Puerto Rico has a modern cellular network. All the major US carriers are represented and are not roaming for US subscribers with nationwide plans. Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile have native coverage (as of 2-2012 AT&T has the best coverage on the island, with T-Mobile being second. Sprint works in several areas, but is not as reliable), while Verizon roams (69 cents per minute as of Feb 2012) on their legacy network now operated by Claro. [1]. Other CDMA carriers also use Claro or Sprint. For non-US travelers, AT&T and T-Mobile are the GSM carriers, while Sprint and Claro are CDMA and probably not compatible with your phone.

Voice Coverage

All of the major metro areas have solid coverage with all carriers. For rural areas and the islands Culebra and Vieques, coverage is pretty good but can be spottier than in the states and you may find poor or no coverage at the beaches. AT&T is generally regarded to have the best voice coverage, followed by Sprint and T-Mobile, and then Claro (Verizon).

Data Coverage

T-Mobile has 3G data in the major metro areas, averaging over 1,500 kbit/s, but they only have 2G outside those areas. Personal hot spots work well for streaming and other uses in the 3G areas. T-Mobile's data network has been updated(HSPA+) giving 4G data rates on capable phones.

AT&T has the most consistent and by far the fastest data coverage on the island, with solid 4G LTE/HSPA+ and 3G coverage in the metro areas and 3G or 2G in the rural areas. Data rates average around 500 kbit/s on 3G and speeds on the 4G LTE network can be up to 10 times fast than 3G. Personal hot spots work well for streaming and other uses in the 3G and 4G areas.

Sprint has coverage similar to AT&T, but their data rates average around 200 kbit/s and are bursty with a lot of latency. Personal hot spots don't work well for streaming but are okay for basic data.

Internet

Public access internet penetration is not as good as in the states or Europe yet. Internet cafes exist but are not very common, although some cafes, such as Starbucks, and restaurants, such as Subway, provide free WiFi. Some of the major metro areas provide free WiFi zones, such as along Paseo de la Princesa in Old San Juan, but these tend to be slow and unreliable. There is no free WiFi at the primary airport, Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU). Most hotels provide wired or wireless (or both) internet for guests, either for free or a fee, however many motels do not. Puerto has continually strived to improve the Internet on the island.

Mail

Puerto Rico uses the U.S. Postal Service with zip codes 00601-00795 and 00901-00988 with a state code of "PR". Postage to the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii), St Thomas, and to overseas U.S. military and diplomatic posts (with APO, FPO or DPO addresses) are the same domestic rates as it would be to send something within Puerto Rico and to Vieques and Culebra Islands.

Cope

Consulates

  • Denmark (Honorary), 360 San Francisco St, San Juan, ? +1 787 725-2532, fax: +1 787 724-0339, e-mail: operations@continentalshipping.com.
  • Portugal (Honorary), 416 San Leandro, San Juan, ? +1 787 755-8556, e-mail: duartedasil@worldnet.att.net.
  • Spain, Edificio Mercantil Plaza 11F, Hato Rey, ? +1 787 758-6090, fax: +1 787 758-6948, e-mail: cgesp.pr@correo.maec.es.

Hear about travel to Puerto Rico as the Amateur Traveler talks to Kaleb Garcia about his home country of Puerto Rico. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory in the Caribbean with its own culture, language (Spanish), history and food.

Hear about travel to the island of Vieques off Puerto Rico as the Amateur Traveler talks to Ira Winston from Philadelphia about his recent trip there. Vieques is an island thais 8 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico.

Kate in Puerto Rico

This was the month that I moved to New York! Far and away, that dwarfs anything else I did this month.

I went on and on about my apartment in last month’s recap — it seems a bit silly now, as I hadn’t even moved to the place yet! I will tell you, however, that my place is even better than I remembered. I had worried myself into believing it was smaller than it was, but there is more than enough room for all my stuff. And the couch fit through the door just fine!

I’m so enjoying just being in my place and nesting. I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to have a home of my own after being on the road for five years.

Boston Sunset

Destinations Visited

Reading, Lynn, and Boston, Massachusetts

New York, New York

San Francisco, Yountville, St. Helena, and Oakland, California

San Juan, Puerto Rico

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Favorite Destinations

Oakland. What a cool city.

San Francisco. A total beauty and always a pleasure to visit.

San Juan. Bring on the palm trees and turquoise water!

Kate Living Room

Highlights

Moving into my new apartment and furnishing it! The first furniture-less day, I sat on my duvet while leaning against the wall. (That is horrible for your back, by the way. Ugh.) Piece after piece trickled in: big purple couch, mattress and box spring, rug, dining table and chairs, desk chair, bed frame, nightstand. The place is really starting to come together. Next up: framing and hanging my art!

COOKING. Now that I have a kitchen, I have reason to actually cook again! I love using my slow cooker, going out, coming home, smelling something delicious and knowing that I AM THE DELICIOUS APARTMENT!

Exploring Harlem. I’m loving discovering the nooks and crannies in my new neighborhood!

Bushwick

Exploring Bushwick in depth. I love Bushwick and maintain that it’s the strangest place in New York — but it’s best to go with someone who knows her way around because it’s so spread out and many of the coolest places are hidden. My friend Jessie invited me and a few of our blogger friends on her Beer, Bites and Art Instawalk, which included everything from beer and meat tasting to cappuccino making and raw chocolate sampling. This was one of my favorite days in New York so far. Expect a full post on the experience soon!

Eating my way through the Bay Area. I did a Top Chef-themed culinary trip with Visit California and we ate our faces off. So much good food in such a short period of time! The sunshine was especially nice, coming from the cold and rainy northeast.

Seeing Smart People. I went to my first Off-Broadway play since arriving, Smart People, and it was a great one. Starring Joshua Jackson (PACEY), Mahershala Ali (Remy from House of Cards), Anne Son (we share a mutual friend!) and Tessa Thompson (Michael B. Jordan’s girlfriend in Creed), it was smart, thought-provoking, well-acted and very well done. There may have been a few celebs in the audience…

Bushwick Rave with Kate, Jessie and Anna

Going to my first…rave? Is this what you would call a rave? A dance party on Valentine’s Day in a furniture warehouse in Brooklyn where people wear crazy costumes? Well, I went to one. The best part? Going to a party where you can wear WHATEVER YOU WANT. So for me it was my Vietnamese ao dai from Hoi An on top of a black and white striped dress with black leggings and black and pink sneakers. With makeup and accessories by costume aficionado Anna!

The party was put on by ebb + flow and it was a lot of fun! I doubt I’ll become a regular, but I’m sure I’ll be at another in the future.

Discovering Taskrabbit. Dude, Taskrabbit is my NEW FAVORITE THING. You can just hire people to come over and do stuff that you are too busy, too lazy, too weak, or too unskilled to do! I hired people to haul away the huge piles of packaging from furniture deliveries, assemble my bed, and install my shade. This is as addictive as Uber; I’ve already talked myself out of hiring Taskrabbits for random things I don’t really need.

Janelle's Bachelorette Party with Alexa, Kate, Janelle, Amy, Beth

Celebrating a bachelorette in Boston. My friend Janelle (center) celebrated her final night of singledom in style! We stayed at the excellent Revere Hotel (the same place that hosted the Women in Travel Summit), went to a drag show, had some craft beers, and went to a…strange club. Just like her shower, it was a great way to get to know her friends I hadn’t met before!

An Oscar party for the ages. One of the things I’ve missed the most while traveling is being involved in Oscar season. This year I saw all the Best Picture nominees and went to an Oscar party! My friend Beth actually made themed food for all the movies: a chocolate pudding “dirt cake” with potatoes in it for The Martian, buffalo jerky for The Revenant, Brooklyn egg creams for Brooklyn, brie cheese for Brie Larson, Sam Adams beers for Spotlight, Matthew McConaughey’s turkey chili Frito pie, and more.

Reconnecting with NYC friends. It’s a true blessing that I haven’t had any awkward or lonely times after moving to a new city. I moved to New York largely because I have so many friends here already, and I love that there’s always someone around!

Hamilton Heights, Harlem

Challenges

I had a run-in with a racist individual. She made a nasty comment and I immediately called her out on it. Beyond that, I’m not going to be more specific about the incident; I may reveal more at a later time. I will say that I was so furious, I couldn’t stop shaking.

Delivery madness. I had to spend a lot of time at home waiting for deliveries from UPS and FedEx. Sometimes they would be too heavy for me to lift up the stairs. (Thanks so much to my kind upstairs neighbor who helped me with some of the furniture!) And when I was just sitting down to dinner an hour away in Brooklyn, I got a text that I had a package that had arrived but was too heavy to move inside, even into the entryway…so I worried like crazy for hours that it would be stolen. (It wasn’t. It was my bed and it was so heavy that I had to cut it apart while outside and take it up in pieces.)

Living in the city, not having a doorman, plus not having an office makes the whole delivery scenario quite challenging, especially heavier pieces. I love having Amazon Prime, but having to be home for deliveries means I’m not using it as often as I did in Massachusetts.

I overdid it on the food in California. It was hard not to overdo it on this trip — on our first day, we literally did a dessert tasting followed by a food tour followed by a dinner, no downtime in between — and by the last day, I was hurting. I showed up to the Oscar party with champagne for the girls and ginger tea bags for myself!

I had a flight from hell. I’ve always hated flying US Airways, due to their tiny, uncomfortable seats; that said, I’ve flown them often in the past because they were convenient and cheap from Boston. Now that American has merged with US Airways, part of me assumed those planes would disappear. NOPE. I had a crappy old US Airways plane under the American name with a seat that didn’t lean back, an engine that screamed rather than purred, a frayed seatbelt, and a hard, unyielding “cushion.” This was on a red eye flight home from San Francisco, and no, I did not sleep.

As usual, the challenges this month were minimal, and for that I am grateful.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Most Popular Post

The Truth About Extreme Budget Travel — I am SO GLAD you guys liked this one! I spent a lot of time on it.

Other Posts

Privilege in the Gardens — Something to think about when you meet people while traveling.

Why I Moved to Harlem Instead of Brooklyn — I’m also super pleased with the enthusiastic response to this post!

How to Avoid Motion Sickness While Traveling — Tons of tips that should work for everyone.

The Funk Factor of Tirana, Albania — Here’s a cool, offbeat city to visit!

Hamilton Heights, Harlem

News and Announcements

First, I’ve got some plans starting to coalesce within New York, but I’m going to hold off for now until I have definite news. That said, many of you were receptive to a meetup in Harlem, so I think I may plan one for March or April. Stay tuned!

Last month, my goal was to spend time with 29 friends — not new friends, but existing friends. And five friends whom I hadn’t seen in the past five years.

My grand total? 18. And only one I hadn’t seen in five years. Ugh.

BUT. I made a ton of new friends this month. If you counted those, my total would be in the thirties. Plus, I saw some of my friends three or more times. So I think that’s acceptable, especially since I ended up on press trips for a quarter of the month.

Now, what’s my goal for March? To start getting back into a fitness routine, something I haven’t had since 2010. I’ll be joining a gym in my neighborhood, and I’d love to try some other stuff, too. There’s both $5 yoga and bikram yoga a few blocks from my place; I’m also up to try some random Groupon stuff!

Dubrovnik Cable Car Sunset

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

Who can resist a cable car sunset? This is one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken. It’s from Dubrovnik in 2014.

Flying over Yosemite

What I Read This Month

The Run Of His Life: The People vs. O.J. Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin — I wanted to read up on the O.J. Simpson trial before the TV series came out. I was 9 when the murder took place and 11 when the verdict came out. I remember it being on TV all the time (and I actually owned a pog with Judge Ito on it), but beyond that, I was too young to pay attention to the case. So I decided to read this book to educate myself.

And it was FASCINATING. No wonder this was the trial of the century — there were so many unique and crazy factors. The fact that this happened in LA right after the Rodney King riots. The fact that the case was so divided over race. The fact that O.J. was so obviously guilty and yet the prosecution botched it up enough that he went free. I highly recommend giving this book a read if you’re in the same boat as me and were too young to remember the trial. I wish I could go back in time and experience it in the moment!

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes — Who knew that the TV powerhouse was a quiet introvert who refused to do anything out of the ordinary? This memoir is about the year she agreed to start saying yes — to giving a speech at Dartmouth, her alma mater; to appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live; to act in an episode of The Mindy Project.

I love the stories Rimes told — she makes you feel like a friend. That said, I didn’t enjoy aspects of her writing style, the way she repeated herself over and over. (Seriously, this book could have been a third of its length.) But I enjoyed it and it was a very fast read. I’ve got a lot more respect for her now.

What I Watched This Month

American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson. WOW. I’m obsessed with this show. Brilliantly cast (John Travolta! Those eyebrows!), it gets the 90s feeling SO right, and I love the focus on Robert Kardashian (ROSS!), because even though he was a minor player in the case, he was the most interesting individual — a deeply conflicted man who loved his friend, prayed for him, and was loyal to him at all costs, yet knew deep down that he was guilty.

Reading the book beforehand was definitely the right decision.

What I Listened To This Month

The 1975 — “The Sound.” I wasn’t familiar with The 1975 until they performed on SNL this month, but I really enjoyed this song! (Just to listen to. The lead singer is a bit too distractingly flamboyant for my taste.)

Also, have you checked out Behind the Lyrics on Spotify? I discovered it this month. If you listen to Spotify on your phone, a handful of songs have a “Behind the Lyics” screen pop up behind the album art. It’s a mix of lyrics and pop up trivia. It is SO COOL.

The best song on Behind the Lyrics so far? “These Walls” by Kendrick Lamar, a favorite of mine. I feel like an idiot because all this time, I assumed it was just a song about doin’ it. The best rap song about doin’ it since, well, “Doin’ It” by L.L. Cool J.

Not so. That song is FAR deeper and darker than I thought and it’s a sequel to the song “Sing About Me” from good kid, m.A.A.d. City. Give it a listen. That song gives me chills now.

Bushwick Cafe

Coming Up in March 2016

I’m beginning the month in Puerto Rico, where I’ll stay for a few more days before coming back to New York. I’ll be in San Juan, Culebra, Orocovis and Ponce, which gives a short but varied overview of what the island has to offer.

I think I’ll be spending the rest of March at home — but you never know. Anything’s possible. ?

At any rate, I think I may have pushed things a bit too hard too soon with two press trips back-to-back. I’m still recovering from the burnout/freakout/anxiety-ridden mess of November, and I don’t think I’m quite ready to jump back into travel full throttle just yet. I need more time. Plus, I want to nest in my new place.

That’s not a bad thing. Every day in New York can feel like traveling the world if you have the right attitude.

What are your plans for March?

Bushwick

What makes Bushwick so weird?

It’s the brightly painted warehouses that you can’t tell are functional or abandoned.

It’s galleries that double as yoga studios and coffeeshops that double as life drawing classes.

It’s strange parties in abandoned furniture stores where people wear crazy costumes.

It’s being hit on by guys who always end their catcalls with “God bless you.”

Bushwick

A Brooklyn Unlike Brooklyn

Of all the neighborhoods I’ve visited in Brooklyn (not all of them, not by a long shot, but a great many), Bushwick stands out as being the least like the others. Rather than brownstones or high-rises, this is an industrial-looking neighborhood of warehouses, many of them covered with bright paint. Everything is spread out.

Bushwick isone of the largest Latino neighborhoods in Brooklyn with sizable populations from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Bushwick was a rough neighborhood for a long time — a blackout in 1977 led to mass riots and you can still see some damage to this day. The neighborhood began to turn a corner in the mid-2000s, when the city began pouring much-needed financial resources into the neighborhood.

Then came the Williamsburg factor.

In the early 2000s, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, went from being a no-go zone to the hipster artist enclave of New York City. Over the past decade, however, Williamsburg has gone from hip to yuppie and has become one of the most desirable (and thus expensive) neighborhoods in New York City.

Bushwick

Many low-income Williamsburg residents, including artists, were pushed out as a result, and many of them moved immediately southeast — to Bushwick. Now Bushwick’s longtime residents are dealing with an influx of gentrification. I don’t think Bushwick will ever be on the same level as Williamsburg, but you see a troubling number of luxury buildings popping up.

How is gentrification affect longtime residents? Both positively and negatively, as it always does. Bushwick’s crime rate is lower than it’s been in decades, yes, and those who own property are seeing their values go up. But most people are trapped in a neighborhood progressively growing more expensive by the day.

I strongly considered living in Bushwick at one point; after spending a few days there, I declared it a little too “out there” for me and decided to live elsewhere and visit often. (For the record, I think you get much more value for money in Hamilton Heights, where I live now, plus the rents are cheaper.)

Jessie in Bushwick

Touring Bushwick

Bushwick is the only place in New York that I recommend visiting with a guide or someone who knows the neighborhood well. Not because it’s dangerous — far from it — but because so much of it is hidden in plain sight.

Take this, for example:

Little Skips Bushwick

That’s my favorite coffeeshop in the neighborhood, Little Skips. Aside from a few bright bursts of paint, you’d have no idea there was anything there, let alone a cool coffeeshop. And that’s one of the more obvious ones!

Lots of places in Bushwick are like that — you pass right by without knowing what’s inside, and they don’t advertise it. In that way, the neighborhood reminds me of Melbourne, Australia.

For that reason, it’s great to go with a guide. And I received a chance to do so on a Bushwick Beer, Bites & Art #Instawalk, a tour created by my good friend Jessie.

Now, Jessie is not just a girl who does tours — she is a certified New York City tour guide. With Jessie, you get a professional tour and a real insider’s look to Bushwick, as she’s lived here for years.

Jessie invited me, along with two of our blogger friends, on a complimentary tour through the neighborhood.

Bushwick Cappuccino Black and White

Cappuccino Demonstration

Our first stop was at a cafe called Italo, where we had a cappuccino- and mocha-making demonstration. It’s a warm and homey cafe and I recommend stopping in!

Bushwick Cappuccino Black and WhiteBushwick CappuccinoBushwick Cappuccino Black and White

(I love these pictures so much! Thank you, Brooklyn hipsters, for dressing vintage-y and making it look like these are pictures from decades ago!)

Kate in Bushwick

Street Art Galore

The street art is everywhere in Bushwick. Here are some of my favorite pieces:

BushwickBushwick Street ArtBushwick Street Art

This is just the briefest of tastes. There is SO MUCH.

Bushwick Beer and Meat

Beer and Meat Tasting

One of the highlights was stopping at Hops and Hocks, an adorable specialty store featuring food products from all over Brooklyn and the region. Yes, they have artisanal mayonnaise.

Here Jessie arranged for us to have a beer and meat tasting. And it was out of this world! They actually had a beer flavored like Samoa (Caramel DeLite) Girl Scout Cookies! And some chorizo-like Croatian meat that blew my mind.

Mast Chocolate

SCANDALOUS CHOCOLATE! (If you’ve got time, read up on the Mast Brothers’ chocolate scandal. It’s juicy as hell. This is a good starting point.)

Bushwick

Odds and Ends

Here are some of my other favorite photos from the day:

Bushwick

This is one of the creepier courtyards I’ve ever seen.

Bushwick

Creepiest of all — that skeleton!

Kate in Bushwick

Pure Bushwick: sitting in a bicycle chair next to a thrown-out Christmas tree. In February.

Bushwick

Welcome home! This is an artists’ enclave, unsurprisingly.

Bushwick Scary Van

All this van needs is a FREE CANDY sign…

Bushwick Fire Hydrant

Cool water on a chilly day.

Bushwick

I love how these heads are illuminated.

Chocolate Factory Bushwick

Chocolate Factory? YES, PLEASE!

Raw Chocolate Bushwick

We were just there to gorge on the free samples. And I might have bought a teeny-tiny chocolate bar for five dollars, but maaaaaan. That salty chocolate was TASTY.

Bushwick Rum

We ended up at a rum distillery. (How amazing does this bartender look?)

Bushwick Rum

Cheers to a day very well spent.

Bushwick

The Takeaway

This was one of the best days that I’ve had in New York City so far! I’m totally serious. I loved this tour, I loved the neighborhood, and I loved the camaraderie.

Bushwick is such a cool and different place, and spending time there makes me feel like I know New York on a more intimate level. If you’re visiting New York, I recommend getting beyond the quintessential sights that everyone visits. Bushwick is a way to do that.

Avocado Toast at Dillinger's in Bushwick

A Final Note — My Favorite Bushwick Eats

If you do this tour, extend your time in Bushwick long enough to have a meal! These are all places that I discovered when spending a week here last fall.

If you’re up for coffee and a sandwich, the aforementioned Little Skips is my favorite coffeeshop in Bushwick and one of my favorites in New York. Another great option is Dillinger’s, where they do a lovely matcha latte and avocado toast, pictured above. (These are both located close to where the tour starts, so you may want to go beforehand.)

Roberta’s is one of the iconic pizzerias of New York City — and definitely one of the hippest. Ask for the Bee Sting, which comes topped with honey and soppressata. (It’s always available, even if they tell you they’re only serving off the menu that night.)

983 (Bushwick’s Living Room) is a warm, cozy place with truly excellent down-home comfort food. I got the chicken under a brick, on my server’s recommendation, and it was SO flavorful!

Two restaurants I have on my list to try soon are the Arrogant Swine, which specializes in Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue, and Northeast Kingdom, which specializes in ingredients and dishes from Vermont.

Essential Info: I visited Bushwick on the Bushwick Beer, Bites, & Art #Instawalk tour with NYC Tours and Photo Safaris.

The tour takes 3.5 hours and costs $65 per person, which I think is a very fair price for a great tour in New York City.

In the tour, you’ll visit local Bushwick businesses, do tastings, see a lot of street art, hear about history, and learn tips for getting great photos on your smartphone or regular camera. Your Instagram will be set for weeks!

Note: our tour was slightly altered from the itinerary. Speak to Jessie personally if you want to do this tour exactly as we did.

Jessie can also customize a tour to your preferences. If you like this tour but don’t eat meat, or drink alcohol, she can create a tour featuring what you like personally. She even customized a tour for someone who wanted to photograph interesting textures!

See the calendar and book now here.

Many thanks to Jessie and NYC Tours & Photo Safaris for hosting me on a complimentary tour. All opinions, as always, are my own.

What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever visited?Inside Bushwick: The Weirdest Place in New York City

Kate in a href=

Now that I’ve settled down in New York after five years of travel, one of my goals is to travel more within the U.S. I have a lot of cities I want to visit this year: Austin, Nashville, Portland. But the biggest goal of all? Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico was a priority for late February. Or sometime in March. After growing up in New England, that’s been the most frustrating time of year, when you’ve been dealing with winter for months and months and just can’t take it anymore.

I started planning — but it wasn’t going to happen. I spent a lot more on home furnishing expenses than expected, I couldn’t find any flights with my miles, and I didn’t know any receptive hotels. Puerto Rico would have to wait, I decided sadly.

Then the most perfectly timed invitation landed in my inbox from Puerto Rico Tourism. Four days exploring the island in late February and early March. Would I like to join the trip?

Would I like to join the trip?! Of course I would!

I ended up having a wonderful time in Puerto Rico and I was surprised at just how much it has to offer.

Boat off Culebra

It’s So Easy

Normally, I have no qualms about traveling internationally. That said, I appreciated how much less work I had to do in order to travel to Puerto Rico, which is a U.S. territory. If you’re an American, here’s why it’s easy:

  1. You don’t need your passport — a license or ID is all you need to fly.
  2. The currency is the U.S. dollar.
  3. While Spanish is the main language of the island, English is widely spoken and everyone in the tourism industry speaks English.
  4. Your U.S. phone plan will work normally without having to get a SIM card or paying roaming charges.

Additionally, there are direct flights to Puerto Rico from all over the U.S. (but especially on the East Coast). I was also surprised to see that you can fly direct to Puerto Rico from as far away as Frankfurt and London!

Puerto Rico Beach

The Perfect All-Around Island

Plenty of people fly to Puerto Rico and never go beyond the confines of their resort. Not my thing, but I get it. Sometimes you need a getaway where you do nothing.

But if you want more than just a beach, Puerto Rico has it all. If you’re visiting for just a few days, like I was, you can easily fit in beach time, adventure time, culture time, and yes, even hanging-out-at-the-pool time.

Flamenco Beach, Culebra, Puerto Rico

Beautiful Beaches

Of course, if you’re going to the Caribbean, you want to see some beaches!

Culebra island, east of the main island of Puerto Rico, is home to Flamenco Beach, which is frequently voted one of the best beaches in the world in travel magazines and on sites like TripAdvisor.

Meh. I’ll believe it when I see it, I thought. Could this beach really compete with the tropical beaches of the Philippines, the white sands of the Florida panhandle, the unreal urban beaches of Sydney, the raw and untamed beaches of South Africa’s Eastern Cape?

OH, DID THIS BEACH EVER DELIVER.

Flamenco Beach, Culebra, Puerto RicoFlamenco Beach, Culebra, Puerto RicoFlamenco Beach, Culebra, Puerto Rico

Flamenco Beach is easily one of the best beaches I’ve ever seen. Perfect sand, bright clear water, and even though I visited in the heart of high season, it wasn’t too crowded.

For what it’s worth, I’ve heard that the neighboring island of Vieques has even better beaches. I can’t wait to check those out! Caroline from Caroline in the City wrote a great guide to Vieques.

Amanda Ziplining in Puerto Rico

Adventure Galore

Zip-lining is a popular adventure activity in resort destinations, and for good reason: it’s easy and requires no skill. I got to experience zip-lining at Toro Verde Adventure Park in Orocovis, in the mountainous center of the island, and it’s the most beautiful and dramatic place I’ve ever zip-lined in my life. (Not gonna lie — it was also the scariest. I kept my eyes shut a lot.)

My trip coincided with the opening of the new longest zip-line in the world: The Monster! The Monster has a total distance of 1.5 miles, or 2.5 kilometers, or 28 football fields. You do it while on your stomach, like Superman, and can achieve speeds up to 93 mph (150 kph).

(I know a lot of places claim to be the longest or the biggest or the highest zip-lines in the world, but this one is absolutely the longest. The Guinness Book of World Records people were there to certify it.)

IMG_4190Orocovis, Puerto RicoKate and Javier Ziplining

Plus: if you get stuck on the line, Javier will come out and rescue you, dragging you back between his thighs.

If you’re up for adventure, there’s far more than just zip-lining: Lillie from Around the World L wrote about visiting El Yunque Rainforest, and Cam and Nicole from Traveling Canucks wrote about doing a bioluminescent kayak tour in Fajardo.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Legendary Culture

Puerto Rico isn’t just a pretty island devoid of personality — there is so much history and culture and art. While there are lots of cultural options all over the island, San Juan is the epicenter and an easy place to explore.

San Juan, Puerto RicoSan Juan, Puerto RicoSan Juan, Puerto Rico

If you’re looking to maximize your time, head to Old San Juan. Here, you’ll find the island’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site (La Fortaleza, or the three forts that protect the bay) as well as colorful buildings in the old town and a handful of museums.

If you time your visit to one of Puerto Rico’s legendary festivals, you’re in for a treat. Here are some of the better known ones.

Puerto Rican Food

Food

I had no idea what Puerto Rican food was before arriving on the island — but I left having having experienced so many different flavors.

Some dishes to try:

Mofongo — A popular dish where a dome of mashed plantains (or cassava or breadfruit) surrounds a variety of fillings.

Lechón — The ultimate roasted pork! Piggy heaven.

Tostones — Mashed plantains formed into patties and fried.

BacalaítosBacalao, or salted cod, is popular here; bacalaítos are fried bacalao patties.

Morcilla — Every culture has its own blood sausage. This one is Puerto Rico’s.

Arroz con gandules — Rice and beans. With Puerto Rican spices.

Rum — Puerto Ricans love their rum! Try some Don Q.

Puerto Rican food is delicious — but be warned, it’s also very heavy. I don’t know how Puerto Ricans don’t all weigh 400 pounds. You might want to balance out your feasts with lighter meals. I waved a white flag and ordered ceviche on my final night.

Next time, I’d love to drive the pork highway, written about in this post on Twenty-Something Travel.

Ponce, Puerto Rico

Off the Beaten Path Destinations

There isn’t much in Puerto Rico that hasn’t been discovered — but there are plenty of lesser-visited corners.

With a packed four-day trip, I didn’t get too far afield, but I did get to enjoy the city of Ponce in the south. From the moment I saw it, I was entranced. It reminded me of Granada, Nicaragua, mixed with a little bit of New Orleans.

Ponce, Puerto RicoPonce, Puerto RicoPonce, Puerto Rico

An added bonus? Ponce and the south have a wonderfully dry climate, a major change from humid San Juan.

Santaella San Juan

Nightlife

One of my favorite parts of our trip was the final night in Placita, a collection of open-air bars in San Juan. (I was also thrilled my Puerto Rican buddy, Norbert of Globotreks, was in town and came to join us!) We went on a Thursday night and it was hopping, though Norbert told me it really gets going on Friday and Saturday.

If you go, be sure to check out Santaella. It’s one of the fancier places in Placita. My Puerto Rican friends say this place has the best bartenders in San Juan and they made me a delicious tamarind margarita.

The casual bars are equally fun and you can get local Medalla beers for around $2.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Where to Stay in Puerto Rico

San Juan is the perfect base for a trip to Puerto Rico — it’s close to the airport, the city is fun, there are lots of nice beaches, lots of tour providers will pick you up from hotels there, and it’s easy enough to get all over the island within a few hours’ drive.

On this trip I stayed at two Hilton properties in San Juan: the Hilton Caribe and the Hilton Condado Plaza.

Here are photos of the room, view, and grounds of the Hilton Caribe:

Hilton Caribe, a href=Hilton Caribe, a href=Hilton Caribe, a href=

Here are photos of the room, view, and grounds of the Hilton Condado Plaza:

DSCF4359Hilton Condado Plaza, a href=Hilton Condado Plaza, a href=

Both hotels are solid options — each has beautiful rooms, a nice outdoor space, ocean views, and beaches with calm, clear Caribbean water. But between the two of them, I greatly preferred the Caribe. It had much better pools, beachfront, and outdoor grounds, plus two Starbuckses on the premises (including one on the beach!). The Caribar has excellent tapas — I especially loved the ropa vieja arepas. That said, the rooms were better at the Condado Plaza.

Now — if you’d like something even more upscale, resort-like, luxurious, and secluded, check out El Conquistador Resort in Fajardo, on the east coast. This is a Waldorf Astoria property and it’s the largest resort in Puerto Rico. They even have their own private island!

El Conquistador, Puerto RicoEl Conquistador, Puerto RicoChocolate Cake and Champagne, El Conquistador, Puerto Rico

I didn’t stay overnight here, but I got to explore it one afternoon. And while I normally can’t stand hotel visits on press trips (“Look at this amazing hotel…but you can’t stay here. Please blog about us?”), I enjoyed my visit here so much that it left an enormously positive impression on me. I need to stay here on my next trip!! Also, the desserts at Chops are unreal, especially their mile-high chocolate cake and piña colada cobbler.

If El Conquistador strikes your fancy and you’ve got the cash, go for it. It’s a special place.

Puerto Rico Beach

The Takeaway

I can’t believe it took me 31 years to get to Puerto Rico! I honestly had no idea it had so much to offer until I got to see it for myself.

Between the ease of visiting and how much there is to do, I know this is only going to be the first of many trips to Puerto Rico in my future.

Essential Info: Puerto Rico has public transportation, but the best and most efficient way to get around is by renting a car. You can get anywhere around the island within a few hours. It was just 90 minutes from San Juan to Ponce on the south coast.

I visited Culebra on a one-day Culebra Snorkel Trip with East Island Excursions. The trip includes a snorkel stop next to the island and a two-hour stop at Flamenco Beach, plus a simple lunch, some snacks, and alcoholic beverages. The cost is $99 for adults and $79 for children under 12.

Personally, I think the snorkel trip is a little bit expensive for what you get, compared to similar activities I’ve done in similarly priced destinations, and not enough time is spent on the beach, but it’s a fun, fast, and easy way to experience Culebra for a day.

Do note that on this trip, you can only get to Flamenco Beach by swimming from the boat. This means that if you want to take photos on the beach, you’ll need a dry bag for your camera. They sell some smartphone-sized dry bags at the dock; instead, I recommend that you buy a high quality bag before your trip. This is a good dry bag that will fit a DSLR camera and it comes with a bonus smartphone bag. The crew will assist you if you can’t swim.

If you choose to visit Culebra independently, there are ferries from Fajardo, but it’s quickest and easiest to fly from the mainland.

I went zip-lining at Toro Verde Adventure Park in Orocovis. An eight-line zip-lining tour costs $85; The Monster costs a supplemental $175. There’s also a shorter version of The Monster, called The Beast, which costs a supplemental $65.

Rates at the Hilton Caribe start at $179. Rates at the Hilton Condado Plaza start at $179. Rates at El Conquistador Resort start at $199. These are all low-season rates; rates increase sharply in high season.

I visited Puerto Rico on a campaign with Puerto Rico Tourism. All opinions, as always, are my own. Special thanks to Amanda of A Dangerous Business for taking several photos of me for this post.

Have you ever been to Puerto Rico? What’s your favorite all-around destination?Puerto Rico has it all! (Seriously.)

travel advice for students

Travel Advice for Students

Travel Tips

World travel is possible at any age. However the best time to travel is when you’re young. Here are some tips for students who want to start traveling as soon as possible.

The other day I received an email from a young reader. Like many high-school and college students who reach out to me, she was asking for advice about how and when to start traveling.

Here’s her message (shared with permission):

“My name is Almaries, I’m 19 years old from Puerto Rico. I have a dream but I don’t know where to start. I want to explore every corner of the Earth. I want to travel, live adventurously, be nomadic. I know there are ways to save money, but how much is enough? When is the perfect time? Do I need to get my university degree or could I just start tomorrow?”

She’s not alone. I receive a few of these messages each week, which tells me that many of you have similar questions. Hence this article.

It’s not something I’ve been able to answer well in a simple email.

For high-school and college students, thinking about the future can be confusing. I remember what it was like. Society is telling you to get a degree, get a career, get married, pump out some kids, then retire.

Some of us just aren’t ready for those milestones right now.

So today I wanted to share some travel advice for students who would like to travel more, but don’t know where to begin.

Student Travel Advice

Me at 19 years old, with hair!

My Personal Experience

I didn’t start traveling around the world until I was 29 years old. It wasn’t until I was well out of college and working in the real world that I became interested in the budget backpacking lifestyle.

However 11 years earlier, when I graduated high-school, I packed up and drove across the country from New Hampshire to Montana and became a ski-bum for a year.

I told my parents it was to claim residence and take advantage of cheap in-state tuition before starting college… but really, I just wanted some time off after the previous 13 years of school!

It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

My “year off” was both difficult and rewarding. Working multiple jobs (cooking, roofing, landscaping), playing in my free time (snowboarding, hiking, parties) and learning how to be a responsible adult.

When it was over, I enrolled in college the next year with in-state tuition feeling focused and ready to learn.

Travel During School

Should You Go To School?

I’m not comfortable answering this question. I don’t know you. I don’t know your background. These kinds of decisions are extremely personal. What works for one person might not work for someone else.

However I can share my personal experience and a few suggestions.

If someone else is paying for your education, then yes I think you should go to school. Don’t waste that opportunity. You can always travel after school like I did. Or even during, which I’ll explain more a bit later.

If you don’t know what you want to do with your life, and must finance your own education, I don’t think paying for school just because “that’s what you’re supposed to do” will help. You’ll probably end up in debt with a degree in something you don’t enjoy.

Maybe take a year off. Figure some shit out. Travel. You can always enroll in school next year. Or look into other forms of education, there are plenty of free options available.

In my opinion, going to college with no direction is a waste of money. The US education system is far too expensive and screwed up these days. A university degree no longer guarantees a good job.

Travel While You’re Young

I’m glad I went to college. I had fun, learned a lot about business, and I firmly believe it’s one of the reasons my travel blog has become so successful over the years. Business & marketing skills I learned in school.

But I’m also happy I took a year off before starting college. While I didn’t use my year-off to travel around the world, looking back I wish I had.

All of us dream of traveling extensively one day, but sadly many people can’t drum up the courage or drive to attempt it. We procrastinate and make excuses because it’s easier. For me, I thought international travel was too expensive. Of course now I know that’s not the case.

The best time to travel the world is now, not later. Even if you are currently a student. Travel now, while you’re young, fit, healthy, and comfortable with a lower standard of living — willing to backpack on a budget.

Because it only gets MORE complicated in the future, not less.

OK, you may also be broke, unemployed, and secretly reluctant to give up the security of familiar surroundings, but don’t let these fears ruin your dreams. Think of them as challenges to overcome.

Follow these guidelines if you want to start traveling sooner.

Traveling in Hostels

Start Saving Money

As a student, it’s a lot easier to travel on a budget than when you’re older. Young people are generally more comfortable traveling cheaply and open to things like sleeping in hostels, eating street food, etc.

However you can’t count on winning the lottery to pay for your trip, so that means you need to tighten your belt. Take an extra evening job. Work over the weekends. Move into a cheaper apartment, or even back home.

Cook your own meals instead of eating out. Stop spending money on alcohol/cigarettes/coffee/video games/iPhones. Sell your car. Use public transportation.

Saving money isn’t rocket-science, but it’s going to take sacrifice!

How much should you save? That depends on your travel plans. In cheaper destinations like Asia, it’s possible to get by on $30 per day. I recommend aiming to save $1000-$2000 per month of planned travel.

So if you want to travel for 6 months in countries that cost an average of $50 per day, you’ll need to save $9000. Plus enough for a plane ticket home, travel insurance, and other miscellaneous expenses.

Enroll In Classes

Are you in school right now? One of the benefits of being a student is that you have access to professionals that can help on your path towards a life of travel. So if you aren’t quite ready to take off around the world, you can start preparing for the future.

For example, learn a new language. It’s not necessary to learn the languages of every country you visit, but your travel experiences are far more rewarding when you’re able to speak the native tongue.

How about signing up for courses on photography, videography, writing, graphic design, computer programming, social media, online business, or tourism marketing? You can enroll through the school, or learn using online courses, podcasts, and video tutorials.

You never know, you could stumble upon your dream career this way. Start learning skills that can help you make your travel dreams come true.

Read Books

Education by other means is a viable step you can take right now if you would like to travel more in the future. Even if you’re busy with high-school or college, everyone can still find time to read!

Read books about budget travel. Read books about online entrepreneurship. Read books about marketing. Read books about writing. Read books about saving money.

Here are some of my top recommendations:

Working Holidays

Are you currently in school but want to travel over the summer? Did you just graduate but are low on funds? Why not consider a working holiday visa, which lets you visit a foreign country and work for a few months.

There are plenty of opportunities for students to work abroad doing things like sheering sheep, picking grapes, teaching kids to ski, working as a bartender, teaching English, or starting a corporate internship.

Popular destinations for working holidays include Australia, Canada, New Zealand, France, Ireland, and Singapore. The travel & international work experience from a working holiday can help boost the power of your resume to future employers too!

Working Holiday Application Information:

Study Abroad

Most universities offer an option to work or study abroad and gain valuable experience as part of your degree. It’s a wonderful way to start traveling, arranged and approved by your school.

Study Abroad programs offer the chance to study in a new country, often in English, although you’ll certainly pick up some of the local language just by living in a new culture and surroundings too.

These programs provide a crash-course in self-confidence and self-reliance within a structured study environment, and you may even be eligible for scholarships or grants.

This is probably one of the easiest ways to convince your parents to let you travel. Yes you’re traveling, but it’s for school! How can they say no to furthering your education with international experience?

Traveling with Friends

Take A GAP Year

If you’ve finished college and want to explore the world, you could plan a GAP year and make the most of the time between college and a career. Or, take a year off after high-school before starting college.

The GAP year (or Bridge year) is very popular in countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, and Germany. It’s practically a right of passage. Students save money and travel before starting college or a career.

While not so popular in the United States, it’s definitely an option, and growing in recognition. In fact, even Malia Obama is taking a GAP year! I hope more students follow her lead.

Many colleges will postpone admission for a year allowing you to travel without losing your hard-earned place. Higher education experts agree that students who take GAP years do better than those who don’t.

Teaching English

In addition to a working holiday visa, one popular option is to work abroad as an English teacher. At one time I was looking into this myself, planning to teach English in Japan for a year.

It never happened, but many travel addicts have decided to make money this way. Basically you move overseas and teach children or company employees how to speak better English.

The job is in high demand, and can often pay well.

Most positions require a college degree first, and there’s a certification process too. But once you have all that sorted, it’s a wonderful way to see the world and make some income.

For more employment options that let you travel, read my post highlighting some of the best travel jobs.

Student Travel Volunteering

Volunteering Abroad

Many students dream of volunteering abroad and helping solve problems in the developing world. I understand. I did some volunteering when I first started traveling. It makes you feel like you’re making a difference.

This can be a good thing. But I’ve also learned over the years that not all volunteer organizations are doing good work. Some are downright scams to steal your money. Many others are doing more harm than good.

While international volunteering is certainly an option for students, I suggest you tread carefully. Please read this article before you start any kind of international volunteer project.

One organization that I think is making a difference is the United States Peace Corp. But again, it is important to know what you’re getting yourself into. You probably won’t change the world.

Convincing Your Parents

So, you’ve decided you want to travel more. But your parents don’t like the idea, or your friends think you’re crazy. How do you convince them? With scientific facts and testimonials of course!

If you want to take a GAP year, you can share this study showing that students who take GAP years end up doing better than students who don’t. Plus, if it’s good for Malia Obama, it’s good for you too.

If you want to study abroad, explain how foreign schools provide better value than those in the Untied States. Tell them that the US State Department provides resources for students to study abroad.

If you want to volunteer in other countries, let your parents read this long list of famous Peace Corp Alumni. Remind them that volunteer experience is highly regarded by top universities & companies.

If you want to spend some time working abroad, explain to your parents how the best companies in the world prefer to hire employees with international work experience.

Do you know any adults who took time off from school to travel? Relatives? Friends? Teachers? Ask them to have a chat with your parents and help calm their fears.

Travel As Education

You know why the US State Department is actively trying to get more students to study abroad? Because it actually makes America stronger.

International travel experience is helping students get ahead in life. It’s good for business, good for government, and produces an intelligent, empathetic, and well-rounded society.

No, travel by itself is not better than a formal education.

But travel is a type of education. You learn about cultural differences, discover universal truths, gain personal independence, and figure out what’s going on beyond the curtain of media propaganda.

Combined with a formal education, students who travel are going to do better than those who don’t.

So yes, make it a point to travel more while you’re young, even if it’s just for a few months. It might not be easy, and it might take some planning, but I’m confident you won’t regret the experience.

Student Travel Resources

Here’s a list of resources for students who would like to find a way to travel more while they’re young.

READ NEXT: 9 Reasons To Study Abroad

Have any questions about how to travel as a student? What about other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!

This is a post from The Expert Vagabond adventure blog.

Kate and Javier Ziplining

Every December, I put together a list of my favorite destinations of the year. I love picking out the places that made my heart beat the fastest!

Last year, the big winner was Nicaragua. In 2014, Finland was a memorable standout. In 2013, Japan hit the hardest. In 2012, I loved the Faroe Islands.

This year was far lighter on travel than the past. I only visited four new countries (Colombia, Slovakia, Poland, and Luxembourg) and much more of my time was spent closer to home — something that I think will continue to be a trend.

Furthermore, I don’t think any one destination stands above the others. As a result, this list is in a completely random, unranked order. It may seem a bit weird to include both giant regions and small towns on the same list, but this feels right to me!

One thing: keep in mind that these are destinations I hadn’t visited prior to 2016. So places like Paris, Savannah, and Cape Town are not eligible.

Here we go!

Krakow

Kraków, Poland

Kraków was one of my biggest travel oversights coming into 2016, and I’m so glad I finally made it happen. It’s no big surprise; it has so many qualities that I love in a destination.

A medium-sized city. Absolutely beautiful architecture. Low prices and very good value for money. Delicious food — both Polish and international (I actually ate at a Corsican restaurant one night!). Out-of-this-world ice cream, served in tiny Kate-sized portions. And a beautiful park that runs in a ring around the town that you can circle for hours and hours if you’d like.

Krakow at NightKrakowKrakow FlowersKrakowKrakow Treats

I did luck out in Kraków. I had perfect early fall weather. I met up with a great local-reader-turned-new-friend, Dominika, who took me out to cool places (including the cafe with the dessert above) and showed me her favorite spots. But what I remember most was the light. Just look at that top photo. It’s barely retouched.

The evening light in Kraków was so beautiful, it nearly brought me to tears.

Read More: AK Monthly Recap: September 2016 (full post coming soon!)

Flamenco Beach, Culebra, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

Visiting Puerto Rico was one of my goals for 2016 and I was so delighted when an opportunity presented itself — especially since it came during the doldrums of winter!

What struck me the most was how perfect an all-around destination Puerto Rico is for Americans. You don’t need your passport, there are nonstop flights from lots of cities, English is widely spoken in the tourism industry, and your US phone plan will work. You can lie on a beach, zip-line through the mountains, or explore art and history. Puerto Rico has it all.

Orocovis, Puerto RicoSan Juan, Puerto RicoOld a href=Kate in a href=Hilton Caribe, a href=

My favorite highlight of Puerto Rico: a day trip to Culebra Island. I was initially skeptical, but Flamenco Beach lived up to the hype — it’s one of the most incredible beaches I’ve ever visited. A wide expanse of soft pinky-white sand, neon turquoise water, and even a few tanks for good measure.

I need to go back for more — Vieques is calling my name and I hear the beach on nearby Culebrita is even better!

Read More: Puerto Rico Seriously Has It All

Colmar

Alsace, France

It was actually a struggle for me to choose between Alsace (the region) and Strasbourg (the city) for this round-up. I loved Strasbourg, but did the smaller city of Colmar deserve equal recognition? Or was I being unnecessarily contrarian just again, because SO many bloggers love Colmar and I wanted to be different?

Eventually, Alsace won out. Because the things I loved most were universal to the region. Fresh flowers bursting out of every free inch of pavement. Brightly colored shutters and doors on half-timbered houses. Delicious white wines and fabulous tartes flambées. Decent prices and friendly locals. Obviously French, but also very German, with an interesting history of being volleyed back and forth between the countries.

dscf9862Tarte Flambee in Colmardscf9870dscf9946 Strasbourg Street Sign

As soon as I left Alsace, I knew my time there had been criminally short. Right away, my readers started telling me that I had missed the best place of all — the village of Riquewihr. Apparently lots of people like to go on road trips through Alsace, tasting ciders and wines along the way. You wouldn’t have to twist my arm!

Read More: A Taste of Alsace in Strasbourg and Colmar

Hudson New York

Hudson, New York

“You have to get away from the city at least once a month,” New Yorker after New Yorker told me, and after spending April without leaving the city, I knew I had to be better. I started researching local getaways and the town of Hudson kept appearing.

A small town in the Hudson Valley two hours north of New York on the train. Despite its small size, a town leading a foodie Renaissance in the region, with tons of chefs opening acclaimed restaurants. Filled with boutiques and cozy little shops and cafes. It sounded a lot like Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a town that I love, only with even better restaurants.

My friend Tess had visited recently and echoed all these things. “Plus it’s so cheap!” she exclaimed. Sold.

Hudson New YorkCrimson Sparrow Hudson New YorkCrimson Sparrow Hudson New YorkHudson OctopusMoto Coffee Hudson New York

Even though I thought I had my finger on the pulse of what made Hudson tick, there were surprises. How so many people had given up city life to move there. How massively LGBT-friendly it was.

The only thing is that I feel like I’ve seen all there is to see in Hudson. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing, though. Small can be good.

Read More: Hudson, New York: The Coolest Small Town in America

Salento Colombia

Salento, Colombia

When I planned my trip to Colombia, I assumed that the whole country would end up on this list at the end of the year. Truthfully, while almost everyone I know who has been to Colombia considers it one of their favorite countries, it just didn’t quite gel for me overall.

Timing was one reason — I was exhausted and it wasn’t a good time for any trip, much less a lengthy trip in a developing country. And I was traveling in my old-school backpacker style (albeit with private rooms) that I now think is becoming part of my past.

But while I didn’t fall madly in love with Colombia, I did swoon for the town of Salento. Small, beautiful, and brightly painted. So many delicious places to eat. A plaza that came to life on Sunday nights. A mirador overlooking the town. And so many coffee plantations.

SalentoCoffee Bean SalentoSalentoBeer in SalentoSalento

Salento was so chilled out, which was exactly what I needed after Cartagena and Medellín. And my day trip to the Valle de Cocora was a major highlight as well. If you’re planning a trip to Colombia, I couldn’t recommend Salento more!

Read More: Traveling in Colombia: The Best Moments

Shinn Estate Vineyards Long Island

The North Fork of Long Island

I had an image of Long Island held from my university days: isolated suburbia, rich privileged kids who flunked out of school and got their parents to buy their way back in, and not the prettiest accents of all time. Not a fair assessment, I know. It never was and I never should have let it cloud my judgment. I was an idiot in college. We all were.

That all ended when my friends and I took a day trip to the North Fork to explore the wine scene. I found a beautiful country escape with vineyard after vineyard, some truly outstanding cabernet francs, great restaurants, and the best strawberry rhubarb pie of my life.

Sparkling Pointe Long IslandLieb Cellars Long IslandKate at Sparkling Pointe North Fork Long IslandBriermere Farm Long IslandLieb Cellars Long Island

There was only one place where the Long Island stereotype reared its head — Sparkling Pointe, where the jewelry was large, the crowd was tipsy, the Yankees hats were omnipresent, and the accents were loud. But it wasn’t that bad.

Long Island is a killer destination. I’m blown away that such a good wine region is just a few hours from where I live. And that’s not all — one of my next goals is to make it to the Hamptons in 2017!

Read More: A Day Trip to the North Fork of Long Island

Coral Bay Sunset

Western Australia

How can WA not go on this list? It was the craziest, most exciting destination of the year by far. Not to mention one that I’ve yearned to visit for more or less forever.

What did it for me? It was the sparse, remote landscape, how you would almost never see other people and would then say hi to them out of disbelief that they were there, too. It was the crazy wildlife — the quokkas on Rottnest Island, of course, but also the manta rays and sharks in Ningaloo Reef. And dolphins and kangaroos. The crazy landscapes: bright yellow pinnacles in the desert, pink lakes throughout the region. Perth’s hip factor. The gorges in Karijini. Man. I could go on forever about Western Australia.

Dolphins Monkey MiaKate at Mount NamelessPinnacles DesertKalbarri NP WA Shark Bay Scenic Flight

Part of me feels in disbelief that this trip even happened. But the memories here are ones that I will cherish forever.

If you want to go somewhere not as many tourists visit, or somewhere that feels off the beaten path, WA will be a very satisfying destination for you.

Read More: My Favorite Experiences in Western Australia

Stellenbosch Vineyard

Stellenbosch, South Africa

It took three trips to South Africa to get me to visit Stellenbosch, the lauded wine region just one hour from Cape Town. What took me so long, seriously? Stellenbosch is amazing!

Beth and I decided to come here after a long, busy trip through Johannesburg, Kruger, and Cape Town, and we basically spent four days in a row doing little more than going from winery to winery, tasting wine with chocolate, tasting wine with cheese, tasting wine with meat, tasting wine with salt, buying reserve bottles to take home (none of which cost more than $11!!!!!), and reminiscing about the rest of our trip.

Wine Tasting StellenboschStellenboschKate in StellenboschStellenbosch Flowers in WinterStellenbosch Wine and Chocolate

I thought visiting Stellenbosch in July, their winter, would be hit-or-miss, but turns out it was a fantastic time to visit. The wineries were far less crowded than they would have been in high season. We had a few sunny days that resulted in beautiful photos. And there’s nothing like cozying up next to a fireplace with a glass of red on a cold day!

Read More: AK Monthly Recap: July 2016 (full recap coming soon!)

Haye-on-Wye

Hay-on-Wye, Wales

I had never heard of Hay-on-Wye before it popped up in my South Wales itinerary; uncharacteristically, I hadn’t even Googled it before arriving. But perhaps it was for the best, because I was stunned at how hard and fast I fell for this tiny Welsh town.

In short, Hay-on-Wye is the used bookstore capital of the world. They even have a world-famous literary festival that Bill Clinton called “The Woodstock of the Mind.” Between the bookstores, the cafes, and the many quirky shops (including an antique map shop, where I bought a 150-year-old map of northern Italy!), I could have stayed a week in introverted bliss.

Hay-on-WyeUsed Bookstore Hay-on-WyeHaye-on-WyeChandelier Store, Haye-on-WyeHaye-on-Wye

South Wales was a beautiful place, filled with gorgeous scenery and surprisingly delicious food, but no place stole my heart as quickly or as firmly as Hay-on-Wye.

Read More: A Dreamy Trip to South Wales

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And that’s a wrap, folks!

At this point, I have zero trips planned for 2017. Which is fabulous!

I have some vague ideas — I think somewhere in the former Soviet Union could be a possibility for the summer months (Central Asia? Caucasus? Russia and the Baltics?), Putin-Trump situation notwithstanding. My dream destinations of Corsica and Sardinia are very likely for September or so.

I should visit friends in Austin, Las Vegas, and Seattle. There have been a ton of cheap direct flights to Cuba from New York on JetBlue — I’ll be keeping my eye on those. I’m enjoying Christmas markets in Germany so much that I want to come back next year. And of course, there’s this crazy travel blogging business, which could take me to any number of locales.

Anything is possible. This time last year, I had no clue that Western Australia or Colombia were even possibilities!

Now, I want to hear from you!

What was your favorite new destination of 2016? Share away!

My trips to Kraków, Alsace, Hudson, Salento, the North Fork, and Stellenbosch were entirely at my own expense. My trips to Puerto Rico, Western Australia, and Hay-on-Wye were sponsored. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Kate in Bushwick

It’s time for everyone’s favorite post of the year — my worst travel moments! And I love writing this post every year. I think it’s important to reflect the not-so-pleasant times along with the happier moments, and I think that reflects in my coverage here.

In 2012, I drove my car into a ditch in the Faroe Islands.

In 2013, I was extorted for my phone in Cambodia.

In 2014, I got head lice at the age of 29 in New Orleans.

In 2015, I locked myself in a vestibule with a cockroach in Sicily.

Now, what’s up for 2016? Let’s take a look!

Newbury Street, Boston

Starving on the Greyhound Bus to Boston

My sister and I were traveling home to Boston for the Fourth of July. She had already booked a Greyhound bus; I vastly prefer the Megabus, but decided to book the same Greyhound so we could go together.

I don’t like Greyhound because 1) they overbook buses all the time 2) Port Authority, from where the buses leave, is one of my least favorite places on the planet. It’s like a bizarre 90s time warp where technology doesn’t exist, down to the lack of both wifi and phone service. I avoid it whenever possible.

It was the morning and we stopped at a cafe in our neighborhood for some coffee and scones. We sipped the coffee but saved the scones, even though I was ravenous. I have this thing where I can’t eat until I’m perfectly settled and comfortable. I knew I wouldn’t touch it until the bus left the station.

Sarah had booked her bus long before I had, so she had an earlier boarding number. She got on the bus with all the food and held a seat for me.

You can see where this is going.

Sarah’s bus was overbooked, because it was Greyhound. They filled it and it took off. And because Port Authority has neither wifi nor phone service, she couldn’t alert me. She left with all the food.

I felt like crying as I got on my own bus, nothing to eat but gum for the next five hours. The good thing was that after an hour or so, my hunger went into the next level and disappeared entirely.

Passau Christmas in Bavaria

My First Concussion in Germany

This is one of the more serious injuries I’ve experienced while traveling. One night my friend Cailin and I were snapping each other back and forth, playing with the new feature that allows you to create a sticker out of anything.

I snapped myself falling backward onto the bed, but I miscalculated — I hit my head hard on the corner of the bed frame.

(Yes, it was caught on video. Yes, I deliberated sharing it publicly, but sent it to Cailin and Cailin alone. Her comment: “That was a loud thud!”)

I felt fine over the next 20 hours or so. But after that, on the train back to Munich, I started feeling nauseous and a bit dizzy, and a strong headache came on. I couldn’t help but think of Natasha Richardson, who died after hitting her head while skiing (and who felt fine immediately afterwards but took a turn for the worse later). After weighing the pros and cons, I decided to go to the hospital.

The hospital experience was surprisingly decent. I was seen fairly promptly, was given a CT scan (which had zero abnormalities), and though it costs 300 EUR ($311) for people without EU health insurance to visit the ER, I’ll be refunded it from World Nomads, my travel insurance provider. This is one of the millions of reasons why you need travel insurance!

Recovery has taken longer than I expected, but I’ve started to have full days without any headaches, dizziness, or nausea. That’s a big step!

Inverness

Lost Luggage in Scotland

It was a simple nonstop flight from JFK to London Gatwick, but my bag (and lots of other passengers’ bags) didn’t make it. I’ve had lost luggage before, but it was always delivered within 24 hours. Not this time.

This time, Norwegian had no clue where it was.

That’s what made it awful. I hated being at a conference in no makeup and subpar clothing (I supplemented my meager wardrobe with a few M&S finds) but the worst thing was the uncertainty. Would they even find it in time for my trip to Wales? What about Slovakia after that?! It was a simple nonstop flight!

Finally, after two and a half days, I got word that not only had they found it, but it was already in Inverness! I hightailed it to the airport and picked it up with glee.

Between being on the phone constantly with Norwegian, having to buy clothes and toiletries before the shops closed (5:30 PM in Inverness) and having to pick it up at the airport, 30 minutes away, I missed a ton of the conference. But at least everything arrived before I had to go to Wales. And I was dressed to the nines for the final evening.

Kruger National Park

Dropping My Phone in the Toilet in South Africa

All this time, I’ve gotten through life without dropping my phone in the toilet. Until South Africa this summer.

I totally forgot I had put my phone in my back pocket…until I heard the telltale plop.

BUT IT SURVIVED. And you know why? Because I use a LifeProof case. Even though the bottom tabs were open, my phone survived the dip in the toilet without incident. That’s incredible.

AND THE TOILET WAS CLEAN. I feel like I need to add that.

French Laundry Gardens

The Worst Press Trip Companion Ever

I’ve met a lot of people in the travel blogging industry. I’ve gone on press trips with well over 100 people. Most people are decent. Perhaps the top 20% are awesome. And you get a few unpleasant people every now and then. But one woman I met this year was the absolute worst.

It started with, “Well, I hope he at least bought you a drink after,” when I talked about a really nice date I had gone on that happened to not cost anything. It escalated to wanting to pose for selfies with an immigrant worker as a prop in the background. And then came, “We don’t like black guys.”

Looking back, it’s not surprising that this happened in 2016. If anything, the 2016 presidential election emphasized that many reasonable-appearing people will secretly engage in racist behavior. This woman was yet another example.

Mangrove Hotel Broome WA Sunset Roebuck Bay

Getting My Bank Account Depleted for Fraud Reasons

I won’t say where this took place or who it involved, but it started when a company paid me a good-sized check for a campaign. I don’t like getting paid by check, but sometimes it’s necessary.

The check arrived the day before I was to leave on a big trip. I deposited it with my phone. A few hours later, I got the notification that my bank had accepted it. Lovely. I then did my usual routine: shifted funds to different accounts and left enough money in my account to cover the trip. I then got on my plane and flew to another continent.

Several days into that trip, my debit card wasn’t working. I opened my email and realized that the client had voided all of their outgoing checks for fraud reasons — several days after it had been deposited in my account with no issues. “Just go back to the bank with the same check and they should be able to do it again,” I was told.

I immediately got on the phone with the client and got them to issue a transfer through their bank, which I was grateful for.

But I learned my lesson. And this is one that I hope you learn too. Even several days after a check is deposited and accepted by your bank, it can still be removed from your account if the sending bank issues a fraud alert. I’m going to be much more cautious with my checks in the future.

Coral Bay Sunset

Spilling My Diva Cup in Australia

Yeah, this definitely falls into TMI territory. While in Coral Bay, I dropped a full Diva Cup for the first time ever in my six years of using one — and it spilled all over my clothes. Blood was everywhere.

Savannah Bonaventure Cemetery

Getting Haunted by Little Gracie in Savannah

It was my second visit to the very haunted city of Savannah, but my first trip to Bonaventure Cemetery. While there, I came across the grave of Little Gracie.

Little Gracie died of pneumonia at the age of six. Her father owned a hotel and she was a local celebrity, charming every guest who came in.

After she died, her parents buried her at Bonaventure and left town. People say that Little Gracie’s ghost can be seen wandering through town, looking for her parents.

I stood at the gate and made eye contact with the statue. And then something hit me in the chest and went all the way to my back. It was almost like a massive gust of wind whooshing into me. I felt so much fear in that moment and was desperate to find my friend so I wouldn’t be alone.

Something happened that day. I think Little Gracie’s ghost made an attempt to communicate with me. And I didn’t like it.

Bo-Kaap Cape Town

The Worst Uber Ride in Cape Town

I love Cape Town, and South Africa in general, but you need to be on your guard there constantly. One issue is driving at night. Carjacking is still a risk in parts of South African cities. Locals know which areas to avoid; when you’re a visitor, you have no idea. I had no idea.

After doing trivia at Oblivion, Beth and I summoned an Uber to take us home. And as soon as we got in, it was clear that the driver had no idea what he was doing. He didn’t know how to navigate with the Uber system. He almost went into the wrong lane and had to back up. He suddenly hit the breaks, his manual car jerking wildly, then he stayed in place. One minute passed. Then another.

I was scared to death. Not only that, I was trying to hide my fear so Beth wouldn’t be scared.

“You need to get us out of here now,” I told him.

“Yes! Yes! Just one minute, please!”

“No. You need to go NOW. Take us back to the bar.”

He couldn’t even figure out how to get back to the bar. I had to navigate him.

After that, we switched to only summoning from UberX, which sources from professional drivers. It cost twice as much as regular Uber but was still very economical in South Africa.

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Accidentally Drinking Undiluted Rum in Puerto Rico

And there was the time I went to the Don Q distillery in Puerto Rico, tasted lots of rums, and I made the grievous mistake of reaching for the wrong glass and drinking undiluted rum.

Undiluted rum.

I’m surprised I still have my teeth enamel.

What was your worst travel moment of the year? Share away!

Photo: Alan Levine

1. “I don’t dance any salsa or merengue. I just remain seated when I go to a party.”

2. “The beach is boring. It’s not part of any of my life’s most important stories.”

3. “I’ve never cheered when a plane landed.”

4. “Yesterday I went out and just drank one beer, as promised.”

5. “I detest tropical fruits.”

6. “Any coffee is better than Puerto Rican coffee.”

7. “I don’t like flip-flops. I’ve never worn them.”

8. “Puerto Rico has terrible weather.”

9. “I remain seated and quietly watch boxing when a Puerto Rican is in a match.”

10. “Rice and beans? Never had them.”

11. “Our basketball team is good, but not that good. We once won the U.S. Dream Team, but that doesn’t mean anything.”

12. “I am never late.”

13. “I have a very small family.”

14. “I don’t know what cuchifritos are. I don’t eat anything fried.”

15. “I have never discussed the political status of Puerto Rico.”

16. “It doesn’t matter if you cook without sauce or garlic.”

17. “I have no family ‘outside’ the main island.”

18. “What is reggaeton?”

19. “I have never missed my mom’s food. I’ve even tasted better.”

20. “I could have been anyone else in the world besides a Puerto Rican.”

More like this: 6 Reasons you should never date a Puerto Rican girl
From San Diego to Puerto Rico, some best bets for last-minute bookers.

Lonely Planet Puerto Rico (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Puerto Rico is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Dance till you drop in San Juan, ramble through El Yunque tropical rainforest and kick back on the pristine sands of Playa Flamenco; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Puerto Rico and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Puerto Rico Travel Guide:

Color maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - landscapes, wildlife, cuisine, sports, literature, cinema, visual arts, dance, etiquette, history, surfing, outdoor activities. Over 30 color maps Covers San Juan, El Yunque & East Coast, Culebra & Vieques,  Ponce & the South Coast, West Coast, North Coast, Central Mountains and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Puerto Rico, our most comprehensive guide to Puerto Rico, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less traveled.

Looking for more coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's Caribbean Islands guide for a comprehensive look at what the whole region has to offer.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Ryan Ver Berkmoes and Luke Waterson.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveler community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travelers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

Fodor's Puerto Rico (Full-color Travel Guide)

Fodor's Travel Guides

Written by locals, Fodor's travel guides have been offering expert advice for all tastes and budgets for 80 years. Puerto Rico is one of the Caribbean's most exciting destinations, and with many nonstop flights from major East Coast cities, it's one of the easiest islands to reach. From vibrant San Juan to laid-back Vieques, all the energy and color of Puerto Rico comes to life in this guide.This travel guide includes:· Dozens of full-color maps plus a handy pullout map with essential information· Hundreds of hotel and restaurant recommendations, with Fodor's Choice designating our top picks· Multiple itineraries to explore the top attractions and what’s off the beaten path· In-depth breakout features on Old San Juan, salsa dancing, and surfing· Coverage of San Juan, El Yunque and the Northeast, Vieques and Culebra, Ponce and the Porta Caribe, Rincon and the Porta del Sol, and Ruta Panaromica Planning to visit more of the Caribbean? Check out Fodor's Caribbean travel guide.

Puerto Rico: What Everyone Needs to Know®

Jorge Duany

Acquired by the United States from Spain in 1898, Puerto Rico has a peculiar status among Latin American and Caribbean countries. As a Commonwealth, the island enjoys limited autonomy over local matters, but the U.S. has dominated it militarily, politically, and economically for much of its recent history. Though they are U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans do not have their own voting representatives in Congress and cannot vote in presidential elections (although they are able to participate in the primaries). The island's status is a topic of perennial debate, both within and beyond its shores. In recent months its colossal public debt has sparked an economic crisis that has catapulted it onto the national stage and intensified the exodus to the U.S., bringing to the fore many of the unresolved remnants of its colonial history. Puerto Rico: What Everyone Needs to Know® provides a succinct, authoritative introduction to the Island's rich history, culture, politics, and economy. The book begins with a historical overview of Puerto Rico during the Spanish colonial period (1493-1898). It then focuses on the first five decades of the U.S. colonial regime, particularly its efforts to control local, political, and economic institutions as well as to "Americanize" the Island's culture and language. Jorge Duany delves into the demographic, economic, political, and cultural features of contemporary Puerto Rico-the inner workings of the Commonwealth government and the island's relationship to the United States. Lastly, the book explores the massive population displacement that has characterized Puerto Rico since the mid-20th century.Despite their ongoing colonial dilemma, Jorge Duany argues that Puerto Ricans display a strong national identity as a Spanish-speaking, Afro-Hispanic-Caribbean nation. While a popular tourist destination, few beyond its shores are familiar with its complex history and diverse culture. Duany takes on the task of educating readers on the most important facets of the unique, troubled, but much beloved isla del encanto.

Top 10 Puerto Rico (Eyewitness Top 10 Travel Guide)

Christopher Baker

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Top 10 Puerto Rico is your pocket guide to the very best of Puerto Rico.

Year-round sun and fabulous beaches make Puerto Rico the perfect warm-weather getaway, but there's so much more to explore on this beautiful island. Wander off the beaten path to the misty rainforests of El Yunque, venture through the island's mountainous interior of Spanish hill towns and coffee plantations, and explore the gracious colonial towns. Delicious food, world-class rum, and an array of popular festivals make Puerto Rico a vibrant place. This beautiful island truly offers a little bit of everything.

Discover DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Top 10 Puerto Rico.

True to its name, this Top 10 guidebook covers all major sights and attractions in easy-to-use "top 10" lists that help you plan the vacation that's right for you:

   • "Don't miss" destination highlights .    • Things to do and places to eat, drink, and shop by area.    • Free, color pull-out map (print edition), plus maps and photographs throughout.    • Walking tours and day-trip itineraries.    • Traveler tips and recommendations.    • Local drink and dining specialties to try.    • Museums, festivals, outdoor activities.    • Creative and quirky best-of lists and more.

The perfect pocket-size travel companion: DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Top 10 Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico (Adventure Travel Map) (National Geographic Adventure Map)

National Geographic Maps - Adventure

• Waterproof • Tear-Resistant • Travel Map

Explore the rich history and many recreation activities available in this lovely island territory with National Geographic’s Puerto Rico Adventure Map. Cities and towns are easy to identify and roadway designations are clearly indicated. Monuments and historical locations are noted in addition to a variety of sites for surfing, whale watching, diving, kayaking, wind surfing, sailing, and fishing. The locations of airports, harbors, anchorages, ferry routes, and toll plazas take the guesswork out of travel around the islands. Visitor centers are also marked for travelers seeking additional resources.

One side of the print map includes the western half of the commonwealth including San Antonio, AreciboVega BajaMayaguezPonce, and more. The reverse side shows the eastern half of the archipelago including San Juan, Fajardo, Caguas, Humacao, Cayey, and Guayama. Inset maps provide greater detail of the San Juan Area, Old San Juan, and Isla Mona.

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico lies in the northeastern Carribean Sea and attracts both visitors who are looking for a quiet island get-away and adventurers seeking excitement. The islands offer some of the most well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture in the New World, stunning beaches and coral reefs, tropical jungles, and all the modern amenities, hip restaurants, and glitzy nightlife you’d expect from a US territory.

Every Adventure Map is printed on durable synthetic paper, making them waterproof, tear-resistant and tough — capable of withstanding the rigors of international travel.

Map Scale = 1:125,000Sheet Size = 37.75" x 25.5"Folded Size = 4.25" x 9.25"

Puerto Rico Travel Guide: A Smart Vacation Planner with Facts, Tips, and Things to Do for Le$$ than You'd Believe

Happy Holidays Guides

Enjoy adventure, tips, and savings on your Puerto Rico vacation…with entertaining advice from two people who did it.Are you longing for a beautiful, affordable, accessible tropical beach getaway? Would you be willing to consider the “island of enchantment?”UPDATE: The third edition includes updated pricing estimates and activity details.Increasingly, people are finding that Puerto Rico is affordable and has everything that other tropical islands like Hawaii has to offer, with the added advantage that it may be closer to where you are located. Puerto Rico has rich history and culture to offer anyone – from the old colonial Spanish architecture to the friendly locals and lively music. And to make it even more magical, set it all against the backdrop of scenic beaches and majestic rainforest mountains. Visiting Puerto Rico is an experience like no other. Here Is A Preview Of What You'll Discover in this Travel Guide...A basic sketch of the island, from history to musicSpecific advice and links for airfare and lodgingAn overview of local Puerto Rican cuisineHow to decide whether or not to rent a carTop attraction and day trip reviews and detailsBooking links for complete tour packagesExactly why the beaches were our second favorite place to beA list of helpful suppliesNotes on romantic spots (just for couples)Over 20 high-def original pictures and over 50 clickable links!Just click "Look Inside" to see the full Table of Contents for what you can expect to learnBy reading a personal experience from savvy travelers, you will reap the benefits of avoiding costly mistakes, and of honing in on the experiences that define the authentic flavor of this beautiful island.Download your copy today and get ready for a memorable adventure! Book Topics: Puerto Rico travel guide, Puerto Rico books, Puerto Rican cooking, Puerto Rico, Caribbean travel, Caribbean vacation

Puerto Rico The Island of Enchantment (English Version)

Mark Drenth

Puerto Rico, The Island of Enchantment showcases many of the island's picturesque sites in rich beautiful photography, many being panoramics. This book offers a small glimpse into the island's rich history including modern day Puerto Rico through stunning images and text. Old San Juan, being one of the oldest and most famous destinations in Puerto Rico is presented in a spectacular 3-page panoramic fold-out. Vieques and Culebra are also included in the book, as they are the two most popular offshore islands for visitors and locals alike. Old style art maps of Puerto Rico, Culebra, Vieques and the Caribbean are also included.

Frommer's EasyGuide to Puerto Rico (Easy Guides)

John Marino

Served by dozens of daily flights from cities all around the world, Puerto Rico is unusually easy to reach, balmy and warm throughout the year, full of fine beaches, pools and golf courses, blessed with historic sights and museums, jammed with good quality lodgings, restaurants and shops -- and inexpensive-to-moderate to enjoy. But instead of drowning the reader in massive descriptions of the places that vacationers use, our author confines himself to a smaller, but still comprehensive, list of preferences -- his own several favorites in every price range. He is John Marino, a distinguished journalist on a San Juan, Puerto Rico, daily newspaper, and no one knows Puerto Rico (including Vieques and Culebra) better than him. Frommer's is proud to have snared such a skilled and experienced observer as the author of our guide to this popular U.S. Commonwealth.

Exercise normal security precautions

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Canadians rarely encounter safety and security problems, but normal safety precautions should be taken due to an increase in violent crime. Petty crime and robberies are prevalent. Ensure that your personal belongings are secure at all times.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in the Caribbean, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in the Caribbean. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!


Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in the Caribbean, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, dengue fever, malaria and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in some areas in the Caribbean, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Climate

The hurricane season extends from June to the end of November. The National Hurricane Center provides additional information on weather conditions. Stay informed of regional weather forecasts, and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities.