Puerto Rico: The Enchanted Island
Puerto Rico is a tropical paradise that offers visitors so much more than just a beach vacation. It is a unique destination that offers visitors a diverse culture, impressive architecture, and untouched natural beauty. Puerto Rico is known as the “enchanted island” for a reason. In this article, we will explore seven budget-friendly must-sees of Puerto Rico.
1. Las Cabezas Nature Reserve Tour
Las Cabezas nature reserve is located in Fajardo, about an hour’s drive from San Juan. This reserve offers multiple tours, and the most popular one is the reserve and lighthouse tour. This tour is an incredibly engaging and informative experience for visitors of all ages to learn about the ecosystem and wildlife of the reserve. During this tour, visitors will explore the mangrove swamp boardwalk and witness the mesmerizing beauty of Rocky Beach, which features various rocks, chunks of coral, seashells, and even dried seaweed.
Additionally, the tour includes a visit to the Fajardo lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in Puerto Rico. The tower itself is not very tall since it sits so high above sea level, and parts of the building are museum-like, providing visitors with a deeper understanding of the reservation’s function. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about bioluminescence, one of the most exciting things that Puerto Rico has to offer. For a budget-friendly $12 per adult, this tour is a must-see.
2. Laguna Grande Bioluminescent Bay Tour
Laguna Grande is one of three bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico and is located in Fajardo. Visitors can see the bioluminescent bay through a kayaking tour or through the Las Cabezas nature reserve tour. The bioluminescent bay is the result of the chemical reaction between a type of microorganism and the oxygen in the water, causing it to light up at night. This natural phenomenon creates a magical and unforgettable experience.
The Las Cabezas nature reserve tour costs $24 per adult but is well worth it. The tour includes a visit to the lighthouse deck, where visitors can take in the incredible views of the night sky, unobstructed by artificial light. Visitors can then attend a presentation about bioluminescence, where they can learn more about the organisms and their defense mechanism. The highlight of the tour is stirring up the water around visitors and observing the glowing bioluminescence.
3. El Yunque National Rainforest
El Yunque National Rainforest is Puerto Rico’s most popular natural attraction and is just a 40-minute drive from San Juan. The best part is that it’s free! Visitors can watch a movie about the rainforest at the visitors center for $4, but most visitors opt to skip it. At El Yunque, visitors can explore 13 trails, each with its unique features and levels of difficulty.
Visitors must stop at Cascada La Coca, El Yunque’s first waterfall, and take a dip in the crystal-clear water. The first tower offers breathtaking views of the mountains and forest and is the perfect location for taking photos. Visitors can then hike Big Tree Trail to Cascada La Mina, El Yunque’s most popular waterfall. The water cascades from a 35-foot cliff, creating a serene atmosphere.
Despite being in a rainforest, there is no wildlife in Puerto Rico that is poisonous or will chase visitors. Instead, visitors will see trees larger than any they’ve seen in their life and colorful, tropical plants. While in the rainforest, visitors will likely hear the coquí frogs, native to Puerto Rico, and famous for their loud, high-pitched “Coqui! Coqui!” call.
4. Old San Juan
Old San Juan is the perfect place to soak in Puerto Rico’s rich culture and history. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Old San Juan is home to colonial architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, and colorful buildings. Visitors can explore the two impressive forts, Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo de San Cristobal, which both offer stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and San Juan Bay.
Along with exploring history, visitors can peruse the picturesque and quaint shops and cafes that line the streets and find unique souvenirs of their trip. Old San Juan is also home to museums, including the Museum of the Americas and the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.
5. Paseo de la Princesa
Next to Old San Juan, Paseo de la Princesa is a picturesque Spanish walkway and park that stretches alongside San Juan Bay. Visitors can unwind and stroll the perfectly manicured gardens and take in the beautiful scenery. Multiple historical sites and sculptures can be found here, including the Raices Fountain, which represents the Taíno, African, and Spanish heritage of Puerto Rico.
Paseo de la Princesa also includes several shops and restaurants that offer traditional Puerto Rican cuisine. On weekends, locals and tourists alike come to the park to enjoy live music, dancing, and street vendors selling handmade items.
6. Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico offers visitors a glimpse into the island’s creativity and history. It is a museum with an impressive collection of over 1,100 pieces of Puerto Rican art that ranges from contemporary to 17th-century artwork. The museum also features international exhibits from time to time.
Along with exploring the art, visitors can learn about the museum’s impressive architecture, which was originally the city’s municipal hospital. There are several galleries to tour, and visitors can also enjoy free guided tours on Sundays.
7. Playa Flamenco
Flamenco Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Puerto Rico. Located on the island of Culebra, it is consistently ranked among the top beaches in the world. It is well-known for its crystal-clear waters, powdery white sand, and underwater life.
Visitors can relax beneath the shade of palm trees, swim, snorkel, or explore the remains of a military tank that dates back to World War II. Visitors will also find several food trucks that serve traditional Puerto Rican cuisine.
Puerto Rico offers so much to see and do that is both beautiful and budget-friendly. From exploring bioluminescent bays and the majestic rainforests to experiencing the rich culture and history of Old San Juan, visitors can create unforgettable memories in Puerto Rico. Regardless of what may be on your travel itinerary, make sure that these seven must-sees are included in your plans.