Puerto Rico Trip Travel Guide – February 2017

Puerto Rico had been in my travel queue for a while. I had two sets of friends go there for honeymoons and stunning beaches, I had already known it for its world-class surfing, and had semi-recently learned of it as a climbing destination (read the Puerto Rico climbing trip guide). So when it was time to choose a birthday spot, Puerto Rico was an easy pick.

My wife and I chose to stay for the majority of our time near Rincón on the west side of the island. This choice was mainly for access to surf breaks, but we were pleasantly surprised with the chiller vibe away from San Juan. And as an added bonus, the driving we had to do allowed us to see much more of the island than we probably would have had we stayed in San Juan the whole trip.

Getting Around

As I just mentioned, we drove, a lot. Renting a car was super easy and we did so at the airport. Taxis are an option in San Juan, and Uber is there now. I also read about riding the bus, but for our needs we either walked or drove.

Parking

Parking was a bit tricky sometimes, especially in Old San Juan. If you are driving into Old San Juan try and hit the Doña Fela parking garage:

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If that one is full or closed, there is another garage, Estacionamiento Covadonga, close by:

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Stay

For this trip, we chose an Airbnb in a small town just south of Rincón called Añasco. We like self-catering places better when traveling, and since we weren’t staying in an area loaded with close-by restaurants it was extra important to be able to cook our own food.

The place we stayed in was very cool. It was called a penthouse, but that was only because it was on the top story of the two unit building. The building itself was literally butting up against the water in the Bay of Añasco, and you could basically launch sea kayaks from the door of the basement.

The only negative was the series of restaurants that lined the cliff above us. They played very loud music late into the night, which killed the relaxing vibe and made it hard to sleep.

We stayed in San Juan for our last night in a Hampton Inn and Suites. It was a basic hotel that had some resort amenities like a pool and a cabana bar. We only stayed here because it was close to the airport, and it was perfectly adequate for that.

Food

We essentially had an even split between eating at restaurants and eating food we bought at the grocery store.

Buying Groceries

The first thing we did after getting our car was immediately drive to the huge Walmart closest to the airport. Not necessarily a local spot, but it was easy and nearby.

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Later in the trip we bought groceries at the Econo grocery store close to Rincón. Be sure to bring your own bags if you shop at this location, or else you are relegated to using whatever leftover cardboard box is available.

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Restaurants

Picoteo

Location: Añasco

This is one of the restaurants on the cliff above our Airbnb, and we ate here the first night. The best part about this place was that it is all open air and has an incredible view of the water. The food was fine and hit the spot after traveling, but it was an intense amount of fried food. I wouldn’t go out of the way to eat here, but if you are nearby, I would get a beer and take in the incredible sunset views.

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Estela

Location: Rincón

We had a very fun time here. The restaurant is pretty tiny but can sit a lot of people because they also have patio seating. I would recommend getting a reservation so you can sit outside where the ambiance is the best. We didn’t have a reservation and were still able to get a table for two inside. The dishes themselves are what you would find in most restaurants, but the ingredients were locally sourced and the food was delicious.

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Lupito’s

Location: San Germán

A huge ass burrito and a couple beers after a hike and rock climbing session really hit the spot. We were climbing nearby and went into town for food and randomly found Lupito’s. The food and service was great, and they have a roof patio that overlooks a historic church. I would highly recommend this place if you are on the southwest end of the island.

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Tostado

Location: San Juan

Brunch here was legit. It’s definitely a popular spot so you may have to wait a bit, and we were happy to. They have a waiting area outside of the dining room that serves as a bakery/cafe type thing. We got coffees and hung out until our table was ready. The service was very friendly and the food was delicious.

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Vino Factoria

Location: San Juan

Figuring out how to get into this restaurant is not necessarily obvious, but cool none the less. To get in, you have to enter through the bar La Factoría. There is an inconspicuous door behind and to the right of the bar counter. You can just open that door and walk through. You’ll then find yourself in the wine bar, the next room after that is the restaurant. We had great cocktails, the food was delicious, and the ambience can’t be beat.

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Señor Paleta

Location: San Juan

This place cannot be missed. For those that don’t know, paletas are sort of like popsicles, but are usually way better because they are made with fresh fruit or real ingredients. For example, my wife got a strawberry paleta that had whole strawberries in it, while I got a chocolate brownie paleta that had a brownie at the core. I almost died it was so good. There was a significant line, but it moved quick enough and was absolutely worth it in the end.

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Drinking

Rincón Beer Company

Location: Rincón

Sitting in the plaza at the heart of Rincón and drinking beers was awesome. They had Puerto Rican beers on tap as well as offerings from other well known breweries from the mainland. I got the Porter Rican, which was a solid Porter, but maybe too big of a beer for how warm it was. I would highly recommend an evening here, there’s also a good amount of food options around the plaza as well.

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What We Missed

El Yunque National Forest

Missing the rain forest was a huge bummer. This would be a whole day excursion for us and we just didn’t have enough days. We will probably come back just to make sure we get to experience hiking through the forest.

Vieques

Both of us really wanted to go this island, but we just couldn’t fit it in. Like El Yunque, traveling to this island is worth coming back for. It is widely known for snorkeling, secluded beaches, and is home to one of the bioluminescent bays.

San Juan / Old San Juan

We had a mission of surfing and rock climbing so we really only spent about 18hrs in San Juan. In that time we managed to hit three restaurants, a beach, and did a stroll through parts of Old San Juan, but we missed big things like the San Felipe del Morro Fortress.

Cuevo del Indio (Near Arecibo)

I personally really wanted to see this natural arch feature. It’s a very cool deep water solo climbing spot, and I also read that there is a cool trail that takes you a long the cliffs.

Random Stuff

Bugs: We went in February and there virtually no mosquitos, which is an obvious huge win.

Weather: It was warm to hot the whole trip, but never so hot that it was unbearable. I think it only rained on us briefly one day as well. February can be a stormier season, but that just means better waves for surfing.

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