Puerto Rico is much more than sparkling beaches around every turn. There's really something for every kind of traveler to enjoy—even if spending a lazy day under the sun isn't your cup of tea. Old San Juan, castillos, Fortaleza Street (otherwise known as "Restaurant Row" to the locals), ziplining, rainforests—the list of travel-worthy experiences goes on. Ahead, 23 photos of Puerto Rico's most beautiful sites to kick off your trip planning.
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The 54 foot sailing catamaran, “Traveler” departs its’ dock at the Villa Marina in Fajardo, Puerto Rico with our primary destination, the uninhabited “Isla Icacos”. It’s a short, 45-minute to 1-hour sail in relatively flat, protected waters. Arriving at Icacos, they anchor just off a stunning white sand beach with crystal-clear turquoise water.
Do I need a passport?
No. When you travel to Puerto Rico, it's like going anywhere within the U.S. All you need is a driver’s license or other valid form of photo ID. In fact, Puerto Rico is one of only two destinations in the Caribbean (the other is the U.S. Virgin Islands) that do not require U.S. citizens to carry a passport.
Will my cell phone work?
Yes, your cell phone should work in San Juan and most of the cities.
Will I need to convert money?
No. The dollar is the only currency you’ll need.
Do I need to know Spanish?
Both Spanish and English are the official languages of Puerto Rico. In the big cities and in the islands of Vieques and Culebra, you can get by without a word of Spanish. The people who work in the tourist trade—waiters, shopkeepers, guides, etc.—usually speak fluent English. The police are another issue: it’s not easy to find an English speaking cop. The farther away you move into the less urban interior of the island, the more you’ll need to have some command of the language.
Should I rent a car?
Most major national car rental companies have offices on the island, along with many local agencies. The highways are well paved and generally easy to navigate. But before you book your rental, consider the following:
In general, you’ll pay a bit more than the average price of a rental in the U.S. (try the local competition for better rates). You may also be required to pay liability insurance: credit cards that offer auto coverage in the continental U.S. don’t always extend that coverage to Puerto Rico, and your insurance company may not cover the island.
What do you want to do?
If you plan to explore the island in depth, you’ll definitely need a car. Also, people traveling to Vieques and Culebra should consider renting a jeep or car once they get there. But, if you are sticking around San Juan, forget the rental. Old San Juan is a walking city, and you can easily get around the city in a taxi or a bus. Parking and traffic can be a nightmare in the city, and a rental might be more trouble than it's worth.
For reasons best known to themselves, Puerto Ricans use both miles and kilometers: distances are posted in kilometers, while speed limits are shown in miles. Also, gas is sold in liters, not gallons.
Puerto Rican motorists are in a great, careening hurry to get places, and the orderly laws of road conduct are more loose guidelines than strict rules here. This makes for a sometimes harrowing experience for timid drivers. If aggressive drivers scare you, a rental might not be your thing.
Here are ten tips to ensure you and your host both have a fabulous experience.
BEFORE YOU BOOK
Read the listing thoroughly.
Rather than messaging the host to ask about amenities like public transit and internet access, you can probably find the answers you’re looking for by reading through the listing. Reviews are also an invaluable resource for finding out more about the property, location and host. You’d be amazed at how many hosts have told me people have written to them just to ask what the nightly rate is for the room. It’s right at the top of every listing in big, bold font!
Fill out your profile.
The #1 complaint I hear from hosts is that they get tons of requests from people with no profile picture and no verifications. You’re renting all or part of someone’s home, so it’s only right that they should have a vague idea of who you are. Upload a photo and verify your phone number and email address. Bonus points if you actually put a sentence or two about yourself!
Send an introductory message.
Even if the host doesn’t require you to message them before you book, it’s just good manners to send a short note along with your booking request. Introduce yourself, say who you’re traveling with and explain why you’re coming to visit their area. This isn’t a faceless hotel, it’s a friend you haven’t met yet!
Let them know when you’re coming.
Tell the host what time you plan to arrive so someone can be there to greet you. If you’re delayed along the way, try to let them know as soon as possible.
DURING THE STAY
Keep it clean.
Yes, you probably paid a cleaning fee and are totally within your rights to leave the place looking like a mess, but do you really want to be that person? I try to leave rentals looking approximately how they were when I found them, which is apparently so unusual that hosts rave about how clean I am! But I don’t even clean. I just wash my dirty dishes, make the dirty bed and place trash in the trash can. It’s the very definition of “the least you can do.”
If there’s a problem, let them know!
Instead of leaving a bad review after the fact, give the host a chance to fix any problems during your stay. Your host wants you to have a good time as much as you do! A nice review (and maybe even a repeat client) is good for business. Whether it’s a leaky faucet or you’d just like some new sheets, a host would rather fix any issues now than only find out about it in your review.
Follow house rules.
Most Airbnb listings have some basic house rules: no smoking, keep it reasonably quiet late at night, etc. Be kind to them (and the neighbors!) by following them.
Chat up your host.
This is of course totally optional, but if the host lives in the same property as your rental, I highly recommend chatting them up a little bit! We’ve become really good friends with a lot of our Airbnb hosts. They may offer to take you to brunch at their favorite local cafe, give you a ride to a cool market or recommend off-the-beaten track tourist attractions for you to visit. They’re full of ideas that are guaranteed to be better than the tips you get off the internet, and you’ll enjoy the satisfying feeling of superiority that comes with having a local’s knowledge.
Leave a thank you note.
We’ve had hosts cook dinner every night, give us wine, take us for rides around town, and even leave gift cards to the local bakery in our room. If it’s something the host doesn’t usually do for other guests, be flattered because it means they like you! Also, be polite and leave them a little thank you note when you leave. If you can afford it, a small gesture like a cheap bottle of wine in return for their over-the-top kindness will make them remember you long after you’ve gone!
AFTER YOU LEAVE
Leave a review.
It will take approximately 90 seconds of your time to click those little star ratings and write a few sentences about your stay. It helps the host and, even more importantly, helps the next guests make their choice. (Do it for me! I love reviews!) If you include details like walking time to major attractions, proximity to public transit, etc, you’ll be doing future Airbnb users a huge favor!
Did I miss any tips? Put your recommendations in the comments!