Last summer, Puerto Rico was hit hard with the Zika virus, deterring many potential travelers to the island. But in June 2017, the Puerto Rico declared its Zika epidemic over, and now there are all sorts of airfare and hotel deals to get tourists back. The best part about a trip there? You don’t need a passport if you’re from the U.S. So if you've already got your flights booked (or need a bit of inspiration to convince you to go), here are some of the many ways you can make amazing memories on the Island of Enchantment.
1. Hike El Yunque National Forest.
This is the only tropical rainforest in the United States' National Park System. Its 28,000 acres are home to 240 species of plants and trees, not to mention diverse animal wildlife that includes the rare Puerto Rican parrot and colorful coqui frog. Hikers can walk past serene waterfalls and through the clouds on the way up to the highest point in the mountains.
2. Kayak the bioluminescent bays.
For the adventurous soul, kayaking in a bioluminescent bay (which glows blue at night due to a specific type of plankton) is a must-do activity. The brightest is Mosquito Bay in Vieques, but there's also Laguna Grande in Fajardo. You don’t need to be a kayaking pro, but you do need to have the guts for being on the dark water at night. You might have second thoughts as you paddle through the eerily dark canals as you wind your way to the Laguna Grande, but exhale -- it’ll be worth it. There are more than 720,000 organisms that emit a flash of bluish light when the water is agitated. It’s truly impressive.
3. Surf at Rincon.
Rincon is about two hours from San Juan, but it’s worth the drive. Surfers come from around the globe catch waves here. Tres Palmas, also known as Steps Beach, is one of the best surfing beaches in the Caribbean, with swells often reaching 18 feet. Snorkelers and scuba divers enjoy the area, too -- there's a 60-foot-deep dive in Desecheo.
4. Experience the history of Old San Juan.
With so much to see, you might want to plan to spend at least a full day in Old San Juan. The quaint, historic town has picturesque cobblestone streets and pastel colored buildings inspired by French and Spanish architecture. You can simply stroll the streets to take in the history, or you can seek out landmarks like the Castillo San Cristobal (the biggest European fortification in the Americas). If you've worked up an appetite sightseeing, there are many places to quench your thirst with fresh drinks and fill your belly with good eats. There's also plenty of shopping, too.
5. Meander through museums.
There are many museums on the islands, but we highly recommend the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico in San Juan, where you can see the island’s top talent -- names like Francisco Oller, Rafael Tufiño, and Ramón Frade. There's also the Museo de Americas that has exhibits on the history and anthropology of Puerto Rico, from the Taino people to folk art and more.
6. Get your adrenaline pumping.
Toro Verde in Orocovis is an ecological adventure park where there are plenty of activities to give you an adrenaline rush. Few would dispute that this where you’ll find the best zip lines in Puerto Rico -- the Monster is the longest zip line in the world at 1.57 miles (that's about 28 football fields). There are more zip lines, obstacle courses, and other feats for you to try so you can go home with bragging rights.
7. Drink up.
The Bacardi Distillery is in Cataño, just across the bay from Old San Juan -- there's a ferry, if you don't want to drive or take a taxi. Here you can learn the art of making rum at the largest distillery in the world. You can expect prices to be too tempting to leave without a bottle or two, and you'll also find some exclusive rums not sold anywhere else.
8. Take the road less traveled.
Only those in the know have heard about Gilligan’s Island. No, not the TV show -- this is a local hot spot (officially named Cayo Aurora). It's a small island in the Biosphere Reserve of Guanica on the opposite site of Puerto Rico from San Juan. Once you drive out to this side of the island, there is a ferry that takes you from the mainland to Gilligan's Island. There is no beach (bring floaty chairs!), but the water is shallow and calm. It's a great place to snorkel, lounge on a pool chair in the ocean, and just chill.
9. Explore the cuisine.
Lote 23 is an art and music district in San Juan, but it's also got a great food experience. Here there are terraces surrounded by more than a dozen culinary concepts, including a rotational kiosk. The area is also decorated with colorful murals by local artists.
If you’re in happening La Placita, check out Santaella. Chef Jose Santaella serves authentic dishes and local ingredients that showcase the vibrant energy of the island’s "cocina criolla" (the island's cuisine).
Join one of the Flavors of San Juan Food and Culture Tours to eat your way around Old San Juan. You’ll get a foodie insider tour to experience the sights and flavors of this 495-year old landmark city, as well as see the second oldest church in the Americas. And, of course, you get to savor delicious food. You can even make your own signature Puerto Rican dish: mofongo.
10. Shop, shop, shop.
Need some retail therapy? The Mall of San Juan will give you a good fix. It opened two years ago with the distinction of being the first luxury shopping center on the island. It has two levels of world-class stores, food, and entertainment. There are also plenty of boutiques spread across the city, so it's not hard to find a shop that suits your taste.
Need a place to stay? Check out our reviews and photos of 125 hotels in Puerto Rico.
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