The reputation of Puerto Rico East Coast precedes it. From a sub-tropical rainforest to bioluminescent bays, this is a destination for thrill-seekers. Adventure is around every corner as mountains turn to forest and forest turns to sand; the possibilities are limitless.
Puerto Rico East Coast is home to the only sub-tropical rainforest in the United States, secluded blue flag beaches and island excursions that will take you to the Guinness World Records’ brightest bioluminescent bay. Boasting adventure by land and by sea, this coast attracts travellers searching for heart-pounding experiences; whether it be extreme canyoning amongst the fauna of El Yunque, horse-back riding along picturesque beaches or diving into the underwater world of sea turtles and schools of black tang (locally known as the Caribbean piranha). These unforgettable exploits lie just a 3 hour flight away from Florida, making this the perfect island to brand your home away from home.
The fusion of Taino Indians, Spanish, African and more recently American influences, has resulted in a Puerto Rico that is rich in not only history but culture as well. This is evident in ‘La Cocina Criolla’ cuisine, which literally expresses the huge variety of traditions that come together in the recipes. The original Taian yuca and corn was introduced to novel Spanish ingredients, which included, garlic, cilantro and olives. Mixing these ingredients with the African slave trade favourite cooking technique, frying, has led to a veritable ‘melting pot’ of recipes and tradition.
Puerto Rico is not only colorful regarding its cuisine but it is also rich in its folkloric history, many stories dating back to Taian indigenous tribes. The colorful architecture is synonymous with the island’s colonial history, the pastel-colored buildings, with elaborate balconies and meandering, cobblestone streets transports you straight into Andalucian Spain.
The local festivals provide the perfect opportunity to appreciate the variety of local music. Again, Puerto Rico’s rich history has led to amalgamations and alterations of traditional instruments; the Spanish classical guitar has been edited into numerous instruments, each producing its own iconic tone and pitch. Also popular on the island are percussion instruments, synonymous with the African slave trade, such as maracas.
This varied cultural mix on Puerto Rico provides an unforgettable learning experience alongside the wealth of activities and wildlife that encompass it.
The best time to visit, along with most Caribbean islands is from December – March; this is the island’s dry season, so if you’re looking to soak up the strongest rays, this might suit you best. Having said that, Puerto Rico East Coast retains its heat all year round, afternoon showers may dampen your mood from time to time from June to November but all the same activities remain accessible and the turquoise waters stay calm. Hotels and airlines tend to lower prices during the wet season as they look to fill rooms and seats with those looking to bag a good deal.
Smaller hotels on the islands of Vieques and Culebra may close during September and October to carry out necessary maintenance and renovations; this may be something to keep in mind if you’re looking to travel in low season to avoid the crowds.
A plethora of activities await the travelling enthusiast on this sunny coastline. Town-hopping means there is a never-ending array of activities to choose from.
Rio Grande: one of the east regions’ biggest towns, Rio Grande is home to breathtaking landscapes of mountains, panoramic views and waterfalls. More notably however, this municipality is known to house the El Yunque rainforest where you can stumble upon endangered species such as the Puerto Rican parrot. For ‘El Yunque’s best kept secret’ don’t miss a hike to the Juan Diego Stream; it will lead to three magnificent waterfalls where you can jump in the water and take in your dazzling surroundings.
Fajardo: Situated on the easternmost tip of Puerto Rico, this town provides a great base for those dreaming of exploring the nearby islands. Fajardo is home to half a dozen marinas, making it the hub of sailing and catamaran chartering. Perhaps the most stunning location in Fajardo is ‘La Zanja’, a natural pool created from when the Atlantic waves crash on the rocks.
Culebra: Visiting one of the world’s top beaches, you’ll encounter a bed of fine, white sand and exotic marine life just off the coast of Fajardo. This island is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts as it serves as a habitat for seabirds and turtles at risk. The infamous Flamenco Beach is also home to the iconic rusted military tank. The uninhabited Isla Culebrita is only a water taxi ride away and is the perfect spot for a dose of escapism.
Vieques: the easiest way to access this picturesque island is by small plane from either SJU or Isla Grande airports. This island hosts the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay (Mosquito Bay), but this is just one of the astonishing highlights of this archipelago. Black Sand Beach (the hint is in the title), proposes a taste of difference from the many fine, white sand beaches on offer; this landscape is not one to miss as the black sand contrasts sharply against the golden cliffs that hold the bay in place.
Caguas: take a trip back in time to the historical and cultural centre of Puerto Rico in Caguas. This city takes its pride in keeping tradition alive so take a break from all the adventurous excitement of deep sea diving and canyoning, to wander through the ruins of an old sugar mill or immerse yourself in the culturally rich history of Puerto Rico in the city’s many museums.