Our yearly family Caribbean vacation destinations usually have been Mexico, Dominican Republic and Jamaica All-Inclusive resorts. But kids became older and we decided to venture out to Puerto Rico. After all, it is part of the United States, so going through customs should be faster.
Puerto Rico island is located in the Caribbean between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. After doing our research we decided to stay on the Caribbean side of the island, since we were going in February, we figured that waters should be calmer and warmer on that side. Since there are not a lot of resort options available on the south of the island, we booked an apartment from AirBnb. We rented the car for the duration of our stay and planned to explore South and West coasts of the island.
Our flight arrived in San Juan in the early morning, so we figured that we would have enough time to visit El Yunque Rainforest before driving all the way south. Drive from the airport to the rainforest was about one hour. We chose to drive along the coastline instead of the highway, so we could see beautiful beaches of Puerto Rico right away. In order to do that, we just entered Loíza town as intermediate destination into GPS and went to sleep on the back seat, except for my husband, of course ( the driver).
The rainforest visitor center opens at 9am, but since we got there earlier then that, we could not get any trail maps, and just continued driving forward till we saw someone to ask for the easy trail with kids. Since it was so early in the morning, there were not many people around, and we were able to park the car just along side of the road and hike the easy laid out trail to the La Mina Falls pretty quickly. On our way back, it started to rain pretty heavy, so rain gear in the rainforest is a must. All excursions, that we saw, were giving out rain ponchos to its passengers.
So, after a quick stop in the rainforest (thank you, rain), we were off to our final destination Playa Santa. We rented this apartment from AirBnb, which is located in Guanica region. The apartment was clean and well-equipped. It had two bedrooms, two restrooms, fully equipped kitchen and things for the beach like towels and beach chairs. The apartment building is located right on the Playa Santa beach. This beach is gorgeous! It has clear, calm, turquoise waters… perfect place for the little kids to swim and play in the water. We did not see many tourists here, mostly locals come to this beach. It gets pretty crowed during the weekend, but during the week we had the beach pretty much to ourselves.
For the rest of the week we drove around and visited multiple different beaches.
The Jungle beach or Playa La Jungla was just 10 minutes drive from us. The road leading to the beach is in pretty bad condition with lots of big pot holes. However, we did not turn back. Once we got there, we were the only ones on the whole beach. There is a lot of vegetation along the shore, that is why probably it is called a Jungle beach.
The next beach we went to was Buye beach or Playa Buye in Cabo Rojo. I have read that it is hard to find entrance to the beach, but Google maps did its job and once there, we saw people parking along the road, so we just followed them, pass the resort. This beach also has calm waters and it stretches for couple of miles, so it is good destination if you like to walk along the beach. There we saw lots of American retirees, who come here from the United States to escape the winter. Also, there was a nice American guy, who rents peddling boats. So, we were able to rent one for an hour.
We also drove to Rincon town, which is a popular surfer’s destination due to big waves. There we visited Steps beach, which was not suitable for kids swimming, but we had fun collecting the shells and taking pictures of the waves.
Of course, we made a trip to Cabo Rojo region to see Los Morrillos Lighthouse and its breathtaking cliffs. To get to the lighthouse and cliffs, you need to park the car and then take a little hike up the road. On the way back, we stopped by a gorgeous little beach Playa Sucia, where kids were able to snorkel in the shallow waters.
We were not sure if we should take a trip to the Gilligand’s Island, but at the end we decided to go. We drove early in the morning to get the ferry to the island. Once we got there, we saw a line of American tourists trying to get to the island. We were able to get the tickets and get on the next ferry. We ordered the food from the cafe, which they deliver to the island whenever you ask them to. The island is a little bit run down, but the water is clean, calm and shallow. There is no sand there, so you basically spend all of your time in the water, like in the pool. Kids were able to snorkel a little bit there and see some fish.
We spend the last day before flying out in San Juan. We visited two forts which are located on the two opposite sides of the city. We walked the colorful streets of old city and took pictures of different colored doors. We ate ice cream and said good bye to the beautiful Purto Rico. We will be back!!!
P.S. From all the places where we ate, this one Buena Vibra was our favorite. We found it accidentally on our way from Cobo Rojo.