As you have probably guessed by now before traveling to Puerto Rico (or any where new for that matter) I did my research. Ultimately, we choose Puerto Rico for the following reasons: there is no time change, it’s a US territory, the local cuisine, and the surfing beaches. We learned a few lessons the hard way, which leads us to this post, What to Know Before You Go: Puerto Rico Edition.
1. Time Change: I was partially correct. Puerto Rico is on AGT which means the don’t celebrate Day Light Savings. Aren’t they blessed! So, for part of the year they are on good old EST, but during our travels we were an hour ahead of normal time. This didn’t affect us at all. I’ve heard my fair share of warnings about children and time zone change, and for the most part they are nightmares. Luckily that wasn’t the case for us.
2. US Territory: Technically, yes, Puerto Ricco is a territory of the United States. Puerto Rico has access to government aid and protection, the US Postal Service, the use of its currency, but to the locals the US isn’t on their radar. From what we encountered, they are friendly to American tourist, but politically the US isn’t their favorite topic.
3. Language: As stated above this territory is uniquely its own. All street signs, menus, tv channels, and radio stations are in Spanish. We found it to be relieving to find people who spoke English along our travels. Don’t let this intimidate you. Google is a God sent. You could also embrace it, like I learned to, and think of it as an emersion process.
4. Driving: If you want to see all the things, we recommend renting a vehicle. Driving in Puerto Rico is very much like driving in the city without law enforcement. With narrow roads (some with no lines), minimal traffic lights, and did I mention the roads signs are in Spanish? This made construction zones interesting. They pretty much do as they please with no regards to anyone else. I only did the navigating on the trip so the only advice I can give is to go with the flow and don’t be afraid to go for it! A Four-Wheel Drive vehicle is necessary if planning on exploring the most awesome of road beaches. We loved using the little dirt roads to find our own beach spot. We were usually able to find a spot for the hammock this way and it was so convenient to have the vehicle right there. The roads will be narrow and bumpy, but hold on, and know your destination is most definitely worth every second.
5. No Bags: Although your will find an alarming rate of litter while exploring Puerto Rico. You would probably be surprised as we were to find that most major stores did not have bags. We went to the grocery store our first full day in Puerto Rico. We loaded up to prepare to breakfast and packed lunches for the next two weeks. Our cart was loaded down only to find at check out that they don’t offer bagging. You may purchase reusable bags if you ask, but if I had known we would have prepared better.
6. Prices: As with most vacation destinations, Puerto Rico has higher prices than average when it comes to basic necessities. Although most food was comparable, house hold products and beach items were all marked up.
7. Loud: This culture loves their music. It seems they also would like you to enjoy it also due to the elaborate speaker systems and constant rumbling. We stayed on the main strip in Aguadilla. It is a prime location close to bars, restaurants, surf breaks, town, the mall, parks, and MORE! Along with the killer views and amenities it was very loud, even with the windows closed and AC on. The bars/ neighbors started around 6 PM and didn’t stop until 5 AM. PS the trash truck came at 6:30 AM! Surprisingly, me, the lightest sleeper in the world, got used to it! Of course, playing at the beach all day everyday probably had something to do with it.
8. Utilities: Although timed has passed since Hurricane Maria devastated this beautiful island, not everything is back up and running. Although we didn’t have any problems with electricity, I can see why it may be an issue. One thing we weren’t ready for was the showers. There is no hot or cold. It fluctuates as it please, and you should just go with the flow and jump in when it’s the right temperature for you. Personally, we used the water to brush our teeth and wash the dishes, but we did not drink it. Hopefully the island continues to recover.
9. The People: Every single person we encountered was absolutely incredible. There were the few that tried to charge for free parking and the dominos that hung up on us because we spoke English, but aside from that everyone was so hospitable. Most people were curious and enjoyed recommended sites and sharing general conversation.
10. Food: We were surprised in how unauthentic some of the food was. When I pictured the food, we would enjoy on our vacation it was a dream of local produce, authentic dishes, and flavors we had yet to experience before. Eventually we found all of this, but it took those recommendations I spoke of above to find the hottest spots to stop. From food trucks to farmers markets, and everything in between… SEE POST what vegans eat in PR. To write.
11. Surfing: Puerto Rico is well known for its surfing. Dustin had it on his surfing bucket list and was stoked when I told him I was ready for this adventure. When we booked our trip, we looked up all the best surf spots, watched all the documentaries we could find, talked with friends who had traveled to PR before, made a list and headed out. SEE POST List of Surf Breaks in PR. After a few days in we learned just how different surfing the waves of Puerto Rico was different than anywhere else.
a. Lesson 1 Coral reef breaks and surf differently than the sandy breaks we are used to.
b. Lesson 2 There are pro competitions here for a reason. The waves can get large, the paddle out is long, and the currents are strong. Being in decent shape and having experience is recommended when surfing in Puerto Rico.
c. Lesson 3 As I mentioned before, don’t be afraid to take the dirt roads right past the beach parking. You may find yourself at the perfect private location without having to lug all your gear around.
d. Lesson 4 Make sure you document this experience, but don’t get lost and miss enjoying the moment. I know balance is hard, but the most important thing is to be present. That is possible to do while still making sure you get great content. I brought four cameras in my beach back pack. SEE POST Cameras you need to pack for your vacay. TO WRITE.
i. TIP: Bring a camera for your little ones to fumble around with. This makes them feel involved, promotes creativity, allows them to create their own memories, and I guarantee they will surprise you with some of the photos they will capture.
12. Rain: In Puerto Rico there are 3 seasons. Dry, rainy, and hurricane. We visited in January which is the rainy season. It’s safe to say that 3 days of each week that we were in Puerto Rico there were slight showers in between 3 and 6 PM, and it stormed hard one other day that week. For us the evening showers were our time to grab dinner, and on the rainy days we relaxed.
13. Enjoy: We stayed in Puerto Rico for fourteen days, and we still weren’t ready to go home. Enjoy every minute and fall in love with the Isla de Encanto.
ALL INFORMATION IS BASED OFF OUR OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE.