Way Too Many Tips on
Puerto Rico and TechnoRico
By David Lam, E-Mail
Note: This is a collection of tips gathered from
personal experience. Every effort has been made to ensure that they are
accurate and up to date, but there is NO guarantee that everything is
accurate. In addition, any actions taken on behalf of these tips are your
responsibility; I will not be held responsible for any injuries or damages
arising from following this document.
You agree to these terms by reading any subsequent pages of this document.
Table of Contents
University of Puerto Rico / Turabo
Public Transportation / Taxis
Driving in Puerto Rico
Tourism – General
Watersports / Beach
Tourism – San Juan
Old San Juan
Tourism – East
El Yunque Rainforest
Tourism – Vieques
Tourism – South
Tourism – North
Tourism – West
of Puerto Rico / Turabo
- The exact address for Turabo is 57
Domingo Cabrera, San Juan, PR 00925. The RA’s apartment’s
phone number is (787) 999-0746.
- The cab ride from Airport to
Turabo (Río Piedras) should be under $20.
- It's faster (shorter route) if
you tell the driver to take the toll road - but toll's $2 and it’ll be
added to your fare.
- If the cab has no meter,
negotiate before getting under way.
- The M1 bus from the front of UPR
goes straight to Old San Juan at the end of the line.
- When looking for the bus going
in the other direction to go back to the Turabo, you can find the bus on
Munoz Rivera, NOT Ponce de Leon.
- Walk through the train station on
Martin Luther King Day to get through the locked fence for school.
- Church's Chicken and Taco
Maker both close by 9p. Burger King closes at midnight,
and El Ocho de Blanco closes even later. There's a Denny's
(probably 24 hr) near Walgreen's
- The front door key to Turabo
opens the parking gate at the back too.
- Río Piedras is pretty slummy as a
neighbourhood, but geographically it is in a convenient traffic (by car
& bus & train) location.
Transportation / Taxis
- There may be dedicated bus lanes
- to find the bus going in the other direction find the parallel road.
- Ex.: Ponce de Leon and Munoz
Rivera in Old San Juan.
- "tren urbano" are
- "Publicos" are long
distance buses that go between cities, and are quite cheap. However,
I had no experience with them. Ask Monique.
- Some cabs are unmetered, even
though they're ALL supposed to have meters. Negotiate before getting
in Puerto Rico
- You NEED a car to get around
- Note all FM radio stations
available on the island are in Spanish. There is 1 English talk
radio station on AM.
- Easy Listening Radio Stations
San Juan 103.3 FM
Ponce 105.1 FM
Mayaguez 91.7 FM, 88.3 FM (Classical)
Rincon 97.5 FM, 92.9 FM, 88.3 FM
- Budget car rental at the airport
for a 2006 Corolla was ~38 USD per day for 12 days.
- Budget is usually cheaper than
Avis or Hertz, but their cars may be slightly older or have higher
mileage (depends on your luck)
- Gas is listed as $USD/Litres
- Gas stations operate on a pre-pay
- There are a LOT of potholes in
PR. They're deep too, so steer clear.
- There are lots of people selling
stuff at traffic lights (oranges, water, melons), and there are beggars
- Beggars are more aggressive than
Canadian ones. They'll actually approach you and ask for $$.
- Emergency vehicles will flash
their lights - this means they're on patrol and does NOT mean they are
- Drivers use their horn often -
but they also let you through nicely, and most people signal
- Parking enforcement in Puerto
Rico is VERY lax.
- the yellow line on the curb
means no parking, but as you can see enforcement is lax.
- No Estacionamiento means
- "peaje" means a toll
road or a toll booth.
- Highway signs in San Juan have
the names of the suburbs (Hato Rey, Río Piedras) on them. This has
been very useful in navigation.
- Feel free to pull over onto the
side of the road anywhere - many people do it.
- Calle Marginal are roads that run
alongside the highway and contain shops
- Take the toll highways if there's
a choice - they're pretty cheap and save rime. Non-toll highways
- Ex.: Hwy 2 versus Hwy 22 from San
Juan to Arecibo
- Ex.: Hwy 22 from Arecibo to San
Juan cost under $5 toll (~$3.75)
- The exit for Hwy 18 (Plaza Las
Americas Ave.) from Hwy 17 is the exit that says Hwy 41. If you see
Luis Munoz Park on your right you've missed it. Turn right on De
Diego then Right on Roosevelt to get to the Plaza Las Americas Mall.
- East Asian Bistro has sushi in
- There are two Asian Bistros -
one in Guaynabo and the other in Condado.
- Condado: 76 Condado Ave., Corner
of Luisa St. & Condado St., (787) 721-8883.
- Guaynabo: Plaza Guaynabo, Calle
D-9 Bario Los Frailes, Guaynabo, (787) 620-8088.
- If you screw up (trying to find
East Asian Bistro and going too far North) North bound on Hwy 20 from
Guaynabo to San Juan and hit a toll booth ($0.50), exit right before the
booth, then turn around. You'll bypass the toll booth.
- When going to Ponce and using the
toll Hwy 52, try not to exit to any town on the way (lunch, etc.).
You'll hit a toll booth exiting into town and hit another booth getting
back onto Hwy 52 - you'll end up paying 1.5x toll.
- You WILL get sick the first week
– ALL of us got a variant of the flu during the first week.
- The "co-qui" sound at
night is from a small frog, named the Coquí. It's the unofficial
symbol of PR.
- There is Cingular cell access
almost everywhere on the island, but outside of San Juan it may be limited
to 850 MHz.
- The sales tax varies a bit
(5.5%-7%), depending on the City Tax and what city you're in
- Go to the Plaza Las Americas Mall
in San Juan to get a prepaid SIM from Cingular/AT&T to save on roaming
- $25 for a prepaid SIM with $10
- Refills cards are available at
any Walgreens, or online
- You need an unlocked
(unsubsidized) GSM phone for this to work
- The power outlets and phone
outlets are North American standard.
- ATMs are called "ATH",
and uses the PLUS system to get USD cash from your CAD bank account
through your bank card.
- There will be a service charge
from your bank (and maybe the banking that owns the ATM), in
addition to currency exchange charges embedded in the exchange rate.
- Most locals in the food or hotel
industry speak English, but EN is not as common in general.
- Most guided tours are available
in EN as well
- Most museum and zoo exhibits are
also in EN as well as ES
- Roosters "call" during
the night too - bring ear plugs
- The entire island of Puerto Rico
is only ~1.6 times bigger in size than Prince Edward Island. Judge
distances and driving times accordingly.
- There are no direct Ottawa-San
Juan flights, but there are direct Toronto-San Juan flights.
- Always allow about 2 to 3 hours
between plane connections to allow for delays, and try to minimize the
number of connections.
- Get disposable underwater cameras
before scuba diving or snorkeling - $14.99 each at Walgreens
- Those "clown shoes" you
see on the feet of locals are Waldies, and are really comfy
beachwear. You can get them at the Plaza Las Americas.
- You can buy snorkeling gear (mask
& flippers) at K-Mart
- There are NO public rinse-off
facilities at beaches at
- Ocean Park
- There ARE public rinse-off
facilities (though primitive) at the beach to the left of Harbor
Restaurant in Rincon.
- The water (also ice in drinks) is
safe to drink
- Except maybe in Rincon, where
even Mr. Pipon (of Pipon’s Lodge) doesn't even trust his own water.
- The La Parilla
Argentina stall in food courts has good steaks (T-Bones!) with decent
- Complementos are sides
that are included with the main dish
- The corn in the mediano
(medium) combos from Church's Chicken is a good deal.
- Sometimes if you order
"water" you get tap water, and other times you get bottled water
- The Piña Colada, Mojito and the
Daiquiri are very good - much better than in North America. Must be
the fresh juice or something.
- PR has a very cheap domestic beer
– Medalla Light in the Gold coloured can.
- Even in Jan the daytime temp can
get to ~33°C, with medium-high humidity.
- The night-time temp can drop to
~25°C, but the lower humidity can make it seem cooler. Bring a
- The sea breeze blowing onto
ships' deck is still ~33°C, so no need for a windbreaker.
- Ríncon, in my 3 days (Feb 1-3)
there, always showed blue skies in the morning, then clouds roll in from
inland by the afternoon
- San Juan shows completely
cloudless or mostly cloudless skies every day.
- There are occasional rain showers
- but they usually only last a few minutes (5-7 minutes) so it's possible
to wait it out.
– San Juan
- Plaza Las Americas Mall has 2
separate sections of "3rd" floor - to get to the food court look
for Sears and go onto the 3rd floor from there.
- Plaza Las Americas Mall is in
- Ocean Park beach in San Juan has
some moderate sized waves great for wave-bobbing - great fun and just big
enough to be fun and safe.
- Ropa Vieja Grill,
1025 Ashford Ave, Condado, (787) 725-2665 has the BEST food in the whole of Puerto Rico.
- East Asian Bistro has
sushi. Directions are in the Navigation section above.
- The Bacardi tour is worth going,
even if it's just for the free booze
- Take Hwy 22 to get to the Bacardi
Distillery from Río Piedras. It doesn't become toll at the
- The Bacardi gift shop
prices are very good - especially compared to the LCBO in Canada.
- LCBO: CAD$25 for 750ml of
- Gift shop: US$10 for 750ml of
- Gift shop: US$80 for 750ml of
Bacardi Limited Reserve (avail only at distillery)
1.5.2 Old San
- The combo ticket for Fort El
Morro and San Cristobal (US$5 for 2 forts) is sold in El
- Museums in Old San Juan have exhibits
are show similar, repetitive (but not exact duplicates) stuff
- The English tours for the
Governor’s house in Old San Juan are on at 9a and 3p.
- "Appropriate attire"
for the Governor’s house in Old San Juan includes running shoes, shorts,
and a t-shirt.
- There will be a lot of tourists
in Old San Juan from cruise ships making a port call.
- The cheapest ice cream in Old San
Juan is at the Walgreen's in the Plaza with the fountain. Don't go
for the overpriced $3 king-size cones when they're at Walgreen's for
- Other cheap ice cream sources
are the McDonald's and Wendy's near the Plaza.
- The buildings in Old San Juan are
disappointing as they're simply shops - no special architecture, basic
cobblestone streets. The good stuff is the Governor's house, Capital
building, the Wall and the forts of El Morro and San Cristobal.
- Street parking in Old San Juan is
hard to find. However, I've had good luck finding parking in front
of the Capitol building.
- You’ll encounter salt spray from
the wind coming off the sea – it’ll get onto your glasses and camera
lenses. Try to keep lenses capped when it’s not needed.
- There are 2 bioluminescent bays
in PR: Mosquito Bay in Vieques and in Farjado. The Vieques one is
1.6.1 El Yunque
- El Yunque has paved paths and
stairs on its hiking trails, but it can still be pretty hard work.
- The hike to the waterfall on the Big
Tree Trail in El Yunque takes around 35-40 minutes one-way, on paved
trails. The water coming down the waterfall is colder than the
- As you drive up the El Yunque
mountain, you'll notice the temperature feeling cooler. The trees
also provide shade from the strong Caribbean sun. However, you won't
need jackets as it doesn't drop below 25°C, and you'll be hiking.
- The gates of El Yunque closes at
5p, and if you're still inside the park after that then may as well camp
- The hike to the Mt. Britton
Tower in El Yunque is worth it for the view – but takes 40-50 minutes
of continuous uphill walking on a paved trail.
1.6.2 Tourism –
- You NEED wheels to get to any
good beaches in Vieques
- The big car rental agencies
don't let their cars on ferries - so can't take the rental to Vieques
- The vehicle you rent in Vieques will
be an SUV, because most of the good beaches (Red Beach, Blue Beach,
Mosquito Bay) are only accessible by dirt roads.
- January is "slow"
season for Vieques boat charters
- Go snorkeling in Sun Bay and near
the little island in Esperanza in Vieques
- Red beach is the best beach for
swimming in Vieques.
- There are 2 bioluminescent bays
in PR: Mosquito Bay in Vieques and in Farjado
- Paddling the kayak in Vieques is
a lot less work.
- Do NOT do the bio-bay tours
during the full moon, as the light will diminish the effect. Be
aware of the lunar cycle and plan ahead
- Watch out for plants with burrs
in the sand/grass boundary near the beach, especially in Vieques.
Stay on the beaten path to get to the beach, and wear your
flip-flops. There will be burrs in the sand at Red Beach too.
- At dusk, there may be large
amounts of sand flies, especially in Blue Beach in Vieques. They
- Bili's and Tradewinds
both have higher quality food than Bananas' bar food.
- Belly Buttons café in Vieques is
usually open earlier (before 10a) than the other restaurants.
- There is only 1 ATM on the entire
island of Vieques, about 1 block away from where you got off the ferry, in
- There is no direct ferry from
Culebra to/from Vieques. You'll need to take 2 ferries and go
through the mainland at Fajardo. This means it'll take half a day or
more since the ferry schedules may not be adjacent in time.
- You can get spring water from a
convenience store within walking distance of the beach in Esperanza.
- That there 2 prices for water –
cold water (more expensive) and non-refrigerated water
- The room in Bananas has a
- The spring water available is
surprising – it’s SPA – Belgium spring water from the Reine.
- At Gilligan's Island, if you swim
against the current on the LEFT channel, you'll encounter a lawn of turtle
grass under 50cm of water that's delightful to lounge on.
- “Fresh off the boat” seafood
restaurants are in Rincon & Ponce
- The ferry to Gilligan's Island is
a private operation, and is a rip-off at $6 roundtrip when compared to the
Vieques ferry - but they're the only ferry going there. The ferry
does not run on Monday. The ferry makes 2 stops before heading to
- Near the town of Guanica, next
to a Resturant. There is free parking next to the dock.
- Near the town of Guanica, at the
Copamarina Beach Resort.
- Plaza Las Delicias in
Ponce has free wireless Internet.
- There's continuous police
presence in the plaza, so it's pretty safe to whip out the laptop
- Burger King in the plaza closes
- There are at least 3 hotels in
Ponce's historic plaza alone. Their rates are pretty cheap too, and
there were no problems with vacancy in late Jan.
- The saying "Ponce is Ponce
and the rest is parking lot" is a gross exaggeration. Don't get
your hopes up.
- 97. Beyond a 1-2 block
radius from the historic plaza in Ponce, the neighbourhoods look quite
slummy. Don't worry, you're in the right place. Just find
Marina St and follow it North.
- 98. The El Vigia Cross in
Ponce is a rip-off. It's not that tall, and doesn't look very
spiritual. Instead of turning left to get to the Cross, keep
driving, and turn LEFT at the Stop sign. You'll be on a road that
passes the immediate front of the Cross, allowing you to take pictures
with the Cross without paying admission. The view of Ponce down the
hill is substantially the same.
- The ruins at Tibes north of Ponce
consists of ball fields (parallel lines of rocks) - sucky when compared to
Mexico’s Mayan pyramids
- There is an ice cream shop, Heladeria
de Lares, in the town square (Plaza de Recreo, Lecaroz St.) of Lares
(continue up the highway from Camuy) that offers ice cream in any flavor
you want (beer, mustard, vanilla).
- “Degetau rock”, near Lares and
Utuado, offers views of BOTH the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
- Arecibo Observatory (Visitor
Centre) is not open on Monday and Tuesday.
- The Camuy caves are closed on
Monday and Tuesday.
- Rincon, even at the end of
January (Feb 1), is highly booked (Hotels and dive operators).
- Desecheo Island, 12 miles off the
coast of Rincon, has one of the best snorkeling and diving in the world.
- You can't go onto Desecheo Island
itself, but you may snorkel and dive off its coast.
- Swimming (beaches) in Rincon
sucks, compared to Vieques, or even San Juan. Take a surfing lesson
or dive instead.
- Taino diving tours in
Rincon starts at 8:30a, and it's usually fully booked so call ahead at
least 2 full days in advance.
- El Flamboyant Restaurant
in Rincon has GREAT red snappers
- Puerto Rico's only zoo is in
Mayagüez. It's an okay zoo, with a good selection of animals.
- The part before Mundi the
elephant and the Aviary can be underwhelming, but it gets better after
- There's low attendance in late
Jan on a weekday
- Find a staff member so you can
go onto the bridge inside the netted Aviary. It's a great
experience and provides chances for great photos.
- Zoo opens 8:30a-4p
- The Bridge is closed from 12p-1p
- The gorillas are only open 9a-3p
- The butterflies are closed
11:30a-1:30p. Max capacity of 20 inside only.