Puerto Rico is technically part of the United States, but is completely different from the continental US. It is technically part of the Caribbean but was controlled by the Spanish before the US took over.
Here's a brief itinerary of what we did. This can be a guide for you guys that are traveling to the island too!
Getting there: Easy, there are multiple flights that go to Puerto Rico from the Continental US. If you have a Philippine Passport, you'll need a valid multiple entry US visa to get to Puerto Rico. For the sake of transparency, I did not show my passport at the TSA, rather, I showed my US drivers license (I am a resident of the US).
Flights: The legacy carriers (AA, United & Delta) all fly to Puerto Rico (as far as I know). The budget airlines (ie JetBlue & Southwest) also fly to this island in the Carribean. We flew Jetblue from MCO (Orlando, FL) to SJU (San Juan), a flight that's almost 2 1/2 hours.
Hotels: We stayed at the San Juan Marriott Resort in Condado. It costs $220 a night (which includes taxes & the resort fee). Be aware that most resorts charge an 11% tax and a resort fee. It varies from place to place. The upside of staying at the San Juan Marriott? It was beachside and the pool was nice. Although the beach was not what I expected (I have a HIGH standard for beaches as I come from the Philippines), it's still a nice place to stroll around - all 10 minutes of walking around, that is. The beach is not that big and the waves are quite big so exercise extreme caution when swimming in the beach!
The pool was actually nice, but is quite shallow (less than 4 feet of water). Still a good way to cool down after a long day of sightseeing or doing outdoorsy stuff!
What we did:
So, for the most part, our itinerary was a 5 day, 4 night stay.
Day 1: Arrival
Arrived around 1PM in SJU. Grabbed luggage and went straight to the marriot.
Taxi fare from airport to Marriot - $20 + $5 tip (our taxi driver was cool so we didn't mind giving him a 25% tip). America has a big tipping culture so be aware of that!
Upon checking in, took an hour to rest from the flight and walked around the Condado area.
Condado is quite small, but it's where you can find the more expensive stores (Louis Vuitton, anyone?). The place gets quite happening in the evenings, apparently, with the bars/clubs.
There is a small park with a fountain that's also beachfront near our hotel. For the life of me, I cannot remember the name!
Ate dinner at Pinky's (yumyum breakfast sandwiches all day long) and had a small snack at Starbucks (mmm salted caramel frappuccino anyone?)
Day 2: El Yunque Rainforest & Bio Bay Kayaking
Booked a tour from Kayak Puerto Rico for the all day tour (started at 11AM when they picked us up from the hotel and ended around 10:15pm when they dropped us off). It's $115+ tax (7% tax in Puerto Rico) per person, including all-day water and transportation from your hotel to the rainforest & to Fajardo. This is being handled by two companies: Fine Line Excursions (for the rainforest) and Kayaking Puerto Rico (for the bio bay kayak).
We met up with Andrea, our guide to the rainforest. Saw three waterfalls overall and hiked our way to one (it's a paved road so it's good). Now, coming from the Philippines I saw my fair share of waterfalls and rain forests but it was the boyfriend's first time.
One thing I loved? The Coquis! OMG they make such amazing sounds. They are literally small brown frogs that make a distinctive sound, and are found in certain areas of the Carribean (and even Hawaii!)
We ate dinner at 4pm at a local restaurant (mmm yummy food, and for $12 for dinner, drinks & dessert, it was a steal!)
Went to Bio Bay in the evening. The bay we went to was in Fajardo. Was quite good. I wouldn't recommend it to people who absolutely have no idea how to kayak! First off, you're gonna kayak in the dark, and secondly, you might become a hazard for the other kayakers (oh believe me, I had our fair share of running into people). If you have 0 experience at all, you can ask one of the guides to just tow you around.
What's interesting about the Bio bay was the bioluminescent creatures that glow when they are disturbed (either with your hand or with your paddle). I have never seen anything like it before!
In the evening, I had a late night Starbucks nightcap (OK, the bf and I don't normally indulge in Starbucks every single day but this was an exception. I was soooo tired and I needed something to warm me up - plus Starbucks is just across the street from the hotel).
Day 3: Old San Juan
After the very tiring day before, was surprised to wake up at 9:40AM. Yep, we overslept.
Finally managed to get breakfast at around 10:30AM at Pinky's (yumyum) then left for old San Juan at noon.
First stop of the day?
El Morro. It was a fortress/castle and is one of the most visited tourist spots in PR!
Off to Calle Cristo after, then Fortaleza St. They're full of souvenir shops so a good place to buy something to bring home!
Go down to the Old San Juan gate and try to walk down the old city walls surrounding El Morro.
You'll see so many things when you walk, it's just crazy. I can't write down all the streets we went to but man, we saw a lot.
Do: there is a crafts/artisan/local market every weekend near the cruise terminal. I managed to buy a wooden horse toy which I lovingly took back home :) It was $12 and the horse's legs were driven by wheels.
Day 4: Old San Juan
I was actually thinking of doing another tour but none of them piqued our interests (well, we wanted to go to Ponce and the Camuy Caves but the hotel did not offer these tours on the day that we wanted them). The boyfriend is also a BIG fortress fan so we had to go back to Old San Juan to go to Castillo de San Cristobal.
Castillo de San Cristobal was bigger than El Morro and the views were to die for. It's just beside the Senate, which was designed to look like the one from Madrid. Also, there were sooo many iguanas around the grounds it was nice to just take photos of them! Note: iguanas are actually an infestation to Puerto Rico so they do sell iguana meat outside of their country.
Went back to Old San Juan and walked around. Managed to get inside the Governor's Mansion (3:25pm English guided tour) and meandered around until we reached a square where we were supposed to take our taxi back.
Hotel then used the early evening hours to chill in the pool and beachside.
Dinner was at a Puerto Rican restaurant where I had a churrasco and the boyfriend had a mofongo. Yumyum.
Day 5: Last day :(
Our flight is at 4pm and we didn't really want to risk going to Old San Juan again.
Stayed in the hotel until around 11AM then back to our old walking haunts in Condado. Still gutted I wasn't able to get a Coqui frog stuffed toy but oh well! I actually realized I wanted that frog AFTER I got back from Old San Juan.
Went to the airport around 2pm. Customs will scan your bags before you go to the US so you'll need to have ample time for that. Also, we checked in a bag so we had to allow a lot more time than we normally would in the airport.
And it was the end of a really wonderful trip