Now is the best time to visit Puerto Rico known as La Isla del Encanto which translates to The Island of Enchantment! Puerto Rico is a United States territory which makes it an ideal place to travel to without the need for a passport, COVID vaccination proof, or testing requirement to enter the island. Also, the majority of people that work at airports, hotels, restaurants, bars, stores, and tour companies are fluent in both English in Spanish. Most restaurants in Old San Juan and El Condado, a community in Santurce close to San Juan, have their menus translated from Spanish to English.
In addition, the currency of Puerto Rico is U.S dollars and you can also get an Uber if you don’t want to rent a car. Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan) is currently celebrating its 500th anniversary making it the oldest city in the United States. Several events are being conducted to mark the 500th anniversary through the end of June 2022.
What to do in Puerto Rico?
There are so many must-visit places in Puerto Rico. You can’t go to Puerto Rico without visiting San Felipe del Morro Castle also known as El Morro by local people. El Morro Fort is located in Old San Juan and was built by Spain between the 16th and 18th centuries to protect the city of San Juan from sea attacks. A day pass to El Morro also gives you free access to the Castillo San Cristobal, a smaller fort located on the opposite side of El Morro. El morrow became part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. And later in 1989 after the Spanish-American war, Puerto Rico became a U.S territory.
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El Yunque National Forest is another must-visit place in Puerto Rico. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest Service and it is located in the northeastern part of Puerto Rico. There are many hiking trails, waterfalls, and rivers where you can swim. If you are staying in San Juan and don’t have a rental car and I recommend you book a tour to visit El Yunque. I did a tour that combined a visit to El Yunque off the beaten path and Bio Bay kayaking in one day. The tour company picked us up from the hotel and took us to a part of El Yunque where it seemed that they were the only ones that had access to the entrance they took us in. After our group hiked through one of the trails surrounded by beautiful green trees and bamboo we went down to the river and cross it.
Our adventure continued up the mountain where we reached a natural water slide that we took down to reach the other side of the river. It was really fun exploring the forest and jumping into the river several times we even hold a rope and swung from the top of a rock and jump into the river. After we finished the driver drop us off at the meeting point where a different driver pick us off and took us to Fajardo where we kayaked bio bay.
What to eat in Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rican cuisine is influenced by many cultures including Spanish, African, and the original inhabitants of the island Tainos. Some of the traditional dishes are mofongo, arroz con gandules, lechon, pasteles, pinchos and frituras such as: alcapurrias, empanadillas and bacalaitos.
Mofongo is small pieces of fried plantain that are mashed with garlic and can be served as a side dish with either shrimp, skirt steak, fried pork, crab, octopus, or vegetables.
Arroz con gandules, rice with pigeon peas, is a staple in Puerto Rican cuisine and is often served with lechon which is pork but can also be served with other types of meats or vegetables.
Pasteles might look like tamales but they are made out of green banana masa and often stuffed with pork. Some vegan versions of pasteles have been recently introduced.
Pinchos is meat on a stick similar to kabobs but with a barbeque sauce on top. Frituras are deep-fried food that is often found in open-air beachside restaurants or kiosks. Alcapurrias and empanadillas are both deep-fried and stuff but they are shaped differently and the outside is made with different ingredients. Bacalaitos are made of flour and salted cod also deep-fried. The best frituras and where many of locals go can be found in the neighborhood of Piñones located about 35 minutes east of San Juan. The kiosks in Piñones are very humble and most of the people that attend them don’t speak English but the flavors in the food are by far one of the best I had while I visited. If you rather have a guide and do a food tour in Old San Juan this Flavor of Old San Juan food tour might be your answer.
If you are looking for fine dining restaurants you are in luck some of the top-rated restaurants are in San Juan. Marmalade located in Old San Juan has a delicious five-course tasting menu with different food options to choose from for each course. Another top-rated restaurant we visited with delicious food was Santaella located near Santurce.
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