Hey everyone! We’re Jesse and Lauren Stuart from The Wandering Stus. Welcome to our Puerto Rico travel guide. We grew up in the St. Louis area of Missouri and began dating back in 2008. It wasn’t until 2016 that we decided to make it official by saying our “I do’s” on our wedding day.
Throughout our relationship, we have always been off jet-setting somewhere or exploring new places. We don’t think there was ever an “aha” moment where everything collided into one spark of passion for travel but rather our love for faraway lands happened organically.
Be it watching the late great Anthony Bourdain in his TV series or listening to our family’s stories of living in far off lands – we guess you could say that our love for travel and photography sort of happened subliminally until it ultimately boiled over into who we are today, the Wandering Stus.
Our Journey with the Wandering Stus
In terms of inspiration, we just want people to know that there is one big beautiful world out there and the whole concept of “I’ll get there one day” should be acted on. Whether you want to visit a place in your own country or take a 14-hour plane ride, we want everyone to experience new places.
If we can inspire just one person to book that flight or take that bucket-list trip because of a picture they saw on our Instagram or blog post they read on our travel blog – then well, we’ll consider our job accomplished.
What Inspired us to Visit Puerto Rico
Our most recent trip to Puerto Rico was actually our second time on the Caribbean island. Our first visit was back in 2012 but sadly we spent very little time actually in Puerto Rico. We flew into San Juan the day before and then left the following afternoon on a Southern Caribbean cruise.
However, during our less than 24-hour stay in Old San Juan we fell in love with the place. The colors, food, vibe and lively buzz that is Puerto Rico, well, it was infectious and we vowed to return. Fast forward eight years later and in 2020 we booked a spontaneous visit to the island of Puerto Rico.
We were in the Dominican Republic for a friend’s wedding and we weren’t ready to leave the Caribbean. So we booked a flight to the lovely island we vowed to return to eight years ago and my oh my we are so happy we did.
Falling in Love with Puerto Rico (All Over Again)
From Old San Juan to Santurce to the beaches on Culebra, we became enamored (all over again) by Puerto Rico and soon fell head over heels in love. We ate amazing food, swam at one of the best beaches in the world, strolled through beautiful streets and danced the night away.
We spent six magical days in Puerto Rico making it a perfect itinerary for any first-timers to the island. From beaches to cultural cuisines, history and art – our time and itinerary in Puerto Rico gave us a perfect taste on what the island has to offer. Yet, we only ventured through a small portion of it.
Puerto Rico Travel Guide: Our Favorite Place
We would have to say Culebra was our favorite place in Puerto Rico only because it was 100% unplanned. The unplanned days usually tend to be our favorite when traveling. We rearranged our plans last minute and booked a diving trip with the intention of coming back that evening to Old San Juan.
After a few beers and while staring at a gorgeous bay, our one-day adventure quickly turned into two days. From scuba diving and relaxing in clear waters, Culebra soon became a special place for us both.
Be it the last-minute excitement of changing plans or having zero expectations for what we were getting ourselves into, Culebra is definitely one of our favorite places in PR. Not to mention, it’s insanely beautiful.
When we think of Culebra we think of salty skin, sandy toes and driving the island in a jeep while the wind whips through our hair as “Danza Kuduro” plays on the speakers. We can’t help but smile when thinking of Culebra.
Puerto Rico Travel Guide: Best Places to Visit
For first-timers, we suggest our Puerto Rico itinerary blog post on our website. It has a bit of everything – beaches, history, nightlife and food. This will give you a great introduction to the best places to visit in Puerto Rico.
If you’ve been to Puerto Rico before, we’re making an assumption that the majority of folks have been to Old San Juan. If that’s the case, head over to the western side of the island but be sure to stop in central Puerto Rico for coffee and hiking before hitting the west coast at places like Rincon.
The western side of Puerto Rico is home to chill vibes, epic surfing and beautiful beaches. Regardless of what you do, you truly can’t have a bad time in Puerto Rico. The key, and again our opinion, to a good itinerary is to not pack it full by adding too much to your plate to see and do.
You want to experience the place you’re in and make it as enjoyable as possible! So many folks get caught up in “seeing it all” that they spend their entire vacation adhering to strict time frames in an effort to “see it all.” The problem with seeing it all is that it’s impossible. You don’t really see it.
Nor do you experience it. Travel slower and pay attention to the beauty around you, which is easy to do in Puerto Rico. You will love this island!
Puerto Rico Travel Guide: Vivacious Culture
Friendly and welcoming, those are the attributes of Puerto Ricans. They were so happy to have us in their country especially after Hurricane Maria. We met loads of locals – from friendly bartenders to our cooking class chef. They were all excited to share their home country with us.
As for the culture, words can’t describe it. The culture stems from influences of Spain, Africa and the native Taíno and Carib Indians who all had their hand in shaping the culture that makes up Puerto Rico today.
You don’t have to walk far to immerse yourself in cultural Puerto Rico, just pay attention. Pay attention to the gentleman strumming a guitar. To kiosk workers making empanadas. To the kids flying kites in the field outside Castillo San Felipe del Morro and to the cafes serving up fresh coffee.
The soul of Puerto Rico is vivacious and warm. We promise, it’ll welcome you with open arms if you let it and will leave a lasting impression on you.
Puerto Rico Travel Guide: Amazing Food Scene
Did you know that the majority of food consumed in Puerto Rico comes from the US? In recent years, especially after Hurricane Maria, the local farm to table scene has expanded exponentially. After Maria left, goods like food could not get to Puerto Rico from the damage due to the hurricane.
So, locals had to get back to basics and started farming. Since then, farmers started to reclaim their agricultural history and in some of the dishes we ate the flavor was dynamite. You can find cheap eats to upscale dining and everything in between. There is no way you’ll go hungry in Puerto Rico!
We have a complete list of our favorite bars and restaurants in our Puerto Rico travel guide: “A Foodies Guide to The Best Places to Eat in San Juan” as well as “The 7 Best Bars in San Juan”. However, in terms of food, no visit to Puerto Rico is complete without trying Mofongo and a Pina Colada.
Puerto Rico Travel Guide: Best Places to Stay
If you want to be in the heart of it all, we suggest finding accommodation in Old San Juan. Old San Juan is a great place to spend a few days or use it as a jumping off point to rent a car and head to the other side of the island. Regardless what your plans are, Old San Juan is a great place to start.
Favorite Memory from our Trip to Puerto Rico
One of our favorite things to do when traveling is to sample copious amounts of the local cuisine. We love to eat and, in our opinion, one sure-fire way to get close with culture is to eat where locals eat. One day we did what Puerto Ricans call “chinchorreo”. What is a chinchorreo, you ask?
Well, a chinchorreo is essentially what we as Americans call bar hopping. You essentially hop from bar to bar and eating establishment to eating establishment sampling different local fares and beverages at every stop. We ate and drank the day away and devoured amazing local cuisine.
From making new friends to sampling mind-blowing flavors and exploring different neighborhoods, our day of “chinchorreo-ing” was such a fun day!
What you Need to Know Before you Go
If you’re an American citizen, the best thing about Puerto Rico is that it’s super accessible. No passport is required and whatever cell phone service you have, it’ll work in Puerto Rico. No international plan is needed.
To help plan your visit, the best time to visit Puerto Rico is from December to April but if you’re looking to save a dollar or two, head down after the snowbirds leave and plan to go during March – May. Some other helpful tips are below to help you start planning your trip to Puerto Rico:
- Language | Official language is Spanish, but English is widely spoken
- Currency | $ USD
- Electrical Outlet | North American Plug
- Drinking Age | 18 yrs. old
- Tipping | 15 – 20% is custom and very much appreciated
- Time Zone | Atlantic Standard which is one hour ahead of the eastern time zone in the US
- Oh, and if you decide to rent a car, know that you drive on the right side of the road, distances are in kilometers, speed limits are in mph and gas is sold in liters, not gallons. If renting a car is not needed, no worries, there is public transportation in major cities like Old San Juan.
From gorgeous beaches and rainforests to its vivacious spirit, really and truly, Puerto Rico should be on everyone’s bucket-list. Thanks for reading our Puerto Rico travel guide and enjoy your visit to this awesome island!