PR Tips

Way Too Many Tips on Puerto Rico and TechnoRico

By David Lam, E-Mail

February 2007


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

1.1                 University of Puerto Rico / Turabo. 2

1.2                 Public Transportation / Taxis. 2

1.3                 Driving in Puerto Rico. 3

1.3.1     Navigation. 3

1.4                 Tourism – General 5

1.4.1     Watersports / Beach. 5

1.4.2     Food. 7

1.4.3     Weather 7

1.5                 Tourism – San Juan. 8

1.5.1     Bacardi 8

1.5.2     Old San Juan. 8

1.6                 Tourism – East 10

1.6.1     El Yunque Rainforest 10

1.6.2     Tourism – Vieques. 11

1.7                 Tourism – South. 12

1.7.1     Ponce. 12

1.8                 Tourism – North. 12

1.9                 Tourism – West 14




1.1      University of Puerto Rico / Turabo

  1. The exact address for Turabo is 57 Domingo Cabrera, San Juan, PR  00925.  The RA’s apartment’s phone number is (787) 999-0746.
  2. The cab ride from Airport to Turabo (Río Piedras) should be under $20.
    1. 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.
    2. If the cab has no meter, negotiate before getting under way.
  3. The M1 bus from the front of UPR goes straight to Old San Juan at the end of the line.
    1. 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.
  1. Walk through the train station on Martin Luther King Day to get through the locked fence for school.
  2. 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
  3. The front door key to Turabo opens the parking gate at the back too.
  4. Río Piedras is pretty slummy as a neighbourhood, but geographically it is in a convenient traffic (by car & bus & train) location.


1.2      Public Transportation / Taxis

  1. There may be dedicated bus lanes - to find the bus going in the other direction find the parallel road.
    1. Ex.: Ponce de Leon and Munoz Rivera in Old San Juan.
  2. "tren urbano" are subway stations.
  3. "Publicos" are long distance buses that go between cities, and are quite cheap.  However, I had no experience with them.  Ask Monique.
  4. Some cabs are unmetered, even though they're ALL supposed to have meters.  Negotiate before getting under way.


1.3      Driving in Puerto Rico

  1. You NEED a car to get around Puerto Rico
  2. Note all FM radio stations available on the island are in Spanish.  There is 1 English talk radio station on AM.
    1. Easy Listening Radio Stations

                                                              i.      San Juan 103.3 FM

                                                            ii.      Ponce 105.1 FM

                                                          iii.      Mayaguez 91.7 FM, 88.3 FM (Classical)

                                                           iv.      Rincon 97.5 FM, 92.9 FM, 88.3 FM

  1. Budget car rental at the airport for a 2006 Corolla was ~38 USD per day for 12 days.
    1. Budget is usually cheaper than Avis or Hertz, but their cars may be slightly older or have higher mileage (depends on your luck)
  2. Gas is listed as $USD/Litres
  3. Gas stations operate on a pre-pay fuel-up policy
  4. There are a LOT of potholes in PR.  They're deep too, so steer clear.
  5. There are lots of people selling stuff at traffic lights (oranges, water, melons), and there are beggars there too.
  6. Beggars are more aggressive than Canadian ones.  They'll actually approach you and ask for $$.
  7. Emergency vehicles will flash their lights - this means they're on patrol and does NOT mean they are stopping you.
  8. Drivers use their horn often - but they also let you through nicely, and most people signal
  9. Parking enforcement in Puerto Rico is VERY lax.
    1. the yellow line on the curb means no parking, but as you can see enforcement is lax.
    2. No Estacionamiento means no parking. 
  1. "peaje" means a toll road or a toll booth.

1.3.1     Navigation

  1. Highway signs in San Juan have the names of the suburbs (Hato Rey, Río Piedras) on them.  This has been very useful in navigation.
  2. Feel free to pull over onto the side of the road anywhere - many people do it.
  3. Calle Marginal are roads that run alongside the highway and contain shops
  4. Take the toll highways if there's a choice - they're pretty cheap and save rime.  Non-toll highways have stoplights.
    1. Ex.: Hwy 2 versus Hwy 22 from San Juan to Arecibo
    2. Ex.: Hwy 22 from Arecibo to San Juan cost under $5 toll (~$3.75)
  5. 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.
  6. East Asian Bistro has sushi in San Juan.
    1. There are two Asian Bistros - one in Guaynabo and the other in Condado.
    2. Condado: 76 Condado Ave., Corner of Luisa St. & Condado St., (787) 721-8883.
    3. Guaynabo: Plaza Guaynabo, Calle D-9 Bario Los Frailes, Guaynabo, (787) 620-8088.
    4. 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.
  1. 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.

1.4      Tourism – General

  1. You WILL get sick the first week – ALL of us got a variant of the flu during the first week.
  2. The "co-qui" sound at night is from a small frog, named the Coquí.  It's the unofficial symbol of PR.
  3. There is Cingular cell access almost everywhere on the island, but outside of San Juan it may be limited to 850 MHz.
  4. The sales tax varies a bit (5.5%-7%), depending on the City Tax and what city you're in
  5. Go to the Plaza Las Americas Mall in San Juan to get a prepaid SIM from Cingular/AT&T to save on roaming charges
    1. $25 for a prepaid SIM with $10 airtime credit.
    2. Refills cards are available at any Walgreens, or online
    3. You need an unlocked (unsubsidized) GSM phone for this to work
  6. The power outlets and phone outlets are North American standard.
  7. ATMs are called "ATH", and uses the PLUS system to get USD cash from your CAD bank account through your bank card. 
    1. 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.
  1. Most locals in the food or hotel industry speak English, but EN is not as common in general.
    1. Most guided tours are available in EN as well
  1. Most museum and zoo exhibits are also in EN as well as ES
  2. Roosters "call" during the night too - bring ear plugs
  3. The entire island of Puerto Rico is only ~1.6 times bigger in size than Prince Edward Island.  Judge distances and driving times accordingly.
  4. There are no direct Ottawa-San Juan flights, but there are direct Toronto-San Juan flights. 
    1. Always allow about 2 to 3 hours between plane connections to allow for delays, and try to minimize the number of connections.

1.4.1     Watersports / Beach

  1. Get disposable underwater cameras before scuba diving or snorkeling - $14.99 each at Walgreens
  2. 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.
  3. You can buy snorkeling gear (mask & flippers) at K-Mart
  4. There are NO public rinse-off facilities at beaches at
    1. Vieques
    2. Luquillo
    3. Gilligan's
    4. Ocean Park
  5. There ARE public rinse-off facilities (though primitive) at the beach to the left of Harbor Restaurant in Rincon.

1.4.2     Food

  1. The water (also ice in drinks) is safe to drink
    1. Except maybe in Rincon, where even Mr. Pipon (of Pipon’s Lodge) doesn't even trust his own water.
  2. The La Parilla Argentina stall in food courts has good steaks (T-Bones!) with decent prices.
  3. Complementos are sides that are included with the main dish
    1. The corn in the mediano (medium) combos from Church's Chicken is a good deal.
  1. Sometimes if you order "water" you get tap water, and other times you get bottled water
  2. The Piña Colada, Mojito and the Daiquiri are very good - much better than in North America.  Must be the fresh juice or something.
  3. PR has a very cheap domestic beer – Medalla Light in the Gold coloured can.

1.4.3     Weather

  1. Even in Jan the daytime temp can get to ~33°C, with medium-high humidity. 
  2. The night-time temp can drop to ~25°C, but the lower humidity can make it seem cooler.  Bring a fleece.
  3. The sea breeze blowing onto ships' deck is still ~33°C, so no need for a windbreaker.
  4. 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
  5. San Juan shows completely cloudless or mostly cloudless skies every day.
  6. There are occasional rain showers - but they usually only last a few minutes (5-7 minutes) so it's possible to wait it out.

1.5      Tourism – San Juan

  1. 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.
  2. Plaza Las Americas Mall is in Hato Rey
  3. 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.
  4. Ropa Vieja Grill, 1025 Ashford Ave, Condado, (787) 725-2665 has the BEST food in the whole of Puerto Rico.
  5. East Asian Bistro has sushi.  Directions are in the Navigation section above.

1.5.1     Bacardi

  1. The Bacardi tour is worth going, even if it's just for the free booze
  2. Take Hwy 22 to get to the Bacardi Distillery from Río Piedras.  It doesn't become toll at the distillery yet.
  3. The Bacardi gift shop prices are very good - especially compared to the LCBO in Canada.
    1. LCBO: CAD$25 for 750ml of Bacardi Vanilla
    2. Gift shop: US$10 for 750ml of Bacardi Gold
    3. Gift shop: US$80 for 750ml of Bacardi Limited Reserve (avail only at distillery)

1.5.2     Old San Juan

  1. The combo ticket for Fort El Morro and San Cristobal (US$5 for 2 forts) is sold in El Morro only.
  2. Museums in Old San Juan have exhibits are show similar, repetitive (but not exact duplicates) stuff
  3. The English tours for the Governor’s house in Old San Juan are on at 9a and 3p.
  4. "Appropriate attire" for the Governor’s house in Old San Juan includes running shoes, shorts, and a t-shirt.
  5. There will be a lot of tourists in Old San Juan from cruise ships making a port call.
  6. 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 $2.25.
    1. Other cheap ice cream sources are the McDonald's and Wendy's near the Plaza.
  7. 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
  8. Street parking in Old San Juan is hard to find.  However, I've had good luck finding parking in front of the Capitol building.
  9. 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.



1.6      Tourism – East

  1. There are 2 bioluminescent bays in PR: Mosquito Bay in Vieques and in Farjado.  The Vieques one is better.

1.6.1     El Yunque Rainforest

  1. El Yunque has paved paths and stairs on its hiking trails, but it can still be pretty hard work.
  2. 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 ocean.
  3. 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.
  4. The gates of El Yunque closes at 5p, and if you're still inside the park after that then may as well camp until morning.
  5. 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 – Vieques

  1. You NEED wheels to get to any good beaches in Vieques
    1. The big car rental agencies don't let their cars on ferries - so can't take the rental to Vieques
    2. 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.
  2. January is "slow" season for Vieques boat charters
  3. Go snorkeling in Sun Bay and near the little island in Esperanza in Vieques
  4. Red beach is the best beach for swimming in Vieques.
  5. There are 2 bioluminescent bays in PR: Mosquito Bay in Vieques and in Farjado
    1. Paddling the kayak in Vieques is a lot less work.
    2. 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
  1. 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.
  2. At dusk, there may be large amounts of sand flies, especially in Blue Beach in Vieques.  They bite.
  3. Bili's and Tradewinds both have higher quality food than Bananas' bar food.
  4. Belly Buttons café in Vieques is usually open earlier (before 10a) than the other restaurants.
  5. There is only 1 ATM on the entire island of Vieques, about 1 block away from where you got off the ferry, in Isabel Segunda.
  6. 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.
  7. You can get spring water from a convenience store within walking distance of the beach in Esperanza. 
    1. That there 2 prices for water – cold water (more expensive) and non-refrigerated water
    2. The room in Bananas has a refrigerator
    3. The spring water available is surprising – it’s SPA – Belgium spring water from the Reine.



1.7      Tourism – South

  1. 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.
  2. “Fresh off the boat” seafood restaurants are in Rincon & Ponce
  3. 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 Gilligan’s Island:
    1. Near the town of Guanica, next to a Resturant.  There is free parking next to the dock.
    2. Near the town of Guanica, at the Copamarina Beach Resort.

1.7.1     Ponce

  1. Plaza Las Delicias in Ponce has free wireless Internet.
    1. There's continuous police presence in the plaza, so it's pretty safe to whip out the laptop
    2. Burger King in the plaza closes at 11p.
  2. 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.
  3. The saying "Ponce is Ponce and the rest is parking lot" is a gross exaggeration.  Don't get your hopes up.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. The ruins at Tibes north of Ponce consists of ball fields (parallel lines of rocks) - sucky when compared to Mexico’s Mayan pyramids



1.8      Tourism – North

  1. 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). 
  1. “Degetau rock”, near Lares and Utuado, offers views of BOTH the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
  2. Arecibo Observatory (Visitor Centre) is not open on Monday and Tuesday.
  3. The Camuy caves are closed on Monday and Tuesday.


1.9      Tourism – West

  1. Rincon, even at the end of January (Feb 1), is highly booked (Hotels and dive operators).
  2. Desecheo Island, 12 miles off the coast of Rincon, has one of the best snorkeling and diving in the world.
  3. You can't go onto Desecheo Island itself, but you may snorkel and dive off its coast.
    1. Swimming (beaches) in Rincon sucks, compared to Vieques, or even San Juan.  Take a surfing lesson or dive instead.
  4. 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.
  5. El Flamboyant Restaurant in Rincon has GREAT red snappers
  6. Puerto Rico's only zoo is in Mayagüez.  It's an okay zoo, with a good selection of animals. 
    1. The part before Mundi the elephant and the Aviary can be underwhelming, but it gets better after the Aviary. 
    2. There's low attendance in late Jan on a weekday
    3. 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.
    4. Zoo opens 8:30a-4p
    5. The Bridge is closed from 12p-1p
    6. The gorillas are only open 9a-3p
    7. The butterflies are closed 11:30a-1:30p.  Max capacity of 20 inside only.