Backpacking Puerto Rico

Paradise is calling! Do you like the sound of rhythmic vibes and the best of both words when it comes to the Latin and American cultures? Then backpacking in Puerto Rico is the right thing for you. On this Caribbean island, you will be captivated by a combination of Latin American tradition and the American lifestyle: the island state offers everything your heart desires.

Puerto Rico is the smallest and westernmost island of the Greater Antilles, with a size of only about 13,500 m². Around 1/3 of the 4 million inhabitants live in the vibrant capital of San Juan. If you follow the traces of the past, you will dive into a world full of discovery, conquest,s and a history of Spanish origins and colonial times. Today, the Caribbean island belongs to the outer territory of the USA. The American way of life is reflected in an extremely well-developed infrastructure, wide highways, clean towns, and American standards in various areas of life.

You will soon feel the Caribbean lifestyle with its unique charm thanks to the Puerto Ricans’ joy of life and their open and hospitable nature: from the lively atmosphere in the narrow streets of the colorful old town of Old San Juan, to the hot salsa nights on the market of La Placita. Gourmets get their money's worth as well and can enjoy regional dishes to the fullest. If you are an avid explorer or adventurer, you will not be disappointed either: Puerto Rico offers a diverse landscape, a dazzling underwater world, small mountain villages, hiking trails, waterfalls and opportunities for rafting in the rainforest. If you just wish to relax and unwind, paradisaical snow-white sandy beaches with crystal-clear, turquoise-blue water offer the perfect environment.

We recommend that you rent a car for the adventure, as it only means additional fun for you and public transportation is very limited here. Due to the small size of the island, the individual stops can be easily reached in 1 to 2 hours. You can rent a car for 2 weeks in Puerto Rico from about €30-35 a day. Every stop on the Caribbean island has its own charm.

See below for the perfect Puerto Rico itinerary for an unforgettable journey:


Important Basics

Official Languages

Spanish, English

Basic Vocabulary
EnglishSpanish
HelloHola
ByeCiao
ThanksGracias
YesSi
NoNo
Capital City

San Juan

Form of Government

Presidential Republic

Phone Country Code

+1

Currency

The United States Dollar

Climate

Highest temperature by day: 24 to 31 degrees Celsius

Highest temperature at night: 15 to 20 degrees Celsius

Fun Fact

Puerto Rico is home to the only rainforest in the US, El Yunque

Cities

San Juan

Puerto Rico's capital San Juan, a place overflowing with Caribbean spirit, is the perfect first stop. La Placita at the market square invites you to dance the nights away to live music. Old San, Juan with its many small alleys, cobbled streets, and colorful colonial houses, will truly take you to a different world. You can easily assimilate into the relaxed Caribbean lifestyle and dive into the world of the locals. The old town is surrounded by 15-meter-high walls from the colonial period as well as an impressive fortress. La Fortaleza, Fort San Felipe del Morro, Fort San Juan de la Cruz and Fort San Cristóbal, which were once built by the Spanish colonialists, are the reason why San Juan is part of the UNESCO cultural heritage.
Isla Verde, the Copacabana of Puerto Rico, is located about 10 kilometers south of San Juan. The lively city beach offers many cafes, shops, bars and restaurants. There are many water sports activities you can enjoy together with the locals, for example riding the perfect waves during a thrilling surfing adventure. Isla Verde is also an excellent place to explore the island's dazzling underwater world while snorkeling: tropical fish and breathtaking coral reefs await!. 

Ponce

Ponce is the second-largest city of the island and located in the region of Porta Caribe – the gateway to the Caribbean. Fine, snow-white beaches are only the beginning here. The city has been extensively renovated and is also known as an open-air museum of architecture and a museum city in general. In terms of culture, there is a lot to see and do here. You should start your exploration tour through the city at Plaza de las Delicias, the city's main plaza. Parque de Bombas, located within the plaza, is also a popular destination for any tourists. Once a fire station, it now serves as a landmark of Ponce and is also home to a museum. Another highlight is the Catedrale de Nuestra Señora de Guadaloupe with its two towers.

The city is the perfect starting point to explore the southern part of the island, where there is much more to experience than Caribbean city vibes. If you want to be impressed by the fantastic architecture from above, the best thing is to take a little trip to the El Viagia Hill, where you can enjoy a spectacular skyline of the Caribbean city. Adventure awaits you on a trip which takes you through the jungle and past waterfalls in the Toro Negro State Forest. 

Rincón

Rincón is not called the Hawaii of the Caribbean for no reason. The legendary place has become more well-known since the World Surfing Championships in 1968. Here, the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet and create some of the highest waves of up to 7 meters. Around Rincón, there are 16 official surf spots which are only a few minutes away by car from each other. The perfect size wave is there for everybody, so you can throw yourself into the stormy waters whether you happen to be a beginner or a pro; surfboards can be rented for cheap, too.

Do you prefer to watch the action from afar, lying totally relaxed on the beach and sipping cocktails or a coconut? Then Rincón also has you covered, as you can choose between twelve beaches to find the one for you. The most famous beaches include Domes, Marias Beach, Tres Palmas, Sandy Beach and Pools Beach.
If you prefer to go on an exploration tour, an excursion to the tranquil town of Aguadilla is a good idea. Aguadilla is located in the mountains and known for its hiking routes and beaches. 

Luquillo

One of the country’s most visited places, Luqillo’s long white beaches and calm turquoise water invite you to stay for some time. Luquillo is the perfect starting point to make day trips to the north of the island state. An absolute must-see is the El Yunque National Forest in the misty Luquillo Mountains. You will discover breathtaking scenery, lush greenery, dense jungles, waterfalls, and exotic wildlife in this tropical rainforest. There are well-signposted hiking trails which help you explore the rainforest by yourself.
Two other spots that you can explore perfectly from Luquillo are the exciting offshore islands of Vieques and Culebra. You can take the ferry to the islands for only a small price. A unique natural wonder awaits you there: the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world, which is an amazing natural spectacle. Flamenco Beach is among the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world, with its fine white sand and crystal-clear water. Coconut palm trees, sea turtles, and a dazzling underwater world with exotic fish and coral reefs are included!
From Luquillo, you’ll drive back to San Juan with your rented car. Unfortunately, even the most beautiful vacation comes to an end at some point, but the unforgettable memories always remain! 


San Juan

San Juan

Puerto Rico's capital San Juan, a place overflowing with Caribbean spirit, is the perfect first stop. La Placita at the market square invites you to dance the nights away to live music. Old San, Juan with its many small alleys, cobbled streets, and colorful colonial houses, will truly take you to a different world. You can easily assimilate into the relaxed Caribbean lifestyle and dive into the world of the locals. The old town is surrounded by 15-meter-high walls from the colonial period as well as an impressive fortress. La Fortaleza, Fort San Felipe del Morro, Fort San Juan de la Cruz and Fort San Cristóbal, which were once built by the Spanish colonialists, are the reason why San Juan is part of the UNESCO cultural heritage.
Isla Verde, the Copacabana of Puerto Rico, is located about 10 kilometers south of San Juan. The lively city beach offers many cafes, shops, bars and restaurants. There are many water sports activities you can enjoy together with the locals, for example riding the perfect waves during a thrilling surfing adventure. Isla Verde is also an excellent place to explore the island's dazzling underwater world while snorkeling: tropical fish and breathtaking coral reefs await!. 

Ponce

Ponce

Ponce is the second-largest city of the island and located in the region of Porta Caribe – the gateway to the Caribbean. Fine, snow-white beaches are only the beginning here. The city has been extensively renovated and is also known as an open-air museum of architecture and a museum city in general. In terms of culture, there is a lot to see and do here. You should start your exploration tour through the city at Plaza de las Delicias, the city's main plaza. Parque de Bombas, located within the plaza, is also a popular destination for any tourists. Once a fire station, it now serves as a landmark of Ponce and is also home to a museum. Another highlight is the Catedrale de Nuestra Señora de Guadaloupe with its two towers.

The city is the perfect starting point to explore the southern part of the island, where there is much more to experience than Caribbean city vibes. If you want to be impressed by the fantastic architecture from above, the best thing is to take a little trip to the El Viagia Hill, where you can enjoy a spectacular skyline of the Caribbean city. Adventure awaits you on a trip which takes you through the jungle and past waterfalls in the Toro Negro State Forest. 

Rincón

Rincón

Rincón is not called the Hawaii of the Caribbean for no reason. The legendary place has become more well-known since the World Surfing Championships in 1968. Here, the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet and create some of the highest waves of up to 7 meters. Around Rincón, there are 16 official surf spots which are only a few minutes away by car from each other. The perfect size wave is there for everybody, so you can throw yourself into the stormy waters whether you happen to be a beginner or a pro; surfboards can be rented for cheap, too.

Do you prefer to watch the action from afar, lying totally relaxed on the beach and sipping cocktails or a coconut? Then Rincón also has you covered, as you can choose between twelve beaches to find the one for you. The most famous beaches include Domes, Marias Beach, Tres Palmas, Sandy Beach and Pools Beach.
If you prefer to go on an exploration tour, an excursion to the tranquil town of Aguadilla is a good idea. Aguadilla is located in the mountains and known for its hiking routes and beaches. 

Luquillo

Luquillo

One of the country’s most visited places, Luqillo’s long white beaches and calm turquoise water invite you to stay for some time. Luquillo is the perfect starting point to make day trips to the north of the island state. An absolute must-see is the El Yunque National Forest in the misty Luquillo Mountains. You will discover breathtaking scenery, lush greenery, dense jungles, waterfalls, and exotic wildlife in this tropical rainforest. There are well-signposted hiking trails which help you explore the rainforest by yourself.
Two other spots that you can explore perfectly from Luquillo are the exciting offshore islands of Vieques and Culebra. You can take the ferry to the islands for only a small price. A unique natural wonder awaits you there: the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world, which is an amazing natural spectacle. Flamenco Beach is among the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world, with its fine white sand and crystal-clear water. Coconut palm trees, sea turtles, and a dazzling underwater world with exotic fish and coral reefs are included!
From Luquillo, you’ll drive back to San Juan with your rented car. Unfortunately, even the most beautiful vacation comes to an end at some point, but the unforgettable memories always remain! 

Puerto Rico Route Map

Itinerary and Stops.

Tag
Route/Station
Transport
Unterkunft
1. Home- San Juan
Home- San Juan
Flight
250
eight-bed dorm
22
2. San Juan
San Juan
-
eight-bed dorm
22
3. San Juan
San Juan
-
eight-bed dorm
22
4. San Juan - Ponce
San Juan - Ponce
Rented car
eight-bed dorm
60
5. Ponce
Ponce
-
eight-bed dorm
60
6. Ponce - Rincón
Ponce - Rincón
Rented car
double room
50
7. Rincon
Rincon
-
double room
50
8. Rincon
Rincon
-
double room
50
9. Rincón - Luquillo
Rincón - Luquillo
Rented car
eight-bed dorm
35
10. Luquillo
Luquillo
-
eight-bed dorm
35
11. Luquillo
Luquillo
-
eight-bed dorm
35
12. Luquillo
Luquillo
-
eight-bed dorm
35
13. Luquillo - San Juan
Luquillo - San Juan
Rented car
eight-bed dorm
22
14. San Juan -Home
San Juan -Home
Flight
250

Total price.

Flights 500,00
Transportation 500,00
Tours 526,00
Accommodation 0,00
Total1526,00

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Dos and Donts, Food & Drinks, Costs.

Breakfast

Classic breakfast: Locals usually have coffee, bread and some fruit for breakfast. They often eat fried bananas on Sundays.

Soups

Fish soup: Locals particularly like to eat this soup at noon. They buy the fish from local markets and add some carrots to the soup. 

Celery soup: Celery soup, which is made from white wine and bacon, is also popular.

Main courses

Arroz con gandules: This is the national dish of Puerto Rico and consists of a rice pan with peas and ham.

Arroz con habichuelas: This is also a delicious rice dish, which is mixed with a national variety of pumpkin and refined with a well-known spice called sofrito.

Alcapurrias: Dumplings which are deep-fried after preparation and usually consist of bananas and meat or fish. 

Empanadillas: These dumplings are a classic dish of the local cuisine and filled with meat or crab meat.

Drinks & Snacks

Queso frito: This fried cheese is a highlight in the streets of Puerto Rico. A delicious snack!

Templeque: a sweet coconut pudding..

Palvorones: You definitely have to try out these delicious cookies with a cinnamon filling.

Café con leche: a classic drink in the country, for breakfast and in the afternoon.

Rum: Rum is the most popular alcoholic drink. The Pina Colada in particular is a classic drink for every traveler.

Puerto Rico

The exchange rate for 1 USD is about €0.92 (as of February 2020). You can see the prices for certain products as well as the cost of living below..

Cost of living 

Food

Free Time

Personal hygiene

Dos

Be open and outgoing: Try to be as open as possible towards the locals. Fear or shyness are not what you need here.

Plan B: In Puerto Rico, it is always good to have a plan B, especially when it comes to transportation. You cannot always count on everything going according to plan here.

Flexibility in time of travel: You can travel to Puerto Rico almost any time of the year. Don't worry, you can enjoy the beauty of the country at any given time.

Weapons: Be aware that most Puerto Ricans own a weapon. This is not dangerous for you, but it should help you get a feeling for how to handle it.

Don'ts

Jewelry and valuables: In the streets of Puerto Rico, you’d better hide your valuables. This is true for any kind of jewelry and also for your mobile phone, which you should keep safely in your pocket.

Political issues: It might be best not to introduce any topics about politics or the relationship with the United States in a conversation with a local.

Alone at night: Try not to go out too much at night, especially in the cities. This way, you will stay safe and keep clear of crime.

Visa, Visa, Passport & Vaccinations

Passport

Temporary passport

National ID

Temporary national ID

Child’s pass

Visa

Vaccine

Additional Remarks.

We recommend researching current regulations regarding Covid-19 before travelling, perhaps using the foreign office website.

The team at Backpacker Trail wishes you lots of fun and an unforgettable trip!

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