It’s easy to stick to the popular tourist attractions when visiting a country like Puerto Rico, but sometimes the best way to really immerse yourself in a new culture is by stepping off the beaten track.
If you really want to experience the very best of Puerto Rico, here are 12 unusual things that you should definitely try to do.
Sip Authentic Local Coffee at Hacienda Buena Vista
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1850’s Coffee/Caco/Corn plantation in the Hills of Ponce, Puerto Rico. The restoration and preservation of this site was remarkable, and by far one of the best tours I’ve EVER been on. 🇵🇷 #poncepride #ponce #placespuertorico #cacao #coffeeplantation #waterfall #paralanaturaleza #haciendabuenavista #watermill
Puerto Rico is famous for its coffee, and while there may be several coffee farms that are open for visitors to explore, these tend to be high-production farms that are pretty impersonal – nothing like the traditional coffee farms that once dotted the landscape.
However, Hacienda Buena Vista is one of the originals – it first came about in 1833, quickly becoming one of the busiest plantations in the country.
The farm still operates in the same way that it did back in the day, making it the best place to taste some truly authentic Puerto Rican coffee. In addition to drinking the coffee, you will also be able to tour the grounds, use the machines, meet the livestock, and learn so much about Puerto Rico’s coffee industry.
Eat Your Way Around Mayaguez
If you love Puerto Rican food, then a visit to Mayaguez is a must. This city can be credited with the creation of some of the most iconic dishes in the country, making it the best place to go if would like to sample them.
What should you eat in Mayaguez?
Here are a few must-try’s:
- Brazo Gitano – a sponge filled with jelly used to make a sweet dessert roll – there are usually several flavors to choose from
- Sangria de Fido – inspired by sangria, but made with burgundy wine, rum and fruit juices – Bacardi once tried to buy this recipe but the creator of it refused
- Local Ice Cream – Rex Cream is an establishment famous for its locally-made ice creams, with a number of alternative flavors, along with the classics, to pick from
- Local Breads – from pan sobado to pan de agua, Mayaguez is where you will find some of the best bread in the country
Spend the Day on Isla Culebrita
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Puerto Rico is famous for its amazing beaches, but there’s no denying that these can get a little crowded at times.
If you want to get away from the crowds, which is especially important during this Coronavirus pandemic, then Isla Culebrita is the place to go.
This uninhabited island can only be reached by ferries and water taxis – anything else is not allowed. This puts many people off visiting, other than those who want to experience some pure, untouched natural beauty.
The island stretches out for just over a mile, but while it might be small, you can be guaranteed that there won’t be any crowds here. In fact, most tourists don’t even realize that it exists!
Wondering what there is to do here?
In addition to swimming, diving, and snorkelling, you could also spend quite a bit of time exploring the tide pools, checking out the old lighthouse, and visiting the beach that sea turtles nest on.
Visit the El Cemi Museum
Puerto Rico is full of incredible museums, but if you’re looking for something a little different, give the El Cemi Museum a try. The museum is dedicated to sacred spiritual objects, and its architecture mimics this. Set against a mountainous backdrop, this museum will impress before you even step inside its mouth-like doors.
Once indoors, you will be able to browse exhibits with collections that date back centuries, each one dedicated to unusual objects that were once used in religious ceremonies. This is definitely one of Puerto Rico’s quirkier attractions, making it great for those seeking something a little different, but still cultural and historical.
Watch Free-Roaming Monkeys
If so, Monkey Island, otherwise known as Cayo Santiago, won’t disappoint. It is home to around 1200 free-roaming monkeys, who date back to a group of 400 that were brought to the island from India in 1938 for research purposes. Scientists wanted to study the wild behavior of these monkeys without any human interference around, and this small island was the perfect site.
The monkeys have bred over the generations, and are now being studied by the University of Puerto Rico’s Caribbean Climate Research Center.
Of course, since the point of the island is for monkeys to roam free without any human contact, visitors are not allowed to walk around the island. The best way to see the creatures is either by boat, or by snorkelling in the surrounding waters. This is an experience that can really only be had in Puerto Rico, making it something you shouldn’t miss out on.
If you pick the snorkelling option, bring your diving gear too because there’s a nearby sunken barge waiting to be explored.
Tour La Casa Estrecha
Located in Old San Juan, La Casa Estrecha, which translates to English as The Narrow House, is a wonderfully unusual attraction to explore. This house used to be an alleyway, so is sandwiched between two larger buildings, measuring just 5.3 feet wide. This makes it the narrowest house in the world!
The house was bought by an architect when it was a total ruin, but it was then transformed into a liveable, yet extremely unique, narrow house.
Guided tours are available Monday to Friday, but you will need to phone ahead to book your slot.
Once you’re done, take a stroll over to Plaza Las Americas, a large shopping mall that sits in the heart of San Juan. It measures just under 2.1 million square feet, and is bursting with a variety of different stores, restaurants, art installations, and more. Famed for being the best shopping center in all of the Caribbean, Plaza Las Americas is also where you will find the OROGOLD Puerto Rico store – the perfect place to treat your skin to a truly luxurious experience.
Explore the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge
Here’s another one for nature lovers – the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. There are hundreds of different species here that call this island home, from the wild horses that gallop along the shoreline to the colorful array of birds and lizards.
The refuge’s visitor’s center is perfect for learning more about the marine life around you, with a number of interesting exhibits to view.
Then, check out the action beneath the water for yourself by snorkelling or diving. If you would prefer to stay on land, there are several hikes to choose from here, and you could also go horseback riding or biking.
Fill Your Belly at the Pork Highway
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🔄 Zmieniamy Wam tą szarą rzeczywistość, o ile skorzystacie z naszej wczorajszej oferty do 🇵🇷 PUERTO RICO❗️ Do wyboru prawie 3️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ plaży do porannych spacerów i wczesnych kąpieli w oceanie. 🌊 Brzmi zachęcająco, aby wstać z łóżka przed wschodem słońca? 🌅 Może w końcu się do tego zmotywujecie! 🤸♀️ Aromat kawy będzie Was kierował wprost do najlepszych lokalnych baristów. ☕️Miejmy nadzieję, że przez PORK HIGHWAY, Guavate. Prawie 5 km najlepszych restauracji specjalizujących się w daniach z wieprzowiny. 🐷 Hm, nie wiemy jak Wy, ale my mentalnie już tam jesteśmy. 🛬 Natomiast Wy możecie tam być już za 1️⃣8️⃣3️⃣8️⃣ zł❗️Jacyś chętni? 👋 #podróże #breakplan #podróżemałeiduże #podroze #podrozemaleiduze #włóczykij #wloczykij #puertorican #puertoricogram #puertorico #puertoricoholic #puertoricoeats #puertorico_world #puertoricoselevanta #puertorico_greatshots #puertorico🇵🇷 #puertoricodoesitbetter #foodie #porkhighway #travelguide #travelgoals #travelgeek #travelmotivation #traveldestination #visitpuertorico #discoverpuertorico
If you’re expecting to find good pork at a place called Pork Highway, this is exactly what you’ll get. Locally known as La Ruta del Lechon, this road stretches out for three miles and is packed with restaurants that specialize in pork.
The road is also dotted with open-air smoke pits, where you’ll find whole pigs roasting on skewers. This is the basis of one of the most popular dishes in the country, known simply as lechon, where the pork is covered in a special mix of spices and sauces and then spit-roasted.
From sausages and stews to casseroles and sandwiches, La Ruta del Lechon is the best place to go in Puerto Rico when you’re hungry. It’s also an area that always has such a vibrant and energetic ambience – you’ll find plenty of singing and dancing here, with a festive atmosphere at every single one of the restaurants.
Watch the Annual Whale Migration at Rincon
If you are visiting Puerto Rico between January and March, then Rincon is a must. This city, which is nestled away in the north west of the country, isn’t very well-known – you’re unlikely to find it mentioned in most tourist guides.
However, each year between January and March, hundreds of humpback whales pass through the waters here as they head towards the Caribbean. There are several observation spots around the city, with this really being a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
If you happen to enjoy surfing too…
The waves at Rincon are wild and exhilarating. This is where the 1968 World Surfing Championship was held, and it gave Puerto Rico quite the reputation among the surfing community after that.
Hike Through the Rio Abajo Forest Reserve
There are plenty of areas in Puerto Rico where you can experience nature at its finest, each one with its own unique ecosystem. However, the Rio Abajo Forest Reserve is quite different…
This protected area is actually a number of different forests that have merged into one over the years, meaning that you will encounter so many different habitats here. From wet rainforests and overgrown ravines to arid caves and empty sinkholes, the conditions within the forest seem to change around each bend.
As a result, you will also find such a wide range of wildlife here, from hawks to boa constrictors. This is also one of the only places in the world where you will be able to see the endangered Puerto Rican parrot in the wild. Many of the other creatures here also cannot be seen in the wild anywhere else on the planet, making this reserve quite the special place.
If this forest sounds appealing to you…
It would be worth hiring a guide to take you around.
Yes, you may be tempted to go it on your own, and there are plenty of areas that are absolutely safe for you explore, with more than 70 different walking trails to choose from. However, other parts of the reserve can be quite difficult to navigate, making it worth sticking with someone who knows that they are doing.
Walk Through the Camuy River Cave Park
Unlike all of the other parks in Puerto Rico, the Camuy River Cave Park is located inside a cave. To be more specific, this underground cave system is the largest in the country, plunging you into darkness soon after you enter.
There are lights dotted along the walkways so that you can see where you’re going, and also to help you view the stalagmites and stalactites around you. Some of these date back 45 million years, with the most impressive being located deeper inside this labyrinth.
There are plenty of tour guides around to point out different features of the cave, from special rocks to caverns and sinkholes. You will also be accompanied by the sound of bat wings making their way through the complex underground network.
Sample the Street Food in Pinones
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Do you know what “chinchorrear” means?
In the official sense, it means roadside food stalls, but locals have also turned it into a verb, meaning wandering your way through various food stalls and sampling their varied goods.
Puerto Rico is home to many areas that are great for people who want to chinchorrear, but Pinones is one of the best.
The location of this strip of land itself isn’t very impressive – it sits along a local highway. However, it’s packed with local food stalls and food trucks, along with tables, fire pits, smokehouses, grills, and more.
As you can imagine, there is a hugely festive atmosphere here, along with a vast menu of dishes to try. Sticky rice bowls, fried bananas, lechon – just about every local dish you could think of can be found here.
Puerto Rico is such a fascinating and diverse country to visit – no matter what your interests may be, you will find so much here that appeals to you. Whether this involves immersing yourself in the hustle and bustle of various Puerto Rican cities or taking some time out to explore the country’s untouched natural beauty, Puerto Rico is somewhere that will draw you back time and time again.