Experiencing Puerto Rico by Car
Experiencing Puerto Rico by Car.
By Cynthia Bergsbaken, March 17, 2023
Southwestern area of Puerto Rico/Caribbean Sea.
Last year, 2022 my husband and I vacationed on Puerto Rico. A beautiful island destination to visit and have fun.
This was our first-time visiting Puerto Rico. We made sure to have read all the literature on visiting and driving in Puerto Rico. We were quite nervous to drive on island due to our Spanish speaking and understanding was very limited.
This was our experience, visiting and driving Puerto Rico.
The island is made up of rainforest, desert, coastlines, cities, and mountains.
And so, with knowing this, we decided ahead of time to stay in the Fajardo Inn and visit El Yunque National Forest.
Then we’d drive down to the southwest coast, drive through the town of Guanica and stay at the Copamarina Beach Resort.
We’d be able to experience some of the coastlines, rainforest, mountains, and desert lands.
We landed in Puerto Rico in the middle of March on Sun Country Airlines. A nice, short trip from South Dakota.
We had previously rented our car with National Car Rental located in the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport.
Our pickup of our car was quick and easy. I just had a little bit of trouble understanding the person who was telling us about our reservation and car pickup. He spoke clearly, but he spoke fast with a Spanish accent. It makes it harder to track what he is telling us. We selected a small vehicle, so we’d save money on gasoline. Who wants to drive the island worrying about running low in gas all the time?
We were off!
We had listened to the warnings others had spoken of on how the road signs are in Spanish, that Puerto Rico uses the metric system, and there are toll roads to maneuver.
My husband drove the car while I read and translated our highway and road signs into English. The road pace was fast with drivers quickly dodging here and there.
Everything was going smooth, until we started missing turn-offs. We ended up in San Juan city! Ouch, not the place you want to drive for the first time in a Spanish-speaking city.
We finally were able to pull over and look at a map on our iPhone. Wow!
We realized quickly why we had missed turn-offs. There were no highway/road signs to tell us where to turn-off.
Where were the signs? Were they vandalized and taken? We came to the quick realization that the signs were missing due to hurricanes. The traffic signs at one time had been tossed into the ocean, never to be seen again. Due to hurricane damages frequently, I'm guessing the signs will be replaced when there is money to do so.
I’d say about 50% of the highway and road signs were missing, especially on the out-skirts of San Juan.
We found a quick solution to this problem. I turned on my iPhone and I used Apple Maps. Oh, what a life saver Apple Maps was. Yep, we went over our usage and was hit with a small bill, but it was well worth it.
If we did not have this app, we’d of been up a creek without a paddle.
We soon found our way out of San Juan and near El Yunque National Forest.
We decided to hike this beautiful rainforest before checking into our hotel, the Farjardo Inn.
We easily found the way up to the rainforest, but unfortunately we were told we had needed reservations, like a week ahead of time. We felt disappointed we could not make a reservation to see the rainforest due to staying in the area for only one night. But we still went in and hiked the little loop trail they had made for anyone without reservations. The plants were beautiful and it was a peaceful to walk. Great choice for people with young children or elderly with them.
That night, we stayed in the Farjardo Inn. The Inn people were helpful and professional. Their Inn was clean, tidy, and decorated in antique plantation type furniture. Our room had a balcony that overlooked the pool, ocean, and part of the rainforest-El Yunque.
That night was one of the most peaceful places I could of imagined. Instead of hearing manmade music, cars, people, etc., we heard the infamous Coqui tree frogs singing.
So beautiful and relaxing to listen to them and only them.
A meditator’s delight.
The next morning, we needed to find a place to eat breakfast. We had wanted to mix with the locals and eat local food.
We found Panaderia, La Dulce Tentacion. We stood in a line of many hungry local people. As I tried to give my order, the kind lady asked me many questions in regards to my order. I tried my best with the Spanish, but she needed more answers from me about my order then I could give. And so, a kind gentleman at the end of the line came forward and asked the lady what she wanted to know and then he asked me in English.Very kind people helping us with patience and joy.
We received our breakfast sandwiches consisting of 6 inches of a French-type bread and meat (Pork).
The food was good and satisfying.
(YouTube video on northeastern Puerto Rico.)
Next stop, we drove down the southeast coastline. We had needed to get to the Copamarina Beach Resort to check-in for the day.
Driving, we found some beautiful scenery to enjoy. While driving Puerto Rico, you’ll find they have several toll roads.
It’s super easy to purchase the addition of the EZ-Pass/ AutoExpreso pass when you rent a vehicle. This way, we had one less thing to think about. As we drove through each toll, the toll would automatically register on an electronic toll sheet. So by the end of our trip, the bill was sent to us when we were home.
The one thing a person needs to know is what toll lane to drive in. With a EZ pass/AutoExpreso, we would always drive to the left lane or the middle lane that had a “T” on it.
Otherwise, we would have been paying twice, once in cash and again on our pass.
We followed Highway 52, Highway 10 and then to Highway 2. This brought us through Juncos, Cavey, Juana Diaz, Ponce, and Guanica.
Next stop, Copamarina Beach Resort.
The Copamarina Beach Resort is on the top of my list to stay while in Puerto Rico.
The price was well worth the atmosphere, cleanliness, service, and a room next to the beach.
Our room in the Copamarina Beach Resort was clean, tidy, and like a southeastern USA plantation room.
The grounds were spacious with lots of grass, trees, and coastline. The resort has extra activities to keep a person/family entertained and well-fed.
While staying here, we visited a soon to be our favorite city/ Yauco.
This city has beautiful, historical architecture combined with local artisans art.
A neat city to visit.
While visiting one morning, we overheard the Catholic church father’s singing. Really was beautiful among the birds and trees.
Next was to eat breakfast at the first Mayer’s house, now a restaurant called Dolche Salao. Really great food, good service, and a beautiful atmosphere.
(YouTube video on Yauco.)
During the trip, we hiked the Guanica State Forest. This is situated near the Copamarina Beach Resort and Guanica.
The land is dry like a desert and consists of cacti, tree forests, grasses, and lava on parts of the ground.
I highly recommend the proper shoes to hike such as hiking boots or good supportive pair of sneakers. The lava alone can create open wounds on toes or feet if not covered properly. And don’t forget plenty of drinking water and a sunhat of some kind. The temperature stayed a constant 88 degrees F and sunny every day we visited this area.
The Guanica State Forest consists of 9200 acres of land and is worth the time to hike it's trails. Nice, natural piece of land to hike, view, and experience.
While staying at the Copamarina Beach Resort, we easily travelled to the town of Guanica, Fort Fuerte Capron, a deserted lighthouse, and numerous beaches; some deserted, some semi-private, and others private.
(YouTube video of Fort Fuerte Capron.)
This brings me to my next thought about beaches. Read all rules regarding each beach if a sign is posted. Note the time it closes and obey it.
At times, it’s nice to find that deserted beach and kick back on it. Problem is you may be making yourself a target for thieves. We did not have this problem, but it could have happened easily.
Another thought is, no matter what ocean beach you’re on, always note the tides and undercurrents. Some beaches may be deserted due to bad undercurrents in the water. Undercurrents are currents that can pull you into the deep water, miles away from shore. I had this happen while visiting a beach in Hawaii. The sand shifts rapidly under your feet, pulling you hard into the deep water. If swimming, the current pulls you hard into the deep waters.
Also note what fish are around you if possible. I took a photo overlooking the Caribbean Sea near the Guanica Dry Forest (Guanica State Forest). (This original photo is the main photo on this article.)
I had thought I was just taking a photo of the sea. But it turned out, as I looked closer, I took a photo of a pickup truck and a man getting ready to swim/surf. Looking closer, I noticed a shark dorsal fins peaking out of the water. The same area this swimmer was heading for.
The ocean/sea is a wonderful place, but we are visitors. Respect the creatures and their home.
While entering the sea, we always shuffle our feet in case a Sting Ray is hiding in the sand. We do not want to step on it!
Also watch for Jelly fish. While snorkeling in Mexico, I swam into a huge patch of Jelly fish. I’m from the Midwest and in lakes/ponds we have patches of Lily pads.
From under the water, one would think the Jelly fish look a lot like Lily pads. Our brains will tell us what we are use to-Lily pads and not Jelly fish.
While staying at the Copamarina Beach Resort, we had the chance to taste Mofongo. Mofongo is a well-known Puerto Rican dish made from green Plantains, Pork rinds, and spices.
This dish is tasty and filling! I’d suggest you try it.
(YouTube video on Copamarina Beach Resort and Guanica.)
As our trip ended, we drove from the Copamarina Beach Resort through the mountains and up to the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport.
The mountains were beautiful to watch, but the drive was a little fast paced through them following traffic.
All in all, our first trip to Puerto Rico was a lot of fun, warm and tropical, and a good solid first trip. In the years ahead, I hope to visit Puerto Rico again.
Here are some tips that I may have mentioned above, but will outline here. I will also place some links that I found to be helpful. Have fun, but be safe in your choices and respectful to the people of Puerto Rico and the creatures/plant life that live there and in the sea.
- Highway signs are missing from various hurricanes. Use Apple Maps (iPhone) to find your destinations easily.
- Learn the road signs in Spanish. This will help you to navigate the island safely.
- Make reservations at least a week before you want to see El Yunque National Forest to hike. This will also depend on if you go in the busy season. You may need more time.
- Travel the roads during the day light. (Guanica, Copamarina Beach Resort, and the mountains.)
- Try the local foods instead of the usual burger and fries. (Mofongo.) Go to the local, small restaurants.
- If you are able to take at least 2 weeks to travel Puerto Rico, do so. I had a week.
- Be aware of the tides and what is around you in the water. (Sea Creatures-Sting Rays, Sharks, etc.)
- Be aware of closure signs for beaches. Read the beach signs for regulations and when the beach closes.
- Bring plenty of water to drink while on hikes.
- Wear proper footwear and wear a hat to hike.
- Enjoy the peacefulness and the singing tree-frog/Coqui frog found only in Puerto Rico. (Heard at the Fajardo Inn/ El Yunque National Forest.)
- Driving Puerto Rico was fast paced. Know and understand the road signs well!
Toll roads: know the differences between what lanes to drive in. We used EZ- Pass (Autoexpreso). And so, we needed to always stay in the left lane, except if there was a middle lane that was labeled “T.”
- Because of the mountains and the winding roads near the coast lines, driving will take a lot longer to get to the places you want to go. And so, when making reservations for places on the other side of the island, give yourself plenty of time. From Farjardo Inn to Guanica was about 2.5-3 hours long. It is not safe to drive unknown roads at nighttime, especially the roads to Copamarina Beach Resort. If you return on a Sunday on PR 2, realize the locals are also returning from their weekend beach getaways. The traffic gets locked up here.
- It's helpful and acknowledged as respectful to speak some Spanish.
- The Puerto Rican culture is fast paced on the roads, but is more leisurely (island time) when it comes to service. Please take this opportunity to kick back and relax. Do what the islanders do-relax and socialize.
- Don’t forget to drink the excellent Puerto Rican coffee! Grown right there on the island, it is awesome! (Words of my husband. I do not drink coffee.)
· https://frommers.com (My paperback guidebook on PR)
· https://www.nationalcar.com/en/car-rental/locations/us/us-pr/san-juan-luis-munoz-marin-intl-airport-p1n1.html (car rental I used.)
· https://www.puertoricocartransport.com/news/need-know-tolls-puerto-rico/ (Tolls)
· https://www.puertoricodaytrips.com/driving-in-puerto-rico/ (Driving rules and signs of PR. Good to memorize and make cheat sheets for 2nd person, while other is driving.)
All in all, have a great time, make fun memories, and plan on going back to experience more of Puerto Rico.
Note, I am not affiliated with any of the businesses named above. I’m a visitor that simply had a great time experiencing Puerto Rico. -Cynthia Bergsbaken
***All original content is copyrighted by Cynthia Bergsbaken, Perceptive Blogger & Reiki in the Prairie LLC.
Reiki in the Prairie LLC is a legal Entity under law, 2015.
April 11, 2020
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