1) Luquillo Beach
Is one of the most beautiful beaches in Puerto Rico and one of the main reasons I would try to convince nomads to stay here as opposed to San Juan. Unlike San Juan Beach, which is behind a huge strip of hotels and screams tourist attraction, Luquillo is a tranquil and mesmerizing shoreline. In the early hours of the day, especially on a weekday it is not uncommon to be one of the only people on the beach, making it super relaxing and peaceful. The water is calm more often than not, as opposed to San Juan which can get pretty choppy. It offers an endless view of the beautiful crystal blue, often aquamarine colored sea. Behind you is the surreal wall of the perfectly spaced palm trees (which are great for setting up hammocks, or macas as the locals call them) and in the distance through the clouds you can enjoy the striking view of the serene mountains in El Yunque National Forest (which you will swear is the set of a Jurassic Park movie). It is definitely a local favorite, whereas San Juan Beach really the only locals you’ll encounter are vendors. However, Luquillo Beach is still traveler friendly! It offers chair and umbrella rentals which average about $5 each for the day. They will collect the rentals around 5 o’clock regardless if you are still using them or what time you got there. So just beware of the time if you are arriving later in the day. The beach also offers the typical water sports rentals such as kayaks ($5 per 30 minutes, Jet Skis and water jet packs (Starting at about $60). Luquillo’s water sport are separate from the swimming area, all the way at the far left end of the beach. San Juan is scattered with big booths and banners which takes away from the natural beauty of the beach and breaks the swimming areas into several smaller sections. It also offers a nice shower and bathroom facility, for a fee ranging from 50 cents to a dollar per person. There are also some little stores which sell souvenirs, beach items and some food selections that are open on the weekends. There is an ice cart which goes up and down the beach ringing a little bell that sells various flavors of shaved ice charging $3 for a small and $5 for a large. The last amenity of the beach is their convenient parking lot which costs $6 per car. However if you are going just for a jog or a run, and are dressed accordingly, you can tell the person at the gate you are just going to exercise and they will only charge you $2.
A few last things that are good to know about Luquillo Beach: if you are renting a fully stocked vacation rental like an Air BnB or you want to go all out and buy yourself a little grill while you are visiting, you are allowed to have it on the beach. Which is nice if you are going with a group; bring your grill, a small table, set it up amongst the palm trees and stay all day!
Puerto Rico does have a stray dog epidemic.. And they like the beach too! So it is not rare for you to see them wondering around. If you are one of the only people on the beach it can be a bit daunting to see a pack of stray dogs nearby. Just stay calm and go about your business and they won’t bother you. At the end of the day feel free to throw them a left over piece of your grilled chicken, they will be very grateful.
2) The Kiosks or … Los KioskosAnother one of my favorite Luquillo destinations is Los Kioskos. The Kiosks makes up a strips of 60 (they are numbered to 60, but contain a little less) shops and restaurants located on the north side (or the beach side as we like to refer to it) of Route 3, which is the main road that brings you to Luquillo. They are about 2 minutes from the beach I just told you about so if you leave hungry and tired this would be the perfect place to stop. You will never be left with the question “where should we go to eat”, or you may be if you can’t decide! One of my favorite parts of trav
eling is tasting the local cuisine, los kioskos offer plenty of local delights as well as restaurants and dishes from other Hispanic cultures and even some Italian food! If you want to try some Puerto Rican food (comida typico) try kiosks #8, 10, 20, 31, 52, 56 and 60. One of my favorites is #42 – The Ceviche Hut which is Peruvian. Be sure to try all of the local fried pastries such as alcapurrias, arrepas and empanadas, which are offered at many of the kiosks. The shops offer a wide selection of hammocks, clothing and other things that make for great souvenirs. You can also get a refreshing Pina Colada to enjoy while you browse! Most of the kiosks accept credit cards as well as cash. The kioskos are perfectly safe during the day, however locals would recommend locking your car and parking in a well-lit area at night just as a precaution.
3) Las Paylas – The Natural Water Slide
Las Paylas is definitely a local favorite. It is a part of the river which is accessed through a local family’s backyard that offers awesome natural water slides and cool pools to relax in. The rain forest surrounding it is gorgeous with lush green plant life and the soothing sound of coquis chirping (The official symbol of Puerto Rico, a small tree frog). It is a great alternative to the beach on a hot day! The address is PR-983, Luquillo, Puerto Rico, which should get you fairly close but in case you think you’ve missed it, it is on the right hand side of the road after about a 3 minute drive up hill once you enter Sabana. The property has a long chain link fence in front of it and will have a little sign that says Las Paylas. The last I saw the owner charges about $6 a car and also offers food, drinks and ice cream for about $1 each. It is a beautiful and exciting way to spend the day but use caution when walking down to the river and while you are swimming. You will want to have good sneakers, water shoes or at the very least socks to navigate the slippery rocks. Keep your hands and feet in and your elbows tucked and enjoy the thrill of the natural water slide!
4) La Mina Falls In El Yunque National Forest
No matter where you stay in Puerto Rico be sure to reserve a day to explore El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the United States. What is nice if you are staying in Luquillo is that you are only a 20 to 30 minute drive to La Mina Falls trail. Your navigation will do a good job of getting you here. If you have never driven up a mountain in a rural area than you will find the roads to be slightly intimidating. They are often just wide enough for two cars to pass. Just use caution. If you feel uncertain going around a turn just lean on your horn to warn any oncoming traffic. If it is dawn or dusk, you can flash your headlights. Once you get to La Mina Falls there is a free parking lot and bathroom facility. We recommend taking the long trail which takes about 45 minutes but you’ll love every second enjoying the beautiful scenery. If you are pressed for time or you have any physical restrictions, there is another trail option which only takes about 20 minutes. The best time to go is early morning. Before the tours and other tourists start to flock. Once you make the hike down you are welcomed by the peaceful sight of La Mina Cascada (waterfall). At the bottom is a refreshing natural pool that you can swim in, so plan to get wet. It will be cold but so, so worth it. If you have worked up an appetite after all the hiking and swimming; there are little cafés that you will pass on your way to the waterfall that has some great empanadas and other typical foods.
5) Over All Experience
If you haven’t gotten the vibe from the previous points that you will be totally be immersed in some Puerto Rican culture in Luquillo, you should. With much less tourists and attractions you are able to experience Puerto Rico for what it actually is. Don’t worry everyone still speaks English, or at least broken Spanish. The beach is beautiful, the kiosks offer great food selection all in one place and El Yunque is a close enough drive you could start off every morning with a relaxing rain forest hike, which we totally recommend. So rent a car and drive the 30 minutes from the airport to get away from the city life and do Puerto Rico like a local. When you go don’t forget to do #TheNomadLife on all of your photos so we can follow you and your adventures.