Puerto Rico is a magical place. The gay-friendly Caribbean island is home to some of the world’s greatest beaches, food and natural wonders, yet it’s a seemingly untapped paradise on the tourism circuit. Below are three things you should do and, just because we care about you, three things you shouldn’t when visiting the island.
DO take the time to explore Old San Juan
It’s the first stop for cruise ships floating through and a big attraction in the island’s capital, but a visit to the Old San Juan district is essential. The cobblestone streets, colourful buildings crammed together, little plazas, and the bar that claims to have invented the piña colada — Barrachina — make for an eventful day. All this in addition to the historic forts on the coast, which are easily accessible and absolutely stunning.
DO check out the bioluminescent water
The beautiful sand of Caracas Beach on the island of Vieques.
Hop on the ferry to Vieques, a small island off the main island of Puerto Rico, and discover a place of wild horses, award-winning beaches, lovely locals who pour rum and Cokes with heavy hands, and two fascinating bioluminescent bays. It’s easy to find a tour guide who will take you and a small group out in kayaks so you can float around on water that glitters with glow-in-the-dark algae. It’s unlike anything else you’ll experience, truly a wonder of nature, and for a second you’ll feel like Michael Jackson in that “Can You Feel It” video.
DO visit the rain forest
Just outside San Juan is El Yunque National Forest, a 28,000-acre sub-tropical rain forest on the slopes of the Sierra de Luquillo mountains. Within the reserve you’ll find horseback tours, one of the world’s longest zip-line courses and roadside coconut stops. And you’ll find gorgeous waterfalls: tucked away in the mountains on the popular La Mina Trail (a hike that is a really great workout for your butt) is the beautiful La Mina Falls. Be sure to bring your swimming trunks so you can swim in and around them.
DON’T stay in Canadian mode — branch out!
It can be easy to forget you’re on a Caribbean island, since Puerto Rico is a territory of the US, but just below the surface are the amazing food, drinks, bars and people of San Juan. Avoid Starbucks and search out the local coffee; after all, it’s their main export! Get out of the hotel and sit at a local bar; people are friendly and most areas are perfectly safe.
La Mina Falls, in El Yunque National Forest.
DON’T be alarmed by all the men and their manicured eyebrows
The men of Puerto Rico can be dangerously good-looking, and they really like to take care of themselves. Gay or straight, men on the island get their bushy brows waxed on the regular.
DON’T worry about not being able to speak Spanish
Most locals speak English and are more than happy to practise their second language with tourists. Men will still call suave guys “papi,” however. That word just doesn’t translate well.