After spending three wonderful days on Vieques we had 3 more days to explore Old San Juan and the main land of Puerto Rico. After a short flight back to the airport in San Juan, we picked up our jeep rental. We encountered busy holiday traffic (this was Easter day) and a downpour of rain. Other than in Old San Juan, driving in Puerto Rico felt a lot like driving anywhere else in the United States.
We stayed at Posada San Francisco, in the heart of historic Old San Juan. The location was fantastic, but parking in general is difficult to come by in this area. We had to pay for parking in a parking lot a few blocks away. We payed $10 a night for parking, which was pretty good for the area.
Driving in San Juan
Old San Juan is full of one-way streets and cobblestone pedestrian-only roads. Google maps did not work in Puerto Rico either for us. We had a little success with MapQuest fortunately.It was a little tricky to navigate on a good day, but when a cruise ship was docked it was beyond stressful. The flow of traffic completely changes, roads are closed and the signage is not very clear on where to go. We don’t regret renting a vehicle at all and would do it again. Just remember to take a deep breathe and be okay with getting a little lost.
Playa Puerto Nuevo
We stopped by Walmart and filled up a cooler with sandwich supplies and drinks and started our full day of road tripping the island. Our first stop was Playa Puerto Nuevo after we were inspired by this video. The waves weren’t as dramatic as the video, but it was still an awesome beach and there wasn’t another tourist in site. There were a lot of street vendors at the beach, a food cart across from the parking lot and a baptism going on. Definitely a lot to see!
We headed into the mountainous interior of Puerto Rico for our second stop. The road up to Arecibo Observatory was full of twisty turns and a little nausea inducing. However, the views were absolutely gorgeous! It was exciting seeing the scenery change from coastal to lush, green trees everywhere.
The Arecibo Observatory is the largest single radio-telescope in the world. The telescope uses radio waves to monitor such things as asteroids. The telescope may look familiar to you if you’ve seen the movies Contact and James Bonds’ GoldenEye, both had scenes filmed here.
After the observatory we headed to Gozalandia waterfall in San Sebastián. There wasn’t very clear directions online, but someone had posted GPS coordinates on TripAdvisor so that gave us a general idea of where it was, and asking a local got us the rest of the way there. There was loud latin music playing and a ton of people there. It was really beautiful though, so I’m glad we found it.
After that we headed to Aguadilla and Isebela on the coast. We didn’t find anything that we really wanted to see though, and just ended up driving around through the towns. I read that there was good surfing in the area, but other than the beaches I’m not sure what there is to see. We headed back to San Juan after that.
IF YOU GO:
- We paid $60/night for a double private room (with shared bathroom) at Posada San Francisco. Dorms start at $25/night
- We rented our Jeep through Payless and paid a total of $53 for 3 days!
- Tickets start at $10 per person at Arecibo Observatory
- We paid $5 for parking at the Gozalandia waterfall. A local allows people to park in his field and is a hike down steep stairs to get to the waterfall
*note: there are affiliative links in this post, which means we will make a small commission if you book something but you will still pay the same great price! We only recommend things we have tried ourselves***