If you're taking a Caribbean cruise this year, chances are you'll make a stop in San Juan first. And while there's plenty to do in the vibrant Puerto Rican capital, some of you may be ready to experience the rest of the island. So whether you have an extra precruise day or a week to spend exploring, we've got the inside scoop on seeing pleasing Puerto Rico - beyond San Juan.
ONE DAY: A RAINFOREST BEACH PARTY
In one spare day, head straight for the Caribbean National Forest, aka El Yunque. On the eastern end of the island, offshore and upland, it's Puerto Rico's best day trip, a lush rainforest of waterfalls, wildlife, and 24 miles of hiking trails. The national coqui frog thrives here, a wee, shy fellow whose distinct song soundtracks the woods.
Although it's one of the island's most popular attractions, El Yunque is also the best place to lose the hoards. A few steps into the dense forest puts you wilds away from the conga line of cars heading up to the peak of El Yunque, elevation 3,500 feet. Forgo the popular peak trail for the La Coca or La Mina trails, where you'll be alone, scrambling downhill and up, rock-hopping across streams and wading through rivers. On any trail, be prepared for wet and muddy conditions - this is a rainforest after all - and bring a post-hike change of clothes and shoes as well as plenty of drinking water.
Though a popular destination for island tour operators, El Yunque rewards independent visitors with a unique picnic in seaside Luquillo, just east of the park. Here food vendors selling empanadillas, roast chickens, and cold Medalla beers pack the shore. Collect a feast and eat it on the calm crescent-shaped beach to get an authentic taste of leisure puertorriqueno style.