Last Updated on November 14, 2021 by Paroma
Curious about solo travel in Puerto Rico? Let this guide, based on my very first adventure of traveling solo in Puerto Rico be your one stop for all the burning questions you may have on traveling safely in this island as a solo, female traveler. This guide on Puerto Rico solo female travel includes the best places to stay, eat and things to do in a safe and fun manner if you’re traveling to Puerto Rico alone and that too for the first time!
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Is Puerto Rico a safe destination for solo travel as a woman?
Puerto Rico, the caribbean island which doubles up as a US territory, is a travel destination near and dear to my heart because this is the first place I visited solo (not once, but twice) and loved every minute of it. So to answer your question, YES, Puerto Rico is a safe destination to travel solo for women.
Although I spend some time in the more modern Condado area with beachfront hotels due to the conference I was attending, the majority of my stay was in San Juan’s picturesque old town where I ventured out on my own on both visits and ate my way through in some of the best old San Juan restaurants. In this solo travel to Puerto Rico guide, I will be detailing all the attractions that I visited as a solo traveler, all of which I felt incredibly safe exploring.
I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did and visit the island which definitely needs some tourism money since it is still recovering from the horrible aftermath of Hurricane Maria. For details on how badly the island has been decimated, read my blogger friend Lola’s post right here on life in PR after the hurricane. For more inspiration on traveling solo, read this handy solo female travel guide by another blogger friend of mine.
Where should you stay in Puerto Rico as a solo traveler?
Although the Condado area is where tourists mostly live due to modern hotels and access to beaches, my heart lies in the charm of old San Juan, i.e. the old town part of the capital where the crammed cobbled streets and the old world feel will transport you to a different era altogether. I have stayed in the heart of old San Juan twice and it is incredibly safe to stay there.
People flock to San Juan and Puerto Rico for the pristine beaches dotting the island. I am not a beach bunny at all, but there are several public beaches in the Condado area that are very popular with people. If you stay in one of the adjoining resorts (such as the San Juan Marriott), you will also get your own umbrella and beach loungers.
I stayed at Hotel Casablanca, (a Moroccan themed hotel on Calle Fortaleza) during my second visit and loved the convenience and service! Seriously, If you are looking for a budget boutique hotel in the heart of old town, Casablanca is possibly one of the best hotels in San Juan. Unlike what it says on the website, the hotel now has a functioning elevator so you don’t have to huff and puff up the stairs with your luggage in tow.
Fun things to do on your solo travel to Puerto Rico
There is no dearth of fun activities to enjoy on your own as a solo traveler in Puerto Rico. Here are all the things that I did during my visit as a solo female traveler and loved all of them (minus the beach cause I am not a beach bunny):
How to enjoy Puerto Rico as a solo female traveler: Relax at the beach
Since Puerto Rico is an island, there are obviously no dearth of those fabled Caribbean beaches to blow your mind away. Slap that sunscreen, get a good book, wear your floppy hat and you’re all set for a day at the beach! I spent some time at the Condado beach near our conference center, which is the most popular one amongst tourists.
Here are the top ten beaches in Puerto Rico for those interested in lazing away under the sun, just make sure to lather yourself with sunscreen since you will be completely exposed to the blazing sun. A day at the beach is one of the best things to do in Puerto Rico with kids!
Solo travel activity in Puerto Rico: Kayaking the bioluminescent bay
For the adventurous soul, kayaking in the bioluminescent bay (named after the bioluminescent bacteria feeding on special plankton growing there) is not to be missed even if you’re traveling solo in Puerto Rico since this island is one of the few places in the world with a healthy bio bay.
This activity welcomes solo travelers as well where you are simply paired up with another person or a guide. In fact, Puerto Rico is blessed with three such bays, with the brightest one being the Mosquito bay in Vieques, followed by the second brightest in Fajardo (where I kayaked during my first visit) and the last one, not so well maintained due to huge influx of tourists, in Lajas.
Since these organisms are in a protected ecosystem, it takes quite a bit of effort to get to the actual waterbody and that means crossing swamps and lagoons, in the darkness of the night. I am not a very outdoors person, but found that the effort was really worth the sight and so highly recommend this moderately strenuous activity.
Please contact a good tour group that is responsible for this kayaking adventure and follow all their instructions. You do not need prior kayaking expertise to join, but it’s best to go in as a pair or in a group (I went alone but a kind lady in group joined me, at any rate you will be paired with someone). Vieques Outdoors and Eco Tours Puerto Rico are two responsible kayaking groups to tour with.
Tours start at sunset and also later in the evening, and you are picked up from your hotel if you indicate that transportation is needed. Please wear a bathing suit below your clothes or bring a dry towel since you get wet considerably in the lower part of your body depending on the venue.
For example, when I went kayaking in Fajardo, the bio-bay was located at the mouth of a very narrow lagoon and so we had to wade our kayaks through a swamp, due to which our legs and lower parts of the body got wet.
Safe things to do in Puerto Rico as a solo traveler: explore Old San Juan
Old Town San Juan (read this guide on San Juan beaches and other attractions) was the highlight of my Puerto Rico travel, not only because it appeared to be straight out of a coloring book but also because it is extremely navigable by foot and all the top attractions can be visited safely on your own. You can read my detailed blog post on major Old Town attractions as well as the best restaurants and cafes in San Juan.
I must add that I felt safe walking late in the evening in Old town as well (since there are always so many people around), but please adopt common sense precautions if you are in the newer part of the capital and want to go partying, clubbing or hitting up the bars.
Guided tour for solo travelers in Puerto Rico: Day trip to El Yunque rainforest
El Yunque rainforest is Puerto Rico’s national treasure since it is the only rainforest in the US National Forest system, and is maintained by the Federal forest service. The rainforest is protected and therefore plucking of leaves, fruits and flowers or causing any kind of damage is forbidden and against the law.
The rainforest is a 30-35 min drive from Old Town and can either be viewed on your own (if you have a vehicle) or by a guided tour which I highly recommend if you do not drive but want to see this forest as part of your solo travel in Puerto Rico adventure. Although there are several options for the latter, I recommend Louie’s VIP tour (nothing pricey about this VIP tour as it includes transportation and is a mere $ 60 as compared to other tour options).
Luis Robles (Louie) is the owner and guide of this tour and is a living encyclopedia on everything about the El Yunque rainforest. Once contacted by email and confirmed, you have to reconfirm by calling him again 1-2 days before your trip. Louie will pick you up from a place near your hotel (I met him at Plaza Colon) and then pick up other members of the group (our group included me and 10 others) and then he will head out for the rainforest.
Not only was Louie very friendly, but he rattled off a lot of amazing trivia about Puerto Rico, the rainforest and everything else under the sun. He knows all the flowers, trees and every inch of the rainforest and reminded us time and again about how important it is to conserve and preserve the rainforest for future generations.
He also told us fun facts about the forest such as there are no large mammals or predators inhabiting it since no animal that couldn’t be swept by the ocean or carried by the wind could have made it there. Similarly, the rain water flows away in strong currents and therefore there is no stagnant water for mosquitoes to breed, i.e. you cannot be bitten by one in the forest.
Our first stop was the visitor center where we watched a movie, narrated by Benicio Del Toro (native Puerto Rican Hollywood star and an Academy Award winner) that was a documentary about the forest, its past and the present conservation efforts.
The rainforest was called El Yunque by the native Taino people and then was renamed El Yunque because of the Spaniards’ mispronunciation. After Louie familiarized us with the flowers and shrubs nearby, he gave us instructions to the La Mina waterfalls, which we were to encounter after 445 steps/550 feet of descent.
Due to the fragility of the ecosystem and to prevent damage to the flora, one should always stay on the paved path/trail. We got a fantastic view of the pot bellied man-mountain from atop the Yokahu Tower and then made our way to the waterfall.
We spent around 30 mins at the waterfall (I firmly stayed out of the water while those in bathing suit splashed around) and then made our way up 255 steps or so, firmly staying on the paved way, to get back to the parking lot where Louie was waiting for us.
Famished, we made our way to one of the three food joints near the entrance of the rainforest. The food was good enough for our hungry stomachs (vegetarians ate rice, beans and cheese arepas) and there were plenty of fresh coconuts to quench our thirst.
Finally, Louie dropped us off at our respective hotels and was kind enough to offer us help in case we needed any recommendations during our stay. I give two big thumbs up to this tour, which was made super enjoyable thanks to Louie!
Cultural escape for solo traveler in Puerto Rico: A trip to the museum
Art lovers rejoice, because the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, is a luminescent gem of a place and your entry way into some of the most beautiful and jaw-dropping artistic exhibits from the dynamic art scene of this island for a mere entry free of $6.69!
Enter into the fascinating world of Puerto Rico masters such as Rafael Tufiño (Puerto Rican artist and printmaker, known as the common man’s artist), Ramón Frade (his masterpiece “El Pan Nuestro de Cada Dia”/Our Daily Bread of a man holding a bunch of plantains symbolizes the spirit of Puerto Rico) and Francisco Oller who were influenced significantly by European art but remained true to their Puerto Rican roots.
My favorite of all the displays was undoubtedly Tufiño’s gigantic mural “La Plena” where he paid homage to this Puerto Rican style of music (of African Origin) via visuals of different people (representing all the diverse races found on the island) and activities. It is a shame that the museum does not allow photography (even minus flash) because I badly wanted to photograph this masterpiece.
The museum, located in Santurce, has 5 floors and used to be the San Juan Municipal Hospital in the 1920s . It is also one of the largest art museums in the Caribbean. There are exhibits on the 3rd and fourth floor, while there is a beautiful sculpture garden with a serene koi pond once you walk out of the second floor.
The second floor has a dedicated room for children’s activities and exhibits. This museum is a must visit for all art lovers and if you want a free visit, Wednesdays after 2 PM is free entry (that is what I saw in one of the signs posted, but please confirm).
Outside of the museum, stands an enigmatic sculpture comprising of a giant smashing into a car. I dug into the internet and found out that the installation is by Thomas Dambo, who made this gigantic sculpture from broken pallets and wood chips scavenged from all over the island. The defunct car was donated by a local man named Wilson, and a construction worker helped remake the car to fit the giant’s fist.
The sculpture was originally built for the Santurce street art festival and post festivities found a permanent home with the MAPR. To get an in person view of this amazing sculpture and the many wonders of Puerto Rican art, do visit the museum.
This concludes my guide to solo travel in Puerto Rico and all the fun things to do as a solo traveler. Puerto Rico is an incredibly safe destination for first time female travelers and the locals are extremely friendly! So please visit this Caribbean island if you’re planning to take those baby steps in traveling on your own. Thanks a lot for reading!
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