When REAL’s Ashlon Durham started making plans to visit Puerto Rico for the first time, he had a ton of questions about what to do and where to go. After Ashlon consulted with REAL Co-Founder Trip Forman about the PR trip, we realized that most first-time visitors to the island would have all the same questions. We captured their conversation and published it below to help you travel like a pro on your first trip to Puerto Rico. Enjoy!
I am going to Puerto Rico this winter, and I heard you are an expert on traveling Puerto Rico in style! I have a few questions, and hope you can help me maximize the fun on this trip.
1: Is it safe for a traveler to go out and party in the Puerto Rican nightlife?
This depends on where you are on the island and how switched on you are to keeping yourself and your belongings safe. Puerto Rico is way safer than the rap that’s out there from way back. That stemmed from basing yourself in the city of San Juan, which like any city, can get a little hairy if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time. I think I heard you were headed towards the Northwest side of the island around Aguadilla, Isabela, and maybe Rincon? Those are more residential and even rural areas, like the “country” of Puerto Rico. There are plenty of good beach bars, music, dancing, etc. Good times!
As far as keeping yourself safe and secure in PR, or anywhere in general, don’t be too flashy with all your personal electronic devices, only take the to beach what you will be going into the water with and don’t use your car as a storage place for everything you own. Follow these three tips and you will have a fun and hassle free time.
2: What is best way to get around and explore all the natural beauty the island has to offer?
I’ve done PR without a car, but it’s tough, especially if you’re on your own with no friends to bum rides from. Rent a car and explore everything the island has to offer. There are numerous surf breaks and kite spots all over the island and if you have a car, you can tap into all of them. For non-water activities you can explore the rain forest, waterfalls, play golf, take a zip line tour, snorkel and dive, ride horses, go to the skate park, ice skate (yep!), bowl, ….I think I got everything!
3: Are there any good surf spots for someone who crashes all the time and doesn’t want to pick urchins out of their back.?
Once you are in water this warm, you are going to have urchins more often than not. The best way to avoid them is to get a good understanding of where to get in and out of the water, as this is when you will be standing. Once you are in the water and surfing, it’s pretty rare that you hit the bottom. At almost all the surf spots there are clean, urchin free areas to get in and out of the water as long as you know where they are. Take the time to find these areas as well as a backup plan further down the beach (current) where you can also get out. If you do that you should be urchin-free and smiling.
With regards to the right surf spots for you, the waves at Jobos, Surfers Beach, and Wilderness have a slightly flatter face and easier takeoff compared to the faster, more hollow waves of Dunes, Middles, Marias, etc.
4: What size kites should I bring, and what surfboard should I take with me?
For kite sizing it depends on where you will be staying on the island. The NW corner of the island is the windiest. When I go there I ride my 9m and a surfboard 80% of the time. If I was taking a 2nd kite to ride with a surfboard it would be a 7m. Typically San Juan has a full kite size less wind, so if you were on a 9m at Shacks, you would be on an 11m or 12m in San Juan.
For surfboards, the waves in PR have a good amount of power since they come out of super deep water and then onto relatively shallow reefs. Many people call PR the “Hawaii of the Caribbean”. If you were only going to bring one board, bring your daily driver or all around shortboard. You can get by with just this one board by shifting yourself north and east along the coast as the waves get smaller and you are looking for more size, and then west and southwest around the corner as the waves get bigger and you need to hide from the size in order to stay in surf that you (and your board) feel comfortable in. It’s a really cool corner of the island to have all the different surf/wind options nearby.
5: How much Spanish do I need to know?
I’m as gringo as it gets. I know a bit of Spanish and can listen to a conversation and get the gist of it, but when it comes to speaking Spanish, I’m not that good. I’d say you can do this trip and have an incredible time with no Spanish at all. There are a lot of Americans and Canadians down there, and most of the Puerto Ricans are fluent in English as well. Have a great trip!