Before Cole and I set out on our adventure of a lifetime, I thought it’d be fun to recap some of the adventures we already have under our belts.
When we were engaged, we knew we wanted to take a honeymoon trip that had elements of both relaxation and adventure. We also knew we had quite a few Southwest Airlines miles, and their international affiliate, AirTran, has limited destinations. Above all, we had this amazing time share opportunity in Puerto Rico that was gifted to us by Cole’s family. Lucky, I know.
After the stars had aligned and we landed on a Puerto Rico honeymoon, it was time to plan out the stay. Itinerary building is one of my favorite pastimes, so I was all over it. Cole and I both had similar visions for our trip: jungles, beaches, a few fruity drinks, and lots of adventure.
I think we hit a very happy balance.
Below, I thought I would provide a (somewhat) detailed rundown of our trip, because I was very proud of my planning! We wanted to hit all the best things Puerto Rico had to offer, in just one week, and we managed to follow through with almost every plan.
In addition to the squeezing-in-everything-we-possibly-can mindset, I also had an eye on the budget. It’s in my nature. This is a trip that we feel we really splurged on. It was our honeymoon, after all, and if we were ever going to go ziplining, biobay touring, and snorkeling all in the same trip, we’d have to stretch our wallets a bit more than we normally would on a trip. It was one thousand percent worth it.
However, Cole and I have thrifty-minded brains, and we came up with a few ways to save big:
- Using Southwest Airlines credit card to buy engagement ring, therefore getting the signup bonus and allowing our flights to be FREE!
- Hitting up the local grocery store for granola bars, fruit, crackers, and other snacks to save on breakfasts and lunches. We ate all dinners out, and that was plenty for the foodie in us.
- Seeking out free options for certain destinations. We purposely visited the Ponce Art Museum in the last hour it was open because that eliminated entrance fees. We also made sure we returned to our resort to take advantage of the half-priced sushi one night. Doing your research ahead of time pays off!
- Enjoying free, simple activities like hiking, exploring, walking around cities, and swimming at the beach was what filled most of our time in Puerto Rico. I am lucky I found a like-minded soulmate who enjoys these simple pleasures as much as I do.
With these tips in mind, enjoy our Puerto Rico honeymoon recap. I hope I remembered most things correctly; I’ve been married to this guy for almost two years already!
Day 1: Travel & settling in
As mentioned, Cole and I had racked up miles through Southwest Airlines. How did we do this right out of college? Cole bought my engagement ring with a newly-opened Southwest credit card so we could reap the sign-up bonus miles. Our flights were free this way. One of my favorite pieces of nearly-engaged advice!
After arriving in San Juan and renting a car at the airport (our biggest expense), it was evening and we hit the nearest Walmart for groceries and drove the 30 minutes to our resort, Wyndam Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa (a timeshare gifted to us for the week by the amazing Donelson clan). Since our resort wasn’t all-inclusive (thankfully – we felt much more free this way), we ate breakfasts of fruit & granola bars each morning. A big money-saver.
The pool was closed by the time we reached the resort that night, but we scoped out the beautiful beach and four pools and planned to spend time there on Day 2.
Day 2: El Yunque National Forest
Most of Day 2 was spent at this beautiful National Forest that was practically in our resort’s backyard! After arriving early in the morning and meandering around the visitor center, we hit:
- El Toro Trail, leading to the highest point in Puerto Rico in about three hours.
- La Mina Trail, which leads to the popular La Mina waterfall. A picnic lunch with the waterfall in the background was a necessary part of this experience.
- One more big waterfall & a few other landmark side stops on our way out of the park.
The rest of Day 1 was spent at the nearby Playa Luquillo, a beach with a fun strip of souvenir shops and local restaurants. We ate a restaurant in the strip called Vejigante (I just saw that it is now closed). It was recommended on TripAdvisor, which is where I found quite a few of our plans for the trip.
Day 3: San Juan & Old San Juan
Of course, San Juan and Old San Juan were musts on our Puerto Rico list. They should be on yours too! Our San Juan day was all about the history. Highlights included:
- El Morro
- Castillo San Felipe del Morro
- Castillo de San Cristobal
- San Juan Cathedral
We also spent some time walking around the Old San Juan cobblestone roads looking, with no luck, for a few restaurants (one was an ice cream place) I had pegged from my Googling research. We had no luck, but were satisfied when we stumbled into a tiny place that served mofongos. We’d been wanting to try them – and the rumors don’t lie. Mofongos are amazing!
In the evening of Day 3, we headed back to our resort for Happy Hour on the beach (hello, tequila sunrise!), swimming, hottubbing, and 1/2 priced sushi. We even popped into the resort casino and lost $40 embarrassingly quickly. Whoops.
Day 4: Caving
It was a good thing we relaxed a bit on Day 3, because Day 4 was all about the adventure. We sought out three caves to explore in the morning. We started with Cavernas del Rio Camuy National Park, which was pricier, but guided and informative. The fare included a tram ride through the forest and a guided tour of the cave. Highly recommend adding something like this to any itinerary.
The second cave, Ventana, was a bit harder to find, but so worth it. The pictures don’t even do this beautiful window cave justice. The trek through the cave darkness was very brief, and plenty tall. Not scary at all. Bring a headlamp or flashlight and the experience will be just fine.
Our third and final cave of the day was Cueva del Indio in Arecibo. This one was crazy awesome! There was no fee (and a slightly sketchy parking situation) and the caves weren’t traditional caves – they were more like rocky crevasses. And, they opened up to the beautiful blue ocean. Couldn’t have asked for a more perfect sunset spot to spend with my honeymoon sweetheart.
Day 5: Ziplining & Ponce
I guess we weren’t quite finished with the adrenaline from Day 4, because Day 5 began with a stomach-churning zipline tour with Toro Verde Zipline Tours. The guides were helpful and entertaining, and if they hadn’t told us that dropping our legs would result in being stuck out on the line, I wouldn’t have been nervous at all! My fear of heights was not totally conquered that morning, but I had a whole lot of fun trying.
Next, we drove to the large city of Ponce to venture around. There happened to be a parade and big town festival, so we were able to walk around and take it all in. Before heading back to the resort, we also hit the Ponce Art Museum (Museo del Arte), which had been highly recommended by several people and held up to the hype.
Day 6: Snorkeling trip & Bioluminescent Bay
We had already fit so much adventure and sightseeing into five short days, but the sixth was probably the biggest. Day 6 included a snorkeling boat tour – there are several companies out there that organize these – and a tour of one of Puerto Rico’s famous bioluminescent bays in Fajardo.
The snorkeling trip consisted of about twelve people, twelve snorkels, one boat, and tons of (included) snacks and drinks. The area we visited to snorkel was a bit rough, and I didn’t enjoy attempting to dodge the coral, but overall, this part of the trip was a highlight.
But not as much of a highlight as the bioluminescent bay. Oh. My. Word. Unforgettable. We booked a twilight tour, in which we set out for the bay in kayaks at dusk. The path led us along a mangrove-lined canal, then opened up to the bay. Our guide gave us the science and history behind why these bays glow in the dark, and we waited for the sun to set.
Once darkness set, the glow was evident when we dragged our paddles or hands through the water. Stirring up the water was the best way to see the glowing plankton. You have to see it to truly understand what I’m talking about, and you should! It was honestly my favorite part of our Puerto Rico honeymoon.
Day 7: Travel
Day 7 was a bit of a bummer, because the only good thing that happened was being able to switch seats to get a space next to each other on our flight.
But once we did, Cole and I were able to hold hands and fly back to our new lives.