All my life I’ve been a public transportation lover, but as I researched our Puerto Rico trip in the weeks before we went, a theme kept recurring: “Get a rental car!” everyone “in the know” advised.
But why? Why is having a car so essential in Puerto Rico when we’ve traveled just fine to other locations without our own vehicle?
Once Colin, baby, and I arrived on the island and picked up our car rental, however, it became clear why we needed it. Here are the nine reasons you should rent a car in Puerto Rico.
1. Freedom. There is little public transport in Puerto Rico, so if you don’t rent a car, your options are to stay in one small area, to purchase package day tours, or to muddle through the public transport that exists. All of these are possible, but we felt so much more free and empowered in Puerto Rico with our own car. Our trusty vehicle took us through the shockingly narrow cobblestone streets of Old San Juan (click here for info on our great San Juan hotel) to the far west coast, deep into the island’s interior, to the far east coast with zero problems.
2. Beach access! Puerto Rico has phenomenal beaches, and the famous ones as well as the lovely hidden ones are easily accessible by car… and a big pain to get to without one.
3. Adventure. Many of the most thrilling parts of our Puerto Rico trip came when we decided on a whim to pull off the road into a small town, grabbing a yummy bite to eat or sipping the milk from a freshly chopped coconut by a random beach off the tourist trail. This was far easier since we had our own wheels. Do not underestimate the quantity of charming hidden spots all around Puerto Rico.
4. Comfort. Puerto Rico is hot, constantly. How delicious it is to be in control of your own air conditioning in your own car! How nice not to have to load your stuff on and off of a bus, or share your space with a dozen other sweaty folks! Further, the main roads are in good condition, and even the twisty mountain ones in the interior are doable by taking it slow.
5. El Yunque Rainforest! The rainforest in Puerto Rico is a must-see attraction, but did you know you can drive right into and through it, popping out of the car at various outlooks? We took full advantage of this, since our baby is small, and we were advised that many of the hiking trails would be too slippery to take him on. Thanks to our car, we were still able to get a ton of fun out of El Yunque. (Click here for info on our nice hotel near El Yunque.)
6. Size. Puerto Rico is a perfect driving size. It took us just three hours to drive across the whole island the long way, so in the two weeks we had there, we were really able to explore a bunch of nooks and crannies, giving us a satisfying feeling that we were not missing out.
7. Nature. We adored how lush and natural Puerto Rico was, and most of the best nature is spotted on narrow side roads. Our favorite sights were the shockingly red “Flamboyant Trees,” and the lazy cows (both pictured below).
8. Arecibo Observatory. The largest radio telescope in the world is located in Puerto Rico’s interior, down a winding series of country roads, and it is not to be missed. It was even featured in the movies “Contact” and James Bond’s “Goldeneye!” Nearby are the famous Camuy Caves, but we didn’t get a chance to stop because of a certain baby diaper situation paired with exhaustion.
9. Smartphone GPS. Did you know that U.S. smartphones work perfectly in Puerto Rico, with no extra fees? This means that Americans like us can roam around the island with no maps except for our little electronics, exploring and enjoying hither and yon. It made planning the trip and navigating a joy.
First, there are a number of rental companies to choose from, all located conveniently in the airport.
We ended up using the comically-named Fox Rent A Car via CarRentals.co.uk and had a good experience, though Colin was mightily disappointed that I wouldn’t allow him to blow our vacation budget on a red Mustang sports car.
Our snazzy silver non-Mustang served us just fine, though, thank you very much.
Second, remember that you CANNOT take a rental car from the main island on the ferry to Vieques or Culebra — you have to either rent another car on those islands or just use taxis and other forms of transport. (Click for Vieques car rental deals.) This fact totally changed our plans when we realized it at the last minute, so heed it well!
In the end, all those people who told us to rent a car in Puerto Rico were right. I can’t imagine how much tougher our trip would have been without a car, schlepping the baby and all our stuff on various buses, but I do know that I would have missed out on a whole lot of chilled coconuts that we sipped along oceanfronts the whole island long, not to mention all the other goodies listed above!
Where to Stay in Puerto Rico:
- We liked this lovely San Juan hotel (click for info)
- We also enjoyed the Luquillo Sunrise Inn, just 15 minutes from El Yunque rainforest.
- For a ranking of the best hotels in Puerto Rico, click here.
- Another great option is to get a vacation rental in Puerto Rico (click for my favorite site for this).
Tours and Guidebooks:
- Check out this awesome search engine for Puerto Rico tours of all kinds!
- Browse Puerto Rico travel guidebooks on Amazon.
Want more travel advice? Here are all the rest of my Puerto Rico articles. Buen viaje!
We were provided with our car by CarRentals.co.uk, but all opinions and cow rump photos are my own. Some links here are affiliates, providing a commission at no extra cost to you. Gracias!