Not gunna lie, I travel to certain places based on what I find when I Google “cheapest flights from LAX” sometimes, but that was only part of the reason why I wanted to travel to Puerto Rico.
I also only travel to certain places to see certain things, and Puerto Rico had quite a few of them. At the top of my list, was the bioluminescent bays – AKA what you see in those mind-boggling photos of a shoreline lit up at night by sparkling waters.
Then of course after looking into tours to the bio bays, I happened to start seeing tours for the rainforest, where my wanderlust curiosity was even further intrigued. The best part about all of it, was that these epic adventures all were epically affordable to attain.
1. Vieques Bioluminescent Bay
Of course, this photo is from Travel Channel…normal people can’t capture the bio bay lights but this is what it looked like.
Did you know! That! The biggest, and brightest bioluminescent bay in the world is in Puerto Rico? It’s actually located on a small island off of the main island called Vieques, but it’s easy to get to it by ferry. For $29 you can take your car across on the ferry, or just pay $2 to go without it. Another option is taking a small plane for $34 each way.
What in the hell is a bio bay, you ask? Well, obviously it’s a bay, but the “bioluminescent” term refers to the glowing phenomenon that occurs when you touch it at night. It glows because when you touch the water, you piss off the little microorganisms in it called dinoflagellates, who spark their bioluminescent butts off for 1/10 of a second. Since there’s over 10,000 of them per gallon, it gives a “glowing” effect, which you can easily see if you just swish your hand or paddle around in the water.
Part of Abe’s Bio Bay tour is kayaking through mangrove forests, and if you’re lucky, Abe will take you to his secret mud hole!
Since the bio bay was number one on my list of things to see in Puerto Rico, I contacted what I had heard was the best bio bay tour in Vieques to make sure I got to see those damn sparkles. Abe himself from Abe’s Snorkeling and Bio Bay Tourstook me kayaking through a mangrove forest to teach me about the bay and then lead me to my glowing paradise.
Abe’s secret mud lagoon during sunset, just before the bay started glowing!
Unfortunately, 1/10 of a second is way too fast for any camera to capture the little living glow sticks, so all of my photos turned out black. But! I did get to (“accidentally”) jump in and swam around like an Avatar for a few minutes! I’m still hoping all the water I accidentally ingested full of dinoflagellates will turn me into a sparkling unicorn.
2. Esperanza, Vieques
The hotel I stayed at called Malecon House was literally 5 lunges from a private beach
There’s just so many things you just don’t know about until you actually go somewhere! While I originally intended to go to Vieques only to see the bioluminescent bay, I completely didn’t consider that I was going to a freaking Caribbean island surrounded by beautiful beaches!
Luckily, I had booked my stay at this fabulously chic beach-front inn called Malecon Housein Esperanza, where the sparkling, clear waters of the Caribbean were just a few lunges away from my room!
The beautiful private beach in front of my hotel in Esperanza
The manager informed me where to walk along the tropical shore to Green Beach, and even recommended a few other favorite Vieques beach gems nearby! The inn also offered coolers, ice, chairs, towels, and sun care, which was perfect since I had only brought over a small bag of bikinis!
3. El Yunque Rainforest Secret Waterfalls
Secret waterfall only accessible by private trails from Casa Flamboyant!
If there is a jungle hike with a waterfall at the end of it…I NEED TO BE THERE. I just don’t always enjoy tour groups, crowds, tourists, or places that are easily accessible via GPS.
That’s why I’m just going to go ahead and throw it out there that the waterfalls I went to…don’t even have names. That’s how awesomely secretive they are. In fact, you can only access the trails to them if you live at or are staying at one of the jungle properties in the south end of the El Yunque rainforest that are close to them.
Welcome to the jungle!!
I happened to find a literal hidden gem, and quite possibly the BEST bed and breakfast I have ever seen before in my entire life, that was one of those properties. Staying at Casa Flamboyant is all you need to do to have an insanely awesome rainforest experience, because it not only has an infinity pool deck over the jungle, amazing hospitality, and gourmet organic breakfasts, but two incredible jungle hiking paths that lead to these secret waterfalls and watering holes!
Casa Flamboyant has an infinity pool over the rainforest. That is all.
The best part besides the breathtaking beauty, is that these watering holes are private, so no one else is around, unless the house dog Obi decides to come with you to be your tour guide!
4. Fajardo, Isla Verde & Palomino Island
Private islands don’t suck.
My original plan was to stay a night in Fajardo to go see the bioluminescent bay there, so I booked a hotel nearby since you have to go see them at night. But when I went and checked in during the day, I realized the area was a beautiful beach town, and the hotel even offered a ferry to Palomino Island!
The ferry was included in the hotel stay, so for about $150 I got a mini luxury vacation that I wasn’t even expecting! I was really glad I did too, because the bio bay in Fajardo ended up not glowing too much for me…
5. Old San Juan
One of the forts in Old San Juan
For those who enjoy experiencing the local culture and historical aspects of places, Old San Juan is the place to be. The entire town is only about a mile long, so you can walk to all of the sites easily if you can handle the heat. I took cold beer stops in between because I was sweating like a beast.
For only $4 you can go to the old forts, one of which is a World Heritage Site – Castillo San Felipe del Morro, which used to be considered as the gateway to the Caribbean.
To my right is the salsa club Nuyorican, and I stayed in the hotel right above it!
I also decided to test out the local food and nightlife, so had a delicious mofongo with shrimp at Café San Juan before heading to the town’s best salsa dance club, Nuyorican, where I even happened to run into someone I knew from LA, so had someone to dance with!
Alyssa is a self-made, full time travel blogger who loves adventure and typically travels the world solo. She's been to 53 countries and 6 continents so far, and believes she has mastered the art of chasing waterfalls, traveling solo, wine drinking, and making budget-traveling look good. Curious to know how she started this career? Check out the About section above!