To see outside of the City life of San Juan=YES!!!
The West side of the island has a slower pace....Rincon has NO Stop lights. The "Towns" are Old Puerto Rico. The Beaches are Great. And remember the sun sets on the West, so watching the sunset over the Carribean, can only be done on the West side of the island. Oh and it is Whale wayching season now on the West-Rincon.
Thanks folks. We definitely want away from cruise/casino etc. Was trying to decide between heading to the east coast and doing the Island hopping thing or driving through the forest and then staying some place down the coast. I am not a great swimmer and don't surf so would rather stay close to calmer waters. Would you guys recommend Cabe Rojo? or Guanica or maybe even Ponce? Or is Rincon the best bet to explore the whole coast from? I am thinking 2 nights in this region (maybe 2 on the east and 2 in San Juan)
In Ponce, I think your best bet would be the Hilton. Ponce It is not known for its beaches and the one at this hotel isn't very good since it's right next to the mouth of a river. It is more of a corporate/golf hotel. it is nice, but if each is what you want, maybe not the best place for you. Cabo Rojo has some very nice beaches and it is also a quiet town similar to Rincon. I believe there are lots of rentals, guest houses, etc. in the area but not too many “traditional hotels”. If I am wrong (I'm not too familiar with this town), I'm sure others will post alternatives. In Guanica, pretty much the only option (though still a good one IMO) is Copamarina beach resort. It is right on the beach and never has rough waters. the hotel also provides a ferry ride to a couple other beaches that are about 5 min. away. Do note, the hotel is like a hideaway in that there is not much else in the area and it is surrounded by a dry forest reserve with plenty of nature to see and trails to hike. Hope this helps
Some west coast places to consider visiting,
Aguadilla - Crash Boat beach
Rincon - the lighthouse, lunch at El Fogon de la Curva
Cabo Rojo - Joyuda area (restaurants), the lighthouse and the beach near the lighthouse: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PL6FaVmLVqo
If you come to my hometown, Mayaguez, stop by a small ice cream shop called Rex Cream, near the town square, for a cup of delicious maiz (corn) ice cream. Ask them to put canela (cinnamon) on it. Mmmmmmm!!!
If you are looking for calm water, rethink the island hopping (Vieques/Culebra) thing. These islands have spectacular beaches with calm water. Just got back from Rincon and although I live on the Atlantic Coast in NJ and am used to rough water, I could not find a good swimming beach on Rincon where I felt comfortable in the water, although the beaches there are very picturesque. Did a day trip to Boqueron south of Rincon and the beach there was calm. Can't speak for Guanico or Ponce as I didn't make it that far.
Thanks people. Anyone familiar with Bahia Salina? It has super mixed reviews. I really appreciate the information and will definitely check out the ice cream! I guess we'll stay at the place Copamarina Beach Resort unless people think Bahila is better. We are going March 22nd so don't really have much of a choice for where to stay since it's so close!
Thanks. so you'd recommend culbera/vieques? One thing that's making me think twice about the south western area including Cabo Rojos is that it looks so much like Cape cod! at least in the pictures. I am coming from New England and light houses are everywhere here. Although I have trouble swimming in the pacific and I am concerned that Rincon will be too rough. I might check out Culbera as a day trip from the East Coast anyway. The tips have been super helpful on this forum.
Wow, I had never heard of Bahia Salina until now. Thanks for the heads up. Guess I have to do a little brushing up on this hotel. I have stayed at Copamarina and can definitely recommend it. We have enjoyed our yearly visits there and will continue going in the future. As far as the area looking like Cape Cod, I wouldn't worry too much about that. There are a couple of lighthouses, but you won't be tripping over them. Actually, you probably won't see them unless you make a point of going to visit them. Also, the climate down here is tropical and the vegetation and general feel will reflect this.
We went in February for 8 days, and spent the whole time driving around the island. I loved Rincon and had no trouble with the surf. To be sure, you can not just get in and float around, but I was not concerned with being swept away either. We went also to both Bahia Salinas and Bahia Soucia. Both are extremely beautiful, peaceful beaches. We stayed at the Hilton and Ponce and would not again. Its just a hotel/casino with below average beach. It was just a place to stop for a night on our way to greener pastures!