We know about San Juan. So let's go rogue, meaning two hours west. Kick-start the weekend where traffic in the air, on the water and on the ground is more in line with a tropical escape. — Robert Stephens
In the air: Gotta shave travel time here. We fly directly into Aguadilla in the island’s northwest corner. In fact, let’s take JetBlue’s flight just before midnight on Thursday. We can be on the island at 2 a.m. Friday (assuming the plane is on time).
On the ground: Hustle from the JetBlue gate to Charlie Car Rental or the Enterprise counter (it opens at midnight). Bonus minutes: U.S. citizens do not need to stop at immigration. Sunrise is still hours away. It’s one instance when we can beat the surfers to Jobos Beach or Shacks or any of the epic west-coast beaches. Beware that traffic noise won’t wake you up (there is none).
In the water: Don’t be fooled by the soft, sinking sand. Sharp-edged atolls are hidden in the shallow water. Save the swimming until daylight. For now just listen to the surf and drift into la-la land.
Photo By Zach Stovall
Into a Room
Villa Tropical, 10 minutes from the airport: Toes barely part from the sand at this place. The apartment-style units are more simple than fancy ($130). Or opt for a house with pool ($250).
Horned Dorset, (35 minutes from the airport): Spill a drink from the balcony and it might ... no, it will land on the beach below. An infinity pool and Spanish touches say we might ... no, we do want to bring a change of clothes ($470+).
Royal Isabela, (25 minutes from the airport): You’d have to walk off a cliff and tumble 200 feet to land on a beach at Royal Isabela. Foliage guards the casitas from everything but the stunning views. See why this is Puerto Rico’s best stay ($399+).
Photo By Zach Stovall
Within Easy Reach
Road lunch: This is where fast food and culture reach an intersection. Pinchos cost $2 and five minutes of time just about anywhere in the area. Grab a papaya and coconut smoothie at Carta Buena in Rincon to quell any guilt about eating meat on a stick.
Guajataca Forest Reserve: Puerto Rico’s midsection is underappreciated for its beauty. The thin shoelace of road from the coast to the forest reserve is like taking a hike on four wheels. It’s nearly as tropical and textured as the famed El Yunque Rainforest three hours away, except this is 45 minutes, tops, and free.
Blowholes: Back to the beach, smoothie in hand and jungle air in lungs. Sit and watch waves spit through blowholes at Crash Boat Beach, Middles or Jacinto. Smell more pinchos on grills. Eat up every minute. And feel relieved that because we flew JetBlue into Aguadilla, we don’t have to go through customs in Miami on Sunday.
Did you know?
Mona Island off the west coast was once a major guano exporter.
Atop Cerra de Punta you can see the Atlantic and Caribbean.
Bat heat in some Camuy Caves is good for a 5-degree spike.
Joyuda is a rare Puerto Rican town known for seafood (not pork).