ESSENTIAL PUERTO RICO, 20-26 JAN, 2024
with Jeremy Woodhouse
(7 days/6 nights), maximum group size 5
VIEW OVER EL YUNQUE NATIONAL FOREST
Puerto Rico's streets are a canvas of architectural beauty that showcase a rich fusion of Spanish colonial, American, and indigenous Taíno influences. The colourful structures lining the streets are adorned with ornate ironwork, picturesque balconies, and unique tile patterns, each telling an intriguing story of the island's history and cultural evolution. The historic district of Old San Juan, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is particularly noteworthy. Its blue cobblestone streets are dotted with pastel-hued buildings, ancient fortresses, and expressive sculptures that echo centuries of tradition and resilience. The city of Ponce, dubbed as the 'Pearl of the South', showcases splendid examples of neoclassical, art deco, and art nouveau architecture. From the grand mansions of El Vedado to the eclectic buildings of La Perla, the architectural landscape of Puerto Rico serves as a vibrant backdrop, symbolising the island's enduring spirit and cultural pride.
This comprehensive 6-day photography itinerary offers an array of captivating experiences and breathtaking landscapes that will inspire photographers of all levels. From the rich history of Old San Juan to the natural wonders of El Yunque and the coffee plantations of the western mountain ranges, each day presents new opportunities to capture the essence of Puerto Rico. So, grab your camera, come with me and immerse yourself in the beauty of the island, and create unforgettable shots that will tell the story of your journey.
Pre-tour: Arrive in Puerto Rico
Depending on the time of arrival of your flight from the US, you may need need an extra night in San Juan. My recommendation is that if you arrive late in the day you stay at the San Juan Airport Hotel, and then make your way to the El San Geronimo for our afternoon meeting the following day. If you prefer, you may want to book an extra night at the San Geronimo.
Day 1: 20 Jan, 2024 – Old San Juan
Meeting at the hotel at 4PM, we begin our photographic journey in the Santurce neighbourhood in the heart of Old San Juan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its rich cultural heritage. This vibrant district is known for its incredible street art and murals. We will spend the day exploring the streets, capturing the vivid graffiti that adorns its buildings. We will take time to sample the food in the many great restaurants and bars in the area.
O/N El San Geronimo Hotel (B)
El San Geronimo Hotel offers you a warm Caribbean welcome and the space for you to calmly recharge, to continue the Caribbean experience and adventure. Providing a new, different and relaxed environment, outside the center, but close to all the incredible spaces that our guests seek when staying with us. With 28 rooms that offer the amenities, tranquility and space you are looking for during a well-deserved vacation.
Day 2: 21 Jan, 2024 – Old San Juan
Today, our photo tour in San Juan begins with a visit to La Perla, a historic neighbourhood known for its vibrant and colourful houses. Nestled against the Atlantic ocean, it provides numerous opportunities for stunning photos. Once here, we'll wander through this vibrant area and take pictures of its stunning architecture. The homes in La Perla are built into the hillside, giving them an almost fairy tale-like appearance—perfect for adding a bit of whimsy to your photos.
We'll also have the chance to take pictures of La Perla's bustling streets. Here, we will capture street musicians playing traditional Puerto Rican songs and vendors selling handmade souvenirs.
Next, we head over to Casa Bacardi, the world's largest premium rum distillery. Located in the heart of San Juan, this iconic building was originally home to one of the world's largest rum distilleries. Today, visitors can take a guided tour and explore the facility's impressive artworks and architectural features. On the exterior, we'll find intricate ironwork balconies and beautiful stained-glass windows to photograph, while the inner courtyard showcases intricate mosaic floors and lush foliage. The building also houses a vast collection of Bacardi memorabilia, perfect for capturing interesting images that illustrate Puerto Rico's rich cultural history.
Finally, we end our day at the Castillo San Cristobal, a fortress that once protected San Juan from invaders by sea. Built by the Spanish in the late 18th century, this massive fortress offers a wealth of architectural detail and stunning views of the city and San Juan Bay. The castle's main entrance, adorned with four bastions and embrasures, houses three museums that feature artifacts from Caribbean nations, while its surrounding grounds showcase the island's lush vegetation and wildlife. You'll also find picturesque plazas, subterranean tunnels, and an observation tower that offers stunning views of both Old San Juan and the Caribbean Sea. As the sun sets, the changing light over the fortress provides a beautiful backdrop, perfect for capturing breathtaking images.
Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián
One of the most anticipated parties of the year and the unofficial close of the holiday season, the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián takes over Old San Juan from Wednesday evening until Sunday afternoon (21 Jan). During the day, plazas are filled to the brim with artists and artisans; some have stages for live music, dance, and circus performances. In the evening, the party ignites, and the street fills with people and music.
O/N El San Geronimo Hotel (B)
Day 3: 22 Jan, 2024 – El Yunque National Forest
After breakfast, we embark on an expedition through the lush and verdant rainforest of El Yunque, a natural wonder brimming with an abundance of flora and fauna located just over an hour away from San Juan. This 28,000-acre park boasts stunning views of mountains, jungles, waterfalls, rivers, and more. As we traverse the winding trails, be prepared to capture breathtaking shots of towering trees, vibrant foliage, and the playful wildlife that calls this forest home. Ascend the Yokahu Observation Tower to witness panoramic views of the emerald canopy stretching as far as the eye can see.
O/N El San Geronimo Hotel (B)
Day 4: 23 Jan, 2024 – San Juan | Maricao
Today we make the scenic photo drive from San Juan to Maricao. This mountain town is just over an hour away but worth the journey! As we drive along the winding roads, be sure to take in breathtaking views of lush rainforests, rolling hillsides and ancient coffee plantations. We will stop along the way for some of the best photo ops in Puerto Rico. From San Juan, we head up to Caja de Muertos for a stunning view of the Caribbean from high atop the island's tallest peak. Then take a detour off the beaten path and stop at Maricao State Forest for picturesque scenes of natural beauty.
Located in the heart of Puerto Rico's western mountain ranges, the picturesque village of Maricao offers stunning views of the valley below and its lush coffee plantations. Here we'll find traditional methods of harvesting and roasting coffee still practiced by locals, giving us the perfect opportunity to capture the unique culture of the region and its people.
O/N Hacienda Juanita, Maricao (B)
Set in the Maricao State Forest, this relaxed hotel off the PR-105 highway is 2 km from San Juan Bautista Church and 4 km from Montoso Gardens.
Day 5: 24 Jan, 2024 – Maricao | La Parguera | Ponce
After a morning street photography session we will drive to Ponce. En-route, we will visit La Parguera, a small fishing village located on the southwest coast. Since La Parguera is also home to some of Puerto Rico's best seafood restaurants, we will be sure to stop for lunch here.
After lunch, we continue on to Ponce, Puerto Rico's second-largest city. Here, for the next 2 days, we will take in the vibrant architecture and cultural heritage with visits to sites such as Castillo Serralles, El Parque de Bombas, and Teatro La Perla. We will explore the historic city center with its cobbled streets and colourful buildings, capturing images of churches such as Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.
We finish off our day in Ponce by watching the sunset over Plaza Las Delicias.
O/N Hotel Melia Ponce (B)
Hotel Meliá Ponce, steeped in history and charm, has been serving guests since 1895. This unique hotel is a blend of vintage elegance and modern amenities. The rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated, with comfortable beds ensuring a good night's sleep. Guests can enjoy stunning views of the city from many of the rooms. The onsite restaurant, Mocha Coffee Bar & Bistro, serves a variety of local and international dishes. It has an extensive wine list, making it an ideal place for a relaxing evening after a day of sightseeing. The hotel's convenient location offers easy access to Ponce’s major attractions, making it a favorite among tourists. With a dedicated staff that treats every guest as part of their family, a stay at Hotel Meliá Ponce is sure to enhance your experience of this vibrant city.
Day 6: 25 Jan, 2024 – Ponce
Today, we are free to spend the day exploring the streets of Puerto Rico’s second largest city. Take some time off to do some shopping or merely hang out in Plaza de las Delicias, in the heart of Ponce, one of the most iconic locations in Puerto Rico. Here, you'll find some beautiful colonial architecture from the 16th century as well as a variety of historical monuments and attractions. The plaza also features the ruins of Castle San Cristobal, a fascinating battle monument built by Spanish settlers during the 16th century.
O/N Hotel Melia Ponce (B)
Day 7: 26 Jan, 2024 – Ponce | San Juan
On the final day of our tour, we make the scenic 2-and-a-half hour drive east from Ponce to San Juan. On the way, we'll have plenty of chances to admire Puerto Rico's natural beauty and photograph the lush tropical landscapes and rolling hills dotted with colourful towns.
We will arrive back at the airport by midday so be sure not to book a flight back to the USA before 3PM
END OF TOUR
Weather in Puerto Rico in January
January is an ideal time to visit Puerto Rico for photography, as the weather is usually dry and sunny. During this month, temperatures average between 77°F (25°C) during the day and 68°F (20°C) at night. January also brings plenty of sunshine, so be prepared to take advantage of the natural light and capture some stunning shots. If you plan your trip accordingly, you'll also be able to take advantage of the bright colors and vibrant atmosphere that comes with Carnival season in Puerto Rico.
Getting to Puerto Rico
The easiest way to get to Puerto Rico is by air. San Juan's Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) is the largest and busiest airport on the island, and it serves as the main hub for all domestic flights within Puerto Rico. Other airports in Puerto Rico include Ponce International Airport (PSE), Mercedita International Airport (MAZ), Río Grande International Airport (BQN) and Vieques Island Airport (VQS).
There are also several international airports that serve as gateways to the island, such as John F Kennedy International Airport in New York City (JFK), Miami International Airport in Florida (MIA), and Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), in Texas.
Do Americans need a Visas to go to Puerto Rico?
No, American citizens do not need a visa to visit Puerto Rico. Since Puerto Rico is a US territory, travelers from the US are allowed entry for up to 90 days without the need for a visa. However, all visitors must have valid passports or other approved documents such as an Enhanced Driver's License in order to enter Puerto Rico.
Tour specifics, such as sequence of itinerary, daily events, range of places we visit are approximate and always subject to change. These may be changed at any point in the itinerary as local schedules change, or the local guide or photo instructor and or escort deem(s) necessary.
Travel insurance (It is highly recommended that you purchase travel/tour cancellation insurance!)
Tour Price Includes
- All taxes.
- Breakfasts (if included with hotel package)
- Ground transportation as needed from day 1 to day 7
- Sightseeing as noted in the itinerary
Tour Price Excludes
- International airfares
- Pre- and post-tour accommodation
- Lunches & Dinners
- Any Alcoholic Beverages, sodas or drinks (and tips for such) not included in meals.
- Meals not covered and Extras not mentioned.
Paying by check
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Paying by Wire Transfer
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- Bring you own laptop computer and storage media
- Camera body(s)
- Lenses, 16-35mm, 24-70mm zoom and 70-200mm zoom or similar lenses are very good
- Light bag for easy hiking with camera bodies and accessories
- Cleaning kit for cameras and lenses
- Rain/dust covers for cameras and lenses
- Charger for batteries
- Spare batteries
- Spare Memory cards
- Memory card reader
- USB key to exchange images
Also good to have
- Good quality polarizing filter
Traveling to Puerto Rico in January can be a wonderful experience! The weather is usually pleasant, and there are many exciting activities to enjoy. Here's a packing list to help you prepare for your trip:
- Lightweight and breathable clothing (short-sleeve shirts, tank tops, dresses, shorts, etc.)
- Bathing suits and swimwear (beaches are a must!)
- Light sweaters or jackets for cooler evenings
- Comfortable walking shoes or sandals
- Hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for sun protection
- Rain jacket or umbrella (there might be occasional showers)
- Personal hygiene items (toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.)
- Insect repellent for protection against mosquitoes
- Medications and any necessary prescriptions
- First aid kit with basic supplies
- Valid ID, passport, and copies of important documents
- Cash and credit/debit cards
- Portable power bank for keeping your devices charged on the go
- Travel guidebook or maps for exploring the area
- Snacks and reusable water bottle to stay hydrated
- Any specialty items you might need (e.g., if you're a photographer, painter, etc.)
- Hiking gear if you plan to explore the trails and forests
- Binoculars for birdwatching and scenic views
- Travel journal to document your experiences
- Light daypack for short trips and hikes
Remember that Puerto Rico has a tropical climate, so packing light and breathable clothing is key. Also, consider the activities you plan to engage in, as this will help you prioritize items like beachwear, hiking gear, or formal attire if you plan to dine at upscale restaurants.