With the cost of a flight to Europe as well as the ease of hopping from country to country by rail or budget European airlines, it makes sense to pack light and spend 2 weeks to a month traveling around the continent. Here are some lifesaver items for either backpacking Europe or simply hopping around from country to country.
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A Hiking Backpack
Dragging a rolling suitcase up train platform stairs and across cobblestone streets is a nightmare! Instead, opt for a light hiking backpack. This is mainly to only carry your clothes and toiletries, so don’t go for the biggest backpack available. Make sure it fits the dimensions of the budget airlines you will use throughout your trip like Ryanair and EasyJet. Look for one with a waist belt so that as you walk, the weight of the pack rests on your hips instead of your back.
If you plan to to visit more urban cities and use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees that is recognized often such as MasterCard or Visa, a money belt is not exactly necessary. However, if you plan to deal in cash and use your bank card to withdraw from ATMs, a money belt is not only wise to prevent pickpocketing, but it also helps you keep your money and card safe during the hustle and bustle of relocating every few days.
If you must look cute for photos, pack that one pair of heels or sandals, but be practical and only pack 1-3 pairs of shoes total. Your main pair of shoes should be comfortable to walk in all day long. Keep colors neutral so that you can pair them with all your outfits, and make sure to break them in before the trip! To put things into perspective for how much you will walk on a European trip, think Disney World times ten!
Neutral Mix and Match Pieces
If you are traveling between the warmer months of May to September, pack around 3 pairs of pants/midi skirts, 3-4 neutral tops, and a sweater for mix and matching different outfits throughout your trip. It is best to avoid shorts and sleeveless tops as you cannot enter some cathedrals without proper covering.
Crossbody Purse or Camera Backpack
In your day-to-day siteseeing activities, you will need a smaller bag for storing a small water bottle, chapstick, sunglasses, hand sanitizer, and whatever else you may need throughout the day. If you plan to simply use your phone for photos, choose a small crossbody purse. If you have a larger dslr camera, choose a compact bag that will serve as both your purse and camera bag.
I hope this helps you pack for your next European adventure! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below!
Check out my favorite resources for planning travel HERE.
Last week, I visited Culebra Island right off of Puerto Rico and experienced the best snorkeling so far while living in Puerto Rico! The clear waters of Flamenco Beach are truly breathtaking, and I’ve officially fallen in love with this tiny island.
However, Culebra was not love at first site for me, and I will tell you why here. This post is going to talk about:
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Getting to Culebra Island from Puerto Rico
There are a few ways to get to Culebra Island from Puerto Rico, but the most common ways are to fly with AirFlamenco or take the Ferry in Ceiba, which is about 1 hour East from San Juan. The cheaper option of the 2 is the ferry, but tickets are released about 2 weeks out and sell out fast! AirFlemenco round trip is about $90 per person, or if you have a big group, you can charter a plane. The ferry takes 1 hour from Ceiba and flights take about 15 minutes.
I am going to elaborate on the Culebra ferry option in this post because I think it is a good option for large or small groups. We chose to ferry, so I have first-hand experience with it. When you type in the Ceiba Ferry Terminal into Google Maps, you will end up at Roosevelt Roads, which is an old Navy base. You can drop off a some of your group to wait at the ferry terminal with the bags while you park the car. Car parking is about a mile further (there are plenty of signs for directions), where you pay in cash based on the amount of days that your car will remain in the lot- $7 for 1 day, $15 for 2, and so on. A shuttle will drive you from the parking lot back to the terminal to meet back up with your group and board the ferry.
As far as facilities, there are porta potties at the parking lot, and the ferry terminal has a snack and coffee bar and restrooms.
Present your email that contains your ferry tickets to the gate guard, and you are on your way. The ferry leaves promptly, so get there about an hour prior to departure like the tickets recommend. To be honest, they did not check our additional bag tickets, so if you are a stickler for rules, go for it, but I am not convinced that the additional tickets are necessary as long as you keep it to a reasonable amount of luggage. The seas can be rough depending on weather, so take some Dramamine the night before and sit on the bottom level if you are prone to seasickness. I personally LOVED the ferry ride as it was so peaceful. Passing nearby islands and being on the open sea for $2 plus tax is a steal!
You arrive at the Culebra Ferry Terminal, and depending on what mode of transportation you choose, your driver will be there waiting for you with a sign.
Culebra Island Transportation
For transportation around Culebra, although it is pricey for the day, I don’t know of many other options, especially during COVID closures, than to rent a golf cart or Jeep. There are 2 companies on the island, Jerry’s Jeep Rental and Carlos Jeep Rental. Jerry is the only one who will rent for 1 day and his website is more user-friendly. He will pick up only the driver from the terminal, and you can pick up the rest of your crew afterwards. I recommend having your group walk to the left, and up the hill, further out of the congested terminal area to be picked up. If they walk to the steep road that leads to Tamarindo Beach, you can pick them up and head straight to Tamarindo Beach for snorkeling with the sea turtles!
Recommended Time Spent on Culebra Island
During COVID, just about everything was closed indefinitely or sporadically as far as restaurants went. There was a to-go spot to the left of Kokomo’s at the ferry terminal, a convenient store up the hill, and Moncho’s Barbecue to-go. Blac Flamenco Coffee in town is open until like 10:30AM and Zaco’s Tacos is open some evenings.
Basically, food should not be the reason you go to Culebra, and you should definitely bring a cooler with wheels to this island. Although it would be an early morning, I recommend taking the 7am ferry to Culebra and the 4pm ferry back to Ceiba, Puerto Rico. The reason I fell in love with Culebra was for the amazingly clear Flamenco Beach and the beautiful snorkeling of Tamarindo and Melones. The small, congested roads near the ferry were enough to make me wonder why anyone would live there, but the snorkeling is incomparable and is the very reason I would go back in a heartbeat!
I booked an airbnb, and rented a Jeep for 2 days for our group, and I just don’t see a need to spend all that money when you can snorkel and beach bum it out in a day, for about $300 cheaper. If you get a larger group to go, a longer stay would make sense as you can split the cost of car and lodging. Another cheaper option is camping at the Flamenco Campgrounds for $30/day, but they were closed for construction last I’ve heard.
Best Snorkeling in Culebra Island & Tour Guides
For sea turtles, head to Tamarindo Beach, which has grass straight out from the beach where sea turtles love to snack! I saw a stingray in the coral more towards the left of the beach, but the sea turtles were just a few feet from the beach. For the most beautiful coral, head to Melones Beach and swim right, towards the rockier area. Colorful coral and fish both big and small will wave all around you. Wear water shoes or fins as I saw more sea urchins than ever before in this water. Also be sure to check the weather before going into any water in Culebra or Puerto Rico. Rip currents are no joke here in the winter, but we did snorkel early February, and I did not feel a huge pull at Tamarindo or at Melones. At Flamenco, I felt a stronger pull when snorkeling, and the reef near the main beach entrance is not very colorful. The reef may be better near the beached military tank on the far left. Flamenco is best for just sitting in the white sand and floating in the shallow, clear waters.
There are a couple other beaches that I did not go to that are also known for snorkeling like Playa Carlos Rosario and Culebrita, which requires a boat transfer to get to. Once you are already on-island, companies also offer snorkel kayak tours.One of the easiest day trip options if you are more concerned with the clear blue water and snorkeling rather than exploring the island is to take a boat trip from Fajardo. They will take you to a Culebra beach, a snorkel reef, and will provide all gear, drinks, and lunch. That way, you don’t have to even mess with the ferry tickets, parking, renting a car, or anything.
In conclusion, you won’t believe your eyes when you visit the beautiful beaches of Culebra, filled with clear waters and abundant sea creatures. However, I think that you can cover what there is to see in the span of a day, unless you are really into snorkeling and want to see all of the beaches in one trip. Although most of the restaurants are closed, I still recommend visiting because you practically have all of the beaches to yourself, and Flamenco is the most beautiful beach in Puerto Rico. I hope this helps you plan your Culebra excursion!
Check out THIS POST for all my favorite things to do while vacationing in Puerto Rico!
Tucked away in the mountains of Orocovis, Puerto Rico sits the longest zipline in the Americas and the 2nd longest zipline in the world. This activity is one for the books, and it is also about the closest you’ll ever get to actually flying. The Monster line is not like other ziplining experiences, as you…
Tucked away in the mountains of Orocovis, Puerto Rico sits the longest zipline in the Americas and the 2nd longest zipline in the world. This activity is one for the books, and it is also about the closest you’ll ever get to actually flying. The Monster line is not like other ziplining experiences, as you lay down in a thick canvas and face the ground below. As you zoom through the trees, you’ll experience the beauty of Puerto Rico from a whole new perspective.
I was fearful of a tourist trap, but Toro Verde was far from such a thing. You can enjoy the whole day here easily with the all-day pass from 8am-5pm and an onsite restaurant that you can at least enjoy for lunch if not dinner as well. When you finish each course, there is a truck with bench seats in the back that takes you all the way back up to the beginning for more fun. Even the truck ride is beautiful as you sit in the open-air with mountain views every way you look.
You need to rent a car to get to Toro Verde. It is a mountainous ride that takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes (with tolls) from San Juan. On your way home, I recommend eating at Papos Guacaros Place or La Playita. Papos Guacaros Place is my favorite food, and is about 45 minutes further back towards San Juan, but La Playita has a cooler view and is only a few minutes from Toro Verde. Both are great representations of Puerto Rico’s famous Chinchorreos.
This tour also offers transportation to Toro Verde if you do not rent a car during your trip, but if you want to adventure around the island, I recommend renting a car if you can. Be sure to check out THIS POST my favorite things to do in Puerto Rico for more help in planning your perfect vacation!
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Located in Utuado, Puerto Rico is a breathtaking, extremely random landscape. At the bottom of the winding mountains, there’s a mass of white stone with a river running through it called Canon Blanco (White Canyon.) Although the drive is about 1 hour and 40 minutes from San Juan, this is a sight that is really…
Everyone knows that good food is key to a good vacation. I lived in San Juan for 2 years, and recently went back to visit. My favorite restaurants have changed over time, and I’m going to share some hidden gems with you that are worth a visit! Pinky’s This fun little spot is worth a…
About 2 hours southwest of San Juan lies a town called La Parguera. It’s known for fishing, diving, and snorkeling. La Parguera is also famous for it’s great parties and atmosphere not only in the city, but just off the shore at the nearby islands of Mata La Gata and Caracoles Cay. People rent or bring their own boats of all sizes, anchoring on a platform just off the beach, and chill all day.
If you take the route from San Juan that goes through Ponce, you’ll be blown away by the beauty you see just from the drive. It’s an easy journey, but mountain views are all around.
Skip the Ponce Bypass and head 7 minutes into the Ponce town square. Just have your GPS set to Parque de Bombas and you will get where you need to go. I wouldn’t say Ponce is worth vacationing in, but it is definitely something you should take advantage of along the way. Find street parking at the square, which is free on the weekends, and take a look around. You’ll be delighted at the beautiful architecture, a fountain, a large cathedral, and cute souvenir and coffee shops.
The two main attractions you have to see are right in the town square. The open-air fire-station museum, Parque de Bombas, is a beautiful preservation of Puerto Rico’s first fire station. Next, you have to take a look inside The Fox Hotel Ponce or even stop for a delicious lunch and latte. This is a pop-culture themed hotel that looks like you’ve just stepped into Hollywood Studios or Universal Orlando. The design of this entire hotel is enough to take your breath away, but try the food and I think you’ll be even more delighted!
La Parguera has a little strip of waterfront restaurants that are almost on top of each other. It’s lively and fun with souvenir shops and tasty treats. On this street, there are several boat rental companies that rent John boats, like Gina’s, and kayaks to explore the beautiful water around you. La Parguera is known for its mangroves, where tiny crabs walk all along the winding branches. The Paradise Scuba and Snorkeling Center that is right across from the boat rentals offers several excursions and tours. Although I mentioned these two companies, there are several kayaking and tour options listed here. Many of these companies also have social media pages that make it easy to see their deals and tour schedules.
Where to Stay
We stayed at 2 different hotels only about 8 minutes apart because we wanted to check them both out and share them here with you. Both locations were incredible. We first arrived at the Parador Villa Parguera, which is in the middle of the restaurant hub and right on the water. The rooms are simple and clean, and the grounds are beautifully maintained. Each room has a waterfront view and a patio to enjoy it from. The main beauty of this fairly small hotel is how abundant the seating areas are. There is seating by the beautiful pool, on the dock, on the lawn, and even on the second level of the deck, which has a gorgeous view of the sunset. There is no coffee maker or fridge in the room, but parking is free and abundant.
The Parador has two special rates going on right now. A Puerto Rico Resident rate of $117/ night and an all-inclusive (breakfast, lunch, and dinner with soda and waters) for 2 nights for $350. From experience, the ribs dinner does not disappoint!
After a day spent at the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse and Comabate beach, we checked into our second hotel of the weekend named La Jamaca, which is a little further from the ocean. You will love this place. The room was small, but plenty, and designed beautifully. This lodging is more of a modern feel, compared to Parador Villa which is more classic. Obviously, surrounded by many hammocks, there are plenty of places to relax and enjoy a good meal or just a good view. The staff is incredible, providing everything you need. Do bring bug spray and apply it immediately upon arrival as the jungle feel of this hotel brings in many pesky mosquitoes, that can be remedied instantly by bug repellant. The hotel also has some available, but I would bring your own as well just to have it conveniently near you. There is a fridge in the room, but no coffee maker.
La Jamaca has a few deals going on as well to include a romantic room decoration and wine as well as a rate that includes breakfast and a few dinners. Check out their Instagram to see these special offers. If you would like help in planning your next adventure, I’d love to help you along the exciting journey! Check out my Travel Planning page!
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