Every year more gringos make their way to Puerto Rico. I know, because I was one of those gringos in 2019. Since then, I have been on the island continuously and have made many observations about my fellow gringos. As a result, I have made a list of the top five things gringos do when going to Puerto Rico, all of which I have done. Below is the gringo checklist.
1. Go to old San Juan
The First stop on gringos first trip to the island is the famous city of Old San Juan. With its beautiful cobble lined streets and Spanish period architecture, walking through Old San Juan is like stepping back in time. You could spend multiple days exploring sites such as El Morro and the home of Ponce de Leon, or just walking the streets eating Puerto Rican food and enjoying the atmosphere created by music and dancing. To get the full gringo experience, you must take a photo facing down one of the cobbled line streets with colorful historic buildings or facing towards the devil’s watchtower in El Morro.
2. Go Hiking in El Yunque
Located on the eastern portion of the Island, El Yunque National Forest is a breathtaking 29,000-acre tropical rainforest. Gringos can be seen in masses exploring the multiple hiking trails, waterfalls, or observing the diverse wildlife in the National Forest. To get the full gringo experience, hike to the Mount Britton Tower, and take a photo facing off towards El Yunque peak. Once you do this, post the image to your Instagram with a quote about how adventurous you are.
3. Go to Rincón
Located on the west coast of Puerto Rico, Rincón is a hot spot for gringos. The town is famous for its beautiful beaches, food, and surfing, and is comparable to a California Surf town. Gringos and SUVs with surfboards can be seen throughout Rincón, and there is even a large indoor skate park near the town center. If you love artisan cuisine, surf and skate culture, and a laid-back lifestyle, then Rincón is for you. To get the full gringo experience, take surfing lessons or take a photo of the famous lighthouse El Faro de Punta.
4. Drink Starbucks Coffee
Although drinking Starbucks in the Continental United States is a cultural norm, drinking it in Puerto Rico is almost insulting. You see, the island is historically famous for coffee farming, and the local coffee is nothing short of amazing. You could spend an entire vacation exploring all the different coffee producers across the island, with my personal favorite being Café Lareño in the mountains of Lares. Still, with all the delicious coffee on the island, long lines can be seen in Starbucks locations across Puerto Rico. To get the full gringo experience, wait in a long line at one of the Starbucks locations across the island.
5. Expect Everyone to Speak English to Accommodate You
This topic is often the most sensitive to discuss, and the last to enter most people’s thoughts. Being that most gringos go to Puerto Rico for vacation, they assume that everyone is there to accommodate them on their vacation. However, when you come to Puerto Rico and decide to explore the beautiful island on your own, you are no longer just on vacation. Instead, you are inserting yourself into people’s daily lives. My first time going to the island in 2019 taught me a lot about interacting with people in Puerto Rico. After being in Puerto Rico for a couple of days, and strictly talking in English, I decided I was going to try and order food in Spanish. With the help of a friend who spoke Spanish, I attempted to order an alcapurria. After lovingly correcting my pronunciation with a smile, the server thanked me for trying to speak Spanish. She then proceeded to tell me that when Puerto Ricans go to the mainland States, everyone expects them to speak English. Then, those same people come to the island and expect Puerto Ricans to speak English to accommodate them. By choosing to go to the island, you are consciously deciding to insert yourself into people’s lives, and attempting to speak their language is a way to show respect. To get the full gringo experience, try and talk to someone in Spanish, only to get lovingly corrected by them.