I recently traveled to Puerto Rico, DJI Mavic Pro drone in tow, to capture aerial photos for the first time since hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September of 2017. The Category 5 hurricane had a devastating impact on several islands in the Caribbean including The Dominican Republic, the Antilles, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The storm caused irreparable damage in terms of lost life, not to mention physical damages to a tune of about $91 billion. I was pleasantly surprised that, despite everything the territory has been through in the approximately two years since, the beautiful island is still just that; its tourism industry is up and running and the island remains an idyllic getaway for U.S. mainlanders and foreign tourists alike.
Puerto Rico is another earthly paradise that offers endless activities and drone photography opportunities, whether they be in the water, in the mountains, or in the sky. I would highly recommend a trip of at least a week if you can swing it. The territory’s capitol, San Juan, is starkly different than other U.S. capitols and is worth spending time to check out its classic architecture and delicious food options; however, not everything is around San Juan. Be aware that everything is quite far apart so it is quite necessary to rent a car if you want to go to the islands and you will also need to plan your trip accordingly. This particular trip took 6 days and I thought it wasn’t long enough.
There are many things to do in Puerto Rico but the main must not miss activity is the bioluminescent bay tour. There are currently 3 places in Puerto Rico where you can witness the most magical thing on earth which are Fajardo, Vieques, and Isla Magueyes. Apart from that people also like to do island hopping. Some of the famous islands are Vieques, Culebra, Cayo Icacos, and Isla Palominos.
Isla de Gilligan, or Gilligans Island (Cayo Aurora), is in the southern part of Puerto Rico which takes about 2:30 hours ride to get there depending on the traffic. The island itself is fairly small but very well maintained. On this island you will find mangrove trees and beautiful clear shallow water the entire island. There are many boats that will take you to this island and you’re not allowed to stay overnight. Everyone must leave the island by 4pm. Also, there’s no facility on the island, so make sure you pack your food and plenty of water if you decide to stay there for the whole day. Isla de Gilligan is a perfect getaway from the city and it’s also a non-touristy spot.
If you’re already in this part of the island, you might also want to check out bioluminescence in Isla Magueyes.
Vieques is another big island located on the east side of Puerto Rico. In order to get there, you will need to take the ferry from Ceiba which takes about 1:15 hours away from San Juan depending on the traffic. The ticket is fairly affordable. However, in order to make sure that you will get a ticket with the time you might want to arrive early at the pier as the ferry ticket isn’t sold online. Planning to spend at least a night on this island is very important as there are many things to explore and the highlight of the island is Mosquito Bioluminescent bay which occurs at night and it claims to be the brightest among all. If you are planning to capture drone footage at night, please remember that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and you will be required to first obtain a waiver with the FAA.
Cayo Icacos is a small island located at the northeast of Puerto Rico. It’s a small remote island with no facilities, no infrastructure, and not even a bathroom. In order to get there, you will need to contact a local taxi boat or a boat tour. The island is very well maintained and not too touristy. However, avoid going there during the weekends is always a good idea. A ferry ride from Fajardo takes about 20 minutes. Make sure to bring a hood to cover your Ipad or phone to keep the sun’s intense brightness from interfering with your drone shots; and of course, you should also consider bringing a beach umbrella or pack enough amount of sunscreen as there’s no shade on the island.
Prepare to book your transportation on this island, otherwise it will be very hard to get around. Just like Vieques, you will need to dock the boat from Ceiba pier. Because the size of the island is so small, and there’s an airport right in the center of the island. It is almost impossible to gain approval to fly drone on this island within the 5-mile radius from the airport. You might be able to fly on the far east of the island only. Planning on staying in Culebra is also a good idea but not necessary. If you catch the first ferry from Ceiba, this should allow you enough time to explore through everything on the island and catch the last ferry back to the mainland.
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