I just love Puerto Rico. First, it’s in the Caribbean – always a favorite of mine. Next, it’s just about a 4 hour direct flight from Philadelphia so you can get there, check into your hotel, and be on the beach by lunch time, depending on your departure. It’s a beautiful island known for its rich history, stunning beaches, and diverse landscapes.
Most importantly, this United States Overseas Territory offers a wealth of inclusive and accessible experiences for travelers of all abilities. From its enchanting Old San Juan to its breathtaking natural wonders, Puerto Rico embraces inclusivity and provides disability-friendly activities that allow everyone to explore and enjoy the island’s treasures.
There are plenty of accessible hotels to choose from in various price ranges. We stayed in the Isla Verde Beach area at the Intercontinental Hotel, which is now the Royal Sonesta. A beautiful resort right on the beach with accessible rooms facing the crystal clear Caribbean and right on the accessible public bus route – $1.00 for a ride into Old San Juan.
The beautiful coastline
We rented a car for a couple of days and with an easy transfer into the passenger seat and my wheelchair safely in the trunk, we drove along the beautiful coastline south to Ponce, an area rich in history, an accessible marina, an accessible boardwalk along the Caribbean, and clean beaches. Be sure to check out the amazing museums as well, including the Museo de Arte de Ponce.
And, you must experience the incredible food that only Puerto Rico can offer! End your day dining at one of San Juan’s accessible restaurants. Marmalade, Santaella, and Oceano are popular choices that offer wheelchair accessibility. Here you can experience the tasty fusion of Spanish, African, and Taino influences that define Puerto Rican cuisine.
Puerto Rico’s captivating history comes alive in its historic sites, and many of them are designed with accessibility in mind. In Old San Juan, you can explore the colorful streets and visit landmarks like El Morro and Castillo San Cristobal, which provide accessible entrances, ramps, and pathways. Be careful! Some of the narrow and even steep streets in Old San Juan are not accessible and you may need some assistance, especially on cobblestone streets..
Puerto Rico boasts an array of breathtaking beaches, and several are equipped with accessibility features to ensure a seamless beach experience for all. Balneario de Carolina, for example, offers accessible ramps, beach wheelchairs, and accessible restrooms, making it easier for individuals with disabilities to enjoy the sun, sand, and surf. Luquillo Beach and Isla Verde Beach also provide accessible facilities, allowing visitors of all abilities to enjoy Puerto Rico’s coast..
Puerto Rico’s natural wonders offer numerous accessible adventures that allow everyone to experience the island’s diverse landscapes. El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System, has some accessible trails, viewing platforms, and picnic areas, making it accessible for visitors with disabilities. You can explore cascading waterfalls, lush vegetation, and encounter unique wildlife while being immersed in nature.
The Camuy River Cave Park, another natural wonder, features an accessible trolley that takes visitors around the vast network of subterranean caverns. These impressive caves are a spectacle of stalagmites, stalactites, and flowing waters.
Experience Puerto Rico’s iconic bioluminescent bays in Fajardo and Vieques. Companies like Pure Adventure and Island Adventures Biobay Tours offer tours with accessible boats, enabling everyone to witness the magical glow in the water caused by microscopic organisms.
Puerto Rico’s vibrant culture is infused with music, dance, and traditional arts. The island offers inclusive cultural experiences where individuals with disabilities can engage and participate. Casa de la Cultura in San Juan hosts inclusive workshops and performances, including music, dance, and arts, providing an opportunity to learn about Puerto Rico’s rich history.
Adaptive Water Sports
Puerto Rico’s pristine waters offer thrilling water sports activities for visitors of all abilities. The next time I am in Puerto Rico I look forward to trying an adaptive surfing program like the one offered by non-profit organization, “Amigos del Oeste” in Rincon. There are programs which cater to individuals with disabilities and provide adapted equipment and trained instructors. This allows everyone to experience the exhilaration of catching a wave and enjoy the island’s renowned surfing scene.
Puerto Rico is a destination that provides inclusive and accessible experiences for all visitors. From exploring historic sites to enjoying barrier-free beaches, immersing in nature, participating in cultural activities, and engaging in adaptive water sports, Puerto Rico ensures that individuals with disabilities can savor the beauty and culture of the island.
By embracing inclusivity, Puerto Rico creates a welcoming environment where everyone can create cherished memories and forge a deep connection with this Caribbean gem. So, work with a knowledgeable travel agent to plan your trip and embark on an adventure. Let Puerto Rico captivate you with its disability-friendly activities and warm hospitality.