As crisp autumn breezes slowly start to caress Florida, my heart is inevitably transported back to my favorite hidden gems at home. Inspired by last week’s San Juan day trips, today I write a mini guide for Gilligan’s Island and Guanica, Puerto Rico!
Gilligan’s Island and Guanica, Puerto Rico Mini Guide
I’ve previously described some of Guanica’s stunning attractions, such as the 4000-hectare UNESCO Guanica Biosphere Reserve and Playa Santa. Yet, I have not introduced you to Guilligan’s Island, one of its beautiful mangrove islands.
Cayo Aurora (as it is also known) is part of the famous Guanica Dry Forest. By taking the public ferry dock, you will find several mini gazebos outfitted with picnic tables. The surrounding shallow waters are perfect for kids and kayaking.
If you walk around the island or have a private boat drop you off elsewhere though, you will find narrow channels and fun currents. While they are not safe for kids, they are a blast to go tubing or swim against if you are fit enough!
How to Get There
The Caribbean beach town of Guanica, the gateway to Gilligan’s Island, is located on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico. It is an easy 2 to 2.5-hour drive from San Juan–particularly scenic if you take the southern route through Salinas, my personal favorite.
There are several ways to get to Gilligan’s Island proper. You can either hop on the public ferry, go on a long kayak ride or hire a small boat from wandering fisherman.
The easiest wait to get there is by the public ferry though. Boats leave every hour between 9 AM and 5 PM, Tuesday to Sunday (weather permitting). Better yet? The dock is located by the colorful Restaurante San Jacinto, where you can sample authentic Puerto Rican food as you wait for departure.
For the kayak option, stop by the Copamarina Beach Resort, Playa Caña Gorda or Mary Lee’s by the Sea. You will be able to rent kayaks there and ask about safe routes to get to Gilligan. Prices vary, but rule of thumb is to veer away from the resorts and head to the local Caña Gorda beach for more budget-friendly rentals.
Feeling adventurous? Practice your Spanish and haggling skills by talking to local fishermen! My advice if you go down this route though is to get a fisherman boat ride on the way to Gilligan’s Island, but hop on the public ferry back. If you don’t have a local cell phone or contact information of the fisherman, you run the risk of being cast away.
Best Time to Visit Gilligan’s Island and Guanica
Guanica is a popular southern beach town among Puerto Ricans, particularly between the summer months. Subsidized government summer rentals attract many middle-income families.
This explains the many holidays I spent along its coasts during my childhood–and why you should avoid it then as a visitor!
We are lucky to enjoy year-round summers in Puerto Rico, so I recommend avoiding American holidays and local festivities. This way, you’ll be able to soak in the solitude and natural peacefulness these southern pearls have to offer.
Remember: you have to take a boat to Cayo Aurora (Gilligan’s Island). Check the forecast prior to departure and don’t head there if stormy weather is in the horizon. This why I also advise against traveling there during the hurricane season in general, which runs from June to November.
That’s not to say you cannot be graced with sunny days then, though! If you can only visit Puerto Rico during those dates, I say take the risk and go for it.
Where to Stay and Eat
Puerto Rico is small: about 110 x 32 square miles. It is quite easy to make Gilligan’s Island and Guanica a day trip from anywhere in the island. I personally recommend staying at night or two on the West Coast of Puerto Rico; it is magical!
Unfortunately, it is forbidden to camp at Gilligan’s Island, so you will have to stay on a nearby town. Don’t be disheartened though: there are so many wonderful options!
My favorite overnight spots include Cabo Rojo, Rincon, and Isabela. You could also stay in Guanica proper, booking a night at a local, family-owned parador. Speaking of which, I highly recommend Parador Guanica 1929 by Tropical Inns. My friends and I love its colonial design, fantastic Puerto Rican food, and location in relation to all of Guanica’s attractions (and beyond!).
A short walk or drive from Parador 1929 is Bodega Andreu Sole. A wonderful farm and restaurant, with decent Spanish food and wines. I love the alfresco dining with water views though, totally my favorite! They offer free tours of the grounds and tastings Sundays between 2 and 5 PM as well.
I also recommend the short drive to Rincon for more food options and nightlife. My favorite spot there? Casa Cofresi! It is another good place to stay on the West Coast, in addition to having a good restaurant and lively vibe on weekends. Great place to mingle with locals, too.
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One last tip! If you have previously visited Puerto Rico, I advise you fly into into Aguadilla airport (BQN) instead of San Juan (SJU). This way, you’ll be right on the West Coast and enjoy the region without a crazy drive through the capital’s metro area 😉