Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary for Beach & Nature Lovers

Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary for Beach & Nature Lovers

In this blog post, I will share with you a complete Puerto Rico travel itinerary to satisfy the beach bums and nature lovers amongst us.  

Why Puerto Rico? 

Puerto Rico is home to the Rainforest, bioluminescent bays, many picture-perfect Caribbean beaches and delicious Mofongo (the national dish made with root veggies). Need we say more? 

Aside from all its natural beauty, Puerto Rico is JUST so easy to travel to if you live in America!

Best Beach in Puerto Rico
Caracas Beach, Vieques Island

If you are a US citizen or a US Green Card holder, this beautiful tropical island needs to be on your travel list now. Why? 

Because it is a hop and skip away from the US (4hrs non-stop from NYC!!) and requires you to carry nothing else but a National ID or Driver’s Licence to enter the island. 

There is no need to exchange currencies if you use US dollars because they also use the US dollar. The majority of people speak Spanish and English, but yeah, that’s no excuse not to try practicing your Spanish

Here is Your Complete Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary

San Juan

This is the main town that you will most likely fly into. It is known for the Old Town of San Juan filled with Spanish Colonial buildings, forts like San Cristobal Castle and El Morro, upscale restaurants and the buzzing nightlight

Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary
Walking around San Juan

However, there is much more to explore outside of the Old Town.

How to Get Here?

Take an Uber from the airport into town. Uber is very affordable and reliable in the San Juan area, use it to get around instead of renting a car, just yet

Rides cost anywhere from $5-$15 around town.

Where to Stay in San Juan

I recommend Airbnb for affordable and unique stays. If you are looking for budget options, there are also a few hostels, I stayed at Villa Eshta. Or you can stay at Hotel Stay at Marre right on the beach. Book in advance the winter is high season in PR. 

Must-Do in San Juan

After walking around the Old Town and visiting the fortress, you will want to spend a day at Ocean Park Beach sipping on Pina Coladas from Numero Uno Beach Bar while sitting on bean bags watching the sunset. For another tropical day at the beach visit Isla Verde Beach.  

Check out the Santurce area of clubs and restaurants!

Ocean Park Beach in Puerto Rico
Delicious Drinks at Numero Uno Beach Bar

Where to Eat in San Juan?

For breakfast and HUGE smoothies head over to Pinkys in Calle Loiza. The best tacos in town are at Acapulco.

Green Smoothies for Breakfast at Pinkys in San Juan
Big Smoothie Portions at Pinkys

Enjoy an upscale dinner and amazing service at Verde Mesa in Old Town (Vegetarian/Allergy-friendly!).  But for really authentic traditional and affordable food head over to La Placita (The Central Market area) and eat at La Alcapurria, say hi to the lovely owner Irvin!

Restaurants in San Juan, Puerto Rico Travel Guide
Beautiful interiors of Verde Mesa in Old San Juan

All the restaurants mentioned above are vegetarian-friendly! 

Where to Drink in San Juan?

La Placita is a fun place to dance and drink. When you get there look for an outdoors bar called El Coco de Luis for cheap drinks. Or head over to Old Town to La Factoria (rated the top 50 bars in the world) for anything from wine to tiki mixed drinks. 

El Yunque Rainforest 

Puerto Rico Itinerary for El Yunque Rainforest
El Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico

This is not something you want to miss on your Puerto Rico trip. Many people visit El Yunque as a day trip but in my humble expert opinion, it is worth a night’s stay (or two) in the mountains and jungle near the Rainforest!

How to Get Here?  

Now would be the time to rent a car. It is about a 45-50 mins drive from San Juan. There are NO reliable public buses but you can also Uber from San Juan. Uber costs between $30-$50. 

Where to Stay in El Yunque

I highly recommend spending a night or two in the mountains, you won’t regret it! I stayed at Elemental Eco Retreat Airbnb, which was truly a magical place.

Best Airbnb's in Puerto Rico
The View at Elemental Eco Retreat

Must-Do Trails in El Yunque Rainforest *

*Note that hiking El Yunque Rainforest is appropriate for all fitness levels and ages. There is also no entrance fees!

When you enter the rainforest you’ll first stop at La Coca Falls and the Yokahu Tower. If you continue to drive up the road, you’ll come across a 5 mins trail that leads up to another beautiful waterfall/natural pool called Juan Diego Waterfall.

El Yunque Rainforest Puerto Rico travel itinerary
Juan Deigo Waterfall at El Yunque Rainforest

For an easy-moderate hike, keep driving until you see signs for Mt. Britton Trail. This is a 45 mins one-way hike on paved roads leading up to a tower with stunning views of the forest. 

The longest hike in the park is 2 hrs one-way and its called Caimitillo/El Yunque Trails leading up to El Yunque peak. 

Hiking El Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico

Make sure to be out by 6 pm as that is when the gates close. 

Where to Eat in El Yunque?

There are no restaurants in the El Yunque rainforest. There were also no restaurants close enough by our Airbnb. I recommend going to Walmart in San Juan and packing enough food and snacks for this trip. Or if you have rented a car you can drive to the nearby towns for restaurants.   

Vieques Island

Best Beaches in Vieques
Caracas or Red Beach in Vieques Island

Vieques is an island off of the main island of Puerto Rico known for its stunning Carribean beaches and arguably one of the best of the Biolumencent Bays in Puerto Rico. It is 45 mins by ferry from the town of Ceiba. I recommend spending at least 2-3 days here.

How to Get Here?  

You have a few options depending on where you are and how much time/money you have. 

Ferry from Ceiba to Vieques
Ferry from Ceiba to Vieques

From El Yunque Rainforest to Vieques:

Drive to Ceiba Ferry Terminal in Ceiba, about a 45-50 mins drive from the Rainforest. If you did not rent a car, then make sure you organize for an uber to pick you up beforehand, ours cost $50. 

From San Juan to Vieques:

You can still drive to Ceiba Ferry Terminal, it’s about a 1-hour drive and then catch the ferry to Vieques. But the most time-efficient option would be to fly straight into Vieques. This a 30 mins flight from San Juan International Airport. I heard its such an awesome experience and the views are great! 

Flights range anywhere between $70-$250 one-way. Book in advance for cheap flights to Vieques.

Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary to Nearby Islands
Bring your Rental Car on the Ferry

Ferry Tickets to the Nearby Islands of Puerto Rico

If you take the ferry, you can purchase your ferry tickets in advance online here or arrive at the Ceiba Ferry Terminal early enough to buy them there in person. The cost is $2 for a one-way ticket at the ferry terminal

How to Get Around Vieques Island

If you didn’t bring your rental car on the ferry, then you can rent a vehicle* once you’re on the island or even better, rent a golf cart

Or 

You can take private taxis. This is the number to call (787) 741-8294 to request a pick-up. They cost $10 or $15 to almost anywhere on the island.

How to get around in Puerto Rico
Gua Guas in Puerto Rico

Another option is public cars called Gua Gua. These stop by the ferry terminal or in Esperanza and can take you to Caracas beach for $5 each way. 

*They don’t recommend renting motorcycles because of the horses that roam free. Watch out for those at night! 

Where to Stay in Vieques

I stayed at Casa Arena. This is a beautiful Airbnb with a pool & private access to the beach. You’ll need a car if you stay there because it’s away from the main area. 

Airbnbs in Vieques
The View from our Balcony at Casa Arena

If you want to be in the main area of the island stay on Esperanza. There is Lazy Hostel or a nice hotel called El Blok, both are right on the main beach in Esperanza. Here are other great hotel options around the island; Malecon House and Isla Hermosa Guesthouse.

Must-Do in Vieques

Caracas or Red beach (the most beautiful beach on the island of PR!), La Chiva beach, Black Sand beach, Sun Bay beach & the Bioluminescent Bay (Mosquito Bay), of course. If you like the nightlife, then check out the Isabel II square for some hot bachata and merengue tunes. 

Female traveler at Sun Bay Beach in Vieques Puerto rico
Beautiful Shell at Sun Bay Beach in Vieques

I recommend Vieques Kayak tour company and Harold as your tour guide. I had an incredible time with them! 

Black Sand Beach, Puerto Rico Travel Guide
Playa Negra or Black Sand Beach in Vieques

Pro Tip: Make sure to check out the beach at night to see the stars, but go with a group for safety. 

Where to Eat in Vieques Island?

Puerto Rico Vegetarian Food Guide
Vegetarian Mofongo at El Guayacan

Bananas for a variety of foods and fun drinks, El Guayacán for traditional Puerto Rican food (the mofongo can be made vegetarian here), Lazy Jacks for cheap bar food and El Blok for high-end food.

Culebra Island  

Culebra is another island off of the main island of Puerto Rico. It is smaller in size than Vieques, known for it’s Flamenco Beach with the navy tank in the water and Tamarindo Beach for snorkeling with sea turtles. This island is ideal for a day trip from San Juan or Vieques.

Guide to Puerto Rico's beaches
Flamenco Beach in Culebra Island

How to Get Here?  

This will depend on which part of Puerto Rico you are getting to Culebra Island.

To get from Vieques to Culebra:

The cheapest option would be to catch the earliest ferry leaving Vieques to Ceiba Ferry Terminal. At the ferry terminal, you will catch the next ferry going to Culebra. This route takes about 2 hours but will cost you $4 total

Alternatively, you can book a flight from Vieques to Culebra, but it will stop in SJU.

To get from San Juan to Culebra:

You can fly directly from San Juan International Airport (book it in advance here) or you can take an uber to Ceiba Ferry Terminal and catch a $2 ferry to Culebra. Here is the ferry schedule. 

Where to Stay in Culebra

Here are some nice places to stay in Culebra; Villa del Sol 302, and Villa Ensenada Honda.
You can either stay for a night on the island or do what I did and head back to San Juan after exploring. You can take the evening ferry back or fly back to SJ.

Must-Do in Culebra Island  

Flamenco Beach ($2 entrance fees), Zoni Beach and Tamarindo Beach for snorkeling with turtles.

Flamenco Beach in Culebra Island
A Navy Tank in the Middle of the Ocean at Flamenco Beach

When you get off the ferry, you will find a lot of Gua Guas (public cars) shouting out the names of the popular beaches. It is very safe to ride these cars and it only costs $3 to get to Flamenco Beach!

Where to Eat in Culebra? 

Puerto Rico Culebra Travel Itinerary

Culebra is a very small island so your options are limited here. There is a decent supermarket on the island if you want to cook but Zaco Tacos is a must-try for REALLY good tacos. 

For Bonus Savings: Use Rakuten to get cashback on your bookings! Also here is $40 off your first Airbnb stay. 

Make sure you pack light so you can easily hop in Ubers and the ferries, here is your complete guide to packing and traveling light!

I hope this Puerto Rico travel guide helps you plan your upcoming trip but If you still have questions, do not hesitate to contact me here.

5 Affordable Beach Holiday Destinations to Visit This Winter

5 Affordable Beach Holiday Destinations to Visit This Winter

If you are reading this now, then you and I have a lot in common: 

We both LOVE sunshine and beaches and dread the winter! 

Fret not because I have 5 insanely affordable beach holiday destinations you can hit up this winter to cure your summer blues.

And, If it’s cold where you are right now and you can’t travel just yet, then picture this:

You, chillaxin’ on a hammock, one foot lightly grazing the soft white sands, with a refreshing pina colada in hand and the sounds of ocean waves in the background….you are smiling real big because this whole set up cost you less than $40/per day! 

Ladies and Gents, here is a list of 5 truly unique and affordable beach holiday destinations to visit this winter:

1. Central America 

Place: Bocas Del Toro, Panama 

The Vibe: Bocas is a province in Panama off of the Caribbean coast that is made up of a bunch of islands with stunning turquoise waters, rock formations, and marine life. The main town is Bocas town where you can stay in super cute hostels, eat at trendy cafes, and party like there is no tomorrow—look up Filthy Friday!

Must visit: Starfish Beach (Playa Estrella)—this beach has many brightly colored starfish that you can see up close in the shallow water. Please respect these creatures by not taking them out of the water, they need to be in it to survive. 

Starfish beach in Panama; one of the affordable beach holiday destinations
They were that close to me!

Weather: Consistently in the mid 80s°F/20s°C, with some rain here and there. Hello tropical weather! 

Average Hostel Price/Night: $10-$16. Check out Hostel Mamallena and La Guayana 

Average Hotel/Private Room Price/Night: $50-$100 for hotel rooms and less than $50 for private rooms in hostels. 

Average Meal Price: $4-$8 Local meals, $10-$15 Fancy Meals.

Pro Saving Tip: With many affordable supermarkets in town, I ended up cooking most of my meals to cut down on costs. While this might not be your idea of a fun vacay but when you’re tight on cash, cooking a meal with new or old friends is actually loads of fun! 

Price of a Beer: $2

Female travelers on an affordable beach holiday destination in Panama
Party in the middle of the ocean!!

Why go there?

Sun and fun. Bocas is the ideal place to be lazy or to go wild. There are many restaurants and parties happening throughout the week. You can’t get bored here because of how accessible it is to get to the surrounding islands by hopping on a $3-$5 water taxi from Bocas Town. 

If you are looking for an adventure to add on to your trip to Bocas in Panama, then check out Nomadic Matt’s blog post on Boquete.

Place: San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua 

The Vibe: Quiet/lazy beach town located on the southwest coast of Nicaragua. With a ton of Pacific beaches within driving distance to choose from, this town is perfect for surfers/learning to surf, budget backpackers, yoga lovers or those who simply desire to tan their beach buns while sipping on yummy affordable dranks.

Playa Maderas

Must Visit: Playa Maderas, MIxcal Beach, Playa Hermosa, The Beach House (for 2 for $5 Happy Hour drinks!)

Weather: Pretty dry with average temps. of 80s°F/30s°C

Average Hostel Price/Night: $5-$15. Check out Naked Tiger or Casa Oro in the heart of town.

Average Hotel/Private Room Price/Night: $19-$40 for private rooms in hostels, $35-$50 Hotel rooms.

Pro Saving Tip: Stay at an all-inclusive eco-luxury resort for one week for $449! Or $52/ day including breakfast. 

Average Meal Price: $4-$10

Price of a Beer: $1

Affordable beach holiday destinations in Central America
Fresh coco for $1

Why go there? 

With many beaches around and various activities to indulge in, I doubt you’ll ever get bored in San Juan Del Sur. You can do a 1 week yoga retreat for less than $500, or take up surf lessons for $25/hr or even Spanish classes by the beach for $10/hr. This is definitely one of the most affordable beach holiday destinations in Central America. 

2. The Carribean 

Place: Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic 

The Vibe: Pristine and quiet white sand beaches on the Samaná peninsula in the northeast part of the DR. Enough said! 

P.S. if you are a bachata lover, you will fall in love with this town and the dancers at the clubs. 

Must Visit: Playa Bonita, Playa Coson 

Affordable Beach Holiday Destinations to Visit in the Winter
Secluded pristine white sand beaches

Pro Saving Tip: Take motorcycle taxis from town to the beaches because they only cost around $1-$4!

Weather: Tropical wet and humid weather with an average of 70s°F/25°C

Average Hostel Price/Night: $15. My fav is Dan & Manty’s Guesthouse

Average Hotel/Private Room Price/Night: Hotel rooms from $50-$100, Private room in a hostel from $24-$45. 

Average Meal Price: $2-$5 local food in town, $10-$20 food at the beach

Price of a Beer: $2

Female travelers at an affordable beach holiday destination in the Dominican Republic
Perfect deep blue waters (unedited photo)

Why go there?

A trip to Las Terrenas can be as luxurious or as an affordable beach holiday destination as you want, depending on where you stay. With that being said, the beauty of all the beaches will never fail to make you feel like you are at a 5-star resort, regardless of where you end up staying! 

3. South America  

Place: Tayrona National Park, Santa Marta, Colombia 

The Vibe: A unique mix of lush tropical jungles and perfect blue Carribean waters. Tayrona National Park is located at the intersection of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta and the Carribean coast. This is for those who crave an adventurous beach holiday. Think sleeping outdoors in hammocks or tents and waking up to the sound of the waves and tropical birds. 

Surreal Rocks at Tayrona National Park in Colombia
Surreal Landscape at sunrise in Tayrona National Park

Pro Saving Tip: Catch a local bus ride for $2 from the town of Santa Marta which drops you off by the entrance of the park. From the park entrance, it is an approximately sweaty 2 hours hike in the jungle to the beach. This is an easy hike, just a little humid so wear breathable clothes and carry a light day pack. 

Must Visit: The whole damn thing, if you can! But the most popular beach in Tayrona is Cabo San Juan. 

Weather: Humid and rainy but definitely HOT!  We are talking 90°F/32°C

Average Hostel Price/Night in Santa Marta: $6-$12. Check out Dreamers Hostel 

Average Hotel/Private Room Price/Night in Santa Marta: Hotel rooms from $20-$85. Private rooms in hostels from $15-$45. 

Hammock or Tent Accommodation Price in the Park: $12-$60. Check out Tayrona Tented Lodge with all meals included! If you want to sleep in a hammock for $7, then take a look at this option

Average Meal Price: $3-$12. Don’t forget to pack them snacks!

Price of a Beer: $1.50

Affordable Beach Holiday Destinations in South America

Why go there?

Because you will love Colombia as a whole and you will have such an adventure hiking, taking in the biodiversity of the park and swimming in the ocean. There are many picture opportunities here, so take advantage!

For a complete guide to visiting the park check out this blog post

Important Park Operational Info: Gate is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The last permitted entry is at 4 p.m. Tayrona is closed from end of Jan through Feb. Please check online that the park is open on your intended visit date. 

4. North Africa 

Place: Sharm el Sheik, Egypt

The Vibe: A diver’s heaven. Sharm is located between Egypt’s majestic Sinai desert and the Red Sea known for its clear waters with surreal coral reefs, palm-lined beaches, and endless bars and nightlife activity. Gather up all your loved ones, because this affordable beach holiday destination is perfect for groups or families!

Red sea in Egypt surrounded by the Sinai desert

Must Visit: Ras Mohammed National Park, Adrenaline Beach, Terrazina Beach, Saint Catherine Monastery, Naama Bay (for the nightlife) 

Weather: Hot but breezy at night averaging 70s°F/20s°C. You will have the best tan of your life, I’m telling ya!

Average Affordable Hotel Price/Night: $20-$35. If you want an authentic desert experience check out Sinai Old Spices B&B

Average All-Inclusive Hotel Price/Night: $55-$200. Labranda Tower Bay is an all-inclusive hotel with desert and ocean views, appropriate for all kinds of travelers.

Average Meal Price: $5-$8

Price of a Beer: $3

Sharm el Sheikh is one of the top most affordable beach holiday destinations in the world
The Sinai Desert

Why go there? 

A unique combination of authentic North African/Middle Eastern culture and a desert landscape contrasted by picture-perfect beaches. You can camp out in deserts for an adventure, take up diving lessons in the world’s best waters for diving or simply enjoy a luxury vacation at an all-inclusive hotel for the fraction of the price you’d pay anywhere else. 

Diving in the red sea in Egypt

Pro Saving Tip: Make friends with the locals and learn a few words in Arabic. You will really impress the Egyptians and they might hook up the prices for you, habibi! 

Safety Tip: If you are a solo traveler, travel around with a local guide or a local friend. 

5. Asia

Place: Koh Rong Island, Sihanoukville, Cambodia 

The Vibe: Low-key developing island with secluded white sand beaches and lush jungles. This is perfect for those looking for a major social media/city detox. There are very little distractions here and you will definitely enjoy being one with nature. Just be prepared for the power outages, limited wi-fi, and food options. 

Must Visit: Koh Rong Samloem (you can swim with planktons that light up in the water at night—it’s truly magical!)

Koh Rong Island in Cambodia; one of the most affordable beach destinations in Asia

Weather: Warm and dry weather averaging in the mid 80s°F/20s°C

Average Hostel Price/Night: $10. Coconutbeach Bungalows offers private tents with beds for $5/night and private rooms starting at $15! 

Average Hotel/Private Room Price/Night: $15-$50. Lost and Found offers private rooms for $15, including breakfast, that are right across from the beach on Koh Rong Samloem

Average Meal Price: $2-$5

Price of a Beer: $1.50

Affordable beach holiday destinations in South East Asia

Why go there?

As far as affordable beach holiday destinations go, it doesn’t get any cheaper or better than this. This island was one of my top favorite places during my entire trip to Cambodia. You can find free hanging hammocks from trees by the beach to relax on while sipping on your $1 fresh smoothie and reading your favorite book. 

For a more extensive guide on Koh Rong Island read this blog

Fun Fact: The Survivors 32nd season was filmed on Koh Rong Island! 

Place: Hoi An, Vietnam

(Ha Long Bay is cool too, but Hoi An is cooler, in my humble opinion at least)

The Vibe: Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, this old riverside town has an interesting mix of Chinese, Japanese, French and Vietnamese flair. Here you can shop, eat amazing foods, chill by the river (check out the Full Moon Lantern festival), get your temple fix and sunbathe at the beach. 

Must Visit: Hoi An Town, The Riverside, Cua Dai Beach, An Bang Beach, Chuc Thanh Pagoda

Hoi An Town in Vietnam

Weather: Dec-Jan is still considered the rainy season in Vietnam but temps are averaging 70s°F/20s°C. Feb-Mar is warm and dry. 

Average Hostel Price/Night: $4-$9. Check out this $6 hostel right in town. 

Average Hotel/Private Room Price/Night: Hotel rooms average between $14-$35. Private rooms at hostels are between $15-$30. G Boutique Resort offers you luxury for $35/night including a fresh breakfast and access to a pool. 

Average Meal Price: $1-$5

Price of a Beer: $.50- $1.50

Hoi An riverside is an affordable beach holiday destination in Vietnam
Hoi An’s riverside lined with bars and restaurants

Why go there?

This is truly an extraordinary and often underrated affordable beach holiday destination for those already traveling through Vietnam or South East Asia. I highly recommend it to travelers who want to have a unique cultural experience, old town venturing, delicious CHEAP street food, and the beach, of course. 

If you want to learn how to save and budget for an upcoming trip, even as a college student, then you should read this blog post!

Happy summertime in the wintertime, y’all!

Disclaimer: I may make a commission on some of the links mentioned in this post at NO additional cost to you!