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.
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Why Puerto Rico?
Aside from all its natural beauty, Puerto Rico is JUST so easy to travel to if you live in America!
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
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.
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!
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I recommend Vieques Kayak tour company and Harold as your tour guide. I had an incredible time with them!
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?
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 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.
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:
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.
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?
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.