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4 Day Puerto Rico Itinerary: The Perfect Island Getaway

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If you are looking to travel to the Carribean, Puerto Rico is a fantastic choice, especially if you are coming from the United States. It’s known as the “La Isla del Encanto” (the Island of Enchantment) which makes sense when you see its beautiful beaches, rainforests, and culture. Here’s a 4 day Puerto Rico itinerary that will help you hit the highlights of this amazing island!

A Brief History of Puerto Rico

If you know anything about Puerto Rico, you probably know it has long political history and a complicated political present. There’s no way to fully explain it all here, so let’s hit the main points.

  • The first indigenous people on Puerto Rico were the Taínos.
  • In 1493, the Spanish arrived on Puerto Rico. You know the story from there: European colonization, enslaved people brought over, indigenous population largely wiped out. However, in Puerto Rico, like in many other places, the indigenous population didn’t completely disappear and today many Puerto Ricans still have a Taíno ancestry.
  • In 1898, as part of the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War, Puerto Rico was given to the United States from Spain.
  • Puerto Rico is now a US Territory. This means Puerto Ricans are considered US citizens, however Puerto Ricans are not represented in the US government.

So why is all this history important? Because when you’re traveling to Puerto Rico, you’re traveling to a place with a complicated past and a complicated present and its important to keep that in mind. Not only will it make your travels richer, but it will also help you to be sensitive and conscientious traveler.

Getting to Puerto Rico

Since Puerto Rico is an island, you’ll most likely be flying in. The San Juan airport (the Luis Moñoz Marín International Airport aka SJU) is where you’ll want to fly in. It’s located just about 20 minutes from San Juan, which makes it super easy to get to.

Plus, if you are traveling as a US Citizen, you will not need a passport to go to Puerto Rico. Your driver’s license or other identification you use for domestic flights will suffice.

A few notes about the airport:

  • You can take Uber to get to and from San Juan!
  • Traffic going into San Juan in the morning and out of San Juan in the afternoon can be pretty heavy, so keep that in mind.
  • There is no free WiFi (you can pay for it) and no water bottle filler stations in the San Juan airport.

Pro Tip: Use Skyscanner to find the best deals on flights to San Juan!

Getting Around Puerto Rico

You have two options for how you get around Puerto Rico: Taxis/Ubers or a car rental.

If you are planning to stay just in the San Juan area, relying on taxis and Ubers will be fine.

HOWEVER, if you plan to go outside of San Juan you NEED to either rent a car or prearrange transportation. If you take a taxi or Uber somewhere outside of San Juan, it can be extremely difficult to find one back. And some places, like in El Yunque, have such poor cell service that you would not even be able to call for someone (plus, taxies and Ubers aren’t allowed in El Yunque).

If you plan to rent a car, you should find it fairly easy to drive in Puerto Rico. Road signs will be in Spanish. But if you don’t speak any Spanish, Google maps can help you get around easily.

Another option is to only take day trips from San Juan with a guided tour. There are LOTS of tours that will pick you up in San Juan, take you to different spots on the island, and then bring you back.

Where To Stay in Puerto Rico

For this itinerary, we recommend staying in the San Juan area and taking day trips from there. Here are a few hotels in San Juan.

  • Caribe HiltonI’ve stayed at the Caribe Hilton twice and think it is a solid option. It’s just about a 10 minute Uber ride from Old San Juan and has beautiful beach views, its own beach, and a great pool. This is a great choice if you want to be in San Juan but also have a more beach resort feel.
  • Hotel El Convento — This hotel is actually housed in an old convent! They have a beautiful courtyard, a rooftop pool, lovely rooms, and a convenient location in the center of Old San Juan.
  • Sheraton Old San Juan — If you’re loyal to Marriott, there’s a Sheraton right in Old San Juan! It’s right next to the cruise ship terminal, which makes for some fun views! But it’s still within walking distance of all your Old San Juan attractions.
  • Traveling with a family? Here’s a great list of resort options in Puerto Rico for families!
Our View from the Caribe Hilton

If you’d rather split your stay up and stay overnight near El Yunque and Farjardo, there are some great hotel options on the eastern side of the island.

4 Day Puerto Rico Itinerary

Day 1 — Old San Juan

Let’s start our 4 days in Puerto Rico in its capital city and the place where tourists are most likely to go: San Juan. Yes, it’s a popular city, and yes there’s a lot to see outside of San Juan. But you also definitely don’t want to miss it on your trip because there is tons to do in San Juan.

San Juan was founded by colonists in 1521, and it boasts lots of “oldest” things, including the second oldest church in the entire Western Hemisphere.

There is of course lots of history to see in Old San Juan, but one of the things that makes it most lovely is the beautiful colonial architecture and the views of the ocean.

So let’s spend most of the day here exploring the city.

Day 1: Morning

After grabbing breakfast at a local café, start your morning with a walking tour of Old San Juan. This will give you a foundational understanding for the rest of your time in both San Juan and Puerto Rico. We went on this walking tour, which began at 9:00 a.m. and thought it was fantastic!

We hit most of the major sites within Old San Juan and learned so much about the history of Puerto Rico. Besides learning more about the history of Puerto Rico, one of the best things about taking a tour like this is that your guide will take you to some spots you never would have gone to on your own. There were churches where we went down into the crypts, a public bathroom that became a life-saver later in the day, and a historically significant door with a kind of creepy story— all things we never would have known about if we had just been exploring on our own.

Day 2: Afternoon

Grab some lunch at a local restaurant (we loved the authentic Puerto Rican food at Café Manolín) and then head to El Castillo San Felipe del Morro, also known as El Morro.

El Morro is a fortress that was built by the Spanish beginning in 1539, and touring it is one of the most popular things to do in San Juan. Not only can you tour the different parts of the fortress, but you can also catch some amazing views of the ocean.

Also be sure to walk down the huge lawn in front of El Morro for some incredible views of Santa María Magdelena de Pazzi cemetery! (Truly standing here and watching the ocean waves come in beyond the cemetery was one of my favorite moments in San Juan!)

Day 3: Evening

San Juan takes on a different feel in the evening, when the temperatures cool down! Spend some time in the early evening strolling through San Juan. Maybe go back to some of the places you saw on your walking tour or stroll down the iconic Paseo de la Princesa.

You might also want to stop by el Parque de las Palmoas (Pigeon Park) or visit la Calle de la Fortaleza, also known as umbrella street for the Instagrammable umbrellas that hang above it.

Then grab some dinner (we ate at El Asador and loved it!). You could also head to Barrachina, which is one of the two places in Puerto Rico that has claims on inventing the piña colada.

Want an easy way to plan your trip to Puerto Rico?
Check out this Puerto Rico Travel Guide!

Day 2 — El Yunque National Forest

Today we’re going to head east of San Juan to El Yunque National Forest. Fun fact: This is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest system!

When traveling to El Yunque from San Juan, you definitely need to either rent a car or prearrange your transportation. One of the easiest ways to do this is to book a tour to El Yunque. Many of them provide transportation to El Yunque from San Juan and take you to some of the best spots in the rainforest.

The reason it’s so important to have your transportation taken care of is that a) cell service in El Yunque is minimum and b) Ubers aren’t allowed in the park to pick you up. So if you were to take an Uber or taxi out to El Yunque, it would be extremely difficult to find a way back.

Pro Tip: Definitely bring your own snacks/lunch and water with you to El Yunque! There is no food provided in the parks and there is no potable water (this means you CANNOT fill your water up at bathroom sinks because it is not safe to drink). You want to have everything you might need food and drink wise when you enter the rainforest!

Day 2: Morning

If you’re taking a guided tour of El Yunque, you’ll obviously do whatever the tour has planned. But for our itinerary, we’re going to assume that you have your own rented car.

One great thing about how El Yunque is set up is that most of the main attractions in the rainforest are going to be along one main road: PR-191. If you start just at the park entrance and keep driving up into the rainforest, you’ll find all the things listed here to do in El Yunque along the way.

PS—Here are all the best things to do in El Yunque!

La Coca Falls

First, stop at La Coca Falls. It’s an 85 foot waterfall that is super accessible to anyone in your travel party. You can see it as you drive on the road! Beyond the falls, there is a small parking lot where you can park and walk down the road for better views of La Coca Falls.

Yokahú Tower

Just a bit up PR-191 from La Coca Falls is Yokahú Tower. The tower is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. generally, and you can climb it for great views of El Yunque and the ocean beyond. (If you’re too early for the tower to open, maybe consider stopping back by on your way out of the rainforest.)

Juan Diego Creek Trail and Juan Diego Falls

The Juan Diego Creek Trail short and easy trail leads you to a beautiful little waterfall and tropical oasis. The trail only takes about 5 minutes and it’s so beautiful! It was one of my favorite places we stopped in El Yunque, and it’s perfect for families with kids.

Just keep in mind that the parking area is small and it has a 30 minute parking limit.

Baño Grande

The next stop along PR-191 is Baño Grande. This is a large man-made pool that was once used for recreation, but is now just a pretty pond to see in the rainforest. It’s really lovely, especially with the stone bridge. And it’s an easy walk to get to; just keep in mind that there are some stairs.

This area is also a great place to stop and have some lunch and use the bathroom before tackling a bigger hike in the afternoon.

Day 2: Afternoon

For the afternoon, considering taking on one of the longer hikes in El Yunque.

Hiking

We loved the Mount Britton Trail! It’s a bit of a steep climb that is just under a mile, but it takes you to the tower at the top of Mount Britton. There you can climb the tower for some incredible views of El Yunque. When we were there, it was foggy, so we couldn’t see much. But it was still a really cool experience. The trail is a bit challenging because of the incline, but there is a small paved path for most of it.

You could also head back down to the La Coca area and take La Coca Trail. This is one of the most challenging trails in El Yunque and it’s just under 2 miles in length. There are also several places where you have a cross a river or stream, but also lots of waterfalls and several places where you can cool off in the water. This is not a well-marked trail and is definitely for more experienced hikers. Make sure you have a map downloaded before you go.

El Portal Visitor Center

After a hike, start making your way out of El Yunque. Before you completely leave the park, stop by El Portal Visitor Center. This is a really cool space that just reopened in 2022. It teaches you all about the rainforest you just experienced and it has two easy nature trails you can enjoy (a great option for people who want to experience El Yunque but need accessible options!).

While you *could* visit El Portal in the morning, we recommend waiting until the afternoon because it doesn’t open until 9:00 a.m. and it’s better to be in El Yunque before then to beat the crowds to some of the more poplar spots.

Where are the Waterslides in El Yunque?

You know those rock waterslides you see all over Instagram? Well, if you might be surprised to find out they aren’t actually in El Yunque. They are at a place called Las Paylas, which is a nearby, privately-owned attraction.

Several of the El Yunque tours you can book will include a stop at the waterfalls. Otherwise, you can visit on your own. Note that because it is privately owned, there is a small entry fee.

Day 2: Evening

It’s been a long day exploring El Yunque rainforest. So for the evening, head back to San Juan.

You can choose to head back to Old San Juan for some dinner. Or maybe, if you’re staying at a resort with a pool, take a dip in the pool to relax after an active day!

Day 3 — Beach Day and Bioluminescent Kayaking

Day 3 Morning & Afternoon: Beach Time!

Puerto Rico is famous for its beautiful beaches, and you definitely won’t want to miss them while you are in Puerto Rico.

There are LOTS of different options for where you can go. So here are just a few:

  • Condado Beach — This is probably one of the best known beaches in San Juan. It’s located near a lot of the resorts in San Juan, and it’s an easy place for tourists to get to. However, the water and current here can be rough, so be cautious about swimming here. However, around the corner you can visit Playita del Condado, which is a calmer area.
  • Escabrón Beach — Located near Condado Beach, you’ll find Escabrón Beach in San Juan. This is a great family-friendly beach because the water is calmer.
  • Isla Verde Beach — Isla Verde Beach is a little further from central San Juan, closer to the airport. There are two sides to the beach, a west side and east side on either side of a tiny peninsula that juts out. This is a pretty popular beach, so it can get pretty crowded!
  • Iacos — If you really want to get away from everything, consider taking a day trip via catamaran to the island of Iacos. This is an uninhabited island with pristine beaches, and you can take a catamaran from Fajardo, which is just over an hour’s drive east of San Juan.
  • Vieques — Another day trip option is to go to the island of Vieques. This is a popular island where you can choose to stay overnight or just go for the day. You can get to Vieques via ferry, and there are several great beach areas to explore on the island. Perhaps the most well known though is the Black Sand Beach.
  • Culebra — Culebra is another island beach day trip. You can take a ferry from Fajardo or you can take a catamaran to Culebra!
Tips For Visiting Puerto Rico’s Beaches

Always be prepared for your day at the beach! Here area a few tips:

  • Use reef safe sunscreen. Sunscreen is essential for protection, but make sure you are using reef safe sunscreen to protect the ocean life in Puerto Rico. I always use Sun Bum sunscreen and love it so so much.
  • Bring bug spray. Even on the beach, you will sometimes find bugs. So be prepared with a DEET-free bug spray.
  • Watch for rip currents. Some beaches are prone to rip currents, so know how to watch for them and be safe around the water.
  • Look up beach facilities. Not all beaches are going to have restrooms nearby, so if you think you will need a facility during your beach day, research whether or not you will have access to one.
  • Plan your food! I always think you should take snacks to the beach, but if you are going to a less-populated beach, make sure you have a lunch plan.

Day 3 Evening: Bioluminescent Kayaking

Out of five places in the world where you can go bioluminescent kayaking, Puerto Rico is home to THREE of them!

You can choose to visit a bio bay on your own, or you can book a guided tour that can provide you with transportation.

Laguna Grande

If you are staying in San Juan, this will be the easiest bioluminescent bay to get to. It is located in Fajardo, which is just over an hour away from San Juan.

Mosquito Bay

Mosquito Bay is located in Vieques. So if you are planning to spend the day in Vieques at the beach, you might consider doing a bio bay kayak tour in Mosquito Bay.

Just be sure you have your transportation arranged and that you will be done in Mosquito Bay with enough time to catch a ferry back to the main island. Otherwise, plan on staying in Vieques for the night!

La Parguera

La Parguera is located in Lajas and is a little over 2 hours away from San Juan. This bay makes more sense to visit if you are staying in Rincón. However, this is the only bay you can swim in, so you might consider visiting here if that appeals to you.

Day 4 — Piñones and Loíza

Since we had such a big day yesterday, let’s take it easy today and explore an area closer to San Juan that will also give us a peak at some Afro-Puerto Rican culture!

Day 4 Morning: Piñones

Put your swimsuit back on today and head out to enjoy the natural beauty of Piñones!

Piñones is located just about 30-45 minutes from San Juan. It is full of beautiful beaches and mangrove forests.

Start out at a favorite family-friendly beach: La Posita de Piñones. This beach is loved by families because it has a coral barrier that blocks the bigger waves. When they built the airport, they dug a lot of sand up for it. The result is a shallow beach area that is perfect for kids. But of course, adults can enjoy lounging in the calm water too!

You can also enjoy some of the other beaches in Piñones, like Playa Aviones or Playa Torrecillas.

And if you’ve had enough beach time, you can enjoy the mangrove forests. There is a boardwalk and walking trail that runs through the mangrove forests. It’s basically a big greenway that runs along the beach and through the forest. There are two parts you can visit. The Paseo Loíza runs more along the beach, while the Paseo Vereda de la Casuarina delves more into the forest. There is parking to access el Paseo Vereda de la Casuarina at la Reserva Natural Bosque de Piñones.

Day 4 Afternoon: Loíza

After a morning at the beach, drive down PR-187 and find some lunch. This road is known for all the food stands that dot it, and you can get traditional Puerto Rican dishes like alcapurrias (a fried plantain fritter stuffed with meat or seafood), pinchos (BBQ skewers), mofongo (traditional fried plantains mashed together), and more.

Pro Tip: If you plan on visiting one of these food kiosks, make sure you bring cash! Many either don’t accept or prefer cash.

Then head into the town of Loíza where where you can learn about Afro-Puerto Rican heritage.

There are two main stops to make in Loíza. The first is at El Batey de Ayala. Here you can visit the shop of the person who makes the traditional coconut masks Loíza is known for. The town uses these masks every year in la Fiesta de Santiago Apóstol in July.

You can also visit the art studio and gallery of famed artist Samuel Lind. It is right across the street and down a small road from El Batey de Ayala.

Samuel Lind is known for how he captures the beauty of the area. He has vibrant paintings of bomba dancing and incredible paintings of the surrounding mangrove forests. And he does more than just painting; he also does screenprinting and sculpture.

A visit to Samuel Lind’s house lets you see an artist at work. You’ll see works in progress all over the place, as well as finished paintings lining the walls. And he has a notebook of prints you can buy if you’d like to!

While you can definitely make this visit to Loíza on your own, I also think this is a great opportunity to take a guided Loíza tour. Since this is a bit off the beaten path, a tour guide can not only make sure you hit the right spots but also give you tons of important background and history on the area.

Painting of Woman Dancing La Bomba painted by Samuel Lind

Day 4 Evening: San Juan

For our last evening in Puerto Rico, head back to Old San Juan. Enjoy strolling the cobblestone streets, admiring the architecture, and finding some great food. Enjoy the sunset and maybe revisit a favorite spot you found earlier in the week.

Really, the last evening is just about soaking up that Puerto Rico feel and taking a deep breath of the island’s beauty before you have to leave.

More Things To Do in Puerto Rico

Have more time in Puerto Rico? Here are a few more things you can enjoy on additional days!

Visit Rincón — Rincón in west Puerto Rico is known as a surf town and is full of great beaches.

See the Pink Salt Flats in Cabo Rojo — Cabo Rojo is in the southwest of Puerto Rico and is known for its pink salt flats, which is really a pink salt lake. There is a also a historic lighthouse you can visit nearby.

Spend Time in Ponce — Ponce is one of Puerto Rico’s other major cities, and you’ll find a lot of history here just like in Old San Juan.

Take a Food Tour in Old San Juan — If you are a fan of food, you definitely don’t want to miss one of San Juan’s food tours!

Travel Tips for Puerto Rico

Make sure you have your transportation arranged. Getting around Puerto Rico can be tricky, especially if you don’t have a rental car. While you definitely don’t need (and probably don’t want) a rental car for your time in San Juan, you’ll definitely want a car for your adventures outside of San Juan unless you choose to go with a guided tour.

Wear reef-safe sunscreen! The sun can be brutal in Puerto Rico, so be prepared with the best reef-safe sunscreen. (Make sure it’s reef-safe to protect Puerto Rico’s ecosystem!)

Be prepared for rain. Bring an umbrella or rain jacket with you everywhere you go. Rain storms can pop up quickly (but can also stop just as quickly!).

Be prepared for wind. It can be very windy in Puerto Rico, especially along the shore. So just be prepared!

Tip your waiters. Like in the United States, tipping is expected at restaurants and hotels in Puerto Rico.

Be prepared for traffic. Traffic can definitely get heavy in Puerto Rico, especially around San Juan. Usually it is heavy coming into San Juan in the morning and heavy going out in the afternoon. So be sure to account for extra time needed to get to your destination.

What to Pack for Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a tropical climate, so definitely keep that in mind when packing for you trip! Here are items you should make sure you bring.

  • Clothes for warm weather — It’s hot in Puerto Rico pretty much all the time, so make sure you pack shorts, t-shirts, breezy dresses, and other warm weather clothing.
  • Swimsuits — Does this need an explanation? I think not.
  • Comfortable walking shoes — I LOVE my Chacos and wore them all the time in Puerto Rico (even hiking in El Yunque!). Tevas are another great comfortable sandal option.
  • Sunglasses and hats — Bring sun protection! Also, maybe throw a rash guard in your bag for beach days if you are especially sensitive to the sun.
  • Reef-safe suncreen — Protect Puerto Rico’s reefs with reef-safe sunscreen. Sun Bum is my favorite!
  • Bug spray — Bugs can get bad in Puerto Rico, so make sure you bring some bug spray.
  • Umbrella — Always be prepared for the possibility of rain.
  • Cash — While lots of vendors take credit cards, some (like those small roadside kiosks) might only take cash. Plus you’ll want cash for hotel tips.

Puerto Rico FAQs

Is Puerto Rico safe to visit?

Yes, Puerto Rico is generally safe for tourists to visit. But use common sense when traveling. Be aware of your surroundings, especially at night.

Do I need travel insurance for Puerto Rico?

If you book on a credit card that provides travel insurance, you are less likely to need to purchase a travel insurance plan. HOWEVER, your United States health care may or may not cover you in Puerto Rico, so it is recommended that you at least get a travel insurance plan that can cover you in case of a health emergency. (We love using Travelex for travel insurance! Or just get travel health insurance through SafetyWing!)

Do I need a passport or visa to visit Puerto Rico?

If you are coming from the United States, you do not need a passport to visit Puerto Rico. You can use just your driver’s license to get into Puerto Rico because it is a US Territory.

Other countries will need passports and visas to visit. It is recommended that your apply for a tourist visa at least 10 days in advance of your trip.

Will my cell phone work in Puerto Rico?

If you are on a US cell phone plan, your phone will automatically work in Puerto Rico. Keep in mind that cell phone service is not always available depending on your location.

What currency does Puerto Rico use?

Puerto Rico uses the US Dollar. While many vendors take credit cards, there are some that only take cash, so bring some with you.

Is the water safe to drink in Puerto Rico?

Yes, the water in Puerto Rico is safe to drink. It is supposed to meet the same drinking water standards as the rest of the US.

More Puerto Rico Resources


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