Puerto Rico might be one of our favorite Caribbean Destinations! Gus is from there, so we are biased, but this tiny island in the middle of the Caribbean is a perfect retreat for anyone but especially for those traveling from mainland United States.
An extended stay (4-5 days) is the perfect way to unwind and explore the main attractions that the island has to offer along with some relaxation and downtime.
If you are looking for a weekend getaway or longer, keep reading because we got you covered with our favorite places to stay, eat, and explore!
The more time the better is still a rule that applies to visiting Puerto Rico but even with just 4 – 5 days, you will find plenty of things to do without feeling rushed.
Any itinerary we put out is just a basic framework of what we think will be a good layout for your trip and should be adjusted accordingly. The biggest things that will adjust your schedule are tour dates and availability so book early!
Day 1 – Arrive at San Juan International Airport
Day 2 – Explore Condado Beach (our preferred lodging location)
Day 3 – El Yunque National Forest, Kioskos de Luquillo and Pinones Day Trip
Day 4 – Fajardo Boat Tour (highly recommended and a must if you can fit it in your schedule)
Day 5 – Bacardi Distillery Tour and Old San Juan
Day 6 – Fly Out
Where to stay
There is no shortage of places to stay while visiting Puerto Rico but if this is your first time or 100th time we highly recommend Condado Area near Old San Juan. This is where we stay 99% of the time that we visit Puerto Rico for a multitude of reasons.
(Google Maps Link – https://goo.gl/maps/o7P7wH2wEy2Uum9B7)
This area is a quick 15-minute ride from the airport in an Uber or Cab and offers almost everything you will need within walking distance of a ton of great hotels.
The Condado area of San Juan is our favorite spot to stay on the island due to the walking distance to everything you will need from restaurants, car rental services, pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens, and most importantly it is surrounded by the beach!
Our favorite hotels in the Condado area at the moment are La Concha Rennaissance San Juan and the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, we promise they will not disappoint. We have stayed at La Concha quite a few times and we keep going back due to its central location, extremely comfortable rooms, spacious pool areas, and its perfect beach access. While the beach is not private due to its location the beach is semi-private since there is no easy public access.
As we want to be accessible to everyone these two hotels are definitely not the most affordable in the area. But that does not mean Puerto Rico is out of the budget reach of many, in the same Condado area there are plenty of hotels such as the Holiday Inn Express and Best Western Plus with the only real downside being no direct beach access.
While a trip to Puerto Rico could be spent entirely in the Condado area living your best life at the beach, there is so much more to do on this amazing island!
One thing to take note of on our recommendations for Day Trips in Puerto Rico is that they will almost certainly require a car rental. While an Uber or Cab is doable, half the fun is driving through the island and just pulling off whenever something seems fun or tasty.
Luckily Puerto Rico being a U.S. territory means that renting a car there is the same as renting a car in the U.S. and should be quite easy. If you are staying in the Condado area you are in luck since there is an Avis Car Rental walking distance from both of our previous hotel recommendations.
El Yunque National Forest
El Yunque is one of our favorite things to do in Puerto Rico that doesn’t involve the beach. One of the highlights of El Yunque is that it is the ONLY tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest Service making it a fun and unique stop.
If you are staying in the Condado area you are looking at around a 30-minute drive that is worth the trip. The drive from Condado to El Yunque will crisscross through some small beach towns and then drive you straight through the center of a tropical rainforest!
While you could spend multiple days exploring El Yunque we think a few hours will suffice for most unless you are looking to really hike into the jungle. There are plenty of waterfalls along the road and depending on construction you might be able to see some of the amazing natural pools you can swim at.
A big warning for everyone who is planning on hiking in El Yunque, since the devastation of Hurricane Maria, as of the writing of this post, a lot of trails have not been fully restored and are inaccessible to tourists and locals. Definitely check out the park website for open and closed trails, as restoration efforts are still in process.
Fajardo Boat Tours
If you are a fan of snorkeling, deep-sea fishing, or just want to visit some amazing secluded islands then visiting Fajardo is a must!
While one of us loves snorkeling and swimming in the ocean more than the other, taking a chartered boat out to the nearby islands of Flamingo and Icacos is a must. Gus is a big fan of snorkeling and plenty of local companies will offer day charters for very affordable prices to some of the most amazing deserted islands you could want.
One big tip is to start checking on reservations ASAP since they do tend to fill up fast depending on the time of year you are visiting. This is also one of the day trips you could avoid a car rental since most tour companies offer shuttle services from the hotels we have recommended.
Bacardi Distillery Tour
Some of you may love it or hate it but all of you have at least heard of or drank Bacardi Rum. What many people might not know is that the main distillery for Bacardi and the Bacardi Family home is located in Puerto Rico.
The best thing about it being located in Puerto Rico is that you get the opportunity to not just visit the distillery but learn about its history and even better get to taste a lot (and we mean A LOT) of their rum.
Out of any distillery or brewery tour we have done in the world only the Heineken Brewery Tour in Amsterdam compares. The tour is not just a come and grab a few Bacardi Rum samples but instead a deep dive into the history of Bacardi, why it left Cuba for Puerto Rico and how they are continually expanding and pushing how Rum is consumed across the world.
Old San Juan
Old San Juan is the place most people who visit Puerto Rico will stop at and for good reason.
A visit to Old San Juan is like stepping back in time into a Spanish world during the 16th Century. As the second oldest city in the Americas, Old San Juan is the gateway into Puerto Rican history and culture. The city is home to two of the biggest Spanish-built fortresses El Morro and San Cristobal which are great stops for a quick tour.
Once you are done touring the amazing fortresses you can head down the cobblestone streets of the city to shop through the abundance of gift shops but also eat and drink your way through Puerto Rican cuisine!
Where to eat
If there is one thing that gets us excited to visit Puerto Rico is the fact that we LOVE the delicious food all across the island. There is truly something for everyone even if you are not the most adventurous eater. The good thing is if you are staying in Condado Beach you do not even have to get in your car to experience some truly amazing, delicious, and unique meals.
Check out our Top 5 Restaurants in San Juan and Condado Here!
Condado Beachside Restaurants
Some of our favorite restaurants are a quick walk from most of the hotels right in Condado Beach and Ashford Avenue. Two of our favorite restaurants especially since they are right on the sand and water are Waikiki and Wicked Lily. Both of these are located off Ashford Avenue with a view of the beach and offer some great local meal options from seafood, steak, and a fun twist on classic local cocktails.
The ceviche and tostones at Waikiki might be one of our top meals anytime we are in Puerto Rico!
Not only do you have some amazing beachside restaurants but if you feel like experimenting there is one restaurant that offers something a little more unique.
Cocina Abierta was a hidden gem we accidentally found while watching Netflix and the Zac Efron Down to Earth show. We had never heard of Cocina Abierta but after watching the episode we knew we had to give it a try on our next trip. We actually weren’t able to get a reservation during our first visit after the show but were able to snag one a few weeks later when we visited the island again.
Chef Martin Louzao does a tremendous job in creating a tasting menu paired with delicious wine that offers a history lesson during each course. The restaurant is small so make sure to make reservations ahead of time since they do fill up fast.
Kioskos de Luquillo, Pinones and Plazita de Santurce
While eating near the hotels and tourist areas is great, if you want to experience authentic Puerto Rican cuisine then you have to head out and visit three of the top local street food areas on the island.
Kioskos de Luquillo and Pinones
These two locations are only 30 minutes apart and while they offer similar food if you have the time then definitely stop at both.
The Kioskos de Luquillo offer a strip mall version of little shops all showing their take on local street food including some extremely fresh seafood options that are just not available stateside.
Pinones on the other hand is a large on the beach, stretched across a few miles of beautiful beachfront where small street food stands are located as you drive the main road of Calle 187 to Loiza.
We personally prefer Pinones since the option to grab your food and just walk to the beach really makes it that much better for us. Not only that, but being so close to Loiza you are able to spend the rest of your day at Playa Pinones and maybe even make the short trek to Cueva Escondida. This beach area is a completely different vibe from Condado Beach and offers some more secluded options to enjoy a quiet and fun day at the beach.
Plazita de Santurce
If you are looking for some truly local bars and restaurants then look no further than Plazita de Santurce. This is a great non-beach spot on the island to grab some drinks and great bites amongst the locals. The Plazita is located less than 20 minutes from Condado Beach. The fun fact is that Gus went to school from Kinder to 10th grade less than 3 blocks away!
The Plazita is a small strip mall area with restaurants and bars seating people right on the street. The streets are partially closed to traffic and, depending on the weekend, might be completely closed off for festivities. This is definitely the definition of “off the beaten path” if you want to experience what it is like to be a local in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico is one of our favorite places to visit when we want to relax near a beach and also enjoy some amazing cuisine and drinks. The fact that you can fly from Texas and be there in less than 5 hours, without the hassle of immigration, is something that just cannot be beaten. We love the island and the people and hope you enjoy it nearly as much as we do.
Let us know if you plan to visit or what has been your favorite part if you’ve been before!
Looking for affordable ways to score flights to Puerto Rico, check out our Top 10 Tips For Finding Cheap Flights!