Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States and so the official languages are Spanish and English. It is the smallest island of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean, located east of the Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico is a warm and tropical country with a population of about 3.2 million people.
The Island has almost 300 miles of coastline and nearly the same number of beaches. It has the largest shopping centre in the Caribbean called Plaza Las Americas and is known for having the most extensive rum factory known as Casa Bacardi.
The culture and cuisine at Puerto Rico are amazing. You could write songs about them. There are beaches that will captivate you, mountains and trails waiting for you to hike, ferry rides with your name on them, rainforests to conquer- you name it, Puerto Rico has got it. What’s not to love about it?
To help you fall in love with the vibrant, warm embrace of Puerto Rico, here is a little guide that covers a four day time frame so you can focus on discovering the very best of what Puerto Rico has to offer. Yes, that’s right. Four days to fall in love with Puerto Rico. It will probably take you less, though.
Now, onto our four day plan!
Day 1: Explore the Capital City of San Juan
San Juan is the capital city of Puerto Rico and is the most populated area. It was founded in 1521 by Juan Ponce de Leon who named it City of Puerto Rico, or Rich Port, back in the day. It is most known for being the oldest city founded by Europeans in the Americas. It is the heart, culture and history of Puerto Rico and is home to tons of exciting tourist attractions. There is never a dull moment in San Juan.
Some of the top things to do in San Juan are:
- Take a tour at Casa Bacardi. This wonderful experience takes you through the ins and outs of rum production at the world famous distillery, Casa Bacardi. You will get to roam the lengths of the premises with your designated tour guide. You will see the distillery at work and learn about the various processes involved in one of Puerto Rico’s most prized possessions- rum! You will be given lessons on how to correctly taste rum samples and a short mixology class.
- Visit the San Juan Cathedral. The Cathedral Metropolitana Basílica de San Juan Bautista is one of the oldest buildings in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was originally made of wood in 1521 but was essentially destroyed by a hurricane and rebuilt in 1540 to the building you see today- of course with some present day upgrades. Juan Ponce de León, the famous explorer and Puerto Rico’s first governor who was in search for the fountain of youth, is laid to rest here.
- Walk the vibrant streets of Old San Juan. This is a great way to absorb the local culture and take in some gorgeous scenery. It is such a gratifying experience that will definitely be imprinted on your mind for years to come. There is historic architecture, a peaceful cafe, and lots of handmade local items for you to purchase.
- View San Juan from the water. This experience can be especially magical when done at sunset. The look for the ferry terminal and ferry service not far from the harbour side restaurant La Casita de Rones that offers great pina coladas. On your affordable 8 to 10 minute ferry ride, you can take some stunning pictures to commemorate the experience.
- Shopping in San Juan. If you walk down Calle, you will see shops selling great antiques, cigars, vintage items, hats, and great food. You can also pay a visit to The Mall of San Juan that is stocked with classy, high-end stores or the Plaza Las Americas which is an elegant shopping mall with amazing restaurants.
- Taste San Juan cuisine. San Juan is known for its great food that will have you licking your fingers and craving for more. Indulge your taste buds at Tropical Taste Restaurant- a fantastic low key place to eat, or Stuffed Avocado Shop- a healthy alternative for the heavier foods, or even Marmalade- which is known as one of the best places to eat in San Juan.
Day 2: Visit the El Yunque National Forest
El Yunque National Forest is known for having the highest quality waters in Puerto Rico, and lovely water vistas. It is a mountainous rainforest that has lots of plenty of streams, creeks, and rivers crossing it. Additionally, The steep terrain provides numerous lovely cascades and small pools.
There are many species of animals in El Yunque, but one of the most easily identified is the endemic Puerto Rican emerald. This tiny bird is known for having emerald green feathers that shine in the sun. You can also find the Puerto Rican Boa which is the largest species of snake on the island. Additionally, you might spot bats, a small Indian Mongoose, and so many others.
El Yunque National Forest is home to 50 species of native orchids and over 150 species of ferns. You can find Rain Lilies, Puerto Rico Zephyr Lily, Puerto Rico Raintree, and others at this magical spot.
If you are excited about which trails might lead you to the enchanting waterfalls, or generally just good trails to hike, we have got you covered. There is La Coca Falls, located near La Coca Trail off of Road PR-191. It’s easy to access as it’s only about 5 miles from the park entrance. Juan Diego Creek which is a little further along La Coca’s trail. Another option is La Mina Falls which is located at the end of La Mina Trail, which follows the river of the same name. The south side of El Yunque is home to La Canoa Falls, which falls 70 feet down a narrow gorge between massive rock walls.
Some other outdoor ideas on what to do nearby or combine with your El Yunque visit are:
- a half day tour in the Rainforest Zipline Park
- spending time at Luquillo Beach
- Culebra day trip by Catamaran from Fajardo
- AquaBike experience in Condado Lagoon
- Salsa Dance Class in San Juan
- Cave and lunch day tour from San Juan
Day 3: Go Island-hopping
Island-hopping is a great way to experience all the beautiful islands in Puerto Rico in short periods of time. You can go by plane, ferry, or even drive- although ferries are most recommended in terms of cost.
Some of the beautiful islands Puerto Rico has to offer are:
- Isla de Mona: this is the third-largest island of Puerto Rico. It is the largest of three islands in the Mona Passage, a strait between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. You will definitely enjoy its peacefulness and the local wildlife.
- Isla de Culebra: this is an island, town and municipality of Puerto Rico. It has several small, idyllic islands off its shores. It is easily visited by water taxi.
- Isla de Vieques: this is one of the offshore municipalities of Puerto Rico and is located just 7 miles off the east coast. It is well known for snorkelling with turtles.
- Cayo Icacos: this is a small, uninhabited island off the coast of Fajardo. It is part of La Cordillera Reef Nature Reserve. It is reachable by kayak and is characterised by turquoise waters.
Day 4: Relax on a Beautiful Beach
Puerto Rico is known for its scenic beaches where you can relax, lounge in the sun, feel the sand beneath your toes, enjoy a good book, music or a picnic, and even swim or snorkel. Here are some of the best beaches to visit.
- Flamenco Beach: famous for its clear skies and white sand. This beach is one of the world’s top beaches. Ideal for swimming and unwinding. It is located in Culebra.
- Luquillo Beach: is a long stretch of fine sand, with lots of mature palm trees for shade. It is an ideal destination for travellers looking to enjoy quality time in the great outdoors thanks to its unique landscape that makes it easy to reach and is close to the mountains.
- Mar Chiquita beach: this beach is surrounded with rocks and coral. It has been described as a golden sand cove. It is advised that you bring your own chairs and umbrellas though, as there are not many shaded spots.
So, to go over, your four day plan includes exploring the capital city, visiting the El Yunque National Forest, island-hopping, and a relaxing day at the beach. Have fun! Enjoy creating your own itinerary as you become enchanted with Puerto Rico.