The perfect 4 day Puerto Rico itinerary! Snorkel on a Caribbean island, hike through a rainforest, discover historic castles, take a sunset cruise, kayak through a bioluminescent bay and more on the perfect trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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Castles atop craggy cliffs. Cobblestone streets paved with blue bricks. Chirping Coqui frogs. Mountains, Caribbean Sea, tropical rainforest, and bioluminescent bays. Welcome to Puerto Rico, a lush, enchanted place that defies easy clarification. It’s each an island and an archipelago with its personal small islands; it has a robust Latino id regardless of belonging to the U.S. as a territory; its language, meals, tradition, and historical past are knowledgeable by a mixture of Indigenous Taíno folks, Spanish colonizers, West African folks introduced in opposition to their will, immigrants from Europe, China, different Caribbean, and Latino nations, and mainland USA. Its complexity can be its magnificence, and its story continues to be unfolding. And it’s a magical place to go to.

Spending 4 days in Puerto Rico is simply sufficient to get a style of what the island has to supply. On our 4-day Puerto Rico itinerary, you’ll discover the historic metropolis of San Juan, wander the colourful, blue-cobblestone streets of Previous City; snorkel within the clear blue waters of Culebra, one of many islands off the coast; hike via the tropical rainforest of El Yunque seeking waterfalls and lagoons; and kayak via a bioluminescent bay. 

Disclaimer: Our journey was sponsored by Southwest Fast Rewards™ Credit score Playing cards from Chase. All opinions, suggestions, unhealthy jokes, and errors made throughout this journey (we made so many errors, y’all, it’s virtually spectacular) had been 100% my very own.

Psst: Check out these different posts to assist plan your Puerto Rico itinerary:

Puerto Rico Journey Suggestions

Visiting Puerto Rico from the U.S. is surprisingly fast and simple—you don’t even want a passport, or to alternate forex! However we do have a couple of tricks to decrease stress throughout your journey.

  • Easy methods to Get to Puerto Rico: You’ll have to fly into San Juan, and since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, you don’t want a passport to go to. You additionally don’t have to undergo customs once you arrive, making it an incredibly fast and simple direct flight from Florida! We flew on budget-friendly Southwest Airways, our favourite airline. We love flying Southwest as a result of they don’t cost change or cancelation fees (fare distinction could apply. Failure to cancel a reservation at the least 10 minutes previous to departure could lead to forfeited journey funds). We truly needed to reschedule our journey as a result of a hurricane! Plus, you may check two bags for free (weight and dimension limits apply), so that you don’t want to fret about overpacking.
    • Bonus Tip: Guide your journey with the Southwest Fast Rewards Credit score Playing cards from Chase You’ll maximize your Fast Rewards® factors by flying Southwest, plus get 2X factors on native transit, together with rideshare or your Fast Rewards car rental accomplice purchases—which might all be used to pay for extra flights afterward, and depend towards the coveted Companion Pass®. Southwest’s Companion Move is the profit that means that you can choose one particular person to fly with you totally free (not together with taxes & charges from $5.60 one-way) each time you buy or redeem factors for a flight. Learn more here.
    • Permit a TON of time on the airport once you depart the island. Earlier than going via safety, you MUST ship ALL your luggage via agricultural management. They won’t allow you to via with out this. Count on an extended safety line and potential delays.
  • Easy methods to Get Round Puerto Rico: Outdoors of Previous San Juan, most of Puerto Rico isn’t actually walkable. That mentioned, we’ve designed the itinerary so that you simply don’t want a automobile—you’ll be reserving excursions with resort pickup and drop-off. You’ll be able to take an Uber or taxi to get to and from the airport (and get 2X the factors for doing so in the event you use your Southwest Fast Rewards Credit score Card from Chase). In the event you do resolve to rent a car, like we did, it’s fairly fast and simple to do proper on the airport and driving isn’t any completely different than anyplace else within the U.S. Nonetheless, we don’t advocate renting a automobile and have designed this itinerary to keep away from it. Right here’s why: parking is tough to seek out and costly, navigating Previous San Juan is difficult, and isn’t it extra enjoyable to only sit again and let another person drive you round anyway? In the event you’ll be touring with youngsters, go forward and hire a automobile, in any other case, skip it. You gained’t want it for this itinerary.
  • We advocate basing your self in Previous San Juan and taking day journeys, then returning to your resort every evening. Many of the highlights of Puerto Rico are comparatively near San Juan (it’s a small island, in spite of everything) so that is the most effective place to base your self throughout your keep. Throughout our journey, we truly rented a automobile and stayed in Luquillo for 2 days. We selected to hire a automobile as a result of we would have liked extra flexibility as a result of touring with an toddler, and we needed to reduce the time we spent within the automobile (although actually, I’m unsure we actually did. It felt like we spent a whole lot of time driving round!). And whereas Luquillo is sweet sufficient, it simply didn’t really feel prefer it was well worth the schlep for simply 2 days, and we wished we had stayed in San Juan as a substitute. We’d solely advocate shifting from San Juan in the event you can guide lodging which can be well worth the journey, just like the El Yunque Rainforest Inn, which we sadly didn’t guide far sufficient upfront to expertise (however actually need to subsequent time we go to)! As for the automobile, it will have been a lot simpler to only guide actions and never have to fret about driving ourselves round—in order that’s the way in which we designed this itinerary.
  • Keep within the shade! Puerto Rico may be very near the equator, so the solar is robust. Standing within the shade is definitely a 15-degree temperature distinction from standing within the solar. And in rigorously designed Previous San Juan, on one facet of the road, the sidewalk is at all times within the shade!
  • Maintain onto your hats—and different easy-to-blow-away stuff. Puerto Rico is characterised by a robust commerce wind always blowing off the Caribbean. In truth, the wind performed a significant function within the colonization of Puerto Rico: it’s the primary giant island you hit when the wind pushes your ship west from the coast of Africa, 5,000 miles to the east. The wind is splendidly refreshing and carries with it many tales—and any hats that aren’t securely tied to your head. (My favorite sunhat stayed put!)
San Juan Puerto Rico View of the Governors Mansion and Sea and bright orange house

4-Day Puerto Rico Itinerary

San Juan is a colonial metropolis, and Puerto Rico—colonized by Spaniards—seems like a Latin nation. However it’s a U.S.-owned territory, a colony someplace between the boundaries of statehood and the independence of self-governance.

It is a complicated liminal house that I’ve been considerably conversant in for my total life with out totally greedy as a result of a not-small portion of my household is Puerto Rican. On my mom’s facet, seven first cousins had been born and raised in Puerto Rico; all of them had a bunch of youngsters, and now I’ve a TON of cousins in Puerto Rico. My mother grew up near her first cousins, making frequent journeys forwards and backwards—she to their hometown of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, they usually to her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. 

However for varied causes, she hasn’t visited Puerto Rico for the reason that late Seventies. The Puerto Rico my mom remembered was crumbling across the edges: boarded-up buildings, rampant poverty, and a harmful place for a younger girl to be out alone at evening. However since then, the town has fully remodeled itself, because of the arduous work of the neighborhood and a groundbreaking dedication to historic preservation.

So, when Southwest Fast Rewards Credit score Playing cards from Chase provided to fly us to any of Southwest Airways’ many locations, I picked San Juan. I needed my mother and I to reunite with our cousins, and for them to satisfy Jeremy and Child A for the primary time ever! 

Plus, it was a once-in-a-lifetime alternative to take a three-generation journey: a 9-month-old child, my 70-something-year-old mom, and me. (…And Jeremy, after all!)

And thank goodness we had my mom alongside—not solely did she assist us out by watching Child Some time we had been off snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking, however she talked us off of many, many ledges throughout the course of this journey. 

You see, we’ve at all times been disaster-prone vacationers. (It’s sort of our declare to fame. Notoriety? Anyway, it’s undoubtedly our factor). However throwing a child within the combine? Y’all. 

Like, our brains have ceased to operate as they as soon as did. We’re half-humans. It’s really spectacular what number of absolute rookie errors we made on this journey. As an example:

  • We missed a bioluminescent bay tour. We didn’t notice it was half-hour away from the place we had been staying till we acquired within the automobile, ten minutes earlier than the tour was set to depart. Fortunately, we had been capable of guide a brand new journey for the following evening.
  • We timed our go to to coincide with the yr’s largest and finest competition, Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián. However then we managed to fully miss the competition by leaving a day earlier than it truly began. (In equity, we did truly look it up, and what we discovered on-line gave us a unique date than the precise begin date!)
  • Due to the competition, a lot of the metropolis was closed in preparation for the massive occasion. Which means just about all of the museums we needed to go to had been closed. Fortunately, our cousins knew a number of the folks working there (and are extraordinarily convincing) and we managed to speak our method into a few spots—and it seems that a number of the museums simply have completely beautiful grounds even in the event you can’t go inside!
  • Throughout our journey to El Yunque, we didn’t notice that the primary path was closed till after we arrived. Caught in the midst of the forest with no cell service, we weren’t certain which trails can be child pleasant—and Child A was NOT down for an extended, windy drive and a bunch of stops to attempt to determine it out. We managed to make 2 two stops (which, granted, had been incredible!) earlier than driving again residence to place her down for a nap.
  • We left our superior resort in Previous San Juan to go keep at a trip rental by the seashore in Luquillo as a result of we needed to have quicker drives to El Yunque and the Bioluminescent Bay. But it surely solely minimize our drive time by about 20 minutes, and the holiday rental was a significant letdown—the entire transfer wasn’t actually value it, actually. We wished we had both simply stayed in San Juan and brought day journeys, or booked early sufficient to snag a spot on the beautiful El Yunque Rainforest Inn!
  • And the cherry on high: throughout our resort transfer, we managed to drive midway to Luquillo earlier than realizing we forgot our baggage in previous San Juan. Which was completely shut down by police for the competition. Which began as we left. And was additionally 40 minutes behind us. We thought we had been so intelligent timing that drive throughout Child A’s nap, however as a substitute, we turned a fast one-hour drive right into a two-hour lengthy cry fest.

Yeah. Tough. We’re so off form. However we made it via. And actually? Our journey was nonetheless completely unbelievable!

Couple and baby on the beach in Puerto Rico

And fortunate us, we had my mother, who spent a lot of her journey sitting within the backseat with Child A exuding calmness and Grandma Power as Child A screamed and we panicked. She had snacks. She had toys. She managed to get Child A to sleep! My baby-friendly journey tip? Deliver your mom together with you! 

… And never only for the help, both. There’s one thing so splendidly fulfilling about touring along with your prolonged household, and I’m really grateful for the chance to journey for my real love and make new reminiscences with my mother. We traveled along with my grandmother Katy, my travel icon and muse, effectively into her 90s. I can solely hope that Child A nonetheless desires me to hitch her on adventures after I’m older! 

Anyway, again to the itinerary. See, each time we fumble the ball and make dumb errors (which is … effectively, each journey, actually) we be taught what NOT to do. After which move that alongside to you, dearest traveler, to be able to keep away from making all of our many, many errors. 

So, this itinerary has been deliberate round what we WISHED we did, in addition to the issues we did do this we actually, actually loved. We additionally sprinkled in a couple of baby-friendly journey ideas for these of you who can even be toting alongside tiny vacationers.

With out additional ado, let’s bounce into your first day in Puerto Rico!

Traveler exploring the colorful streets of San Juan Puerto Rico
This Puerto Rico itinerary is predicated in colourful Viejo San Juan.

Day One: Previous City San Juan & Meals Tour

You’ll begin your 4-day Puerto Rico itinerary by exploring the colourful streets of Viejo San Juan—the second oldest metropolis within the Western Hemisphere. The blue-bricked streets of this stunning 500-year-old metropolis are lined with shiny pastel facades painted salmon, sky blue, bubblegum pink, apple inexperienced, lilac, or canary yellow—a particularly chosen and accredited coloration palette decided by historic preservation that dates again to the Fifties. You’ll be taught all about that in your tour at the moment!

You’ll start your day with the very best solution to expertise a brand new place—stuffing your face stuffed with its meals—on a walking food tour with locally-owned tour firm The Spoon Experience. This fascinating and informative tour combines stops at native cafes and eating places with deeply researched insights into San Juan’s previous, connecting threads of historical past and delicacies with Puerto Rico’s Caribbean kinfolk, Indigenous peoples, and the enslaved African peoples who introduced their very own cooking methods and elements with them to contribute to the tradition and culinary melting pot of Puerto Rico.

You’ll style candy pan de Mallorca over domestically brewed espresso; be taught in regards to the Indigenous Taíno folks whereas sampling a dish that has barely modified for the reason that Spanish colonizers realized it had therapeutic powers; sip cocktails and pattern recent fish ceviche whereas studying about Caribbean delicacies; and high it off with a candy paleta. And a complete bunch extra.

After your tour, you’ll stroll away with a full stomach, some Fast Rewards factors, and a deeply knowledgeable context for the historical past of San Juan and Puerto Rico, able to see the town in a brand new gentle.

… You’ll even be stuffed, so we’re skipping lunch (and presumably dinner) at the moment! 

Group looking out over the skyline of San Juan Puerto Rico
My mother & cousins admiring the view from Museo Casa Blanca, the oldest repeatedly occupied home within the Western Hemisphere.

For the remainder of the afternoon, you’ll be taking it simple and exploring any elements of the town that you simply didn’t get an opportunity to see in your tour. Think about doing a self-guided walking tour in the event you’re up for it, or—in the event you’re something like us and need to go take a siesta to sleep off your meals coma—put it aside for the final day of your journey once you’ll be revisiting all of the stuff you had been too drained to do at the moment after your meals tour.

There are a number of museums in Previous San Juan, a number of stunning plazas, and TWO centuries-old castles—three in the event you depend the mansion that appears like a citadel. 

Right here’s what we advocate seeing in Previous San Juan:

  • El Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal: These are San Juan’s well-known 14th and fifteenth century Spanish forts. You’ll be able to both stroll round by yourself or take a tour. The historical past is fascinating—and maintain a watch out for kites being flown within the robust commerce winds in entrance of El Morro!
  • Museo Casa Blanca: That is the oldest repeatedly occupied home within the Western Hemisphere. It was in-built 1521 for Juan Ponce de Leon, the primary governor of Puerto Rico (who was quickly ousted by Christopher Columbus’ brother, the drama!). Right this moment, the home is adorned with Sixteenth and Seventeenth century rooms to take you again in time. Even in the event you don’t go inside to discover, it’s value a go to simply to stroll across the beautiful outside gardens and grounds, that are free and open to the general public.
  • Parque de las Palomas: We extremely advocate visiting this tiny sq. nestled into the cliffside partitions, stuffed with pigeons and works of handmade artwork. You should buy seed to feed the pigeons on the onsite kiosk if you wish to, though that’s just a little terrifying, actually. Child A was extra within the rainbow of colourful ribbons hanging from the timber and the handmade artwork and gardens lining a pathway to the magical Cafe del Nino. This little espresso store kiosk is a gem, y’all! You’ll discover kid-friendly smoothies and grown-up drinks, too—attempt a Espresso Frost, which entails a slice of tres leches in your espresso, like a Puerto Rican affogato. Subsequent to the cafe is a play space for all ages, with kid-sized chairs and toys set out for little ones, set to a soundtrack of Disney music. It’s magical!
  • La Fortaleza: You’ll be able to’t miss this opulent castle-looking white constructing—you’ll move it whereas exploring Viejo San Juan, and also you’ll see it from a lot of the viewpoints of the previous metropolis partitions! At varied factors since its Sixteenth-century development, La Fortaleza has served as a fortress, an arsenal, and a jail—at the moment it serves because the completely baller Governor’s Mansion. They’ve excursions right here the place you may find out about Puerto Rico’s historical past and try and movie a miniature model of Cribs for TikTok.
  • Museo de San Juan: This museum dives even deeper into the historical past of San Juan.
  • Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico: This artwork museum options cutting-edge, fashionable Puerto Rican artwork. For much more artwork, try Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, which has all kinds of Puerto Rican Artwork. (Enjoyable truth about my mother and most of my Puerto Rican cousins: they freaking love artwork. Like, they’ll take total journeys the place they only go to artwork museums each single day and by no means get uninterested in them. I’m … not fairly on that degree.)
  • La Casa del Libro Museum: This museum is a should for bibliophiles. It homes a world-renowned assortment of uncommon books relationship again to the fifteenth Century, plus historic paperwork, printing presses, and book-related art work. And the reward store is cute, too!

In the event you’ve acquired room for dinner, decide up a chew to eat from a meals truck at Plaza Dársenas. It’s simple to seek out: simply search for the completely monumental cruise ships docking within the harbor and observe the gang of sunburnt vacationers!

These graffiti coated tanks are an iconic function of Culebra’s seashores and hearken again to the time when Culebra was a naval base. Photo from Flickr

Day Two: Snorkeling & Seaside Day

Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island surrounded by heat, good blue water stuffed with marine life—so that you’ll spend your day exploring underwater on a snorkeling tour to stunning Culebra, an island off the coast of Puerto Rico. 

Oh, did we point out Puerto Rico is an archipelago??? With its personal islands?!! Yup!

Positioned 20 miles off the japanese coast of Puerto Rico, Culebra’s white, sandy shores are surrounded by cays internet hosting vibrant underwater landscapes. It’s what you’re in all probability picturing once you consider snorkeling on a Caribbean Island.

Effectively, aside from the large, rusting, graffiti-covered tanks. They don’t normally make the screensaver-worthy psychological photos, however they’re an iconic function of Culebra’s seashores and hearken again to the time when Culebra was a naval base, shortly adopted by the point everybody packed up and went residence and was like eh, shifting these tanks is a complete factor, let’s simply depart ‘em right here. Nonetheless, they do make a neat selfie backdrop!

Within the clear, calm blue waters off Culebra you’ll discover turtles munching on seagrass, in addition to remoras, bluetail fishes, angelfish, and even stingrays, all having fun with the thriving ecosystem within the protected Culebra National Wildlife Refuge.

To make your go to stress-free, we advocate reserving a snorkeling tour that features pickup, drop off, and lunch, so all you need to do is present up in your swimsuit. This tour begins with a ship journey to ​​Carlos Rosario Nature Reserve to snorkel with yellowtail snapper and eagle rays, then lunch on the sandy seashores of gorgeous Cayo Luis Peña—book it on Viator.

  • Journey Tip: Don’t overlook to pack reef-safe sunscreen, which helps defend the very wildlife you’re right here to see! We additionally extremely, extremely advocate a pair of swim leggings, which cuts down on the quantity of reef-safe sunscreen you need to use (as a result of it’s kinda… thick, and never in a great way) whereas being cute and cozy AF! We additionally advocate bringing a quick-drying travel towel and a dry bag.

For dinner after your snorkel tour, head to Deaverdura in Viejo San Juan. Heads up, there’s normally a line out the door—if that tells you something! The no-frills restaurant has a restricted menu that modifications usually however at all times consists of scrumptious Puerto Rican staples, like roast pork with a scrumptious cilantro sauce, the most effective purple beans and rice we loved throughout our total journey, and phenomenal coconut flan. Take pleasure in it with a rum and tamarind cocktail. 

Now that we’ve informed you what we advocate, let me let you know about what we truly did. We couldn’t precisely take a child on an all-day snorkeling journey (she’s extra of a scuba diver), so as a substitute, we every booked a brief tour at a seashore close to San Juan, Escambron Marine Park. The lagoon there’s a good calm spot to swim, with a tiny seashore and shallow water (nice for little ones). In the event you convey some snorkeling gear (like this set), you may attempt to spot turtles!

Jeremy took a scuba diving tour with Scuba Canines. They helped to rebuild and preserve marine life on this bay after a devastating oil spill, they usually’re a incredible and moral firm. It’s a relaxed and quiet place to dive, and also you’ll see some attention-grabbing constructions constructed from salvaged constructing supplies that at the moment are being transformed into coral reefs. In the event you’re model new to snorkeling and don’t really feel snug doing it by yourself, you may take a snorkeling tour with them, too.

When you’ve got a automobile and simply need to do a self-guided seashore day (for baby-related causes or not, we don’t decide), right here’s what we advocate:

  • Mar Chiquita: That is my cousin’s favourite seashore! It’s a quiet, uncrowded seashore with an exquisite lagoon which you can swim and snorkel in. It’s hardly ever crowded and has good calm water for swimming. 
  • Playa Ocean Park: The most important seashore in San Juan, there’s loads of room to unfold out, which implies no crowds. You’ll typically see kite surfers right here having fun with the wind.
  • Balneario El Escambron: That is the place we went—there are a few seashores right here together with a small, calm lagoon with a couple of turtles and fish. You’ll have a view of a Seventeenth-century fort right here! Deliver meals, as there’s not a lot close by.
  • Isla Verde and Balneario de Carolina: This seashore is beautiful however might be crowded. The primary draw is that it’s proper by the airport. We had an hour to kill earlier than our flight, so we stopped by right here on the way in which!z

Day Three: El Yunque Nationwide Park & Bioluminescent Bay

El Yunque National Forest is without doubt one of the United States’ solely tropical rainforests, and it’s enchanting. Positioned simply 45 minutes away from San Juan, it’s a straightforward day journey. The winding drive via the rainforest on its major path is beautiful: you’ll climb up the mountains as the luxurious forest stretches under you till you may see all the way in which to the intense blue Caribbean Ocean.

There are a lot of stops alongside the highway in El Yunque, the place you’ll find gushing waterfalls, azure swimming pools prepared for swimming, cliffs to leap off into mentioned azure swimming pools, and hikes winding via the luxurious rainforest, most of which result in azure swimming pools. Say azure swimming pools another time, Lia.

It’s kind of a road-to-Hana scenario, the place you drive alongside and benefit from the view and pull off to make stops right here and there, besides minus banana bread and plus mountains. 

The trick is to know which stops to make forward of time, because you gained’t have any cell service when you enter the park (shock!). You’ll need to plan out the place you need to go upfront, or cease by the customer’s heart when you arrive.

However planning stuff out forward of time takes effort, so the best solution to do a visit to El Yunque is with a tour that may decide you up out of your resort in San Juan, take you to some incredible spots to swim and hike (azure swimming pools!!), feed you, after which drop you off again at your resort once more. You don’t have to fret about making a reservation to enter, driving, or discovering meals in the midst of a rainforest whereas an overtired child screams at you from the backseat.

This El Yunque day trip is ideal for adventurous vacationers: you’ll hike, swim within the … you understand whats, cliff-jump, do some Tarzan rope swinging, and zoom down a pure waterslide. 

For a extra laid-back day, try this tour: you’ll swim, slide down a pure waterslide, and do a 15-minute hike, and then you definitely’ll head to the close by city of Luquillo to relax on the seashore and eat dinner on the well-known Kioskos de Luquillo (which is, by the way, additionally the place we advocate consuming lunch or dinner in the event you do that day journey by yourself).

Mom and baby at a waterfall along Juan Diego Creek in El Yunque Puerto Rico
Child A was REALLY enthralled by this log alongside Juan Diego Creek!

As for us, we made a couple of incredible stops on our self-guided journey. We climbed up the Yokahú Tower to absorb the view stretching all the way in which to the coast of Luquillo. We additionally discovered a beautiful, brief little path alongside Juan Diego Creek, which led to some beautiful swimming holes and waterfalls, plus a log that Child A was like, enthralled by. I feel perhaps we’d by no means proven her a log earlier than? Anyway, she beloved it.

We had been hoping to do a couple of different simple hikes which can be alleged to be incredible with youngsters, together with Angelito Trail (which is definitely outdoors the park entrance, and a shorter drive) however after her massive log journey, Child A was too near needing a nap to be versatile sufficient to allow us to cease and discover. Nonetheless, what we did get to do was fantastic.

  • Journey Suggestions: In the event you’re visiting El Yunque by yourself, the beautiful Customer’s Heart on the entrance of the forest will assist you determine your plan for the day! Additionally, and that is VERY IMPORTANT: earlier than your journey, you’ll have to reserve your entry in advance. Just one reservation per car is required, and it may be booked as much as one month earlier than your go to. Tickets to your automobile are free, although there’s a small charge to make your reservation. A restricted variety of reservations are launched 24 hours previous to opening.
Getting ready for an evening biolumenescent bay kayaking tour in Fajardo Puerto Rico
Preparing for a night bioluminescent bay kayaking tour in Fajardo, Puerto Rico

After your rainforest tour and dinner, it’s time for one more bucket-list journey: kayaking after darkish in a bioluminescent bay.

A bioluminescent bay is extremely uncommon—there are simply 5 on the planet, and to not brag or something, however Puerto Rico is residence to 3 of them. These ecosystems happen when microscopic, single-celled organisms known as dinoflagellates develop in portions sufficiently big to supply a “glow-in-the-dark” impact when stimulated by motion. While you paddle or splash the water, the tiny organisms gentle up like tiny fireflies or dancing sparks within the water.

You’ll be able to solely see them when it’s pitch black (our tour had us huddle beneath a tarp to dam out ambient gentle) and also you’ll have to make actions underwater to see them—so don’t anticipate to see like, a complete glow-in-the-dark bay. We’ve heard (from my cousins) that on extraordinarily uncommon events, you may even bounce within the water and swim. In the event you do get the chance, please inform us about it so we will marinate in our jealousy!

You gained’t have the ability to seize the bioluminescence along with your cellphone or a digital camera, (any ambient gentle in any respect will make them disappear, like little water faeries) however the sundown over the palm tree-studded hills of Fajardo was so beautiful that I want I’d introduced my cellphone or digital camera in a water-proof bag like this one (however after all I forgot to pack it as a result of my mind solely features half in addition to it used to since having a child).

Puerto Rico is residence to bioluminescent bays in Fajardo, on the island of Vieques, and in Ponce. All three would require a visit from San Juan to see them; and though Vieques is taken into account the “prettiest,” Fajardo is the closest one to the town in addition to El Yunque, which is why you’ll be squeezing in each adventures on the identical day (we’re all about #lowstress right here).

One of the best ways to slot in each El Yunque and the bioluminescent bay kayaking journey is to guide a tour that mixes each, like this one which picks up and drops off from San Juan and consists of lunch and dinner, plus mountain climbing and swimming in El Yunque and the sundown kayaking tour. (You may as well guide a tour individually, like this one, in case you have a automobile and might get your self to the tour in a well timed method, which as we talked about earlier, took us two makes an attempt).

We advocate reserving your tour proper at sundown: that method you get an exquisite sundown kayak and think about over the bay after which a cool evening kayak! Actually, the precise bioluminescence a part of the tour, whereas cool, is fairly temporary—however a sundown and night kayaking tour continues to be actually freakin’ cool.

  • Journey Suggestions: In the event you can, attempt to time your journey as near the brand new moon as doable, (though we did our journey ON the brand new moon, and I’m unsure how a lot of a distinction it made). And keep in mind that the ecosystem in these bays are delicate, so please don’t go on a tour that makes use of a gasoline boat to drive you round! Kayaking is finest.
Colorful street in Old Town San Juan Puerto Rico.
Colourful avenue in Previous City San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Day 4: Viejo San Juan & Sundown Cruise

In your ultimate day in Puerto Rico, you’ll doubtless be exhausted from two straight days of adventuring and need to spend your final day taking it simple. (Ask me how I do know). 

So, for at the moment, you’ll be exploring Previous San Juan once more and stopping on the many museums, plazas, historic properties, and castles you didn’t get an opportunity to go to in your first day since you had been handed out in a meals coma.

However first, begin your time off proper by placing your self again right into a meals coma with brunch at Chocobar Cortes, a chocolate store slash brunch spot slash espresso store. The menu creatively incorporates bitter, nutty Caribbean-grown chocolate in completely surprising methods, like chocolate French dressing, chocolate ketchup, and chocolate-ham-and-cheese croquettes (they’re scrumptious)! 

Strive their twist on conventional Puerto Rican meals like pan de Mallorca and upgraded variations like chalupitas de mofongo, stuffed mofongo shells with chocolate guacamole (kinda bizarre? Sure. Kinda good? Additionally, sure). Scrumptious. The price of your meal will profit Fundación Cortés, which helps Caribbean artwork and native artists.

After brunch, get out and discover these blue-bricked streets! Pop into native shops to select up souvenirs (you may browse locally-crafted souvenirs on the handicraft market in Plaza Dársenas), hit up extra museums and plazas, see whichever citadel you skipped on day one, and seize a candy paleta from Señor Paleta to chill off within the warmth.

Cliffside Governors Mansion on the sea in San Juan Puerto Rico
In your final night in San Juan, take a beautiful sunset cruise within the bay on the foot of the historic forts and partitions of the previous metropolis.

In your final night in San Juan, take a beautiful sunset cruise within the bay on the foot of the historic forts and partitions of the previous metropolis. You’ll get pleasure from cocktails and appetizers on board a schooner because the solar units over the Caribbean horizon.

When you’ve mentioned your ultimate goodbye to the solar, head to the most effective eating places in Puerto Rico for dinner: Santaella. The flagship of world-renowned Chef Santaella options upscale variations of genuine Puerto Rican dishes and cocina criolla crafted lovingly with native elements (sourced from a farmer’s market a couple of ft away, as native because it will get) made tapas-style, which is my favourite as a result of it means you get to attempt a lot of issues with out actually committing.

After dinner, make your method again to your resort one final time. Say goodbye to the pleasant stray cats alongside the way in which, the chirping Coquí frog, and that heat commerce wind breeze. Possibly cease by a bar for one final piña colada, as a result of like, they had been invented right here so that you in all probability can’t get them at residence, proper??

After which, lastly, say your goodbyes. Adios, Puerto Rico—you had been magical.

The place to Keep in San Juan, Puerto Rico

For our itinerary, we advocate staying in San Juan and taking day journeys to discover close by sights on the East Coast of the island. This implies you gained’t need to hire a automobile or fear about transportation apart from taking an Uber to and from the airport—simple peasy.

What we truly did throughout our journey, although, was just a little completely different since we had been touring with a child (being caught on a day tour with a child—are you able to think about?!). We rented a automobile and moved halfway via our journey from San Juan to a seashore city near El Yunque Nationwide Park and the bioluminescent bay in Fajardo, in order that we had been near our day journeys and minimized the time spent with a cranky child in a automobile seat. However in the event you aren’t touring with a child, that’s fully pointless and actually not what we might advocate primarily based on our expertise. 

That’s, except you may snag a reservation on the El Yunque Rainforest Inn, a beautiful eco-lodge that we actually needed to guide however didn’t work out with our dates!

In terms of lodging in San Juan, you’ll see a whole lot of beachfront resorts close to the previous metropolis in an space known as Condado, a few 10-minute drive from Viejo San Juan. Personally, we actually aren’t resort folks and we choose to be inside strolling distance to “stuff,” so we selected to remain inside Viejo San Juan itself, which was superior. The town is small and walkable, so we had been at all times just some minutes away from our resort. We had been comfortable to commerce off a non-public seashore for ocean views from the excessive partitions across the metropolis, walkability, and colonial appeal! 

  • We stayed at Villa Herencia Hotel, a small and exquisite boutique resort within the coronary heart of Viejo San Juan, subsequent to the town partitions, an exquisite plaza with a beautiful view of the cliffside Governor’s Mansion (La Fortaleza). The rooms are small, nevertheless it’s greater than made up for by its phenomenal location, and a beautiful roof-side terrace! We might fortunately keep right here once more.
  • We additionally advocate Hotel El Convento in Previous San Juan. This centrally-located resort was once an previous convent (therefore the identify) however is now dwelling its finest life as a superb boutique resort with a baller rooftop pool and ocean views. Plus, it’s a Southwest Lodge Accomplice, so you may earn 2X the factors throughout your keep in the event you use your Southwest Fast Rewards Credit score Cardfrom Chase! 
The iconic blue brick cobblestone streets on a hilltop view of the sea and mountains in Old Town San Juan, Puerto Rico
The enduring blue brick cobblestone streets on a hilltop view of the ocean and mountains in Previous City San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Non-Earnings to Assist

As moral and sustainable vacationers, it’s deeply necessary to us that we’ve got a optimistic impression on the locations we go to. Puerto Rico has a strained relationship with tourism. On the one hand, the revenue from vacationers straight helps locally-owned companies—as long as guests such as you proceed to hunt out and patronize them! Alternatively, as a U.S. territory, Puerto Ricans are inclined to really feel like the great thing about their island is usually bought to the very best bidder, leaving locals and communities with no say within the improvement and preservation of their properties.

Puerto Rico, like many Caribbean islands, can be topic to frequent hurricanes. Lately, the islands have been devastated by a number of hurricanes—and whereas it has bounced again in large methods, there’s nonetheless a lot work to be executed. An area journey blogger buddy of ours, Jen Ruiz, wrote a incredible article on the significance of visiting Puerto Rico even within the wake of hurricanes—read it here.

We’d encourage you to take your patronage of domestically owned companies a step additional and think about donating to those non-profit organizations that are working to keep up, enhance, and help Puerto Rico’s local people. This checklist was offered to me by one in all my Puerto Rican cousins and consists of organizations both she or her community have been concerned with personally.

A community-based feminist non-profit group targeted on offering sources and training on feminine improvement in areas like well being & healthcare, financial empowerment, lowering home violence, and activism. In addition they present emergency reduction and funds to ladies in impacted communities (for instance, when Hurricane Fiona hit, they had been actively working in Loíiza—a municipality that was unable to get fast help from FEMA and the Purple Cross—to supply a soup kitchen and provide drive).

Home violence and gender-based violence are large points in PR. Governor Pierluisi issued a state of emergency on the problem in 2021 (that lasted till June 2022) to analysis it. Even Dangerous Bunny has launched two songs elevating consciousness of it, “Solo de Míi” and “Andrea.” 

This is a corporation that goals to have 33% of Puerto Rico’s land beneath protected standing by 2033 to guard Puerto Rico’s ecological methods. Not solely do they handle varied lands across the island (that are donated to them or they buy), however additionally they supply instructional excursions that vary from the historical past of sugar plantations to one in all Puerto Rico’s three bioluminescent bays, volunteer actions like tree planting or chicken counting, and scientific analysis alternatives. 

As a Caribbean Island, Puerto Rico is very in danger to the impression of worldwide warming (which you’ll be able to see within the frequency of lethal hurricanes like Maria or Fiona). Coastal sealines are disappearing and flooding is changing into increasingly frequent. By defending Puerto Rico’s ecological methods, Para la Naturaleza hopes to maintain these methods intact to assist maintain the island ecologically sustainable and supply residents and vacationers alike a brand new appreciation for connecting with their surroundings and the impression they’ve.

Plaza in front of El Moro castle in Old Town San Juan, Puerto Rico

You’ll see stray animals all around the island. Save a Gato works completely with the feral cat colony in Previous San Juan (you’ll in all probability see them whereas strolling round!). They apply entice and launch (TNR) the place they seize the feral cats, neuter or spay them, and launch them again into the colony as these cats are too skeptical and aggressive to people to be rehomed. Nonetheless, if a feminine cat is pregnant, they let her go totally to time period and have the kittens adopted as soon as they’re of age. 

Not solely are there tons of stray cats, however stray canines as effectively (right here in PR they’re known as “satos”). Moreover, many of those stray animals escaped abusive or hoarding conditions. 

Amigos de los Animales is a shelter and academic non-profit that not solely fosters and adopts stray or abused animals to loving properties, but additionally supplies a six-week animal cruelty and investigation course to native police, animal welfare, and animal management facilities (or anybody typically) to boost consciousness on the indicators of animal cruelty and abuse.

It is a no-overhead fund that invests 100% of donations to affiliated organizations working in critically affected areas in Puerto Rico. It goes to each short- and long-term humanitarian efforts from emergency provides after a hurricane to re-building colleges or neighborhood amenities.

Each a non-profit and fund, United Manner works with 123 organizations all through the island offering them with funds and sources to proceed their work. Their major focuses are training, monetary independence, and well being, but additionally present an emergency reduction fund throughout occasions of crises like Hurricane Fiona.

Casa Julia de Burgos was the primary home violence shelter in Puerto Rico and continues to supply sources, consciousness, and help to these going through home violence. Not solely do they provide shelter and a speedy re-housing program, however additionally they supply trauma-informed childcare to the kids of home violence. 

Are you able to pack your snorkel fins and head to Puerto Rico? What questions on visiting can we reply?

Psst – earlier than you guide your journey, don’t overlook to take a look at the Southwest Fast Rewards Credit score Playing cards from Chase so you will get all these candy, candy Fast Rewards factors.

Psst: Planning a visit to Puerto Rico? These posts would possibly assist:

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Disclaimer: Our journey was sponsored by Southwest Fast Rewards Credit score Playing cards from Chase. Learn more here. All opinions, suggestions, unhealthy jokes, and errors made throughout this journey (we made so many errors, y’all, it’s virtually spectacular) had been 100% my very own. 

Accounts topic to credit score approval. Restrictions and limitations apply. Playing cards are issued by JPMorgan Chase Financial institution, N.A. Member FDIC. Provide topic to vary. All Rapid Rewards rules and regulations apply

Our High Journey Suggestions & Assets

Listed below are our favourite journey ideas & sources for saving cash and planning journey logistics! For extra ideas, try our travel tips resource page or our guide to planning a trip.

  • Reserving Flights: To attain flight offers, search on Google Flights or Kayak. Cash-saving ideas: fly mid-week or on the weekend; fly carry-on solely on a funds airline; and take red-eyes or early morning flights.
  • Lodging: We normally keep in budget-friendly trip leases, boutique motels or non-public rooms in hostels. We use to guide motels (we love their versatile cancellation coverage) and Hostelworld to guide hostels (low deposit, simple change/cancellation, and glorious critiques). For trip leases, we choose to guide utilizing VRBO as a result of they have decrease charges and higher help than Airbnb, and we’re not followers of Airbnb’s unethical observe report. You may as well guide trip leases on Expedia and We additionally use TrustedHousesitters as each hosts (for our residence and our fur-child) and vacationers!
  • Journey Insurance coverage: We at all times, at all times, ALWAYS purchase journey insurance coverage for worldwide journeys, and we STRONGLY counsel it – go to our Travel Insurance Guide to seek out out why. We advocate both World Nomads or SafetyWing for worldwide journey insurance coverage. SafetyWing is without doubt one of the few insurance policies that covers Covid-19, they usually have glorious month-to-month insurance policies which can be good for Digital Nomads and long run vacationers!
  • Journey Credit score Card: We guide all of our journeys on our favourite journey bank card. Not solely will we earn money again that we will spend on extra journey, however the card presents incredible journey perks like journey insurance coverage, journey delay and cancellation protection, misplaced baggage reimbursement, and rental automobile protection, which helps defend us on our travels. Learn more here.
  • Vaccines & Meds: We use the journey guides on the CDC website to analysis beneficial drugs and vaccines for worldwide journeys. We at all times advocate getting each vaccine beneficial by the CDC! You may get them at your major care physician’s workplace or a walk-in pharmacy.
  • Excursions: We love reserving guided excursions, particularly meals excursions and strolling excursions, to get an area’s perspective and a historical past lesson whereas sight-seeing! We guide our excursions utilizing Viator and GetYourGuide.
  • Transportation: We use Rome2Rio to determine find out how to get from place to put, and guide native transportation on-line utilizing Bookaway wherever we will. After we guide a rental automobile, we use DiscoverCars to check rental corporations and discover the most effective deal.
  • Baggage Storage: Every time we’re testing early or making the most of an extended layover, we use LuggageHero to soundly retailer our baggage whereas we’re working round. Use the code PRACTICALW for two hours of free baggage storage on us.
  • VPN Service: A VPN retains your digital data (like web site login particulars, financial institution information, and many others) protected, even once you’re linked to an unsecured community whereas touring. Plus, it permits you to use Netflix & different streaming websites overseas! We use NordVPN. Use the code WANDERLUSTPROMO once you join!
  • What to Pack: Here are the travel essentials that we convey on each journey. We even have packing lists for hot weather, cold weather, and plenty of extra. Check out all of our packing guides!


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