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 rationalization. It’s each an island and an archipelago with its personal small islands; it has a powerful Latino identification 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 also be its magnificence, and its story remains 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 by means of the tropical rainforest of El Yunque in the hunt for waterfalls and lagoons; and kayak by means of 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 Ideas

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 reduce stress throughout your journey.

  • How you can Get to Puerto Rico: You’ll must 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 must undergo customs while you arrive, making it a surprisingly 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 very least 10 minutes previous to departure could lead to forfeited journey funds). We really 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: Ebook 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 companion purchases—which may all be used to pay for extra flights afterward, and rely towards the coveted Companion Pass®. Southwest’s Companion Move is the profit that lets you choose one particular person to fly with you without cost (not together with taxes & charges from $5.60 one-way) each time you buy or redeem factors for a flight. Learn more here.
    • Enable a TON of time on the airport while you go away the island. Earlier than going by means of safety, you MUST ship ALL your baggage by means of agricultural management. They won’t allow you to by means of with out this. Anticipate a protracted safety line and potential delays.
  • How you can 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 just don’t want a automotive—you’ll be reserving excursions with resort pickup and drop-off. You may take an Uber or taxi to get to and from the airport (and get 2X the factors for doing so for those who use your Southwest Fast Rewards Credit score Card from Chase). For those who 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 totally different than anyplace else within the U.S. Nevertheless, we don’t advocate renting a automotive and have designed this itinerary to keep away from it. Right here’s why: parking is difficult to seek out and costly, navigating Previous San Juan is difficult, and isn’t it extra stress-free to only sit again and let another person drive you round anyway? For those who’ll be touring with children, go forward and lease a automotive, in any other case, skip it. You received’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 night time. 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 really rented a automotive and stayed in Luquillo for 2 days. We selected to lease a automotive as a result of we wanted extra flexibility as a result of touring with an toddler, and we needed to attenuate the time we spent within the automotive (although truthfully, I’m undecided we actually did. It felt like we spent loads of time driving round!). And whereas Luquillo is sweet sufficient, it simply didn’t really feel prefer it was definitely worth the schlep for simply 2 days, and we wished we had stayed in San Juan as an alternative. We’d solely advocate shifting from San Juan for those who can e-book lodging which might be definitely worth the journey, just like the El Yunque Rainforest Inn, which we sadly didn’t e-book far sufficient prematurely to expertise (however actually need to subsequent time we go to)! As for the automotive, it could have been a lot simpler to only e-book 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 could 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 fastidiously designed Previous San Juan, on one facet of the road, the sidewalk is all the time within the shade!
  • Maintain onto your hats—and different easy-to-blow-away stuff. Puerto Rico is characterised by a powerful commerce wind consistently blowing off the Caribbean. In actual fact, 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 advanced liminal area that I’ve been considerably conversant in for my complete 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 backwards and forwards—she to their hometown of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and so they to her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. 

However for numerous 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 lady to be out alone at night time. However since then, the town has fully reworked itself, because of the laborious 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 fulfill 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, in fact!)

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 in the course of the course of this journey. 

You see, we’ve all the time been disaster-prone vacationers. (It’s type 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 actually spectacular what number of absolute rookie errors we made on this journey. As an illustration:

  • We missed a bioluminescent bay tour. We didn’t understand it was half-hour away from the place we had been staying till we received within the automotive, ten minutes earlier than the tour was set to depart. Fortunately, we had been in a position to e-book a brand new journey for the following night time.
  • We timed our go to to coincide with the 12 months’s largest and greatest pageant, Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián. However then we managed to fully miss the pageant by leaving a day earlier than it really began. (In equity, we did really look it up, and what we discovered on-line gave us a distinct date than the precise begin date!)
  • Due to the pageant, a lot of the metropolis was closed in preparation for the massive occasion. That means just about all of the museums we needed to go to had been closed. Fortunately, our cousins knew among the folks working there (and are extraordinarily convincing) and we managed to speak our means into a few spots—and it seems that among the museums simply have completely beautiful grounds even for those who can’t go inside!
  • Throughout our journey to El Yunque, we didn’t understand that the principle 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 a protracted, windy drive and a bunch of stops to attempt to determine it out. We managed to make 2 two stops (which, granted, had been improbable!) 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 sooner drives to El Yunque and the Bioluminescent Bay. Nevertheless it solely reduce our drive time by about 20 minutes, and the holiday rental was a significant letdown—the entire transfer wasn’t actually price it, truthfully. 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 outdated San Juan. Which was completely shut down by police for the pageant. 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 an alternative, 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 by means of. And truthfully? Our journey was nonetheless completely unimaginable!

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 Vitality 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 actually 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, nicely into her 90s. I can solely hope that Child A nonetheless needs me to hitch her on adventures once I’m older! 

Anyway, again to the itinerary. See, each time we fumble the ball and make dumb errors (which is … nicely, each journey, truthfully) we study what NOT to do. After which go that alongside to you, dearest traveler, so 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 try this we actually, actually loved. We additionally sprinkled in a couple of baby-friendly journey ideas for these of you who may even be toting alongside tiny vacationers.

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

Traveler exploring the colorful streets of San Juan Puerto Rico
This Puerto Rico itinerary relies 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 lovely 500-year-old metropolis are lined with vivid pastel facades painted salmon, sky blue, bubblegum pink, apple inexperienced, lilac, or canary yellow—a particularly chosen and permitted coloration palette decided by historic preservation that dates again to the Nineteen Fifties. You’ll study all about that in your tour at this time!

You’ll start your day with the very best strategy 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 kin, 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; study 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 this time! 

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 straightforward and exploring any components of the town that you just didn’t get an opportunity to see in your tour. Contemplate doing a self-guided walking tour for those who’re up for it, or—for those who’re something like us and should go take a siesta to sleep off your meals coma—reserve it for the final day of your journey while you’ll be revisiting all of the stuff you had been too drained to do at this time after your meals tour.

There are a number of museums in Previous San Juan, a number of lovely plazas, and TWO centuries-old castles—three for those who rely the mansion that seems like a fort. 

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 may both stroll round by yourself or take a tour. The historical past is fascinating—and preserve 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 inbuilt 1521 for Juan Ponce de Leon, the primary governor of Puerto Rico (who was quickly ousted by Christopher Columbus’ brother, the drama!). In the present day, the home is adorned with Sixteenth and Seventeenth century rooms to take you again in time. Even for those who don’t go inside to discover, it’s price a go to simply to stroll across the beautiful out of doors 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 purchase seed to feed the pigeons on the onsite kiosk if you wish to, though that’s a bit terrifying, truthfully. Child A was extra within the rainbow of colourful ribbons hanging from the bushes 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 includes 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 may’t miss this opulent castle-looking white constructing—you’ll go it whereas exploring Viejo San Juan, and also you’ll see it from a lot of the viewpoints of the outdated metropolis partitions! At numerous factors since its Sixteenth-century building, La Fortaleza has served as a fortress, an arsenal, and a jail—at this time 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 to 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 complete 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 paintings. And the present store is cute, too!

For those who’ve received room for dinner, decide up a chew to eat from a meals truck at Plaza Dársenas. It’s straightforward to seek out: simply search for the completely huge cruise ships docking within the harbor and comply with the group of sunburnt vacationers!

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

Day Two: Snorkeling & Seashore Day

Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island surrounded by heat, sensible blue water stuffed with marine life—so that you’ll spend your day exploring underwater on a snorkeling tour to lovely 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 jap 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 while you consider snorkeling on a Caribbean Island.

Properly, apart from the enormous, rusting, graffiti-covered tanks. They don’t often make the screensaver-worthy psychological photographs, however they’re an iconic characteristic 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 go away ‘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 must 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 lovely Cayo Luis Peña—book it on Viator.

  • Journey Tip: Don’t neglect to pack reef-safe sunscreen, which helps shield 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 must 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 may be often a line out the door—if that tells you something! The no-frills restaurant has a restricted menu that adjustments recurrently however all the time contains scrumptious Puerto Rican staples, like roast pork with a scrumptious cilantro sauce, the most effective crimson beans and rice we loved throughout our complete journey, and phenomenal coconut flan. Get pleasure from it with a rum and tamarind cocktail. 

Now that we’ve advised you what we advocate, let me let you know about what we really did. We couldn’t precisely take a child on an all-day snorkeling journey (she’s extra of a scuba diver), so as an alternative, 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). For those who deliver some snorkeling gear (like this set), you may attempt to spot turtles!

Jeremy took a scuba diving tour with Scuba Canine. They helped to rebuild and preserve marine life on this bay after a devastating oil spill, and so they’re a improbable 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. For those who’re model new to snorkeling and don’t really feel comfy doing it by yourself, you may take a snorkeling tour with them, too.

When you’ve got a automotive 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 a gorgeous lagoon that you would be able to swim and snorkel in. It’s not often 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 suggests no crowds. You’ll usually 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 will be crowded. The principle 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 simple day journey. The winding drive by means of the rainforest on its primary path is beautiful: you’ll climb up the mountains as the luxurious forest stretches beneath you till you may see all the way in which to the intense blue Caribbean Ocean.

There are lots 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 by means of the luxurious rainforest, most of which result in azure swimming pools. Say azure swimming pools yet another time, Lia.

It’s kind of a road-to-Hana state of affairs, 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 received’t have any cell service when you enter the park (shock!). You’ll need to plan out the place you need to go prematurely, or cease by the customer’s middle when you arrive.

However planning stuff out forward of time takes effort, so the best strategy 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 improbable 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 recognize 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 you then’ll head to the close by city of Luquillo to sit back 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 for those who 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 improbable stops on our self-guided journey. We climbed up the Yokahú Tower to soak up the view stretching all the way in which to the coast of Luquillo. We additionally discovered a stunning, quick 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 straightforward hikes which might be alleged to be improbable with children, together with Angelito Trail (which is definitely exterior the park entrance, and a shorter drive) however after her huge 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 great.

  • Journey Ideas: For those who’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 must reserve your entry in advance. Just one reservation per automobile is required, and it may be booked as much as one month earlier than your go to. Tickets on your automotive are free, although there’s a small payment 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 this planet, and to not brag or something, however Puerto Rico is residence to 3 of them. These ecosystems happen when microscopic, single-celled organisms referred to 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 may 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 must 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 soar within the water and swim. For those who do get the chance, please inform us about it so we will marinate in our jealousy!

You received’t be capable of 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 in fact 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 simplest ways to slot in each El Yunque and the bioluminescent bay kayaking journey is to e-book a tour that mixes each, like this one which picks up and drops off from San Juan and contains lunch and dinner, plus mountain climbing and swimming in El Yunque and the sundown kayaking tour. (You can too e-book a tour individually, like this one, if in case you have a automotive 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 means you get a gorgeous sundown kayak and consider over the bay after which a cool night time kayak! Actually, the precise bioluminescence a part of the tour, whereas cool, is fairly temporary—however a sundown and night kayaking tour remains to be actually freakin’ cool.

  • Journey Ideas: For those who can, attempt to time your journey as near the brand new moon as potential, (though we did our journey ON the brand new moon, and I’m undecided 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 fuel boat to drive you round! Kayaking is greatest.
Colorful street in Old Town San Juan Puerto Rico.
Colourful road in Previous City San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Day 4: Viejo San Juan & Sundown Cruise

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

So, for at this time, you’ll be exploring Previous San Juan once more and stopping on the many museums, plazas, historic houses, 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 without work 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)! 

Attempt 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 choose up souvenirs (you may browse locally-crafted souvenirs on the handicraft market in Plaza Dársenas), hit up extra museums and plazas, see whichever fort 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
On 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 outdated metropolis.

On 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 outdated 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 among the best 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 plenty of issues with out actually committing.

After dinner, make your means 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. Perhaps 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 points of interest on the East Coast of the island. This implies you received’t should lease a automotive or fear about transportation aside from taking an Uber to and from the airport—straightforward peasy.

What we really did throughout our journey, although, was a bit totally 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 automotive and moved halfway by means of 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 automotive seat. However for those who aren’t touring with a child, that’s fully pointless and truthfully not what we might advocate primarily based on our expertise. 

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

In terms of lodging in San Juan, you’ll see loads of beachfront resorts close to the outdated metropolis in an space referred to as Condado, a couple of 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. Town is small and walkable, so we had been all the time just some minutes away from our resort. We had been glad 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 delightful boutique resort within the coronary heart of Viejo San Juan, subsequent to the town partitions, a gorgeous 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 stunning 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 an outdated convent (therefore the identify) however is now residing its greatest life as a superb boutique resort with a baller rooftop pool and ocean views. Plus, it’s a Southwest Lodge Associate, so you may earn 2X the factors throughout your keep for those who 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 vital to us that we now have a constructive affect on the locations we go to. Puerto Rico has a strained relationship with tourism. On the one hand, the revenue from vacationers instantly helps locally-owned companies—as long as guests such as you proceed to hunt out and patronize them! However, as a U.S. territory, Puerto Ricans are likely to really feel like the fantastic thing about their island is usually bought to the very best bidder, leaving locals and communities and not using a say within the improvement and preservation of their houses.

Puerto Rico, like many Caribbean islands, can also be topic to frequent hurricanes. In recent times, the islands have been devastated by a number of hurricanes—and whereas it has bounced again in great methods, there may be nonetheless a lot work to be carried out. An area journey blogger buddy of ours, Jen Ruiz, wrote a improbable 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 contemplate donating to those non-profit organizations that are working to take care of, enhance, and help Puerto Rico’s area people. This record was supplied to me by considered one of 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 centered 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 offer 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 Unhealthy Bunny has launched two songs elevating consciousness of it, “Solo de Míi” and “Andrea.” 

This is a company 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 numerous lands across the island (that are donated to them or they buy), however in addition they provide instructional excursions that vary from the historical past of sugar plantations to considered one of Puerto Rico’s three bioluminescent bays, volunteer actions like tree planting or hen counting, and scientific analysis alternatives. 

As a Caribbean Island, Puerto Rico is extremely in danger to the affect 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 turning into increasingly frequent. By defending Puerto Rico’s ecological methods, Para la Naturaleza hopes to maintain these methods intact to assist preserve the island ecologically sustainable and supply residents and vacationers alike a brand new appreciation for connecting with their setting and the affect they’ve.

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

You’ll see stray animals everywhere in 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 follow lure 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. Nevertheless, 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 canine as nicely (right here in PR they’re referred to 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 houses, but in addition gives a six-week animal cruelty and investigation course to native police, animal welfare, and animal management facilities (or anybody basically) 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 services.

Each a non-profit and fund, United Method works with 123 organizations all through the island offering them with funds and sources to proceed their work. Their primary focuses are training, monetary independence, and well being, but in addition 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 offer sources, consciousness, and help to these dealing with home violence. Not solely do they provide shelter and a fast re-housing program, however in addition they provide trauma-informed childcare to the youngsters 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 e-book your journey, don’t neglect 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. Supply topic to alter. All Rapid Rewards rules and regulations apply

Our High Journey Ideas & Assets

Listed here 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 price range airline; and take red-eyes or early morning flights.
  • Lodging: We often keep in budget-friendly trip leases, boutique motels or non-public rooms in hostels. We use Booking.com to e-book motels (we love their versatile cancellation coverage) and Hostelworld to e-book hostels (low deposit, straightforward change/cancellation, and wonderful opinions). For trip leases, we choose to e-book 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 can too e-book trip leases on Expedia and Hotels.com. We additionally use TrustedHousesitters as each hosts (for our residence and our fur-child) and vacationers!
  • Journey Insurance coverage: We all the time, all the time, ALWAYS purchase journey insurance coverage for worldwide journeys, and we STRONGLY recommend 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, and so they have wonderful month-to-month insurance policies which might be good for Digital Nomads and long run vacationers!
  • Journey Credit score Card: We e-book all of our journeys on our favourite journey bank card. Not solely can we earn money again that we will spend on extra journey, however the card affords improbable journey perks like journey insurance coverage, journey delay and cancellation protection, misplaced baggage reimbursement, and rental automotive protection, which helps shield us on our travels. Learn more here.
  • Vaccines & Meds: We use the journey guides on the CDC website to analysis beneficial medicines and vaccines for worldwide journeys. We all the time advocate getting each vaccine beneficial by the CDC! You will 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 e-book our excursions utilizing Viator and GetYourGuide.
  • Transportation: We use Rome2Rio to determine the best way to get from place to put, and e-book native transportation on-line utilizing Bookaway wherever we will. Once we e-book a rental automotive, we use DiscoverCars to check rental firms and discover the most effective deal.
  • Baggage Storage: Every time we’re testing early or benefiting from a protracted layover, we use LuggageHero to securely retailer our baggage whereas we’re operating 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 data, and so forth) protected, even while you’re related to an unsecured community whereas touring. Plus, it allows you to use Netflix & different streaming websites overseas! We use NordVPN. Use the code WANDERLUSTPROMO while you join!
  • What to Pack: Here are the travel essentials that we deliver 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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