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 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 individuals, Spanish colonizers, West African individuals introduced towards their will, immigrants from Europe, China, different Caribbean, and Latino international locations, and mainland USA. Its complexity can also 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Rico itinerary, you’ll discover the historic metropolis of San Juan, wander the colourful, blue-cobblestone streets of Outdated City; snorkel within the clear blue waters of Culebra, one of many islands off the coast; hike by the tropical rainforest of El Yunque in the hunt for waterfalls and lagoons; and kayak by a bioluminescent bay. 

Disclaimer: Our journey was sponsored by Southwest Speedy 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 nearly spectacular) have 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 straightforward—you don’t even want a passport, or to trade forex! However we do have just a few tricks to decrease stress throughout your journey.

  • How one can 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 whenever you arrive, making it a surprisingly fast and straightforward 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 a minimum of 10 minutes previous to departure could end in forfeited journey funds). We really needed to reschedule our journey as a result of a hurricane! Plus, you possibly can 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 Speedy Rewards Credit score Playing cards from Chase You’ll maximize your Speedy Rewards® factors by flying Southwest, plus get 2X factors on native transit, together with rideshare or your Speedy Rewards car rental companion purchases—which might all be used to pay for extra flights afterward, and rely towards the coveted Companion Pass®. Southwest’s Companion Move is the profit that permits you to choose one particular person to fly with you at no 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 whenever you depart the island. Earlier than going by safety, you MUST ship ALL your luggage by agricultural management. They won’t allow you to by with out this. Count on a protracted safety line and potential delays.
  • How one can Get Round Puerto Rico: Exterior of Outdated San Juan, most of Puerto Rico isn’t actually walkable. That stated, we’ve designed the itinerary so that you simply don’t want a automotive—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 for those who use your Southwest Speedy Rewards Credit score Card from Chase). If you happen to do resolve to rent a car, like we did, it’s fairly fast and straightforward to do proper on the airport and driving isn’t any completely different than wherever else within the U.S. Nonetheless, we don’t suggest 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 Outdated San Juan is difficult, and isn’t it extra stress-free to simply sit again and let another person drive you round anyway? If you happen to’ll be touring with youngsters, go forward and hire a automotive, in any other case, skip it. You received’t want it for this itinerary.
  • We suggest basing your self in Outdated San Juan and taking day journeys, then returning to your resort every evening. A lot of the highlights of Puerto Rico are comparatively near San Juan (it’s a small island, in spite of everything) so that is one of the best 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 hire a automotive as a result of we wanted extra flexibility as a result of touring with an toddler, and we wished to attenuate the time we spent within the automotive (although truthfully, I’m unsure we actually did. It felt like we spent lots 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 suggest shifting from San Juan for those who can ebook lodging which are definitely worth the journey, just like the El Yunque Rainforest Inn, which we sadly didn’t ebook far sufficient prematurely to expertise (however actually wish to subsequent time we go to)! As for the automotive, it will have been a lot simpler to simply ebook actions and never have to fret about driving ourselves round—in order that’s the best way we designed this itinerary.
  • Keep within the shade! Puerto Rico could be very near the equator, so the solar is sturdy. Standing within the shade is definitely a 15-degree temperature distinction from standing within the solar. And in fastidiously designed Outdated 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 truth, the wind performed an important function within the colonization of Puerto Rico: it’s the primary massive 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—appears 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.

This can be a complicated liminal area that I’ve been considerably acquainted with for my total life with out absolutely greedy as a result of a not-small portion of my household is Puerto Rican. On my mom’s facet, seven first cousins have 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 because the 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 evening. However since then, town has fully reworked itself, because of the laborious work of the group and a groundbreaking dedication to historic preservation.

So, when Southwest Speedy Rewards Credit score Playing cards from Chase supplied to fly us to any of Southwest Airways’ many locations, I picked San Juan. I wished 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 have 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 all the time been disaster-prone vacationers. (It’s form of our declare to fame. Notoriety? Anyway, it’s positively 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 illustration:

  • We missed a bioluminescent bay tour. We didn’t understand it was half-hour away from the place we have been staying till we received within the automotive, ten minutes earlier than the tour was set to depart. Fortunately, we have been in a position to ebook a brand new journey for the following evening.
  • We timed our go to to coincide with the 12 months’s greatest 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 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 competition, many of the metropolis was closed in preparation for the massive occasion. Which means just about all of the museums we wished to go to have been closed. Fortunately, our cousins knew a few of the individuals working there (and are extraordinarily convincing) and we managed to speak our method into a few spots—and it seems that a few of the museums simply have completely attractive 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 could 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, have been improbable!) earlier than driving again house to place her down for a nap.
  • We left our superior resort in Outdated San Juan to go keep at a trip rental by the seaside in Luquillo as a result of we wished 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 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 competition. Which began as we left. And was additionally 40 minutes behind us. We thought we have 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 out of form. However we made it by. 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 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, properly into her 90s. I can solely hope that Child A nonetheless needs 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 … properly, each journey, truthfully) 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 try this we actually, actually loved. We additionally sprinkled in just a few baby-friendly journey ideas for these of you who will 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 relies in colourful Viejo San Juan.

Day One: Outdated 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 brilliant pastel facades painted salmon, sky blue, bubblegum pink, apple inexperienced, lilac, or canary yellow—a particularly chosen and accredited colour palette decided by historic preservation that dates again to the Nineteen Fifties. You’ll be taught all about that in your tour in the present day!

You’ll start your day with the very best method 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 family members, Indigenous peoples, and the enslaved African peoples who introduced their very own cooking methods and components with them to contribute to the tradition and culinary melting pot of Puerto Rico.

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

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

… You’ll even be stuffed, so we’re skipping lunch (and probably dinner) in the present day! 

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

For the remainder of the afternoon, you’ll be taking it straightforward and exploring any components of town that you simply 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 need to go take a siesta to sleep off your meals coma—put it aside for the final day of your journey whenever you’ll be revisiting all of the stuff you have been too drained to do in the present day after your meals tour.

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

Right here’s what we suggest seeing in Outdated 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 sturdy commerce winds in entrance of El Morro!
  • Museo Casa Blanca: That is the oldest constantly 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!). As we speak, 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 outside gardens and grounds, that are free and open to the general public.
  • Parque de las Palomas: We extremely suggest 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 of 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—strive 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 many of the viewpoints of the outdated metropolis partitions! At numerous factors since its Sixteenth-century development, La Fortaleza has served as a fortress, an arsenal, and a jail—in the present day it serves because the completely baller Governor’s Mansion. They’ve excursions right here the place you possibly can study 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, trendy Puerto Rican artwork. For much more artwork, take a look at 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 simply go to artwork museums each single day and by no means get bored with 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!

If you happen to’ve received room for dinner, decide up a chunk to eat from a meals truck at Plaza Dársenas. It’s straightforward to seek out: simply search for the completely monumental cruise ships docking within the harbor and observe the group 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!

Situated 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 most likely picturing whenever you consider snorkeling on a Caribbean Island.

Properly, aside from the enormous, rusting, graffiti-covered tanks. They don’t normally make the screensaver-worthy psychological photographs, 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 house and was like eh, shifting these tanks is an entire 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 suggest reserving a snorkeling tour that features pickup, drop off, and lunch, so all it’s a must 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 lovely Cayo Luis Peña—book it on Viator.

  • Journey Tip: Don’t neglect to pack reef-safe sunscreen, which helps defend the very wildlife you’re right here to see! We additionally extremely, extremely suggest a pair of swim leggings, which cuts down on the quantity of reef-safe sunscreen it’s a must to use (as a result of it’s kinda… thick, and never in a great way) whereas being cute and comfy AF! We additionally suggest 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 normally a line out the door—if that tells you something! The no-frills restaurant has a restricted menu that modifications usually however all the time contains scrumptious Puerto Rican staples, like roast pork with a scrumptious cilantro sauce, one of the best crimson beans and rice we loved throughout our total journey, and phenomenal coconut flan. Get pleasure from it with a rum and tamarind cocktail. 

Now that we’ve instructed you what we suggest, let me inform you 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 seaside close to San Juan, Escambron Marine Park. The lagoon there’s a good calm spot to swim, with a tiny seaside and shallow water (nice for little ones). If you happen to convey some snorkeling gear (like this set), you possibly can 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 peaceful and quiet place to dive, and also you’ll see some fascinating buildings constructed from salvaged constructing supplies that at the moment are being transformed into coral reefs. If you happen to’re model new to snorkeling and don’t really feel comfy doing it by yourself, you possibly can take a snorkeling tour with them, too.

In case you have a automotive and simply wish to do a self-guided seaside day (for baby-related causes or not, we don’t decide), right here’s what we suggest:

  • Mar Chiquita: That is my cousin’s favourite seaside! It’s a quiet, uncrowded seaside with a ravishing 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 seaside in San Juan, there’s loads of room to unfold out, which suggests 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 just a few 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 seaside is beautiful however might 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 best way!z

Day Three: El Yunque Nationwide Park & Bioluminescent Bay

El Yunque National Forest is likely one of the United States’ solely tropical rainforests, and it’s enchanting. Situated simply 45 minutes away from San Juan, it’s a simple day journey. The winding drive by the rainforest on its principal path is beautiful: you’ll climb up the mountains as the luxurious forest stretches beneath you till you possibly can see all the best way to the brilliant blue Caribbean Ocean.

There are various stops alongside the street in El Yunque, the place you could find gushing waterfalls, azure swimming pools prepared for swimming, cliffs to leap off into stated azure swimming pools, and hikes winding by the luxurious rainforest, most of which result in azure swimming pools. Say azure swimming pools another time, Lia.

It’s type 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 received’t have any cell service when you enter the park (shock!). You’ll wish to plan out the place you wish to go prematurely, or cease by the customer’s heart when you arrive.

However planning stuff out forward of time takes effort, so the best method to do a visit to El Yunque is with a tour that can 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 … 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 definately’ll head to the close by city of Luquillo to sit back on the seaside and eat dinner on the well-known Kioskos de Luquillo (which is, by the way, additionally the place we suggest 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 just a few improbable stops on our self-guided journey. We climbed up the Yokahú Tower to absorb the view stretching all the best way to the coast of Luquillo. We additionally discovered a stunning, quick little path alongside Juan Diego Creek, which led to some attractive swimming holes and waterfalls, plus a log that Child A was like, enthralled by. I believe perhaps we’d by no means proven her a log earlier than? Anyway, she liked it.

We have been hoping to do just a few different straightforward hikes which are imagined to be improbable with youngsters, together with Angelito Trail (which is definitely exterior the park entrance, and a shorter drive) however after her large 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: If you happen to’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 automotive 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 an additional 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 house to 3 of them. These ecosystems happen when microscopic, single-celled organisms referred to as dinoflagellates develop in portions large enough to provide a “glow-in-the-dark” impact when stimulated by motion. If you paddle or splash the water, the tiny organisms mild 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 mild) and also you’ll have to make actions underwater to see them—so don’t count on to see like, an entire glow-in-the-dark bay. We’ve heard (from my cousins) that on extraordinarily uncommon events, you possibly can even bounce within the water and swim. If you happen to do get the chance, please inform us about it so we will marinate in our jealousy!

You received’t have the ability to seize the bioluminescence along with your cellphone or a digital camera, (any ambient mild 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-resistant bag like this one (however after all I forgot to pack it as a result of my mind solely capabilities half in addition to it used to since having a child).

Puerto Rico is house 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 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 ebook a tour that mixes each, like this one which picks up and drops off from San Juan and contains lunch and dinner, plus climbing and swimming in El Yunque and the sundown kayaking tour. (It’s also possible to ebook a tour individually, like this one, in case you have a automotive and may get your self to the tour in a well timed method, which as we talked about earlier, took us two makes an attempt).

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

  • Journey Ideas: If you happen to 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 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 Outdated City San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Day 4: Viejo San Juan & Sundown Cruise

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

So, for in the present day, you’ll be exploring Outdated 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 have 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 sudden 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 choose up souvenirs (you possibly can 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 outdated 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 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 stated your ultimate goodbye to the solar, head to probably the greatest 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 components (sourced from a farmer’s market just a few ft away, as native because it will get) made tapas-style, which is my favourite as a result of it means you get to strive a number 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 best way, 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 have been invented right here so that you most likely can’t get them at house, proper??

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

The place to Keep in San Juan, Puerto Rico

For our itinerary, we suggest 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 need to hire a automotive or fear about transportation apart from taking an Uber to and from the airport—straightforward peasy.

What we really did throughout our journey, although, was a bit of completely different since we have 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 our journey from San Juan to a seaside city near El Yunque Nationwide Park and the bioluminescent bay in Fajardo, in order that we have 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 suggest based mostly on our expertise. 

That’s, until you possibly can snag a reservation on the El Yunque Rainforest Inn, a attractive eco-lodge that we actually wished to ebook however didn’t work out with our dates!

On the subject of lodging in San Juan, you’ll see lots of beachfront resorts close to the outdated metropolis in an space referred to as Condado, a few 10-minute drive from Viejo San Juan. Personally, we actually aren’t resort individuals 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 have been all the time just some minutes away from our resort. We have been blissful to commerce off a personal seaside for ocean views from the excessive partitions across the metropolis, walkability, and colonial allure! 

  • We stayed at Villa Herencia Hotel, a small and delightful boutique resort within the coronary heart of Viejo San Juan, subsequent to town partitions, a ravishing plaza with a beautiful view of the cliffside Governor’s Mansion (La Fortaleza). The rooms are small, however it’s greater than made up for by its phenomenal location, and a stunning roof-side terrace! We’d fortunately keep right here once more.
  • We additionally suggest Hotel El Convento in Outdated San Juan. This centrally-located resort was an outdated convent (therefore the identify) however is now residing its finest life as a wonderful boutique resort with a baller rooftop pool and ocean views. Plus, it’s a Southwest Lodge Accomplice, so you possibly can earn 2X the factors throughout your keep for those who use your Southwest Speedy 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 long-lasting blue brick cobblestone streets on a hilltop view of the ocean and mountains in Outdated City San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Non-Income to Assist

As moral and sustainable vacationers, it’s deeply essential 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 earnings from vacationers immediately helps locally-owned companies—as long as guests such as you proceed to hunt out and patronize them! Then again, as a U.S. territory, Puerto Ricans are likely to really feel like the great thing about their island is usually bought to the best bidder, leaving locals and communities with no say within the growth and preservation of their houses.

Puerto Rico, like many Caribbean islands, can also be topic to frequent hurricanes. Lately, 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. A neighborhood journey blogger good friend 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 regionally owned companies a step additional and take into account donating to those non-profit organizations that are working to take care of, enhance, and help Puerto Rico’s area people. This listing was offered 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 targeted on offering assets and training on feminine growth in areas like well being & healthcare, financial empowerment, decreasing home violence, and activism. In addition they present emergency reduction and funds to ladies in impacted communities (for instance, when Hurricane Fiona hit, they have been actively working in Loíiza—a municipality that was unable to get fast help from FEMA and the Pink 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 techniques. Not solely do they handle numerous lands across the island (that are donated to them or they buy), however in addition they provide academic 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 fowl 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 changing into an increasing number of frequent. By defending Puerto Rico’s ecological techniques, Para la Naturaleza hopes to maintain these techniques intact to assist maintain 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 Outdated San Juan (you’ll most likely see them whereas strolling round!). They observe 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. Nonetheless, if a feminine cat is pregnant, they let her go absolutely 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 properly (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 supplies a six-week animal cruelty and investigation course to native police, animal welfare, and animal management facilities (or anybody generally) to boost consciousness on the indicators of animal cruelty and abuse.

This can be 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 faculties or group services.

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

Casa Julia de Burgos was the primary home violence shelter in Puerto Rico and continues to supply assets, consciousness, and help to these going through home violence. Not solely do they provide shelter and a speedy 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 ebook your journey, don’t neglect to take a look at the Southwest Speedy Rewards Credit score Playing cards from Chase so you may get all these candy, candy Speedy 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 Speedy 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 nearly spectacular) have 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 vary. All Rapid Rewards rules and regulations apply

Our High Journey Ideas & Assets

Listed below are our favourite journey ideas & assets for saving cash and planning journey logistics! For extra ideas, take a look at 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 normally keep in budget-friendly trip leases, boutique inns or non-public rooms in hostels. We use to ebook inns (we love their versatile cancellation coverage) and Hostelworld to ebook hostels (low deposit, straightforward change/cancellation, and glorious opinions). For trip leases, we choose to ebook utilizing VRBO as a result of they have decrease charges and higher help than Airbnb, and we’re not followers of Airbnb’s unethical monitor report. It’s also possible to ebook trip leases on Expedia and We additionally use TrustedHousesitters as each hosts (for our house 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 suggest both World Nomads or SafetyWing for worldwide journey insurance coverage. SafetyWing is likely one of the few insurance policies that covers Covid-19, and so they have glorious month-to-month insurance policies which are good for Digital Nomads and long run vacationers!
  • Journey Credit score Card: We ebook 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 presents improbable journey perks like journey insurance coverage, journey delay and cancellation protection, misplaced baggage reimbursement, and rental automotive protection, which helps defend us on our travels. Learn more here.
  • Vaccines & Meds: We use the journey guides on the CDC website to analysis really helpful drugs and vaccines for worldwide journeys. We all the time suggest getting each vaccine really helpful by the CDC! You will get them at your main care physician’s workplace or a walk-in pharmacy.
  • Excursions: We love reserving guided excursions, particularly meals excursions and strolling excursions, to get a neighborhood’s perspective and a historical past lesson whereas sight-seeing! We ebook our excursions utilizing Viator and GetYourGuide.
  • Transportation: We use Rome2Rio to determine get from place to put, and ebook native transportation on-line utilizing Bookaway wherever we will. After we ebook a rental automotive, we use DiscoverCars to check rental corporations and discover one of the best deal.
  • Baggage Storage: At any time when we’re trying out early or making the most of a protracted layover, we use LuggageHero to soundly 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 on) secure, even whenever 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 whenever you enroll!
  • 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 lots of extra. Check out all of our packing guides!


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