The Ultimate 10-Day Puerto Rico Road Trip Itinerary

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The Ultimate Puerto Rico Itinerary – Rachel Off Duty

I was hosted by Discover Puerto Rico on a handful of activities while researching this Puerto Rico itinerary. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

It’s hard to believe I previously had no interest in this incredible island. I think growing up in Hawaii made me a little complacent – I believed Puerto Rico was going to be far too similar to where I grew up. 

After driving in Puerto Rico from top to bottom on a road trip, I learned just how wrong I was! 

While there are so many beautiful similarities in culture, community, and climate that indisputably bond islands together, Puerto Rico is an explosion for the senses in a way I’d never experienced before. With its tapestry of peoples (most notably, Taíno, African, and Spanish), vast biodiversity, dramatic landscapes, and colorful cities, you’ll quickly see why the island earned its nickname of La Isla del Encanto.

And, if you’re reading this article, I’m glad – it means you’re about to plan a trip to Puerto Rico so you can experience it all for yourself! 

I spent months and months planning this 10-day Puerto Rico road trip itinerary so I could thoroughly tour the island after attending a conference in San Juan. Below, I am sharing that exact itinerary here so you can do it yourself. 

Note – I spent 2 weeks in Puerto Rico working remotely. This Puerto Rico itinerary distills my experience into 10 days and removes my working hours from the equation so you can explore the island the same way in less time. If you also work remotely and want to learn more about traveling while working, check out my 9 Tips for Working While Traveling next. 

This 10-day Puerto Rico itinerary is also designed to help guide you if you only have a week in Puerto Rico! Simply skip Vieques (days 8 – 10) and you’ll still get a nice little 7-day Puerto Rico road trip focused on the mainland only 🙂 

Keep reading for my recommendations for a well-rounded 10-day Puerto Rico road trip. Below the itinerary, you’ll also find tips on where to stay, where to eat, and how to extend your stay if you have even more time. 

P.S. Already have your Puerto Rico itinerary, and just looking for some more things to do? Don’t miss my guide to Things to do in Puerto Rico next!

The Ultimate 10-Day Puerto Rico Road Trip Itinerary

DAY ONE: Touching Down in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Rachel Off Duty: The Ultimate Puerto Rico Itinerary - Old San Juan

Bienvenidos a Puerto Rico! As you touch down at the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport (also referred to as the San Juan Airport or SJU), you’ll start your trip in San Juan, one of the most colorful historic cities in North America.

You can rent your car in San Juan at the airport now, or you can do what I did and wait until leaving San Juan on day 4 (see below) to pick up your car so you can save a little money. Ubers are abundant in San Juan and you’ll find you don’t really need a car to get around this city.

On the first day of your Puerto Rico itinerary, I recommend settling into the island’s capital city and wandering the pastel- and primary-colored hues of Old San Juan. 

A Super-Brief History of Puerto Rico

Rachel Off Duty: The Ultimate Puerto Rico Itinerary - Old San Juan
Rachel Off Duty: The Ultimate Puerto Rico Itinerary - Puerto Rico Flag

Puerto Rico is just 100 miles long and 35 miles wide. Within that small size, there are mountain ranges and rainforests and waterfalls and endless stretches of coastline.

It’s an unbelievably beautiful island. But beyond that, it’s an incredibly rich place for its culture, its music, and its people, too. And, while it’s easy to refer to Puerto Rico as an island like I just did (and will continue to do throughout this article, for brevity!), it’s actually an archipelago, with four small islands and hundreds of islets surrounding its mainland. 

The original inhabitants of Puerto Rico are the Taínos, who have called the archipelago (known then as Borikén) home for hundreds of years before the arrival of the Spanish. When Christopher Columbus arrived in the late 1400s, the island was renamed Puerto Rico or “rich port” upon the discovery of its abundant resources, like gold. While Columbus only stayed on the island for a brief time, he quickly claimed Puerto Rico for Spain, and Spain controlled the island nation for the next 400 years. With this came massive infusions of Spanish and African migration (via slavery) to Puerto Rico, giving the island its complex depth of cultural layers still present today. 

It wasn’t until the Spanish-American War of 1898 that control of Puerto Rico transitioned to the United States. Today, while Puerto Ricans are born US citizens, they do not have the same rights as the states. It’s up for debate what the future holds for Puerto Rico in this regard, but for now, Puerto Ricans do not vote in US elections, and the tax implications on the island are different than in the states.

Puerto Rico has endured natural disasters (most famously in recent years, Hurricane Maria in 2017), economic and financial instability, and a shrinking population due to increasing real estate prices and more lucrative financial opportunities in the mainland USA. 

Just like I encourage people to do when planning a trip to Hawaii, it’s important to understand some of this backstory to truly appreciate and respect the island when you come to visit!

Against the odds, Puerto Rico’s culture is one of resilience, freedom, and celebration. It’s a beautiful thing to see and an even more powerful thing to appreciate within the context above. 

Exploring Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Rachel Off Duty: Exploring Old San Juan
Rachel Off Duty: Exploring Old San Juan

Founded in 1519, San Juan is one of the oldest continuously inhabited post-European cities in the entire Western Hemisphere. The most famously picturesque part of Puerto Rico’s capital city, Old San Juan, is so much more than fun colors and pretty buildings. It’s a mix of impressive Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture combined with old UNESCO fortifications. It’s also famously the birthplace of the always reliable and always delicious piña colada 🙂 

With so much rich history, you’ll want to spend at least a couple of hours wandering and tasting your way around the streets of Old San Juan! 

Things to Do in Old San Juan:
  • Visit the Castillo San Felipe del Morro and the Paseo del Morro – a seaside promenade that lines the old city walls via the San Juan Gate
  • See the Calle Fortaleza
  • Sample an OG piña colada in its birthplace by going to the Caribe Hilton (just outside of Old San Juan) or Barrachina
  • Walk and admire – there are more than 400+ colorful Spanish colonial-style buildings to see in just a few short blocks! To learn more about what you’re seeing, I suggest booking a walking tour of Old San Juan.
Rachel Off Duty: The Colorful Buildings in Old San Juan
Walking Tours in Old San Juan:

After a long day of exploration, be sure to grab a bite or some drinks in Old San Juan. While it is a cruise port city (which often equals ‘touristy’), you can rest assured that the food and drinks in Old San Juan are incredibly tasty and high quality. Visit Marmalade, Bodega Chic, or The Cave Cuban Cocktails & Cuisine for food (and possibly live music!), and be sure to grab a cocktail at the famous La Factoria

DAY TWO: African Culture, San Juan Beaches, & Nightlife

Rachel Off Duty: Bomba Music in Puerto Rico

Not many people realize this, but there is a massive influence and presence of African culture in Puerto Rico!

It began as you might expect, following the Spanish arrival to the island in the late 1400s, with forced migration into slavery on the island bringing more than 15,000 slaves. Over the years, the African diaspora in Puerto Rico has created a permanent imprint on Puerto Rico’s food, music, religion, and fashion. 

African Culture in Loiza

Rachel Off Duty: Bomba Music in Puerto Rico
Rachel Off Duty: Bomba Music in Puerto Rico

The biggest concentration of African culture in Puerto Rico can be felt in Loiza, a small town just 20 minutes outside of San Juan. Here, you can take a tour or participate in a gathering to experience Bomba – a signature Puerto Rican music and dance that originated here. 

Things to Do in and Around Loiza to Learn About African Culture in Puerto Rico
No Car? Day Tours of Afro-Puertorican Culture from San Juan:

San Juan Beaches

Rachel Off Duty: The Ultimate Puerto Rico Itinerary - Piñones Beach

You can start enjoying some of Puerto Rico’s beautiful beaches right here, in and around San Juan! 

Three great beaches to check out include Condado Beach, Isla Verde, and Piñones. 

Flanked by high-rise hotels and not far from Old San Juan, Condado Beach is a very popular beach destination for Puerto Rico vacationers and resort goers. I didn’t visit this beach during my stay in Puerto Rico, but I’ve heard and read that the water conditions can be dangerous due to undercurrents. If you want to go for a swim, it might be worth checking out Playita del Condado, a smaller beach in the area with more protected waters. 

Isla Verde is another beach near San Juan that’s a bit less “touristy” than Condado but still flanked by resorts, high-rise hotels, restaurants, and shops. The conditions here are generally more gentle and suitable for swimming, making it a nice option for a beach day with easy access to lunch or drinks. 

A bit further out but still reachable within 15 minutes by car, Piñones is a beautiful coastline of golden sand dotted with dozens of locally run food kiosks. Situated right next to Loiza, Piñones is another area filled with longstanding Afro-Puerto Rican heritage and culture. It’s laidback and undeniably low-key here, which is a nice contrast to the high rises of San Juan. Come for the beach and stay for the delicious mofongo and alcapurrias! 

Dancing and Nightlife in San Juan

Rachel Off Duty: Nightlife in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Rachel Off Duty: Nightlife in San Juan, Puerto Rico

If you’re into nightlife, dancing, and music, you need to dedicate a night of your Puerto Rico itinerary to going out in San Juan!

San Juan is the place in Puerto Rico for a lively night out, and no matter what day of the week you find yourself here, you’re bound to find a decent scene.

Whether you’re in the mood for a craft cocktail in a quiet bar or a lively salsa night with friends, here were some of my favorite spots that are wildly popular for both locals and visitors alike: 

DAY THREE: El Yunque National Forest and the Famous Piña Colada

Rachel Off Duty: El Yunque National Forest Puerto Rico

Fun fact: Puerto Rico is home to the only tropical rainforest in the United States, and it’s located just an hour outside of San Juan!

Puerto Rico might be known for its beautiful beaches, but a visit to El Yunque simply can’t be missed. You can easily get there by car, or, you can book a day tour to El Yunque with transportation to and from San Juan. That said, if you are going on your own without a tour, make sure you book an advance reservation on recreation.gov before you go! 

Then, when you’re back from your day exploring the rainforest, round out your time in San Juan by grabbing a piña colada, Puerto Rico’s national drink!

El Yunque National Forest

Rachel Off Duty: El Yunque National Forest Puerto Rico
Rachel Off Duty: El Yunque National Forest Puerto Rico
Rachel Off Duty: El Yunque National Forest Puerto Rico

Spread across more than 28,000 acres on Puerto Rico’s east coast, El Yunque National Forest is a massive expanse of lush palms, native plants, waterfalls, and mountains lined with some of the island’s most epic hiking trails. Thanks to its unique ecosystem, El Yunque is also home to several endemic animal species, including the elusive and incredibly endangered green Puerto Rican parrot. 

Before any El Yunque adventure, I recommend starting your visit with a stop at the El Portal Visitor Center near the main park entrance. This visitor center blew me away… because it’s actually super nice! There’s a movie room to learn more about the rainforest, a cafe, a gift shop, an interpretive trail, and educational exhibits with sweeping views of El Yunque.

Things to Do in El Yunque:
  • Go hiking! Check out the Mount Briton Tower Trail, the El Yunque Trail, the Angelito Trail, and La Mina Trail
  • Swim in a waterfall or watering hole – some popular hikes, like Angelito, and La Mina, lead to swimming holes. Other popular spots to check out include Juan Diego Creek and La Coca Falls.
  • Admire the panoramic views from the Yokahu Observation Tower
No Car? Day Tours to El Yunque from San Juan:

Piña Coladas in San Juan

Rachel Off Duty: Piña Coladas in Puerto Rico at Caribe Hilton

After a long day on the trails, it’s time to sample Puerto Rico’s national drink, the piña colada! Did you know the piña colada was born right here in San Juan? 

While you’re bound to find a delicious piña colada just about anywhere in Puerto Rico, the piña coladas in San Juan simply can’t be overstated. From classic to experimental, there are tons of places to try this pineapple coconut cocktail. 

Where to Get a Piña Colada in San Juan:

DAY FOUR: Heading Out West to Rincón and Aguadilla

Rachel Off Duty: Crash Boat Beach in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

I don’t think any Puerto Rico road trip – or visit in general – would be complete without spending time on Puerto Rico’s west coast. Today, it’s time to grab your rental car and hit the road! 

Puerto Rico’s west coast reminds me a lot of Oahu’s North Shore, an area not far from where I grew up. Think beautiful beaches, consistent swells, and smaller, more relaxed towns. A big contrast to the city vibe of San Juan, the west coast is undeniably for surfers and those seeking a slower pace to enjoy the beauty of Puerto Rico. 

It takes about 2 hours to drive from San Juan to Rincón, and I recommend timing your drive so that you arrive in Rincón with time to spare before sunset. Alternatively, you could stay in Aguadilla, but I’ll speak from experience having stayed in Rincón and loved it personally. The two towns are close enough you can beach hop and day trip with ease!

Sunset Watching in Rincón

Rachel Off Duty: Sunsets in Rincon Puerto Rico
Rachel Off Duty: Sunsets in Rincon Puerto Rico

Hopefully, you’ve given yourself enough time to arrive in Rincón before the end of the day. 

Why? 

Because Puerto Rico’s west coast is famous for having the best sunsets on the island! Whether you want to sit on the beach or grab a drink at a bar, you’ll find tons of prime viewing areas throughout Rincón to catch the greatest free show on earth. 

Where to Watch the Sunset in Rincón

DAY FIVE: Enjoying the Beach on Puerto Rico’s West Coast

Rachel Off Duty: West Coast Beaches - Puerto Rico Itinerary

Out of the city and away from the hustle and bustle, the west coast of Puerto Rico is a haven for those willing to embrace island time. With miles of beautiful coastline, delicious food trucks, and small-town energy, this is just one of those places you know you’ll think of fondly before you’ve even left. 

You’ve been moving around a lot so far on this Puerto Rico itinerary, so today is all about taking it easy. Hitting the beach, dining at a delicious food truck or watering hole, and catching yet another magical sunset. If you’re craving a bit more of an active adventure, use this day to go surfing or chartering a sunset sail. The sky’s the limit! 

Beaches in Puerto Rico’s West Coast

Rachel Off Duty: Crash Boat Beach in Puerto Rico
Rachel Off Duty: Crash Boat Beach in Puerto Rico
Rachel Off Duty: Crash Boat Beach in Puerto Rico

There are so many good beaches on Puerto Rico’s west coast (truly, you can’t go wrong) but in my opinion, the best beaches include Steps Beach / Tres Palmas Marine Reserve, Pools Beach, Corcega Beach, Maria’s Beach, Domes Beach, and Crash Boat Beach. 

The Tres Palmas Marine Reserve & Steps Beach (Rincón) is a protected area featuring spectacular elkhorn coral, and it’s incredibly popular for snorkeling and scuba diving. You’ll find a natural rock barrier that forms small pools to explore along the coast as well. 

Pools Beach, Maria’s Beach, and Domes Beach (Rincón) are all popular surfing beaches, but even if you don’t surf you can come here to watch the action and take in the beautiful views. 

Corcega Beach (Rincón) is known for its calm swimming waters. 

Crash Boat Beach (Aguadilla) is one of my favorite beaches thanks to its beautiful water and amenities. Usually, you’ll find food and drink vendors doling out cold coconuts, piña coladas, and snacks from morning till dusk. On one Friday afternoon while I was here, there was even a DJ! 

Keep in mind that many of these beaches are popular local spots too. If you’re here for a vacation in Puerto Rico, try to plan beach days on weekdays or mornings so the beaches aren’t too crowded for locals on the weekends! 

Beyond this list above, there are many more beaches dotted along the west coast that are well worth your time. We even had a tiny go-to beach just steps from our accommodation that became one of our favorites. You’re bound to find a great spot to spend the day! 

Rachel Off Duty: Tres Palmas Marine Reserve in Puerto Rico

Surfing and Water Activities in Rincón

If you’re craving a more active experience and want to get a taste of Rincón’s surf scene, this is the best place to go surfing in Puerto Rico! 

You can take a class or simply rent a board if you’re already experienced. Head straight to the beaches I mentioned above, or book a surfing lesson below.

Rincón is also ideal for snorkeling, paddleboarding, and jetskiing if surfing isn’t your jam. 

Sunset Catamaran Rides in Rincón

During my time in Rincón, I was running outside nearly every single day to catch the sunset from the tiny local beach by our apartment.

On our last day, I booked a sunset catamaran tour but sadly it was canceled due to weather conditions. Nevertheless, if you have a chance to go on a catamaran tour and the weather conditions are right, I recommend it! You’ll spend 2 hours traversing Puerto Rico’s west coast with hor d’oeuvres and drinks as the sky turns pink before your eyes.

Book a sunset catamaran ride at Katarina Sail Charters using this link

BONUS: The Macromurals of Pintalto in Aguadilla

Rachel Off Duty: Puerto Rico Road Trip - The Macro Murals of Pintalto in Aguadilla
Rachel Off Duty: Puerto Rico Road Trip - The Macro Murals of Pintalto in Aguadilla
Rachel Off Duty: Puerto Rico Road Trip - The Macro Murals of Pintalto in Aguadilla

If you want a break from the water during your 3 days on the west coast, you must take a quick detour into Aguadilla to see some of the famous Pintalto macro mural projects that are sweeping Puerto Rico. 

Throughout the island, this project – Pintalto – is transforming and revitalizing communities through art, and Aguadilla is one example of these community projects in action. This particular project is inspired by the fishermen in Aguadilla, and amidst the bright colors and mosaics, you can see many fish and sea themes that pay homage to this west coast town. 

DAY SIX: Heading South to Cabo Rojo and La Parguera

Rachel Off Duty: The Lighthouse in Cabo Rojo

By this point, you might be tempted to spend another day posted up at the beach – and I don’t blame you! 

But if you’re eager to see more of what the westernmost part of the island has to offer, add Cabo Rojo to your Puerto Rico itinerary.

The southwest corner of Puerto Rico is home to some fantastically diverse landscapes and ecosystems. From salt flats and rugged limestone cliffs to the mangrove forests and secluded beaches, Cabo Rojo is well worth a dedicated day out of your Puerto Rico itinerary. 

In the evening, head to La Parguera in the southern town of Lajas to go for a night swim in one of Puerto Rico’s three bioluminescent bays. Trust me, you won’t want to skip out on this!

The Dramatic Landscapes of Cabo Rojo

Rachel Off Duty: The Cabo Rojo Salt Flats
Rachel Off Duty: Playa Sucia in Cabo Rojo with Sargassum

The rugged, remote Cabo Rojo is home to the most coastline in all of Puerto Rico, with great beaches and fascinating landscapes to see throughout.

Plan to leave Rincón in the morning so you can spend the whole day in Cabo Rojo. And, I recommend packing snacks, lunch, and drinks if you can before you go. 

Things to Do in Cabo Rojo:

La Parguera and Puerto Rico’s Bioluminescent Bays

Rachel Off Duty: Visiting La Parguera - Puerto Rico Bioluminescent Bay
Rachel Off Duty: Visiting La Parguera - Puerto Rico Bioluminescent Bay
Rachel Off Duty: Visiting La Parguera - Puerto Rico Bioluminescent Bay

About 30 – 45 minutes east of Cabo Rojo, you’ll arrive at La Parguera in the municipality of Lajas. What’s special about La Parguera? It’s one of Puerto Rico’s three bioluminescent bays, and it’s the only bio bay you can swim in, making this one of the most unique things to do in Puerto Rico. 

What is a bioluminescent bay? Areas with bioluminescence contain a high surplus of microorganisms that produce a shiny, glow-in-the-dark effect when splashed and disturbed in the water. There are only five ecosystems in the world with the right conditions for bioluminescence to occur. I’ve had the pleasure of swimming in bioluminescence in Oaxaca and in Puerto Rico!

To visit La Parguera, you’ll need to go with a licensed (and preferably responsible) tour operator. Tours depart about 1-2 hours before dusk, so plan your drive from Cabo Rojo appropriately to arrive on time.

I did my Bio Bay tour with Paradise Scuba, and you can book your La Parguera bio bay tour using this link.

PRO TIP: Plan your Puerto Rico road trip around this experience if you want the best chance at seeing this bio bay glow the brightest! The bio bays of Puerto Rico are best experienced during, and close to, the new moon when the sky is the darkest. 

Tonight, you can either spend one more night in Rincón or continue on towards Ponce. While I stayed in Rincón and didn’t mind the longer drive the next day, the latter will be more convenient for the rest of your Puerto Rico road trip! 

DAY SEVEN: Ponce and Ceiba

Rachel Off Duty: Ponce Puerto Rico Historical Center

Today, it’s time to say goodbye to the west coast of Puerto Rico. If you only have 7 days in Puerto Rico, this also might be your last day (but that’s okay, you’ll just have to come back and do the rest on your next visit!). 

For those of you still with me for the long haul, keep reading. Day 7 is all about hitting the road to drive all the way to the east coast of Puerto Rico. If you stayed in Rincón the night before, plan to spend around 4 hours on the road today. But don’t worry – you’ll break up the day with a morning stop in Ponce for a walking tour and lunch in Puerto Rico’s second-largest city. 

If you stayed in Ponce overnight beforehand, hurray – enjoy the opportunity to sleep in a bit 🙂 

From Ponce, it’s another 2 hours to arrive in Ceiba to catch a quick ferry. Ferries depart from Ceiba every day to take travelers and locals to and from the outer islands of Vieques and Culebra, which is where we’re heading next on this Puerto Rico itinerary! 

The Museum City of Ponce

Rachel Off Duty: Ponce Puerto Rico Architecture
Rachel Off Duty: Ponce Puerto Rico Colonial Architecture
Rachel Off Duty: Ponce Puerto Rico Architecture

There’s a saying that goes “Ponce is Ponce. Everything else is just parking.” 

It’s cheeky, but it shows you just how much pride there is to be had in the Pearl of the South. 

Known as the Museum City, Ponce is a myriad of museums, colonial architecture, a beautiful historic city center, and fascinating history. It’s here that I learned so much about Puerto Rico’s multicultural flavor and positive attitude towards diversity – “everything that came into our ports over the centuries was celebrated,” as my walking tour guide Nori told me. 

You could – and perhaps should – spend 2 days here in Ponce learning about the city’s history, visiting the many museums, and strolling through the plazas, buildings, and markets throughout the historical center. However, if you’re pressed for time or only passing through, the best way to get acquainted with Ponce and its significance in Puerto Rico’s culture is via a walking tour. 

I did my Ponce walking tour with Nori from Isla Caribe Tours, and you can book your walking tour using this link. Nori is one of the best and most animated walking tour guides I’ve had in ages! 

After your morning walking tour, grab lunch at the Plaza del Mercado and be sure to admire the beautiful Plaza de Las Delicias (the main plaza of Ponce) before heading out to make your way to Ceiba. 

Getting to Vieques and Culebra via Ceiba

Tucked away on the northeast coast of Puerto Rico, Ceiba is the gateway to Puerto Rico’s two neighboring islands – Culebra and Vieques. With multiple daily departures to and from the islands each day, the Ceiba Ferry Terminal is the best way to conveniently and affordably access these islands. 

Expect to pay around $2 per person one-way, plus $1 for every piece of luggage you bring with you. A limited number of tickets are released for online booking (which I recommend), but you can also purchase tickets at the terminal. Keep in mind – this ferry is used by locals and tourists alike and space can fill up quickly, especially on the weekends! Locals are also given priority unless you have a pre-purchased ticket.  

The ferry to Vieques takes about 30 minutes, while the ferry to Culebra takes closer to 45. Flying to the islands from San Juan is also an option, but significantly more expensive. 

Use this link to check departure times and to book ferry tickets in advance.

Vieques vs Culebra: Which Island Should You Add to Your Puerto Rico Itinerary?

Rachel Off Duty: The Island of Vieques
Rachel Off Duty: The Island of Culebra
Photo Credit: Discover Puerto Rico

You might be asking yourself, what’s so great about Vieques and Culebra? Why would I visit a smaller neighboring island when I’m already road-tripping around Puerto Rico’s mainland? 

Truthfully, I didn’t know anything about these little islands before I started doing research for my Puerto Rico trip. These islands are wildly popular (especially amongst locals) for their remote beauty, tranquility, wildlife, and beaches! 

People visit Culebra specifically for its white sand, abundant marine life, low-key accommodations (think guest houses, vacation rentals, and even camping), and total seclusion. 

People visit Vieques for its varied scenery, wildlife refuge, wild horses, and bioluminescent bay. Of Puerto Rico’s 3 bio bays, the one on Vieques is said to be the brightest in the entire world. There is a slightly larger local population in Vieques than in Culebra, and you’ll find a few more restaurants, bars, and hotels as a result. 

Ultimately, I chose Vieques because I fell in love with a hotel on the island, and wanted to see the famous wild horses roaming free. It was epic but also incredibly chilled out and peaceful.

The last few days of this itinerary in Puerto Rico are spent slowing down and savoring island life right here in Vieques! 

How to Get Around in Vieques

Rachel Off Duty: Renting a Car in Vieques

A quick note on transportation – how do you get around in Vieques?

There are taxis, but they are nowhere near as abundant as the mainland, and they can add up quickly (expect around $20 per trip if you’re going more than 10-15 minutes between point A and point B). 

Fortunately, Vieques has the infrastructure for car and golf car rentals, and it’s recommended to book your transportation ahead of time. If you plan to do a lot of circle-island exploring, a car is the way to go (and, many parts of the island, like the wildlife refuge, are only really accessible by 4×4).

Otherwise, a golf cart – like I had – will be just fine for light exploring. 

Rent a car in Vieques using this link

Rent a golf cart in Vieques using this link

DAYS EIGHT & NINE: Taking It Easy in Vieques

Rachel Off Duty: The Pool at Finca Victoria, Vieques

Vieques is an amazing island both for adventurers and relaxation seekers. 

I stayed in a really beautiful bed & breakfast in Vieques called Finca Victoria, with daily yoga and ayurvedic breakfasts alongside the most beautiful pool. It was hard to leave, so on my first day in Vieques, I didn’t!

With two full days on this island, I think the best way to maximize your time in Vieques is by dedicating one day to sightseeing and exploration, and one to total relaxation on the beach or at your hotel. What better way to close out an epic 10 days in Puerto Rico? 

Beaches in Vieques

Rachel Off Duty: Things to Do in Vieques - Playa Negra
Rachel Off Duty: Black Sand Beach in Puerto Rico

Vieques has a lot of beaches with unique character. Want to go to a tranquil, secluded bay with no one else around? No problem. A local hangout where everyone drives right up to the shoreline and picnics the day away? Got that! A black sand beach with dramatic cliffs? Yup. You get the picture.

Best and Most Easily Accessible Beaches in Vieques:
  • Sun Bay Beach
  • Playa Negra / Black Sand Beach 
  • Sea Glass Beach 
  • Punta Arenas

Other Things to Do in Vieques

Rachel Off Duty: Things to Do in Vieques - See the Wild Horses
Rachel Off Duty: Things to Do in Vieques – Yoga
Rachel Off Duty: Things to Do in Vieques - Go to Sun Bay Beach

What’s equally great about Vieques is that this island is a well-rounded mini Puerto Rico getaway with more to see and do than just visit beaches. 

Things to Do in Vieques:

DAY TEN: Heading Back to San Juan

Rachel Off Duty: Santurce, San Juan Murals

After 2 days traversing the remote and spectacular island of Vieques, it’s sadly time to close out this 10-day adventure around Puerto Rico.

Make sure to give yourself at least 5 hours before your flight out of San Juan to account for the ferry, the 1-hour drive from Ceiba, and the logistical time of returning your car and getting to the airport. Ideally, try to book a flight no earlier than 12 pm. 

Other Things to Do if You Have More Time

Rachel Off Duty: Things to Do in Vieques – Go to Sun Bay Beach

Have more time to spend on your Puerto Rico itinerary? You could easily spend a month here without running out of things to do! Here are some great add-ons for those of you planning to spend more than 10 days in La Isla del Encanto.

  • Visit Culebra: Why not continue your island-hopping adventure with a detour to Culebra? The islands are each so different, making this an ideal next destination for those continuing their journey in Puerto Rico. 
  • Take a Catamaran Tour or Water Taxi to Cayo Icacos: While I didn’t get to visit Cayo Icacos, my friends that have gone said it was hands down a highlight of a day trip while in Puerto Rico! Water taxis can be booked on the spot or in advance and typically cost between $50-$60. Otherwise, you can book a catamaran ride in advance using this link
  • Go Chasing Waterfalls: One thing this Puerto Rico itinerary doesn’t have enough of is inland exploration. There are tons of amazing waterfalls and swimming holes throughout the island’s interior that are well worth your time. Some popular spots include (but are by no means limited to) Charco Azul, Juan Diego Falls, Chorros del Rio La Planta, and Gonzalandia Falls. 
  • Explore the Puerto Rico Highlands: In the mountains of central Puerto Rico, you’ll find everything from Puerto Rican coffee plantations and indigenous culture to outdoor adventures and boutique mountain escapes. One such mountain escape that is high on my list for my next Puerto Rico trip is the woman-owned El Pretexto – Puerto Rico’s first culinary farm lodge. Intentionally supporting local agriculture is a challenging thing to do in Puerto Rico where most of the food produced is exported, and most of the food consumed is imported. Visiting a project like this, either by spending the night or booking a pop-up dining event, is one surefire way to positively benefit Puerto Rico’s local farmers and chefs.

Where to Stay in Puerto Rico

Rachel Off Duty: Where to Stay in Puerto Rico - Finca Victoria Vieques
Rachel Off Duty: Where to Stay in Puerto Rico - Hotel Caribe Hilton

You can find a wide variety of places to stay throughout Puerto Rico! During my visit, I divided my time between Airbnbs since I was working remotely. Then, I treated myself to a luxe hotel getaway in Vieques to close out the trip. 

Here are some places to stay in Puerto Rico based on this itinerary.

San Juan Hotels

  • O:Live Boutique Hotel: An upscale boutique hotel that’s woman-owned and high on my list for my next visit to Puerto Rico.
  • Dreamcatcher by DW: A beautiful boutique hotel also known as San Juan’s only vegetarian hotel, with 19 unique accommodations and healthy food offerings just steps from the beach.
  • Hotel El Convento: A former convent turned luxury hotel located in Old San Juan, this property has nearly four centuries of history to its name and enables you to step back in time.

Rincón Hotels

Ponce Hotels

  • The Fox Hotel: A landmark building in the historical center of Ponce that has been transformed into a thematic hotel featuring vintage pop art.
  • Ponce Plaza Hotel & Casino: Another downtown Ponce hotel with a historic facade mixed with modern touches throughout.
  • Aloft Ponce: While this hotel is a 10 minute drive from the historical city center, Aloft is a reliable and modern Marriott hotel chain that keeps you out of the more congested roads of the city center.

Vieques Hotels

  • Finca Victoria: A beautiful woman-owned, eco-friendly boutique accommodation with unique rooms and suites set across a grassy property up in the hills of Vieques (just 15 minutes from the beach).
  • El Blok Vieques: A unique hotel design inspired by the coral reefs of the Caribbean and located just steps from the beach in Esperanza.
  • Blue Horizon Boutique Resort Vieques: An adults-only oceanfront resort located just down the road from the main Malecon in Esperanza.

Where to Eat and Drink in Puerto Rico

Rachel Off Duty: Restaurants in Old San Juan

This 10 day Puerto Rico itinerary wouldn’t be complete without talking about where to eat and drink in the area. Here are some of my favorite spots from my time in Puerto Rico, plus some other recommendations I’ve heard great things about! 

Restaurants in Puerto Rico

Cocktails, Beer, and Dancing in Puerto Rico

Coffee in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico FAQ: Tips to Know Before You Go

Rachel Off Duty: Beaches in Puerto Rico

Do You Need a Passport to Visit Puerto Rico?

US travelers do not need a passport to visit Puerto Rico. 

What Is the Best Currency to Use in Puerto Rico?

As Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, the island archipelago uses the US dollar. Most places will take credit cards easily throughout the island as well, but it never hurts to bring cash with you for food trucks, tips, and small purchases. 

Like the rest of the US, tipping has become a key part of the service economy in Puerto Rico. While not compulsory, a 15 – 18% tip at restaurants is recommended. Plan to also tip your tour guides around 10 – 20% of the price you paid for your activity. Last but not least, tipping bartenders, hotel staff, etc is encouraged. 

What Language is Spoken in Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico is a symphony of language and colloquialisms, with the official languages being both Spanish and English. You’ll be surprised to hear people speaking in melodic Puerto Rican Spanish and easily snapping in and out of perfect English without batting an eye. For visitors, it can take some getting used to! 

As a result, Spanglish conversations are not uncommon. It’s very possible to start a conversation in basic Spanish and end in English, ebbing and flowing based on your proficiency in either language.

How Do You Get Around in Puerto Rico?

For travelers arriving in San Juan, you’ll find that Ubers are easy, cheap, and abundant in the island’s capital city. However, once you venture outside of San Juan, your best bet is renting a car and driving in Puerto Rico! 

Renting a Car in Puerto Rico

I will say, after spending 2 weeks exploring Puerto Rico in a rental car myself, the roads in Puerto Rico can be a little intense! While road systems and signals are the same as the mainland USA, I found that some Puerto Rican drivers can be a bit, well, free-spirited! Beyond this, it’s worth noting that distances on the road are measured in kilometers, but car speeds are measured in miles per hour (confusing, I know). All that said, you’ll be fine in Puerto Rico as long as you drive a bit defensively and exercise caution on the roads. 

I strongly advise renting a car and driving in Puerto Rico in order to best accomplish (and enjoy) this itinerary. 

When you rent a car in Puerto Rico, there are two types of insurance you’ll be able to buy: Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI), and Collision Damage Waiter / Loss Damage Waiver (CDW/LDW). While the latter is optional, the former (SLI) is mandatory. 

Last but not least, you will realize that Puerto Rico has a lot of toll roads! I recommend paying a bit extra when renting your car to ensure you get an electronic toll pass. It’ll save you the hassles so you can freely drive on any road around the island. 

Use Kayak to compare car rental rates at the San Juan International Airport

Rideshare Apps in Puerto Rico

Uber is abundantly available and legal in San Juan. You can easily rely on rideshare to get around during your time in the big city! 

I’ve read that Uber is not allowed to pick you up from the airport when you arrive, and is only able to drop you off. However, this was not my experience, and I was able to request a ride when I landed. For peace of mind, you can book a ride ahead of time to your hotel using a transportation service like Puerto Rico Green Transportation, or reserve a rental car right away so you can take advantage of the rental company’s airport transfers. 

What Is the Best Time to Visit Puerto Rico?

The best time to plan a trip to Puerto Rico is generally winter through mid-summer (December through June / July). July – November tends to be the island’s rainiest season and is more prone to periodic extreme weather. However, some people prefer traveling in the low season to take advantage of the cheaper prices. Regardless, during these months it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the weather and stay alert in the event of a hurricane warning. 

If you’re planning a Puerto Rico itinerary around surfing, late summer to early winter are the best months to catch waves on the west coast!

What is Puerto Rico Known For?

Puerto Rico is known for its beautiful and abundant beaches, its rich biodiversity, and its unique cultural fusion of Latino, Taino, and African influence. Puerto Rico is a fascinating Caribbean destination because, despite being known as a US territory, you get the distinct sense that you have entered into a place that is managing – though not without difficulty – to hold on tight to its culture, unique blend of languages, and identity. It’s all of this and more that make a visit to Puerto Rico incredibly special and worthwhile. 

How Many Days Do You Need in Puerto Rico? 

After visiting Puerto Rico myself, I strongly recommend you plan at least one week (7 days) here to give yourself enough time to leave San Juan and experience the rest of the island. While you can easily drive around Puerto Rico in about 8 hours, you won’t want to just blow through! In 7 days, you could plan a lovely Puerto Rico itinerary, like the one you see here in this Puerto Rico guide. 

With 10+ days, you could explore more regions of Puerto Rico, including its neighboring islands – Vieques and Culebra! 

Ready to Go to Puerto Rico?

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The Ultimate Puerto Rico Itinerary – Rachel Off Duty
The Ultimate Puerto Rico Itinerary – Rachel Off Duty

Hey there! I’m Rachel, a travel writer and a full-time advertising / marketing expert. In 2019, I traveled more than 25 times while working 9 to 5, and since then I’ve committed myself to living a more adventurous life, even if it means bringing my laptop along for the ride.

Are you hungry to travel more, but overwhelmed with how to juggle work and play? You’ve come to the right place!

Recent Adventures:
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8 Responses

  1. thank you Rachel for this incredibly detailed list of places to visit. I was feeling overwhelmed and wondering how to even start. Now, I can mostly just retrace your path! Thank you, thank you!

    1. I’ve heard good things about Villa Tampico, but I haven’t stayed there personally! General guidance I’ve heard from others is that Airbnb / VRBO / vacation rentals in general might be the way to go in Culebra. Not as many traditional hotel choices at Vieques or mainland PR! Hope that helps!

  2. Hey aloha from other Hawaiian transplants. I would like to go to Puerto Rico and enjoy the winter warmth as we live in Texas now. No Hawaii for us but not cold weather either. The one thing we need is like a kamaina rate or a better than cheap places to stay. Aaa is a good hotel finder but I thought like your suggestions to stay in a few places and explore. Not a $4,000 after air but use air miles on SW air and then rent a car. They are not cheap so Turo looks good. I will use your 10 day and spend three days in San Juan and two at the three others. Get some tan too.
    So Where did you live in Hawaii and high school? I was Punahou ‘71 third generation
    Mahalo wahine

    1. Hello fellow Hawaii transplant! Hope you enjoy your Puerto Rico trip this winter! I am from Oahu and went to Mid-Pac myself 🙂

  3. Thank you for this article!

    I am planning a 10-15 days trip in March this year.

    Do you think it is best to plan and book hotels in advance or can I do it while I’m there?

    Thank you!

    1. I personally always have something booked. I’m curious to know how your experience was if you winged it!

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