The PERFECT Puerto Rico Road Trip Itinerary: One Week in Puerto Rico

Planning a trip to Puerto Rico? Instead of staying in San Juan, plan the perfect Puerto Rico road trip with this itinerary, covering ALL the highlights! | Puerto Rico Road trip itinerary | One week in Puerto Rico

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After finding an error fare to Puerto Rico that was too good to pass up, I found myself wondering how I should spend my week in Puerto Rico. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of spending a week lounging on the beach beach, so I started researching how to do a Puerto Rico road trip.

Surprisingly, there were no road trip itineraries out there for Puerto Rico – most people tend to stay in San Juan and maybe do a couple of day trips. But after spending time in San Juan and all over the country, let me tell you: a Puerto Rico road trip is the way to go.

My mom and I drove all around the island and witnessed the local side of the country at its finest and I wouldn’t have it any other way. For those of you that are interested in seeing what Puerto Rico has to offer outside of San Juan and the beach (I did those as well), follow this perfect Puerto Rico road trip itinerary to see all the amazing places the country has to offer! Note: I always use Expedia for car rentals because it allows me to compare prices everywhere.

The Perfect Puerto Rico Trip Itinerary (7-10 days)

Puerto Rico Road Trip Itinerary Overview

  • Arecibo: 1 night
  • Isabela & Aguadilla: 1 night
  • Mayaguez & Guanica: 1 night
  • Ponce & El Yunque: 2 nights
  • San Juan: 2-3 nights

So you’ve arrived in Puerto Rico and picked up your rental car. Awesome. You’ll probably be a bit tired by the time you finish getting your stuff so I recommend heading directly to your accommodation in Arecibo. The drive should take you 1.5 – 2 hours. You’ll have time at the end of your trip to explore San Juan and surrounds.

Travel tip: A Puerto Rico road trip is not for the faint of heart. Roads get pretty small once you get out of the city, and drivers don’t believe in blinkers, stop signs, or cautious driving in general.


Stop 1: Arecibo

How long to spend in Arecibo: 1 night

On your first day in Puerto Rico, take it easy. You’ll likely be tired by the time you arrive to your accommodation in Arecibo. You’ll have plenty to do on your second day in Arecibo, so spend the evening lounging in a hammock, swimming in a hotel pool, or reading to the sound of coqui frogs. Grab dinner at a nearby restaurant, and head to bed on the earlier side so you can be well-rested for the next day’s worth of exploring.

The next day, I recommend visiting all four three places listed in the section below: La Cueva del Indio, Arecibo Observatory, Cueva Ventana and Cavernas del Rio Camuy (2019 UPDATE: Rio Camuy has been closed since Hurricane Maria hit. No news on when it will be re-opened). Stop for lunch at some point when you’re hungry and once you’re done, make your way over to Aguadilla via Isabela.


Where to Stay in Arecibo


Best Things to Do in Arecibo

La Cueva del Indio

La Cueva del Indio is a somewhat unmonitored cave in Arecibo. It’s pretty rocky and a bit steep to get to the cave’s entrance (wear sturdy shoes!), but once you get to the ladder it’s an easy climb down. The inside is really cool with indigenous carvings and crevices. If you’re claustrophobic or a bit fearful of caves in general, I wouldn’t recommend this place. But if you think you can handle it, it’s really cool. If you continue along the rocks, you’ll recognize the double arches where parts of Pirates of the Caribbean 2 were filmed. It’s a pretty spectacular view.

Note: The parking situation here is a bit sketchy. Apparently, if you park near the beach and do a long walk, you can visit the caves for free. We paid $10 for private parking and one of the security people hung around the cave area to make sure we were okay, so it was worth it in my book. There are a couple of private parking lots, and we just pulled into the first lot we saw. We went around 10 am and had the whole place to ourselves.

Las Cavernas del Rio Camuy

Parque Las Cavernas del Rio Camuy is the other cave I recommend visiting. This cave, unlike the other one,  is set up for tourists, complete with an entrance fee, a trolley ride, and a comprehensive audio guide. My mom loved this one since it included a guided tour, and I have to admit that the stalagmites and stalactites were stunning. We even saw a couple of bats! UPDATE: Rio Camuy has been closed since Hurricane Maria hit. No news on when it will be re-opened.

Arecibo Observatory


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The Arecibo Observatory is home to the world’s largest radio telescope that is used to gather information about the galaxy. If you’re nerdy like me, then this is SO cool to see in real life. There are plenty of exhibits and an informational film that offers historical context and information about who has used the telescope and for what purposes. If you’re at all interested in astronomy, don’t miss this!

Cueva Ventana

Cueva Ventana translates to “window cave” and that’s exactly what it is. It’s a low-key and easy tour through the cave (there are a few steps here and there) and you have the opportunity to see fruit bats, which is pretty cool. The best part of this cave is the stunning landscape view you get at the end. Tours last around 90 minutes and you can see the tour times here. La Cueva del Indio was definitely my favorite of the three, but this one was pretty cool as well.


Drive from Arecibo to Isabela.

It will take you around an hour to get to Isabela directly from Arecibo. If you have some time to spare, consider checking out Guajataca Tunnel, a historic former railroad tunnel that leads up to a nice sandy beach. From there, stop for a quick photo op at the Cara del Indio statue, a giant face carved into a large boulder, before arriving at the charming town of Isabela, where you’ll be spending the night.


Where to Stay in Isabela


Stop 2: Isabela and Aguadilla

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Spend a couple of hours exploring the cute town of Isabela (and maybe even hit the beach, if you’d like!) before heading to Pozo de Jacinto, a part of the beach with blowholes. I loved watching the aggressive waves crashing against the rock formations, although it clearly wasn’t the best place for swimming. Continue your drive along the coast until you hit Playa de Jobos, one of the best spots to learn surfing in Puerto Rico. It was particularly crowded when we arrived (and I was too scared to surf anyway), so we continued to Aguadilla, where we had lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon walking around town and swimming at Crash Boat Beach. That evening, make your way to Rincon, where you’ll spend the night.


Best Things to Do in Isabela and Aguadilla 

Guajataca Tunnel


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Guajataca Tunnel is a historic former railroad tunnel. It was once used to transport sugar cane from nearby farms, connecting Quebradillas and Isabela. Nowadays, you can walk through the tunnel and it leads to an oceanside trail, which eventually takes you to a beautiful, sandy beach.


Pozo de Jacinto and Playa de Jobos

Pozo de Jacinto is a cool part of a beach that has natural blowholes. I’d never seen one before, and I loved watching the aggressive waves crashing against the rock formations, although it clearly wasn’t the best place for swimming. Not far from the blowhole is Playa de Jobos, one of the best spots to learn surfing in Puerto Rico. If you’re at all interested in learning to surf, stop at one of the nearby schools and spend the afternoon taking lessons. You might be surprised by your abilities!

Crash Boat Beach

Crash Boat Beach in Aguadilla was my favorite beach in Puerto Rico: it had just the right number of swimmers and surfers, and had great views of the neighboring town. Not only is parking easily available, but you can also do any number of water activities here such as snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing and more. I highly recommend spending a couple of hours here!


Drive from Aguadilla to Rincon.

It should take you less than an hour to get to Rincon from Crash Boat Beach (less if you’re coming from Aguadilla Pueblo). Rincon is famed for its beaches and surfing, so you have the option of swimming here instead of at Crash Boat if you’d like. Either way, Rincon is a small town, with the center mostly serving as a place to eat and rest your head. Maria’s Beach, Steps Beach, and Sandy Beach are the most popular hangout spots.


Where to Stay in Rincon


Stop 3: Mayaguez and Guanica

Today will be a relaxing beach day. Spend some time in Rincon, then continue down the coast toward Mayaguez, one of the larger towns of Puerto Rico. Considering that it’s a “large” town, it’s actually surprisingly quiet – continuing the trend we encountered on our Puerto Rico road trip. The most happening place was Ricomini Bakery, which I recommend a lunch stop (we shared a steak Cubano, mille-feuille and a guava and cheese roll). After walking around the town and admiring the plazas and artwork, head to Guanica, where you’ll be spending the rest of the afternoon. Spend the day however you please: I recommend a visit to Gilligan’s Island, a combination hike and beach day at Caña Gorda Beach, or some hiking in Bosque Estatal de Guanica. In the evening, you have the option to do a bioluminscent bay tour in the nearby town of La Parguera, but if you’re planning on heading to Vieques, skip it. Spend the night in Guanica.

Best Things to Do in Guanica and Surrounds 


This town is the third largest city in Puerto Rico and considered to be the capital of the West Coast. What makes it so distinct is its colorful, colonial-style buildings, which you can see in Plaza de Colon (in the photo) and Teatro Yaguez, the town theater. It’s easy to see the town in an hour or so – besides the plaza and theatre, don’t miss the Parque de los Proceres (local park) and if zoos are your thing, Mayaguez Zoo, the only zoo on the island. I loved wandering around and seeing all the gorgeous architecture. If you’re hungry, stop by Ricomini Bakery for some delicious baked goods!

Caña Gorda Beach

Caña Gorda Beach is a beautiful public beach with shallow waters. Unlike most beaches in Puerto Rico, which have large surfing waves, this beach is much more tranquil, making it perfect for swimming and water activities. It also has bathroom facilities, rentable chairs and a view of Gilligan’s Island. It’s the perfect place to relax.

Bosque Estatal de Guanica 


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The Bosque Estatal translates to a “dry forest” rather than a rainforest. Although that strikes mental images of a desert landscape with cactuses, Bosque Estatal isn’t like that at all. It’s actually really green, composing of shorter trees, cacti, and other plants that thrive in drier climates. There are also quite a few animals, including birds and reptiles. This forest has nearly a dozen hiking trails, so you can easily spend a few hours or an entire day here depending on what you’d like to do. You can read more information about the different trails and how to get there here. Be sure to bring sunscreen, insect repellent and hiking sandals!

Gilligan’s Island


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Surprise! Gilligan’s Island isn’t just a TV show – it’s a real place and it’s located in Southern Puerto Rico. It’s a small island where people go to swim, kayak, and snorkel. You can take the ferry over (it runs hourly) and it’s a fun and inexpensive day trip. I highly recommend kayaking amongst the mangroves. Just be sure to bring everything you need (including food, water, toilet paper, sunscreen, etc) as there are no facilities on the island.

La Parguera (Optional)

La Parguera is one of three towns in Puerto Rico where you can see a bioluminescent bay. For those of you who are wondering, a bio bay is a body of water where these organisms called dinoflagellates live. When they come in contact with things, they glow. Puerto Rico is home to three bio bays – the one in Vieques is the brightest in the world. IF you can visit Vieques, you should (and skip La Parguera), as the Vieques bay is way brighter. If you can’t fit it in your schedule, opt for the bay in La Parguera.

There are lots of tour options once you arrive to the town itself. The most budget-friendly one is Johnny’s Boats, which takes you on a bay tour in a motorboat. It’s a somewhat quick tour but a great way to see the bay if you’re on a budget. The bio bay is really cool, but just remember that it won’t glow as brightly as the photos you see online. Not even close. But it’s still magical and sparkly. And you can’t capture photos, (unless you have a super-amazing camera), so sit back and enjoy the ride.


Drive from Rincon to Guanica. 

The drive from Rincon to Guanica is pretty short – around an hour and a half, but you should definitely stop along the way. Take a quick break in Mayaguez to walk around perhaps eat lunch. Consider stopping at the Cabo Rojo lighthouse before making your way down to Guanica for a beach and / or hiking day, depending on your interests. I recommend spending the night in Guanica, but if you aren’t up for a beach or hiking day and prefer to do some city exploring instead, continue your drive to Ponce and spend the night there.


Where to Stay in Guanica


Stop 4: Ponce and El Yunque

Wake up early and head directly to Ponce from Guanica – around a 45 minute drive. Spend most of the day exploring Ponce, the second largest city in Puerto Rico. Don’t miss the epic art museum (Museo de Arte de Ponce), the central plaza (Plaza las Delicias) and the colorful former firehouse (Parque de Bombas). Once you’ve gotten your fill of Ponce, drive two hours to your accommodation in / around El Yunque Rainforest, where you’ll be spending the next day.

Best Things to Do in Ponce

Museo de Arte de Ponce


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Museo de Arte de Ponce is one of the best art museums in the Caribbean, where you can easily spend several hours enjoying the various exhibits. The collection has more than 5,000 works of art from various cultures so if you’re at all interested in art, don’t miss it.

Parque de Bombas


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The Parque de Bombas is said to be Puerto Rico’s most photographed building, and that doesn’t surprise me one bit: the red-and-black-striped exterior is a real eye catcher. Nowadays, the Parque de Bombas is a tourist information center, but it was once home to Ponce’s volunteer firefighters. It’s well-worth taking a look and getting some local information while you’re at it.

Hacienda Buena Vista 

Not only is Hacienda Buena Vista one of the best places to learn about the cultivation of coffee, but it’s also one of the best preserved plantations in the country. Puerto Rican coffee is delicious and the entire process of growing and distributing coffee is fascinating (and takes WAY longer than you’d expect). It’s well-worth a visit if you’re at all interested in learning about coffee. At the very least, purchase a few bags to take home!


Drive from Ponce to El Yunque. 

You’ll want to spend as much time as possible in the El Yunque Rainforest the next day, so I highly recommend staying in a hotel in the area the evening before. If you really aren’t up for the two-hour drive, you can stay in Ponce and head to El Yunque early the next morning. My number one pick for accommodation in El Yunque is Casa Flamboyant, hands-down the BEST accommodation I’ve ever stayed in anywhere. It has a stunning location inside the rainforest, hiking trails to several private waterfalls, all-natural water throughout the property, and incredible hospitality. I’ve also included a few other options below.


Where to Stay in El Yunque


Stop 5: El Yunque Rainforest

Wake up early so you can spend as much time hiking through El Yunque Rainforest. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the United States. It has multiple beautiful paths and hiking trails, all sorts of flora and fauna, coqui frogs, and quite a number of rivers and waterfalls. So even if you don’t end up staying at Casa Flamboyant, you can still experience the joy of swimming under a waterfall – although you’ll have to share this experience with other tourists. The best part is that the trails in El Yunque are well-paved, which makes for fairly easy hiking.

Because El Yunque is so large, it’s really easy to miss some of the cooler spots in it, especially if you’re pressed for time. I really wish I’d spent more time here or went on a guided tour to really take full advantage of it. If you’re pressed for time like I was, definitely consider doing a “local’s tour” or doing a combination El Yunque / Bioluminescent tour instead! Spend an additional night at your El Yunque accommodation.

Why stay at Casa Flamboyant

Note: This stay wasn’t sponsored or anything but it’s seriously been my favorite accommodation to date – and I’ve traveled a LOT. Paradise does not even begin to describe the beauty that is Casa Flamboyant. We had a private terrace and our own view of a waterfall. All the water that runs through the property is natural and pure, straight from the forest. What’s more, everything we could possibly want or need is included in the room: tons of towels, earplugs, a fridge, a hairdryer and more. And in the house: more towels, walking sticks, ponchos, and DVDs. The property itself has a pool (with natural water) overlooking the rainforest AND two trails that lead to private waterfalls. Oh yeah, and Ricky (the co-owner) even emailed me asking if we had any dietary preferences for breakfast beforehand. Did I mention breakfast included organic fruit from their garden and local farms? This was hands down the best place I’ve ever stayed at during ALL my travels. If you ever come to Puerto Rico, or do your own Puerto Rico road trip, splurge on at least one night here! Book it on

Now that I’ve sufficiently gushed over Casa Flamboyant, I’ll have you know that I did actually visit El Yunque. We spent a few hours hiking a couple of the trails and although we didn’t spot any animals, we saw lots of gorgeous flowers and plants. The views of the greenery were stunning.


Stop 6: San Juan

If you’re really eager (like me), wake up extra early for one final hike – I was determined to hike to one of Casa Flamboyant’s private waterfalls before I left. Even though Florin had instructed me the day before, we forgot to bring walking sticks with us. This resulted in some unpleasant slipping and sliding through the mud, but we eventually made it to the empty waterfall. It was totally worth it! We were greeted back at the bed and breakfast with a delicious home-made breakfast (locally sourced fresh fruit, French toast topped with strawberries, fresh cream, mango infused syrup and nutmeg. SO GOOD). Once we were done and all packed, we made our way to San Juan.

If you’d prefer not to do any early morning hiking, that’s fine – have a leisurely breakfast and do the final drive of your trip to your hotel in San Juan.

Technically, this is the end of your Puerto Rico road trip. I highly recommend spending the rest of the day exploring Old San Juan and doing a round-trip Vieques bioluminescent bay tour if you’re short on time. 

What to do in San Juan and the area depends on how much time you have left in Puerto Rico. If you only have a couple of days left, spend them exploring San Juan and doing a round-trip, same-day tour to Vieques. There aren’t many tour options that will take you from San Juan to Vieques for a bioluminescent bay tour and back the same day because it takes 2 hours+ to get to the island. I recommend this one, which includes a sunset boat ride as well. In my opinion, this is the best option so you don’t have to lug your stuff to Vieques for a couple of days then go back to San Juan.

If you have a few more days in San Juan and want to stay in Vieques overnight to do a bioluminescent bay tour, consider booking this one. You have to book your accommodation and transportation separately.

Best Things to Do in Old San Juan

We spent the majority of our time in Old San Juan wandering the streets and admiring the architecture. We saw Campo del Morro Fortress, San Cristobal Fortress, La Fortaleza, Plaza de Armas, the San Juan Cathedral and strolled through Paseo de la Princesa. Again, it’s really small, so I’d say the best thing to do is to just wander. There’s nothing like colored buildings and charming streets to inspire you. Another option (for better historical context) is to consider doing a walking tour to get a taste of the city from a local. There’s also a free trolley that takes tourists around if you aren’t up for walking.

Free Walking Tour in Old San Juan

Looking for the best things to do in Puerto Rico for your first visit? After doing a road trip around the island, I've compiled the best of what the country has to offer in this post! |
Colors of San Juan!

One of my favorite ways to orient myself in a new city is by taking a walking tour and nowadays, many cities offer free (tip-based) ones. In two hours, you get a great introduction to the city – including the must-see sights and plenty of history. This walking tour is definitely one of the best free things to do in Puerto Rico! Psst: if you’d rather do a tour led by a local writer, consider doing this walking tour instead.

Castillo San Cristobal

As the biggest European fort in the Americas, Castillo San Cristobal is a pretty awesome place to visit, covering 27 acres in San Juan. Plus it has an incredibly cool dungeon. Although it’s not as impressive as San Felipe del Morro, you’ll get great views, plenty of photo ops, and a dose of history.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Castillo San Felipe del Morro is far more popular than its counterpart and one of the top things to do in San Juan. If you spend just one day in San Juan, this fort is not to be missed, thanks to stunningly impressive architecture, historical cannons, cliffside views, and plenty of history.

Condado Beach, Ocean Park Beach, and Pine Grove Beach

If you’re in Puerto Rico, chances are you’re familiar with the top beaches in San Juan. After all, you can’t visit San Juan without spending some time getting your tan on. Condado Beach is probably the most popular due to its proximity to Old San Juan (and most hotels) -plus, you can rent chairs and umbrellas. Ocean Park Beach is a bit on the smaller side comparatively, but still a good option. Just 15 minutes by car from San Juan is Pine Grove Beach, which is usually a lot less crowded. There’s also the added bonus of being able to take surf lessons from the nearby school. Either way, you can’t go wrong with any of San Juan’s beaches.

Eat your way through San Juan on a food tour

Looking for the best things to do in Puerto Rico for your first visit? After doing a road trip around the island, I've compiled the best of what the country has to offer in this post! |
Mofongo and steak!

It’s no secret that food tours are my favorite way to get to know a new culture. What better way to learn about a new place than by eating like locals do? On this food tour through Old San Juan, you’ll sample some of the island’s best food – and Puerto Rican food is delicious (how I miss mofongo!). I always recommend doing food tours at the beginning of a trip so you can get excellent foodie recommendations from the guide for the rest of the time #priorities. P.S. Speaking of good food, I highly recommend dinner at Jose Enrique in Santurce. There will be a wait, but the food is spectacular.

Read more awesome things to do in San Juan and beyond here.


Where to Stay in San Juan

What to Pack for Puerto Rico

  • Backpack OR Suitcase: The Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack is hands down the best backpack I’ve ever used for travel. Not only is it carry-on sized, but it’s also incredibly comfortable and easy to carry, even for a small-framed person like me. It has tons of pockets and compartments for organization, lockable zippers, and it’s weather resistant. If you don’t think you can handle packing in a carry-on, the Osprey Fairview 70 Backpack is just as comfortable but a lot larger. When I don’t bring my backpack, I use my Samsonite bag. I used to always buy inexpensive suitcases to save money but most of them didn’t survive longer than a few trips. This suitcase has been adventuring with me for several years and it still looks new. It’s definitely a worthy investment!
  • Daypack: For days where I’m out all day, I always carry a daypack. This daypack is great because it’s durable, water-resistant, has several organizational pockets, and folds into a tiny pouch.
  • Locking Purse: Puerto Rico is safe, but I’d rather be safe than sorry, which is why I bring this handy lockable purse with me everywhere I travel. Is it the most stylish purse I’ve ever owned? No. Does it keep me from worrying about pickpockets? Absolutely. Plus, it’s surprisingly roomy – I keep my water bottle, camera, wallet, and other stuff in there and they fit no problem. If a smaller purse is what you’re after, check out this one or this one.
  • Basic temperature regulating t-shirt: No matter what the season (Puerto Rico is hot all year), you’ll want at least one basic temperature regulating shirt, like this one. This T is specially made to be moisture-wicking, anti-odor, and offer SPF protection. Plus, it doesn’t look like an exercise top but still offers a lot of the benefits of high-performance clothing. It’s cute enough to be dressed up with a cardigan or nice scarf. If you decide you love these shirts and want more, try this one.
  • Lightweight bottoms: If you’re visiting Puerto Rico, you’ll want loose and lightweight everything, including pants. I’m a fan of this particular style but anything lightweight will do. Same goes for skirts.
  • Dresses: Puerto Rico is super down-to-earth with warm, beach weather to match. I packed lightweight dresses for days and evenings in the city. Just 2-3 will do, as you’ll want to bring other clothing for any outdoor activities you do, like hiking.
  • Workout / Hiking clothing: Planning on visiting the El Yunque Rainforest or hiking in general? You’ll want comfy workout pants for that. I’m obsessed with this pair because they’re great for outdoor activities without looking like workout pants. I always bring this workout bra because it keeps moisture and smells away. Same goes for this underwear (plus, it dries quickly for easy washing). You can easily pair workout pants with one of the temperature-regulating tops I included above.
  • Secret pocket scarf: One of my favorite minimalist hacks for travel is to bring several scarves and several basic shirts and mixing and matching them to make it look like a whole new outfit. Cool trick, right? My favorite scarf to pack for every trip is this secret pocket scarf. It’s cute and functional and has the added bonus of having a hidden pocket, where you can keep your passport, some money, or any other valuable you’re worried about.
  • Swimwear: You’ll likely be spending a fair amount of time at the beach in Puerto Rico (duh, right?), so don’t forget to pack a swimsuit, cover-up, sun hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and beach sandals.
  • Sunscreen: For everyday use, I use Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen because my skin is prone to acne. The original Neutrogena sunscreen is just as good if acne is a non-issue. Neither will leave your skin feeling gross and greasy. For the rest of me, I use the solid body stick, which works well. My friends who dive told me that the chemicals in sunscreen are really bad for the ocean though, so if you’re going swimming, they recommend All Good Sunscreen, which is safe for reefs and the planet. The more you know!
  • Insect repellent: You’ll definitely want insect repellent in Puerto Rico, especially if you’re prone to bug bites. This insect repellent specifically was voted number one in consumer tests and I can vouch for that fact that I’ve gotten fewer bites using it. Plus, you can use it on your clothes and your skin and it doesn’t make you feel or smell gross!
  • Chafing gel: The only time I ever wish for a thigh gap is when it’s hot and I’m wearing a skirt or dress. Chub rub, that uncomfortable rawness you get between your thighs from them rubbing together, is very real, especially when it’s hot out. I use this anti-chafing balm whenever I visit hot destinations, and my only disappointment is how long it took me to figure out that it’s a thing that exists.
  • Moisture-wicking socks: These moisture-wicking socks are perfect for all-day wear without smelly or sweaty feet. Just a couple of pairs will do.
  • Sandals: I love these Keen sandals because they’re cute and super comfortable to walk in all day. I bring them with me everywhere and they haven’t failed me yet. If you prefer hiking sandals, I’ve used these in Costa Rica and they’re perfect for the great outdoors.
  • All-purpose sneakers: Last year, a friend of mine introduced me to Allbirds, these awesome wool sneakers that don’t make your feet sweat (even if you wear them without socks). Then I found out they’re made of Merino Wool, which explains the magic behind them. They’re cute, they’re functional, and they’re comfy AF. You can wear them to hike up a mountain or to explore a new city. They’re my go-to travel shoes and if they get dirty, I can throw them in the wash.
  • Travel Insurance: Yes, you need travel insurance for if things (hopefully don’t but often do) go wrong. I’ve been sick, needed stitches, crashed a rental car, had cash stolen and have dealt with luggage delays. Let’s just say I’ve learned my lesson about travel insurance the hard way. My go-to insurance is World Nomads because they’re awesome. Be sure to check out the different plan options to pick one that’s right for you!
  • Travel First Aid Kit: I love that this travel first aid kit is small enough to stick in your bag but still has tons of items in it. I’d remove the scissors if you aren’t planning to check your luggage, but otherwise, this is incredibly handy, especially if you’re going to be doing outdoorsy things.
  • Travel Camera(s): I know all the cool kids are about that #iPhoneOnly life, but I still like taking photos with a camera. Does that make me old? Whatever, I’m embracing it. Anyway, for adventure footage and photos, the latest GoPro is seriously the best. It’s waterproof, image stabilizing, and a bunch of other cool features. If you’re looking for a nice digital camera that doesn’t involve complicated lenses, I personally use the Sony RX100 II, which I’m obsessed with. This is the older model (I think they’re on the 6 now) but it works great. The Carl Zeiss lens helps take spectacular, high-quality photos but the camera is small enough to fit in a purse. I also bring my Instax Mini 9 with me cause I’m extra like that, but I also understand that most normal people don’t travel with three cameras.
  • Kindle: Confession: I’m low-key a book fiend and chances are high that I’m currently in the middle of reading something. As a traveler, I don’t have the luxury of taking up precious space in my suitcase with a book or three. I was uncertain about buying a Kindle initially, but it’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. Not only can you keep guidebooks on there, but it’s also nice to be able to read at your leisure on those long distance trips or at the beach. This particular Kindle magically blocks sun glare somehow (sorcery, I tell you!), which is why I prefer it to reading on a tablet.
  • Headphones: There are a lot of things that suck about planes, but bad headphones don’t have to be one of them. The small Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones do a pretty good job of blocking ambient sound on airplanes (and everywhere else). They’re small and they’re wired, making them much more practical for travel than the bulky over-ear headphones.
  • Insulated water bottle and water purifier or water purifying bottle: I always bring a water bottle with me when I travel because single-use plastic sucks for the planet and buying lots of bottled water is expensive and inconvenient. You can drink the tap water in Puerto Rico, but some travelers have gotten diarrhea from it. To combat this, I bring along a Steripen, a UV water purifier that gets rid of 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa and use it in combination with my CamelBak Insulated Water Bottle. This bottle is particularly awesome because it holds 20 oz and keeps water cold, which you’ll want in a hot country like Puerto Rico. If you’d rather purchase an all-in-one solution, Grayl’s water filtering bottle is a great alternative so you can fill directly from the tap and drink almost immediately.
  • Microfiber towel: Pretty much all hotels will have towels for use on hand, but I find that it’s always nice to have a towel I can use when I travel, whether I’m on the beach, at an impromptu picnic, or just a bit chilly. This Wise Owl Camping Towel dries super quickly, takes up almost no room and comes with a bonus face/hand towel for hikes and outdoor activities. I always bring it with me when I travel, and almost always use it.
  • Travel clothesline: This travel clothesline has been my lifesaver when I’ve hand-washed clothing or have a wet swimsuit or towel that I need to dry. It may not be worth the hassle to do laundry if you have just a few things to wash or are moving through cities quickly. The clothesline is more a nice to have rather than a must-have depending on your travel style.


Safety in Puerto Rico: Is Puerto Rico Safe?

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico hard in 2017 and some parts of the island are still recovering. I get that most people are concerned about safety in Puerto Rico, but don’t be: Puerto Rico is safer than most U.S. cities! My mom and I traveled together all over the island on a road trip and never once questioned our safety on the road. The only thing you should be wary of in Puerto Rico is petty theft (namely, pickpocketing) in some parts of San Juan. I combat pickpocketing by carrying my valuables in a lockable purse and secret pocket scarf and have never had issues! Again, just be street smart like you would in any other city and get travel insurance and you should be fine!


Currency, Language, and Passport

As an American, one of the coolest things about visiting Puerto Rico is feeling like you’re being transported to a totally different culture while still technically being in the United States. That means no passport needed and no currency exchange needed either – Puerto Rico uses US Dollars and ATMs are widely available across the island.

Although Spanish and English are both official languages of the island, Spanish is definitely the dominant one, especially outside of the more touristy parts. Brush up on a few basic Spanish phrases and you should be solid for your travels.


Transportation in Puerto Rico

If you have a rental car like we did, you should have no issues getting around Puerto Rico, especially outside of San Juan. Within San Juan, you can easily get around by foot, bike and Uber (better than taxis so you don’t have to worry about getting ripped off).


If you’re looking to explore Puerto Rico outside of the usual tourist path, a Puerto Rico road trip is for you. Although Puerto Rico wasn’t my favorite country in all my travels, it was an excellent place to spend a relaxing week. Whether you like beaches, nature, or adventure travel, Puerto Rico certainly has something for you.

Get inspired by all the amazing things to do in Puerto Rico below!


More Puerto Rico Resources

Planning a trip to Puerto Rico soon? Check out ALL my posts on Puerto Rico below:


Have you ever been on a Puerto Rico road trip? Which cities are your favorite? Share in the comments below!


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33 thoughts on “The PERFECT Puerto Rico Road Trip Itinerary: One Week in Puerto Rico

  1. Jennifer Morrow says:

    Puerto Rico is amazing! So glad to were able to see so much of the island. Come back for another visit to check out Ponce, Fajardo, and more beaches!

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      I agree! I definitely want to come back and spend more time exploring the eastern side :).

  2. Grassroots Nomad says:

    Gorgeous! I especially like the La Cueva del Indio carvings. I haven’t been to PR yet, but hopefully one day soon!!

  3. Kerri McConnel says:

    Looks fabulous. Costa Rica and Puerto Rico are two places that I really want to get to. I think I would definitely love to stay at Casa Flamboyant. Just my style of place. The food looks great too, which I was pleased to see as a friend led me to believe otherwsise.

    • Sally E says:

      Funnily enough I went to both Costa Rica AND Puerto Rico in April (for the first time). You would love Casa Flamboyant! It’s basically paradise :). The good food is a bit challenging to find but once you find it’s amazing! I hope you get a chance to visit both countries soon 🙂

  4. Nina says:

    Wow, your trip looks amazing! I have never been to this part of the world but if I went, would totally go for off the beaten paths! Itinerary looks great and the beaches are so stunning!

    • Sally E says:

      Thank you! This is the first time I straight up skipped over the touristy places and went straight for the local places and I would definitely do it again! I hope you get a chance to visit one day 🙂

  5. Megan Indoe says:

    OMG a $100 flash sale!!!! I need to be watching out for these! What an amazing trip and beautiful photos! I really want to visit Puerto Rico!!! Thanks for sharing!

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Yes! I have a love-hate relationship with Spirit but when they do their 99% off sale (subscribe to the emails!) it’s hard to say no. And thank you, I had a great time. I hope you get a chance to go soon!

  6. Vyjay Rao says:

    That’s a nice trip and you have been able to pack a lot in, my favourite here would be La Cueva del Indio, and the rain forests, would love to visit them. Great pics too.

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Thanks! Yes it’s honestly SUCH a great place to visit and I was obsessed with the caves – they made me feel a bit like Indian Jones :). I hope you get a chance to visit one day!

  7. Hung Thai says:

    What an awesome itinerary you’ve built here. I actually like to spend half/half touristy stuff and off-beaten path stuff so this will nicely compliment each other. I keep putting Puerto Rico off (mainly because Alaska doesn’t fly down there directly and I hate connecting flights) but I’ll keep looking for deals down there.

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Thank you! I find that oftentimes when I’m short on time I mostly end up in touristy places so I’m glad I was able to get more local flavor this time around. Yeahhhh connecting flights can be a huge pain but the flight deal made it worth it :). Definitely keep a look out for them!

  8. Cassie @ Cass Travels says:

    Looks like a fantastic trip and great itinerary. I love getting off the tourist track when I travel. The one thing I LOVED in PR was the bioluminescent bay – touristy but worth a look!!

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Thank you! And yes me too although I feel like I don’t do it enough! I want to go back and see the bay in Vieques because I hear it is STUNNING. But even the one in Parguera was pretty cool as well :).

  9. Izzy Pulido says:

    OMG, YOU ARE SUCH A KIND DAUGHTER!!! Your first mother-and-daughter trip is a major milestone and will be one you talk about in years to come. My mom is my favorite travel partner. Maybe I’ll think of Puerto Rico for us one day. Currently hoping to take her to Cuba next year but that’s just a dream at htis point. My cousin did a spontaneous trip to PR with no expectations and she absolutely LOVED it! The caves in Arecibo look stunning! Im a rea sucker for indian jones moments 😛

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Thank you :). She has been raving about Casa Flamboyant since we stayed there so I think I wowed her for our first trip! Cuba would be AMAZING! I haven’t been yet but it has been high on my bucket list foreverrrr. I hope you get a chance to go with your mom!
      Haha yeah I felt like a bit of a bad-ass down in the cave, not going to lie :p

  10. Bailey K. says:

    Great itinerary. I basically did pretty much the same things you did while I was in Puerto Rico! I loved El Yunque and want to go again so badly! I loved all the waterfalls we got to see.

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Thank you! Most people tend to stick to the east side but that’s awesome that you did a road trip as well! So much great nature both in El Yunque and beyond 🙂

  11. Shayan Naveed says:

    Looks like you did it all! So lucky to get a deal like that and good thing you took advantage of it.
    The place this place and every single thing you did. Good you got off the tourist spots as well. Definitely giving me wanderlust to go here. Perhaps I switch my Iceland trip to Puerto Rico. Feel like it has more to offer.

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Yes I was really lucky I got a deal and I had a great time exploring outside of the tourist spots! I’ve never been to Iceland so I can’t speak to that but maybe you should consider Puerto Rico for your next trip 🙂

  12. Soraya @ Hello Raya says:

    Your post has made me want to travel to Puerto Rico! It looks amazing. I loved your photos. You’ve given some great tips – I love the one where you say to keep a good attitude while driving. Haha I know I can get a bit stressed when driving in a foreign country, but I guess that’s the whole fun of the experience. Such a wonderful post!

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Thank you! I hope you get a chance to go sometime soon! It’s definitely a bit of a challenge not to get frustrated with driving but the only way to get through it is laugh about it, right? :). Thanks for reading and commenting!

  13. Kate Carter Hickey says:

    I absolutely love how food-centric this post was! After such a delicious looking (and sounding) dinner the first night (seriously – I’m currently salivating at work). I always feel SO guilty for getting Western (well…American franchise) food when traveling. You’re so right. I actually went to the area in your first picture when I was 8 or 9. I wonder if I looked that small from a bird’s eye view!

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Thank you! Food is such an important part of traveling for me and I’m glad you feel the same way! I was SO ashamed to have eaten western food twice in one day but it was a very dire #hangry situation hahah.
      That’s awesome! It’s such a pretty area of Puerto Rico! You were probably tiny lol

  14. Suze @LuxuryColumnist says:

    Ooh I love a good road trip and how amazing that you actually got to stay inside the rainforest!

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      I used to really dislike road trips surprisingly, but I’m finding them to be the best way to experience hidden local gems! And yes I LOVED Casa Flamboyant! I highly recommend it if you find yourself in Puerto Rico 🙂

  15. Planes & Champagne says:

    i visited Puerto Rico 5 years ago and reading your post brought back such incredible memories! And how lovely that you did a road trip to capture the island in all it’s glory!

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      That’s awesome that you got a chance to visit! i’m so glad I went and did a road trip – I would have never visited if it weren’t for that flight deal, but I ended up loving it. It’s such an amazing place – I hope we both get to go back again someday!

  16. Natalie V. says:

    My husband is running a marathon series in San Juan in late summer, so we’re just starting to plan our approach to our Puerto Rico trip. We’ve been tossing around the idea of a road trip around the island–I’ve been to San Juan before, and while it’s wonderful, I want to get out and see the rest of PR, too. You’ve given me SO much to think about as I start planning: the hard part is going to be parsing down exactly what we need to do in the timeline we’ve got planned! Also, we will be traveling with our (very adventurous) 4 year old and our infant (who basically just goes along for the ride)–are there any places that you visited that you definitely wouldn’t recommend going with little kids?

    • Sally from Passport & Plates says:

      Hi Natalie! Thanks for reading this post. I’m glad you found it useful! My mom and I sort of played it by ear without much research, but I think most places would be pretty child friendly for the most part. I’d skip the first cave (La Cueva del Indio) as it’s a bit precarious for small children. Also, Day 5 was mostly a relaxing and walking around day, so if you’d prefer something a bit more exciting, then I’d skip that as well. Otherwise, everything else should be good for little kids! I hope you have an AMAZING trip 🙂

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