If you only have 5 days to spend in Puerto Rico, you need to make the most of your time. Two adventurous friends and I planned this day-by-day trip and found it was just what we needed to get away from a seemingly never-ending Midwest winter. We chose to spend the first two nights in San Juan with the help of the wonderful hosts of Airbnb, one night in the tranquil El Yunque Rainforest at El Hotelito, and one night on Culebra Island in a Vacation Villa on Flamenco Beach. Feel free to add or take away anything to make this trip your own.
Fly into San Juan, plan to rent an off-road vehicle when you arrive or make arrangements to have one before you leave for your stay in El Yunque Rainforest. Roads in Old San Juan are narrow, but traveling elsewhere on highways is a breeze. Make sure to check with your accommodations ahead of time to arrange for parking if needed.
Spend day one day walking around Old San Juan and exploring the attractions at the San Juan National Historic Site. The San Juan National Historic Site will take you back five hundred years while you walk through Castillo San Cristóbal, Castillo San Felipe del Morro, Fortín San Juan de la Cruz and the City Walls of San Juan. Bring your camera for some great photo opportunities and make sure to fly a kite in the ocean breeze in El Morro Park.
After the historical sites, enjoy the city of Old San Juan with the architectural character of New Orleans mixed with a Caribbean flare. Shop local artist boutiques. Eat at small quaint restaurants that offer everything from Americanized dishes to ceviche and scallops served with rice and beans, topped off with fried plantains. Wander around and see where the city guides you.
Wake up and seek out some Puerto Rican coffee, fresh squeezed juices, eggs, and french toast. Check out the farmers market at the courtyard of Museo de San Juan on Saturday morning if your schedule permits. Take the day to rent paddle boards along Laguna del Condado for a few hours, relax at Condado Beach and walk to local tourist shops, or head to the more secluded Sandy Beach to enjoy the sound of the waves and take a surf lesson.
Wake up and prepare yourself for a trip to El Yunque Rainforest with the off-road vehicle you rented earlier, roads are rocky. Leave early and take time to visit La Coca Falls and hike 25 minutes to the La Mina waterfall where you can take a dip. There’s a variety of eco hotels in or close to the rainforest that operate like a tropical bed and breakfast with great food and wonderful company. Enjoy being completely off the grid, as it’s likely your cell phone won’t work in this secluded locale.
From the rainforest take a quick trip to the small town of Fajardo. For $5.00 round-trip, you can catch a 45-minute ferry to spend the next 24 hours at La Culebra Island. Make sure to get your ticket and to rent a Jeep or off-road golf cart for the Island ahead of time.
On La Culebra you can rent snorkel gear from the local gift shop and explore different beaches along the coast. Swim with sea turtles, admire the local coral, and gaze at tropical fish. Spend time at Flamenco Beach, ranked by Tripadvisor 2016, Travelers Choice as the sixth most beautiful beach in the world. Splurge at the local donut shop for a snack, lunch at Zaco’s Tacos, and have dinner by the water with fresh fish and cocktails at Dinghy Dock.
Catch the morning ferry back to Fajardo. If you have time, plan on sightseeing along the way back to San Juan before your flight leaves in the afternoon. Stop along Playa Fortuna Beach, check out the Cave at Cueva Maria de La Cruz, or just unwind from the wonderment of your trip on the way back to San Juan. Finally, secretly plan your next trip as you return your vehicle and head to the airport. Happy travels.