Puerto Rico is a pearl of an island in the Caribbean. If you want to spend an inordinate amount of time relaxing and enjoying a unique island - it’s technically part of the US - Puerto Rico is your answer. Go for the surf, go for the culture, go for an escape, but just make sure you go. Puerto Rico’s wondrous sights and places can barely be reduced to a five-day itinerary but we’ve tried our best to do just that. Including a day of visiting a surf-town, checking out a national park, and simmering yourself into the local culture, we’ve also included two days in the capital, San Juan. This itinerary is more for those on a strict timeline rather than people who want to spend a while at each of these locations, which is definitely recommended.
Day 1: San Juan
Puerto Rico’s capital shines and shimmers with culture. The weather year-round is gorgeous, allowing visitors to spend their entire time here at the beach, if they choose to. Most people who visit San Juan do just this, and who’s to blame them! The days can get unbearably hot and if you’re on vacation, there’s sometimes nothing better to do than just lie down, drink in hand and empty your head of all thoughts. The downtown of the city makes for a great evening walk-around as the sun sets. The street-lights come on, illuminating Old San Juan, the downtown area, and its historic buildings. Home to many of the galleries, museums, restaurants and what makes San Jose unique, a day spent in this part of town away from the beach is recommended. There’s a lot to do here but most importantly, check out the San Juan National Historic Site.
Day 2: Ponce
A drive from San Juan to Ponce takes less than two hours. Going along the coast for some of it, you can cut inland and drive through the villages that make up the hidden parts of Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico’s second-largest city, Ponce is known to be San Juan’s laid-back relative. The atmosphere is calm and relaxed, an opposite of the hustle and bustle of San Juan’s energy. Ponce has a lot of activities, sights and beaches to visit, but the beauty of the city lies in its unknown. Ponce has the ability to surprise tourists with unique opportunities. There are several recommended sights, from the Parque de Bombas to the ceremonial center of the indigenous tribes. Walk around the city, it’s relatively safe, even at night, and see what comes up and don’t be surprised if you end up having the best time diverting from the itinerary of the usual tourist sights.
Day 3: Rincón
Regarded as the surfing capital of the Caribbean, Rincón is at once one of the most beautiful and perplexing towns in Puerto Rico. Despite its appearance as a party-hard, energetic town, the facade drops away as soon as the sun sets. Surfing is taken religiously here with most of the town’s inhabitants, foreign or local, spending their entire day out on the waters or on the beach. Up at the crack of dawn and in bed an hour or two after sunset, this may be one of the most relaxed and sleepy towns you’ll come across - but with the best surf and beaches.
Day 4: El Yunque National Forest
Located less than an hour outside of San Juan, this beautiful bit of nature is a welcome break from the city-life of Puerto Rico. With over 240 series of trees and plants - 26 of which are found nowhere else - this national park is also free to enter! Pack yourself a lunch, some snacks and have enough water prepared as you venture through the park. Go on any one of the numerous trails that criss-cross El Yunque and be amazed at the iguanas, trees and birds that call this forest home. Guided tours by donation are also welcome. Tip: You cannot stay overnight in this forest, but a lot of guesthouses are located on the outskirts of the park.
Day 5: San Juan
If you spent your first day in San Juan on the beach, this last and fifth day should be spent exploring all that the city has to offer, and vice versa. Like we mentioned before, San Juan has a lot to offer as it’s the bustling, energetic city of Puerto Rico and your entry and exit point to the country.
Take a break in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is unofficially the 51st state of the US and for citizens of the country, it’s a cheap, easy flight, and visa-free as well. You’ll come across many Americans who have immigrated to Puerto Rico for the “worry-free easy life” and the Caribbean weather. Spending even a few days here will show you just why. Puerto Rico is an underrated part of the Caribbean but hopefully not for much longer.
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