5 of the best day trips from San Juan, Puerto Rico

Nov 5, 2023 • 5 min read

day trips out of san juan

Explore more of Puerto Rico with these day trips from San Juan © RandomHartz / Shutterstock

The roads of  Puerto Rico  serve as a stage.

The performers are the rolling hills dotted with little country houses, the wild horses roaming freely through the forests, the fishing villages and beaches with tiny bars by the water. Travelers find these enchanting sights when they dare to venture outside of San Juan  and into the island’s core.

From Salinas and Ponce to Luquillo, experience Puerto Rico's raw beauty and culture with these incredible day trip destinations less than two hours from the capital.

1. Luquillo's beaches are  an easy drive from San Juan

Travel time: 1 hour

Located on the east side of the island, take this pleasant and easy drive from the capital, and Luquillo will soon materialize, tempting you to the shore with its blue-green waters and lines of the tallest palm trees around.

Head to the easily accessible Balneario La Monserrate, also known as Luquillo Beach , if you want serene scenery and soft sand. Drive a little further and stop at La Pared Beach for a more rugged coast, a favorite among surfers who come here to catch the decidedly gnarly waves.

After a day at the beach, just follow the locals, who are inevitably drawn to the local beach-side kiosks to find delicious dishes and cold beer. You'll find many fried staples such as  alcapurrias  (stuffed fritters), as well as other more filling dishes such as roasted pork with rice and beans .

How to get to Luquillo from San Juan: Take PR-66 heading toward Rio Grande and then transfer to PR-3 South. The drive takes about an hour.  Públicos  (public minibuses) run from the Río Piedras terminal in San Juan to Luquillo's central plaza from Monday to Saturday. Trips take from 2½ to 3½ hours, depending on the traffic.

A wooden boardwalk dusted with white sand leads down to a beach where people relax under colorful umbrellas on the island of Culebra, Puerto Rico

2. Experience island life on Culebra and Vieques

Travel time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Simply put, the islands of  Culebra and Vieques are paradise defined, home to swathes of ivory sand lapped by calm, blue ocean and slim dirt roads snaking through dense tropical forests.

Whether you decide to fly or drive and take the ferry, any method of arrival will soon have you swooning over bright white sands like Culebra's Flamenco Beach or Navio in Vieques. But it’s the laid-back, friendly local attitude that will leave the biggest impression on your trip – life is definitely sunnier, saltier, and easier on these welcoming islands.

How to get to Culebra and Vieques from San Juan:  Hop on a 30-minute flight in San Juan, or you can turn it into a road trip by driving to Ceiba and then traveling, like the locals do, via a 90-minute ferry ride . Be sure to get to the terminal early to snag tickets.

3. Explore the coast near the fishing town of Fajardo

Fajardo is a prime spot for tropical escapism. Just one hour from San Juan, the fishing town sports an immaculate stretch of sand called Seven Seas Beach  and some of the best arepas rellenas (white corn pocket bread) on the island.

Head over to the village of Las Croabas for local dishes, drinks and music by the sea. If you're feeling active, rent a kayak or a paddleboard in Seven Seas and explore the peaceful coast. Or hike to to Playa Escondida , a stunning hidden beach with views of Luquillo. Fajardo is also home to El Conquistador Resort  - possibly the biggest and most famous resort on the island - and the pristine isles of Icacos and Palomino, only reachable by boat.

How to get to Fajardo from San Juan:  Head east on the roads out of San Jaun. The drive to Fajardo takes around an hour.

A smoked meat dish accompanied by a bowl of rice and mac and cheese on a wooden table in a busy restaurant

4. Try Puerto Rico's best pork dishes in Guavate

Travel time: 50 minutes

Guavate in the mountain town of Cayey is known as the home of the highly touted spit-roasted suckling pig, a local delicacy. This is not a dish you get at just any restaurant on the island, though, and many locals consider it mandatory to drive to Guavate to eat their way along the suckling pig route. Officially known as La Ruta del Lechón 9 (or Carretera 184), this hilly rural road in the Central Mountains  became an even bigger attraction thanks to visits by celebrity chefs Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern.

Along the route, culinary enthusiasts will find plenty of different lechoneras (restaurants), including  El Nuevo Rancho , El Mojito and Los Pinos . The celebrated roasted pork is usually served with rice, pigeon peas and a savory slice of cuerito  (pork rind) on the side.

How to get to Guavate from San Juan: Follow Expwy 52 to exit 31, halfway between Caguas and Cayey. Turn east onto Hwy 184. The journey takes around 50 minutes. 

A red car drives down a street lined with pastel-colored buildings in the city of Ponce, Puerto Rico

5. Take a scenic drive to Salinas and Ponce

Travel time: 2 hours

The Luis A. Ferré highway is a gorgeous drive that takes you to the south of Puerto Rico by crossing ridge after ridge, and the road itself is elevated enough that you can see the ocean through the mountaintops.

The first stop will be Salinas, known for the food kiosks by the road on Hwy 1 and the ocean-front seafood restaurants on Camino de Playa (or PR-701). Another popular stop is Aguirre, a picturesque 19th-century sugar mill village now partially in ruins. It's home to turn-of-the-century cottages, the island’s oldest golf course and a natural reserve.

Around 40 minutes away, you’ll find the second-largest city in Puerto Rico: Ponce . Dubbed the “Pearl of the South,” Ponce has a little of everything: coffee plantations such as  Buena Vista  and Pomarrosa , paradisaical beaches on nearby islands like Caja de Muertos, and renowned art museums .

The city’s historic town features a number of architectural marvels: the Ponce Creole style, a unique mix of neoclassical and Spanish Creole architectures, can be seen in over 1,000 well-preserved residences all over town. Locals say that “Ponce is Ponce," meaning the city is a class apart. Visitors tend to agree.

How to get to Salinas and Ponce from San Juan:  Salinas and Ponce are about 40 minutes away from each other, and less than 90 minutes from San Juan. First, take the tolled Hwy 52 from San Juan towards Salinas. From there to Ponce, continue on Hwy 52, a partially toll-controlled highway called the Autopista Luis A. Ferré. Driving in central Ponce is not recommended. 

This article was first published July 2017 and updated November 2023

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21 Best Day Trips From San Juan, Puerto Rico (by a local!)

21 Best Day Trips From San Juan, Puerto Rico (by a local!)

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Looking for the best Puerto Rico day trips from San Juan? I’m a professional travel writer born and living on the island — here are my top tips!

I absolutely love San Juan. There’s no place else on earth like it.

But San Juan, as wonderful and vibrant and incomparable as it is, is just one part of a much larger island with so many hidden gems to discover.

For instance, did you know that there are natural swimming pools that are rarely crowded and always cool?

Or that one of longest ziplines in the world can be found here?

Puerto Rico has much to offer beyond San Juan. I recommend you rent a car and explore the island for yourself.

It’s easy to navigate, you can use your US driver’s license, and all the places on this list can be seen in 6 hours or less.

Here are 21 of the best day trips from the city!

RELATED POST: BUCKET LIST AIRBNBS IN PUERTO RICO

1. Tale a rum tour at Ron del Barrilito

Woman holding sipping glass of rum

Puerto Rico is famous for its rums, and Ron del Barrilito is about as local as you can get.

You can visit Hacienda Santa Ana in Bayamon, where the rum is made.

There is a heritage tour available for $25 that includes a walk around the facilities, introduction into the rum distilling process, and classic cocktail prepared on site. The experience lasts 30 minutes.

Tours run 7 days a week and you can book ahead online or at the premises upon arrival. They accept credit cards.

There is also a tasting tour and mixology tour available for $80 per person.

I recommend the tasting tour because you get to try Ron del Barrilito 5-Star, an extremely limited edition that retails at $800/bottle.

2. Make your own candy bar at Montadero Chocolate

Chocolate store with bars on display

You won’t find Godiva or Lindt stores in Puerto Rico, but I have something even better for you.

Montadero Chocolates is one of my favorite local chocolatiers, utilizing 100% Puerto Rican sourced cacao and endemic ingredients like papaya and Caribbean almond.

I went for a chocolate workshop that lasted 2 hours and cost $36. You should book this ahead of time online.

You leave with 3 candy bars that you make yourself and get to pair chocolate with whiskey tasting (or hot chocolate if you’re non-alcoholic).

There is street parking available when you arrive. The store is located in Caguas and the class is led by the owner himself.

3. Try bomba dancing at Taller N’Zambi

Group of dancers on the beach after lesson

Located in Loiza, Taller N’Zambi offers a singular cultural experience.

Learn all about traditional bomba music and dance to the rhythm of live drums on the sand.

You’ll wear a bomba skirt, which is specially made to flow in the wind, and move freely within the safe theatre space Sheila created.

Classes cost $20 and are usually held on weekends. Message Sheila Osorio on Instagram for reservations and updates.

4. See the urban art gallery known as Yaucromatic

Woman standing in front of mural

Puerto Rico is home to 6 macromural projects that take over entire neighborhoods in bursts of color, turning residential houses into an urban canvas.

In doing so, the artwork revitalizes previously undesirable neighborhoods and drives traffic beyond San Juan.

The most famous of all the neighborhoods is located in the city of Yauco and is known as Yaucromatic .

It has been the set of several music videos and is so popular that it’s always packed and actually hard to find parking here.

It’s about an hour and a half drive from San Juan. I recommend going during a weekday when there are less people.

This is a photographer’s dream, so wear solid prints of colors to allow the artwork to stand out.

Note, my picture was taken at the macromural projects of Las Piedras.

For more information on all the projects, visit Pintalto’s Facebook page since they are the organization leading the initiative.

5. Explore El Yunque, the island’s tropical rainforest

Day trips from San Juan Coca Falls El Yunque

El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest registered within the US National Forest System and is a must-see.

To access the rainforest, you need online reservations .

The price is only $2, but that’s not the prohibitive part.

Reservations are notoriously difficult to get as they’ve been limiting the number of cars that can enter.

Book the first of the month for reservations that month — you can only book tickets that same month, no further out.

If you miss your chance to get an advance reservation, more tickets become available the day before, though you have to wake up around 6am and even then aren’t guaranteed to get one.

One new development in 2022 is the reopening of El Portal , the visitor’s center, for the first time since Hurricane Maria in 2018.

Featuring new exhibits made from reclaimed wood and a new introduction video narrated by Benecio del Toro, it’s more than your standard welcome center.

In the rainforest itself, you can’t miss La Coca Falls on the way in for pictures.

Most people are doing the Mt. Britton and El Yunque trails, which will take you to a scenic overlook tower.

RELATED POST: A REVIEW OF EL YUNQUE VIEW TREEHOUSE

6. Age backwards at the Coamo Hot Springs

day trips out of san juan

Rumor has it the Coamo Hot Springs is the original Fountain of Youth and Ponce de Leon had a navigation error, ending up in Florida.

Whether or not that’s true, there’s no denying that if you step into these healing waters, you’ll leave feeling 10 years younger.

Heated by an underground aquifer and reaching up to 115°F, it is the perfect place to soak away your stress and sore muscles.

Best of all? It’s only $5 to enter and there’s free parking on site.

7. Fly up to 90mph on the Toro Verde Zipline

Woman smiling while riding a zipline

Located in Orocovis, the Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park is a complex with three different zipline options.

The most popular is “The Monster,” which is the third-longest zipline in the world, spanning 1.5 miles and reaching speeds of more than 90mph.

You can get a day pass or combination packages to try out the different zipline options. Tickets start at $90.

There’s also an obstacle course on-site used for team building and a setup called Toro Bikes where you can ride a bike between tightlines.

It’s worth spending the day here and planning to eat at their restaurant since the drive takes you on windy mountain roads.

From San Juan it’s about an hour and 15 minute drive. Give yourself plenty of daylight to drive back after.

RELATED POST: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE TORO VERDO ZIPLINE

8. Make your own cheese at Vaca Negra

day trips out of san juan

You can make your own cheese wheel at Vaca Negra in Hatillo.

It’s $145 for 2 people and should be reserved online ahead of time.

Your cheese takes 2 months to age, then they mail it to you.

This is also a great road trip stop on weekends when they have their D’ La Ubre (from the utter) brunch menu, with cheesy classics like eggs Benedict and a croque madame.

Reservations are highly recommend for brunch. They also have a Colombian tacos food truck out front if you stop by outside of the restaurant’s working hours.

There is a shop on site — stock up on artisanal cheeses, yogurts, and butter.

9. Take a farm tour of Frutos del Guacabo

Man holding tray of peppers stuffed with goat cheese

Featured in Down to Earth by Zac Efron, this farm is changing the way Puerto Ricans eat.

You can tour the premises and see the unique produce they’re growing.

They also prepare specialty lunches and dinners for groups of 6 or more.

One experience on the farm you won’t soon forget is milking a goat, and then drinking the milk straight after!

There is a small shop where you can buy items like homemade hot sauce, honey, and yucca flour.

Call ahead for reservations, 787-242-7423.

10. See Taino petroglyphs at Cueva del Indio

Day trips from San Juan

This famous cave has been in movies and is the site of the most Taino Indian petroglyphs on the coastline.

Its massive rock formations and turquoise blue waters are absolutely jaw dropping.

There is an area that used to have a ladder where you could climb down into but the ladder has since been removed — exercise caution when climbing in and around the rocks.

The drive is about an hour from San Juan and worth if for the photo and drone opportunities.

Parking costs $10 and is privately run.

RELATED POST: SEE TAINO INDIAN PETROGLYPHICS AT THIS FAMOUS CAVE

11. Admire panoramic views at Cueva Ventana

Panoramic cave opening overlooking fields

There are so many caves in Puerto Rico that they’re still being discovered.

Cueva Ventana is a recent find, and lucky for us.

This is one of the most scenic views on the island, overlooking endless miles of lush green land and the Rio Grande.

This cave is made of limestone and is home to quit a few family of bats. On you’re walking tour, you’ll have special red lights on your helmet so as not to disturb them.

While a little out of the way, Cueva Ventana has quickly become one of Puerto Rico’s most famous attractions.

Tickets are $20 for non-residents and you can buy tickets on site.

It is about an hour’s drive from San Juan. They’re open 7 days a week.

RELATED POST: HOW TO VISIT CUEVA VENTANA IN PUERTO RICO

12. Visit a lechonera on the Guavate pork trail

Outdoor seating along the lechon trail

Vegans and vegetarians, I’m sorry! Puerto Rico loves pork. (But also, check out El Grifo if you are vegan, we’re making strides).

If you’re a fan of pork, head to the mountain city of  Guavate where you’ll find an entire pork trail.

There are dozens of kiosks and restaurants with pigs roasting on the grill, called lechoneras .

This is a perfect place to stop for lunch or an early dinner on the weekends, usually with live music to boot.

Check out Lechonera Los Amigos  and Lechonera El Rancho Original , two popular spots.

13. Take a dip in El Charco Azul

Blue water bond surrounded by swirling rock walls

Full disclosure — there’s more than one “Charco Azul” on the island.

I’m not surprised seeing as how the name translates to “blue water hole.”

Still, whether it’s the name, the bright blue hues or the off the beaten path allure, charco azuls are all the rage right now in Puerto Rico.

I went to the one in Vega Baja, on the north side of the island, that is part of the Cuevas Arenalas.

There’s another in Carite Forest towards the southeast part of the island.

The hike to reach the swimming hole was moderately challenging, with some crossing of a river required so if you’re with kids or carrying a cooler it can be challenging.

You also need to swim in deep water to make your way around the cave and take pictures so I’d recommend this for more adventurous day trippers.

14. Taste your way around the Luquillo Kiosks

Mixed seafood ceviche on a colorful tablecloth

The Luquillo Kiosks are located right on Luqullo Beach.

There’s a strip of over 60 family owned kiosks serving as stores, bars, restaurants.

I very much enjoyed the meal I had at Ceviche House . It is Peruvian and offer a healthier alternative to fried grab-and-go items.

I also like La Parrilla , the very first kiosk with its own parking lot.

This is a seafood restaurant and depending on the season they’ll have fresh lobster.

There are also some clothing stores worth checking out like Monkey Threads .

15. Venture into the Rio Camuy Caves

Group of people taking a cave tour

The Parque Nacional de las Cavernas del Río Camuy is the third largest cavern system in the world, spanning over 10 miles and consisting of over 200 caves.

The portion that is open to the public has been closed since Hurricane Maria and just reopened to the public in 2021.

Tickets are $18 for adults, $13 for children, and $9 for seniors. You can purchase your ticket at the window once you get there.

There is a hike to the cave entrance so bring shoes with good grip. If someone in your party has mobility issues, you can request a lift.

An audio tour is provided free of charge, although it’s more likely you’ll be listening to the live guide provided with your ticket.

RELATED POST: VISIT THE BIOLUMINESCENT BAY IN VIEQUES

16. Take a chocolate class at Hacienda Chocolat

Cacao pod split open on table

Hacienda Chocolat is a local farm that supplies Montenegro Chocolate with their cacao.

They offer farm tours in English and Spanish during the weekends. Advanced reservations are required and can be made online.

The tour is an hour long and costs $34.

They also have speciality tours and tastings available, like an art, wine and chocolate experience or whiskey and chocolate tasting pairing for $98 and $148, respectively.

17. Tour a coffee farm at Hacienda Munoz

Holding coffee while looking out over mountains

Located in San Lorenzo and only about a half hour from San Juan, this is an award-winning coffee farm.

You can take a tour for $20 from Wednesday to Sunday. The 10am tour is in English, the 12pm and 2pm tours are in Spanish.

It lasts an hour and 15 minutes and includes a walk around the farm and look at vintage coffee making machinery.

There is a restaurant and coffee bar on site — I recommend you stay for lunch.

18. Try the unusual ice cream flavors of Heladeria Lares

Cup of ice cream with several scoops and spoon in the middle

Have you ever heard of garlic ice cream? How about cilantro or rice and beans ice cream?

Well, those are exactly the kind of flavors you’ll find at Heladeria Lares .

This family-owned business has been in operation for decades and has made a name for themselves creating unusual ice cream flavors.

They’ve had multiple offers to open a franchise but refuse to do so because they know they bring tourism to their hometown of Lares, Puerto Rico.

The shop has drawn in people worldwide from Japan to Such Africa, and I can attest to it being well worth a visit.

19. See pink lakes in Cabo Rojo

day trips out of san juan

Did you know Puerto Rico has pink lakes? These are the Salinas of Cabo Rojo.

They are salt flats and the algae in the water gives it this color. It’s best to go on a clear day, otherwise the water can look murky and not as bright.

They’re about a 2 1/2 hour drive from San Juan so this is a long day trip.

This is not an official tourist attraction — you park on the side of the road and walk in.

RELATED POST: HOW TO VISIT PINK LAKES IN PUERTO RICO

20.  Visit a sunflower farm at Finca el Girasol

day trips out of san juan

Finca Girasol is a small, locally owned sunflower farm that is a fan favorite. Admission is only $2 and there is parking on site.

You’re free to roam the rows of sunflowers and take pictures as you see fit.

There is a stand at the front with cut flowers and occasionally produce and other goods.

This is nearly 2 hours driving from San Juan and they’re only open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10am to 6pm.

If you’re heading this direction  I suggest pairing the stop with others on the list, like Yaucromatic.

21. Go on natural water slides at Las Paylas

day trips out of san juan

Las Paylas is located about 45 minutes east of San Juan. It is a series of natural rock slides and scenic pools.

Over the years, the flow of the river has smoothed and carved the boulders to make nature’s own theme park.

Going down the slides is easy and a lot of fun, just be sure to tuck your elbows.

There is parking on a private lot and the owner charges $5/car. The hike to the pools is very short, just 2 minutes.

Till next time, safe travels!

RELATED POST: IS PUERTO RICO SAFE TO TRAVEL?

Liked this post? Pin me below: 

Best Day Trips from San Juan, Puerto Rico

Monday 23rd of August 2021

In Hatillo it's not just the cheese, we have the ocean and a fab place to sin in la saldirena next to the hotel maracao, also el parque del norte.

Wednesday 31st of March 2021

What is the best way to get around in PR?

Jen on a Jet Plane

Friday 2nd of April 2021

Renting a car! Very easy to do, I like Charlie Car Rental.

Saturday 11th of April 2020

There is honestly so much to see in Puerto Rico that I had no idea about! The pink lakes look so gorgeous and the Utuado river tubing looks like a ton of fun!! Such a great list of beautiful places to visit and fun activities to do! Thanks for sharing!

Alexandra Booze

OMG Hatillo sounds like it would be a dream for me! I love cheese hahaha. I am supposed to go to PR with my sister for her Bachelorette party this summer but we shall see. :( Thank you for the tip!

Tradinvestors.com

Sunday 8th of March 2020

Hello! We will only be able to visit bioluminescent bay on either March 29 or 30, 2015. I see that they are both listed as "Bad". Do you have a recommendation on which might be better? Also, what time of night? Is one bio bay better than the other? We're staying in San Juan, but I think I've heard Mosquito Bay may be better? Also, do you know if there are any companies that do trips from San Juan, or will we need to find our way to the east side of the island? Thank you!

Monday 9th of March 2020

The earlier you go the better so aim for the 29th. Cloud coverage will impact it as well. I would say Vieques is the brightest but also the most difficult to reach. Depends on how far out of the way you want to go. If you go to Fajardo or Lajas you will be able to find tour operators to take you or you can rent a car and take yourself to the kayak/boat shop. If you go to Vieques you'll have to arrange flights to the area (or take the ferry from Fajardo) and a hotel room for the night.

The Crazy Tourist

Home » Travel Guides » The Caribbean » Puerto Rico » 15 Best Day Trips from San Juan

15 Best Day Trips from San Juan

Every city in the world has its own unique vibe and San Juan is no different. The city has many historical sites and festivities that contribute to its aura, making it a preferred tourist destination. Visitors come here not only for the stunning views, but also to soak up in the rich culture; this combination makes San Juan a top travel destination. San Juan is Puerto Rico’s capital and is located in the northern coast, making it the country’s most important seaport. The soft sand on its beaches makes it the perfect vacation spot for relaxing.

This beautiful city is strategically located, making it the perfect springboard for visiting tourist destinations that are nearby. Here is our list of the 15 best day trips to make from this Puerto Rican capital:

1. Casa Blanca

Casa Blanca Museum & San Juan Walls

Casa Blanca is a museum house that was built in 1521 as a residence for Juan Ponce de Leon. The house was occupied by Juan’s descendants until the mid-18th century. This building was declared a historical building in the year 1967.

Stepping into this house feels like you’re stepping back in time. If you’re a history lover, you will fall in love with the architecture, the paintings, historic antiques, and artifacts from the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Casa Blanca is just a few blocks from El Morro and overlooks San Juan bay. Views from this little museum’s windows are breathtaking. Outside there are lush gardens and various water features.

2. El Yunque Rain Forest

El Yunque Rain Forest

Visiting this unique jungle-like setting of the subtropical mountainous rainforest has a calming effect. It’s here that the trade winds meet the island, which results in rain. The forest lies fully inside the El Yunque National Forest Reserve.

This rainforest is situated on Sierra de Luquillo’s slopes and is the largest piece of public land in the country as it covers 28,000 acres.

The El Yunque forest is 20 minutes away from San Juan at the northeastern end of Puerto Rico. To get to the actual rainforest, you have to drive or hike all the way to the top to get a view of the dwarf forest.

Recommended tour : San Juan: El Yunque Rainforest Half-Day Tour

3. Arecibo Observatory

Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico

The Arecibo Observatory is a monster-sized concrete bowl with a diameter of 305 meters. Visitors, including scientists, come from all corners of the earth to explore the wonders of the universe.

This enormous radio telescope is the largest in the world. It allows people to listen to sounds of the universe. Scientists use it to study radio emissions from distant galaxies, stars, and planets.

Arecibo, also known as La Villa del Capitan, is approximately 80 km away from San Juan. The views from the observatory deck are amazing.

4. El Arsenal de la Marina

The beautifully constructed El Arsenal was built in the 19th century by the Spanish military and is located in the Old San Juan. The strategic location was chosen because of its remoteness and its connection to the mainland by bridges.

The El Arsenal is grey in color and still looks spectacular, just as it did after its construction. These days, El Arsenal functions as an art gallery that displays decorative pieces created by the locals. There are 3 galleries within the building.

5. Mangrove National Forest

Mangrove Forest

Most of the mangrove forests in Puerto Rico are situated along the island’s coastline. The trees flank the ocean’s sandy beaches, which can be explored on foot. This scenic forest has many places where you can pose for photos.

The beaches become more secluded as you go further along the boardwalk between the forest and the coastline. There are many rivers and lagoons within the forest which are home to reptiles, birds, and mammals alike.

This dense mangrove forest is just a 20-minute drive away from San Juan.

6. Bio Bays

Parguera, Puerto Rico

There are 3 bioluminescent bays in the whole of Puerto Rico. These are Mosquito Bay, La Parguera, and La Laguna Grande. A bio bay is a water body that contains micro-organisms that glow in the dark after they’re agitated.

As you visit the bioluminescent bays, prepare yourself for the experience of a lifetime. Most people get here and think that they’re hallucinating, while some think that what they’re seeing is some kind of special effect. This rare phenomenon is experienced during the night and gets brighter when there’s no moon.

The best place to appreciate this unique phenomenon is from the Laguna Grande. At the moment, however, the bay does not sparkle as it should due to the large influx of seaweed.

Suggested tour : Bioluminescent Lagoon or Full Moon Kayak Eco Adventure

7. Cueva Ventana

Cueva Ventana, Puerto Rico

Cueva Ventana translates to “Window Cave.” The incredible Cueva Ventana is a large cave that is located in the northwest of San Jose, on top of a limestone cliff. This causes the floor of the cave to be slippery.

From the cave’s window, you are able to get a picturesque view of the Rio Grande de Arecibo valley. All the lands surrounding the cave, including the cave itself, are privately owned.

If you’re someone who likes to discover places about which little is known, then Cueva Ventana is just the right place for you. As you pack your bag, don’t forget to bring a flashlight. You will need one to hike to and through the subterranean world of this underground cave.

Considering the bats living there, the cave does not have a foul smell. This is because the cave is open on both ends so a lot of wind goes through.

Recommended tour : Cueva Ventana Tour

8. El Morro Fort

El Morro Fort

The full name of this fort is El Castillo de San Felipe del Morro. It was built in 1539 to protect San Juan from enemies coming from the sea. However, the layout was improved by two engineers, Juan de Tejada and Juan Bautista, in 1587.

Since 1983, El Morro has been listed a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As a first time visitor to San Juan, you ought to visit this impressive fortress to experience first­hand the power that this bastion of defence, perched on the northwestern end of San Juan, commanded. The fort was also used in the Second World War by the US to track the movement of the German submarines.

9. Castillo de San Cristóbal

Castillo de San Cristobal, San Juan, Puerto Rico

This Castillo was built to protect El Morro and San Juan from land­based attacks. This fort was designed by the Irish Engineer Thomas O’Daly, and constructed by the Spanish between 1634 and 1790. Today, the fort is part of the National Historic Site of San Juan.

This fort basically surrounded the entire city and covered over 27 acres of land. The main entrance to the city was sealed by gates.

The elegant courtyard is commonly used as a wedding venue, thanks to the dreamy fairytale feel.

10. Santa Maria Magdalena Cemetery

Santa Maria Magdalena Cemetery

This bleached-white cemetery dates back to the 19th century and is strategically located between the El Morro Fort and the Castillo San Cristobal. The cemetery is known simply as Old San Juan Cemetery to the locals.

The cemetery overlooks the Atlantic Ocean which symbolizes the spirit’s crossing over to the afterlife. At the center of the cemetery is a small chapel.

The gravestones are placed very close to each other so one has to walk very carefully.

It’s important that you exercise caution while visiting this area since it’s known for petty theft.

11. Luquillo Beach

Luquillo Beach, Puerto Rico

This beach is nestled between the El Yunque Rainforest and the ocean. Its location contributes majorly to the beach’s unique ecology; while visiting this beach, you might run into rare or endangered species such as the leatherback turtle.

The beach is just picture perfect. It has fine sand and lots of palm trees that provide shade, with a rainforest backdrop.

12. Ponce Historic Zone

Ponce Historic Zone

The Ponce Historic Zone goes by different names such as Ponce Centro, Ponce Tradicional, Distrito Historico, Ponce Historico, and often La Perla del Sur. This historic district in the south of San Juan has numerous buildings that date back to the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Zone was named in memory of Juan Ponce de Leon’s great-grandson.

It is located downtown, approximately 4.8 km from the Caribbean Shore.

13. Vieques Island

Vieques Island, Puerto Rico

The magical Isla de Vieques is located about 12 km off the east coast and is home to the brightest bioluminescent bay, Mosquito Bay. The Island is 34 km long and 6 km wide.

Anybody visiting San Juan ought to have this Island on their bucket list. Come to Vieques Island to experience the true meaning of tropical bliss, thanks to its unmatched beauty. Driving on this tiny island is a pleasurable experience since there are no traffic lights; the roads here are narrow.

This small treasure is also home to a natural wildlife refuge that covers 3,100 acres of land. It’s part of a group of islands that are referred to as the Spanish Virgin Islands.

14. Bacardi Factory

Bacardi Factory, San Juan

This rum factory is the largest premium rum distillery across the globe and is among the top tourist attractions in San Juan. It’s located about 1.6 km from the ferry terminal in the Old San Juan.

The company was started in 1852 and has deeply contributed to the development of the city throughout its battles with financial crises and natural disasters. The Bacardi family has helped the hometown to rebuild in times of catastrophic disasters and often makes international donations to organizations that give relief aid.

The rum is bottled in Jacksonville, Fl.

Visits from San Juan to the Bacardi Factory are made using a ferry. Expect that your tour of the distillery will end with a tasting of Bacardi products.

15. Gozalandia Waterfall

Gozalandia Waterfall, Puerto Rico

The Gozalandia Waterfall makes for one of the best day trips from San Juan.

The Double Waterfalls of Gozalandia, as they’re also called, include the Upper and the Lower Waterfall. These natural beauties have plenty of scenery for you to see, depending on your athleticism and climbing ability.

There are trails that you can hike up to get to the upper waterfall, which is quite a distance from the gate. Anyone who is ready for adventure should take a walk on the trails; this will have you feeling like Indiana Jones. The good thing about the trails is that they’re paved.

15 Best Day Trips from San Juan:

  • Casa Blanca
  • El Yunque Rain Forest
  • Arecibo Observatory
  • El Arsenal de la Marina
  • Mangrove National Forest
  • Cueva Ventana
  • El Morro Fort
  • Castillo de San Cristóbal
  • Santa Maria Magdalena Cemetery
  • Luquillo Beach
  • Ponce Historic Zone
  • Vieques Island
  • Bacardi Factory
  • Gozalandia Waterfall
  • Puerto Rico
  • Puerto Rico Travel Guide
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Puerto Rico Things to Do  ⎮  San Juan Puerto Rico   ⎮  Places to Visit in Puerto Rico / Best Day Trips from San Juan

Best places to visit in Puerto Rico near San Juan - Great Day Trips

Top Rated Tour to El Yunque from San Juan

If you’re staying in San Juan for more than a weekend getaway, let us introduce you to the wonders and amazing experiences outside the city, so you can understand why Puerto Rico is called The Island of Enchantment .  You’ll be amazed at the fact that you can be in a city, and just about an hour away, you can snorkel on a secluded island, visit a rainforest, explore splendid caves, go swimming on a beach that fulfills your Caribbean dreams, and so much more.   

This guide presents you with six fantastic day trips to some of the most captivating destinations and finest beaches near San Juan.  While some of these day trips are ideal for independent exploration with a rented car, others may benefit from the convenience of a guided tour provided by a professional company, ensuring a seamless experience and allowing you to make the most of your time in Puerto Rico. 

Experience the Sights, Sounds & Sensations of the Enchanting El Yunque Rainforest

Places to Visit in Puerto Rico from San Juan - El Yunque National Rainforest

The El Yunque National Rainforest stands out as one of the most unforgettable experiences in Puerto Rico, a mere 40 minutes from San Juan yet a world apart in its enchanting appeal.  It is a magical haven in the Caribbean, promising a treasured experience for the entire family.  A hike through this tropical paradise reveals mystical waterfalls, mist-laden air, vibrant flora, and the soothing sounds of the rainforest.  While one could easily spend a full week exploring the depths of El Yunque, a single day is ample to traverse its most renowned trails, capture the essence of its beauty, and entice you to return to Puerto Rico to explore more. 

Top Rated Tours from San Juan

Getting to el yunque from san juan.

Explore El Yunque stress-free!  The top-rated tours from San Juan handle all the details, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable experience.  If you want to rent a car and explore on your own, our guide tells you how to get there. 

Take a Day Trip to Flamenco Beach

The best beach under the puerto rican flag, consistently acclaimed one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Culebra - Beautiful places to visit in Puerto Rico near San Juan

Discover the perfect blend of Old World European charm in San Juan and a glimpse into the Caribbean’s past on the pristine beaches of Culebra, one of Puerto Rico’s islands off the east coast.  Renowned for its untouched beauty, Flamenco Beach boasts crystal-clear turquoise and emerald green waters with excellent clarity.  Culebra offers some of the Caribbean’s most preserved coral reefs, making it Puerto Rico’s ultimate snorkeling destination.  After a day trip, you might find yourself planning an extended stay in Culebra on your next visit to Puerto Rico.  

Tours to Flamenco Beach from San Juan

Getting to culebra from san juan on your own.

  • Option 1 – Book an Excursion:   Easy, fun and convenient.  Average cost:  $140 per person – See catamarans, and boat tours  from San Juan to Culebra
  • Option 2 – Rent a car and drive to the Ceiba ferry terminal.   Purchase the tickets in advance to secure your tickets; if no tickets are available to purchase online, get there at least an hour before the desired time of departure.  If there are no tickets available.  Your Plan B will Option 4 below.
  • Option 3 – Fly from Isla Grande Airport with Air Flamenco or Vieques Air Link .  The cost is about $200 round trip per person.
  • Option 4 – Drive to Ceiba Airport and take a flight to Culebra.   The cost is about $100 round trip per person.

Experience the Magic of Bioluminescence

Guide to the best experience from san juan.

Bioluminescent Bay in Puerto Rico - Best places to visit / top attractions from San Juan

Experience the magic of the natural phenomenon of bioluminescence at one of the bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico.   When the sky is dark, and the moon is young, the water lights up like magic with everything that touches it.  If you have children, it will be extra magical as you see their eyes light up with wonder and excitement, an experience the whole family will never forget.

There are three bioluminescent experiences, each offering a different experience; please visit this guide for more information and all tours with transportation from San Juan.

+   San Juan Bioluminescent Bay Tours

Escape to The Dreamy Icacos Cay

Best Places to Visit in Puerto Rico - Icacos Cay

Just an hour from all the excitement of the city of San Juan, you can be sailing on a catamaran to a secluded island with gorgeous turquoise water and with pure white sand.  Icacos Cay  is part of the La Cordillera Nature Reserve , a group of keys off the east coast of Puerto Rico .  You can swim on a deserted beach, do a little snorkeling, and even swim with dolphins if you’re lucky to be there when they show up.

Icacos Cay Tours with transportation from San Juan

Video introduction to icacos cay.

Getting to Icacos from San Juan

  • Option 1 – Book a catamaran or boat tour from San Juan – Fastest and most convenient.  See tours that offer pick-up service in San Juan.
  • Option 2 – Icacos & Bioluminescent Bay or El Yunque Rainforest Day Trip – You may wish to do two attractions on the same day.  Icacos and Laguna Grande are a great combination since they are both in Fajardo.  Book in advance to secure spots on the top-rated tours, especially during high season.  You can reserve and pay later and cancel if needed.  See Icacos Cay tours from Fajardo .  See bioluminescent bay tours from Fajardo .  If you don’t want to kayak and want a boat tour of Laguna Grande (Bioluminescent Lagoon), you can get to Las Croabas (place of departure) around dinnertime to reserve a spot.
  • Option 3 – Drive to Fajardo and Take a Water Taxi – At Las Croabas there are water taxis offering a ride to Icacos.  You are dropped off and the captain will pick you up at an agreed-upon time.  You will have to take everything you’ll need to the island; the cay is secluded with no facilities or staff.  The only benefit of this option is that it’s less costly.  We don’t recommend visitors this option; with an excursion, your tour guide and captain will be available to help you in case you need assistance or have a medical emergency.

Explore Hidden Wonders like a Modern Pirate in the Caribbean

Best places to visit in Puerto Rico & top attractions

A scenic drive into the Karst region of the northern mountains, you can enjoy a fun day exploring the amazing caves of Puerto Rico .  From accessible and family-friendly caves to experiences for those with a more adventurous spirit.  Some tours include rappelling, body rafting, and river trekking.

Following are the most popular and best-rated cave tours in Puerto Rico near San Juan

Top Rated Cave Tours from San Juan

Camuy river cave park tours from san juan.

Camuy River Cave Park –  This is the most accessible cave in Puerto Rico with all the wow factor the entire family will enjoy.  Camuy River Cave Park is among the top five natural attractions in Puerto Rico.

Cueva del Indio Tours from San Juan

Cueva del Indio – Worthy of a filming location for Pirates of the Caribbean… and it was, as well as other Hollywood films.  One of the top rated tours to Cueva del Indio made it to the coveted list of Trip Advisor’s Traveler’s Choice list… earning the 12th spot on Top Adventure Activities in the World in 2021 .  Right along the coastline, you can visit a beautiful cave home to Taino Natives where you can observe original petroglyphs.  The cave is located in one of the top five most scenic places on the island also known as Seven Arches , where rocks, water, and wind have come together to form seven natural arches.  You’ll get tons of Instagram-worthy vacation photos.

See all the tours from San Juan to Cueva del Indio ; some have added favorite beaches and other attractions.

Arenales Cave Tours from San Juan

Arenales Caves – Incredible experience, ranked #25 in 2022, #5 in 2021 – Top Overall Experiences in the World. Also ranked #2 in 2022 and #1 in 2021 – Top Overall Experiences in the Caribbean – Spend a full morning on an intimate tour with a combination of river trekking, hiking, river floating through a breathtaking underground cave, and more. This is for the visitor with an adventurous spirit and physically challenging but worth every step.

Go Beach Hopping Like a Puerto Rican

Puerto Rico Beaches - Best beaches to visit near San Juan

You’ll be tempted to enjoy the beaches of San Juan and remain close to the hotel.  The beaches in San Juan are nice, but they’re on the Atlantic Ocean side, get more crowds, and lack some enchanting traits you can find on beaches outside of the city.  This small island is packed with great beaches, and we can tell you that once you start beach hopping, you’ll become addicted and return for more.   To maximize your time while staying in San Juan, we have compiled a list of the best beaches to explore near San Juan.  

Beach Tours from San Juan

Suggested itinerary from san juan.

Beaches are listed from nearest to farthest from San Juan. Driving times with regular traffic

East of San Juan

  • La Posita de Piñones –  Loiza, Puerto Rico – 20 minutes drive
  • Luquillo Beach – Luquillo, Puerto Rico – 40 minutes drive
  • Beach at Icacos Cay – Fajardo, Puerto Rico – 1 hour drive

West of San Juan

All the following beaches have one thing in common, they are natural pools on the north coast.  Coral walls create a shield from the open rough waters of the Atlantic, creating a natural pool.

  • Mar Chiquita – Manati, Puerto Rico – 40 minutes drive
  • La Poza de Las Mujeres – Manati, Puerto Rico – Best during summer, not safe to swim in winter. – 45 minutes drive
  • La Poza del Obispo – Arecibo, Puerto Rico – 1-hour drive – Please do not climb the wall behind the beach.
  • Playa Sardinera – Hatillo, Puerto Rico – 1 hour drive

During inclement weather, these calm water pools become like whirlpools, making it hard for children and adults to swim.  Please do  NOT climb on the coral walls , they can be slippery, the stone has sharp edges and a big wave could surprise you, causing a fall that could lead to falling in open water and loss of life.  Please enjoy these beautiful beaches safely.

For a great day trip on the west coast of Puerto Rico, leave early and visit the following beaches on the northwest coast, in the towns of Isabela and Aguadilla.

  • Pozo Teodoro in Isabela, Puerto Rico – 1.5 hour
  • Jobos Beach in Isabela, Puerto Rico – Lunch at Jobos, there are plenty of seaside bars and restaurants.  It’s a fun beach with a laid-back Puerto Rican beach vibe, lounge rentals available, and surfing lessons. – 1.5 hour drive
  • Crash Boat Beach in Aguadilla – Spend the rest of the day at Crash Boat Beach for swimming, snorkeling (when the water is calm), sunset, and dinner. – 1 hour and 45 minutes drive

Tips for a Fun, Budget Friendly and Stress Free Beach Hopping Experience

Perhaps you like to plan things well; we encourage you to let that go and go beach hopping the Puerto Rican way, nice and relaxed. 

Here are our tips for a splendid experience on the coastline:

  • Rent a car for a day to enjoy beach hopping at your own pace.
  • Pack light , you only need a beach towel, sun block, swimsuit, regular clothes to wear over your swimwear when dining.  If you need anything, you can find almost everything at a Walgreens Pharmacy or local grocery store.
  • Stop by a bakery , load up on water, Puerto Rican treats, and sandwiches, and enjoy the island life.
  • Let your hair down , play your favorite tunes, and listen to them a bit louder than you’re used to.  It’s ok.  That’s the Puerto Rican way.
  • When you get hungry , you’ll find plenty of beachside spots, roadside food trucks, and chinchorros (tiny simple food places) serving inexpensive but delicious traditional fritters.

Driving in Puerto Rico

Driving in Puerto Rico is easy, traffic is congested coming out of San Juan, but once you’re out of the city, you’ll be on your way to a nice adventure on the road.  

Best Time to Go Beach Hopping

Weekdays are more mellow since locals are at work, so if you like to be away from crowds, weekdays from Tuesdays to Fridays are the best days to go beach hopping around the island.  However, if you love a lively local vibe, you’ll have a lot of fun joining locals at the beach, they certainly know how to make it more lively with music, laughter and fun water sport rentals more available at local beaches for the whole family to enjoy.  Many beachfront restaurants offer live entertainment during weekends. 

Wander to the Wildly Beautiful West

Best places to visit in Puerto Rico near San Juan - West Coast

Ask any local where they love to go for summer vacation within the island and the majority will say, the west coast of Puerto Rico .  When speaking about the main island of Puerto Rico not including Culebra and Vieques, the west coast has the best beaches , the most variety of local eateries, the best sunsets, the best surfing beaches, and the most friendly and lively municipalities.  You can spend weeks exploring the West Coast, to make your vacation planning easier, we have created a few itineraries packed with fun things to do and beautiful places to see in one day.  It will be a long but great day, so leave as early as possible from San Juan to beat the heavy traffic.

You can end your day with a visit to the bioluminescent bay in La Parguera before you head back to San Juan on Route 52, our preferred road to get to San Juan with the least traffic lights and congestion.

Excursions you May Enjoy from San Juan - No Car Rental Required

Itinerary 1.

From San Juan, take Rt. 18 to Highway 52 from San Juan towards Caguas, pass Ponce and continue to the town of Guanica, your first stop.

  • Gilligan’s Island , try and get there early to take the earliest water taxi (ferry).  Stay until noon.
  • Lunch – The best and closest place to get lunch after Gilligan’s Island is Copamarina Beach Resort . If you wish to drive and eat at a local place, we recommend Taty’s Pinchos , a food truck that serves traditional fritters, and it is perfect for a quick lunch.  The average cost per person is $5.00, a little more for chicken pinchos (chicken on a skewer).  If you have room stop for frappes at La Frutera on the way to Cabo Rojo, not far from Taty’s Pinchos.
  • Head to Las Salinas in Cabo Rojo   – see location
  • Hike to Faro Los Morrillos   – see location
  • Visit La Playuela / Playa Sucia    – the beach is at the end of the road.  The road is a dirt road in a nature reserve and gets bumpy and muddy when it rains.

Dinner and Sunset

  • Option 1: Head back to Lajas for dinner at the fishing village.  At dark, take a tour of the bioluminescent bay in Lajas which is right near the restaurants, it is the only bay where you can swim in Puerto Rico.  See location
  • Option 2: Head to the colorful village of Boqueron (see location on map), with a number of restaurants and casual island-style pubs.  See location

Head back to San Juan

Itinerary 2

From San Juan, take Rt. 18 to Highway 52 from San Juan towards Caguas, pass Ponce.  Then set your GPS to La Parguera, Lajas.

  • Island Hopping at La Parguera Nature Reserve
  • Lunch at La Parguera Fishing Village
  • Drive by the San German Historical District
  • Stop by Plaza Colon in Mayaguez and get a pastry, sandwich, and coffee at Ricomini Bakery.
  • Head to Rincon Lighthouse to watch the sunset.  From January until March (peak season in February),  you may get lucky and see humpback whales from the lighthouse.  They’re best observed early in the morning and early evening.
  • Dinner in Rincon
  • Head back to San Juan along the north route.

Map - Best Things to Do Near San Juan

Photo gallery - best places in puerto rico to visit near san juan.

Camuy Cavern - Best places to visit in Puerto Rico near San Juan

Puerto Rico Travel Guide ⎮  San Juan Puerto Rico   ⎮ Things to Do in Puerto Rico ⎮ Places to Visit in Puerto Rico / Best Day Trips from San Juan

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Day Trips from San Juan: 11 Things to Do Less Than an Hour Away

  • Post last modified: March 1, 2024
  • Post author: Danielle Zito
  • Post published: April 30, 2021
  • Post category: Caribbean / Cruise Ports / Guides / North America

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The capital of Puerto Rico has a lot of things to do in the city, but there are so many things to do that are less than hour from San Juan to enjoy! Get out in nature and see a little more of what Puerto Rico has to offer. 

This is especially perfect for those visiting San Juan on a cruise and want to get out a little further to see the great beaches , waterfalls , and hidden gems in the area.

Keep in mind that you will need a car to visit almost any of these! Renting a car in Puerto Rico is easy. Take a look at our  Guide for Renting a Car in Puerto Rico.

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Day Trips From San Juan #1: El Yunque

Did you know that El Yunque is the only tropical rain forest in the US? That definitely makes it worth a trip in itself! Not to mention the lush greenery, cascading waterfalls , and hiking trails you can experience here.

waterfalls in El Yunque, day trips from San Juan

El Yunque  is full of lush jungle and waterfalls.

El Yunque is located just an hour from San Juan , and has plenty of great spots packed into the main tourist area of the park. If you have time you can also explore plenty more rainforest, lakes, and nature around the main park area. Just make sure that you get your tickets in advance! 

If you plan on visiting el Yunque , we have written a complete guide to know everything to expect while visiting here, how to get your tickets, and the best spots to check out!

Visiting El Yunque, Puerto Rico: The Only US Rainforest

El Yunque, Puerto Rico is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest Service, and one of the most popular rainforests in the world. No trip to Puerto Rico is complete without a visit to this beautiful place.With an average rainfall of 120 inches a year, there is a very

Want to take a tour to El Yunque? Here are a few that you can choose from:

Day Trips From San Juan #2: Luquillo

Luquillo is a great spot right on the water that is just 45 minutes east of San Juan . This is one of our favorite places to go for lunch, as they have over 100 different kiosks!

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The restaurants are located right along the beach , and there is such a variety. Although we do suggest getting some seafood, or the stuffed mofongo at Rellenao.

Not only are there plenty of restaurants, but they also have some cute shops with local handmade souvenirs! This is definitely one of the best places for dining somewhere different that is less an hour from  San Juan .

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Day Trips From  San Juan #3: Las Pailas

This place is a true hidden gem of Puerto Rico , and is located just a few minutes from the kiosks in Luquillo. Parking is located inside the driveway of someone's home and is just $5. The trail is a couple minute walk and not strenuous, leading you to a beautiful spot tucked away in the trees.

While most natural pools are fed by waterfalls or rivers, this area is actually very unique because it features a natural waterslide! This is one of those day trips from San Juan that just never gets old.

Las Pailas, day trips from San Juan

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Day Trips From  San Juan #4: La Planta, Arecibo

This is one of our absolute favorite day trips from San Juan because it is another true hidden gem. Here you can find a stunning waterfall and a river. But head further down the river and you will find an even bigger waterfall ! 

It is completely free of charge, and a place you could spend hours. Pack a picnic and enjoy the day swimming, sunbathing, and exploring this stunning area!

La Planta Arecibo, best places in Puerto Rico to Visit

La Planta Arecibo is one of the best day trips from San Juan  with it's sets of waterfalls.

Day Trips From  San Juan #5: Cueva Ventana

This spot is located just a few minutes past Arecibo, so is a great one to pair with if you are stopping by the waterfalls .

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Cueva Ventana is a cave that actually sits on a limestone cliff and opens up to a view over the valley! this naturally made window is such a cool spot to stop by for a unique experience in Puerto Rico.

To check out the caves you will need to make a reservation in advance, Tickets are $19, and tours are 1 hour. They run every hour from  10:00-4:00, the last tour being at 3:00. 

Window Cave, day trips from Puerto Rico

Cueva Ventana has some of the best views of Puerto Rico.

Day Trips From San Juan #6: Mar Chiquita

Mar Chiquita is not only just less than an hour from San Juan , but it is just 45 minutes! Which makes it the perfect beach day trip from San Juan . Mar Chiquita is rounded, making it super cool to see from a bird's eye view.

But even better? Walk over to the rocks and you will find crater like formations, that get filled with the water from the splashes of the waves crashing down. This actually makes natural pools, making you feel like you are in a jacuzzi on the moon!

Mar Chiquita, day trips from San Juan

Parking is free, but there are some rocks so just be careful when pulling in and pulling out. There are porta-potties there, but you'll have to pay a small fee to use them. As for food, there were signs for some food and drink vendors, but we got there late so didn't see any.

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Day Trips From  San Juan #7: Fajardo

Fajardo is the most popular area on the East side of Puerto Rico , and is just a 45 minute drive away! Here you can find plenty of beautiful beaches , a light house, and a bioluminescent bay.

Fajardo is also one of the main hubs for catamaran and sailing trips to the nearby islands of Palomino and Icacos, so it's the perfect day trip from  San Juan  if you're looking for a fun  Caribbean  excursion.

Fajardo, best places in Puerto Rico

Day Trips From  San Juan #8: Piñones 

Piñones is the closest of all the day trips to San Juan , and is a paradise location for the locals.

Here you can find plenty of local food kiosks, and the most popular beach in the San Juan area for families. The beach to check out is La Pocita, which features a naturally made rock walk, that stops the waves, and creates a natural pool inside the sea.

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This place is perfect for those who want to enjoy the Caribbean waters but aren't looking for rough waters. Also for those that just want a nice relaxing day, outside the city, but close enough that you can get back in ample time (especially for people on cruises ).

The Top 10 Beaches in Puerto Rico

It's no secret that Puerto Rico has some pretty great beaches. Being an island, you can only imagine how many beaches there are! While there are an incredible amount of beautiful spots to hit. We've decided to make a list of our top ten beaches in Puerto Rico.These aren't just

Day Trips From San Juan #9: Charco Azul

Charco Azul is the perfect place to visit less than an hour from San Juan , as it is a cool place to swim for those who don't want to go to the  beach ,

This swimming hole is located in Vega Baja, just 45 minutes from the city. It features turquoise waters and caves, making it great for those adventurers out there! We wouldn't' recommend this for small children, and we recommend packing a lunch beforehand.

day trips out of san juan

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Day Trips From  San Juan #10: Humucao

This spot is a little off-the-beaten-path, but is well worth the visit! Humucao is located just less than an hour from San Juan . Head to the Malecon to walk along to sea, and admire this picturesque little town.

There is also a great food truck located here with some of the best sandwiches ever! Head here midday for a great lunch and a nice day trip from  San Juan' s busier city vibes.

While you're in the area, Humucao also features a  beach  reserve with tons and tons of palm trees! Check it out for sunrise for a truly magical experience.

Humucao, best places to visit in Puerto Rico

Humucao is one of the best spots to watch the sunrise.

Day Trips From  San Juan #11: Caguas

Caguas is the perfect day trip from San Juan  if you are looking to experience a cute city but on a smaller scale. This city is located just a little more or less than an half hour from  San Juan , and features plenty of activities including a tobacco museum, botanical gardens, and an art museum. 

We like the idea of Caguas because it's something different to see, and is a great day trip from  San Juan . It isn't too far, but also offers some different activities than the capital city.

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Puerto Rico has so many great places to explore. So don't stick to just San Juan - get out there and see all of the cool things that this island has to offer! The best part is that all of the places are less than an hour from San Juan so you don't have to travel far to experience new cool places.

Love the Day Trips from San Juan but also plan on traveling further out into the island? We have plenty of other guides about things to do around Puerto Rico .

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The Best Day Trips and Excursions from San Juan

The palm lined walls of Old San Juan, seen taking day tours from San Juan.

You may already know that I love Puerto Rico, and have visited its lovely shores more than once.  I am not alone, as the NY Times voted Puerto Rico the top place to visit in 2019.  Even though 2019 is past, Puerto Rico is an amazing place to travel, one of the best islands in the Caribbean.   I think the perfect vacation is a week or more, taking a Puerto Rico road trip, but if you are short on time, I recommend staying right in the historic part of the capital city, Old San Juan. There are a multitude of things to do right there in the city!  But, to satisfy your thirst for adventure, you can still explore a bit more of the country with some San Juan day tours, and some of the epic day trips from San Juan.  I put together this outline of the best excursions from San Juan, to help you decide which ones to add to your itinerary.  

One of the awesome things about the options for Puerto Rico day trips is the variety.  The tour everyone knows about in San Juan is probably the Bacardi distillery tour, but there are choices for every type of traveler.  From sailing in San Juan harbor to kayaking through the bioluminescent bay, from hiking through the rain forest to treking through caves, and even ziplining over the jungle, the choices are many!  Hopefully you can narrow your options as we go along.

If you prefer to be independent, it is entirely possible to embark upon all 7 of these San Juan day trips on your own. Puerto Rico is easy to get around, and very visitor friendly.  If you choose to go this route, plan your Puerto Rico excursions on consecutive days. That way you can minimize the number of days you need a rental car, as you really do not need one while staying in the city.  

On the other hand, if you prefer the comfort of a group and making acquaintances along the way, all of these Puerto Rico day tours are available through a number of travel companies.  The vast majority of these San Juan excursions pick up at several locations throughout the city, including Old San Juan. You don’t have to worry about getting trapped in a bus with 75 other travelers either, as the majority use small Sprinter type vehicles.  And, you gain the knowledge of the tour guide.

During my Puerto Rico travels, I have made some of my day trips from San Juan on my own, and I have made others in a tour group.  With each suggestion, I give my recommendation, and any necessary tips for those of you making the jaunt on your own.  I also provide the links for booking options for those of you who prefer a group tour. 

  

Day Trips and Excursions from San Juan

So let’s see what all the San Juan day trip options are without further small talk.  Hopefully you will find some to add to your San Juan vacation, to make it absolutely perfect for you!

The Bacardi Mixology Tour

The tall white building of Casa Batcadi, with windows running down the center, and a palm tree in the front.

The Bacardi tours are one of the most popular day tours in San Juan, drawing hundreds of tourists each day.  For exactly that reason, it is the type of tour that I normally avoid. However, when Keyauni and I traveled together on my last trip to San Juan, I decided we should give it a try.  We were pleasantly surprised, and had a ton of fun. 

Bacardi offers 3 different types of tours, a standard distillery tour, a rum tasting tour, and the mixology tour.  All Bacardi experiences begin with a free drink token in an outdoor courtyard, while awaiting the tour departure. The mixologists are jovial and entertaining, and there are plenty of photo opportunities to make for a pleasant wait.  Tours are organized by specific timed tickets, and groups depart the courtyard at the scheduled time in an open air tram.

A one story white corporate building with a green lawn, palm trees and other structures behind it, and the ocean in the background, seen on the Bacardi day tour from San Juan.

The standard distillery tour gives more in depth information about the rum making process, and the rum tasting tour gives  information about distinguishing the varieties of rum. We opted for the mixology tour, which includes information about the origins of rum and the Barcardi family, a trip to the top of Casa Bacardi to look out over the distillery properties, and a classroom drink crafting experience.  During the class, 3 full size drinks are created, and each participant get a personalized certificate of completion.  

A smiling woman with tipped up sunglasses and summer clothes holds a Bacardi drink in her right hand, and a certificate of graduation in her left hand, during the Bacardi excursion from San Juan.

Believe me when I tell you this tour gets a bit rambunctious. Everyone gets a bit tipsy as they strive to consume all 3 of the beverages they have created. Someday I might attempt to put together the footage I took during the class for all to see, but, I did acquire a new skill- I can still make all 3 of these cocktails like a pro. This tour from San Juan is good fun for those who do use alcohol products, but not for those who drive to the distillery.

I recommend: Save some money, and make this San Juan excursion on your own!

If you choose to make this San Juan tour on your own:

  • Buy tickets directly from the Bacardi website.
  • From Old San Juan, use the Catano Ferry from pier #2, about an hour and a half before tour time.  The ferry costs $.50, and runs roughly every 30 minutes between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays and 8 to 8 on weekends.
  • Upon exit at the Catano terminal, look for the Bacardi shuttle, which is free transport to the distillery.  Frankly, it is not recognizable by sight, but there were some senior Bacardi employees with a handwritten sign that said Bacardi.  They will also be asking passengers if they are going to Bacardi as they exit. Yes, that is them, but make sure to get in with a group, just in case.
  • The shuttle returns visitors to the dock after the tour as well.

If you prefer a pre-arranged group tour:

You might like this Bacardi Tour with direct pick up, and transport to and from the distillery. 

A variety of bright green ferns and trees under a cloud civered sky in El Yunque tropical rainforest.

El Yunque is the most popular day trip from San Juan, but one that I recommend you do not miss.  There are very few expanses of tropical rain forest in the United States, so opportunities to see this type of forest are slim without international travel.  And, El Yunque is the only tropical rain forest overseen by the US Forest Service. It has the infrastructure of many USFS managed forests, including ranger stations, visitor centers, and well maintained trails and services, but it is a unique and refreshing experience.  Most tours include a hike, a swim in a natural swimming hole, a visit to the popular La Coca waterfall, sometimes a second waterfall, a climb to the top of one of the observation towers, and a stop at Bano Grande.

The trees and plants in El Yunque are very different from those seen in most US forests.  There are over 150 different species of ferns, and 240 different species of trees, including the dwarf cloud forest at the highest peaks.  There are no large or harmful animals, so no need to worry about anything dangerous while staying on the trails, but there are numerous animals to watch for, including bright tropical bird species, and the Puerto Rican coqui frog.  The hiking trails include a variety of attractions, such as fast moving rivers, swimming holes, waterfalls, and the observation towers.  

A woman stands ion top of a massive boulder, with many smaller boulders piled beneath, and the tall La Coca waterfall behind.

The humidity is immediately felt upon entering the forest, however it is not stifling since the El Yunque maintains a pretty stable year round temperature of 73 degrees. The likelihood of rain is frequent though, so be prepared, as the higher elevations receive over 200 inches of rain a year.  Generally speaking it is quite comfortable in the forest, particularly at higher elevations. We got rained on a bit, and it actually felt good.

A woman in sunglasses, with a camera hanging from her neck, poses giving a double peace sign, in front of a rock wall with ferns growing from the cracks, in El Yunque National Forest, one of the best day trips frpm San Juan.

The main visitors center and the park headquarters have not reopened since hurricane Maria, but a temporary visitors center in the town of Palmer, El Portalito, features a 20 minute educational film and exhibits.  Forest maps and trail maps are also available at El Portalito, as well as the most current information regarding what areas of the forest are open.  

I recommend: If you want to do some extensive hiking, go on your own. Otherwise, either option is great for El Yunque.

If you choose to make this San Juan day trip on your own:

  • The drive from San Juan to the El Portalito temporary visitors center in Palmer, Rio Grande, is just under an hour. Start your day there.
  • Check out the exhibits, watch the informational film, and talk to a ranger about any weather warnings that may be in effect.
  • Ask for a free trail map and begin your adventure. 
  • The main attractions and trails in El Yunque are not all currently marked, but they are pretty easy to find along 2 primary roadways.

We did a half day El Yunque tour with an added experience at the Loiza Cultural Center, where we learned about the African influences in Puerto Rican culture. We learned a bit of Bomba dancing too!

Another choice is the half day El Yunque tour with a visit to Luquillo Beach. This is one of the most popular half day options.

The full day El Yunque tours last about 9 hours from pick up to drop off. It allows more time at some attractions, and longer hikes.

Those who love an adrenaline rush may prefer the full day Wilderness Adventure in El Yunque.

Cueva Ventana

A deep forested ridge with a lush green valley before it, as seen from above, from the entrance of Cueva Ventana, the Window Cave.

A relatively new San Juan day trip is the option to explore Cueva Ventana.  On my first trip to Puerto Rico, Cueva Venta, or Window Cave, was not even on the map.  Today, with the advent of social media and personal additions to Google Maps, Cueva Venta is known across the island, and has become a very popular adventure destination.  

The cave was once a holy site of the Taino, the indigenous people who lived in Puerto Rico prior to the arrival of the Spaniards in 1493.  This region of Puerto Rico is made up of a karst topography, so caves and sinkholes are quite common throughout the area. Some are known for their underground rivers, others for the petroglyphs, and Cueva Ventana is known for its spectacular view over the Arecibo Valley and the Rio Grande de Arecibo.   On a clear day some of the islands highest peaks can be seen.

Small and large stalactites and rock formations seen inside of Cueva Ventana, a popular excursion from San Juan.

Getting to Cueva Ventana includes a 20 minute hike through the forest at an incline, so it does require a certain level of fitness.  Due to the strenuous nature of the trip, children under 6 are not allowed, and a certain amount of safety gear is required. Exploration of the cave includes learning a bit about the Taino culture and seeing some petroglyphs, learning a little about cave creatures, with the possibility of seeing cave crickets and bats, and also learning about the geology of the area, and the resulting cave formations.  

A cave entrance shrouded in forest growth, with a wooden railway along the approach.

Visiting Cueva Ventana is not a full day experience, so many people combine it with a trip to the Arecibo Observatory, which is the way I would do it.  For those who want more caves, a visit to Cueva del Indo can be combined with Cueva Ventana, and those who want to learn more about Taino culture should consider Caguana Ceremonial Indigenous Heritage Cener. 

I recommend: Save yourself some wait time, and visit Cueva Ventana with a group tour.

If you do choose to make this San Juan excursion on your own:

  • The drive from San Juan to Arecibo is just over an hour, but be prepared for a wait at the site. 
  • Tickets can be purchased ahead of time online, at Cueva Ventana, but they are not time specific.
  • Tours are offered on a first come first served basis upon arrival.  Plan that extra time into your day, and be certain to combine your trip with one of the other fine attractions in the area.
  • You will likely get sweaty and dirty, so bring a change of clothes in your backpack.

If you can’t get enough caves, try a full day option exploring both Cueva Venta and Cueva del Indio. 

I am a space nerd, so my preference would be a day tour from San Juan combining the tour of Cueva Ventana with a visit to Aricebo Observatory.  

For a less popular option, but one with a refreshing swim the hiking, you may prefer a trip that combines exploring Cueva Ventana and Gozalandia Waterfall. 

Bioluminescent Bays

day trips out of san juan

A Bioluminescent Bay is a rather rare phenomenon, where tiny organisms in the water produce a glowing effect when agitated.  While this effect can occur in many places around the world from time to time, it is said that there are only 5 places in the world where it happens all year round.  While this is not specifically true, there are 3 of these rare bioluminescent areas in Puerto Rico, and a visit to one of them is a really a must.

An experience at one of the Bioluminescent Bays is always best during the new moon phase, so if you have the option of plnning your trip to Puert Rico with that in mind, do so.  In two of the bays, one in Fajardo and one on Vieques Island, visitors get a brief introduction to kayaking, and then head out onto the water after sun down. At Paraguay, guests are taken by boat and can actually swim in the water, watching the effect around themselves.  This tends to be a bit controversial, but I am not educated enough about the subject to take a stance on either side of that argument.  

Once everyone is in the midst of the areas that are heavily populated with the dinoflagellates (the organisms that cause the glow) the magic begins.  Every movement in the water brings about a burst of blue underwater illumination. It helps to envision it by thinking of it as a lot of underwater blue fireflies, with thousands of tiny lights that shine every time you put your hand in the water or row your kayak.  It really is a once in a lifetime experience!

Photographing the bioluminescence is impossible with standard camera equipment, so don’t risk your cell phone on the kayak. It is such a memorable experience, you will never forget it, even without photos. But, the most advance cameras can capture the effect, which is why we shared this old CNN clip, so you understand why the experience is not to be missed.

I recommend: Save yourself from the 1.5 hour drive back to your hotel at night by visiting a Bioluminescent Bay with a group tour.

If you do choose to make this San Juan day trip on your own:

  • The closest Bioluminescent Bay to San Juan is LaGuna Grande, in Ceiba.
  • The drive to Ceiba takes about an hour and 30 minutes.
  • Be sure to purchase your tickets in advance from Eco Adventure, or Pure Adventure.
  • Plan to have dinner in the Ceiba area, so you will be there well before your tour departure time.
  • If you prefer an option that uses a boat, rather than a kayak, try Bio Island Tours.
  • If you prefer the Parguera option, it is a 2.5 hour drive across the island.

If you are traveling with a friend, try an option that allows you to ride with a partner in a double kayak to tour the Bioluminescent Bay, with hotel pick up and drop off.

If you have a day in your itinerary, you may like a full day experience traveling to Paraguera from San Juan, with snorkeling time as well as Bioluminescent Bay swimming.  

Sailing San Juan Harbor

Thick ropes of a sailboat in the foreground, with a city skyline in the distance across an expanse of sea.

I love the water, and wherever I travel, I try to get out on any water that may be a part of the landscape.  It adds an entirely different element to every trip. In a country composed of islands, the water was calling me! There are a number of ways to get out on the water as a day tour from San Juan, but I was particularly interested in San Juan Harbor.

San Juan Harbor is an inlet off the Atlantic, deep enough for huge cruise ships. The city sort of circles around it, so almost everywhere you go in the city, there is some view of water, whether it is the harbor, or the ocean proper.  The easiest and cheapest way to see it is on the Catano Ferry, but there are a couple of different tour and boat groups that offer a San Juan excursion around the harbor, in different styles of boats.   

Colorful historic buildings sit on top of an ancient city wall, as seen from the waters while sailing San Juan Harbor, one of the best excursions from San Juan.

We opted for a 1.5 hour mid-afternoon sailing tour. This tour goes out to the end of the harbor, and circles back, and it includes free rum punch and music along the route. The shipmates give a bit of commentary on the city and its historic walls, but not so much that I would call it educational.  The joy of the sail was the fresh breeze off the ocean, and the sunshine, as well as the stunning views in every direction. Seeing Old San Juan from the water is pretty amazing, allowing for photos of landmarks we had already visited, from a unique perspective. 

I recommend: Plan this San Juan day tour on your own. The times and meeting places are exactly the same as if you purchased it through a tour company.
  • More than one company offers San Juan Harbor cruises, in a variety of different boat types. I prefer a sailing experience, but it does cost a few more dollars than a standard tour boat.  
  • Buy your tickets to sail on the Amazing Grace schooner ahead of time at East Island Puerto Rico. You can opt for an afternoon sail or a sunset sail.
  • Both trips include unlimited rum punch.
  • Meet between cruise piers 2 and 3 for your sail, behind the I Love PR sign. You can’t miss the big schooner!

If you want to be in the open air and have the best views of the harbor and the city, choose a day time sail tour.

For something a bit more romantic, you may prefer the sunset sail.

For a different type of experience in an eco-friendly tour boat, you may prefer the Eco Historic Tour.

Culebra Island 

day trips out of san juan

Puerto Rico is not actually an island, it is an archipelago of many islands.  Some of them are undeveloped, some protected, and others make for amazing excursions from San Juan.  Culebra is one of those islands, which may be most widely known for its fabulous white sand beaches.  The small island has a town with restaurants, shops, and other services specifically for tourists. There is even a small history museum. About 1,800 people live on Culebra, but for the most part, visitors come to the island for a day of relative solitude. Some travelers say it is their favorite day trip from San Juan.

Once a pirate hide out, and later the site of US military marine exercises, much of Culebra was off limits for centuries.  It was only in 1975 that military operations on the island were halted, and some of the natural order began to return.  The island flows with natural beauty. It is hard to imagine such a gorgeous place being seen as an area appropriate for military activities!  

A long curving stretch of white sand, with tiny people on the distant portion, and a forested hill in the back ground.

Many visitors to the island rent a jeep upon arrival and head out to discover the pristine beaches, but there are golf carts, scooters and bicycles available for rent too. Most start at the long stretch of white sand at Flamenco Beach, which is the most popular on the island. It is often ranked one of the 10 finest beaches in the world, but it is truly never packed.  It is picture perfect, and the abandoned army tank on the end of the beach makes for interesting photos.

Three pontoon boats in turquoise water, and darker reefs below, with a forested peninsula in the center, another in the distance.

For those who crave other adventures, there are other options. Some boat tour operators specialize in snorkeling tours at Culebra’s bountiful reefs. There are also 2 nature preserves on the island, with hiking trails and opportunities for wildlife viewing. For most people though, a visit to Culebra is simply about relaxing in a beautiful place.  

I recommend : Visit Culebra on your own. It will take a bit of planning, and an early morning start, but it is worth it to have the entire day to explore as you wish.
  • To get to Culebra, you will need to catch the Ferry at Ceiba, or take a flight.
  • The drive to Ceibe takes about 1.5 hours. Plan to arrive about an hour before your ferry departure.
  • The morning ferries leave Ceiba at 5:00, 9:00, and 11:00. The ride takes about 45 minutes.
  • It is best to purchase your tickets online in advance at Pro Ferry. Tickets are $2.25 per adult. 
  • Those who plan to really explore the island may wish to take their car along, provided the rental company allows it, which costs $15.  This should be arranged ahead of time.
  • Once on the island, rent a jeep ($70), golf cart ($50), or scooter ($40) to get around for the day. Culebra is small, but not small enough to walk.
  • Be mindful of the time so you catch your return ferry. The last trip departs at 7:00.

If you want a structured day, you can opt for a scheduled day tour from San Juan to Culebra, with morning snorkeling, lunch, and the afternoon on Flamenco Beach.

If you prefer to explore on your own, you can opt for day tour transportation, that picks you up at your hotel and drops you off at the Ceiba ferry, then picks you up after your day of adventure.

Toroverde Adventure Park

Generally I do not recommend activities that can be had almost anywhere at a destination that has amazing and unique options.  A ziplining trip would normally fall under that purview, and I would not suggest it in a country with as many world class options as Puerto Rico.  However, Toroverde Adventure Park is amazing enough to earn a recommendation.

Sitting in the midst of the central mountain region, the experience automatically comes with gorgeous scenery.  The features of Toroverde include a series of suspension bridges, ziplines and in-the-air obstacle courses, set up in tours ranging from 1 to 4 hours.  This includes The Monster, the longest and fastest zipline in the Americas, which is over a mile long and reaches speeds of almost 90 miles per hour.  Through all of these adrenaline pumping features, you have views over the Mountains of Orocovis, making Toroverde a one of a kind adventure.  

We did not make it to Toroverde on our last trip. although Keyauni would have loved it. (We both had to fight to get a mere 5 days off of work, and we just couldn’t fit it in.) While a smaller zipline would have been more up my alley, I can picture Keyauni flying through the air at 90 mph on the Monster, with the the lush valley and river below. So you get the picture too, Jimmy Fallon aired his ride on the Monster Zipline for all the world to see. Yeah, I think that makes it a worthwhile excursion from San Juan!

Toroverde is not for the faint of heart.  Those looking to try ziplining for the first time may find some of the smaller lines a good starter and the beautiful setting enough distraction to ease the nervousness.  And remember, it is that first jump that is the scary part. After that, it really is fun.

I recommend: Make this day tour from San Juan on your own. You will save a bit of cash, and can do more than one tour if you choose.

If you choose to make this San Juan excursion on your own:

  • Buy tickets in advance on the Toroverde website.
  • The drive from San Juan to the adventure park is about an hour and 15 minutes. 
  • Plan to arrive about an hour before your scheduled tour.
  • You will likely get sweaty and dirty, so bring a change of clothes if you plan to stop for other attractions.

You can opt for a full day experience in the Toroverde Adventure Park with hotel pick up.

Have You Picked Your San Juan Day Tour Yet?

Certainly our list is by no means an exclusive list of the San Juan day trips, however, we believe it includes the options that will make your trip more memorable and enjoyable. Each of these tours is unforgettable in its own way. Be sure to spend plenty of time exploring the beautiful historic center of Old San Juan, and some time on the beach, but add a couple excursions from San Juan to take your short vacation over the top!

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day trips out of san juan

About the Author

day trips out of san juan

You know me, RoxyK, the founder of Gypsy With a Day Job. Puerto Rico was both my first solo trip, and my last trip with friends, and I already long to return. It will have to wait, as there is such a big world to see! If you haven’t been to Puerto Rico yet, it is both an amazing and easy destination. I want to make planning a trip to Puerto Rico as easy as possible for you, so we will keep on sharing information to make your trip the best one possible. Your Puerto Rico vacation should be the trip of your dreams, and adding a few awesome excursions from San Juan will help make it so!

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Best Day Trips in Puerto Rico from San Juan

Last Updated April 17, 2023 William Tang

You are here: Home » Attractions & Experiences » Best Day Trips in Puerto Rico from San Juan

One of the most popular Caribbean destinations, Puerto Rico’s capital of San Juan, needs to be added to your bucket list…if it isn’t already! Rich with culture and history, San Juan has something for everyone and is the place to start when you visit this magnificent island. 

Even though San Juan has everything you need from beaches to museums to nightlife, there are some amazing day trips in Puerto Rico available so you won’t want to miss venturing away from the city.

Read more about Puerto Rico

  • 5 Day Puerto Rico Itinerary – What to See, Do, and Eat
  • Best Things To Do In Ponce, Puerto Rico
  • Best Time To Visit Puerto Rico

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Day Trips in Puerto Rico You Can’t Miss

Best for adventurers – el yunque hiking and kayaking.

el yunque rainforest trail as a day trip in puerto rico from san juan

While checking out the spectacular nature of Puerto Rico, such as El Yunque , isn’t just reserved for adventurers, those with a little more adrenaline than most will want to take advantage of a day trip like this. The El Yunque Rainforest Off The Beaten Path and Bio Bay Combo Tour is one of the perfect day trips in Puerto Rico. 

With El Yunque being one of the most stunning natural wonders in this region of the world, there are many ways you can see and enjoy it. As the only tropical rainforest recognized in the United States National Forest System , you will be guided through the lesser-known tracks along natural pools, through mud, and wading through rivers. Soak up the magnificent views of the Atlantic before arriving for a dip in the base of one of the many waterfalls, often untouched by regular hikers. 

Later on, head further East for a night kayak in a bioluminescent bay . Paddle through the pitch-black darkness and be guided through the ecosystem in a two-person kayak, learning about the area, and being in awe of this light phenomenon.

From San Juan, you can also do exclusive night kayaking tours of Bio Bay which includes transportation from the city. An alternative you can look at Puerto Rico Bio Bay Tours and Puerto Rico Access Tours .

Best For Families – Cuevea Ventana and Gozalandia Waterfalls

rock window view of cueva ventana

When travelling as a family with younger children, finding suitable guided day trips in Puerto Rico can be hard. Often you are left with hiring a car and driving yourself to the best spots. Consider doing an organized day trip that’s perfect for those with little ones and get to see two of the most visited spots on the island. 

Starting the day with a gorgeous hike to Cueva Ventana you will learn about the natural caves in the area. Then you will head to Gozalandia Waterfall where you can relax and check out the view or jump in for a cool off. 

Best of all, this Day Trip to Cueva Del Indio and Gozalandia Waterfalls is just for your group. If your kids are still young, strollers are not recommended, so don’t forget a baby carrier or great shoes for your new little adventurer. The tour organizer can provide car seats on request. 

Best for Insta Worthy Photos – Bucketlist VIP Tour

castillo arch in old san juan puerto rico

For one of the best photography day trips in Puerto Rico, head out of San Juan for the day to make your friends jealous at home, with all the Insta-worthy photos you are going to be taking. Your guide will know the best spots to visit, take photos, eat, and really see outside of the city. 

You will love every second of this 4-hour VIP tour , so don’t forget to tale the photos.

Best For Beach Goers – Luquillo Beach

best day trips in puerto rico includes luquillo beach

While most organized day trip tours head to this coastal spot, Luquillo Beach is a day trip in itself and one that can be done without a guide. Jump in the car from San Juan and head approximately 53 kilometres to the province of Luquillo. 

There are two beaches in the area. One of them you will need to pay a small fee to access. In turn that provides you with facilities. Both are stunning and have nearby options to rent chairs and umbrellas if you didn’t bring your own. One thing is for sure, both beaches guarantee palm trees and a relaxing, tropical vibe. 

This area is also a great spot for families as there are protected waters perfect for children to play in the shallows. For the more adventurous you can surf or rent snorkel or dive gear from nearby stores. 

Foodies will not want to miss this Puerto Rico day trip as this area is a street food paradise. Shacks and food stalls are lined up ready to offer you the best Puerto Rican street food around. Make sure you try the ‘papa rellena’!

If you’re feeling a little adventure, many visitors combine Luquillo Beach and the El Yunque rainforest as a day trip from San Juan .

Best Island Getaway – Vieques

vieques and surrounding ocean in puerto rico

As it states, Vieques is an island off the coast of Puerto Rico. While it is recommended that you don’t want to allow just a day trip to explore this stunning place, it is worth mentioning in this list. 

There are only two ways to get to Vieques – by ferry or by air. And both have their pros and cons.

Air travel is convenient and quick; with flights departing all the main 4 airports around Puerto Rico. It is not the cheapest option and it pays to shop around for which airport is offering the cheapest flights (but consider the time to get to each airport too). Flight time is around 30 minutes and tickets start from around $80 per person. Make sure to check Skyscanner for options.

The ferry is a lot cheaper, with tickets starting from only $2. But the catch is that only 20% of tickets available are available for online advance purchase, so you need to take the risk and arrive early at the terminal to buy your ticket – like everyone else! It isn’t uncommon for many people not to get on at the desired time. 

Once you are on the island you have immediately whisked away to paradise. Turquoise waters lap white sand, see wild horses in open fields, and museums aplenty await for you to explore. If you haven’t already committed to staying on the island for more than a day, then this is the point where you start changing your plans to have more time here.

Snorkelling and looking out for sea turtles in this gorgeous spot of Puerto Rico is also a must and there are plenty of places to hire or purchase gear as well as checking out options for local tours to make this one of the most unforgettable day trips in Puerto Rico.  

Best Day Trip in Puerto Rico for Over 18s – Casa Bacardi

casa bacardi mixology tour in puerto rico

No trip to anywhere in the Caribbean is complete without rum. And what better way to experience rum than to head straight to the heart; Casa Bacardi Puerto Rico as a Puerto Rico day trip. 

Casa Bacardi is the world’s biggest rum distillery and is only a 20-minute drive by car from the city centre of San Juan. Alternatively, you can catch the Cataño Ferry , which is only 50c and takes only 10 minutes, departing Pier 2 in old San Juan. 

Once you arrive at Casa Bacardi, there are a number of experiences you can choose from. Learn how to mix the perfect Pina Colada or Mojito in the Mixology Class or head around the distillery on a Rum Tasting Tour . Tickets can be purchased online for these experiences and are restricted to people aged 18 and over.

Best City Day Trip in Puerto Rico –  Old San Juan

day trip to old san juan puerto rico to see the coastline

Your visit to the capital of Puerto Rico needs to be seen through the new and the old. Heading to Old San Juan as one of your Puerto Rico day trips to understand the history and the cities story, needs to be high on your ‘To Do’ list. 

A walking tour of the city is a great way to see all the significant sites of Old San Juan and really be amongst it all. City guides are often locals and are extremely knowledgeable about all the places they will take you. If you are lucky they will also be able to give you some recommendations on where to eat and foods to try. Book a walking tour before you head to Old San Juan so you don’t miss a thing. 

If you really love your food and are curious about Puerto Rican cuisine, combine history with your love of food and book a walking culture and cuisine tour . Here you will get a chance to taste many local dishes and then create one yourself along with a Puerto Rican rum cocktail, all while learning about the history of the town. 

Final Thoughts

With San Juan already offering so much, it pays to plan the trips you want to take away from the city. With so many day trips already organized for you on offer, you will be sure to find exactly the one that combines everything you are wanting out of your day adventures from San Juan.

If you do only have a short time and organizing day trips in Puerto Rico seems a bit overwhelming, check out this 5 day Puerto Rico itinerary to make sure you see the best of everything. 

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About William Tang

William Tang is the Chief of Awesome behind the award-winning Going Awesome Places which is focused on outdoor adventure, and experiential travel. His true passion lies in telling stories, inspiring photography and videos, and writing detailed itineraries and travel guides. He is a member of Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC), Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), and Travel Massive. He has also been featured in publications such as Reader's Digest, Entrepreneur, Men's Journal, and Haute Living. Make sure to learn more about William Tang to find out his story and how Going Awesome Places started.

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Things to Do in San Juan

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Best Beaches

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Day Trips from San Juan

Affordable Day Trips From San Juan in Puerto Rico

If you're visiting San Juan for more than three days, I highly recommend getting out of Puerto Rico's capital and exploring other parts of the island. The good news is, you don't have to take an expensive tour group to see some of Puerto Rico's greatest assets. Here are just a few ideas to get you going.

Visiting any one of Puerto Rico's myriad beaches can make for a fun day trip away from the city, but as there is plenty of beachfront in San Juan, it's been left off this list of cheap excursions.

This is an obvious one because one of Puerto Rico's greatest draws is absolutely free. The El Yunque National Rainforest is a lush green oasis with several hiking trails, a spectacular waterfall and plenty of scenic vistas to enjoy. You have to get there, and if you want to avoid taking a tour, which can cost around $30 to $40 per person, consider renting a car for the day. It's worth the effort because you can combine the free rainforest with the free Luquillo Beach and the very cheap kiosks on the way for some serious roadside snacking.

Culebra and Vieques

There is a cheap way to get to the wonderful islands of Vieques and Culebra , but it will take you a while. Here's the four-step process:

  • Grab a público to Fajardo . It's cheap, but it will take a few hours. If you're willing to splurge, a taxi can cost between $25 to a lot more depending on traffic.
  • Take the public ferry to the island of your choice. Make sure you check with the Puerto Rico Maritime Authority (787-863-0705) for the schedule and time your trip accordingly. Again, it's cheap but it takes more time than flying.
  • Enjoy the beaches ! To get around, hop on a público on either island.
  • Enjoy a cheap but tasty meal at one of these restaurants in ​ Vieques or Culebra .

Make sure you know the ferry schedule for the trip home!

Given how close it is, and throw in the free trip if you're dining at Soleil Beach Club, and it's hard to beat Piñones for value. The great beach is free, the plethora of kiosks nearby offer a great diversion, even if you don't eat anything there, and it's a different vibe in this rustic retreat.

Patron Saint Festivals

Patron Saint Festivals, or Fiestas Patronales , as they are locally known, are an explosion of local flavor, pageantry, and culture. These are festivals held by most towns around the island to honor their patron saint, and they comprise a day (or more, depending on the town) of music, parades, food, and general frivolity. This is another great use for the públicos, which is how Puerto Ricans who don't have cars get to and from the small towns to the big cities. Before you plan your trip, check the schedule for patron saint festivals and know where you're going.

The Guánica State Forest

Far less famous and less visited than Puerto Rico's other big forest, the Guánica State Forest is just as unique as El Yunque. Located in the Southwest near the city of Guánica, this is believed to be the best preserved subtropical dry forest in the Caribbean. It's also home to roughly half of Puerto Rico's species of birds and over 700 plant species, of which almost 50 are endangered. There are well-made trails to take you to the forest, and like El Yunque, your biggest expense will likely be getting here. A rental car should take care of that.

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Travel Inspiration

The 7 Best Day Trips from San Juan

Fora Author Fora Travel

The Modern Travel Agency

Fora travel.

https://www.foratravel.com/the-journal/the-7-best-day-trips-from-san-juan

day trips out of san juan

There are a lot of things to do in San Juan , but that doesn’t mean you have to spend your entire Puerto Rico vacation within the confines of the capital. There’s so much to explore in Puerto Rico, which is why we’ve curated this quick list of the best day trips from San Juan.

Connect with a Fora Advisor (who can act as your Puerto Rico trip planner ) to start planning today. They'll help you personalize your trip, with insider intel and free upgrades and perks, too.

The best day trips from San Juan

The best day trips from San Juan explore Puerto Rico’s rich history , delicious cuisine and scenery. Here are a few of our favorites.

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1. Visit parks such as El Yunque National Forest

day trips out of san juan

There’s so much nature to explore on the island (see our Puerto Rico nature guide ), and some of the best examples are at Puerto Rico’s parks. El Yunque National Forest – one of the best places to visit in Puerto Rico in general – is the most famous. And since it’s only about an hour away from San Juan, it makes for an excellent day trip from San Juan.

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A Fora Advisor can help you decide which parts of the park are most worthy of your time while also planning your ideal route, as well.

2. Learn about space at the Arecibo Observatory

day trips out of san juan

If you’re looking for things to do in Puerto Rico with kids , a day trip to the Arecibo Observatory is a great choice. Until it was decommissioned in 2020, the observatory’s massive radio telescope was science -famous for exploring the deepest reaches of space – and movie -famous for being the site of one of Sean Bean’s many onscreen deaths (i.e. GoldenEye ). 

3. Paddle through a bioluminescent bay like La Laguna Grande

day trips out of san juan

Technically this would be a night trip from San Juan rather than a day trip from San Juan, but Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent bays offer a truly unique experience. The bays glow at night because of microscopic algae blooms that shimmer when disturbed by waves.

If you want to do something you can’t do almost anywhere else in the world, visit the bioluminescent bay in La Laguna Grande (or Vieques if you don’t mind the three-hour travel time). And remember, a Fora Advisor can help you with the travel details.

4. Relax at Luquillo Beach

day trips out of san juan

Luquillo is one of the best areas to stay in Puerto Rico if you’re looking for a laid-back trip. But it also makes for a good day trip from San Juan. The beach town isn’t as developed as nearby Ponce or San Juan so the beaches are quieter, which also makes it one of the more romantic places in Puerto Rico to visit.

Here you can bask in the sun, snorkel along the coast or, if you’re really lucky, spy a leatherback turtle laying eggs along the beach. 

You can also check out our mini Caribbean vacation guide for more tips on visiting Puerto Rico.

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5. Explore Ponce’s Historic Zone

day trips out of san juan

Ponce’s historical center isn’t as expansive as Old San Juan, but it still warrants a day trip if you want to immerse yourself in local culture (especially if you’ve enjoyed exploring San Juan ). In addition to the city’s historical significance, Ponce also features a thriving culinary scene.

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6. Hop on the Cayey Pork Highway

day trips out of san juan

If you’re a meat lover, the best time to visit Puerto Rico is in December, right around Christmas time. Puerto Rico’s Cayey Pork Highway – which features a mile-long stretch of highway where pigs roast on skewers from dozens of vendors – offers a rich opportunity to explore Puerto Rico ’s gastronomic scene. 

Advisor - From San Juan to Vieques: 5-Days Exploring Puerto Rico

If the Cayey highway is a bit out of your way for a day trip from San Juan, there are two other major Pork Highways you can indulge in instead (a Fora Advisor can help you decide which option best fits your agenda!).

7. Check out Carolina’s boardwalk & beaches

day trips out of san juan

If you don’t want to travel too far from San Juan, Carolina is only about 20 minutes away. The beachfront boardwalk offers a great way to sample local Puerto Rican cuisine while the water parks and watersport rentals rank among the more adventurous things to do in Puerto Rico . 

Some of the nearby ranches, like Campo Rico Hacienda, offer ATV rentals and horseback riding too.

Want to learn about more day trips from San Juan? Talk with a Fora Advisor

Still looking for that perfect day trip from San Juan? Connect with a Fora Advisor to discuss all your options. And remember, they can hook you with VIP upgrades and hotel perks (all at no extra cost!).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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The 3 Best Day Trips in Puerto Rico—That Will Get You Out of San Juan

By Alicia Kennedy

Puerto Rico Rincon Surf School

Most travelers make San Juan the main event of their trip to Puerto Rico, and stop there. We can't blame them—it's the island's main hub, and it understandably garners a lot of action. But, there’s far more to the main island of Puerto Rico than its capital city, and you'd be short-changing yourself if you didn't do a little exploring. On the west coast, chill out at some picturesque surf towns and speakeasy bars. Down in Ponce, get a taste of a city with its own distinct take on the island’s culture and cuisine. Or if the mountains are what you're after, stay at the top of one in Adjuntas, from which there are coffee farms, family restaurants, and natural wonders to experience. Truly, the island is too diverse to stay in just one place, so use our guide to Puerto Rico's best day trips to cover as much ground as you can.

Click the link to read our complete Puerto Rico travel guide .

All listings featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. If you book something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Tres Sirenas Beach Inn Arrow

It's impossible not to breathe in deeply once you arrive at Tres Sirenas, a white-washed oceanfront property. Soothing waves beckon from the beach, and bustle of busy San Juan feels worlds away. The hotel's five rooms all have ocean views and feel like tropical villas, with clay tiled floors, wood furniture, breezy ceiling fans, and private terraces. You can borrow paddle boards, kayaks and snorkel gear. An oceanfront pool is flanked with canopied daybeds, while an adjoining swimming cove offers a nice alternative to Rincón's wavy surf beaches.

Puerto Rico Levain Artisan Breads

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Levain's motto translates to: “yeast is our culture and our culture is yeast,” which demonstrates the west coast bakery's commitment to its craft. Try the tricked-out Monte Cristo sandwich: challah that's topped with salami, pepperoni, cream cheese, and strawberry marmalade, then soaked in French toast batter, pan-fried in butter, and sprinkled in powdered sugar with a touch of maple syrup. There's also eggs Benedict on a house-made English muffin with classic Hollandaise and smoked salmon or spinach. This is a great for a stop if you're flying in or out of Aguadilla, the hub of the west.

Puerto Rico Rincon Surf School

Rincón Surf School Arrow

Rincón Surf School, a serious educational center that opened in 1999, is staffed by coaches who offer private, group, and private group lessons, along with guided tours. They can work with every skill level, so need to worry if you've never stepped foot on a board before. Rincón is a laid-back surf town, and these lessons broaden your understanding of the city's culture. Be sure to reserve in advance.

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Puerto Rico Timber  Blues

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Timber and Blues' darkened speakeasy vibe can seem played out, but here it's just a cover for a great dive with excellent craft cocktails. Anyone hanging out on the west coast of the island should adopt this bar as their local—even if it's just for a night or two. This is one of those ambidextrous joints that goes both ways: they're happy to crack open a beer, but they'll also shake up something custom-tailored to your unique tastes.

Puerto Rico Tres Palmas Marine Reserve

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At Tres Palmas Marine Reserve, the first marine reserve established in Puerto Rico, you can walk right up to Steps Beach, which boasts an incredibly healthy reef that draws scuba divers in droves. Check out the elkhorn coral, a federally protected endangered series, as well as the wealth of marine life—you might even catch a glimpse of a dolphin. The reserve is easy to find. There's also signage for Steps Beach, though it can be a bit rocky to get to, and the water can be choppy.

Puerto Rico La Copa Llena

La Copa Llena at The Black Eagle Arrow

A breezy oceanfront restaurant so gorgeously picturesque it feels like you're walking into the last scene of a rom-com. The outdoor terrace is framed perfectly by swaying palms, strung with delicate fairy lights, and looks directly out over the sunset. The tapas-style appetizers are tiny but pack a punch: think bites of smoky chistorra sausage with roasted red peppers, anchovies and eggs on slices of crusty baguette, and perfectly fried tostones. The mains are seafood-centric and dance with global and local flavors, like the catch-of-the-day curry, served with plantains and coconut rice. Most of the ingredients are sourced locally and so the menu changes often, but you can expect playful and inventive Puerto Rican fusion cuisine that doesn't take itself too seriously.

Puerto Rico Punta Higuero Lighthouse

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The original Punta Higuero Lighthouse was built by Spain in 1892, then redone in the '20s by the U.S. government. There's no effort involved in getting here and scoping it out, even if you don't fancy yourself a lighthouse aficionado; in fact, it's unmissable when you're hanging out in Rincón and visiting the surrounding park. The lighthouse, a sight unto itself, also offers views of surfers on the ocean and great sunsets over this tranquil beach town.

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Sandra Farms, a working coffee farm in the mountains of Adjuntas, offers daily Trip to Origin tours where you can taste the coffee, learn about the island's history of production, and sample the housemade chocolate. There's pick-up and drop-off in San Juan, but you can also arrive at the farm—way up a very windy mountain road—on your own, whether you brave a drive or hire independently. Tour guides work on the farm, and can speak about the history of sustainable agriculture in Puerto Rico as a whole. No doubt you'll appreciate enjoy the view—and likely the chocolate samples, too.

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La Terraza by the River Cantina Arrow

La Terraza by the River—indeed, a terrace on the river—is the most popular spot in Adjuntas for drinks, and it's a great place to come after a day of outdoor adventures. Most folks order low-key beers like Heineken, Peroni, and the local Medalla. There are also mixed drinks, as well as nachos and other bar snacks. Expect friendly, but dive-y service, and know what you want when you belly up to the bar.

Puerto Rico Sandra Farms

Greenhaven in the Cloud Forest at Sandra Farms Arrow

As its name suggest, the highest peak of Greenhaven in the Cloud Forest, at the top of a working coffee farm, is practically in the clouds. From the guest cottages, you have a brilliant view of the forests and greenery below; it's a space from which to escape civilization. The rooms are simple, making Greenhaven a place to get off the grind and unwind. While it's a cozy spot to stay, it's an even better launch pad for further exploring the region.

Puerto Rico Cerro de Punta

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At 4,400 feet, Cerro de Punta is the tallest mountain in Puerto Rico; on a clear day, you can see the entirety of the island from the top. Adventurers can choose to drive or hike, but after Hurricane Maria, it's more advised to hike, as the driving terrain can be treacherous. Hiking paths are pretty clear, but folks with mobility issues should sit this one out. And only go during daylight.

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Charco El Mango Arrow

Park nearby and walk a bit down a dirt path to Charco El Mango, a swimming hole that's well-known among locals but not overcrowded. There are waterfalls, too, making the park a quiet respite that's simply gorgeous to take in. This is a free attraction on a mountainous, rugged route studded with some of Puerto Rico's most significant natural sights. If exploring the island's terrain is a priority, it's a must-see.

Heladeria Lares Arrow

Heladeria Lares is an old-school ice cream shop right on the town square in Lares, site of a famous anti-Spanish uprising in the 19th century. It opened in 1968 and is still run by the same family, and there are upwards of 50 flavors from which to choose on any given day. There's a reason the shop has been open for more than 50 years, as if its inventive flavors—rice and beans, pumpkin, sesame seed—predicted the kind of hipster ice cream that only recently arrived in Brooklyn.

Puerto Rico Tierra del Frío

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The rusty orange facade of Tierra del Frío, widely considered one of the best restaurant in Adjuntas, invites you in for homey, traditional Puerto Rican cuisine. This is a great place to go with a few friends or family and order a lot of dishes to share. Enjoy mofongo , rice and beans, simple salads, pork chops, and other classics from the Puerto Rican cuisine canon. And even though you're in the mountains, there's usually seafood, too.

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Museo de Arte de Ponce Arrow

Museo de Arte de Ponce is a big, modern museum boasting a permanent collection of 4,500 artworks from Europe, the Americas, and Africa, making it a real destination on the south coast of the island. The museum has a great reputation for sparking conversation between Old World Europe and New World America. Everything is housed in a modern structure that feels very much in line with other major museums throughout Latin America. There are two guided tours a day, in either English or Spanish, and they're free with admission. A tour can go a long way toward contextualizing the rather expansive collection.

King's Cream Arrow

Set right on the main plaza in Ponce, the historic King's Cream Ice Cream Shop brings in locals and visitors alike. The old-school vibe and signage also make it an ideal photo-op spot. King's makes fruity ice creams—soursop, passionfruit, and coconut—that keep folks coming back. It's hard to make a wrong choice here, so come with family or friends for a cone and enjoy your spoils while people-watching on the plaza.

Puerto Rico Chef's Creations

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The first thing you notice at Chef's Creations is the stone interior—the perfect setting for well-plated local dishes that come straight from a chalkboard menu. The restaurant is a real draw for serious food-lovers around Ponce, because while none of the dishes—mofongo, burgers, fajitas—are all that surprising, they're all executed to perfection. The restaurant also offers a daily "plato vegano," or vegan plate, plus loads of seafood.

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El Marlin Trópical Drinks Kiosko #23 Arrow

Marlin’s 23 at La Guancha is a scenic boardwalk joint right on the water. Because the bar has a reputation for its terrific approach to mixology, it tends to attract locals looking for more than just cheap beer. For instance, it won't be strange to get a drink featuring Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky and Ancho Reyes here—both marks of a well-stocked backbar. If you're looking for a bite, there are plenty of solid places nearby.

Puerto Rico Museo Castillo Serralles

Museo Castillo Serralles Arrow

Once a mansion that was built upon the highest peak in the city in the 1930s, Museo Castillo Serrallés now serves as a place to learn about Puerto Rico's vast sugarcane and rum industries. The Serrallés in the name refers to the family-owned Destileria Serrallés, makers of the local Don Q rum. Because the castle is owned by the city of Ponce, the museum hosts a lot of public programming, including movie nights.

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5 Day Trips from San Juan You Can’t Miss

day trips out of san juan

If you’re planning a trip to Puerto Rico, you’ll likely decide to stay in the nation’s capital, San Juan . This vibrant and exciting city has a lot to offer, but if you really want to get the full Puerto Rican experience, you need to venture out.

Fortunately, because the island isn’t too large, there are tons of day trips you can make from San Juan. Best of all, most of these places are within two hours of the capital, so you don’t have to spend too much time in a rental car or tour bus.

With so many things to do and see around the capital, it’s hard to narrow down a list. However, here are our top picks for the six best Puerto Rico day trips.

Day Trip 1: El Yunque National Forest

day trips out of san juan

Time From San Juan: 40 to 60 minutes

One of the best things about Puerto Rico is the abundance of tropical backdrops that make you feel like you’re exploring the great Unknown. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the US forest system, and it’s so massive and impressive that you likely won’t get to see all of it in one day.

There are a few ways to get into the park, and you need to book a reservation to get in through the main gate. The park has over 18 miles of drivable roads, but much of the area is only accessible via hiking. So, get your hiking gear ready.

What to Do at El Yunque Rainforest

day trips out of san juan

No matter what, you should bring a camera and high-quality hiking boots for your visit. You’ll be walking around most of the day, visiting highlights like:

  • Ziplining – Nothing beats exploring the tropical rainforest from the treetops. You can access ziplining from the town of Luquillo on the park’s northeastern side. The total time is three hours, so plan accordingly.
  • Waterfalls – What better scenery than a pristine waterfall, untouched by modern civilization? El Yunque has multiple waterfalls, but the best ones are La Coca Falls, Juan Diego Creek, and La Mina Falls.
  • Animal Sightseeing – El Yunque is home to over 240 native species of plants, and hundreds of unique birds, reptiles, and mammals. See if you can spot the elusive coqui frog during your excursion into the park.

What to Eat

There are no restaurants within the park, but once you get outside the lush greenery, there are tons of top-level eateries. We recommend bringing lots of water and plenty of snacks, as you’ll work up an appetite while hiking and exploring.

On the north side of the park is a local Puerto Rican restaurant called El Yunque Treehouse . The menu here is full of local favorites, so it’s the perfect way to end your day.

Day Trip 2: Orocovis

day trips out of san juan

Time From San Juan: 1.5 hours

Typically, if you’re going to visit a Caribbean island, you’ll want to visit the beaches and see the sunset over the water. However, Puerto Rico is unlike other Caribbean destinations. The island center is just as captivating and depending on where you’re standing, you can get some incredible views of the area.

Orocovis is in the geographic center of Puerto Rico, and it’s the perfect blend of modern society and untamed wilderness. You can definitely get lost here in the best way possible.

What to Do in Orocovis

day trips out of san juan

As with El Yunque, nature is the primary attraction in Orocovis. There are a couple of spots you have to visit, including:

  • Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park – If you didn’t get enough ziplining already, Toro Verde offers some stunning views as you whiz by trees and brush. Plus, the park has its own cafe, which on a clear day, allows you to see all the way to the Atlantic and Caribbean oceans.
  • Toro Negro State Forest – If you don’t mind a bit more hiking, you can climb Cerro Dona Juan, which is the tallest point in Orocovis. Once you make it to the top, you won’t want to come down.

day trips out of san juan

Orocovis has a few unique places to eat, but one of the most highly-rated spots is La Sombra , which is famous for its handmade sausages. You can also get soups, rice, and combo plates to help satisfy your appetite after a day of hiking and ziplining through the forest.

Day Trip 3: Vieques

day trips out of san juan

Time From San Juan: 2.5 hours

Vieques is a secondary island off the coast of Puerto Rico, so that alone warrants a visit. However, what makes this island so special is that it’s like visiting your own personal tropical paradise, away from the “hustle and bustle” of San Juan.

This is the longest, but one of the best day trips on this list, but it’s well worth the trek. Plan to spend a full-day here.

What to Do in Vieques

As with the other spots we’ve seen so far, natural beauty is the main attraction on Vieques. Here, you can rent a kayak, go snorkeling, or visit one of Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent bays. The bio bay here is even better than the ones on the main island because the area is more lush and natural.

You can even go horseback riding on the beach, which is perfect for relaxing and trying to see what life was like before modern society kicked into high gear. Seeing the sunset on the beaches here is also transcendent.

day trips out of san juan

Vieques is well populated for being so small, so there are plenty of restaurants on the island to try. If you’re in the city center, we recommend spots like Rincon El Sabor, Gracias, De Nada, and Buen Provecho. Also, if you’re on the south side of the island, Bili is an excellent place for seafood.

Day Trip 4: Laguna Grande Bioluminescent Bay

day trips out of san juan

Time From San Juan: 45 minutes

If you haven’t been to a bioluminescent bay before, the experience is one-of-a-kind. As we mentioned, Puerto Rico has multiple bio bays, but Laguna Grande is one of the most beautiful places on the island. There’s nothing like seeing the algae from the back of a kayak, especially if you can make it just after dark when the sun is still setting.

What to Do in Laguna Grande

day trips out of san juan

Laguna Grande doesn’t offer much besides the bioluminescence. However, it’s just north of the town of Fajardo, so you can explore the area and see other sights like:

  • La Zanja – This place is off the beaten path, and it’s one of the best options for seeing aquatic life. The pool forms when waves crash from the Atlantic Ocean, so it’s super secluded and full of gorgeous scenery. Don’t let the translation (the Ditch) fool you, La Zanja is incredible.
  • Walk the Beach – Fajardo has some amazing beaches, and if you’re visiting a tropical paradise like Puerto Rico, you need to get some sand and surf. The best beaches are Playa Escondida and Playa Colora. They’re not too crowded because there’s a bit of a hike to reach them, but they’re worth the effort. You can also trek back toward San Juan and hit another gem, Luquillo Beach.
  • Visit the Lighthouse – The Fajardo Lighthouse is a holdover from Spanish colonization, and it overlooks the ocean. So, it’s a good way to get some magnificent views, especially in the morning or early evening.

day trips out of san juan

Since Fajardo is next to the ocean, you might want to indulge in some world-class seafood. Our favorites include Pescaderia Don Candi and Cinco Nudos , but there are plenty of seafood spots in and around the town.

Day Trip 5: Casa Bacardi

day trips out of san juan

Time From San Juan: 20 minutes

If it’s your first time to Puerto Rico, you need to visit the Bacardi distillery. This world-famous rum destination is across the bay from Old San Juan, and it’s worth the ticket to the island. Even if you’re not a huge rum fan, there’s something special about visiting what amounts to holy land in the region. Plus, it’s just a 20 minute drive from the city center, so it doesn’t require too much of your time.

This high-end facility is designed to give you a good time, and you don’t even need a drink in hand! The tour is just over an hour long, so you can have plenty of time to explore the rest of Old San Juan and the surrounding area.

What to Do at Casa Bacardi

day trips out of san juan

There are three primary experiences you can have at Casa Bacardi:

  • Mixology Tour – Not only will you find out some history of Bacardi, you’ll learn how to incorporate this rum into a variety of standard cocktails like the pina colada. Plus, you get to sample your craft cocktails, so it’s a win-win!
  • Rum Tasting Tour – Explore all the different types of rum that Bacardi has to offer. You still get to know the history of the factory and get a trolley ride around the grounds.
  • Heritage Tour – If you’re visiting Casa Bacardi and don’t want to drink, you can take the history-only guided tour.

Since you’re still in San Juan, there are so many places to eat we can’t list them all here. But, we recommend visiting some of the historical spots in the city and finding some eateries nearby.

Enjoy All That Puerto Rico Has to Offer

With so much to see and do on this island, we highly recommend you take advantage of one or two of these day trip ideas. Since San Juan is a buzzing city with plenty to see and do, we know you’ll love staying here but to really experience what this magical island has to offer, be sure to get out into nature for a day!

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THE 10 BEST Day Trips from San Juan

Day trips from san juan.

  • San Juan to Rio Grande
  • San Juan to Luquillo
  • San Juan to El Yunque National Forest
  • San Juan to Fajardo
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  • The ranking of tours, activities, and experiences available on Tripadvisor is determined by several factors including the revenue generated by Tripadvisor from these bookings, the frequency of user clicks, and the volume and quality of customer reviews. Occasionally, newly listed offerings may be prioritized and appear higher in the list. The specific placement of these new listings may vary.

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61. USDA El Yunque National Forest and Luquillo Beach Tour

day trips out of san juan

62. Puerto Rico's First and Only Craft Beer Brewery Tour!

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63. Private Tour of El Yunque Rainforest from San Juan

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64. Tropical One: All Inclusive Private Boat, Island Hopping Day Trip

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65. Ponce Historical City Tour

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66. Rainforest Nature Walk & Luquillo Beach Combo

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67. Western Island Full Day Tour

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68. Private Shopping Tour from San Juan Hotels to Outlet 66 Mall

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69. Puerto Rico Agritourism Tour

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70. Rain Forest and Hot Springs Full-Day Private Tour San Juan

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71. Private Tour to Black Sand Beach in The Southeast of Puerto Rico

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72. Private Puerto Rico Cultural Tour

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73. Half Day Guided Tour in El Yunque with Pick up

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74. Center of Puerto Rico Private Tour from San Juan

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75. Full-Day Nature and Historical Tour in Puerto Rico

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76. El Yunque Ziplining with River and Beach Visit

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77. Full Day Private Tour to the West Of Puerto Rico

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78. Crash boat beach with snorkeling and Gozalandia waterfalls

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79. Private Shopping Tour from San Juan to Puerto Rico Premium Outlet

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80. Original Tropical Rainforest and Beach Adventure

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81. Full Day Nature Lovers-Cave, Waterfall & Beach Combo

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82. Puerto Rico: Poor Man's Paradise Cliff Jump

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83. North West Adventure Puerto Rico

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Flamenco Beach and Culebra, Puerto Rico

The 6 best day trips from Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

April 23, 2020 //  by  Luke and Meagan

Last updated on July 7th, 2022 at 08:08 pm

Old San Juan is one of our favorite cities in the world. With a culture bursting with warmth and character – and food, architecture, and history to match – it’s impossible not to fall immediately in love when you arrive. That said, there’s always more to a place than its most famous city. So, we asked fellow travelers about their favorite day trips from San Juan – and now we have a very serious to-do list!

Table of Contents

Las Cabezas and Fajardo

day trips out of san juan

While growing up in Puerto Rico, I used to visit Old San Juan every year on a school field trip.  One particular year, things got out of the ordinary and my class ended up visiting a different San Juan.  This one is located in the east part of the island in the town of Fajardo. That was the first time I was face to face with the wild beauty of Las Cabezas de San Juan Natural Reserve.

You may not know this but the Spaniards originally called Puerto Rico San Juan Bautista (St. John The Baptist).  When they were approaching the island from Spain they knew they were close because they were able to see Las Cabezas (The Heads), two headlands extending into the ocean.

The reserve protects a bioluminescent lagoon, mangroves, a dry forest, coral reefs, tide pools, and beaches.  Two hour guided tours are offered Wednesday to Sunday. Reservations are required.

fajardo_Puerto_Rico

While in the area, you can stop by the famous Seven Seas Beach, which counts with facilities, businesses renting snorkeling gear and shacks selling tasty food.  Other beaches in the area include Colora (or Colorado), Cabeza Chiquita, and Escondida. Notice that Colora offers ideal surfing conditions during winter.

Head to Las Croabas area for more eating and drinking options (Las Vistas Cafe and El Bohio are good recommendations). In addition, this is the place to find an operator that can arrange a kayaking trip to the bioluminescent bay (you may need to stay the night for this activity).

Keep in mind that from Las Croabas you can take a water taxi to some incredibly beautiful islands off the coast (Icacos, Palominos, Palominitos).  Fishing and catamaran trips can be booked here as well (or at the nearby Fajardo Marina).

In short, this part of Puerto Rico (38 miles from San Juan) is gorgeous. You will not regret stopping by.

(Contributed by Ruth at Tanama Tales )

day trips out of san juan

Twenty minutes outside of San Juan, off the beaten path and full of life is the VERY local Piñones.  Located in the town of Loiza, the beachside community of Piñones is known for cheap beer and the best frituras (fried goodness) you will find on the island.  

Take your pick of one of the roadside kiosks; any will do. Check out the fried heavenly treats behind the display window and pick out a few for a taste test.  Relax, grab a Medalla for cheap, bask in the sun and salty air, and lose yourself in the salsa music playing in the background.

Pinones Bike Pic

Time to burn those calories.  Rent a bike for $10 from COPI, which is located across Boca de Congrejos Bridge (look for the green fence on the right). Cycle down the boardwalk bordering the ocean, worlds away from the bustle and noise of San Juan.

Piñones still has severe storm damage; much of the boardwalk is still in disrepair, as you can see in this picture. Contrasting beauty with devastation.

(Contributed by Jenny B at Traveling Party of 4 )

vieques water

It is hard for me to explain in so few words the beauty of this unique and breathtaking island off the east coast of Puerto Rico. Known as one of The Puerto Rican Virgin Islands, Vieques Island is beyond spectacular.

With the brightest bio bay in the world, a black sand beach, and a foodie’s paradise, Vieques may be more worthy of a weekender or even a week of bliss.

Book a quick early morning 30-minute flight over from San Juan. Or if you have a rental car, drive over to Ceiba (about an hour from San Juan), and catch a seven-minute flight over and back for $80. Best. Flight. Ever.

Jeep rental is the best way to get around on Vieques, and most rental agencies will drop off the vehicle at the airport for you.

vieques horses at the airport

After your greeting from the wild horses and their foals, set off for nourishment at Panaderia Lydia in Isabel. Get there quickly because there may be an impressive queue for a taste of the heavenly pastries, bread, and hot coffee.  

Here is what you will discover on the breathtaking island of Vieques.

  • Surround yourself with the beauty of the ocean at one of the many palm tree-lined beaches of Vieques. My favorite is Sun Bay.
  • Snorkel in the warm crystal clear Caribbean water.
  • Go horseback riding on Playa Negra (the black sand beach).
  • Stroll the newly reconstructed Malecon in Esperanza and eat fresh seafood at any of these top restaurants: El Quenepo, El Guayacan, Bili, or Bananas.
  • Explore the magical 400-year-old Ceiba tree.
  • Visit Playa Grande Sugar Plantation Ruins.
  • Taste the Local Rum at Crab Island Rum Distillery.

vieques sunset

If your day trip turns into night, you will have the opportunity to experience the sunset over the main island, the most awe-inspiring blanket of stars in the sky, and kayak in the brightest bio bay in the world. A day trip to Vieques Island will only leave you wanting more, so next time stay a while.  

Entrance_to_El_Yunque_National_Forest_sign,_Puerto_Rico

Located about a 40-minute drive outside of San Juan, El Yunque makes for the perfect day trip. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest that is part of the National Forest System.

Depending on how much time you have you can easily spend a few hours or even a whole day here. 

There are a few ways to experience El Yunque.

If you are active, you must go on a hike. One of the most popular hikes in El Yunque is La Mina Trail. The trail is short (only .7 miles) however it is a difficult trail. One of the highlights of this trail though is La Mina Falls.  You should allow approximately 2 hours including time at the falls for this trail.

Hiking group in a lovely gorgeous

Another must-visit is the Yokahu Tower. Make your way to the top of the tower where you will be awarded with views of the rainforest all around. On a clear day you can even see out to the sea.  Definitely worth the climb.

A day in El Yunque is not complete without seeing some waterfalls.  There are two waterfalls that are easily accessible from the road. La Coca Falls is the most famous and you will be sure to see many crowds admiring these beautiful falls. You can take photos right from the road however some will opt to climb the rocks to get a closer shot. Just be careful if you choose to do this. The rocks are very slippery. You can get a beautiful picture right from the road.

If La Coca Falls is too crowded then keep driving until you get to the Juan Diego Falls trailhead.  While you cannot see much from the road, the falls are only a five-minute walk away. Once a well-kept secret, today many people come to see these falls since they are so easily accessible.

El Yunque

What people don’t know is that Juan Diego Falls is actually made up of several falls. There are guides that will take you to the upper falls but the climb is very slippery and muddy so use your discretion if you decide to try to get to the upper falls.

When visiting Puerto Rico , make sure you set aside a day to enjoy everything that El Yunque has to offer. Even just a drive through the forest will take your breath away. It is absolutely stunning.

(Contributed by Poor in a Private Plane )

cabo rojo 1

Cabo Rojo is the perfect day trip from San Juan for so many reasons. From the pink salt flats, to beautiful cliffs to remote beaches, there is so much to see and do while here that you won’t want to miss anything.

Cabo Rojo is located about two hours from San Juan on the southwestern side of Puerto Rico and can easily be reached by car. It’s completely free and in order to visit, you’ll want to put Las Salinas Cabo Rojo into your GPS for the trip. This will take you right to the visitor center at the start of the park.

cabo rojo 2

Your first stop should be to the pink salt flats – Las Solinas. You can make a stop at the visitor center, then head to the pink salt flats. On a sunny day, they shine bright pink and are truly breath taking! After visiting the salt flats, head to the lighthouse where you’ll see some incredible cliffs overlooking a beautiful beach. Climb down the rocks, or park your car down the hill, and enjoy the remote beach where you’ll sometimes even find a manatee or two on the fresh water side! This area is truly a hidden gem of Puerto Rico and should be on everyone’s list.

(Contributed by Meghan, The Traveling Teacher )

Culebra and Flamenco Beach

Flamenco Beach and Culebra, Puerto Rico

If you’re a fan of white sand beaches, crystal clear blue water as far as you can see, and marine wildlife within spitting distance, make a stop at Culebra. This tiny island off the coast of Puerto Rico is home to Flamenco Beach, consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Happily, even though this beach isn’t quite as touristy as many beaches near Old San Juan , it’s well-equipped with food stalls, restrooms, and changing areas.

The View of Flamenco Beach in Puerto Rico

If simply basking and enjoying the scenery isn’t quite your thing, you can snorkel at a safe distance from sea turtles while you’re visiting Culebra , and explore protected reefs with experienced guides.

Beautiful green turtle seen off Culebra, Puerto Rico

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How to Plan a Day Trip to the San Juan Islands

Don't have the time for an overnight trip? Couldn't find lodging? That doesn't mean you can't enjoy a trip to the Islands! Come up for the day and spend time exploring the "must see" spots, shopping in town, and taking notes for your future overnight trips. 

A day trip is a great way to get a taste of what each island has to offer - though you'll only scratch the surface. The Islands are best experienced over several days when you have the opportunity to adjust to "island time," enjoy both a sunset and a sunrise, and take your time at each stop. 

Until you're able to spend a weekend with us (or better yet a whole week!), here's some advice on how to make the most of your day trip to the San Juan Islands.

Pro-Tips for day trippers coming by ferry:

1) Make vehicle reservations for the ferry if your route includes Anacortes (except Lopez to Anacortes). All other routes are first-come, first-served at the ferry terminal and you should plan on arriving at least an hour before the ferry departs for all routes.

2) If you can, try to limit your day trip to a single island. We know it is hard to choose between them, but by only exploring one island per day, you will spend less of your time traveling or waiting in line for the ferry and more time can be spent enjoying the island itself. You can also use these day trip itineraries for Lopez , San Juan , or Orcas Island to guide you in making the most of a full day on each island.

3) If you just have to see more than one island, take the earliest possible ferry you can from Anacortes and do no more than two. This way you can have at least a couple of hours on a couple of islands before heading back to the mainland. Again, the line for the inter-island routes is first-come, first-served at the terminal, so be sure to get in line early to get onboard for your next stop.  Also, when you leave the last island for your return to the mainland, plan on departing no later than the second to last ferry of the night. We suggest this to be sure you have the buffer of another ferry, in case of any unplanned long delays or cancelations. 

4) Try to avoid booking a tour or any activity that requires ticketing or reservations within 3 hours of your ferry's scheduled arrival on island. If the ferry is delayed, you may not make it in time for your trip. Many operators do not provide refunds if the ferry is delayed.

5) Be sure to subscribe to the WSDOT ferry alerts a couple of days ahead of your travel, so that you can be made aware of any delays or cancelations with as much advanced notice as possible.

Day Trip Transportation Options

Consider leaving your car behind and walking onto the Washington State Ferry, taking a water taxi, or flying via charter plane. No matter where you're visiting from, there are creative transportation solutions to make the most of your day trip.  

day trips out of san juan

Island Itineraries

Each island is unique and offers exciting experiences - even if just for the day. Just because you aren't booking a room for the night doesn't mean you shouldn't still plan ahead. Booking activities and dining in advance will make your trip run smoothly and you'll be more likely to get your first picks. Most tour operators have generous cancellation policies in case you need to make changes. (Check with individual companies to be sure of their policies.) 

day trips out of san juan

Day Trip Planning Tips

During your day trip to the San Juan Islands, it's important to keep "island time" in mind. The pace is a little slower here, so pack your patience and enjoy the serendipity of exploring new places. Be sure to follow the Leave No Trace principles and be a mindful and respectful traveler while you're here.

Below, you'll find some of our tips and tricks for being a responsible day-tripper. Plan ahead, go with the flow, and enjoy your getaway! 

day trips out of san juan

While you're here, locals ask visitors to acknowledge and appreciate the fragility of the ecosystem. Keeping a few simple guidelines in mind will both protect what we all love about the Islands, and make the experience even more enjoyable for locals and visitors alike.

day trips out of san juan

The San Juan Islands Pledge is simple: when you act as an ecologically and socially responsible visitor, you are actively contributing to the future of the San Juans. So by taking the pledge, you help our small islands in a big way. By committing to be a responsible visitor, you can help protect that the San Juans.

day trips out of san juan

The San Juan archipelago is one of the most cherished destinations in the Pacific Northwest. Be a responsible visitor and use these tips to help ensure the San Juans remain a beautiful and unique place to live, work, and play for generations to come.  

day trips out of san juan

Download this courtesy guide to optimize your travels and experience in Puerto Rico.

Best Day Trips San Juan Puerto Rico: Uncover Hidden Gems of the Island

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Key Takeaways – Best Day Trips San Juan Puerto Rico

Takeaway 1: abundant day trip options from san juan.

If you’re in San Juan, Puerto Rico and looking for some adventure beyond the city limits, you’re in luck! There are so many incredible day trip options that will leave you wanting more. From stunning beaches to lush rainforests, there’s something for everyone.

Takeaway 2: Beautiful beaches and local food stands

Just a short drive from San Juan, you’ll find the beautiful beaches of Luquillo. Picture yourself lying under the shade of palm trees, enjoying the warm sand between your toes. And when hunger strikes, there’s no shortage of local food stands offering delicious cuisine to satisfy your cravings.

– Luquillo Beaches

– local food stands, takeaway 3: nature lovers’ paradise and unique experiences.

If you’re a nature lover, make sure to visit El Yunque National Park. This biodiverse paradise is only an hour and a half away from San Juan and offers hiking trails through lush rainforests, mesmerizing waterfalls, and even natural pools to cool off in. And for those seeking unique experiences, don’t miss out on a Full-Day Culebra Islands Catamaran Tour or touring Casa Bacardi – the world’s largest premium rum distillery!

– El Yunque National Park

– full-day culebra islands catamaran tour, – casa bacardi tour.

Table of Contents

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Exploring the Historic City of Ponce on a Day Trip from San Juan

Whenever I am asked to recommend best day trips from San Juan, Puerto Rico , I find myself immediately bringing up the alluring city of Ponce. As one of the must-see places in Puerto Rico, it offers a rich historical and cultural experience wrapped in beauty and charm. The city’s well-preserved 17th-century architecture, vibrant nightlife, and eclectic museums are worth every minute spent there.

Discovering the Natural Beauty of El Yunque National Forest

You see, Puerto Rico travel wouldn’t be complete without basking in the natural beauty of El Yunque National Forest. Picture yourself hiking through lush trails or taking a refreshing dip in crystalline waterfalls just about an hour and a half away from San Juan. For outdoor activities in San Juan, this is undoubtedly a top pick!

Experiencing Indigenous Taino Culture in Caguana Ceremonial Park

In any case, let’s not forget about immersing ourselves within the rich indigenous culture at Caguana Ceremonial Park. It’s among compelling San Juan sightseeing spots that provide insight into ancient Taino rituals and beliefs.

Embarking on a Bio-Luminescent Adventure in Vieques Island

If you fancy island excursions Puerto Rico has to offer, then look no further than Vieques Island! Here you can kayak through glowing bio-luminescent waters—a truly unforgettable spectacle.

Visiting the Spectacular Caves in Rio Camuy Cave Park

And talking of spectacular, I must mention the Rio Camuy Cave Park. A part of Puerto Rico day trips , this park introduces you to a magical underground world adorned with stalagmites and stalactites. It’s a fantastic place for adventure and exploration, no doubt about it.

Stepping Back in Time with a Tour of Old San Juan

All things considered, your exploration of San Juan wouldn’t be complete without strolling through the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan. Filled with historic sites in Puerto Rico like El Morro and La Fortaleza, it offers an irresistible blend of history, culture, gastronomy, and picturesque views that draw tourists from across the globe.

In conclusion, whether you are looking for beaches in San Juan or adventure activities in Puerto Rico—San Juan has got you covered! From exploring natural wonders to soaking up local culture or even just lounging on pristine sandy beaches—there is an array of experiences waiting just for you! So why wait? Plan your dream Puerto Rican getaway today!

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My Personal Take about Best Day Trips San Juan Puerto Rico

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Frequently Asked Questions about Best Day Trips San Juan Puerto Rico

1. what are the best day trips from san juan, puerto rico, 2. where can i go for a relaxing beach day near san juan, 3. which attractions cater to nature lovers near san juan, 4. what cultural experiences can i have near san juan, 5. are there any thrilling activities available near san juan, 6. where can i enjoy unique food and drink experiences near san juan.

Now you know Best Day Trips San Juan Puerto Rico , but that’s only the beginning of your journey here at we like PR. If you found this post useful there’s more to learn to get you to the next step of your Puerto Rico journey. If you read our next articles you’ll be a step further than most people.

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A guide to cruising of San Juan Puerto Rico

The Ultimate Guide To Taking A Cruise Out Of San Juan Puerto Rice

San Juan is a vibrant city with a fascinating history, friendly locals, and beautiful beaches. It has quickly risen to one of our favorite cities to cruise from or explore during a day at port.

What to know before taking a cruise out of San Juan

Whether you want to spend the afternoon exploring the blue cobblestone streets of Old San Juan or zip off to explore the nearby rainforest, Puerto Rico is a destination full of adventure.

In this guide, we break down everything you need to know about cruising from San Juan and how to spend the perfect day in port.

Why is San Juan a Good City To Cruise From?

San Juan, Puerto Rico, is the oldest continuously inhabited post-European contact city in United States territory and the second oldest in the entire Western Hemisphere. Since the Spanish founded it in 1519, San Juan has been the capital of Puerto Rico.

The Streets of Old San Juan

Having such a rich history, San Juan boasts remarkable architecture. Marvel at the impressive, beautifully preserved arches, domes, and ornamentation on the buildings throughout Old San Juan . One of the main reasons I love sailing out of San Juan is that I enjoy staying a few extra days before or after the cruise to explore more of Puerto Rico!

Cheery locals encourage visitors to experience the best of San Juan, each with their take on who has the best mofongo, where to get the best deal on souvenirs, and which hotel you should be staying at.

The San Juan Cruise Ports are conveniently located near hotels, restaurants, and attractions. Securing a taxi to take us to the cruise terminal was easy, as many were waiting outside our hotel, hoping to catch an eager passenger.

Must do things while spending 24 hours in San Juan Puerto Rico

The only downside to cruising from San Juan is that flights can be more expensive to fly into  Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport  (SJU) compared to another port city in the US.

There are Two Ports In San Juan

One essential thing to note is that San Juan has two different ports . The  Old San Juan Piers  and the  Pan American Pier  are called the San Juan Cruise Port. It is the busiest cruise port in the Caribbean!

Since the Pan-American Pier is across the canal, you must take a taxi or arrange transportation to get to it. The Old San Juan Piers gives cruisers the easiest access to Old San Juan, leaving them steps from exploring the magical city.

Fun Fact:  The San Juan Cruise Port can accommodate nine cruise ships between the two piers.

Getting Around San Juan

San Juan is a vast metropolis that is more challenging to navigate on foot than one might initially perceive. Unless you plan on staying in Old San Juan, you will likely need transportation to get to the area.

Utilize Taxis or ride-share in popular tourist areas. Taxis are lined up at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU), and by major hotels and cruise ports.

Note that taxis cannot enter El Yunque National Forest for pickup or drop-off, so you’d need to find alternative transportation for that day trip. Always confirm your rate with the driver beforehand, as fees could be flat or metered.

Note:  Ensure you have cash, as many taxis don’t take credit cards.

a guide to visiting San Juan before a cruise

Private Transfers

We have always prearranged our transfers through  Puerto Rico Green Transportation , and they have been remarkable—outstanding communication with excellent drivers who are always willing to share their favorite local spots.

They have recently started doing personal tours of the island with different tours to choose from. We opted for the Pork Highway Tour during our recent stay in San Juan. The guide took us throughout the Pork Highway, indulging us in the culture’s rich tradition of frequenting lechoneras for delectable lechon, spit-roasted pork.

Grab a traditional Puerto Rican Christmas Meal along the Pork Highway

Throughout San Juan, public buses follow well-trafficked routes throughout the city and surrounding areas.

Rental Cars

Many guests opt to spend extended time in Puerto Rico to explore the island and may opt to get a rental car. There are plenty of rental car options available.

Tip: Plug your rental car and hotel dates into  Hopper  to set alerts when prices are the best to book! 

Where To Stay In San Juan

Luxurious five-star resorts line the beaches of Condado Beach , while historic boutique hotels dot Old San Juan. Travelers through San Juan will find accommodations plentiful; however, booking in advance will ensure the best pricing.

Coming from the dreary Midwest winters, my family loves to spend time at the beach before departing on our cruise. Here are a few of our favorites that we have stayed at over the years.

La Concha Renaissance San Juan Resort

Known as a Caribbean playground, La Concha is a sprawling resort offering dreamy beaches, postcard-worthy pools, and a lively nightlife scene. Guests can easily get to local eateries, bars, and boutiques only steps away from the city center.

La Concha

The hotel is geared toward travelers without children, promoting a beach party vibe with live music at the pools, trendy bars, and an on-site casino. Grab a tropical cocktail to sip on by the adults-only pool, get a massage on the beach, or dine al fresco at one of the many restaurants.

Families traveling with children can enjoy poolside service by the infinity pool that offers a shallow end for children. Soak up the sun on the beach, play in the waves, or build a sand castle.

Tip : We found the hotel did not quiet until close to 2 am; if you are a light sleeper, we suggest bringing a sound machine.

San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino

One of our favorite stays has been at the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino . Only 5 miles from the airport, this resort offers family-friendly pools, a waterslide, oceanfront restaurants, and spacious suites.

San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino

Dine like a local by venturing only steps from the hotel to the popular Orozcos Restaurant, where celebrity chef Guy Fieri visited. Taste traditional dishes such as mofongo, whole red snapper, and fresh ceviche.

balcony view from San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino

Tip:  It is worth the splurge to get an oceanview balcony room.

Courtyard by Marriott Isla Verde Beach Resort

Families flock to the Courtyard by Marriott Isla Verde Beach Resort, which is directly across the street from the airport. The hotel has a lovely oceanfront restaurant and plenty of pools, including a 1ft splash pool for littles.

Courtyard by Marriott Isla Verde Beach Resort

Swim up to the bar to grab a tropical cocktail and experience the comfort of gathering with friends in the grand lobby before retreating to your spacious room. We found this hotel more budget-friendly and were quickly able to book a room using points.

Great Hotels Near The Port

Guests looking to stay closer to the port may consider one of the hotel options:

  • Sheraton Puerto Rico Resort & Casino
  •   CasaBlanca Hotel
  •   Hyatt Place San Juan – An excellent pick for traveling with kids

How To Spend 24 Hours In San Juan

Many cruisers will opt to arrive at their departure port a day or two before their cruise is set to leave. It helps reduce the worry of flight cancellations and delays that could cause you to miss the boat.

We put together a brief itinerary on how to spend 24 hours in San Juan to help you make the most of your experience.

How to spend the best 24 hours in San Juan before a cruise

Upon flying into San Juan, guests want to venture to their hotel to check in and drop off their luggage. Many hotels offer guests the option to leave their luggage at the hotel until their room is ready for check-in. That gives you time to explore the nearby area or hit the beach bar to kick off your vacation.

Luggage Storage in San Juan

If your accommodation does not offer luggage storage, you can utilize luggage storage options throughout the city, such as  Bags Away.  Renting a luggage locker will allow you the freedom to roam without carrying your bags on your back.

Head To Old San Juan

If soaking up the sun on the beach is not on your agenda today, we recommend hailing a taxi to Old San Juan. While hiring a guide will ultimately provide the best experience, you can opt to do a free self-guided tour of the historic establishment.

Old San Juan Architecture

Taking the  self-guided tour of Old San Juan  will take you to the top sites such as Plaza Colon (Columbus Square), Castillo San Cristóbal (Fort San Cristobal), Calle de la Fortaleza (Fortaleza Street), Paseo de la Princesa (Princess Promenade), San Juan Gate and City Wall La Fortaleza (The Fortress), Plaza de Armas (Arms Square), Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, Museum of the Americas, and El Castillo San Felipe del Morro (Fort El Morro).

Before embarking on this journey, you will want to ensure you have plenty of sunscreen, water, and good walking shoes. It is hot, the sun is brutal, and you will burn.

Tour Fort El Morro

One thing you must do in San Juan is tour historic Castillo San Felipe del Morro (Fort El Morro). Castillo San Felipe del Morro is part of the United States National Park Service and is protected as a national historic site.

Tip : Get your stamp and grab a junior ranger packet for the kids.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro

The fort overlooks San Juan Bay, offering dramatic views. During the 16th century, Spain quickly became a significant world power mainly because of the strategically located island of Puerto Rico. That’s why Spain spent over 250 years fortifying this prized location. It’s no wonder why Spain vigorously protected and kept Puerto Rico under its control for nearly 400 years!

The Forts never saw action, as San Juan never came under siege. Today, guests can stroll through the corridors where soldiers once held guard and peek inside nooks and crannies where cannons once stood.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro- top things to do in 24 hours in San Juan

Note : Your admission into Fort El Morro will also get you into Fort San Cristobal, so keep your receipt.

Experience an Authentic Puerto Rican Meal

As dinnertime approaches, return to the hotel to freshen up before dinner. When traveling with kids, ensure you allot time for them to enjoy the pool or beach during your stay.

where to eat in san juan before a cruise

Throughout San Juan, many incredible restaurants are offering local cuisine. A few of our favorites include Orozcos Restaurant, La Casita Blanca, and Cayo Caribe. If fresh seafood is a must, Cayo Caribe is your place. You get to handpick the fish that you want that evening and trust me, it is mouth-watering!

guide to cruising out of san juan- Cayo caribe

Other great restaurants to venture to include:

  • Marmalade- A merging of contemporary French, Caribbean, and Spanish cuisine
  •  1919- An upscale restaurant inside the historic Condado Vanderbilt Hotel
  •  Cocina Abierta
  •  Acapulco Taquería Mexicana
  •  Vianda

Grab Gelato at Anita Gelato

End your evening on a sweet note with a scoop of gelato from Anita. Tempting mounds of assorted gelatos greet customers as they enter the trendy parlor. After ordering three small gelatos, we quickly realized that the small is quite large and could easily have been split.

Dark Chocolate Geloto at Anita in San Juan

Typically, this is the day when you will be boarding your ship. Ensure to check your embarkation times to know when you need to be at the port to board the ship. With most ships not starting embarkation until around 11 am, there is still plenty of time to get out and explore.

Note:  Many cruise lines will offer excursions for today with a return time back onboard before departure.

Grab Breakfast

Please don’t settle for a typical hotel breakfast unless it is included in your stay. Venture to Pannes, one of San Juan’s most popular breakfast joints, offers traditional Puerto Rican breakfast, pastries, and coffee. Breakfast is available here all day, so if you crave an empanada, this is the place to swing in!

Nutella French Toast at Christianson

Another great breakfast spot in San Juan is Christianson, a lovely restaurant with outdoor and indoor seating. Indulge in a slice of breakfast heaven with their delectable French Toasts. We ordered the Nutella French Toast, one of the best breakfast foods I have ever had.

Take A Guided Tour

A guided tour is one of the best ways to experience Puerto Rico. As I mentioned earlier, we use Puerto Rico Green Transportation for tours of the city and surrounding areas. Various tours can be found on Viator as well.

If you opted to enjoy the beach yesterday, then tour Old San Juan today.

Tip:  Ensure the guides know when you need to be at the port. The ship will not wait for you.

The rainforest in Puerto Rico

Depending on when you start your day in San Juan will depend on what type of tour you will be able to take. Many tours venture to the El Yunque Rainforest, the Pork Highway, a city food tour, and more.

We opted for the Pork Highway during our recent visit, which was remarkable! Getting out of the city center to experience the local cuisine, culture, and diverse landscape was remarkable. These tours are great for those in port for the day, visiting overnight, or staying for an extended period.

PRO TIP: Most cruise lines allow you to bring two bottles of wine or a 6-pack of beer onboard per stateroom. Be sure to pick these up in town to get lower-prices and bring them to the port. You will keep these in your carry-on. * Each cruiseline has different rules that can be changed, so check on their website for their updated policy.

Pork Highway in Puerto Rico

Navigating The Cruise Terminal

First-timer cruisers should expect organized chaos upon arriving at any cruise terminal. People, luggage, and taxis are everywhere. Once you have joined the crowd, you will see two different lines: One for the porters and one for passenger embarkation.

Your first step will be taking your luggage to the porters. Ensure the bags are properly tagged with your cruise line tags before handing them over.

Porters are cruise employees who handle and transport luggage. They will take the bags you want delivered directly to your cabin.

Cruise Terminal in San juan on embarkation day

After dropping off your luggage, you will then stand in line for embarkation. I highly recommend reading  this article from Cruise Critic  as it prepares first-timers for embarkation day.

My biggest tip is to ensure you are arriving within your embarkation time window or later, then make sure that there isn’t a separate line for your embarkation window time. This recently happened to us, as we arrived 15 minutes before our embarkation window. We were waiting in the vast line, only to discover there was a separate line you could go in once your window was open!

Guests can expect to go through security screeners and wait again for check-in. The whole process can be daunting but well worth it once onboard.

We hope this guide helps prepare you for a great adventure in San Juan. Remember to check out our  Compete Packing List for a 7-Day Caribbean Cruise.

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A guide to cruising out of San Juan

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THE 10 BEST Day Trips from San Juan

Day trips from san juan.

  • San Juan to Rio Grande
  • San Juan to Luquillo
  • San Juan to El Yunque National Forest
  • San Juan to Fajardo
  • Up to 1 hour
  • 1 to 4 hours
  • 4 hours to 1 day
  • 5.0 of 5 bubbles
  • 4.0 of 5 bubbles & up
  • 3.0 of 5 bubbles & up
  • 2.0 of 5 bubbles & up
  • Likely to Sell Out
  • Special Offers
  • The ranking of tours, activities, and experiences available on Tripadvisor is determined by several factors including the revenue generated by Tripadvisor from these bookings, the frequency of user clicks, and the volume and quality of customer reviews. Occasionally, newly listed offerings may be prioritized and appear higher in the list. The specific placement of these new listings may vary.

day trips out of san juan

1. Half-Day El Yunque Rainforest Tour with Transport

day trips out of san juan

2. Casual One: El Yunque Rainforest, Waterslides, and Beach Tour

day trips out of san juan

3. El Yunque Rainforest Tour with Transport

day trips out of san juan

4. Full-Day Tour: Arenales Caves and River Adventure in Puerto Rico

day trips out of san juan

5. El Yunque National Forest Half Day Tour

day trips out of san juan

6. Culebra Beach Day Tour with Snorkeling from San Juan by Ferry

day trips out of san juan

7. Bioluminescent Bay Kayak Adventure from San Juan

day trips out of san juan

8. Small-Group El Yunque Rainforest Day Tour with Transport

day trips out of san juan

9. El Yunque Rainforest and Bio Bay Kayaking Combo Tour

day trips out of san juan

10. El Yunque Ziplining with River and Beach Visit

day trips out of san juan

11. Let Me Show You MY Island With Visit to El Yunque

day trips out of san juan

12. Full-Day Camuy Cave and Waterfall Adventure in Puerto Rico

day trips out of san juan

13. Full-Day Puerto Rico Tour: Rainforest Zipline, Luquillo Beach & Natural Springs

day trips out of san juan

14. El Yunque National Forest and Luquillo Beach Tour

day trips out of san juan

15. El Yunque Rainforest Guided Day Tour from San Juan

day trips out of san juan

16. Bio Bay Night Kayaking with Transport from San Juan area

day trips out of san juan

17. Full-Day West Puerto Rico Tour with Transport

day trips out of san juan

18. Pinones Pub crawl in Puerto Rico

day trips out of san juan

19. Private Full-Day Secret Hiking Tour to El Yunque Waterfalls

day trips out of san juan

20. El Yunque Rainforest Half-Day Trip from San Juan

day trips out of san juan

21. La Parguera Glowing Bioluminescent Bay Boat Tour from San Juan

day trips out of san juan

22. Full Day Ponce, Yauco, Caracoles Cay & La Parguera Bio Bay Tour

day trips out of san juan

23. San Juan to La Parguera: Bio Bay Boat Tour with Hot Springs

day trips out of san juan

24. Bioluminescent Bay Kayak Adventure Tour from San Juan

day trips out of san juan

25. Full-Day Tour: El Yunque, Luquillo Beach, and Bio Bay Kayaking

day trips out of san juan

26. Full Day Vamos Pa la Isla Southwest Experience

day trips out of san juan

27. Half-Day Tour: El Yunque, Waterslides, and Luquillo Beach

day trips out of san juan

28. San Juan Highlight Tour

day trips out of san juan

29. Half-Day Center of Puerto Rico Cultural Tour

day trips out of san juan

30. El Yunque Rainforest Full Day Private Tour

What travellers are saying.

Sabriyya W

  • Jay S 1 contribution 0 5.0 of 5 bubbles yes, it’s worth it :) Great, full day excursion! Jose (aka “Falcon”) is a great guide with plenty of local knowledge and a positive, friendly spirit. We hit three distinct locations with plenty of history and ecology tips along the way. You’ll probably be tired by the end. but totally worth the trip!! Read more Review of: Full-Day Camuy Cave and Waterfall Adventure in Puerto Rico Written 25 March 2024 This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Miklos W

  • El Yunque Natural Waterslide and Rainforest Hike with Transport
  • Casual One: El Yunque Rainforest, Waterslides, and Beach Tour
  • El Yunque Rainforest Day Tour with Transport
  • El Yunque Rainforest Tour with Transport
  • El Yunque National Forest Half Day Tour
  • Puerto Rico as a Local
  • Seeing Puerto Rico
  • Exploradise PR
  • Turisteando En El Encanto LLC
  • Share Puerto Rico
  • Castillo Tours
  • Real PR Travel
  • ITour Puerto Rico
  • De Tour Con Ali
  • RST Rico Sun Tours
  • Sunset Tours Puerto Rico
  • Hidden Excursions PR
  • Tours Hacker
  • Casa Venturas

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san juan itinerary banner buildings and ocean at condado beach

Being the capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan is one of the best places to vacation on this wonderful Caribbean island. Apart from its beautiful beaches and paradisiac nature, the city is known for its instagrammable streets with colorful colonial buildings, its fascinating culture, and plenty of fun things to do – and you can see most of it in 3 days with the right San Juan Itinerary!

In this post, I’ll be sharing the best things to do and places to visit for an incredible 3-day trip on the island, whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or a thrilling adventure.

And speaking of adventure, don’t miss the 10 best hidden gems in Puerto Rico!

How To Spend 3 Days In San Juan, PR

Although you can easily spend a whole week exploring the island without getting tired, staying in San Juan will allow you to visit countless museums , historical landmarks, eye-catching landscapes, and so much more in a short time without having to spend hours on the road.

What is more, San Juan is also where you can find the best nightlife in Puerto Rico , with countless bars, nightclubs, music venues, and adventurous activities to have fun all night!

Looking for something specific? Head over to it!

Best Time To Visit San Juan

Puerto Rico is a tropical island and has summer-like weather all year round. Even in winter, temperatures remain between 21° and 29°. On the other hand, the best time for you to visit might depend on other factors like your budget or the overall atmosphere you want for your trip.

Interested in summer destinations? Here’s my guide for an awesome weekend in Orlando, FL.

Still not sure which neighborhood to stay in in San Juan? Check these neighborhoods here!

Dry Season For The Best Weather

Puerto Rico has fairly warm weather all year round, so it all depends on what you’re looking for. If you go during the dry season, between December and April , you can enjoy milder temperatures with little rain. Not to mention you get to enjoy a wide variety of water activities since the water temperature is at its best. However, this is the peak season for tourists, so the city will be more crowded.

Rainy Season For A Less Busy City

If you want to avoid busy streets and beaches, you can go between April and June and still get amazing weather. Although this is the rainy season, this doesn’t mean it will rain the whole day.

Low Season For Lower Prices

Visiting Puerto Rico during the low season, between August and November , is best for when you’re traveling on a budget. This is when you’ll find the lowest prices for hotels, restaurants, and activities. It will also be easier to plan your San Juan itinerary without having to worry about peak hours and heavy traffic.

Just keep in mind that this is also hurricane season, and although there aren’t hurricanes every year, it’s good to keep an eye on the weather before and during your trip.

Where To Stay In San Juan

Deciding where to stay in San Juan can be a difficult choice. There are 18 official neighborhoods in the city and they all have something unique to offer. If you’d like to go deeper into these different areas to find your perfect hotel, make sure to check out the best San Juan neighborhoods for your stay – including the best hotels and things to do in each one of them.

Otherwise, here’s a quick guide with my top picks for accommodation.

Best Hotels In San Juan

  • Budget ($) — Conturce Hostel
  • Best Value ($$) — Courtyard By Marriott San Juan Miramar
  • Luxe ($$$) —- Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino
  • Unique ($-$$$) —- Hotel El Convento or Olive Boutique Hotel

Day 1: Exploring Old San Juan

Start the first day of your San Juan itinerary by checking in early at your hotel and preparing for a day outdoors. Drive to Old San Juan and take a self-paced tour visiting historic places and museums, walking the most Instagram-worthy streets, buying souvenirs, and tasting local food.

If you’re already staying in the neighborhood, you can easily get to know the whole area by walking since most attractions and activities are close enough to go on foot. 

Must-Do Tours In Old San Juan

If you’re short on time and want to see all the best spots and explore like a real local, these guided tours are ideal for first-time visitors. It’s also perfect for small groups and you can personalize it according to your interests.

  • Old San Juan City Tour by WASAJU
  • Old San Juan Walking Tour by Tripolin Tours

Historical Places

What better way to start your trip than getting familiar with San Juan’s culture? You’ll quickly realize what a fascinating city this is once you start walking its cobblestone streets full of museums, historical buildings, and landmarks.

San Cristóbal Castle

Castillo San Cristobal is the perfect place to start your tour of the city’s old center. This is one of two forts located in San Juan built to defend the area from naval invaders during the Spanish-American war.

As you walk among impressive architecture, you’ll find numerous artillery stations, sleeping quarters where soldiers used to spend the night, and the control installations used during World War II.

San Felipe del Morro Castle

The second fort is San Felipe del Morro (also known as El Morro), which also played an essential part during the war, and you’ll get great insight into how the Spanish protected San Juan from attacks – the place is massive and you’ll be walking a lot, but it’s so worth it!

By getting the $10 admission ticket, you have access to both Castillo San Cristobal and El Morro. It’s a self-paced tour, so you can really take your time to see everything.

La Fortaleza Street

Once you’re done with the tour, head to Fortaleza Street, one of the most instagrammable places in San Juan. Along this cobblestone street, you’ll find lots of restaurants, shops, colorful houses, and the iconic canopy of umbrellas hanging in the air, so don’t forget to look up and take many pictures!

La Fortaleza (Mansion)

At the end of the street, there is the mansion called La Fortaleza , a former fortress that is now the official residence of Puerto Rico’s governor. Tourists can take a tour of the mansion and marvel at its flawless architecture, elegantly furnished rooms, and beautiful gardens.

This tour will not disappoint and is totally free! So it should be a MUST on your San Juan itinerary.

Lunch Time!

After all that walking, look for a place to eat in the area and recharge for the second part of your day. Whether you’re looking for a casual atmosphere or upscale gastronomy, Old San Juan is the place to go for a delightful experience

Best Restaurants In Old San Juan

Being the #1 tourist destination in Puerto Rico, Old San Juan has a huge variety of restaurants, bars, and cafes offering local dishes as well as international cuisine. Here are my top suggestions for a delicious meal:

Marmalade – a great option if you’re already on Fortaleza Street. Dishes are made with local produce and fresh ingredients. If you’re looking for the best quality, service, and overall experience, Marmalade will not disappoint. Fun fact: the owner is also the chef and you can see he puts his heart into every detail.

Santisimo – if you’re into fine dining, Santisimo is an excellent choice in El Convento Hotel. Come here for authentic Puerto Rican meals, great-quality seafood, and a varied cocktail menu. You’re also guaranteed outstanding service and a relaxing atmosphere.

Princesa – Cocina Cultura – great food, cocktails, and ambiance. Its beautiful patio surrounded by tropical plants and decorative lights makes it a perfect place to go on a warm summer night.

Cafe Don Ruiz – an absolute go-to for breakfasts, brunches, and probably the best coffee in Old San Juan. 

San Juan Gate & Paseo de la Princesa

Now that you’re stomach is full, you’re ready to continue with this San Juan itinerary by heading to the San Juan Gate , the only gate remaining from the colonial period that used to protect the city, which is now a popular historical landmark. 

After taking awesome pictures, the gate will lead you to Paseo de La Princesa , a beautiful pedestrian promenade and a must for a relaxing afternoon stroll or to rest in front of the majestic Fuente Raices . Besides enjoying the best sights of San Juan Bay, you’ll find lots of artisan stalls and street vendors selling handicrafts and local food. On weekends, the area usually hosts festivals and fairs with live music.

Take A Food Tour

Finish your day diving into Puerto Rican food culture on a guided tour of Old San Juan’s restaurants. This is such a fun activity to do in small groups to taste many local recipes and learn about the island’s culinary influences and history. It’s also a great opportunity to try new dishes and look around the city.

Wanna book your tour? Here are two excellent options:

  • Flavors of San Juan Food Tour
  • Old San Juan Sunset Walk & Taste Food Tour

Day 2: A Day Trip

The second day of your San Juan itinerary involves a lot of adventure! Start your day early with a day trip to El Yunque Rainforest , a marvelous reserve for endangered species, tropical nature, and plenty of activities to keep yourself entertained the whole morning. In the afternoon, drive to Fajardo and stay until sunset to have a magical experience kayaking in a bioluminescent bay.

Book a Rainforest & Bio Bay Tour here!

Hike In El Yunque Rainforest

El Yunque National is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. and is very popular for being home to unique flora and fauna, natural pools, and waterfalls you can explore through multiple hiking trails of varying difficulties. Getting deeper and deeper into the rainforest is a wonderful experience and you can easily spend the entire day walking and swimming among beautiful nature – so make sure to bring your swimsuit.

The entry ticket to the park is $2 per vehicle and you must make a reservation in advance since there are limited spots.

El Portal Visitors Center

Something you can’t miss in El Yunque is El Portal Visitors Center , placed before the forest entrance. This is a place where you can learn all about El Yunque and its history. Here you’ll find lots of interesting things from information booths and educational displays to in-site restaurants and a few gift shops.

There is an extra $10 fee per person to enter the Portal, but it will make your visit so worth it!

Tours In El Yunque

If this is your first time in El Yunque, I suggest taking a guided tour to make things easier. Your guide will take you along a half-day journey through the forest’s many activities and trails, including transport from designated meeting points to the park. Here are some great tours for first-time visitors:

  • El Yunque Natural Waterslide and Rainforest Hike
  • Guided Adventure in El Yunque Rainforest

Kayak In Laguna Grande Bioluminiscent Bay

After lunch, continue with your San Juan itinerary by driving to Fajardo. This town in the eastern area of the island is a great place to enjoy sunny days at some of the top beaches in Puerto Rico , such as Seven Seas Beach, Playa Escondida, and Playa Colorá.

However, the true highlight of Fajardo is kayaking in Laguna Grande , one of the three bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico. Bio bays are characterized by microscopic organisms that grow in the water producing a unique effect of sparkles glowing in the dark. 

By booking a Rainforest & Bio Bay Tour , you get to explore El Yunque Rainforest during the day, and after a break for a delicious dinner at a local restaurant, the tour takes you to Laguna Grande’s blue waters for a magical kayak adventure.

Other kayaking tours in Laguna Grande:

  • Bioluminescent Bay Night Kayaking Tour
  • Bio Bay Kayak Tour

Looking for more ways to explore San Juan at night? Here are all the ways you can experience San Juan nightlife!

Day 3: Beach Day & Night Out

No San Juan itinerary is complete without spending a day in Condado , an ocean-front district with a great variety of activities and amenities to offer its visitors. But don’t take too long, head back to your hotel to prepare for one last tasty dinner in Isla Verde and a fun night out in this party neighborhood.

condado beach san juan itinerary

Condado has the perfect laid-back atmosphere to spend your last day relaxing on stunning beaches, enjoying outdoor recreation, and strolling down its many shopping areas – everything within walking distance.

From outdoor activities like paddleboard at Condado Lagoon and dancing classes to upscale hotels, restaurants, shops, and entertainment at the popular Ashford Avenue, Condado is the ideal place to have the luxurious vacation you’ve always dreamed of.

Tip: If you missed the chance to kayak in Fajardo’s Bio Bay, you can still have an exciting nighttime experience taking a Guided LED Night Kayak Excursion in Condado Lagoon.

Where To Eat In Condado

By midday, look for a nice restaurant on Ashford Avenue and treat yourself to a good cocktail and an outstanding selection of world-class flavors. These are some top suggestions:

  • Ola Ocean Front & Bistro

Can’t get enough of the beach? You haven’t seen these amazing water activities in San Juan yet!

Go back to your hotel to have some rest and prepare to spend the rest of your day at Isla Verde , one of the most visited destinations in Puerto Rico. Not only is it popular for its trendy beachfront resorts but also for its lively atmosphere and exciting nightlife.

With numerous bars, casinos, and nightclubs, Isla Verde is sure to be the best location to enjoy the last night of your San Juan itinerary to the fullest.

If you’re looking for good music and good drinks, check out Club Brava . This well-known, 2-floor club combines an energetic dancing atmosphere with a more chill-out lounge to enjoy both extremes in the same place. It also offers weekly concerts and themed parties – and entry is free if you’re staying at Fairmont El San Juan Hotel !

Tip: if nightclubs are not your style, visit La Placita! This market comes to life at night with live music, restaurants and bars with outdoor seating, and lots of dancing, becoming a great party spot.

Bonus Day: San Juan Landmarks

If you have some time to spare before heading to the airport, make a few quick stops at some of the most iconic San Juan landmarks – In case you didn’t take too many pictures the previous days, this is your chance!

Santa María Magdalena de Pazzi Cemetery

Situated outside El Morro in Old San Juan, is Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzi Cemetery . This colonial-era cemetery is the final resting place of many of Puerto Rico’s most prominent natives and is recognized as one of the most beautiful memorial parks in the world. 

Residents and tourists are welcome to enter to see the ornate tombs and ocean sights, which make this historical landmark a very calm but enjoyable spot for a quick visit. 

Capilla del Santo Cristo de la Salud

Capilla del Cristo is a small chapel located at the end of Calle del Cristo. The church was built in the 18th century and you can find many objects and paintings from that time inside.

San Juan Cathedral

San Juan Cathedral is an ancient but imposing building right on the other side of the San Juan Gate. Whether or not you’re a religious person, this cathedral is worth a visit to admire its stained glass windows and tall ceilings.

decorative flowers san juan itinerary

How To Get Around San Juan

There are a few ways you can get around San Juan. All of them have their pros and cons, but it will ultimately depend on where you’re staying, the places you want to visit, your budget, and your own preference.

Renting a car is one of the easiest transportation options for tourists in Puerto Rico. It will give you a lot of freedom to explore your San Juan itinerary at your own pace and it’s cheaper than a private shuttle.

Uber or Taxi

Hopping on a taxi or Uber is another fast and trustworthy way to get around the island. It’s especially comfortable with Ubers since you can easily get one using the app. On the other hand, it can be more expensive for longer routes.

Private Shuttle

Although private shuttles can be significantly more expensive than taxis, they’re excellent for larger groups since the vehicles are usually bigger and more comfortable. 

If you’re staying in Old San Juan, you can easily explore all areas and attractions within the neighborhood by walking. This way you’ll save money and hate the freedom to move around without worrying about schedules or peak traffic hours. However, you will need a vehicle if you want to visit other places outside of San Juan.

What To Pack

What to pack might depend on the type of trip and activities you have in mind and the time of the year you’re staying. But, to save you some time, here are the essential items I think every traveler should bring when visiting San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Check All Travel Necessities Here!

Reusable water bottle.

Consider taking a reusable water bottle with you if you’re going to be walking a lot or hiking in places without any shops nearby.

Needless to say, sunscreen is extremely important to protect your skin from UV rays, especially if you’re going to a country like Puerto Rico, where the sun is stronger. You’ll be using this every day of your San Juan itinerary.

Insect Repellent

Due to Puerto Rico’s tropical weather, it might be a good idea to include an insect repellent in your travel bag. You’ll definitely enjoy your day out in nature a lot more without those uncomfortable mosquito bites.

Travel Umbrella

A travel umbrella is another excellent addition to your packing list. It will come in handy on unexpectedly rainy days or if you’re traveling during the rainy season.

Light Clothing

One of the best things about a destination like San Juan, Puerto Rico is that you don’t need to pack a lot of clothes. Even during the winter, the temperature is warm so you’ll mostly be wearing light clothes and swimsuits – also, don’t forget a hat and comfortable hiking shoes for your adventurous days!

Last Thoughts

I hope this San Juan itinerary was helpful and that now you feel more confident in planning your next trip to Puerto Rico.

With so many things to see and do around every corner, no wonder it can be overwhelming trying to fit everything in such a short period of time, but now you can use this itinerary as a great starting point and customize it to your liking. Have fun and safe travels!

P.S. Still unsure about where to stay? Find out which of these popular San Juan neighborhoods is the best for you.

Related posts:

  • San Juan Neighborhoods | Where To Stay In San Juan
  • Top 10 Hidden Gems In Puerto Rico You Can’t Miss
  • Complete Old San Juan Nightlife Guide | Best Spots & Activities

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Anna

Anna is a traveler, blogger, and entrepreneur who can’t keep herself still. She’s always on the move, whether working hard on a new passion project or exploring a new city as a part-time digital nomad. Dare to keep up? Check out The Tatted Nomad for everything digital nomad, social media marketing, mental health, and travel (and to see her latest addition, Novah, her service dog and travel companion). As a psychotherapist (to be) she also offers insights about your mental health related questions – anything you see that isn’t covered but you have questions about? Let her know!

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IMAGES

  1. 15 Best Day Trips from San Juan

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  2. Day Trips from San Juan

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  4. Day Trips From San Juan (Part 2)

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VIDEO

  1. San Juan Puerto Rico Beach #caribbean destination #nature #travel #beach #cruise

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COMMENTS

  1. THE 10 BEST Day Trips from San Juan

    San Juan is a great travel destination with a lot to do and see, but sometimes you need to get away and explore the surrounding areas. Book the best day trips from San Juan, Puerto Rico directly on Tripadvisor and take the stress out of planning. Read 377,396 traveler reviews and view photos of different trips from San Juan to various destinations. Find day trips to take today or this coming ...

  2. 5 of the best day trips from San Juan, Puerto Rico

    How to get to Luquillo from San Juan: Take PR-66 heading toward Rio Grande and then transfer to PR-3 South. The drive takes about an hour. Públicos (public minibuses) run from the Río Piedras terminal in San Juan to Luquillo's central plaza from Monday to Saturday. Trips take from 2½ to 3½ hours, depending on the traffic.

  3. 21 Best Day Trips From San Juan, Puerto Rico (by a local!)

    Here are 21 of the best day trips from the city! RELATED POST: BUCKET LIST AIRBNBS IN PUERTO RICO. 1. Tale a rum tour at Ron del Barrilito. Puerto Rico is famous for its rums, and Ron del Barrilito is about as local as you can get. You can visit Hacienda Santa Ana in Bayamon, where the rum is made.

  4. 15 Best Day Trips from San Juan

    1. Casa Blanca. Source: www78 / Flickr. Casa Blanca Museum & San Juan Walls. Casa Blanca is a museum house that was built in 1521 as a residence for Juan Ponce de Leon. The house was occupied by Juan's descendants until the mid-18th century. This building was declared a historical building in the year 1967.

  5. Best Places to Visit & Things to Do Near San Juan

    Getting to Icacos from San Juan. Option 1 - Book a catamaran or boat tour from San Juan - Fastest and most convenient. See tours that offer pick-up service in San Juan. Option 2 - Icacos & Bioluminescent Bay or El Yunque Rainforest Day Trip - You may wish to do two attractions on the same day.

  6. Day Trips from San Juan: 11 Things to Do Less Than an Hour Away

    Day Trips From San Juan #3: Las Pailas. This place is a true hidden gem of Puerto Rico, and is located just a few minutes from the kiosks in Luquillo. Parking is located inside the driveway of someone's home and is just $5. The trail is a couple minute walk and not strenuous, leading you to a beautiful spot tucked away in the trees.

  7. Day Trips from San Juan

    From Old San Juan, use the Catano Ferry from pier #2, about an hour and a half before tour time. The ferry costs $.50, and runs roughly every 30 minutes between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays and 8 to 8 on weekends. Upon exit at the Catano terminal, look for the Bacardi shuttle, which is free transport to the distillery.

  8. Best Day Trips in Puerto Rico from San Juan

    Best For Beach Goers - Luquillo Beach. While most organized day trip tours head to this coastal spot, Luquillo Beach is a day trip in itself and one that can be done without a guide. Jump in the car from San Juan and head approximately 53 kilometres to the province of Luquillo. There are two beaches in the area.

  9. Affordable Day Trips From San Juan in Puerto Rico

    It's cheap, but it will take a few hours. If you're willing to splurge, a taxi can cost between $25 to a lot more depending on traffic. Take the public ferry to the island of your choice. Make sure you check with the Puerto Rico Maritime Authority (787-863-0705) for the schedule and time your trip accordingly.

  10. The 7 Best Day Trips from San Juan

    4. Relax at Luquillo Beach. Luquillo is one of the best areas to stay in Puerto Rico if you're looking for a laid-back trip. But it also makes for a good day trip from San Juan. The beach town isn't as developed as nearby Ponce or San Juan so the beaches are quieter, which also makes it one of the more romantic places in Puerto Rico to visit.

  11. 3 Best Day Trips in Puerto Rico

    The 3 Best Day Trips in Puerto Rico—That Will Get You Out of San Juan. Our guide for what to see and do—and where to stay—in Rincòn, Adjuntas, and Ponce. Most travelers make San Juan the ...

  12. Vieques Bio Bay Tour and Beach Day Trip from San Juan by Ferry

    Age Requirement: 4+ Combined Kayak Weight Limit: 380 pounds The Vieques Bio Bay + Beach Day Trip is the Best Alternative to Experience Vieques Island from San Juan! Enjoy a Once-in-a-Lifetime Bioluminescent Experience! This is the one adventure you should not miss while visiting Puerto Rico. Experience relaxation at one of the most beautiful beaches in Puerto Rico, Sun Bay Beach, have dinner ...

  13. THE TOP 10 San Juan Day Trips (w/Prices)

    A: The best Day Trips in San Juan according to Viator travelers are: Casual One: El Yunque Rainforest, Waterslides, and Beach Tour. El Yunque Waterslide N Waterfall - INCLUDES Food N Photos. Half-Day El Yunque Rainforest Tour with Transport. El Yunque Rainforest Tour with Transport.

  14. 5 Day Trips from San Juan You Can't Miss

    Day Trip 3: Vieques Photo Credit: NickSpinder. Time From San Juan: 2.5 hours. Vieques is a secondary island off the coast of Puerto Rico, so that alone warrants a visit. However, what makes this island so special is that it's like visiting your own personal tropical paradise, away from the "hustle and bustle" of San Juan.

  15. THE 10 BEST Day Trips from San Juan

    San Juan is a great travel destination with a lot to do and see, but sometimes you need to get away and explore the surrounding areas. Book the best day trips from San Juan, Puerto Rico directly on Tripadvisor and take the stress out of planning. Read 372,662 traveler reviews and view photos of different trips from San Juan to various destinations. Find day trips to take today or this coming ...

  16. The 6 best day trips from Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

    El Yunque. Located about a 40-minute drive outside of San Juan, El Yunque makes for the perfect day trip. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest that is part of the National Forest System. Depending on how much time you have you can easily spend a few hours or even a whole day here.

  17. Day Trip Information

    Pro-Tips for day trippers coming by ferry: 1) Make vehicle reservations for the ferry if your route includes Anacortes (except Lopez to Anacortes). All other routes are first-come, first-served at the ferry terminal and you should plan on arriving at least an hour before the ferry departs for all routes. 2) If you can, try to limit your day ...

  18. Best Day Trips San Juan Puerto Rico: Uncover Hidden Gems of the Island

    Best day trips in San Juan, Puerto Rico: Embark on unforgettable adventures to pristine beaches, historic forts, and lush rainforests. Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture and savor delicious local cuisine. Wander through charming streets lined with colorful colonial buildings and indulge in shopping at bustling markets. Experience the rich history and breathtaking beauty of this tropical ...

  19. The Ultimate Guide To Taking A Cruise Out Of San Juan Puerto Rice

    San Juan, Puerto Rico, is the oldest continuously inhabited post-European contact city in United States territory and the second oldest in the entire Western Hemisphere. Since the Spanish founded it in 1519, San Juan has been the capital of Puerto Rico. Stroll the streets of Old San Juan. Having such a rich history, San Juan boasts remarkable ...

  20. THE 10 BEST Day Trips from San Juan

    San Juan is a great travel destination with a lot to do and see, but sometimes you need to get away and explore the surrounding areas. Book the best day trips from San Juan, Puerto Rico directly on Tripadvisor and take the stress out of planning. Read 376,550 traveller reviews and view photos of different trips from San Juan to various destinations.

  21. Ponce History and Culture 10-Hour Day Trip Tour from San Juan 2024

    Free Cancellation. From. $204.11. Private Transfer from San Juan Airport (SJU) to Ponce Cruise Port. 0. 1 hour 40 minutes. Free Cancellation. $79.43. City Tour San Juan historic, modern, Santurce, beach and street art sightseeing.

  22. San Juan Itinerary: Plan The Perfect 3-Day Trip

    Day 2: A Day Trip. The second day of your San Juan itinerary involves a lot of adventure! ... Day 3: Beach Day & Night Out. No San Juan itinerary is complete without spending a day in Condado, an ocean-front district with a great variety of activities and amenities to offer its visitors.

  23. Top 6 Resorts With Packages In And Near San Juan, Puerto Rico

    For accommodation with great amenities, check out these top resorts with packages in and near San Juan, Puerto Rico. We handpicked these listings carefully, considering (wherever possible) recent guest reviews, location, accommodation type, prices, availability of dates, decor, and all-inclusive packages and activities.