1. Beach Day
You’ve come to Puerto Rico for fun in the sun, so start your week off right with a beach day. Here, we’ve rounded up a few of the island’s best swaths of sand, so you can pick and choose a few to enjoy. From the hip Condado District in San Juan to the Isla Verde coastline, you’re sure to find your personal paradise.
Playa Sucia: You’ll walk 10 minutes from the parking lot to the beach, but you’ll find it’s worth it once you arrive on the sand at Playa Sucia, on Puerto Rico’s southwestern tip (Cabo Rojo). It’s less crowded than other island beaches, particularly mid-week, and is known for its calm, azure water, beautiful sand and iconic lighthouse. Consider combining a couple hours at Playa Sucia with a stop at nearby Buye Beach, also known for its calm, clear water.
Condado Beach: With its Miami Beach vibe, Condado Beach near San Juan is the place for people watching in Puerto Rico. Families, honeymooners, celebrities and locals flock here for sunbathing and water sports (although the current is strong, so don’t venture out too far unless you are a very strong swimmer). It’s a great beach to combine with your exploration of Old San Juan.
2. Explore Old San Juan
Spend a day in the walled city of Old San Juan, the second oldest town in America. As you wander the cobblestone streets, you’ll get a front-row seat to Puerto Rican history and culture. Beautiful, pastel-hued colonial architecture and military forts give way to historic landmarks and iconic sightseeing stops. Here’s what to see:
Castillo San Felipe del Morro: Colloquially known as El Morro, this massive citadel dates back to the 16th century. Explore six levels of barracks, dungeons and storerooms and take note of the original cannons facing the sea. Fun fact: El Morro was never defeated by the enemy.
Photo Credit : Shutterstock
Castillo San Cristobal: Another impressive Puerto Rican fort, this 27-acre castle guarded the city from enemies approaching by land. It’s the largest created by Spaniards in the New World and is home to the famous Garita del Diablo. The views of Old San Juan are excellent from the fortress’s esplanade.
Catedral de San Juan: Check out the medieval architecture of this imposing cathedral, the second oldest church in America. The world’s first archdiocese was founded here.
La Fortaleza: The oldest state residence still in use in the New World, La Fortaleza still contains original Spanish objects from the colonial era. And, in honor of traditions of the past, there are still candlelit-only dining rooms used by the current residents.
3. Into the Jungle in El Yunque
Explore the US National Forest System’s only tropical rainforest, El Yunque – yet one of its smallest at 29,000 acres. You’ll want a full day to hike some of the 25 miles of trails through the biologically diverse forest, past waterfalls and over rivers. A few ideas:
Hike to the Sky: Climb to the peak of Mount Britton, through Sierra Palm and into the cloud forest.
Swim in a Natural Pool: Trek the La Coca trail and cool off in one of the ponds along the way. Or, choose the El Angelito trail and use the rope swing to jump into the lagoon.
Watch for Wildlife: While you’re hiking, keep an eye out for the island’s famous coqui frog.
Get a Great View: For amazing vistas, drive to the Yokahu Observation Tower at 1,575 feet, from which you’ll see the ocean in the distance and the vast green jungle stretching out below you.
4. A Secret Island Adventure on Isla de Vieques
Isla Vieques is just 8 miles off Puerto Rico and home to a variety of attractions. Be sure to build a day on this delightfully quiet and charming island into your itinerary. Here’s what we love:
Sun Bay Beach: This beautiful beach is easily accessible and offers a wide stretch of sand. You’ll likely encounter the gentle Paso Fino horses that graze the grounds nearby. This is a fantastic swimming beach for families as the water is mainly calm and clear.
Bioluminescent Bay (Mosquito Bay): Don’t miss the chance to see the water glow at night. This unique phenomenon occurs at only a handle of locations worldwide. Join an after-dark boat or kayak tour and notice how the bay lights up from the movement of the phosphorescent dinoflagellates. On some tours, you can even swim in the glow.
And More: Vieques is an outdoor and nature lover’s paradise, with an array of natural treasures and activities. Try snorkeling, diving, horseback riding, surfing, kayaking through the mangroves, hiking nature trails to secluded beaches, fishing, biking and more.
5. And Another Secret Adventure on the Island of Culebra
Another of Puerto Rico’s secret hideaways, Culebra Island is 17 miles each of Puerto Rico. There’s a heavenly laid-back vibe here with a focus on eco-tourism. Our favorite activities on Culebra include:
Lounging on Playa Flamenco: The epitome of a tropical beach paradise, Playa Flamenco is ranked as one of the best beaches in the world. It boasts brilliantly white sand, practically waveless turquoise water and all the amenities you want, from lifeguards to food kiosks to changing rooms and bathrooms. Don’t miss The Tank, a washed-up military relic and reminder of the US Navy’s occupancy of Culebra.
Venture to Isla Culebrita: Hop on a water taxi for the short ride to uninhabited Isla Culebrita, home to a part of Culebra’s National Wildlife Refuge. There are six small beaches, including the famous Playa Tortuga.
Snorkeling and Diving: Culebra’s coral reefs are considered some of the best in the Caribbean, so grab some gear and get underwater. You can snorkel right from the beach, so there’s really no excuse not to. The most popular spots include Flamenco Beach, Luis Peña Channel Natural Reserve, Melones Beach and Tamarindo Beach.