The Excellent 4 Days in Puerto Rico

The Excellent 4 Days in Puerto Rico

The perfect 4 day Puerto Rico itinerary! Snorkel on a Caribbean island, hike through a rainforest, discover historic castles, take a sunset cruise, kayak through a bioluminescent bay and more on the perfect trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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Castles atop craggy cliffs. Cobblestone streets paved with blue bricks. Chirping Coqui frogs. Mountains, Caribbean Sea, tropical rainforest, and bioluminescent bays. Welcome to Puerto Rico, a lush, enchanted place that defies easy rationalization. It’s each an island and an archipelago with its personal small islands; it has a powerful Latino identification regardless of belonging to the U.S. as a territory; its language, meals, tradition, and historical past are knowledgeable by a mixture of Indigenous Taíno folks, Spanish colonizers, West African folks introduced in opposition to their will, immigrants from Europe, China, different Caribbean, and Latino international locations, and mainland USA. Its complexity can also be its magnificence, and its story remains to be unfolding. And it’s a magical place to go to.

Spending 4 days in Puerto Rico is simply sufficient to get a style of what the island has to supply. On our 4-day Puerto Rico itinerary, you’ll discover the historic metropolis of San Juan, wander the colourful, blue-cobblestone streets of Outdated City; snorkel within the clear blue waters of Culebra, one of many islands off the coast; hike via the tropical rainforest of El Yunque seeking waterfalls and lagoons; and kayak via a bioluminescent bay. 

Disclaimer: Our journey was sponsored by Southwest Fast Rewards™ Credit score Playing cards from Chase. All opinions, suggestions, dangerous jokes, and errors made throughout this journey (we made so many errors, y’all, it’s virtually spectacular) had been 100% my very own.

Psst: Check out these different posts to assist plan your Puerto Rico itinerary:

Puerto Rico Journey Ideas

Visiting Puerto Rico from the U.S. is surprisingly fast and simple—you don’t even want a passport, or to trade foreign money! However we do have a number of tricks to decrease stress throughout your journey.

  • The best way to Get to Puerto Rico: You’ll must fly into San Juan, and since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, you don’t want a passport to go to. You additionally don’t must undergo customs if you arrive, making it a surprisingly fast and simple direct flight from Florida! We flew on budget-friendly Southwest Airways, our favourite airline. We love flying Southwest as a result of they don’t cost change or cancelation charges (fare distinction could apply. Failure to cancel a reservation at the very least 10 minutes previous to departure could lead to forfeited journey funds). We truly needed to reschedule our journey resulting from a hurricane! Plus, you’ll be able to examine two baggage totally free (weight and dimension limits apply), so that you don’t want to fret about overpacking.
    • Bonus Tip: Ebook your journey with the Southwest Fast Rewards Credit score Playing cards from Chase You’ll maximize your Fast Rewards® factors by flying Southwest, plus get 2X factors on native transit, together with rideshare or your Fast Rewards automobile rental associate purchases—which might all be used to pay for extra flights afterward, and rely towards the coveted Companion Go®. Southwest’s Companion Go is the profit that permits you to choose one particular person to fly with you totally free (not together with taxes & charges from $5.60 one-way) each time you buy or redeem factors for a flight. Be taught extra right here.
    • Enable a TON of time on the airport if you go away the island. Earlier than going via safety, you MUST ship ALL your baggage via agricultural management. They won’t allow you to via with out this. Count on a protracted safety line and potential delays.
  • The best way to Get Round Puerto Rico: Outdoors of Outdated San Juan, most of Puerto Rico isn’t actually walkable. That mentioned, we’ve designed the itinerary so that you simply don’t want a automobile—you’ll be reserving excursions with resort pickup and drop-off. You’ll be able to take an Uber or taxi to get to and from the airport (and get 2X the factors for doing so when you use your Southwest Fast Rewards Credit score Card from Chase). When you do determine to lease a automobile, like we did, it’s fairly fast and simple to do proper on the airport and driving is not any completely different than wherever else within the U.S. Nonetheless, we don’t advocate renting a automobile and have designed this itinerary to keep away from it. Right here’s why: parking is tough to seek out and costly, navigating Outdated San Juan is difficult, and isn’t it extra enjoyable to only sit again and let another person drive you round anyway? When you’ll be touring with children, go forward and lease a automobile, in any other case, skip it. You received’t want it for this itinerary.
  • We advocate basing your self in Outdated San Juan and taking day journeys, then returning to your resort every evening. Many of the highlights of Puerto Rico are comparatively near San Juan (it’s a small island, in spite of everything) so that is one of the best place to base your self throughout your keep. Throughout our journey, we truly rented a automobile and stayed in Luquillo for 2 days. We selected to lease a automobile as a result of we wanted extra flexibility resulting from touring with an toddler, and we wished to reduce the time we spent within the automobile (although truthfully, I’m undecided we actually did. It felt like we spent lots of time driving round!). And whereas Luquillo is good sufficient, it simply didn’t really feel prefer it was well worth the schlep for simply 2 days, and we wished we had stayed in San Juan as an alternative. We’d solely advocate transferring from San Juan when you can e book lodging which might be well worth the journey, just like the El Yunque Rainforest Inn, which we sadly didn’t e book far sufficient upfront to expertise (however actually wish to subsequent time we go to)! As for the automobile, it might have been a lot simpler to only e book actions and never have to fret about driving ourselves round—in order that’s the way in which we designed this itinerary.
  • Keep within the shade! Puerto Rico could be very near the equator, so the solar is sturdy. Standing within the shade is definitely a 15-degree temperature distinction from standing within the solar. And in rigorously designed Outdated San Juan, on one facet of the road, the sidewalk is all the time within the shade!
  • Maintain onto your hats—and different easy-to-blow-away stuff. Puerto Rico is characterised by a powerful commerce wind continually blowing off the Caribbean. In reality, the wind performed an important position within the colonization of Puerto Rico: it’s the primary giant island you hit when the wind pushes your ship west from the coast of Africa, 5,000 miles to the east. The wind is splendidly refreshing and carries with it many tales—and any hats that aren’t securely tied to your head. (My favourite sunhat stayed put!)
San Juan Puerto Rico View of the Governors Mansion and Sea and bright orange house

4-Day Puerto Rico Itinerary

San Juan is a colonial metropolis, and Puerto Rico—colonized by Spaniards—seems like a Latin nation. However it’s a U.S.-owned territory, a colony someplace between the boundaries of statehood and the independence of self-governance.

It is a advanced liminal area that I’ve been considerably accustomed to for my total life with out absolutely greedy as a result of a not-small portion of my household is Puerto Rican. On my mom’s facet, seven first cousins had been born and raised in Puerto Rico; all of them had a bunch of youngsters, and now I’ve a TON of cousins in Puerto Rico. My mother grew up near her first cousins, making frequent journeys backwards and forwards—she to their hometown of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and so they to her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. 

However for numerous causes, she hasn’t visited Puerto Rico for the reason that late Nineteen Seventies. The Puerto Rico my mom remembered was crumbling across the edges: boarded-up buildings, rampant poverty, and a harmful place for a younger lady to be out alone at evening. However since then, town has utterly reworked itself, due to the exhausting work of the group and a groundbreaking dedication to historic preservation.

So, when Southwest Fast Rewards Credit score Playing cards from Chase supplied to fly us to any of Southwest Airways’ many locations, I picked San Juan. I wished my mother and I to reunite with our cousins, and for them to satisfy Jeremy and Child A for the primary time ever! 

Plus, it was a once-in-a-lifetime alternative to take a three-generation journey: a 9-month-old child, my 70-something-year-old mom, and me. (…And Jeremy, in fact!)

And thank goodness we had my mom alongside—not solely did she assist us out by watching Child Some time we had been off snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking, however she talked us off of many, many ledges through the course of this journey. 

You see, we’ve all the time been disaster-prone vacationers. (It’s form of our declare to fame. Notoriety? Anyway, it’s undoubtedly our factor). However throwing a child within the combine? Y’all. 

Like, our brains have ceased to operate as they as soon as did. We’re half-humans. It’s actually spectacular what number of absolute rookie errors we made on this journey. As an illustration:

  • We missed a bioluminescent bay tour. We didn’t understand it was half-hour away from the place we had been staying till we received within the automobile, ten minutes earlier than the tour was set to depart. Fortunately, we had been in a position to e book a brand new journey for the following evening.
  • We timed our go to to coincide with the 12 months’s greatest and greatest pageant, Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián. However then we managed to utterly miss the pageant by leaving a day earlier than it truly began. (In equity, we did truly look it up, and what we discovered on-line gave us a unique date than the precise begin date!)
  • Due to the pageant, many of the metropolis was closed in preparation for the massive occasion. Which means just about all of the museums we wished to go to had been closed. Fortunately, our cousins knew a number of the folks working there (and are extraordinarily convincing) and we managed to speak our method into a few spots—and it seems that a number of the museums simply have completely beautiful grounds even when you can’t go inside!
  • Throughout our journey to El Yunque, we didn’t understand that the primary path was closed till after we arrived. Caught in the course of the forest with no cell service, we weren’t certain which trails can be child pleasant—and Child A was NOT down for a protracted, windy drive and a bunch of stops to attempt to determine it out. We managed to make 2 two stops (which, granted, had been unbelievable!) earlier than driving again dwelling to place her down for a nap.
  • We left our superior resort in Outdated San Juan to go keep at a trip rental by the seashore in Luquillo as a result of we wished to have sooner drives to El Yunque and the Bioluminescent Bay. However it solely lower our drive time by about 20 minutes, and the holiday rental was a serious letdown—the entire transfer wasn’t actually value it, truthfully. We wished we had both simply stayed in San Juan and brought day journeys, or booked early sufficient to snag a spot on the gorgeous El Yunque Rainforest Inn!
  • And the cherry on high: throughout our resort transfer, we managed to drive midway to Luquillo earlier than realizing we forgot our baggage in outdated San Juan. Which was completely shut down by police for the pageant. Which began as we left. And was additionally 40 minutes behind us. We thought we had been so intelligent timing that drive throughout Child A’s nap, however as an alternative, we turned a fast one-hour drive right into a two-hour lengthy cry fest.

Yeah. Tough. We’re so off form. However we made it via. And truthfully? Our journey was nonetheless completely unimaginable!

Couple and baby on the beach in Puerto Rico

And fortunate us, we had my mother, who spent a lot of her journey sitting within the backseat with Child A exuding calmness and Grandma Power as Child A screamed and we panicked. She had snacks. She had toys. She managed to get Child A to sleep! My baby-friendly journey tip? Carry your mom together with you! 

… And never only for the help, both. There’s one thing so splendidly fulfilling about touring together with your prolonged household, and I’m actually grateful for the chance to journey for my real love and make new recollections with my mother. We traveled along with my grandmother Katy, my journey icon and muse, effectively into her 90s. I can solely hope that Child A nonetheless needs me to affix her on adventures once I’m older! 

Anyway, again to the itinerary. See, each time we fumble the ball and make dumb errors (which is … effectively, each journey, truthfully) we study what NOT to do. After which go that alongside to you, dearest traveler, as a way to keep away from making all of our many, many errors. 

So, this itinerary has been deliberate round what we WISHED we did, in addition to the issues we did do this we actually, actually loved. We additionally sprinkled in a number of baby-friendly journey suggestions for these of you who may even be toting alongside tiny vacationers.

With out additional ado, let’s leap into your first day in Puerto Rico!

Traveler exploring the colorful streets of San Juan Puerto Rico
This Puerto Rico itinerary is predicated in colourful Viejo San Juan.

Day One: Outdated City San Juan & Meals Tour

You’ll begin your 4-day Puerto Rico itinerary by exploring the colourful streets of Viejo San Juan—the second oldest metropolis within the Western Hemisphere. The blue-bricked streets of this lovely 500-year-old metropolis are lined with shiny pastel facades painted salmon, sky blue, bubblegum pink, apple inexperienced, lilac, or canary yellow—a particularly chosen and accredited colour palette decided by historic preservation that dates again to the Nineteen Fifties. You’ll study all about that in your tour at this time!

You’ll start your day with the absolute best strategy to expertise a brand new place—stuffing your face stuffed with its meals—on a strolling meals tour with locally-owned tour firm The Spoon Expertise. This fascinating and informative tour combines stops at native cafes and eating places with deeply researched insights into San Juan’s previous, connecting threads of historical past and delicacies with Puerto Rico’s Caribbean kin, Indigenous peoples, and the enslaved African peoples who introduced their very own cooking strategies and elements with them to contribute to the tradition and culinary melting pot of Puerto Rico.

You’ll style candy pan de Mallorca over regionally brewed espresso; study concerning the Indigenous Taíno folks whereas sampling a dish that has barely modified for the reason that Spanish colonizers realized it had therapeutic powers; sip cocktails and pattern contemporary fish ceviche whereas studying about Caribbean delicacies; and high it off with a candy paleta. And a complete bunch extra.

After your tour, you’ll stroll away with a full stomach, some Fast Rewards factors, and a deeply knowledgeable context for the historical past of San Juan and Puerto Rico, able to see town in a brand new gentle.

… You’ll even be stuffed, so we’re skipping lunch (and probably dinner) at this time! 

Group looking out over the skyline of San Juan Puerto Rico
My mother & cousins admiring the view from Museo Casa Blanca, the oldest repeatedly occupied home within the Western Hemisphere.

For the remainder of the afternoon, you’ll be taking it straightforward and exploring any components of town that you simply didn’t get an opportunity to see in your tour. Contemplate doing a self-guided strolling tour when you’re up for it, or—when you’re something like us and need to go take a siesta to sleep off your meals coma—put it aside for the final day of your journey if you’ll be revisiting all of the stuff you had been too drained to do at this time after your meals tour.

There are a number of museums in Outdated San Juan, a number of lovely plazas, and TWO centuries-old castles—three when you rely the mansion that seems to be like a fort. 

Right here’s what we advocate seeing in Outdated San Juan:

  • El Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal: These are San Juan’s well-known 14th and fifteenth century Spanish forts. You’ll be able to both stroll round by yourself or take a tour. The historical past is fascinating—and preserve a watch out for kites being flown within the sturdy commerce winds in entrance of El Morro!
  • Museo Casa Blanca: That is the oldest repeatedly occupied home within the Western Hemisphere. It was in-built 1521 for Juan Ponce de Leon, the primary governor of Puerto Rico (who was quickly ousted by Christopher Columbus’ brother, the drama!). Right this moment, the home is adorned with Sixteenth and Seventeenth century rooms to take you again in time. Even when you don’t go inside to discover, it’s value a go to simply to stroll across the gorgeous out of doors gardens and grounds, that are free and open to the general public.
  • Parque de las Palomas: We extremely advocate visiting this tiny sq. nestled into the cliffside partitions, crammed with pigeons and works of handmade artwork. You should purchase seed to feed the pigeons on the onsite kiosk if you wish to, though that’s a bit terrifying, truthfully. Child A was extra within the rainbow of colourful ribbons hanging from the bushes and the handmade artwork and gardens lining a pathway to the magical Cafe del Nino. This little espresso store kiosk is a gem, y’all! You’ll discover kid-friendly smoothies and grown-up drinks, too—attempt a Espresso Frost, which includes a slice of tres leches in your espresso, like a Puerto Rican affogato. Subsequent to the cafe is a play space for all ages, with kid-sized chairs and toys set out for little ones, set to a soundtrack of Disney music. It’s magical!
  • La Fortaleza: You’ll be able to’t miss this opulent castle-looking white constructing—you’ll go it whereas exploring Viejo San Juan, and also you’ll see it from many of the viewpoints of the outdated metropolis partitions! At numerous factors since its Sixteenth-century building, La Fortaleza has served as a fortress, an arsenal, and a jail—at this time it serves because the completely baller Governor’s Mansion. They’ve excursions right here the place you’ll be able to find out about Puerto Rico’s historical past and try and movie a miniature model of Cribs for TikTok.
  • Museo de San Juan: This museum dives even deeper into the historical past of San Juan.
  • Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico: This artwork museum options cutting-edge, fashionable Puerto Rican artwork. For much more artwork, take a look at Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, which has all kinds of Puerto Rican Artwork. (Enjoyable truth about my mother and most of my Puerto Rican cousins: they freaking love artwork. Like, they’ll take total journeys the place they simply go to artwork museums each single day and by no means get uninterested in them. I’m … not fairly on that degree.)
  • La Casa del Libro Museum: This museum is a should for bibliophiles. It homes a world-renowned assortment of uncommon books relationship again to the fifteenth Century, plus historic paperwork, printing presses, and book-related paintings. And the present store is cute, too!

When you’ve received room for dinner, choose up a chunk to eat from a meals truck at Plaza Dársenas. It’s straightforward to seek out: simply search for the completely huge cruise ships docking within the harbor and observe the group of sunburnt vacationers!

These graffiti lined tanks are an iconic characteristic of Culebra’s seashores and hearken again to the time when Culebra was a naval base. Photograph from Flickr

Day Two: Snorkeling & Seaside Day

Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island surrounded by heat, sensible blue water stuffed with marine life—so that you’ll spend your day exploring underwater on a snorkeling tour to lovely Culebra, an island off the coast of Puerto Rico. 

Oh, did we point out Puerto Rico is an archipelago??? With its personal islands?!! Yup!

Positioned 20 miles off the japanese coast of Puerto Rico, Culebra’s white, sandy shores are surrounded by cays internet hosting vibrant underwater landscapes. It’s what you’re in all probability picturing if you consider snorkeling on a Caribbean Island.

Effectively, aside from the enormous, rusting, graffiti-covered tanks. They don’t normally make the screensaver-worthy psychological photographs, however they’re an iconic characteristic of Culebra’s seashores and hearken again to the time when Culebra was a naval base, shortly adopted by the point everybody packed up and went dwelling and was like eh, transferring these tanks is a complete factor, let’s simply go away ‘em right here. Nonetheless, they do make a neat selfie backdrop!

Within the clear, calm blue waters off Culebra you’ll discover turtles munching on seagrass, in addition to remoras, bluetail fishes, angelfish, and even stingrays, all having fun with the thriving ecosystem within the protected Culebra Nationwide Wildlife Refuge.

To make your go to stress-free, we advocate reserving a snorkeling tour that features pickup, drop off, and lunch, so all it’s important to do is present up in your swimsuit. This tour begins with a ship journey to ​​Carlos Rosario Nature Reserve to snorkel with yellowtail snapper and eagle rays, then lunch on the sandy seashores of lovely Cayo Luis Peña—e book it on Viator.

  • Journey Tip: Don’t neglect to pack reef-safe sunscreen, which helps shield the very wildlife you’re right here to see! We additionally extremely, extremely advocate a pair of swim leggings, which cuts down on the quantity of reef-safe sunscreen it’s important to use (as a result of it’s kinda… thick, and never in a great way) whereas being cute and comfy AF! We additionally advocate bringing a quick-drying journey towel and a dry bag.

For dinner after your snorkel tour, head to Deaverdura in Viejo San Juan. Heads up, there’s normally a line out the door—if that tells you something! The no-frills restaurant has a restricted menu that adjustments recurrently however all the time consists of scrumptious Puerto Rican staples, like roast pork with a scrumptious cilantro sauce, one of the best pink beans and rice we loved throughout our total journey, and phenomenal coconut flan. Take pleasure in it with a rum and tamarind cocktail. 

Now that we’ve informed you what we advocate, let me inform you about what we truly did. We couldn’t precisely take a child on an all-day snorkeling journey (she’s extra of a scuba diver), so as an alternative, we every booked a brief tour at a seashore close to San Juan, Escambron Marine Park. The lagoon there’s a good calm spot to swim, with a tiny seashore and shallow water (nice for little ones). When you convey some snorkeling gear (like this set), you’ll be able to attempt to spot turtles!

Jeremy took a scuba diving tour with Scuba Canine. They helped to rebuild and preserve marine life on this bay after a devastating oil spill, and so they’re a unbelievable and moral firm. It’s a relaxed and quiet place to dive, and also you’ll see some attention-grabbing constructions constructed from salvaged constructing supplies that at the moment are being transformed into coral reefs. When you’re model new to snorkeling and don’t really feel comfy doing it by yourself, you’ll be able to take a snorkeling tour with them, too.

If in case you have a automobile and simply wish to do a self-guided seashore day (for baby-related causes or not, we don’t decide), right here’s what we advocate:

  • Mar Chiquita: That is my cousin’s favourite seashore! It’s a quiet, uncrowded seashore with a phenomenal lagoon that you may swim and snorkel in. It’s hardly ever crowded and has good calm water for swimming. 
  • Playa Ocean Park: The most important seashore in San Juan, there’s loads of room to unfold out, which implies no crowds. You’ll usually see kite surfers right here having fun with the wind.
  • Balneario El Escambron: That is the place we went—there are a few seashores right here together with a small, calm lagoon with a number of turtles and fish. You’ll have a view of a Seventeenth-century fort right here! Carry meals, as there’s not a lot close by.
  • Isla Verde and Balneario de Carolina: This seashore is gorgeous however might be crowded. The primary draw is that it’s proper by the airport. We had an hour to kill earlier than our flight, so we stopped by right here on the way in which!z

Day Three: El Yunque Nationwide Park & Bioluminescent Bay

El Yunque Nationwide Forest is among the United States’ solely tropical rainforests, and it’s enchanting. Positioned simply 45 minutes away from San Juan, it’s a simple day journey. The winding drive via the rainforest on its essential path is gorgeous: you’ll climb up the mountains as the plush forest stretches under you till you’ll be able to see all the way in which to the intense blue Caribbean Ocean.

There are lots of stops alongside the street in El Yunque, the place you will discover gushing waterfalls, azure swimming pools prepared for swimming, cliffs to leap off into mentioned azure swimming pools, and hikes winding via the plush rainforest, most of which result in azure swimming pools. Say azure swimming pools yet one more time, Lia.

It’s type of a road-to-Hana scenario, the place you drive alongside and benefit from the view and pull off to make stops right here and there, besides minus banana bread and plus mountains. 

The trick is to know which stops to make forward of time, because you received’t have any cell service when you enter the park (shock!). You’ll wish to plan out the place you wish to go upfront, or cease by the customer’s heart when you arrive.

However planning stuff out forward of time takes effort, so the best strategy to do a visit to El Yunque is with a tour that can choose you up out of your resort in San Juan, take you to some unbelievable spots to swim and hike (azure swimming pools!!), feed you, after which drop you off again at your resort once more. You don’t have to fret about making a reservation to enter, driving, or discovering meals in the course of a rainforest whereas an overtired child screams at you from the backseat.

This El Yunque day journey is ideal for adventurous vacationers: you’ll hike, swim within the … whats, cliff-jump, do some Tarzan rope swinging, and zoom down a pure waterslide. 

For a extra laid-back day, do this tour: you’ll swim, slide down a pure waterslide, and do a 15-minute hike, and then you definately’ll head to the close by city of Luquillo to sit back on the seashore and eat dinner on the well-known Kioskos de Luquillo (which is, by the way, additionally the place we advocate consuming lunch or dinner when you do that day journey by yourself).

Mom and baby at a waterfall along Juan Diego Creek in El Yunque Puerto Rico
Child A was REALLY enthralled by this log alongside Juan Diego Creek!

As for us, we made a number of unbelievable stops on our self-guided journey. We climbed up the Yokahú Tower to soak up the view stretching all the way in which to the coast of Luquillo. We additionally discovered a beautiful, quick little path alongside Juan Diego Creek, which led to some beautiful swimming holes and waterfalls, plus a log that Child A was like, enthralled by. I feel perhaps we’d by no means proven her a log earlier than? Anyway, she beloved it.

We had been hoping to do a number of different straightforward hikes which might be speculated to be unbelievable with children, together with Angelito Path (which is definitely exterior the park entrance, and a shorter drive) however after her huge log journey, Child A was too near needing a nap to be versatile sufficient to allow us to cease and discover. Nonetheless, what we did get to do was great.

  • Journey Ideas: When you’re visiting El Yunque by yourself, the gorgeous Customer’s Middle on the entrance of the forest will assist you determine your plan for the day! Additionally, and that is VERY IMPORTANT: earlier than your journey, you’ll must reserve your entry upfront. Just one reservation per car is required, and it may be booked as much as one month earlier than your go to. Tickets to your automobile are free, although there’s a small charge to make your reservation. A restricted variety of reservations are launched 24 hours previous to opening.
Getting ready for an evening biolumenescent bay kayaking tour in Fajardo Puerto Rico
Preparing for a night bioluminescent bay kayaking tour in Fajardo, Puerto Rico

After your rainforest tour and dinner, it’s time for an additional bucket-list journey: kayaking after darkish in a bioluminescent bay.

A bioluminescent bay is extremely uncommon—there are simply 5 on the earth, and to not brag or something, however Puerto Rico is dwelling to 3 of them. These ecosystems happen when microscopic, single-celled organisms known as dinoflagellates develop in portions sufficiently big to provide a “glow-in-the-dark” impact when stimulated by motion. While you paddle or splash the water, the tiny organisms gentle up like tiny fireflies or dancing sparks within the water.

You’ll be able to solely see them when it’s pitch black (our tour had us huddle underneath a tarp to dam out ambient gentle) and also you’ll must make actions underwater to see them—so don’t count on to see like, a complete glow-in-the-dark bay. We’ve heard (from my cousins) that on extraordinarily uncommon events, you’ll be able to even leap within the water and swim. When you do get the chance, please inform us about it so we will marinate in our jealousy!

You received’t be capable of seize the bioluminescence together with your telephone or a digicam, (any ambient gentle in any respect will make them disappear, like little water faeries) however the sundown over the palm tree-studded hills of Fajardo was so gorgeous that I want I’d introduced my telephone or digicam in a water-resistant bag like this one (however in fact I forgot to pack it as a result of my mind solely features half in addition to it used to since having a child).

Puerto Rico is dwelling to bioluminescent bays in Fajardo, on the island of Vieques, and in Ponce. All three would require a visit from San Juan to see them; and though Vieques is taken into account the “prettiest,” Fajardo is the closest one to town in addition to El Yunque, which is why you’ll be squeezing in each adventures on the identical day (we’re all about #lowstress right here).

The easiest way to slot in each El Yunque and the bioluminescent bay kayaking journey is to e book a tour that mixes each, like this one which picks up and drops off from San Juan and consists of lunch and dinner, plus climbing and swimming in El Yunque and the sundown kayaking tour. (You may also e book a tour individually, like this one, in case you have a automobile and might get your self to the tour in a well timed method, which as we talked about earlier, took us two makes an attempt).

We advocate reserving your tour proper at sundown: that method you get a phenomenal sundown kayak and look at over the bay after which a cool evening kayak! Actually, the precise bioluminescence a part of the tour, whereas cool, is fairly transient—however a sundown and night kayaking tour remains to be actually freakin’ cool.

  • Journey Ideas: When you can, attempt to time your journey as near the brand new moon as doable, (though we did our journey ON the brand new moon, and I’m undecided how a lot of a distinction it made). And keep in mind that the ecosystem in these bays are delicate, so please don’t go on a tour that makes use of a gasoline boat to drive you round! Kayaking is greatest.
Colorful street in Old Town San Juan Puerto Rico.
Colourful avenue in Outdated City San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Day 4: Viejo San Juan & Sundown Cruise

In your last day in Puerto Rico, you’ll possible be exhausted from two straight days of adventuring and wish to spend your final day taking it straightforward. (Ask me how I do know). 

So, for at this time, you’ll be exploring Outdated San Juan once more and stopping on the many museums, plazas, historic properties, and castles you didn’t get an opportunity to go to in your first day since you had been handed out in a meals coma.

However first, begin your time off proper by placing your self again right into a meals coma with brunch at Chocobar Cortes, a chocolate store slash brunch spot slash espresso store. The menu creatively incorporates bitter, nutty Caribbean-grown chocolate in completely surprising methods, like chocolate French dressing, chocolate ketchup, and chocolate-ham-and-cheese croquettes (they’re scrumptious)! 

Attempt their twist on conventional Puerto Rican meals like pan de Mallorca and upgraded variations like chalupitas de mofongo, stuffed mofongo shells with chocolate guacamole (kinda bizarre? Sure. Kinda good? Additionally, sure). Scrumptious. The price of your meal will profit Fundación Cortés, which helps Caribbean artwork and native artists.

After brunch, get out and discover these blue-bricked streets! Pop into native shops to select up souvenirs (you’ll be able to browse locally-crafted souvenirs on the handicraft market in Plaza Dársenas), hit up extra museums and plazas, see whichever fort you skipped on day one, and seize a candy paleta from Señor Paleta to chill off within the warmth.

Cliffside Governors Mansion on the sea in San Juan Puerto Rico
To your final night in San Juan, take a lovely sundown cruise within the bay on the foot of the historic forts and partitions of the outdated metropolis.

To your final night in San Juan, take a lovely sundown cruise within the bay on the foot of the historic forts and partitions of the outdated metropolis. You’ll get pleasure from cocktails and appetizers on board a schooner because the solar units over the Caribbean horizon.

When you’ve mentioned your last goodbye to the solar, head to top-of-the-line eating places in Puerto Rico for dinner: Santaella. The flagship of world-renowned Chef Santaella options upscale variations of genuine Puerto Rican dishes and cocina criolla crafted lovingly with native elements (sourced from a farmer’s market a number of ft away, as native because it will get) made tapas-style, which is my favourite as a result of it means you get to attempt numerous issues with out actually committing.

After dinner, make your method again to your resort one final time. Say goodbye to the pleasant stray cats alongside the way in which, the chirping Coquí frog, and that heat commerce wind breeze. Perhaps cease by a bar for one final piña colada, as a result of like, they had been invented right here so that you in all probability can’t get them at dwelling, proper??

After which, lastly, say your goodbyes. Adios, Puerto Rico—you had been magical.

The place to Keep in San Juan, Puerto Rico

For our itinerary, we advocate staying in San Juan and taking day journeys to discover close by points of interest on the East Coast of the island. This implies you received’t need to lease a automobile or fear about transportation apart from taking an Uber to and from the airport—straightforward peasy.

What we truly did throughout our journey, although, was a bit completely different since we had been touring with a child (being caught on a day tour with a child—are you able to think about?!). We rented a automobile and moved halfway via our journey from San Juan to a seashore city near El Yunque Nationwide Park and the bioluminescent bay in Fajardo, in order that we had been near our day journeys and minimized the time spent with a cranky child in a automobile seat. However when you aren’t touring with a child, that’s utterly pointless and truthfully not what we might advocate primarily based on our expertise. 

That’s, until you’ll be able to snag a reservation on the El Yunque Rainforest Inn, a beautiful eco-lodge that we actually wished to e book however didn’t work out with our dates!

In the case of lodging in San Juan, you’ll see lots of beachfront resorts close to the outdated metropolis in an space known as Condado, a couple of 10-minute drive from Viejo San Juan. Personally, we actually aren’t resort folks and we favor to be inside strolling distance to “stuff,” so we selected to remain inside Viejo San Juan itself, which was superior. Town is small and walkable, so we had been all the time only a few minutes away from our resort. We had been completely happy to commerce off a non-public seashore for ocean views from the excessive partitions across the metropolis, walkability, and colonial attraction! 

  • We stayed at Villa Herencia Lodge, a small and exquisite boutique resort within the coronary heart of Viejo San Juan, subsequent to town partitions, a phenomenal plaza with a gorgeous view of the cliffside Governor’s Mansion (La Fortaleza). The rooms are small, nevertheless it’s greater than made up for by its phenomenal location, and a beautiful roof-side terrace! We’d fortunately keep right here once more.
  • We additionally advocate Lodge El Convento in Outdated San Juan. This centrally-located resort was once an outdated convent (therefore the title) however is now dwelling its greatest life as a wonderful boutique resort with a baller rooftop pool and ocean views. Plus, it’s a Southwest Lodge Accomplice, so you’ll be able to earn 2X the factors throughout your keep when you use your Southwest Fast Rewards Credit score Cardfrom Chase! 
The iconic blue brick cobblestone streets on a hilltop view of the sea and mountains in Old Town San Juan, Puerto Rico
The long-lasting blue brick cobblestone streets on a hilltop view of the ocean and mountains in Outdated City San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Non-Income to Assist

As moral and sustainable vacationers, it’s deeply essential to us that we have now a optimistic influence on the locations we go to. Puerto Rico has a strained relationship with tourism. On the one hand, the earnings from vacationers straight helps locally-owned companies—as long as guests such as you proceed to hunt out and patronize them! Alternatively, as a U.S. territory, Puerto Ricans are likely to really feel like the great thing about their island is usually bought to the very best bidder, leaving locals and communities with no say within the improvement and preservation of their properties.

Puerto Rico, like many Caribbean islands, can also be topic to frequent hurricanes. Lately, the islands have been devastated by a number of hurricanes—and whereas it has bounced again in large methods, there’s nonetheless a lot work to be completed. An area journey blogger buddy of ours, Jen Ruiz, wrote a unbelievable article on the significance of visiting Puerto Rico even within the wake of hurricanes—learn it right here.

We’d encourage you to take your patronage of regionally owned companies a step additional and contemplate donating to those non-profit organizations that are working to keep up, enhance, and assist Puerto Rico’s local people. This checklist was offered to me by considered one of my Puerto Rican cousins and consists of organizations both she or her community have been concerned with personally.

A community-based feminist non-profit group targeted on offering assets and schooling on feminine improvement in areas like well being & healthcare, financial empowerment, lowering home violence, and activism. Additionally they present emergency reduction and funds to ladies in impacted communities (for instance, when Hurricane Fiona hit, they had been actively working in Loíiza—a municipality that was unable to get fast help from FEMA and the Pink Cross—to offer a soup kitchen and provide drive).

Home violence and gender-based violence are big points in PR. Governor Pierluisi issued a state of emergency on the difficulty in 2021 (that lasted till June 2022) to analysis it. Even Unhealthy Bunny has launched two songs elevating consciousness of it, “Solo de Míi” and “Andrea.” 

This is a company that goals to have 33% of Puerto Rico’s land underneath protected standing by 2033 to guard Puerto Rico’s ecological methods. Not solely do they handle numerous lands across the island (that are donated to them or they buy), however in addition they provide academic excursions that vary from the historical past of sugar plantations to considered one of Puerto Rico’s three bioluminescent bays, volunteer actions like tree planting or fowl counting, and scientific analysis alternatives. 

As a Caribbean Island, Puerto Rico is very in danger to the influence of world warming (which you’ll see within the frequency of lethal hurricanes like Maria or Fiona). Coastal sealines are disappearing and flooding is turning into increasingly frequent. By defending Puerto Rico’s ecological methods, Para la Naturaleza hopes to maintain these methods intact to assist preserve the island ecologically sustainable and supply residents and vacationers alike a brand new appreciation for connecting with their surroundings and the influence they’ve.

Plaza in front of El Moro castle in Old Town San Juan, Puerto Rico

You’ll see stray animals all around the island. Save a Gato works solely with the feral cat colony in Outdated San Juan (you’ll in all probability see them whereas strolling round!). They follow entice and launch (TNR) the place they seize the feral cats, neuter or spay them, and launch them again into the colony as these cats are too skeptical and aggressive to people to be rehomed. Nonetheless, if a feminine cat is pregnant, they let her go absolutely to time period and have the kittens adopted as soon as they’re of age. 

Not solely are there tons of stray cats, however stray canines as effectively (right here in PR they’re known as “satos”). Moreover, many of those stray animals escaped abusive or hoarding conditions. 

Amigos de los Animales is a shelter and academic non-profit that not solely fosters and adopts stray or abused animals to loving properties, but in addition gives a six-week animal cruelty and investigation course to native police, animal welfare, and animal management facilities (or anybody typically) to lift consciousness on the indicators of animal cruelty and abuse.

It is a no-overhead fund that invests 100% of donations to affiliated organizations working in critically affected areas in Puerto Rico. It goes to each short- and long-term humanitarian efforts from emergency provides after a hurricane to re-building colleges or group amenities.

Each a non-profit and fund, United Means works with 123 organizations all through the island offering them with funds and assets to proceed their work. Their essential focuses are schooling, monetary independence, and well being, but in addition present an emergency reduction fund throughout occasions of crises like Hurricane Fiona.

Casa Julia de Burgos was the primary home violence shelter in Puerto Rico and continues to offer assets, consciousness, and help to these going through home violence. Not solely do they provide shelter and a fast re-housing program, however in addition they provide trauma-informed childcare to the youngsters of home violence. 

Are you able to pack your snorkel fins and head to Puerto Rico? What questions on visiting can we reply?

Psst – earlier than you e book your journey, don’t neglect to take a look at the Southwest Fast Rewards Credit score Playing cards from Chase so you will get all these candy, candy Fast Rewards factors.

Psst: Planning a visit to Puerto Rico? These posts may assist:

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Disclaimer: Our journey was sponsored by Southwest Fast Rewards Credit score Playing cards from Chase. Be taught extra right here. All opinions, suggestions, dangerous jokes, and errors made throughout this journey (we made so many errors, y’all, it’s virtually spectacular) had been 100% my very own. 

Accounts topic to credit score approval. Restrictions and limitations apply. Playing cards are issued by JPMorgan Chase Financial institution, N.A. Member FDIC. Supply topic to vary. All Fast Rewards guidelines and rules apply

Our High Journey Ideas & Assets

Listed below are our favourite journey suggestions & assets for saving cash and planning journey logistics! For extra suggestions, take a look at our journey suggestions useful resource web page or our information to planning a visit.

  • Reserving Flights: To attain flight offers, search on Google Flights or Kayak. Cash-saving suggestions: fly mid-week or on the weekend; fly carry-on solely on a finances airline; and take red-eyes or early morning flights.
  • Lodging: We normally keep in budget-friendly trip leases, boutique resorts or personal rooms in hostels. We use to e book resorts (we love their versatile cancellation coverage) and Hostelworld to e book hostels (low deposit, straightforward change/cancellation, and wonderful opinions). For trip leases, we favor to e book utilizing VRBO as a result of they have decrease charges and higher assist than Airbnb, and we’re not followers of Airbnb’s unethical monitor file. You may also e book trip leases on Expedia and We additionally use TrustedHousesitters as each hosts (for our dwelling and our fur-child) and vacationers!
  • Journey Insurance coverage: We all the time, all the time, ALWAYS purchase journey insurance coverage for worldwide journeys, and we STRONGLY recommend it – go to our Journey Insurance coverage Information to seek out out why. We advocate both World Nomads or SafetyWing for worldwide journey insurance coverage. SafetyWing is among the few insurance policies that covers Covid-19, and so they have wonderful month-to-month insurance policies which might be excellent for Digital Nomads and long run vacationers!
  • Journey Credit score Card: We e book all of our journeys on our favourite journey bank card. Not solely will we earn money again that we will spend on extra journey, however the card affords unbelievable journey perks like journey insurance coverage, journey delay and cancellation protection, misplaced baggage reimbursement, and rental automobile protection, which helps shield us on our travels. Be taught extra right here.
  • Vaccines & Meds: We use the journey guides on the CDC web site to analysis beneficial drugs and vaccines for worldwide journeys. We all the time advocate getting each vaccine beneficial by the CDC! You will get them at your major care physician’s workplace or a walk-in pharmacy.
  • Excursions: We love reserving guided excursions, particularly meals excursions and strolling excursions, to get an area’s perspective and a historical past lesson whereas sight-seeing! We e book our excursions utilizing Viator and GetYourGuide.
  • Transportation: We use Rome2Rio to determine easy methods to get from place to put, and e book native transportation on-line utilizing Bookaway wherever we will. Once we e book a rental automobile, we use DiscoverCars to check rental corporations and discover one of the best deal.
  • Baggage Storage: Every time we’re testing early or profiting from a protracted layover, we use LuggageHero to securely retailer our baggage whereas we’re operating round. Use the code PRACTICALW for two hours of free baggage storage on us.
  • VPN Service: A VPN retains your digital data (like web site login particulars, financial institution data, and so on) secure, even if you’re related to an unsecured community whereas touring. Plus, it permits you to use Netflix & different streaming websites overseas! We use NordVPN. Use the code WANDERLUSTPROMO if you enroll!
  • What to Pack: Listed below are the journey necessities that we convey on each journey. We even have packing lists for sizzling climate, chilly climate, and plenty of extra. Check out all of our packing guides!


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