Puerto Rico offers an amazing tropical getaway without adding some of the steps of traveling abroad. No passport necessary, no outlet converters and no exchanging money. Especially from the East Coast, it’s easy to get to, and even from the West Coast, it isn’t too bad. The island itself has amazing scenery, food, culture, drink and, of course, people.
You can easily spend more than a week in Puerto Rico, and it isn’t enough to see everything, but you can both begin to explore the island and rest up a little.
The island has changed a bit since I last visited in 2013 and unfortunately, some of my favorite spots have closed due to the impact of the hurricane. With that, I took some time do some research to find you some similar recommendations for your trip since the island is no less worth exploring now than it was before the storm.
Days 1 – 3: Old San Juan
Where to Stay
Start your week in Puerto Rico checking into the center of Old San Juan, and there are even a few places you can enjoy without breaking the bank. Check out CasaTripGoGo which is centrally located and has rooms as low as $35. Or if you’d prefer a place with a private bath, check out Fortaleza Suites Old San Juan. Another central spot with rooms under $100.
If you’re looking for luxury instead of budget check out the Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel which is right on the bay and offers rooms with nice views as well as a good location. Or if you’re looking for a little bit of history on your trip you’ll want to stay in Hotel El Convento. This restored 350-year-old building is a unique way to explore Old San Juan. Plus, their guests have access to their beach club over at Isla Verde.
What to Do
Explore, wander, shop and indulge. Make sure you visit the two historic forts in Old San Juan. El Morro is the more famous one and has a little more to explore. Take your time wandering these sites enjoying their history and the beautiful views of the coast they offer.
Wander down Calle Cristo to see all the designer stores in the area and then head down Calle San Francisco to find many of the local artists and craftsmen. I found the best souvenirs in Old San Juan, so if you find something you love, grab it. Our one full day in Old San Juan was a rainy adventure.
Where to Eat & Drink
You must have breakfast at Caficultura. Order a cortadito, a small espresso drink with the perfect amount of steamed milk. Their quesito, a cheese pastry is also amazing. Those work for a quick bite, or sit down and enjoy their whole menu.
This spot is right the heart of Old San Juan. For dinner, I loved Pirilo. While you might not think of pizza as you go to, this place was filled with locals just as much as tourists. Amazing pizza and many with an island flare.
Swing by Mezzanine at the St. Germain for a happy hour cocktail and appetizers. Their friendly staff might even keep you there all night. If you’re looking for more nightlife head over to La Factoria. They have different rooms that can meet any mood from casual bar to a dance club.
Days 4 – 5: RainForest & East Coast
Where to Stay
For me, my favorite place to stay on the island was El Escondido Guest House. Unfortunately, they have yet to reopen after the hurricane. But click here to check out their Facebook page just in case they are opened by the time you take your trip. Until they do, if you’d like to stay up near El Yunque check out the Rainforest Inn.
There is nothing like having a chance to stay up in the rainforest and listen to the Coqui sing you to sleep.
What to Do
After a relaxing night at the guest house drive over to El Yunque National Forest. The only tropical rainforest in the U.S., it is a must do on the island. Take the main trail and hike down to La Mina Falls for a great afternoon, or ask the guys at the guest house and they will send you to some less popular spots.
After that, and make sure to book ahead of time, drive down to Fajardo, about 30 minutes away, and take a tour of the bioluminescent bay. A completely out of this world experience, and Puerto Rico, has three of five of these bays in the world. Booking with Pure Adventures was a great experience. Tours run around $40.
The next day, travel off the island and explore a little more of the ocean itself. Either take a catamaran trip where you sail off to a small island like Icacos to go snorkeling on a reef, I booked with East Island Excursions, or make your own trip and take the ferry over to Culebra Island and head over to Playa Flamingo, ranked one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
The ferry to Culebra is only $4.50 roundtrip, so if you’re looking for a great adventure on the cheap it is a good way to go.
Where to Eat
Our two best meals were while exploring this side of the island. First, bring some snacks up to the guest house, since you might not want to leave once you arrive that first evening. It’s more fun to explore the grounds than other options.
After your bio-bay tour you have to stop by one of the kiosks in the area, these are basically the equivalent of food trucks. I loved Bistro Del Mar at Las Croabas and had an amazing empanada and ceviche. One of our best meals on the island.
After your ocean trip, either option will have you driving back past La Estacion. This spot is where you have to order Mofongo, a Puerto Rican specialty. It is a beautiful property that gives you a local feel with exquisite food. On top of that, they had the best Pina Colada I found on the island.
Days 6 – 7: Beach Vacation in San Juan
Where to Stay
Now that you’ve gotten some good exploring in its time for the relaxing part of the trip. Head over to Numero Uno, a bed and breakfast right on the beach in the Ocean Park area of San Juan. You’ve got everything you need for a couple perfect days at the beach.
They’ll bring you lounges out on the sand, and even dig your umbrella in for you. Oh, and yes, they will bring you Pina Coladas on the beach. All for only $100 a night. For more about why I loved Numero Uno pop over to this post.
What to Do
To be honest, my two days here involved pretty much relaxing on the beach, playing in the water and that was about it. This was the part of our trip that was a vacation for me, getting ready to head back to my life relaxed and recharged.
If you haven’t had enough adventures though you can always head over to explore the Bacardi Factory or rent a paddleboard to explore the bay.
Where to Eat
In Numero Uno you will find their restaurant Pamela’s. It is an elegant spot from the food to the setting. How often do you get to eat a beautiful dinner with your feet in the sand? Delectable entrees with an island flare to them, I enjoyed it so much I ate there both nights.
For breakfast, while the hotel served one, wander a few blocks away to Kasalta. This is where you’ll find all the locals eating their breakfasts. The pastries were mouthwatering, and the coffee very satisfying.
Exploring What the Island Has to Offer
This seven-day itinerary might not cover everything on the island, but it will give you a good flavor of what Puerto Rico is. You’ll explore their city, their nature and get a chance to kick back and relax. In one week, focusing on the Northeastern piece of the island gives you just enjoy time to start digging in.
If you’re looking for some more details to add to your week in Puerto Rico don’t miss out on my things to do list or more beaches I enjoyed exploring. Let me know where else on the island I need to add to my next itinerary.