A Long Weekend in Puerto Rico
The following itineraries describe three ways to spend one day in Puerto Rico. They all assume you will start from and end your trip at your lodgings. You can select the activities that sound interesting to you and follow them in any order, including mixing and matching the morning/afternoon/evening sections from the three different itineraries as you like.
All listed prices are in United States dollars. The estimates provided below do not include food, drinks or the cost of transportation between the hotel where you are staying and the locations of the first and last destinations stated in each itinerary.
Traveling in Puerto Rico is easy enough, but equipping yourself with a bottle of water and a decent map is advisable. If you want to make full use of this itinerary, consider packing the following:
Sunblock: No matter where you are, this is a sun-kissed destination. If you're of a fair complexion, don't get caught without this.
Warm Weather Clothes: Again, no matter where you are in Puerto Rico unless you're spending time inside a refrigerator, heavy coats and sweaters will not be necessary.
Sensible Footwear: Enough can't be said for having comfortable shoes just about anywhere. If you're planning to follow this itinerary in its entirety then pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes in addition to something you'd be comfortable doing some light hiking in. Flip-flops or sandals are optional, you'll be able to find a cheap pair that gets the job done if you stumble anywhere near the beaches (i.e. pretty much anywhere).
Old San Juan
If you have to pick one itinerary out of the three listed here, this is by far the most touristy. Take into consideration that this itinerary comes dangerously close to being what you might call typical. If you're comfortable with that, and maybe running into a few other tourists during the day in Old San Juan, then please, read on. Old San Juan is adjacent to San Juan proper and, if you flew into Puerto Rico, you probably arrived at Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport in Carolina, about three miles from San Juan. Unless you were specifically trying to avoid the bustling metro area, you hotel is somewhere around here. This makes the task of getting to Old San Juan anything from a short walk to a fifteen-minute taxi ride away.
Do your best to get up early in the morning; a few hours awake before the Sun has a chance to heat the ground will seem like paradise later in the day. In any case, it’s time to have some breakfast. Your hotel will undoubtedly offer some type of breakfast service or buffet. More than likely it will be an American-style continental breakfast with a lot of fresh fruit and an assortment of baked goods. It’s your choice if you want to partake in that or skip out for now and try your luck in the Old City. Once you’ve decided, eat up or make your way to Old San Juan. If you’re planning on eating breakfast in Old San Juan you should ask the concierge or someone at the front desk for their recommendations.
Once you’ve arrived, if you haven’t eaten yet you’ll want to take care of that and stock up on calories for the walk ahead. This is where those comfortable shoes come in, many of the streets are cobbled and quite steep in some places. In case you forgot to ask for a recommendation, stop by Café Manolín if you’re in the mood for a typical breakfast or La Bombonera (the third oldest restaurant on the island) for something more authentic. The food is amazing at both locations.
Now that you’ve undoubtedly filled up on some outstanding Puerto Rican food and coffee (there’s almost no place on the island where the coffee is less than marvelous) you should make your way to Plaza de la Dársena. Once you arrive, locate the La Casita Tourism Information Center, here you’ll find an abundance of maps and other useful information. If you’re in the mood to strike off on your own and see the sights, that’s very doable. However, if you’re more the guided tour type, you can join up with one of those here as well. Also, if you’re the type that likes to take photos, make sure you’re stocked up on batteries and film (if that’s your thing) before you head out.
After you’ve done sightseeing you should spend the rest of the day in the Old City. There’s always plenty to do almost every day of the week. The Old City is littered with shops selling clothing, jewelry, and arts and crafts, a lot of it locally made. If you’re not in the mood to spend a lot of money, you can always hit one of the many museums or art galleries also found in this area of San Juan.
Of course, before you proceed to do all of that you should probably have a bite to eat. After spending the morning walking around, it might be nice to walk into an air conditioned restaurant for lunch. The Parrot Club on Fortaleza Street is excellent, as is La Fonda del Jibarito on Sol Street (a favorite spot of the Archbishop of San Juan). If you ate breakfast at the Hotel instead of in Old San Juan, the two restaurants mentioned earlier as breakfast establishments have excellent lunch menus as well.
After you’ve had your fill of food once again, your destination will depend on your interests. Those interested in architecture or spirituality may want to stop by Del Cristo Street for a look at San Juan Cathedral. Of course if you have money burning a hole in your pocket and you’re looking to do a little shopping you could always stroll along San Francisco Street until you find something that catches your eye or pass by Plaza Las Americas and claim your visitors savings booklet with your hotel key and drivers license at the customer service desk. Still, if you’re looking to beat the midday heat the art galleries and museums are the way to go.
If you haven’t worn yourself out by now there’s plenty to do in the evening in the Old City as well. If you’re hungry again and looking for dinner you have a few options. There are of course the restaurants you’ve already been to if you’re feeling like more of the same; however, for a fancier meal, head back to Fortaleza Street where you’ll find a number of restaurants with amazing food made by internationally renowned chefs including spots such as Dragonfly and Aguavida. Both of these locations have incredibly busy bar and lounge scene after hours as well if that’s something you’re interested in.
Additionally, if you’re interested in gambling, then you should head to the Sheraton Old San Juan. In addition to being a hotel with a rooftop bar, it is also home to the only casino in Old San Juan.
If you’re looking for something a little bit more structured for the night, consider booking a tour with ‘’’Legends of Puerto Rico’’’ a company that offers a “Night Tales in Old San Juan” tour. The tour encompasses a walk through the Old Fortress and the four World Heritage Sites, accompanied by ghost stories, historical facts, and stories of pirates, tragic loves, and other legends. The tour is $35 per person and children under five are welcome to walk along with their parents for free.
There is so much more to Puerto Rico than San Juan. Though San Juan is an amazing city and filled with things to do, there are simply some things that you won’t be able to enjoy without leaving town and heading out into the rainforest. That being said, El Yunque National Forest is one of the most spectacular places on the entire island. Depending on whether or not you’ve decided to spring for a rental car, you’ll have more or less freedom with what you do today. Grabbing one is recommended. Oh, you’ll want to wear boots or shoes with a bit of ankle support today,while most of the trails in the forest are fairly well worn it is still uneven terrain and a sprained ankle is no fun no matter where you are.
Once again, do your best to wake up bright and early. If you haven’t got one yet, take some time and arrange for a rental car. You can enjoy a day at the rainforest either way but you’ll be severely limited in terms of going off the beaten path or spending any extra time at the park. Head out for a nice breakfast and pick up a few things before you make the drive to El Yunque. Make sure that you bring a bathing suit, a towel, some sunblock, and insect repellant. Keep in mind that the drive from San Juan to El Yunque will take about an hour regardless of which one of the most common routes you take. From San Juan, all of them will take you along Route 3 for the majority of the trip, so head east on it until you reach Route 191. Transitioning from Route 3 to Route 191 will take you through the small town of Palmer in Río Grande. Since you won’t be able to procure a proper lunch once you arrive at the rainforest (unless you want to forage for it) it’s a good idea to stop here and grab some food for later in the day.
Once you arrive at El Yunque National Forest be sure to stop by El Portal Visitor Center before hitting the trails. Take some time to grab some water, if you don’t already have some, and a map while you’re there.
At some point, be sure to take La Mina Trail. At some point in your life in a picture, movie, or television show you’ve seen La Mina Falls, and this trail will take you there. Once you arrive at the falls you’ll have the opportunity to wade through the waist-high water and stand under the falls. Unsurprisingly, this is a popular tourist spot, so be ready share the area. Once you’re tired of splashing around, towel off and look for a spot to set down and eat the lunch you brought.
After you’ve eaten, take some time to admire the scenery. The rainforest is a truly beautiful place and if you’ve brought along your camera this is an excellent time to snap a few photos. Go ahead and take a little more time to explore the trails if you’re so inclined, depending on when you leave and when you want to get back to San Juan you have a few options from here. Keep in mind that the drive back to San Juan will take an hour so if you’d like to get back to San Juan in time for dinner you should leave here by mid-afternoon.
If you’re the type for a late dinner however, before heading back to San Juan you may be interested in travelling further east along Route 3 until you reach the ocean.
If you’ve elected to continue east on Route 3 you’ll eventually encounter Parque Damaso Rivera. Pull over here and spend some time admiring the ocean. For a number of factors and depending on the time you left El Yunque you may or may not catch the sunset, either way you’re at a beautiful and more or less untouched beach.
Tucked back a bit from the water you’ll find a myriad of kiosks selling everything from beachwear to snacks. Among the kiosks (number twenty-one to be precise) is a shop named Ay Bonito!, and the food here is amazing. One of the best restaurants in Luquillo, a stop here is not one wasted by any means.
If you’ve decided to head back to San Juan instead of hitting the beach, then your night is looking a little different. Stop by your hotel and take some time to freshen up. Wash the water from the falls off take a quick nap before heading out.
Again, if you’re partial to gambling there’s plenty for you to do. Head to El San Juan Hotel and Casino and try your luck. Even if you don’t enjoy gambling, head there anyway. The El San Juan Hotel and Casino is also home to Club Brava, one of the most popular nightclubs in Puerto Rico. Brava is absolutely filled to capacity on the weekend, so if that’s not something you’re into there are other places to hit the dance floor. Club Flow is a great place to go to hear live bands playing while still maintaining that nightclub scene, it’s located on Ponce de León Avenue in the Old City; dress to impress. Also, if you’re looking to check out the gay club scene, Krash in Santurce is arguably the single best nightclub for gay men and women in Puerto Rico.
The last two days you’ve been pretty busy doing well, kind of a lot. They say that “the unaimed arrow never misses” and spending the morning and afternoon aimlessly lounging on the beach is always a hit. So grab your bathing suit, your towel, and your sunblock and head out.
Get up at whatever time that you’d like to today, the beach isn’t going anywhere. Figure out where in the last two days you enjoyed breakfast the most and head there. Try something new or don’t, adventurous was the for the last two days, today go with what makes you comfortable.
Depending on where you’re staying, some beaches will be closer than others. Are some of the beaches here better than others? Sure, but they’re all great. Head to whichever beach you like, throw down a towel and lay in the sun for a while. One little note here, if you’d rather be surfing then head to Punta Las Marías Beach.
Still lounging on the beach? Good. Stay there. The sun will be directly over head by noon but the temperature won’t reach its apex until about three o’clock. If you looking to get a little tan before you head home, make sure you’re there until at least two. After that, you should consider heading inside for lunch. Again, depending on where you decided to go you’ll have different options. If you’re up for a cab ride to Santurce then La Casita Blanca comes highly recommended. The menu changes daily depending on what’s available but if you have the chance you should order the pastelón de carne. On a side note, remember that patitos de cerdo means “pigs’ feet”.
After you’ve had your lunch, consider some retail therapy or a quick trip to the casino.
Honestly, take tonight off. Head back to your hotel, freshen up, and then decide where you want to go for dinner. Today is for rest, so after dinner you should head back to your hotel and do just that. Tomorrow’s going to be rough with the checking out and heading home so finish off your trip on a quiet note. If that’s not for you, check back with the evening sections from the last two days and see if there’s anything that strikes your fancy.