Updated: Apr 18, 2022
Puerto Rico is just 90 miles long and 30 miles wide. It’s relatively easy to drive around the island with good highway infrastructure there and cheap rental cars available. A Puerto Rico road trip can be a lot of fun!
This Puerto Rico road trip is just the most fun solo trip I’ve done yet. From amazing beaches to interesting history to amazing food, Puerto Rico is one of my favorite if not favorite islands in the Caribbean. I’ve been to 9 different islands.
It’s probably the cheapest island in the Caribbean to go to right now. Seriously, I was shocked at how little things cost! You’ll see my breakdown below, but if you’re looking for a beachy vacation that won’t break the bank then this is it. What other Caribbean islands can you visit on a $150 round trip flight and average hotel cost of $100 a night?! PS read how I found my flight for even cheaper here. Pretty fabulous if you ask me!
3 Day Puerto Rico Road Trip Costs:
Hotel/Airbnb Per Night: $60, $120 (I tend to mix cheap AirBnBs with one nice night)
Total Hotel Costs: $240 ($120 a person)
Car Rental: $12 a day about $50 total ($25 a person)
Food: $10 per meal so about $80
Total Costs: $403 a person (based on 3 people), for 6 day, just double hotel and car costs!
Puerto Rico is part of the US. US citizens do not need a passport to go.
It is a Spanish-speaking island, but most people also speak English. I had no problems going around the whole island and not being a fluent Spanish speaker.
The airport is not located far from San Juan and Uber is readily available to and from the airport. Late night, you’ll probably have to take a cab through as few drivers are available.
Traffic around San Juan can be really (and I do mean that) bad during rush hour. Try to leave after 10 am or before 7.
Old San Juan is a protected part of Puerto Rico and you need special permits to drive. Be careful about getting here and wait to rent a car until after you’ve been to Old San Juan or you could have issues with parking/permits during your Puerto Rico road trip.
Car rentals are cheap and easy. I paid just $10 a day for my car while there and most car rental locations are right by the airport.
Day 1: Old San Juan
Old San Juan is a seriously adorable part of Puerto Rico. Some people will try and tell you it’s boring, but honestly it’s the best place to start. Old San Juan has the most colorful and pretty streets! It’s the perfect introduction to Puerto Rico.
Arrive the evening before and settle in. You’ll want to take a taxi that is able to drive into Old San Juan on this day (there are driving restrictions because it is a historical area!) so it’s best to take a taxi from the airport. It will most likely cost about $20 – $30 depending on the location of the hotel, traffic, and number of people.
Stay in Old San Juan this night at one of the boutique hotels within walking distance of all the restaurants and bars. I’d recommend Hotel Plaza Del Armas for it’s awesome location and pretty courtyard.
Make sure you find a flamingo show happening too in the evening on your first night or second! There are tons of restaurants that offer dinner and a show that make for a special experience. You’ll need to make a reservation in advance so make sure you look up where you want to go. It’s worth a reservation to check out one of these awesome shows.
Wake up the next day and spend your whole day in San Juan and create your own pace! I’ve created my own walking tour below with the things I’d recommend seeing/loved when I was there. It’s very walkable and easy to get around. Make sure you make lots of stops for street vendors serving ice cream and yummy snacks!
Start your walk with a visit to Castillo San Cristóbal
San Cristóbal is the largest and best-preserved Spanish military fortification in the Americas. It was built to protect San Juan residents from land attacks from the east side and covers almost 27 acres of land. Walk through an S-shape tunnel, enter a dungeon, and take a picture inside a sentry box. There’s an amazing panoramic view on the third floor that is just beautiful. It’s less-visited which means it’s even more worth your time.
From here, keep walking until you get to El Morro and Castillo San Felipe Del Morro. Keep on a lookout for the cutest spots with the Puerto Rican flag as you walk! This area is a really popular spot in Old San Juan. You’ll find a historic cemetery, large plazas, and lots of kites. El Morro is one of the first military defenses in the Americas, it brings you back in time and has an amazing view of the entrance to the San Juan bay.
Cruise ships entering or leaving port are almost at the same height as the 6 level fort and it actually took over 250 years to build! It’s got amazing views, lots of iguanas, and fun history.
There is a set of stairs and a walkway that leads around the outside of the fort along the coast from the inside of the fort. This is a great way to walk around the outside of the fort or you can walk above the walls as well for a great view. The walk takes about 20 minutes either way and you will see the San Juan gate which is the only original gate into the city that is left.
Stop for a picture here and keep walking until you get to Paseo de Princessa. You’ll know your there because you’ll see a large fountains and steps.
The Paseo de Princessa starts with a large fountain and a promenade that is really pretty to walk. From there, you can start to walk the streets of San Juan and take in the colorful scenery! Famous streets include Calle del Sol and Calle San Sebastian.
Some notable stops include the cathedral, awesome murals like the San Juan flag, tons of shopping, and the perfect spot for a pina colada. Puerto Rico is the home of the pina colada and two different spots claim to have the original. Make sure you check them out!
This evening, you can go pick up your car in Carolina by the airport or stay another night in San Juan if you have the budget! There are also lots of affordable AirBnBs in and around San Juan. Many are in Carolina and Condado right by the beach which could be a great way to spend the evening!
Day 2: San Juan to Aguadilla to Rincon
Old San Juan to Carolina 15 minutes
On day two, it’s time to get out of the old city! There are some incredible and secluded beaches in Puerto Rico that are just amazing. Time to get to some of those perfect spots on your Puerto Rico road trip.
Pick up a rental car from near the airport for just $12 a day, then head out west. As I mentioned, the traffic can be pretty bad around typical rush hour times. Leave after (or before if you want to get up early) rush hour by making a stop in Carolina for some great breakfast! There’s a whole strip of really cute restaurants that are all local.
There’s tons of cool street art and a super relaxed feel. Once you’ve grabbed some food head out on an hour-long drive to Cueva Ventana.
Carolina to Cueva Ventana 1 hour
Type Cueva Ventana into your GPS
Cueva Ventana is a section of 5 caves that you can only go to on a guided tour. It’s just about an hour from San Juan and really pretty easy to find. I was there over the weekend and walking up to get a ticket was easy. You can walk right up and buy a ticket. There is a large parking lot behind where there is space to park. Bring cash and buy some refreshing juice and stop for gas at the gas station right next door.
For $20 you are taken on a guided hike through the rainforest and two of the 5 caves for some awesome views and history. You’ll see amazing views, bats, shy plants, petroglyphs, and more. The whole experience takes about 2 hours and happens every half hour so it’s not difficult to find a time.
Cueva Ventana to Aguadilla 1 1/2 hours
Type Surfer Beach into your GPS
From here, drive another hour to Aguadilla to check out some awesome beaches. If you’ve got more time, the town of Aguadilla is really cute and I’ve heard it’s worth a stop! I only had time to check out some of the beaches – Surfer Beach and Survival Beach. I’m so glad I made this stop to an amazing local beach spot.
These two beaches are surfer beaches but offer awesome views. The large waves almost knocked my rental car keys into lost oblivion but I was able to rescue them thankfully. They are also a little off the beaten path which I loved. Getting there was easy because you can drive all the way to the beach where there is a large parking lot. Once parked, walk toward the trail and away from the road to get to Survival Beach.
When I was there I was almost alone on the beach except for a few surfers. This led to amazing views along the water. I found tons of turtle tracks and was able to walk from Surfer Beach to Survival Beach during low tide. If you visit during high tide then you’ll have to hike through the forest. There is a trail so you’re still able to make it there! The only issue is the mosquitos. Be prepared with bug spray so you don’t get bit!
Aguadilla to Rincon 30 minutes
Type Villa Cofresi (your hotel) into your GPS
After this beach stop, head to Rincon in time for sunset! I chose to stay at Villa Cofresi. This hotel is known for its perfect sunset view and private beach. I couldn’t recommend this hotel enough. You can read my full review here.
Day 3: Rincon, Cabo Rojo, and Fijardo
This is the most driving you’ll do in a day on this three-day Puerto Rico road trip. It’s going to be across the island and total about 6 hours. I chose to do it this way because the east side of the island is still recovering from the hurricane. When I was driving through, there were many spots that were still closed and the main city on the east side is still rebuilding and so it made sense to visit what I could in one day. Each drive is pretty easy though and there was no traffic. It’s also broken up with some amazing stops.
Morning in Rincon
Type Steps Beach or GastroPark Rincon into your GPS
Rincon is another spot known for its surfing, but while I was there, the water was pretty calm and tons of people were swimming. I chose to relax on the beach and by the pool at my hotel. However, there are a lot of beaches that are good for snorkeling that you can get to easily, most famously Steps Beach.
From the beach, I headed to Gastropark Rincon. This cute area is full of awesome food trucks with choices for drinks and food. I chose to eat at Plantanas which served every dish with plantains. So good! They are open late here too so if you’re staying in Rincon, it’s the perfect spot late at night.
Note: if you decide to do a longer road trip, I'd recommend an extra day in Rincon. Stay longer and take a surf lesson, visit the lighthouse for sunset, and enjoy walking around town!
Rincon to Cabo Rojo 2 hours
Type Las Salinas Cabo Rojo into your GPS
Cabo Rojo is an incredible area. I was shocked that it wasn’t crowded with tourists. Cabo Rojo is a cape that is located on the southwest side of Puerto Rico. It’s free to visit and has some really cool spots. I started off going to Las Salinas Cabo Rojo (that’s what you want to put into the GPS) and made a stop at the visitors center. Your GPS will tell you it’s closed and you’ll see signs for different stops. Keep driving until you see the visitors center and tower! There you can talk with the park services and get a great view from the tower.
After that, head to the pink salt flats. Yes PINK! They are so pretty and the best days to see the bring pink are on sunny days. I walked around and was able to see lots of birds. I was there basically alone which meant I had so much peace and quiet to myself, I loved it.
From here, keep driving to see the lighthouse and gorgeous coast. You’ll get to a parking lot and see a walkway that looks like a road. Take this road to get to the lighthouse. The lighthouse costs $3 to get inside and I am glad I didn’t skip it because I possibly wouldn’t have discovered the incredible coast that was there. There are tons of trails around the lighthouse.
The coast is so pretty and you can walk along the coast down around to the beach and back to the car. The beach is a pretty quiet one and there are manatees that live there, although they tend to stay more inland! I was really wishing I had snorkel gear just in case though. After this, take the road back to your car. The whole thing took me about an hour to hike around plus a quick stop at the beach.
Cabo Rojo to Fajardo for the Bioluminescent Bay 3 hours
Type address given by your tour into your GPS
If you choose to extend your trip beyond three days, I would recommend you wait on visiting the bio bay until later on in the trip! It could fit in on any day 4-7 depending on what you decide to do.
The next part of the drive is the longest. Try and start earlier than I did because it was dark for part of my drive but the lights were out along the highway which was a concern!
Fajardo is home one of five bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico. There are only 3 spots in the whole world where you can experience a biobay. Tours will take you in to see the bay where you’ll get an incredible and unique experience. In the past ten years lots has been done to try and conserve the area because it is so unique.
I chose to go with GlassBottomPR because a glass bottom kayak with glowing creatures under me?! Sign me up! It was only $40 and they have two tour times available – 6:30 and 8 pm. Depending on your flight and how late you can stay up, you could do either. It lasts about two hours and as we kayaked, the bottom looked like the sky as it lit up with the tiny creatures.
They can be difficult to see on nights where the moon is bright so try to go when the moon will not be too bright. Our guide was prepared though and had a tarp he put over our group which made it darker. Once he did this, you could see your whole hand light up. When I lifted my hand out it looked like it was sparkling. There’s no other way to describe it except incredible. Do not miss this spot!
Fijardo to San Juan 1 hour
Type San Juan International Airport into your GPS
Once the two hour tour ends, you’ll head back to San Juan to begin the end of your three day Puerto Rico road trip. This may mean you get an Airbnb for another night or if you are lucky, have an evening flight like I did! I had a 10:30 pm flight so the 6:30 tour left me with just enough time.
If you know me, you know how I tend to cut it close. Don’t recommend this if you get anxious about making a flight! It may be better to try to stay one more night instead. This extra night would honestly not be a stress though because you’ve spent so little money on this trip! I had work though and needed to be back.
Want to stay longer on your Puerto Rico road trip and check out somewhere else?
These last 4 days are add-ons from my last trip. It would be easy to extend and do a longer week trip to include the stops below. You would do a full loop of the island, just as with a 3 day trip. Any of these days are super close to each other with the home base being Luquillo.
You could do one of these days or all of them while still being the same distance from San Juan, where you will most likely fly out of.
Cabo Rojo to Luquillo 3 hours
Instead of driving from Cabo Rojo to Fijardo, drive a little further to Luqillo which will be home base for the rest of this road trip.
Day 4 Luquillo
Luquillo is a beach town located just 30 minutes north of Fijardo and trust me when I say, it’s worth the visit!
Located right outside El Yunque National Rainforest, Luquillo is famous for incredible views, great food, and more. We chose to stay here for two nights on my last trip to Puerto Rico. It’s the perfect spot to stay at when wanting to see this part of the island!
We chose to stay at an adorable little beach bungalow just two blocks from the beach. It was walking distance to many bars and restaurants and had been recently renovated. Our host was incredibly kind – cannot recommend it enough.
Type Luquillo Beach into your GPS
Start your morning off by visiting Luquillo Beach. Luquillo Beach is a beautiful beach that is really popular with the locals. It’s $5 to park your car and you’ll find lots of activities and fun happening along this beach. From kayak rentals for $5 to spots for a great Pina Colada, you will have a great time hanging out here.
It’s a local favorite so you’ll find people selling their favorite items made from fallen palm leaves, loud music, barbecues, and families enjoying the day. We loved the vibe here as people really just came to have a good time, plus the red life guard stations are pretty cool with the mountains and rainforest behind them!
Luquillo Kiosks for Lunch
Type Luquillo Kiosks into your GPS
After the morning at the beach, head over to the Luquillo Kiosks. The Luqillo Kiosks are a row of over 60 kiosks of food, drink, and shops with delicious local foods you have to try while in Puerto Rico! We were so excited when we walked through and got to try all the fun local, mostly fried, foods.
My favorite foods to try:
· puerto rican taco
· rellenos de papa
Las Paylas Rock Slides
In the afternoon, spend your time at the incredible Las Paylas. Las Paylas are rock water slides located right outside El Yunque and just a 10-minute drive from Luquillo. You park for $5 at a man’s house and walk about 5 minutes through the rainforest to the river. It’s incredibly beautiful and an adventure for sure.
There are two natural rock slides. The first you come to right as you get to the river. There is a rope that you can use to climb up the rocks to the optimal spot for sliding. Be careful here – if you go up too far you will risk injuring yourself because the force of the water will cause you to go too fast. We were alone here and could have gotten seriously hurt. Luckily, we walked away with just some bumps on our knees.
After enjoying the first slide, head down the river over the small pools of water (also fun to splash and play around in!) to the second water slide. It leads into a larger pool where there are rocks to jump off of and a rope swing.
This rock slide is much more tame than the first. Again, be careful on the rope swing as the water levels can change drastically depending on the flow of the water. Test the depth of the water before using the rope swing!
Honestly this was such a fun surprise and unexpected. We found it essentially empty and enjoyed swimming around here. It is an adrenaline rush!
Day 5 El Yunque National Forest 1 hour drive
El Yunque is the only rainforest part of the national forest system in the US. It is incredibly beautiful and a really popular spot for visitors in Puerto Rico. I was so glad we got to go here on my latest trip because I had missed it on others!
On this day, get an early start, the part opens at 7:30 am. Why so early? Because all the day trips start to arrive by 10 am. We found that we were alone for the first portion of the day and enjoyed swimming in waterfalls and hiking to spots inside the park without a worry of parking our car.
By 10 am when we got to our next stop, it was extremely crowded. This meant we no longer got to enjoy the tranquility that a rainforest should be! We shared the trial with many other tourists.
The following are stops that we made and I’d highly recommend.
· La Coca Waterfall (a stop right along the road)
· Yokahu Tower (beautiful overlook, the tower isn’t open until 10 am)
· Juan Diego Falls (my favorite waterfall and a short, but difficult hike. Great for a dip!)
· Torre Mt. Britton Trail (45 minute hike each way to a beautiful overlook)
La Pared Beach
After the morning of hiking and seeing the rainforest, we headed back to our Airbnb to relax and head to another beach, La Pared Beach. This beach was just two blocks walking distance from our Airbnb and known for surfing. It worked out perfectly!
It’s just $5 to rent a surf board, if you dare! If not, you can sip a coca fresco (fresh coconut) and watch as the surfers practice their skills. It’s a great way to relax and enjoy the afternoon.
Plus, if you stay at the same Airbnb we did, they have beach chairs, towels, and a cooler to make your trips to the beach even easier!
If you decided to extend your trip the full 7 days, this is the night you should go on the Bioluminescent bay tour. As I mentioned above, I recommend going with Glass Bottom PR for the best experience!
Day 6 Island Trip
Puerto Rico has many smaller islands that surround it such as Culebra (known for incredible beaches), Vieques (known for Mosquito Bay), and Icacos. I looked all over the internet for possible island day trips. It’s possible to visit any of the three for a day, but it will cost you!
We decided to visit Icacos given we had just a day and Culebra day trips were well over $100.
Icacos is only a 45 minute boat ride from Fijardo making it an easier day trip, plus it was the most affordable of any option at $80 a person and incredibly beautiful!
Our day trip started at 9 am when we got onto the boat with many other people. We chose East Island Adventures because we saw great reviews, it included unlimited drinks, plus a snorkel stop. It checked all the boxes and we ended up having a wonderful time.
The 45 minute trip along the water was a beautiful one. You get views of several different islands as you cruise along with the mountains of El Yunque on the other side. The water is crystal clear blue and the deck hands are so kind.
Once we arrived we had a safety briefing and set off for the island. The beach had beautiful white sand and the water was seriously so blue! We were told that the next stop would have snorkeling, but our guide let us know we could take snorkel gear with us along the beach as well.
We decided to walk further away from the main beach and found a spot with a huge coral reef without any people swimming. We enjoyed some snorkeling away from the boats and relaxed on the beach until it was time for lunch.
After lunch, and a few drinks of course, we headed to the snorkeling stop. It was just a short 5 minute boat ride away with views of the beach off the coast. We saw many fish and had the chance to jump off the boat, enjoy the slide on the back of the boat, and chill. We had a great time as they kept the drinks flowing!
We headed back around 2:30 and were back at the dock by 3:15. It was a beautiful day and I honestly loved it so much! The only thing about going with East Island Adventures was that it is a big boat so you can expect to share space with a lot of people.
We didn’t end up minding since it was such a gorgeous day with a great crew. Overall, I highly recommend and think a day trip to an island (or a longer stay if you can!) is worth it.
If you still have time after these 6 days…
Condado has awesome beaches and great hotels that is close to the airport. Day passes are available at the Intercontinental for $40
Bacardi has a giant rum distillery that’s tons of fun just 30 minutes outside San Juan.
There are museums and plenty of history in each city I named above. Spend some extra time there!
Ponce is a great option for a stop between Cabo Rojo and Luquillo. Ponce has beautiful architecture and was named after Ponce de Leon’s grandson.
Three day Puerto Rico road trip is just enough to see some of the major highlights the island has to offer. It’s such an incredible and beautiful place that I hope you’ll get to visit too! Puerto Rico is also the perfect place to visit in winter to escape the cold, so get to planning. You’ll have a blast.