Updated: Apr 13, 2022
I cannot say enough good things about Puerto Rico! It’s most definitely my favorite Caribbean Island and all three times I’ve been, I’ve had the best time. I know that most people who go to Puerto Rico have their home base as San Juan, and for good reason! It’s a great central spot offering great nightlife and history.
But, when in Puerto Rico, you have to get out and explore. I’d highly recommend a road trip, but there are some amazing day trips from San Juan, Puerto Rico that I’d also say are worth your time! Below I’ll outline some of my favorite day trips from San Juan and give you the details.
Note: I’d highly recommend just renting a car and doing these day trips yourself. Driving in Puerto Rico is really easy, the island life ensures that everyone drives nice and slow. Also, renting a car can be done for as little as $12 a day – book in advance! I’ve never paid over $20 for a day, making it the cheapest option for getting around.
PS looking for a great place to stay while in San Juan? We loved our stay at Da House Hotel located right in Old San Juan for just $100 a night – it even had a rooftop jacuzzi!
1. Cabo Rojo, 2 1/2 hours
Cabo Rojo is the longest drive of any that I mention here. Located a 2 1/2 hour drive from San Juan, Cabo Rojo is one of those places that takes your breath away. Cabo Rojo is famous for a few different reasons and I honestly couldn’t recommend it enough.
Your first stop in Cabo Rojo should be to the pink salt flats, Las Salinas. Las Salinas is part of a larger park that you visit to see the salt flats in the area. My first stop was at the visitor’s center with the overlook tower. I was able to see all the different salt flats as well as birds and the beautiful landscape from the top.
After the pink salt flats, it was time to hike around the lighthouse. Faro Los Morrillos de Cabo Rojo is a historic lighthouse you can visit along the southwestern tip of Puerto Rico. This lighthouse was built by the Spanish in the 1800s and offers beautiful views of the coast.
I’d highly recommend hiking around along the cliff’s edge to see gorgeous blue water and amazing beaches. There’s also a beach located not far away with calm water near the parking area where you can relax after your short hike.
2. Luquillo, 45 minutes
Luquillo is such a fun town. It’s located less than an hour from San Juan making it an easy day trip. The beaches here are beautiful and it’s a favorite for locals.
Luquillo Beach is probably the most popular and easy to visit of any of the beaches in this area. For a $5 fee, you can park your car and enjoy the beach for the whole day! Leave and come back with your parking pass as well.
On this beach, you’ll find $5 kayak rentals, $30 jet ski rentals, coco frescos, drinks, food, and vendors creating all types of items from the fallen palm leaves. Many people were playing music, grilling, and generally enjoying the day. The beach here is so pretty and we loved hanging out here.
After the beach, head to the Luquillo Kiosks. The Luquillo Kiosks are an area of 60 vendors who sell food, drinks, and other items local to Puerto Rico. It’s fun to walk around trying different foods while sipping your fresh juice. Some foods to try at the kiosks are below.
Puerto Rican taco
rellenos de papa
After lunch, you can head to another beach – like La Pared for surfing! Or off to Las Paylas for some adventure.
Las Paylas is located just a 10-minute drive from Luquillo and the perfect spot for some adventure in the rainforest! It’s a set of natural rock slides located outside El Yunque National Park. A man who lives in a home just a 5-minute walk away has set up a parking lot where you can park your car for $5 and head to the natural rock slides.
The natural rock slides are an adrenaline rush! There are two natural rock slides. The first one is easy to see as you come to the right once you’re down by 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 tamer 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!
3. El Yunque National Park, 1 1/2 hours
El Yunque is the only rainforest part of the US national forest parks system. It is incredibly beautiful and located really close to Luquillo. If you want to visit both, I’d recommend an overnight in Luquillo for easy access to El Yunque!
There are tons of places you can stop at inside El Yunque that are worth a visit. My recommendation is to get there early when the park opens. This will ensure you can enjoy the true natural beauty of El Yunque that it is so famous for.
You could start your drive by simply entering the park and stopping every time you see something. We chose to have a predetermined set of stops, but also not stop ourselves from parking and taking in a view or waterfall if we wanted. Below were our stops and a little about each.
The following are stops that we made and I’d highly recommend it. Use this map for our full list of stops.
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)
By 10 am, the day tours will start rolling in and the quiet will be gone. If you don’t want to rent a car, there are plenty of tour options. Here are some that friends recommend below.
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! You can technically visit any of these islands on a day trip…
We decided to visit Icacos. Icacos is only a 45-minute boat ride from Fajardo making it an easier day trip, plus it was the most affordable of any option at $68 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 deckhands 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.
5. Rincon, 2 1/2 hours
Rincon is known as the surfer capital of Puerto Rico as well as for it’s sunsets. They are truly stunning! Rincon has some beautiful beaches and I think it’s such a fun little town.
I chose to relax on the beach and by the pool at my Hotel Villa Cofresi, where I was staying. However, there’s a lot of beaches that are good for snorkeling that you can get to easily, most famously Steps Beach.
From the beach, head 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 decide on staying in Rincon, it’s the perfect spot late at night.
6. Cueva Ventana, 1 hour
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 that works for you.
7. Bioluminescent Bay in Fajardo, 1 hour
Fajardo is home to one of five bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico. There are only 3 spots in the whole world where you can experience a bio bay making this a truly once in a lifetime experience. Tours will take you in to see the bay where you’ll get an incredible and unique experience. In the past ten years, a lot 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. I’d recommend looking at the later time to make sure it is darker when you go. It lasts about two hours and as we kayaked, the bottom looked like the sky as it lit up with the tiny creatures.
You’ll kayak through mangroves until you make it into the bay and learn a little history about the area. When you stick your hand in, it sparkles. When you kayak along you’ll notice that the glass bottom looks like stars as you paddle. I love this experience so much.
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!
8. Ponce, 1 1/2 hours
Ponce is located on the south-central side of Puerto Rico and is often called the “Pearl of the South.” The architecture in Ponce is beautiful and you’ll love spending a day exploring the second-largest city in Puerto Rico. Ponce is home to some of the best architecture on the island like Parque de Bombas, Casa Armstrong-Poventud, Catedral de la Guadalupe, and Castillo Serralles (the former home of the owners of Don Q Rum). Visit one of the many museums here during your visit and eat some incredible food!
There are so many amazing beaches around Aguadilla you can visit! One of the most popular is Crash Boat Beach, but you’ll find many other off the beaten path beaches you can stop at while here. Head to the cliffside beaches then stop in town for some food at the Aguadilla Food Truck Park or hike to the ruins of the Punta Borinquen Lighthouse.
10. Carolina, 15 minutes
This one is really close to San Juan! This is the perfect day trip for some relaxing beach time. If you didn’t know, all beaches in Puerto Rico are public and free of charge. You’ll only get charged if you want to use someone’s facilities but you’re technically allowed to be on any beach!
Carolina is an area that lines the beach with big, fancy hotels. You can easily get day passes to many of the hotels to enjoy their pools, lounge chairs, bathrooms, etc. We chose to spend a day enjoying the InterContinental San Juan for $40 which allowed us to use the pool, beach chairs, bathrooms, and two bars/restaurants. It was gorgeous and I’d highly recommend it!
We finished our day off with a visit to the Vanderbilt Hotel in Condado where you can enjoy pool access with any spa package you purchase. It is truly a gorgeous hotel and their awesome mojito bar lets you DIY your drink for a fun treat as you watch the sunset.
11. Bacardi Factory, 45-minute ferry
Bacardi Rum has a huge facility located not far from San Juan. You can actually easily take the ferry from Old San Juan to the other side of the bay and visit the Bacardi Rum Factory, or take a 20 minute Uber!
The Bacardi Rum Factory offers a variety of tours including a history tour, tastings, and mixology classes. We opted for a short history and tasting (I was reminded of seeing their original building in Cuba!), which included a drink at the end. A mojito is a must while here.
You’ll want to buy tickets in advance if you can for both the ferry and the factory so you don’t end up stuck on the other side with your plans ruined by it being sold out. It’s definitely a fun outing for the day that you’ll enjoy learning about the history of not just Bacardi, but rum in the Caribbean.
12. Utuado, 2 hours
Utuado is a town in central Puerto Rico in the middle of the rainforest. It’s extremely beautiful with mountains surrounding you on every side. This also means that the roads are very windy, but we found them to be in really good condition.
Utuado is known for a few things. First for Canon Blanco or White Canyon. This is a spot with Petroglyphs dating back to 1100 BC and incredible white rocks that wall the canyon. People come here for the swimming, hiking, rock jumping, and Petroglyphs. We absolutely loved it! Just make sure you wear really sturdy shoes as hiking can become more like rock climbing at times and slipping would be extremely dangerous here.
The other cool thing to do in Utudao is Dos Bocas Lake. Here you can kayak, hike, SUP, and more. It’s got stunning views and a nice way to spend your afternoon is sitting on a kayak with stunning mountain views all around you.
13. Manati, 40 minutes
Manati has some really amazing beaches, mangroves, and caves to explore. It’s an easy drive from San Juan and the rocks there are completely different than other parts of the island like Cabo Rojo. We felt like we were walking on the moon at Playa Mar Chiquita.
It’s absolutely beautiful here and I’ve seen all over social media people swimming in the smaller pools. While we were there, sea urchins were everywhere and the water levels were pretty low so we chose not to get into the water out of caution. It’s still a beautiful area though and an easy day trip from San Juan!
After so many visits, I feel like I’ve found some incredible day trips from San Juan, Puerto Rico. If you can, I’d highly recommend a road trip around the island for some adventure and a chance to take it slow as you visit different spots on the island. No matter what day trips from San Juan, Puerto Rico you choose, you’ll have a blast!