With its diverse tropical landscape, beautiful beaches, and delicious cuisine, Puerto Rico is a Caribbean treasure. It is an ideal destination for independent travelers who prefer to explore beaches, towns and attractions at their own pace. The best way to experience all that the island has to offer is to rent a car and embark on a road trip.
We visited Puerto Rico in November 2019 and I want to share with you the best things to do in Puerto Rico, where to stay, and what to eat in Puerto Rico.
Isla Verde is one of the most pristine beaches in all of Puerto Rico. It is an extremely long beach and great for morning walks. It is located in the city of Carolina which is right next to San Juan. Do not miss the beautiful sunrise and sunset views on this beach.
The beach, the sunrise, and the sunset, it can't get any better than this.
Cueva Ventana is located in Arecibo and makes a perfect day trip from San Juan. To access this cave, you will need to book a guided tour. It is an hour's drive from San Juan.
With the guided tour, you will first go through a cave where you will see Taino drawings, then after a short series of steps, you will be walking through some dark, uncertain terrain with lofty ceilings. This dark passage finishes dramatically and opens up to a gorgeous view that will not disappoint you at all.
You will see the stunning valley of Rio Grande de Arecibo.
Playa Flamenco in Culebra
My favorite place in Puerto Rico is Playa Flamenco. Culebra is an island 20 miles east of Puerto Rico, you can catch a ferry from Fajardo Ferry Terminal. The ferry ride lasts about an hour. Once you are in Culebra, it is too far to walk to Flamenco beach so we rented out a jeep from Carlos Jeep Rental.
Playa Flamenco is ranked as one of the top beaches in the world and has a perfect stretch of white sand and crystal clear waters. It is one of the rare beaches with no all-inclusive resorts or high-rise rental condos, it's just sand and turquoise waters.
Just look at that beautiful blue water, it's pure heaven!!
While you are there don't miss Flamenco's famous and unique landmark, the US navy tank parked on the beach.
While in Culebra if you are looking for a place to eat, do try Dinghy Dock. This restaurant is worth it just for the views. You can see tons of fish swimming around the edge of the restaurant.
EL Yunque Rain Forest
El Yunque National Forest adds a beautiful day of adventure to your Puerto Rico vacation. It’s a must-see! The drive from San Juan usually takes you about 45 minutes to reach the park. El Yunque is a tropical rain forest which means rain can fall at any point during your visit, so be prepared.
La Coca Falls was the first stop in the Forest, it is easily accessible as it is located right off the main road(PR 191) traveling through El Yunque.
Further down the PR-191, you will find the next stop which is Yokahu Tower. It’s a quick climb to the top and the views are spectacular.
Do stop by for a Coco Frio (Coconut water) at La Muralla, a popular roadside eatery. They do cut open the coconut so you can eat the fresh coconut.
Ponce is Puerto Rico's second-largest city and about 2hr drive from San Juan.
From Ponce's head to Yauco, a small town which is famous for art and in particular murals around the town. Eugenio Sánchez López Street in particular has all the houses painted geometric colors. It's worth getting out of your car, walking up the hill, and exploring.
Stunning views at the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse
The Cabo Rojo lighthouse marks the southwest tip of Puerto Rico, & it's an hour's drive from Yauco. The views from the lighthouse and cliffs are just stunning.
Finca El Girasol
Finca El Girasol in Guanica is a sunflower farm open to the public and it's a great place to see & buy sunflowers that have been already picked. It's a nice place to enjoy the views and take a lot of pictures.
Puerto Rico's Pork Highway
The Pork Highway, or La Ruta del Lechon, is about 45min drive from San Juan. This winding road is lined with more than a dozen restaurants known as lechoneras specialized in slow-roasted whole pig(Lechon). Try Lechonera Los Pinos on this highway. The Lechón was one of the best that I have ever tasted. The skin, so crispy and smooth from all those hours of roasting, and the meat inside was so tender and juicy. It's definitely worth the drive for meat lovers like me.
Colorful buildings of Old San Juan
The best way to explore San Juan is to wake up early and walk the narrow streets paved with cobblestones. Everything about Old San Juan is colorful.
When you are in Old San Juan, be sure to stop by Fortaleza street to see the beautiful umbrella art. We were excited to see umbrella street only to find out that they are all gone and all they have is the Puerto Rican flag hanging over the street without any umbrellas. Either way, this visual is a treat to see and gives the street a festive air.
El Jibarito: Looking for authentic Puerto Rican cuisine, then this is your best bet. The red snapper is amazing & also the flan.
Cafe Cuatro Sombras: The only coffee shop in Old San Juan that roasts its own coffee fresh, right there on site. Come here for a hot coffee and a variety of cakes.
Cocina Abierta: A trendy, romantic restaurant in San Juan that takes Puerto Rican fine dining to a whole other level.
El Buen Mofongo de Dona Rosa - A quick lunch stop while in Arecibo area.
Dinghy Dock - Must visit when in Culebra.
La Parrilla - The best lobster I've ever had, do not miss it. It's in the Luquillo area.
Plaza del Mercado de Rio Pierdas - Come here for some authentic Puerto Rican street food. Lots of locals here and not too many tourists.
Melao Coffee shop - Come here for a moderately priced breakfast experience while in Ponce.
Acapulco Taqueria - Best tacos that I have tasted while in San Juan.
Gustos - Cute coffee place to hang out with great coffee, breakfast options, and fresh baked goods.
We stayed in an Airbnb which was in the Carolina area. It was right on the beach and within walking distance of a ton of good restaurants and supermarkets. Here is the link to Airbnb
The views from this Airbnb were stunning and beautiful. My favorite part was definitely waking up to an amazing view of the beach and enjoying the Sunrise views over the beach from both the living room and the bedroom. You can sleep with the sound of the waves crashing all night, and wake up with plentiful sunshine.
Please check the latest Travel requirements before visiting Puerto Rico.