It would take at least a month to fully explore Puerto Rico, but this one-week tour gives visitors a little taste of everything Puerto Rico has to offer: beaches, nature preserves, colonial cities, surf and dive spots, and golf.

Ocean Park in Puerto Rico. Photo © Suzanne Van Atten.

Ocean Park in Puerto Rico. Photo © Suzanne Van Atten.

Day 1

Catch an early flight into San Juan and spend the day wandering Old San Juan’s cobblestone streets. Shop for hand-rolled cigars at El Galpón and The Cigar House or vejigante masks at Puerto Rican Arts and Crafts. Enjoy a traditional Puerto Rican lunch of mofongo or arroz con pollo at Restaurante Raíces.

That afternoon, tour the Spanish forts of Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo de San Cristóbal. At night, do like the locals do and dine late on grilled lobster at Casa Lola Criolla Kitchen in Condado and return to Old San Juan to dance the night away to live salsa music at Nuyorican Café.

Travel map of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Old San Juan

Day 2

In San Juan, rent a car and drive 35 miles east to El Yunque Caribbean National Forest. Enter at El Portal Tropical Forest Center and drive south, stopping at La Coca Falls and Yokahu Tower along the way. If you packed a lunch, take a break at Caimitillo Picnic Area and then spend the afternoon hiking the Mount Britton Trail.

Or drive 11 miles to the Luquillo Kioskos and lunch on fritters and meat pies, then head next door to Balneario La Monserrate, one of the island’s most celebrated beaches, and spend the afternoon swimming and sunning. Afterwards, shower and change at the public facilities and head back to San Juan, stopping at Kasalta Bakery on Avenida McLeary in Ocean Park for a casual dinner of cubano sandwiches and flan.

The delicious Cubano sandwich. Photo © Suzanne Van Atten.

The delicious cubano sandwich. Photo © Suzanne Van Atten.

Day 3

In San Juan, get up early and eat a light breakfast at historic Cafeteria Mallorca in Old San Juan and drive 62 miles to Las Cavernas del Río Camuy. Spend the day exploring the subterranean world of the island’s underground cave system. Have lunch at the snack bar.

If it’s not too late, drive eight miles east to Observatorio de Arecibo and see the world’s largest radio telescope. But watch your time—it closes at 4pm. Drive 33 miles north to Isabela’s Playa de Jobos and dine alfresco overlooking the beach at Ocean Deck Beach Bar Bistro. Stay the night at nearby Parador Villas del Mar Hau.

Day 4

In Hatillo, have breakfast at the hotel and take a dip in the ocean. Drive 20 miles southwest to Rincón and check out El Faro lighthouse. Have a light lunch of empanadas and alcapurrias from a kiosk. Check into your hotel at La Rosa Inglesa and head to the patio at La Copa Llena at the Black Eagle and watch the sunset over craft cocktails. Stay for dinner and then have a nightcap at cozy Sea Glass Bar at the Lazy Parrot Inn.

Day 5

Wake up early and head to Black Eagle Marina for a snorkel or dive tour of Desecheo Island. Eat lunch on the boat. After you dock, drive 13 miles south to Mayagüez. Stroll around Plaza de Colón and tour Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria. Dine on traditional Puerto Rican cuisine at Costa and stay the night at Holiday Inn El Tropical Casino Hotel and try your luck at the casino.

Travel map of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico

Mayagüez

Day 6

In Mayagüez, eat breakfast at Ricomini Panadería and drive 15 miles southeast to San Germán. Stop by the tourist office in Casa Alcaldía Antiqua on Plaza Francisco Mariano Quiñones and pick up a map for a self-guided walking tour of the town’s lovely 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century homes, plazas, and churches, including Porta Coéli Chapel and Museum of Religious Art.

The site of the Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria in Mayagüez dates back to 1763. Photo © Suzanne Van Atten.

The site of the Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria in Mayagüez dates back to 1763. Photo © Suzanne Van Atten.

Drive 35 miles southeast to Ponce. Dine at one of the many seafood restaurants along La Guancha, the waterfront development overlooking the Caribbean. Stay the night at Ponce Plaza Hotel & Casino on Plaza de las Delicias.

Day 7

In Ponce, tour the Museo de Arte de Ponce, the island’s finest art museum, and then drive 43 miles northeast to Cayey, stopping for a roast-pork lunch at one of the lechoneras. Drive 34 miles north to San Juan and catch a late flight home.

Options

If you have another week to spare, drive to Caguas and tour Jardín Botánico y Cultural de Caguas. Head west into the mountainous Cordillera Central to Jayuya, where you can tour Museo del Cemí, Casa Museo Canales, and La Piedra Escrita.

Hop a flight to Vieques and go for a swim at Balneario Sun Bay during the day and tour the bioluminescent waters of Mosquito Bay at night. Then hop another flight to the smaller island of Culebra and sunbathe on Playa Flamenco, one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean.


Excerpted from the Fourth Edition of Moon Puerto Rico.