3 Days in Puerto Rico

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Advisor - Karyn Pavich
Curated By

Karyn Pavich

  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • Beaches

  • Puerto Rico

  • Coastal

  • Sightseeing

  • Spiritual

Aerial views of the coast of Puerto Rico.
Curator’s statement

First things first: three days in Puerto Rico is better than no days in Puerto Rico, but it’s definitely not enough to really experience all that this rich and diverse archipelago has to offer! The “Isla de Encanto,” or “Isle of Enchantment,” may be small at 100 x 35 miles, but it’s packed with enough attractions and adventures to keep you busy for more than one vacation. We get it: You’ve only got three days in Puerto Rico. We’re here for you! You’ll still have many things left unchecked on your PR bucket list: exploring the Taíno cultural sites in Ponce, water taxiing to the mangrove keys off the coast of La Parguera, swimming/kayaking in three of the world's five biobays, snorkeling with sea turtles and sunbathing on the breathtaking beaches of Vieques with the wild, but really "wild" horses, to name a few of those things... but without further ado, here’s how you should spend your 72 hours in Puerto Rico!

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Day 1: Old Town

Puerto Rico blue beaches and Condado views in the back.

Land at San Juan’s Luís Muñoz Marín International Airport and embrace Puerto Rico’s capital city as your home base. On the way to your hotel, stop by Kasalta, the Cuban-Puerto Rican bakery/café visited by President Obama in 2011 (he ordered a medianoche sandwich, if you’re curious.) Kasalta is a perennially popular breakfast and lunch spot (and an oversized dessert case tempts sweet tooths — try the rum-soaked baba rhum).

After checking in, unzip your suitcase and throw on your bathing suit before heading to Playita del Condado, a calm, family-friendly wading and swimming spot right off “new” San Juan’s main drag, Avenida Ashford. You may even see a manatee! Once you’ve logged some sun and sand time, you can wander over to Parque Luís Muñoz Rivera, an urban park with a charming esplanade and an 18th century fortification, Polvorín de San Gerónimo. The park marks the transition from Condado (“New” San Juan) and Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan.) And if you just didn’t get enough beach time, there’s an expanse of oceanfront across from the park at Balneario El Escambrón. If you’re hot, be sure to buy a fresh coconut from a vendor, who will slice off the top with a machete before handing it to you to drink.

Make sure you have your camera or your phone before wandering into Old San Juan, where the blue cobblestone streets, UNESCO historic sites, plazas with fountains and colorful colonial-era buildings all offer enticing backdrops for envy-inducing selfies. The famed El Morro and Fuerte San Cristobal forts overlook the Caribbean and are top spots for learning more about Puerto Rico’s long history... this also happens to be a great place to fly a kite, bring one!

Day 2: El Yunque

Puerto Rico colorful basketball court.

You can’t come to Puerto Rico, no matter how brief your trip, without visiting El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System. Whether you book an excursion or plan to rent a car and explore the rainforest solo, plan on a whole day to explore the sites and trails. Don’t forget your bathing suit – you can enjoy a dip at Juan Diego Creek - a shallow waterfall swimming hole, just a short, well defined, walk from the main road. Another must-see site in the forest is Yokahú Tower. Climb the 90 steps to the tower’s observational platform and, on a clear day, you’ll be able to see clear to the Caribbean Sea (and maybe even spy Puerto Rico’s “Little Sister Islands,” Culebra and Vieques.) From the top of Yokahú, you can also see Luquillo, home to a beloved beach by the same name. This spread of sand is one of Puerto Rico’s iconic beaches, fringed with coconut palms, making a picture-perfect afternoon stop. But before you head down to visit Luquillo’s famed kioskos, food stalls where favorite Puerto Rican treats are served up, from alcapurría (one of Puerto Rico’s many types of fritters) to empanadas stuffed with seafood, head to Las Pailas. On the outskirts of the forest you can pay a guy $5 to park in his yard to access the natural waterslides, an all natural amusement park ride carved into the rocks from centuries of water flowing from the rainforest, down into the sea. Bring your water shoes!

Day 3: Artisanry and Rum

Water cover in Puerto Rico.

It’s your last day. You’ve gotten a taste of the beautiful island, and no doubt, you’ll be back for more. Before you head home, set out for Old San Juan’s Fortaleza Street to pick up some authentic souvenirs at Puerto Rican Arts and Crafts, where all items’ creators are vetted and their stories are sold along with the goods themselves. From wooden santos (carved statues of saints) to vejigante masks, there’s something for everyone here. Have time for one more stop? Head across the San Juan Bay to the Bacardí Factory for a tour of the famed rum-maker’s facilities. If you want to go beyond the standard tour, book the mixology class, where a certified Bacardí bartender will teach you how to shake up some of the rum brand’s most famous cocktails.

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Lona Cosmas’s guide, Solo Vacationing & Exploring San Juan, Puerto Rico.This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Puerto Rico.

Advisor - Karyn Pavich

Travel Advisor

Karyn Pavich

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