Spending a week in Puerto Rico will leave you wanting more time there. From rainforest hikes to hidden beaches to historic Old San Juan to a hopping food scene, Puerto Rico has a little bit of it all. Our 1 week itinerary for visiting Puerto Rico will guide you on how to not only experience it all but also have plenty of time to relax. Here is our 1 week in Puerto Rico Itinerary.
Note: This itinerary covers visiting mainly the East side of the island and Old San Juan. If you want to visit both sides of the island, you really need more than a week. We hope to go back one day to explore the West side of the island.
FYI: This post is based on a trip taken in early March. We took this trip with our 7 month old daughter. For all our baby travels tips and tricks see our Top 10 Baby Travel Tips, Flying with a Baby, 5 Top Baby & Toddler Flying Tips and How to Hike with a Baby posts.
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1 Week in Puerto Rico Itinerary Day 1: Arrive in Puerto Rico
On day 1, fly into Puerto Rico. There are several airports on the island but you are going to find the best deals in/out of San Juan as it is the biggest airport. For tips on saving on flights see 5 Ways to Save on Flights. For emails to be sent to your inbox on cheap flights departing from your home airport, sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights. Use this link for a FREE 2 week trial of Premium Scott’s Cheap Flights.
After arriving in San Juan, we recommend pick up groceries before heading to your accommodations. You are going to have the most options of places to shop and the best prices on groceries in/around San Juan. We recommend stopping at the Costco (not sponsored but should be) not far from the airport. We stayed at an Airbnb with a full kitchen and found Costco to be a great spot to stock up on some essentials for the week.
Stay East of Old San Juan
Next, drive to your accommodations and settle in. You can either go out for dinner or cook depending on your preference/timing of flights.
We recommend staying at the Airbnb we stayed at in Ceiba (East of the Island) just south of Fjarado, The East Point P.R. Airbnb. We loved this Airbnb for many reasons. For one, the patios at this Airbnb are amazing. The front patio has hammocks under a gorgeous tree and the back patio has stunning mountain views. The hosts at this Airbnb were so kind and helpful as well. Our daughter also loved the swimming pool which is shared, but we always had it completely to ourselves. When we visited, there was a reservation system in place to only have one family at the pool at a time. This Airbnb is not a resort and allows for a more local experience as the other people at the complex reside there.
Luquillo and Fjarado are also good areas to stay in while visiting the East side of the island. They are far enough away from the city yet close enough for a day trip to Old San Juan and with convenient access to El Yunque and some of the best beaches/beach hiking. You may also consider staying in Old San Juan if looking for a nightlife scene and if you plan to spend more than one day in Old San Juan.
1-Week in Puerto Rico Itinerary Day 2: El Yunque National Rainforest
El Yunque National Rainforest
The next morning, wake up early and head to the El Yunque National Rainforest, which is the only tropical rainforest in the US National Parks system. It is one of the smallest National forests yet one of the most biodiverse. We loved visiting El Yunque (several times) and our favorite parts of the trip happened here!
IMPORTANT: You Need Reservations to Enter El Yunque National Rainforest.
Currently in 2022, you cannot enter El Yunque National Rainforest without a reservation. You can book these reservations 30 days in advance at recreation.gov. We recommend you set an alarm to get these tickets as soon as they become available. These tickets are not as competitive to get as some tickets for entering other National Parks like Zion National Park, Arches National Park or Rocky Mountain National Park but we still recommend getting them as soon as possible otherwise you may be SOL. We encountered numerous people who did not have tickets and could not get in (and had no idea prior to visiting they needed these tickets). You also cannot give or sell your ticket to someone else, even if you are not going, because the park rangers were checking IDs to make sure ticket names matched your ID.
Tip: If possible, get morning entrance tickets because there will be less people in the park. In the morning, you will only encounter other people with morning entrance tickets whereas in the afternoon, twice the number of people can be in the park at that time. The mornings are a bit cooler and better for hiking as well.
Stop at La Coca Falls
This location is a brief stop to see a waterfall off the main road (Hwy. 191) as you enter the park from the east. Our daughter loved looking at this waterfall. She was memorized by the waterflow!
Stop at Yokahu Tower
You can climb up the Yokahu Tower to look out over the park from even higher up or you can simply look out from the spot right next to the parking lot. Regardless of what you decide to do, it is certainly a pretty spot. A short stop again and right off the main road.
Hike La Coca Trail (3.2 Miles, 947 feet of elevation gain, out & back)
This hike is very serene, peaceful and pretty. We hiked this trail on a Saturday at 9am and were the only people on the trail. For more information on this hike, see our El Yunque National Rainforest Guide.
Mount Britton Tower Trail (1.6 Miles, 649 feet of elevation gain, out & back)
This trail takes you up to Mount Britton Tower that affords you panoramic views across the park. To access it, drive further up road 191 from the Vereda La Coca Trailhead (same road you use to access La Coca Falls)
The Mount Britton hike is along a well maintained trail, mostly paved with rocks. We advise wearing hiking boots for this trail though as it was a bit slick. The slickness was nothing our hiking boots could not handle but we saw people in regular shoes struggling.
Tip: Hike Mount Britton on a Clear Day and in the Morning
Try to go on a more clear day for better views from the top as cloud cover can completely obscure your views. The cloud cover can change in a matter of minutes and go from clear skies for miles to complete cloud cover (it did this when we were there). Also, try hiking the trail earlier in the day for the best views/weather as it typically rains in the afternoon in the rainforest (per park ranger). There are also less people on this trail in the morning. We saw at least a dozen other people while hiking this trail on a Saturday late morning/early afternoon.
For more information on this hike, see our El Yunque National Rainforest Guide for more details, including a detailed map
After a morning hiking in the National forest, you will be ready for some delicious food so head to the Pork Highway. This drive consists of lechonera after lechonera on highway 184 that leads you up into the mountains. Lechoneras are restaurants/food joints specializing in roast pork. These lechoneras each serve pork that is slow roasted over hot coals making it crispy on the outside, yet tender on the inside. Yum!
Our favorite places we stopped along the Pork Highway included:
- Lechonera Los Amigos: This cafetería style lechonera had the most flavorful pork we tried on the Pork highway. We also had some very good tostones (crisp flattened plantains) here. The staff was very kind and accommodating to our daughter (7 months old at the time) as well.
- La Placita Guavate: This restaurant was further up highway 184 past the main lechoneras. This location was certainly a local spot. Our waitress only spoke Spanish. The views from the dining area here were stunning over the mountains. Here, we enjoyed some really delicious sides, including Mofongo and Amarillitos. The house dessert (Churro Balls filled with nutella covered with vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce and whip cream) did not disappoint either. Our daughter got to try all the foods here, and we gave her a lime for the first time. What a funny reaction to see!
Tip: Locate the beginning of the Pork Highway by searching for Lechonera Los Amigos.
This Lechonera is at the start of the Pork Highway. From here, drive southeast on highway 184 towards Guvate (will be labeled with yellow signs as pictured). The Pork Highway is a build your own experience so drive on highway 184 as far as you would like and stop at as many or as few lechoneras as you please.
Tip: Visit between traditional mealtimes
We drove the Pork Highway late on a Saturday afternoon (started around 4 o’clock). At that time, it was not crowded. Most information we read on the Pork Highway advised arriving by noon. Otherwise, it would be very crowded and difficult to drive but we found driving it late afternoon to be very easy-going.
Foods to Try while in Puerto Rico:
- Amarillitos (Sweet fried plantains)
- Tostones (Crisp flattened plantains, savory)
- Mofongo (Mashed up plantains and yuca, National Dish, Natalie’s favorite, has a garlic bread like taste)
- Arroz con Gandules or Vegetables (Rice with pigeon peas or other vegetables, has a sweeter taste)
- Cuajito (stewed pig stomach)
- Morcilla (blood sausage)
- Longaniza (spicy sausage)
- Yuca al mojo (cassava with onions, olive oil and vinegar)
1-Week in Puerto Rico Itinerary Day 3: Visit Old San Juan
Visit Old San Juan
Next up, Old San Juan! Old San Juan reminded us of a charming European city with its cobblestone roads and colorful buildings. The Spanish influence, from Puerto Rico’s time as a Spanish colony, is very evident. The vibrantly colored buildings paired with the lively music, food and people we encountered made for a very fun day exploring Old San Juan. Old San Juan is also dripping with history, with the Castle and Fortress (on the shoreline) are a delight for any history buff. See our 1 Day in Old San Juan Puerto Rico guide for all our recommendations on visiting this city.
We recommend walking around the entirety (a couple miles of walking) of Old San Juan to experience the culture and see all it has to offer. Simply park at one spot (see below where to park for FREE) and make a big loop. Be sure to also pop down random streets and not always walk on the main roads. We found some of the cutest spots when we were off the beaten path. If you love photography like Natalie, you will love finding these quaint and colorful spots. We also found some fun murals tucked away on less trafficked streets.
Explore El Moro Fortress & Castillo San Cristobal
Beyond the cobblestone streets and colorful buildings, be sure to visit El Morro Fortress and Castillo San Cristobal on the coastline. El Moro was constructed in the 1400s to protect San Juan from pirates. The architecture here is quite magnificent and provides for some awesome photo ops. Castillo San Cristobal is located just south of the fortress on the shoreline and has similarly cool old architecture. See our 1 Day in Old San Juan Puerto Rico guide for how to save on admission to these spots.
La Fortaleza/Calle Fortaleza
Another spot you may want to make sure you visit is La Fortaleza/Calle Fortaleza, the Governor’s Mansion and the street in front of it. Typically Calle Fortaleza is very picturesque and has umbrellas hanging above it but when we visited, this was not the case. A local told us the objects hanging above the street rotate throughout the year so do not expect to necessarily see this decor.
Tip: Park near El Morro for FREE.
Across the street a couple blocks east, we were able to park on a Sunday morning for free. Here is the location we parked at for free. Be sure to read all signs, as this could have changed. Signs are in Spanish so either ask a local or use Google translate if you do not speak Spanish to be sure it is free to park (and you won’t get a ticket).
Tip: Arrive early as it gets busier throughout the day.
We were able to drive into Old San Juan quickly without any traffic but when we were leaving in the afternoon, the traffic to get into Old San Juan was bumper to bumper. The National Park Sites were also quite crowded at that time. We like people, not crowds!
Parent advice: You can navigate Old San Juan with a stroller but ideally would baby wear
It is a bit tricky but doable to use your stroller in Old San Juan Puerto Rico. In Old San Juan, the roads are mainly cobblestone but you can roll your stroller on the sidewalks. The sidewalks are not always continuous and sometimes we had to lift our stroller up or carry it briefly. However, it worked and was worth the extra effort for us. We prefer to have our stroller, when we can, as it serves as a portable napping spot for our baby. Having our stroller allows the baby to sleep quite well almost anywhere. A well rested baby is a happy baby! For all our baby travel tips see our Top 10 Baby Travel Tips, How to Hike with a Baby and Flying with a Baby posts.
Check Out Barrichina, Home to the Original Pina Colada
Be sure to get some traditional Puerto Rican food or check out one of the many other types of restaurants in Old San Juan. We recommend eating at Barrachina (specializes in traditional Caribbean food), has a beautiful enclosed outdoor dining area and is, allegedly, home to the “Original” Pina Colada.
See our 1 Day in Old San Juan guide for more tips on visiting Old San Juan.
1-Week in Puerto Rico Itinerary Day 4: El Yunque Rainforest
After a day in the city, we were ready to get back out in nature again and hike in El Yunque National Rainforest. We entered again through the east entrance. If you want to revisit a stop, you can stop at any of the pull offs along the road again. There are several other small waterfalls and rest areas you can stop at along the road (see map in our complete El Yunque National Rainforest Guide) but we hit most on the first day we visited.
El Yunque Trail to Los Picachos vía El Camilito Trailhead (about 5 Miles Roundtrip, 1,748 feet of elevation gain, out & back)
This hike takes you through the serene rainforest and into the clouds. It ends at a cement landing that you climb up to get panoramic views of the park. It is a steep climb to the top but 100% worth it. This was our favorite hike and overall activity we did in Puerto Rico. It was so peaceful and our 7 month old daughter at the time adorably babbled the entire hike.
Tip: Try to go on a more clear day or in the morning (less likely rain) to have more clear views without cloud coverage (sometimes cannot see any views with full cloud coverage)
Along the trail, there are several small waterfalls and plenty of very pretty rainforest flora to keep this hike interesting. Also, despite having quite decent elevation gain, the elevation gain was well spread out and the hike did not feel overly strenuous. See our El Yunque National Rainforest Guide for more details on this hike.
Stop at La Murella for Lunch
This roadside stand is located just prior to La Coca Falls. The food here is delicious and freshly prepared. It is quite overpriced but you are paying for the convenience of a hot Puerto Rican Food in the middle of a rainforest. This is the best food we have ever had at a National Park site. Typically the food at the National Parks does not match up to the views but this time it did! Be sure to bring cash to pay for it.
Hike the Angelito Trail (0.7 miles, 127 feet of elevation gain, out & back)
The Angelito trail takes you through the rainforest to a river where you can go swimming. The highlight, for Natalie, at this spot was the rope swing that she had fun mastering swinging on into the river. On the trail, you’ll pass through some bamboo too.
Tip: Go right after it rains or on a weekday to beat the crowds.
We had this normally very busy spot almost completely to ourselves after a short downpour because everyone else cleared out. Also, try to go here on a weekday as it gets packed on weekends.
See our El Yunque National Rainforest Guide for more details on this hike.
1-Week in Puerto Rico Itinerary Day 5: Beach Hiking & Food Kiosks
Seven Seas to Playa Colorá and Playa Escondida Hike (2.2 mile out & back, 147 feet elevation)
This easy, mainly shaded, hike takes you through Mangroves to two secluded beaches. We hiked this trail around 7:30 AM and had both beaches completely to ourselves. On this hike, we saw lots of large fist sized crabs going into their holes as we approached the mangroves (don’t worry, they were off the path). When we walked slowly and looked out closely, we could see 30 + out at a time!
Tip: Park for free along the road just south of where the trail starts (north of Costa Mia restaurant). You can park at Seven Seas for a fee as well but if you arrive before 8 AM, you should have no trouble parking here for free.
Eat at the Luquillo Food Kiosks
There are about 50 food kiosks at the Luquillo Food Kiosks. Several are sit down restaurants with outdoor seating overlooking the beach. Other spots are more grab and go, specializing in different Fried Puerto Rican Street Food and drinks (mojitos and pina coladas mainly). The Kiosks are definitely a fun atmosphere!
Eat at La Parilla
We ate at the seafood seat-down restaurant La Parilla (Kiosk #2). We liked the food and atmosphere here so much, we actually ate here twice. Our main dishes were on-point (grouper with a lemon butter cream sauce and chicken yuca mofongo) and we loved the tostones filled with crab appetizer. You can also get the tostones filled with lobster but we liked the ones filled with crab-filled better so we would recommend a full order of those.
1-Week in Puerto Rico Itinerary Day 6: Luquillo Beach Hike & Beach or Pool Afternoon
Luquillo Beach Hike (Up to 6 miles round trip, out & back, little to no elevation)
This hike starts at Monserrate Beach (near and behind Luquillo Food Kiosks) and heads south along the shoreline. You can hike up to 6 miles round trip if you hike as far as you can along the shoreline. We hiked 4 miles along (north to south) Monserrate Beach, Luquillo Beach, Fortuna Beach and Playa Azul. On this hike, you access very pretty and secluded beaches south of Luquillo Beach. These beaches also have calmer waters that our 7 month old greatly appreciated being able to stand in more easily. These beaches are more “classic” in that they are lined with coconut trees and there are no mangroves unlike the previous day’s hike to Playa Escondida. Be sure to have sun protection with you as most of this trail is in the direct sun if done anytime after early morning.
Tip: Park for free at the Luquillo Food Kiosks and walk to the shoreline to get to the trail. Otherwise, you have to pay for parking at Luquillo Beach (small fee but same distance of walking to the coastline so we suggest the free option).
Eat at the Luquillo Food Kiosks again
Since you are already parked at the food Kiosks, time your hike to finish around when you want to eat lunch and eat here again. Try somewhere new or eat at La Parilla again if you liked it as much as we did.
1 Week in Puerto Rico Itinerary Day 7: Hike La Zanja Trail, Fly Home
La Zanja Trail (3. Miles round Trip, out & back, 351 feet elevation)
The La Zanja Hike is along the beach and mangroves outside of Reserva Natural de Las Cabezas. This hike was very pretty, serene and felt secluded. We saw no one else on this trail during our morning hike around 7:30 AM. And if you hike before 9 AM, most of the hike will be in the shade. Depending on the tide, you may have to wade some water/slippery rocks at high tide. We completed the hike during a low tide time so we had no issues and simply walked on the beach the whole time.
Tip: Park for free along the road just north of where the trail starts (before Costa Mia restaurant). This is the same spot you park for the Seven Seas to Playa Colorá and Playa Escondida Hike but instead of heading north to Seven Seas Beach, you head south towards the nature reserve.
We did not want to leave Puerto Rico and hope you feel the same after traveling with this itinerary.
Other Puerto Rico Travel Tips/Observations
Foods to try in Puerto Rico:
- Mallorca: Sweet Puerto Rican Bread
- Mofongo: Mashed up Plantains and Yuca, Natalie’s favorite
- Arroz con Gandules: Rice with Pigeon Peas
- Empanadillo: Puerto Rican Empanada
- Tostones: Fried flattened plantains, our favorite were filled with crab at La Parilla
- Flan: Egg custard dessert, Sam really liked it, Natalie did not care for this
Bad Drivers and Roads
Drivers in Puerto Rico, in general, are VERY aggressive (worse than, sorry IL friends, Chicago drivers) so be cautious. There are also speed bumps everywhere, probably to slow down those aggressive drivers. Similarly, the roads are also in poor condition at baseline so if a road has signs it is in poor condition, expect it to be really rough (especially Road 186 in El Yunque). We found this very ironic because you pay extra taxes with your rental car for the poorly maintained roads.
Many Stray Dogs and Cats
We encountered several aggressive stray dogs in numerous areas of Puerto Rico. This caught us off guard as we have not previously encountered aggressive strays despite all of our travels. We love dogs but an aggressive stray dog biting you would completely alter your trip. Prophylactic Rabies vaccinations are now something we are considering to potentially get for further travels.
Other Potential Puerto Rico Activities
Below is a list of some things we hope to do in the future but did not have time for or were unable to do with baby.
Bioluminescent Bay at night (best to see during new moon phase, check prior to trip)
The glowing bioluminescent bays are a phenomenon you can only see in a few parts of the world, including Puerto Rico. They are best viewed during the new moon phase so try to time a visit to one of them around that. There are 3 places you can view these in Puerto Rico–near Fajardo at Mostiquo Bay, on Vieques Island or in La Parguera (southwest corner of the main island). Kayak tours (not an option with a baby) are plentiful and there are many different companies you can use. Some different options for viewing these bays we came across during our research included:
- Boardwalk Tour with Reserva Natural Las Cabezas de San Juan (Para la Naturaleza, was not occurring when we visited)
- Big Island Boat Tours (Electric Boat to the Islands, BioIslandPR, 1 (787) 422-7857, Minimum age 3 so that was a no go with a 7 month old)
Eat at La Estacion
This is a laid back gas station turned restaurant in Fajardo with locally sourced meat and produce with Puerto Rican Street Food. Be sure to check when it is open and plan accordingly. This restaurant was closed all the times we thought about going.
Visit an Island
Other than the Puerto Rico main island, Culebra and Vieques are the most popular islands. You can take a ferry from Ceiba (East Side of the Island) to access them. If you go to Vieques, it is quite large and our friends who have been there advise renting a Jeep to get around the island.
Toro Verde Adventure Park
Ziplining near El Yunque
Cerro Mime Hike (3.4 Miles out & back, 354 feet of elevation gain)
Central Region Island hike with mountainous Views. We did not hike because it is very far from most other activities/sites we visited.
Hike El Toro Trail (4.9 Miles, 1325 feet of elevation gain, out & back)
This hike is located in El Yunque National Forest. Based on reviews we read, it is very muddy. Some people said they would not do it again and it took most people 5 hours to hike. We did not hike this trail because at the trailhead, located near the edge of the park, there was a pack of large aggressive stray dogs. Based on the reviews we read, we did not think the hike was worth doing to potentially get bit and maybe even contract rabies. El Toro Trail AllTrails
We hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Puerto Rico. Anything you’d add to our guide? We’d love to hear your feedback and questions. Please leave us a comment!
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