Most tourists to Puerto Rico enter through San Juan and, honestly, you could spend your whole vacation here checking out the hundreds of things to do in San Juan.
But, as a Puerto Rican myself, I know that the island has much more to offer beyond San Juan. Just a day trip away, you can find incredible experiences like bioluminescent bays, mind-blowing beaches, and the only tropical rainforest in the USA.
Feeling excited yet?
Just wait until you finish my local’s list of the best day trips from San Juan around the island of Puerto Rico.
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Table of Contents
- Best Day Trips from San Juan, Puerto Rico
- FAQs About Puerto Rico Day Trips
Best Day Trips from San Juan, Puerto Rico
🚗 Important Note: In Puerto Rico, public transportation is mostly limited to metropolitan areas in the island’s north. Some of these day trips can be visited via guided tours, but I suggest renting a car to move freely outside of San Juan. Use Discover Car Hire, which is a great site for comparing prices and rental agencies reviews – just be sure to book ahead, as inventory does sell out!
El Yunque National Rainforest (Río Grande)
Distance from San Juan: 40 to 60 minutes | Google Maps | El Yunque National Forest Website | 👉 Browse Viator’s Top El Yunque National Rainforest Tours
Río Grande is a place where you can ride horses, shower in a waterfall, and view the entire coastline at once. Río Grande is in the north of Puerto Rico, close to Luquillo, and sports the only rainforest in the United States, El Yunque National Rainforest. El Yunque has different hiking trails for outdoor activities lovers. But, the main attractions are the stunning cascading waterfalls, many of which you can swim in!
Visit and you’ll realize why El Yunque is high on my list of the best stuff to do in Puerto Rico.
👉 Local Tip – When you go to El Yunque, bring water, a good pair of sneakers, a change of clothes, and good company. Don’t go within the trails alone since accidents are frequent.
Distance from San Juan: 1 to 1.25 hours | Google Maps
If you’re looking for a mix of nature and history, Arecibo is your final destination. Check out Cueva Ventana, a cave on top of a hill in Arecibo. It is famous for its window-like opening and petroglyphs. Getting inside is tricky, but seeing the petroglyphs the Taino Indians drew on the walls and the scenery is worth the effort.
After visiting the cave, go swim in La Poza del Obispo, next to Arecibo’s Lighthouse, or in the waterfalls of La Planta River. The locals call one of these the “Jurassic Park” for the similarity of the trail with a scene from the movie.
🛏️ Need a hotel in San Juan? If you’re still wondering where to stay in San Juan, you should check out El Convento. This hotel in the heart of Old San Juan started as a convent over 300 years ago and it’s now a spectacular luxury 4-star hotel.
If you’re looking to slow down and unplug from the world, the island of Vieques awaits you. Relax walking on the Black Sand Beach, and visit Puerto Ferro Lighthouse ruins. Finish your day kayaking in Mosquito Bay, one of the two local bioluminescent bays and the most brilliant bio bay in the world.
The bio bay is truly an experience not to be missed, but you’ll need to plan to stay overnight to enjoy it. There is just no way to get back to San Juan that late at night.
👉 Local Tip – To experience the bio bay, it’s best to spend the night in Vieques and take the ferry to Culebra the next morning. Bravo Beach Hotel is the highest-rated hotel within walking distance to the ferry to the mainland. It’s the best place for a one night stay, but it does book up!
If you’re looking for paradise on Earth, then you need to visit the island of Culebra. You can snorkel with turtles or visit Flamenco Beach, which has been repeatedly recognized as one of the top beaches in the USA and the entire world. Flamenco Beach’s white sand and turquoise water are ideal for snorkeling.
While you’re in Culebra, hop on a boat to visit Culebrita. This small island belongs to Culebra and it’s home to one of the oldest lighthouses in the Caribbean. You can only get to Culebrita by renting a private boat ride. You can rent one here!
👉 Why and Where to Stay Overnight – Culebra is one of the longest day trips from San Juan on this list, and so it’s really best to plan to stay a night on the island if you can. Accommodation options are limited, so be sure to book ahead. Villa Ensenada Hotel is the top-rated option on Booking.
If you like gastronomy trips, then the best day trip from San Juan for you is to Cataño. Start in Casa Bacardí Cataño for rum-tasting tours and mixology classes where you’ll learn how to make mojitos and piña coladas.
Later visit the “pink bridge” in Cataño’s beach boardwalk. This popular bridge has padlocks all over it and is an Instagram perfect spot featuring Old San Juan as your background.
Finish your day eating local food and posing with Puerto Rico’s flag painted by Hector Collazo.
👉 Local Tip – Hector Collazo has been painting one flag per city for a few years now. He has 10 cities left to paint. If you’re looking for something fun and different to do in Puerto Rico, you can check off all the existing 67 flags.
Distance from San Juan: 45 to 60 minutes | Google Maps
A day trip from San Juan just to eat all day? Totally worth it! Food is the main attraction in Guavate, a town in Cayey known for the restaurants that sell roast pork. People hop from lechonera to lechonera, while eating, dancing, and listening to music. This is why locals call it La Ruta del Lechon or The Pork Highway.
After you eat, don’t miss the chance to swim in Charco Azul or hike through the Pine Tree Forest in Cayey.
La Parguera, Lajas
Distance from San Juan: 2 hours | Google Maps | La Parguera Website | 👉 Book a La Parguera Glowing Bioluminescent Bay Boat Tour from San Juan
La Parguera is a nice fishing town in Lajas that adventure seekers will love. You can start your day trip diving in La Pared on the coast of Lajas, where you’ll see coral reefs, manta rays, and turtles. Go for a walk in El Malecón to find something delicious to eat and swim later in Playa Rosada.
The best thing to do in Lajas, though, is to swim in the other bioluminescent bay of Puerto Rico! While not quite as spectacular as the one in Vieques, it’s still amazing and much more manageable as a day trip from San Juan. Just sign up for this tour from San Juan, whose many 5 star reviews have earned it Viator’s coveted Badge of Excellence.
Cabo Rojo is situated in the west of Puerto Rico and it offers some of the best sunsets on the island.
Start by visiting the breathtaking Faro Los Morrillos. The lighthouse is on a cliff above the sea that belongs to the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge. You can find the popular beach Playa Sucia and the Pink Salt Lakes in the refuge too.
👉 Local Tip – If you’re short on time this tour combines both a stop in Cabo Rojo and the bio bay in La Parguera. It also makes another stop in a colorful town in Yauco, so you can really maximize your experience in Puerto Rico.
Distance from San Juan: 40 minutes | Google Maps
La Pared Beach in Luquillo is a great year-round destination for surfers. Even if you don’t surf, you can have fun snorkeling, paddleboarding, or kayaking in Playa Azul. Right in front of the Luquillo beach, you’ll find the famous Luquillo kiosks, where you can enjoy the island’s traditional cuisine.
Do you love walking between historic buildings in Old San Juan, and want more? Then you need a day trip to Ponce in the south of Puerto Rico! The city offers several different historical buildings and landmarks, but the most iconic one is Parque de Bombas, the first firefighter station in Puerto Rico.
Art and history lovers must go to the Ponce Museum of Art and the Serralles Castle Museum. This last one belonged to the Seralles family, creators of Rum DonQ. It has attractions like a Japanese garden and a Butterfly nursery.
Finish your trip in Ponce eating local food in La Guancha and feeding the pelicans.
Every year, between January and April, humpback whales swim in the waters of Rincón. You can watch them from Punta Higüeras Lighthouse Park, where you can admire the lighthouse that has been guarding the shore since 1892.
If you happen to be in Puerto Rico out of the whale season, you’ll find other things to do in Rincón like surfing on Maria’s beach or snorkeling in Tres Palmas Marine Reserve.
If you don’t have experience snorkeling you can book this guided tour with professionals. They will show you the correct and safe way to snorkel while protecting the ecology of the reserve.
Distance from San Juan: 1.25 to 1.5 hours | Google Maps
Are you the friend in the group that always does crazy things and lives with YOLO as your life motto? Then choose Orocovis for your day trip from San Juan.
Orocovis is located in the center of Puerto Rico and it’s where you’ll find Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park. Toro Verde is famous for having the longest zipline in America. The park also offers suspended bridges, bikes on ziplines, and climbing towers.
In Orocovis, you can make a stop at Mirador Villalba, dive in Charco La Guitarra or conquer the hike in Cerro Mime too.
One of the best day trips from San Juan is to the not-so-touristy city of Utuado. Even if it’s not on your typical guide, Utuado has something for both adventure and food lovers.
In the Tanamá river, you can book excursions to do rappelling, kayaking, and river caving. You can visit the hanging bridge La Hamaca or the beautiful Cañon Blanco river.
If you want to explore the local gastronomy instead, Utuado has plenty of farms to choose from. Café Gran Batey offers free tours for visitors during specific hours. Here you can learn about the coffee-making process and start your day with a cup of coffee in your hand.
Utuado also offers the only vineyard in Puerto Rico, located in Finca Vista Bella. You can make a tasting reservation to learn how locals make wine!
Distance from San Juan: 1.5 to 2 hours | Google Maps
Isabela is a day trip from San Juan that offers something to every type of traveler. Go for a relaxing stroll on the 4km boardwalk that goes from the main street to a rock cliff next to Jobos Beach.
Next visit the impressive cave La Cueva del Viento. Located inside The Guajataca Forest, you’ll find hiking trails ready to explore. To get into the cave, you must descend using wooden stairs that wobble as you walk on them. It’s a little scary, but the amazing interior is worth a visit on your day trip.
And if you are looking for a day trip from San Juan with kids, make sure to take them to the Guajataca Tunnel. It was once a railroad in the 20th century, but now there are food trucks, farm animals, and local artisans around it. You can even ride a small train inside the tunnel. Finish your day by taking a great picture with the Insta-worthy sculpture La Cara del Indio.
If you are just looking for a day trip close to San Juan, I suggest you spend your day in Carolina.
Start by visiting Piñones, a route from Carolina to Loíza with dozens of local food kiosks. The best thing? You’re right in front of the beach.
You can choose to take a dip in La Pocita or enjoy the view while walking along the beach boardwalk. Or you can go to Carolina Public beach instead, where kids can have fun in Aquasol, a small aquatic park on the beach. There are water sports for adults too.
In Carolina, you’ll find the Campo Rico Hacienda. On this farm, you can ride an ATV or go horseback riding. Other activities on the hacienda are ziplining, sightseeing, and archery tag.
FAQs About Puerto Rico Day Trips
How many days do you need in San Juan?
To see and enjoy everything in the city, you need to stay in San Juan for 4 to 6 days. Besides Old San Juan, you’ll need time to visit other areas of Puerto Rico’s capital. Some of them are Santurce, Rio Piedras, Hato Rey, Condado and Distrito de Convenciones.
What is the best one-day trip from San Juan?
The best one-day trip from San Juan is El Yunque National Rainforest in Río Grande. El Yunque is one of the greatest symbols of Puerto Rico and it offers something to every visitor. It’s the only tropical rainforest in the United States, and easy to visit as a day excursion from San Juan.
Can you drive around Puerto Rico in one day?
Driving around Puerto Rico in one day is technically possible but not recommended if you want to enjoy the island. The drive around Puerto Rico’s coastal cities would take 7 to 8 hours alone, without making any stops. If you’re just looking for a route with culture, food, and scenery, take La Ruta Panorámica through the mountains.
And those are the best day trips from San Juan you should be adding to your Puerto Rico bucket list!
Are you still looking for more amazing places to visit in the United States? Check out the best USA guide to discover more destinations around the country.
What day trip will you do in Puerto Rico? Leave a comment below!