Colorful houses in San Juan, an essential stop on a weekend in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Weekend Itinerary (3 Epic Days, By a Local)

If you’re looking for a quick getaway to the Caribbean, then a weekend in Puerto Rico is a great choice. Though you could easily spend 7 days in Puerto Rico, or even a month on the island without seeing everything, 3 days in Puerto Rico is enough — if you know how to do it right!

I’m a Puerto Rico local and I’m here to help you plan your trip! I’ve put together my best Puerto Rico weekend itinerary that, in just 3 days, takes in some of the best sites to visit in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico is just a 3 hour flight from Florida, and 4 hours from New York. With tickets sometimes as low as $80 roundtrip during low seasons, it’s the perfect weekend getaway. All you’ll need is a weekend, an airplane ticket, a carry-on bag, and this three-day itinerary.

Let’s dive in!

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3 Day Puerto Rico Itinerary

Day 1 – El Yunque, Luquillo and Fajardo

The author in El yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico
Me Hiking on El Yunque

📍 Google Maps | 17 Best Things to Do in Fajardo

After checking in early at your San Juan accommodation, leave your bags and grab some gear for a day outdoors, including your swimsuit, towel, and sneakers. As tempting as it might be to explore Old San Juan right away, you’ll want to save it for the last day when you need to stick closer to the airport.

Rent a car and drive towards the east coast of Puerto Rico until reaching Río Grande city, where you’ll visit El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the United States Forest System. El Yunque is home to hundreds of endangered species, four types of forest, and some of the best waterfalls in Puerto Rico.

👉 Pro Tip: If you’re planning to visit La Coca Falls or Juan Diego Falls, then you need to buy a ticket to enter El Yunque on Recreation.gov. If you can’t book tickets, then you can visit other areas of El Yunque that are open to the public without a ticket. Check out my guide to El Yunque National Forest to know which areas to visit.

People enjoying their day in Luquillo Beach
Luquillo Beach behind Los Kioskos de Luquillo

Once mid-day arrives, head down PR 191, El Yunque’s main street, and set your GPS to Los Kioskos de Luquillo, a beachfront line of food stalls that sell the best Puerto Rico dishes, including mofongo. Following lunch, walk over to Luquillo Beach and enjoy a local fritter like alcapurria while bathing in the sun and refreshing yourself in the water. 

But don’t take too long – while the sun is still up and high, get back on the road and head off to Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve in Fajardo. Here, you’ll find plenty of beaches to explore. Make sure you snap great pictures in Playa Colorá, hike to Playa Escondida, and snorkel on Seven Seas Beach

After you’ve done enough beach hopping, visit one of the many restaurants in Las Croabas and enjoy the best of fresh seafood. Then, take a stroll through the beachfront area. Once the evening arrives, move on to Laguna Grande in Fajardo, where you’ll kayak in one of the three bioluminescent bodies of Puerto Rico. 

Finish your night by heading back to Old San Juan for a night of good rest.

Day 2 – Cabo Rojo and Rincón

View of the red water from The Salt Flats in Puerto Rico

📍 Google Maps | 15 Best Things to Do in Cabo Rojo

On your second day in Puerto Rico, grab an early breakfast at Café Manolín in Old San Juan and pack your things for a day trip to the west side of Puerto Rico. First, drive to the southwest tip of the island to Cabo Rojo

The trip from San Juan takes three hours, but Cabo Rojo boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Puerto Rico and top-notch panoramic views of the west.

Start your day at the Pink Salt Lakes in the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge and follow the trails in the refuge until you find the stone bridge. Later, head over to Los Morillo’s Lighthouse to enjoy stunning views of the west coast, where the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean meet. 

Aerial view of the Los Morrillos Lighthouse in Puerto Rico

Continue driving inside the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge and reach the hidden Playuela beach, where you can relax and bathe under the sun. Although it’s difficult to drive along the bumpy road, Puerto Ricans love this beach and it’s often considered one of Puerto Rico’s best beaches.

For lunch, drive to the Boquerón neighborhood where you can enjoy lunch at any of the local restaurants and take a stroll through the beach boardwalk. If you’re not in the mood to dine in, buy a local fritter and sit down at Boquerón Beach, where you can witness Puerto Rico’s lively culture on Saturdays.

View from the Playa Escalera
Playa Escalera at Rincón

Following lunch, continue driving north for about one hour until reaching the popular city of Rincón. Make Playa Escalera your first stop for some great snorkeling (during the low-tide season) or just a relaxing beach walk with lots of scenery. Try reaching the concrete steps on the shore that give the beach its name.

A short car ride away you’ll find the town center, where you can shop local independent brands and grab a quick snack. 

Continue navigating further north to Punta Higüera Lighthouse, one of Puerto Rico’s historical lighthouses and a popular spot to see whales during the whale season. From the lighthouse park, you can also see Desecheo Island and Domes Beach, which you shouldn’t miss if you’re a surfing enthusiast. 

For dinner, head over to the Beach House, where you can finish your day watching a breathtaking sunset and spend the rest of the night listening to live music and eating great food. But don’t stay out too late! The trip back to San Juan is three hours.

📚 Related Reading: 19 Best Things to Do in Rincon

Day 3 – Old San Juan, Condado, and Piñones

View of the blue water from El Morro
El Morro in Old San Juan

📍 Google Maps | 33 Best Things to Do in San Juan, Where to Stay in San Juan

Start day three of your Puerto Rico itinerary by walking through Cuartel de Ballajá, one of the most iconic buildings in Old San Juan, and stop for breakfast at Don Ruiz. After you’re done, cross the street to El Morro – with over 400 years of history, this is one of two forts of Old San Juan and one of Puerto Rico’s famous landmarks.

By mid-morning, walk to Castillo San Cristóbal, the other historical fort in Old San Juan, with amazing tunnels, a courtyard, and one of the best San Juan views. Later, stop at La Vergüenza to enjoy a local lunch or a refreshing drink and head back to your hotel for check out.

After you’re done, stop by Fortaleza street where you’ll find decorations, shops, restaurants, and the governor’s mansion known as La Fortaleza. If you’re into shopping and good food, then continue exploring Old San Juan cobblestone streets like Calle del Sol, Calle San Sebastián, Calle del Cristo, and Calle San Francisco until you reach Paseo de la Princesa

View of the red San Juan Gate in Paseo de La Princesa
San Juan Gate in Paseo de La Princesa

Once you snap your best picture of the San Juan Bay next to the Raíces Fountain, continue along Paseo de la Princesa until reaching San Juan’s Gate, the only remaining gate of the multiple that once protected the old city.

After a day of walking, get your car rental and drive to Condado, where you can spend an hour or two bathing in Playita del Condado, Ocean Park Beach, or kayaking in the Condado Lagoon.  

If you rather be closer to the airport, then visit Piñones instead, an extremely popular partying spot and a great destination to try Puerto Rican food like fried plantains, mofongo, and piña colada. Not far from Piñones, you’ll find Isla Verde beach, where you can watch the sunset and enjoy the last swim before heading back to the airport.

How to Get Around in Puerto Rico

The main transportation methods in Puerto Rico include renting a car, taking the bus, or catching a train. Although the buses and the train run around the metropolitan area, they do not reach the entire island.

Another downside of public transportation is that it’s time-consuming, and the times of arrival and departure are unreliable. So if you’re short on time, you should definitely opt for renting a car to complete your Puerto Rico itinerary. See my guide to renting for tips or just use Discover Cars to find the cheapest deals.

Visitors that want to explore cities on the east, west, or south of Puerto Rico will need to rent a car. If you have more than a weekend in Puerto Rico, consider checking out my Puerto Rico road trip guide for how to spend a week exploring the island by car.

Tips for Planning a Weekend in Puerto Rico

Tip #1 – Stay in San Juan

The author in front of an entrance in Hotel El Convento
Hotel El Convento in Old San Juan

Trying to explore Puerto Rico in just three days can be a challenge and you can easily get exhausted by trying to fit too much in. If you’d rather avoid driving around and stressing about itineraries, then spend your weekend in San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

Especially if you’re just staying in Old San Juan, you won’t necessarily need a car, as the entire neighborhood is walkable. San Juan also features scooters that allow you to easily move between Old San Juan, Condado, and Santurce.

There are many attractions in the capital city itself, from nice beaches to nightlife and most attractions are within walking distance.

Tip #2 – Rent a Car

View while driving to Rincon, Puerto Rico
Driving to Isabela, Puerto Rico

If you’re having a quick weekend getaway in Puerto Rico, but you still don’t want to spend all of your weekend in San Juan, then you’ll definitely need to rent a car. Renting a car gives you time flexibility, but it also allows you to go wherever you want. 

There isn’t public transportation that runs around the island so you won’t be able to reach certain destinations outside San Juan without a car of your own or without paying high fees for a taxi ride. 

See my full guide to how to rent a car in Puerto Rico.

Tip #3 – Or Take a Tour 

Another option for the visitors that want to venture out of San Juan but don’t want to rent a car is to book a multi-destination guided tour. Some tours take you on day trips to the main attractions of the island.

Check out Viator’s Puerto Rico tour page to find the tours that fit your itinerary and your taste the best. You can also see my guide to the best Puerto Rico excursions and tours for more.

Tip #4 – Arrive in Puerto Rico A Day Early (if You Can)

If you’re visiting Puerto Rico during the weekend, then try to make it a long weekend so you can either take more time exploring certain areas or add more destinations to your Puerto Rico itinerary. If you can’t visit during a long weekend, then try to arrive on the island Thursday night, so you can start your itinerary early on Friday. 

Tip #5 – Avoid Peak Traffic Hours

View of cars on the street of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico’s traffic is no joke, and getting stuck in it can easily consume a lot of your precious vacation time. While the traffic is lighter during the weekends, you’ll find more locals in popular places like beaches, bars, and restaurants. Start your day trips early in the morning to avoid traffic.

See my guide to driving in Puerto Rico for more tips.

Tip #6 – Customize Your Itinerary

There are all kinds of places you can visit in Puerto Rico, but if you’re short on time, then make sure your itinerary includes your top attractions. As much as El Yunque National Forest is a famous landmark, if you’re not into nature, exteriors, and muddy hiking trails, then you should drop it from the visit list. 

Make sure your Puerto Rico itinerary is filled with things to do and places to see that interest you.

Tip #7 – Arrive at the Right Airport

Colorful wall art outside the Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla

If you already stayed a weekend in San Juan and you want to explore other areas in Puerto Rico, you can choose to arrive at an airport other than San Juan Airport. Puerto Rico’s airports include the Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla, the Antonio Rivera Rodríguez Airport in Vieques, and Mercedita International Airport in Ponce.

📚 Related Reading: Do You Need a Passport to Go to Puerto Rico? 

Tip #8 – Add a Day to Your Trip

View of the Mosquito Pier in Vieques and the cloudy sky
Mosquito Pier in Vieques

Vieques and Culebra are Puerto Rico municipality islands with beautiful beaches and pristine nature. Visiting them during a three-day short trip to Puerto Rico is almost impossible unless you prioritize them over other attractions on the island. Still, a visit to both islands would take at least two days. 

Adding one extra day to your itinerary or visiting during a long weekend will give you the chance to explore Vieques or Culebra.

Tip #9 – Make Arrangements With Your Hotel

The Condado Vanderbilt Hotel building from the outside
Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan

Check-ins and check-outs in hotels in Puerto Rico are done during specific hours. After you book your hotel or apartment rental, make sure to look at the check-in and check-out hours. If they don’t meet your schedule, then try to make the arrangements ahead of time to do early check-in and late check-out if necessary. 

Not all hotels allow their guests to do a late check-out, but you could ask if it’s possible to store your luggage until you leave for the airport. 

👉 Want to Learn More? Check out my top Puerto Rico Travel Tips!

Tip #10 – Avoid the Hurricane Season 

Puerto Rico has a hurricane season from June to November, but this doesn’t mean that hurricanes affect the island directly every year. The last hurricane to affect Puerto Rico directly was Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Still, visiting during the Puerto Rico hurricane season involves a higher risk of facing hazardous weather. Since you only have a few days on the island, it’s best practice to travel outside the hurricane season as the effects of a storm can ruin your short vacation.

Tip #11 – Travel During Low Season

While the hurricane season could affect your trip negatively, it’s also the low season in Puerto Rico. If you want to spend less time waiting in line in La Placita on a Saturday night, or find parking on a popular beach, then traveling during Puerto Rico’s low season is your best option. 

World-famous beaches in destinations like Culebra and waterfalls in El Yunque are usually empty during the low season. It’s the perfect way to both see these amazing things without the crowds and to save time exploring.

👉 Pro Tip: If you want to travel to Puerto Rico during the hurricane season, then make sure you get travel insurance for your trip. World Nomads travel insurance covers you in case any type of hazardous weather affects your trip, so you can book your Puerto Rico ticket worry-free. 

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Thanks for reading my guide to a 3 day weekend in Puerto Rico! A weekend is more than enough to cover most of the top things to do in Puerto Rico and have a good time.

Have fun on your weekend in Puerto Rico!

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One Comment

  1. Hello! I am planning a 10 year anniversary trip to Puerto Rico with my husband in December. I loved your idea of leaving Old San Juan for the last day to be close to the airport. He really wants to ride Vespas through the town. Do you know if this is possible? Also, instead of doing the Rincon area on day 2, how feasible would it be to explore La Parguera and surrounding areas. We could leave in the morning, spend the day there and then swim in the Bio Bay. Thank you so much for your help!

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