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How to Plan the Most Amazing Puerto Rico Itinerary for 7 Days of Adventure

Puerto Rico Itinerary

Puerto Rico is an easy flight from the United States and with rainforest-covered mountains, countless waterfalls, crystal clear water for diving and snorkeling, and its own unique culture and history, it is the perfect adventure travel destination. Below you can find our exact Puerto Rico itinerary for our 7-day adventure, but it’s important to note that there are many other options for a perfect itinerary in Puerto Rico – scroll to the end for a few possible alternative suggestions.

If you don’t have 7 days in Puerto Rico, you can easily adapt this to a Puerto Rico 5 day itinerary by just leaving off one section.

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Highlights of the Perfect Puerto Rico Itinerary for Adventure Travel

This itinerary is ambitious and is best for people who love to move and explore while on vacation, although there are many ways to adapt this itinerary. We visited Puerto Rico in February of 2022 and this is exactly what we did on our visit. The highlights of our trip included snorkeling, swimming in rivers and waterfalls, checking out Flamenco Beach in Culebra, walking around Old San Juan, swimming in a bioluminescent bay, surfing, and hiking to Canon Blanco.

We arrived late in the evening, got our rental car, and checked directly into our apartment on the first night.

Day 1: Morning swim at the pool and the beach, then spend the rest of the day in El Yunque National Forest. On your way out, stop at Las Pailas for a swim.

Day 2: Visit Old San Juan, explore the forts and the colorful streets

Day 3: Take the ferry to Culebra. If you are taking a later ferry, you can spend the morning at the beach, or try surfing.

Day 4: Explore Culebra – snorkel and beach day around the island

Day 5: Ferry Back to the mainland, drive to Parguera, and do a bioluminescent bay tour.

Day 6: Surfing at Rincon (you could also take this day to scuba dive or snorkel in Parguera)

Day 7: Visit Canon Blanco in your drive back to San Juan in time to catch a late flight home

Puerto Rico Itinerary: Visit El Yunque Rainforest
Puerto Rico Itinerary: Visit El Yunque Rainforest

General Information About Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a quick flight from the United States and most flights arrive at the airport in San Juan. The island forms part of the Greater Antilles between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. As part of the United States, Puerto Rico uses the US dollar and is a mixture of Spanish, US, and Afro-Caribbean cultures. There are beaches along the coast, while mountains dominate the interior rising to a surprising height of 4,390 ft. We were amazing at the variety of landscapes across this amazing island.

Puerto Rico Itinerary: Visit Old San Juan

Getting Around Puerto Rico

For your Puerto Rico Itinerary, you will want to rent a car and drive around the island. In general, the roads in Puerto Rico are in good condition, although some of the mountain roads are quite narrow. It takes about 3 hours to drive from the east to west side of Puerto Rico. There are plenty of gas stations around the island. Many of the roads are toll roads so let your rental car company know where you are going. We were able to pay for tolls in advance.

It is possible to do this entire itinerary by staying on the east coast and doing day trips or tours to many of the sites such as Culebra, Parguera, and El Yunque, but it will likely be more expensive than renting a car.

One week in Puerto Rico Itinerary Map

Exploring Old San Juan and El Yunque Forest

The first 2 days of your Puerto Rico Itinerary will include visits to Old San Juan and El Yunque Rainforest. You should plan to stay somewhere along the northwest coast between San Juan and Luquillo. There are lots of options for places to stay from low budget to luxury Resorts. We stayed at Aguatika Paraiso which was a good budget option for our family with a pool and beach.

Puerto Rico Itinerary: Old San Juan
Puerto Rico Itinerary: Old San Juan

Visiting El Yunque Rainforest

You should plan one day to explore El Yunque National Forest. When we visited you need to book an entry time for just a few dollars through the US Forest Service. The entrance is located on route 191 and is well signed. From the welcome center drive up 191 to the end making a few stops along the way. You should plan to check out:

  • Juan Diego Falls (this is a short hike and you can swim in the pools under the waterfalls)
  • Torre Britton (watch tower with amazing views)
  • Cascade La Mina (currently closed)
  • Baño Grande
  • Hike to the El Yunque Peak Tower

If you have time after your day exploring El Yunque Rainforest, drive out of the mountains on rt 988 and visit Las Pailas for a swim. Las Pailas is a portion of the Rio Pitahaya that forms natural waterfalls and jumping rocks. You simply park in one of the driveways along the river near the pink house, pay $5 and walk down to the river for a swim.

Learn more about visiting Las Pailas

Old San Juan

For your other day on the northwest coast, head into Old San Juan to explore the colorful streets and forts. You should plan for a half to a full day to explore the town. You can start your time with a guided tour of the city, or simply wander the streets for the full experience of cobblestones, food, and music. There are two forts right in town and both are worth a visit: San Felipe Del Morro Castle and Castillo San Cristóbal.

To get into the forts there is a fee or you can also get in with a National Parks Pass. We found the city very easy to walk around and since it was hot – this is a perfect excuse to stop for ice cream or a cold drink!

See: 15 Things to Do in Old San Juan

Puerto Rico Itinerary: Flamenco Beach
Puerto Rico Itinerary: Flamenco Beach

Snorkeling and Beach Time on Culebra

For the next part of your Puerto Rico Itinerary, head to Culebra for 2 nights. We spent 2 nights at an Airbnb on Culebra and visited some of the beaches to swim and snorkel. Flamenco Beach on Culebra is consistently ranked among the top beaches in the world for good reason. This exquisite half-moon beach is the perfect place to swim, relax, and even snorkel.

Make sure to check out some of the other snorkeling and beaches such as Tamarindo Beach, Zoni Beach, or take a trip to Culebrita.

Read more about Things to Do in Culebra.

A few important things to note about your visit to Culebra. This is a very low-key island and while there are plenty of tourist options, the island is remarkedly not built up. There are limited restaurants on the island and no resorts. To get around Culebra, you can rent a car or golf cart, call a taxi, or walk. Try to book your rental in advance as vehicles do sell out. This all gives Culebra a wonderful local vibe.

To get to Culebra, you have 3 options. You can fly, you can take the ferry, or you can go on a tour for the day. We took the ferry which is just a few dollars/person, but comes with its own set of challenges. The ferry runs several times a day from Ceiba to Culebra or Vieques. About 20% of the ferry tickets are available in advance online – try to book these tickets if you can.

Read more about How to Get to Culebra.

If you can’t get a ferry ticket, you can go in person on the day to buy your tickets, but these do sell out so make sure you get there early. It’s also important to note that if a resident of the island wants to go on the ferry they can bump you off, so even if you have tickets, make sure to arrive at the ferry 1-2 hours before your scheduled departure.

Another great alternative is to visit Vieques instead of Culebra. Both islands have wonderful beaches and snorkeling. Vieques also has a bioluminescent bay that you can visit or kayak in, but not swim in.

Swimming in Bioluminescent Bay, Parguera, Surfing in Rincon

Nestled into the Mangroves of Southwestern Puerto Rico, Parguera is an underwater paradise for snorkeling, diving, and night swimming in one of Puerto Rico’s 3 bioluminescent bays. The bioluminescent bay in Parguera is the only bay you can swim in and is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are many tour operators that take boat rides out for the sunset and night swimming.

As you swim through the bioluminescence, every stroke of your arms lights up and sparkles. It is truly amazing. This is the tour we did and we loved being on a smaller boat and getting a personal experience. It was perfect!

In addition to the water activities in Parguera, this town is worth a visit and has fun places to stay and eat. We also used this as a base to visit Rincon on the west coast for a day of surfing.

Located just over an hour from Parguara, Rincon is a fun and lively destination and the perfect place to try surfing for the day. You can find many places to take a surf lesson, or rent boards. We are beginner surfers and went to Maria’s Beach and rented boards for half a day.

Puerto Rico Itinerary: Surfing in Rincon

Visiting Cañon Blanco, Utuado

On your final day of your Puerto Rico Itinerary, you will start making your way back to San Juan, stopping at Cañon Blanco. This gorgeous canyon is located in the mountains in the central part of Puerto Rico and is completely worth the winding narrow drive into the mountains.

Once you arrive and find parking (we were the only ones there on a Wed morning, but the weekends can get crowded), it is just a short hike along the road and out to the river and canyon. Here you can swim and explore the white canyon and cold water set amid the Puerto Rican Mountains.

See a complete guide to visiting Canon Blanco.

It is possible to take a tour to the canyon from San Juan as a day trip as well.

Give yourself at least 2 hours to explore Cañon Blanco. If you have a late flight home as we did, you can head straight for the airport, or find a place to stay for your last night in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico Itinerary: Cañon Blanco
Puerto Rico Itinerary: Cañon Blanco

Other Ideas for Your Itinerary for Puerto Rico

There are so many wonderful options to explore that a 7-day itinerary for Puerto Rico can’t possibly include everything. If you are looking for other great options to substitute or add to your itinerary, I would recommend spending a few days in Rincon, exploring Cueva Ventana, or adding another day to your visit to Culebra or Parguera. There are so many beaches to explore in Puerto Rico that you can easily add a few days just by visiting some different beaches during your stay on the island. Another fabulous option is to explore some of the waterfalls and hikes in the Western part of Puerto Rico. We tried to visit a waterfall near Ponce on one of our drives, but a huge rainstorm hit right when we arrived and it became unsafe to swim in the river.

Puerto Rico Itinerary 5 days

If you don’t have a full week, another option is to shorten this itinerary. I would recommend spending the first part of your visit in the San Juan area and visiting El Yunque National Forest, going into Old San Juan, and surfing at Luquillo Beach. From there you have 2 options: spend 2 days on Vieques and explore the beaches and bioluminescent bay out there, or head to Parguera for snorkeling, surfing, and swimming in the bio bay there. Both options will give you a chance to explore the island and get in the water.

Puerto Rico Itinerary 3 Days

If you only have 3 days to spend in Puerto Rico, you’re going to have to choose. You could either base yourself near San Juan and explore El Yunque National Forest and Old San Juan and do a day trip tour to Culebra, or spend 2 days near San Juan and one day in Parguera. Since the drive from San Juan to Pargeura is just about 2 hours, it is easy to get across the island just for one day.

Puerto Rico Itinerary: Cañon Blanco
Puerto Rico Itinerary: Cañon Blanco

No matter what we hope you love Puerto Rico as much as we did. This 7 day Puerto Rico Adventure Itinerary will get you off the beaten path and out on the road to explore, swim, hike, and eat your way across the island.

Looking for more fun things to do in Puerto Rico?

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