El Yunque national rain forest - 4 day puerto rico itinerary pinterest pin
El Yunque National Forest

Planning a 4 day Puerto Rico itinerary can be the perfect way to experience what the Caribbean island has to offer. I come from a Puerto Rican family and have visited the island several times for both work and to visit family. I know you will love visiting this beautiful island as much as I do!

Puerto Rico has everything whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach getaway or a thrilling outdoor adventure. In this 4 day itinerary, you’ll discover the rich history and culture of the island, explore its diverse landscape, and create wonderful memories while you’re there. After 4 days in Puerto Rico, you’ll be excited to come back again and again!

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Day 1 – Exploring San Juan and Old San Juan

Distrito T-Mobile restaurants and entertainment
Distrito T-Mobile restaurants and entertainment

Since you’re likely flying into SJU airport, I would recommend spending a day or two exploring the capital city of San Juan and Old San Juan. You may not know this but there is a difference between San Juan and Old San Juan/Viejo San Juan.

San Juan is the modern city and Old San Juan is the historic, colonial district of San Juan. Old San Juan is an islet connected to the main island of Puerto Rico by three bridges and is well known for its history and architecture. San Juan is larger and touristy with hotels, resorts, and more restaurants.

Old San Juan

Old San Juan is charming with its colonial-style architecture. You may want to visit La Fortaleza (the governor’s mansion), explore the cobblestone streets and colorful murals, grab a piragua, view the sculpture at Rogativa Plaza, visit the historic San Juan Cathedral, browse the shops, visit Castillo de San Cristobal and El Morro (the two forts), and explore the many museums and galleries.

  • El Morro and San Cristobal
  • Stroll along Fortaleza Street
  • Paseo de la Princesa
  • La Factoria – this bar is actually compromised of 6 unique bars and is featured as one of the World’s 50 best bars!
El Morro Fort in Old San Juan Puerto Rico
Castillo San Felipe del Morro

San Juan

The modern city of San Juan is very similar to Miami, Florida. You’ll find a lot of beachfront resorts, bars, and shops. You can walk along Condado Beach, hang out at Distrito T-Mobile, eat at the restaurants at Plaza las Americas or La Placita de Santurce, visit the San Juan Gate, and hang out at the Beach Park in Isla Verde. There are also plenty of museums and art galleries to explore and nightlife spots.

  • Distrito T-Mobile
  • Condado
  • Condado Beach and El Escambrón beach
  • Plaza Las Américas
  • La Placita de Santurce – lively outdoor plaza in the heart of the city. Here, you can grab a drink and dance the night away to live music.

Day 2 – Exploring El Yunque National Forest

El Yunque National Forest
El Yunque National Forest

A visit to Puerto Rico (especially your first time) is not complete unless you explore the stunning El Yunque National Forest. Start your day by visiting the El Portal Visitors Center, which is the perfect place to learn about the history and ecology of the forest. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System.

*IMPORTANT – You will need to make reservations in order to enter the park. Create an account and make reservations the day before (check the website for up-to-date information). There are 2 arrival time slots available. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. Regardless of the time slot, you choose you will have access until 5 pm.

After you leave the rainforest, head over to the nearby town of Luquillo. This is where you’ll find the Luquillo Kiosks for lunch, snacks, or dinner. They also have many souvenir shops, bars, and entertainment. You can easily spend the whole day here! Plus it’s right in front of the beach.

Day 3 – Exploring Culebra and Vieques or do a beach day

Luquillo Beach
Luquillo Beach

Remember, you only have 4 days in Puerto Rico so take a day to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the island. If you’re up for it, take the ferryboat from Ceiba and explore the islands of Culebra and Vieques.

Vieques has more tourists, restaurants, and bioluminescent bays, but Culebra is quiet with white sand beaches. It all depends on your preference! Just remember that this is an all-day affair because of the ferry transportation so you may want to consider spending the night or preparing for a very long day.

However, there are many beautiful beaches on the island of Puerto Rico. If you want something more chill without ferry travel. You can find the best beach near where you’re staying in Puerto Rico.

Day 4 – Visit a real Puerto Rican Rum Factory – Ron del Barrilito

The barrels during a rum tour and tasting at Ron del Barrilito
The barrels during a rum tour and tasting at Ron del Barrilito

I can’t think of a better way to spend your last day of this 4 day Puerto Rico itinerary than sipping on the island’s official drink, rum!

If you’re going to visit Puerto Rico and enjoy a rum tour experience then you might as well support a real Puerto Rican establishment! Contrary to popular belief, Bacardi is Cuban, not Puerto Rican.

If you want a truly authentic Puerto Rican rum tour experience, I would recommend visiting Don Q in Ponce as it’s one of the most popular rums amongst Puerto Ricans. However, if you’re staying in San Juan or surrounding areas then you’re probably closer to Ron del Barrilito in Bayamon.

Ron del Barrilito is home to the oldest rum in Puerto Rico. We toured their charming hacienda and learned about its history before sitting down for a tasting. Their facilities were beautiful and quaint, the perfect way to spend an afternoon. They also serve you a complimentary welcome cocktail included with the tour experience. Their bartenders do not disappoint! You can book a rum tour and tasting on their website.

Is 4 days in Puerto Rico enough?

Yes and no. If you want to explore the entire island then 4 days in Puerto Rico is not enough. However, if you’re looking for a quick weekend getaway then this 4 day Puerto Rico itinerary will give you everything you need!

I’m Puerto Rican, and both sets of my grandparents were born on the island. My parents were born in NYC, but my Dad grew up in Puerto Rico. I’ve been to the island several times both on business and for pleasure. I’ve stayed at both hotels and Airbnb. So you can trust me when I say that you can totally spend 4 days in Puerto Rico and have a great time.

To make the most of your time, I’ve put together the perfect 4 day Puerto Rico itinerary, complete with activities, food, and where to stay. So, if you’re looking for the ultimate island getaway, you’ve come to the right place!

Know Before You Go: Puerto Rico

Before you head to Puerto Rico there are a few things you should know. First, be sure to visit the Discover Puerto Rico website for the latest information and planning resources.

Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, so no passport is required for U.S. citizens traveling from the mainland to the island. However, you will need valid government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license or a state ID just like when you fly within the states.

However, Puerto Rico is still an island in the Caribbean so you want to think of it as International for that purpose. For example, you may be charged a foreign transaction fee for certain purchases so keep that in mind and make sure you bring a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees. We use our Chase Sapphire Preferred or Citi Premier card. If you’re not sure, you can check with your credit card company.

When departing the island you will be asked to take your luggage to be scanned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This does not mean you cannot bring food from the island. We always bring food back (polvorones are a must!), just make sure you follow the guidelines for both the USDA and TSA.

Second, the official language of Puerto Rico is Spanish. But don’t worry, most people in San Juan and the surrounding areas will speak English. Many signs and announcements in public places, such as airports and hotels, are written in both Spanish and English. It’s only when you start to venture further from San Juan that you may be in areas where they mostly speak Spanish.

Third, the official currency of Puerto Rico is the U.S. dollar, credit cards, and debit cards are widely accepted, but it’s a good idea to carry some cash as many smaller markets and kiosks will only accept cash.

Luis Munoz Marin Airport Entrance

Getting to Puerto Rico

There are several ways to get to Puerto Rico, but the most common is by cruise ship or airplane. Jetblue and Southwest airlines both have several flights to Puerto Rico. Read my post on 5 big mistakes to avoid when booking flights before you book your flight.

Travel to Puerto Rico by Plane

The main airport that you will fly into is Luis Munoz Marin (SJU) in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico. The airport is only a few minutes from San Juan. You can rent a car right from the airport as the rental center is located on the airport grounds. You can also easily take a rideshare like Uber or Lyft and taxis are also standing by.

Travel to Puerto Rico by Cruise ship

There are many cruise lines that travel to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and other ports of call around the island. Check out my post on cool things to bring on a cruise before you embark!

Do I need a car in Puerto Rico?

Driving through the well developed highways in Puerto Rico
The highways in Puerto Rico are well developed

Yes, I would highly recommend having a car when you visit Puerto Rico. If you’re flying into Luis Munoz Marin airport, book a rental car in advance for pick up. It is a very easy process and probably your best bet.

The highways are well-developed in Puerto Rico, so for the most part you can easily zip from one part of the island to the other. The rental cars are also equipped with a transponder so that you can travel through the electronic toll system.

Before you book your rental, I would recommend reading this post from Auto Slash about things to know when renting a car in Puerto Rico. You should also use them to get a quote on how to get the best price on a car rental.

Where To Stay in Puerto Rico

There is no shortage of hotels and resorts in Puerto Rico and you usually cannot go wrong if you choose to stay at a well-established brand like Hilton, Hyatt, or Marriott. However, I will caution you about staying in an Airbnb.

If you’re looking at an Airbnb, read the description very carefully, and do not be distracted by pretty pictures. Many homes in Puerto Rico get easily flooded when it rains (and it rains a lot). They may also ask you not to flush the toilet paper (not a big deal, but just be aware). They also may not have air conditioning. There are good Airbnbs out there, but just make sure to do your research before you book!

Also, just like on any other trip you should be mindful of bad areas. You do not want to stay in a bad neighborhood so keep this in mind. My advice is to stick with hotels and resorts in well-populated areas.

Kiosks at Luquillo Beach
Kiosks at Luquillo Beach

Activities in Puerto Rico

Whether you’re exploring the capital, San Juan, or venturing out to El Yunque National Forest and the islands of Culebra and Vieques, there’s plenty to do in Puerto Rico. Here are some of the best activities to add to your 4 day Puerto Rico itinerary:

  • Explore Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristobal: El Morro is a 16th-century fort that guards the entrance to the San Juan Bay. When you pay for admission you can use your receipt to gain free entry to the castle of San Cristobal which is only a few minutes away.
  • Take a stroll along the Paseo de la Princesa: Admire the stunning views of El Morro as you take a leisurely stroll along the waterfront.
  • Visit the San Juan National Historic Site: Explore the area’s beautiful architecture, cobblestone streets, and colorful murals.
  • Spend a day in El Yunque National Forest: Explore the forest’s many trails and the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System.
  • Explore Culebra and Vieques: Spend the day soaking up the sun on one of Culebra’s many beaches, or explore Vieques’ stunning bioluminescent bay. You can catch a ferry boat from Ceiba and make sure you book in advance. Culebra and Vieques are truly magical, but keep in mind that these are an all-day or overnight affair so plan accordingly. If you still want to see a bioluminescent bay but don’t want to go to Vieques, you can find them in Fajardo or Lajas.
  • Shop at Plaza Las Americas: If you want to visit somewhere familiar like a mall, then I’d recommend Plaza Las Americas. You’ll find some great authentic Puerto Rican dining options and shopping.
  • Dine and have a drink at Distrito T-Mobile: Distrito T-Mobile is perfect for a night out in San Juan. There are plenty of parking options so you can don’t have to stress and just enjoy dinner, a show, art, ziplining, and more!
  • Tour a real Puerto Rican Rum Factory and sit down for a rum tasting: You probably already know that Puerto Rico is known for its rum. But when you think of Puerto Rican rum you may think of Bacardi, but you’d be wrong. Bacardi is Cuban not Puerto Rican. I would recommend visiting Don Q in Ponce or Ron del Barrilito in Bayamon. If you’re in Puerto Rico, you might as well support a real Puerto Rican establishment. Cheers!
  • Rio Camuy Caves – The Rio Camuy is the third largest underground river in the world.
  • Kiosks at Luquillo Beach – There are about 60 kiosks along Luquillo beach that offer authentic Puerto Rican cuisine, drinks, and souvenirs!
  • Piñones – Another beachside area with authentic Puerto Rican fried food, drinks and souvenirs.

I also recommend checking out guided tours in Puerto Rico through Viator. Booking a tour will definitely help you make the most out of this 4 day Puerto Rico itinerary.

On one of my trips to Puerto Rico with friends, we enjoyed a private Mofongo making class that included some history about the island and a walking tour in Old San Juan. It was amazing!

Don’t forget to stack on cashback offers when you book through Viator. I like to use my Citi Premier card (after activating the offer). And if you like shopping portals, you can stack that onto your purchase.

Shopping portals like Rakuten even let you connect to a rewards program like American Express so you can earn rewards points. You can even use points to book these tours via a credit card portal like Citi Thank you Points or Ultimate Rewards.

If you’re new to shopping portals, check out this guide to maximizing shopping portals from The Points Guy. I always check Cashback Monitor so I can see which shopping portal is offering the best cashback!

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What to Eat in Puerto Rico

Mofongo with roast pork
Mofongo with Roast Pork at Orozcos Puerto Rican Restaurant in Condado

Puerto Rico is known for its delicious cuisine. From the mofongo (mashed plantains), arroz con gandules or empanadillas. Here are some of the meals and snacks that you should expect and get excited about!

  • Mofongo: Mashed plantains topped with your choice of protein or vegetable stew.
  • Pork: Whether you see lechon or pernil on the menu it’s a Puerto Rican staple.
  • Yuca: Yuca (cassava) is a root vegetable and you’ll find that it’s used as the Puerto Rican version of potatoes. It is used in many forms and all are delicious!
  • Arroz con Habichuela (Rice and Beans)
  • Arroz con Gandules (Rice and Pigeon Peas): This is served mostly during holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas, but you’ll probably see it on many restaurant menus year-round.
  • Pasteles – I like to say these are the Puerto Rican version of tamales. They are an acquired taste, but worth a try! They are labor-intensive and usually reserved for holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas.
  • Puerto Rican Bread – This is very similar to french bread, but you may also see Mallorca bread a lot. Mallorca bread is sweet and not the same, but also very tasty!
  • Alcapurrias – This is a popular fried snack that you’ll find a lot in Puerto Rico. It’s basically a fried yuca ball with meat inside. Yum!
  • Empanadillas or Pastelillo – You’re probably familiar with empanadas, but in Puerto Rico you may also see empanadillas or pastelillo on the menu. These are basically the same thing, but you may notice they are just smaller.
  • Croquetas – Another popular fried snack that you’ll find with different fillings like ground ham or chicken.
  • Morcilla – Blood sausage and looks very unappetizing LOL. But I promise they are delicious!
  • Piragua – The Puerto Rican version of an ice cone, but it’s creamier and the flavors are BETTER! It’s very refreshing. If you see a cart, snag one! You won’t regret it.
  • Helado – Puerto Rican ice cream is basically like a creamy sorbet and it’s AMAZING. My absolute favorite is helado de coco. I like it by itself, but if you mix it with pina it’s super delicious!
  • Polvorones – These are Puerto Rican shortbread cookies (small and round cookies) and one of my favorite Puerto Rican treats that you can find on the street and throughout the island. If you see a table filled with treats like the one below, do yourself a favor and grab as much as you can!
Selection of Puerto Rican Candy that you can find in Old San Juan
Selection of Puerto Rican Candy that you can find in Old San Juan and throughout the island

Puerto Rico Sightseeing Essentials

No matter where you go in Puerto Rico, there are a few essentials you should always have on hand. Here are some of the must-haves for a stress-free trip:

  • Sunscreen: With its year-round warm weather, Puerto Rico is the perfect destination for soaking up the sun.
  • Bug spray: With its lush rainforest and tropical climate, Puerto Rico is home to various bugs.
  • Water bottle: Puerto Rico is an incredibly humid destination, so it’s important to stay hydrated.
  • Comfortable walking shoes: Puerto Rico is a great destination for exploring, so be sure to bring a pair of comfortable shoes.
  • Swimsuit: Whether you’re visiting the beach or swimming in a natural pool, you’ll need a swimsuit!
The colorful cobblestone streets of Old San Juan
The colorful cobblestone streets of Old San Juan

When Is the Best Time To Go to Puerto Rico?

Winter and Spring time is the best time to visit Puerto Rico. I think that the best months are December to April. It rains a lot in Puerto Rico and as you know the island has been devastated by hurricanes. Plus December is when the island is decorated for the Christmas and Three Kings holidays. It’s a magical time!

There’s minimal rainfall during the winter and spring months. You’ll experience sunny skies and warm temperatures in the low to mid-80s making it the perfect time to visit and explore a 4 day Puerto Rico itinerary. Before you start planning your trip check out my posts on how to plan a weekend trip on a budget and ways to save money for your next vacation.

View of Old San Juan from El Morro
View of Old San Juan from El Morro

What is the nicest part of Puerto Rico to visit?

Puerto Rico is a stunningly beautiful island, so it’s hard to pick the “nicest part”. That said, some of the most popular areas are Old San Juan, Isla Verde, Rincon, Culebra and Vieques Islands, El Yunque National Rainforest, Ponce, and the Rio Camuy Caves. All of the beaches are beautiful, but be mindful that facilities may not be available and the waters may be rough.

Ready to visit La Isla del Encanto?

The "I Love PR" sign at SJU airport
The “I Love PR” sign at SJU airport

“La Isla del Encanto” or “The Island of Enchantment” is what Puerto Rico is known as in the Caribbean. I can’t think of a more fitting name for the place my family calls home.

Puerto Rico is not only beautiful, but it’s also full of history. If you’re planning a visit, please do yourself a favor and take time to learn about the island by visiting the museums and historic sites.

I hope that this post has helped you plan your trip to this enchanting island and given you some insight into our culture as well. Let me know about your experience on social media or email me at genni@travelingfranklins.com. I would love to hear all about your adventure!

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