With so much to see and do in San Juan, you may be tempted to stay within the city. But if you have the time, we encourage you to rent a car or book a tour with a trusted guide, so you can get a taste of what makes Puerto Rico the richest and most diverse destination in the Caribbean. Following, we provide you with day trips and excursions you can do on your own by renting a car and driving within 1.5 hours from San Juan, Puerto Rico, as well as a map of their locations. All the following places and day trips are family friendly and don’t require a lot of planning.
Perhaps you don’t see yourself driving around as part of an enjoyable vacation, but unlike many destinations, Puerto Rico’s enchantment can best be experienced by getting on the road. The journey to the following places is only part of the fun (just avoid rush hour business traffic leaving or driving back to San Juan). You’ll drive through and around the magnificent verdant mountains of the island and through coastal towns tempting you to make a stop. In just about every town, there’s something wonderful to explore in Puerto Rico. During your drive around the island, you’ll understand why so many visitors come back again and again.
Various tour companies do offer transportation to and from your hotel, but again, we highly recommend you rent a car for the most flexibility.
Spend a Day Hiking the Enchanted El Yunque National Rainforest
One of the most memorable places you will experience, that feels like a world away, is easily accessible from the capital city of San Juan. The hike through the rainforest is a real pleasure with mystical waterfalls throughout the park. El Yunque is one of the most magical places in the Caribbean. An experience the entire family will treasure. You could spend a few full days exploring El Yunque Rainforest, but one day will be sufficient to hike the most popular trails.
- Driving Time: Approx. 45 minutes southeast from San Juan
- Time needed to see the most popular points of interest at rainforest: 4-5 hours
- Days / Hours: Open daily from 7:30am to 6:00pm
- Cost: Entry to rainforest is free. Visitor center: $3 per person
- Phone: (787) 888-1880
- You may also book with a trusted tour operator to drive you and give you a tour of the rainforest. The park rangers offer tours of the main trails.
- Location: Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
Many tour guides split the day between El Yunque and Luquillo Beach (Balneario Monserrate). The beach in Luquillo is one of the most popular public beaches in Puerto Rico with great local food nearby.
Caja de Muertos – Spend the Day on a Beautiful, Uninhabited Island
Caja de Muertos Island is certainly worth the drive and ferry ride from La Guancha, Ponce, and it may actually be one of the highlights of your trip to Puerto Rico. Spend a day relaxing on Pelicano Beach, swim in turquoise and aquamarine gem coloured waters, watch pelicans, and hike the dry forest trail up to the lighthouse ruins with gorgeous views. Take the trail to Playa Larga, where you can enjoy snorkeling in crystal clear waters. When the ferry boat return you back to La Guancha, you can enjoy traditional Puerto Rican food and drinks at the boardwalk and watch the sunset. You may want to drive into the plaza in Ponce to see Parque de Bombas before you head back to San Juan.
We suggest this trip because Adventure not only takes you to Caja de Muertos, but for an additional fee, you also get lunch and plenty of drinks to make your planning and stay on the island more enjoyable. The drive from San Juan to Ponce down route 52 is at times very scenic. Although you’ll be on the highway the entire time, once you leave San Juan you’ll be driving through the center of the island where the views of the mountains and the Caribbean Sea in the distance are breathtaking.
- Driving Time: 1.5 hour southwest from San Juan + approx. 1 hour ferry ride
- Time on the island: About 5 hours on the island.
- Cost for Ferry: $25 p/p Ages 12 and up, ages 3 – 11 $20 p/p, ages 0-3 $6 p/p
- Location: Depart from La Guancha in Ponce, Puerto Rico
Visit Two World Wonders in the Scenic Karst Region
With a scenic drive into the Karst region in the northern mountains, you can enjoy two world-class attractions, a seaside Indian cave, a breathtaking location for a scene in Pirates of the Caribbean and one of the smallest and most unique beaches on the north coast of Puerto Rico. This will be one fascinating day.
- Driving time: 1.5 hours west from San Juan
- Or book a tour
- Time on sites: One full morning to see Camuy River Cave Park & Arecibo Observatory & a full afternoon to see Cueva del Indio and Playa Poza del Obispo. More about this amazing day trip.
Camuy River Cave Park
A massive cavern with the third largest underground river system in the world.
- Days / Hours & Cost: See link below
- Phone: (787) 898-3100 / (787) 898-3136 Address: Carretera 129, Km. 18.9, Camuy, P.R.
- More about Camuy River Cave Park, Puerto Rico.
…the largest radio telescope in the world. Don’t be fooled by the pictures. This radio telescope is massive and worth the drive. The scenery surrounding the area is very beautiful. The Arecibo Observatory was part of the blockbuster Hollywood movie Contact.
- Days / Hours: More information
- Cost: Adults $10 / Children & Seniors $6
- Phone: (787) 878 – 2612
Sail Offshore to Cayos Icacos during the day…and at night, tour the Laguna Grande Bio Bay
With just over an hour drive from San Juan to Las Croabas and other marinas in Fajardo, you can sail and explore the Icacos or Lobos Cays with deserted beaches and nothing but white sand and perfect clear turquoise waters to snorkel and swim in.
After you return, enjoy an unforgettable evening kayak or electric boat tour of the nearby Laguna Grande Bioluminescent Bay. See our interactive moon calendar (bottom of linked page) to best plan your trip around new moon phases when it is darkest at night and the bio bay at its best.
- Driving Time: 1 hour+ southeast from San Juan, but give yourself an extra 30 – 45 minutes just in case to allow for traffic.
- Locations: Most sailing charters to Icacos or Lobos Cay leave from the Villa Marina or Puerto Del Rey Marina located in Fajardo. Laguna Grande Bio Bay tours leave from Las Croabas harbor / marina in Fajardo. A map and contact information is provided below for access to more information.
Laguna Grande Bio Bay Tours – Reserva Natural Las Cabezas De San Juan
To learn more about the Bioluminescent Bays in Puerto Rico, please visit Mosquito Bay – Vieques (new window – Vieques.com)
- Tour Times: Most kayak tour guides run 2, 2-hour kayaking tours after dark with a pre-trip arrival time 30+ minutes early. Electric boat tours are typically 1.25 hours with 3 evening starting times. None of the tour guides we’ve listed operate on Sundays.
- Cost of tours: Kayaking tours: Approx. $48-$68 p/p + transportation from San Juan. Electric boat tours: Approx. $48-$52 p/p + transportation from San Juan. If you want to save money, rent a car in San Juan and drive yourself.
Bioluminescent Bay Tours - Directory
By Electric Boat
- Bio Island 787-422-7857
- Baby Bay Cruising Lagoon 787-655-2739
- Akuadventures Island Tours
- Amigos Tours & Travels (787) 758-6533
- Eco Action Tours 787-791-7509
- Eco Adventures 787-206-0290
- Enchanted Island Eco Tours 787-888-2887 or 787-564-9827
- GSI Tours 800-720-7447 787-863-6890
- Island Kayaking Adventures 787-444-0059
- Kayaking Puerto Rico 787-435-1665
- Las Tortugas Adventures 787-809-0253 or 787-433-4700
- Pure Adventure 787-202-6551
- Rico Sun Tours/ RST (787) 722-2080
- San Juan Tours 888-806-2343
- The Kayak Rental 787-616-9594
- Tour Coop of Puerto Rico 787-762-7155
- Trans-Travel Tours & Logistics (787) 727-4479/ (787) 615-7568
- Yokahu Kayak Trips 787-604-7375
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