Joshua and I loved our trip to Puerto Rico! I am not a big planner when it comes to travel. When I used to travel alone a lot, I would buy my flights and book my lodging (usually an Airbnb or hostel) for the first couple of nights, and then take it from there once I arrived. But Joshua and I decided to actually plan this one out a bit more than that haha. So this trip was actually the first one that I truly “planned” – I say that loosely though because we definitely still let things just flow.
We approached this trip by first setting our dates and booking our flights, then renting a car for the entire duration so that we had reliable transportation (Uber really only works in the big cities in Puerto Rico, like San Juan). Then, we decided what cities we really wanted to visit and things we definitely had to do during our vacation there, and booked places to stay for each night based off that. We didn’t have a day-to-day itinerary, but having the things we definitely wanted to do decided beforehand allowed us to sort of plan as the week went on. Joshua has some family in Puerto Rico, so we also wanted to fit in time to hang out with them. The great thing about vacationing in Puerto Rico when you have a rental car is that you can drive from one end of the island to the other in about 4 hours – 2.5 hours if you take tolls (which we did)! So you can really be flexible with your overall plan.
Before you travel, check the Puerto Rico travel guidelines here.
So, without further ado, here is what we ended up doing!
I’ve embedded a ton of links throughout this blog post – so don’t skip the links if you’re interested in the specific Airbnbs we rented, websites we used for booking, and more!
Flew into SJU airport in the morning, arrived in San Juan around 2pm. Shuttled to the rental car place and picked up our small car rental.
I booked our car rental through Hopper because that’s where I found the cheapest car rental (I usually check a few places and compare). On Hopper our car rental said $570 for the week but we decided to add tolls to that reservation once we arrived in Puerto Rico, so it ended up coming out to about $670 total when it was all said and done. I highly recommend adding tolls and taking the toll roads in Puerto Rico if you can spare the extra $100 because it significantly cut out traffic for us and took hours off of our drives.
We heard that a lot of people were having car rental troubles (not enough rental cars for the demand in Puerto Rico), and the car rental place at the SJU airport looked like a straight MESS when we were there (50-100 people waiting in line to get a car!). So we were very happy that our car rental place was off-airport instead of at the terminal. Most off-airport car rental services have free shuttles to their location. Expect to spend about an hour just signing for and getting your rental car.
We drove to Joshua’s family and spent the evening hanging out with them.
Joshua’s family lives on the beach, so we spent this day enjoying the beach and hanging out with family!
Monday: Rincon & Cabo Rojo
Rincon: we loved wandering around the Faro Punta Higüeras lighthouse and swimming at the beach there! Other beaches close by here are Domes beach (great to watch some surfers!) in Rincon and Crash Boat beach in Aguadilla!
Cabo Rojo: the most popular beach here is Playa Sucia! Beaches with more restaurants and people are Playa Buyé and Playa El Combate.
We booked a last minute Airbnb right in the center of Ponce and it was so cute! If you’ve rented a car, they will reserve parking spots in a camera-monitored area right in front of the little hotel.
I was actually able to book all of our Airbnb’s with free gift cards because I’ve been using the Fetch app. Basically, you just scan all of your receipts (from the grocery store, gas station, restaurants, Amazon, etc) and it gives you points to exchange for pretty much any gift card. I got a ton of Airbnb gift cards this way and used them for this trip! This is not sponsored, but I do have a refer-a-friend code “NECHT” for you to get 2,000 points in the app immediately and start working towards some free Airbnb gift cards.
We spent the day enjoying the town square, sipping on coffee by the fountain, eating local cuisine and walking the beach barefoot. We got many of our Ponce recommendations from this web page.
Wednesday and Thursday: El Yunque
We loved camping in El Yunque! We stayed in a pre-prepared campsite hosted on Airbnb. If you go to Yesenia’s Airbnb host page here you can look through all of her listings! She has an actual home that you can stay in on her land, or several campsites. Honestly, I highly recommend the campsite because there is nothing like camping in the rainforest and falling asleep to the sounds of the coqui (whistling tree frogs) and other wildlife! Plus, she has blow up mattresses in the tents, a clean bathroom available, and an incredible outdoor living space where you can hang out. You will only need your tent for sleeping. Bring tons of snacks! But she also has a small kitchen available in the outdoor living area if you want to bring things to cook up. You can always stop by the grocery store on the way in to buy some things.
Yesenia’s Airbnb is located on the South side of the rainforest, while the popular trail heads for El Yunque trail, Mt. Britton Trail, etc are located on the North side of the rainforest. There is not a road connecting the North and South sides of the rainforest in order to preserve the rainforest as much as possible. This means that you can not access those trails directly from the Airbnb site. To get to the main trail heads from this Airbnb, you will need to drive out of the rainforest, around the perimeter, and back into the North side. This drive is about an hour depending on traffic. Josh and I spent one day enjoying the South side waterfalls, our campsite, and the small trails around our Airbnb, then the next day hiking the North side.
We hiked El Yunque trail and hung out at the Charco Frio and El Hippie waterfalls, as well as the land/waterfalls next to our campsite! Truly the highlight of our week was spending the time we did here. You do not need a tour guide or a paid excursion to explore the rainforest. Personally, I hate exploring with large groups of tourists haha. I prefer to do things on my own. So, having a car makes this a lot easier on your own!
You do not need a ticket to enter the rainforest, however, you do need a reservation if you want to park near the main national park trail heads. It only costs $2 to reserve a parking pass through the national park service. If you don’t snag a reservation early, they do release more tickets 24 hours before each reservation time – but if you do this you literally have to be sitting at your phone and ready to add to cart + buy as soon as the clock strikes the ticket release time. If you can’t get a reservation at all, you can actually park along the street on the way into the reserved parking area – you will just have to hike the road a bit haha because you won’t be right next to the trail heads.
Friday: Fajardo and Icacos Island
We took a catamaran to Icacos island – absolutely stunning! The water is so so blue and crystal clear! If you have goggles, a snorkel, and/or a GoPro/underwater camera bring it! You will be able to see some fish and maybe even a sting ray.
Saturday: Beach + Travel
We enjoyed the beach near our hotel in the morning with a nice long walk, a big breakfast, and then flew back home on our 3pm flight.
This post is not sponsored by any of the companies or organizations mentioned above. Simply my personal experience and recommendations.
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