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  • Views from the hike to Cueva Ventana in Arecibo, Puerto Rico
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    North Region: Sea Breezes and Off-the-Beaten Path Adventures

  • Aerial view of the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse in Western Puerto Rico
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    West Region: Surfing Central, Epic Lighthouses and Beach Getaways

  • Enjoying the calm, blue waters at Caja de Muertos nature reserve off the coast of Ponce, Puerto Rico
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    South Region: The Pearl of the South, Thermal Waters and Island Hops

  • Zip lining at Toro Verde Adventure Park in Orocovis, Puerto Rico
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    Central Mountain Region: Coffee Haciendas, Mountain Ziplines and Lake Cruises

A scenic road near Isabela, Puerto Rico
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Puerto Rico Road Trip: Island Adventure and Scenic Beauty

By Zaida Rios

  • Route distance:
    487.00
  • Suggested Time:
    1-2 weeks

Puerto Rico will give you wanderlust. They don’t call it the “Island of Enchantment” for nothing.

The rich diversity of culture, natural wonders, outdoor adventure and history make it an enticing getaway. Capture the real sense of it all on an island road trip. Grab your bags, pack your sunscreen, and put on your cool shades – it’s time to hit the road and discover Puerto Rico. This route has you flying into Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) in the vibrant capital of San Juan, where you should spend a few days, before branching out to explore four of the island’s diverse regions.

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Views from the hike to Cueva Ventana in Arecibo, Puerto Rico
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North Region: Sea Breezes and Off-the-Beaten Path Adventures

After exploring San Juan, rent a car and travel westbound to Manatí. Head to Mar Chiquita beach, which means “small sea” in Spanish, where two coral formations surround a shallow cove creating the effect of a smaller beach within a larger one. Soothing surf translates to beach conditions ideal for lounging, swimming and snorkeling without being overwhelmed by waves. Come lunchtime, your beach day gets better. Food trucks selling island-style eats set up camp in the nearby beach parking lot. Local delicacies worth a try include picadillo-stuffed empanadas and coco frío (fresh, cold coconut water served right out the coconut). Not far from Mar Chiquita, hike around Laguna Tortuguero, a diverse ecological area that happens to be one of the two natural lakes in Puerto Rico and offers sweeping ocean views too.

Continue westbound to Arecibo for more of nature’s enchantment. Sign up for a spelunking excursion at Cueva Ventana. Here, you’ll be guided through an intricate cave system filled with well-preserved stalagmites and stalactites. Climb to the star attraction, Cueva Ventana, an enormous cave opening resembling a window that looks out onto an impressive vista. Before continuing west, take a slight detour to Lago Dos Bocas. Hire a boat to take you on a cruise around the lake, or take a ferry to one of the restaurants surrounding it. End your day in a homestyle setting, savoring typical Puerto Rican dishes such as fried plantains, roast pork, stuffed potatoes, and rice and beans, alongside an ice-cold bottle of Medalla (a local light beer).

49 km
1 hour by car
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Aerial view of the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse in Western Puerto Rico
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West Region: Surfing Central, Epic Lighthouses and Beach Getaways

Just a 30-minute drive west of Arecibo will land you on the western coast of the island. Particularly well-known for its beaches, this area is a surfer’s paradise. Beyond catching the ultimate wave, sightseeing opportunities abound. In Isabela, a quaint beachfront town, wander the streets checking out the cafes and shops. While you’re in Isabela, don’t miss the opportunity to go on a horseback ride on the beach. Sign up for a tour with Tropical Trail Rides for a peaceful outing alongside aquamarine waters and through a lush forest.

From Isabela, head southwest to Cabo Rojo for more postcard-pretty sights. Perched upon a russet-colored, limestone cliffside, the windswept Cabo Rojo Lighthouse serves as an example of authentic Spanish architecture amid rugged coastal beauty. Exploring the grounds, you get a sense of the lighthouse’s history amid its captivating beach views. Venture on trails from Cabo Rojo Lighthouse to a white-sand beach named La Playuela. Toes in the sand, you can lounge or stroll the beach. Gaze upward and you’ll catch a beautiful view of the lighthouse and the cliffs from the shoreline. Nearby, you can also explore Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge, an ideal location for wandering trails and spotting Caribbean wildlife.

89 km
1.5 hours by car
03
Enjoying the calm, blue waters at Caja de Muertos nature reserve off the coast of Ponce, Puerto Rico
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South Region: The Pearl of the South, Thermal Waters and Island Hops

An hour eastbound leads you into Ponce, known for its splendid 19th century architecture and the must-visit Museo de Arte de Ponce. At Museo Castillo Serrallés, tour the elegant estate of one of Puerto Rico’s most storied families, the Serrallés, creators of Don Q rum. Learn how the sugar cane and rum industries are intertwined while exploring the mansion’s interior, as well as courtyards lined with tropical plants and unique architectural details. Carve out time to visit the peaceful cross set upon the hill, where you’ll be privy to picturesque views of the city. As you exit, don’t forget your parting gift – a satisfying glass of fine Don Q rum.

Only a short boat ride off the coast of Ponce, embark on a day trip to Caja de Muertos nature reserve. Board a catamaran or take a boat charter, and cruise the Caribbean Sea until you land on this tiny island paradise. Breathe easy as you log in quality beach time or head off on a nature trail leading to the old lighthouse. Save some time for snorkeling – and keep an eye out for roaming sea turtles. Before you head back north, sneak in a visit to Coamo located just east of Ponce. Nestled on the banks of a river, the Hot Springs of Coamo are known for their natural, rejuvenating thermal waters. Indulge in a therapeutic soak at one of the pools or even a massage at the on-site spa before your trip takes you into the mountains.

35 km
1 hour by car
04
Zip lining at Toro Verde Adventure Park in Orocovis, Puerto Rico
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Central Mountain Region: Coffee Haciendas, Mountain Ziplines and Lake Cruises

From Coamo, head into the Cordillera Central, the island’s gorgeous, but lesser-traveled mountain region. These verdant mountainsides are home to some of the best coffee-growing land in the Caribbean. For a little low-key fun, take a coffee farm tour at one of the local plantations. While touring hillside coffee groves and discovering the ins and outs of bean processing, you’ll learn how the cool mountain air and rich soil create an ideal environment for quality coffee.

This dense tropical landscape feels akin to something out of “Jurassic Park,” which makes it a fitting home for one of Puerto Rico’s most thrilling attractions, the Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park in Orocovis. There are several zip lines and adventure courses here, but the daring must go for a ride on The Monster, one of the world’s longest zip lines at 2.5 kilometers. After a safety briefing and a trek across a 47-meter-long suspension bridge to the launch pad, you’re ready to fly (face down like Superman!) over and through the lush mountain vegetation at speeds up to 152 kph. Before heading back to San Juan to wrap up your adventure, wind down with a plate of mofongo and an island-inspired cocktail at Toro Verde’s on-site restaurant.