Caribbean Puerto Rico 20 Best Day Trips From San Juan, Puerto Rico

20 Best Day Trips From San Juan, Puerto Rico

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San Juan has plenty of things to do, from lively markets to historically rich forts and landmarks. However, to truly get a feel for the country, you might be looking to take a day trip from San Juan to one of the parks, towns, or attractions outside the city. Everybody travels differently and has different passions, which is why we have curated this list of the best day trips from San Juan so that you and your crew can pick an excursion that best fits your travel needs and interests. Whether you’re looking to zipline through the jungle, chase waterfalls, or hike national parks, we’ve got you covered!

Recommendation: If you are looking at doing a self-guided day tour from San Juan, then we highly recommend you book a rental car through Rentalcars.com. The website filters hundreds of rentals to ensure you get the best price!

Mesmerizing view from veranda during sunset on mountain range, and Tropical National Forest of El Yunque in Puerto Rico
Photo: wirestock_creators | Depositphotos

El Yunque National Forest 

El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System and is well worth a visit if you’re visiting Puerto Rico. The year-round tropical climate of the national forests makes for a lush natural jungle perfect for those seeking adventure like Indiana Jones. While you can explore the caves, hiking paths, and waterfalls on your own in the park, we highly recommend you book a day tour with an experienced guide who’s familiar with the trails and wildlife. This full-day tour from San Juan is ideal for those looking to explore the park. You and your crew will get roundtrip transportation to the park, which is a 45-minute drive away, and will spend the day cliff jumping, sliding down natural waterslides, swimming in waterfalls and swimming holes, and hiking the rainforest trails. The tour also includes the entrance fee to the park and a locally-made meal is optional as an add-on at the end of the day.  

Las Paylas Natural Rock Slides

Las Paylas is a popular natural rock slide located not far from El Yunque National Forest, so you could easily add this to your itinerary for a day trip to the park. If you’re not taking a tour that includes a natural waterslide and are exploring the park area on your own, then you can visit this awesome attraction for free. However, you will need to pay $5 for the parking fee. This is a great attraction that is popular with locals and ideal for families with young ones who want to relax for a few hours. The two rock slides are extremely smooth and easy to slide down. The first one is roughly 15 feet in length with a more gentle and less steep grade. The second water slide is for the adrenaline junkies as it’s roughly 30 feet long and more steep and fast compared to the first slide. There are also several deep pools of water for swimming or floating your worries away! 

Las Paylas is located a 20-minute drive east of El Portal de El Yunque Visitor Center and a 50-minute drive from San Juan. 

ATV tours at Carabalí Rainforest Adventure Park in Puerto Rico
Photo: Courtesy of Carabalí Rainforest Adventure Park

Carabali Rainforest Park

This adventure park in Puerto Rico is the best place to visit from San Juan for those seeking heart-pounding and memorable activities. Located a short drive from El Yunque and Las Playlas, this Puerto Rican attraction offers an incredible amount of fun things to do. Visitors can spend an hour or two trekking through the forest on a guided horseback tour while exploring the foothills of El Yunque National Forest and the shimmering waters of the Mameyes River. For those who want to get the heart pumping a bit more, the park also offers one- or two-hour ATV tours and UTV tours in the rainforest, along with a 1000-foot go-kart track where tourists can get competitive with their friends and family. Carabali Rainforest Park also offers a Rainforest Hayride by tractor, which is perfect for those traveling with little ones or looking for a more relaxed way to explore the jungle. A guided jet ski tour and beach horseback tour are also offered at Liquillo Beach, which is located less than a 10-minute drive away. 

Visitors could easily spend a day here adventuring as the park has several amenities like an on-site bar and grill serving up traditional Puerto Rican dishes and a souvenir shop. The park is located a 40-minute drive away from the city, but tourists do not need their own car or taxi to get there as the Carabali offers transportation to and from the Old San Juan area, including direct pick-up at Airbnbs and hotels. 

Los Pilones Waterfall

Looking for hidden gems in Puerto Rico where you won’t be surrounded by crowds of tourists? Then make your way to Los Pilones Waterfall! This stunning waterfall offers two pools to swim in, and since the waterfalls are a bit tricky to get to, you’ll most likely have the place to yourself or with very few others. To get to Los Pilones Waterfall, you’ll have to hike for about 40 minutes to an hour from the Los Pilones Waterfall Trailhead. This trail is a bit tricky and requires good water shoes as you’ll be scrambling a few slippery rocks in the water, but it’s well worth the effort. You can also spend some time swimming and jumping off the rocks in Charco de los Caballos down the road before starting your hike, which is popular with locals.

When you set out, you’ll need to pay good attention to the trail as there aren’t a lot of markings. Once you’ve parked at the parking spot alongside the road, you’ll follow the path for about 10-15 minutes, keeping the river on your right-hand side. There will be two off-shoot trails on the right-hand side to take that are not far from one another. Do not take the first one but the second one instead. The second trail is marked by two large trees that are ‘Y’ shaped, have faint carvings/markings on them, and a flip-flop wedged in the tree! You’ll then continue to follow the trail beside the river and you’ll then find the waterfalls and swimming hole. 

Toro Verde Adventure Park

Want to ride the longest zipline in America? Then a tour from San Juan to Toro Verde Adventure Park has your name written all over it! 

Toro Verde Adventure Park offers seven different thrilling ziplines for every type of adventurer. The 1.71-mile (2.5km) zipline, known as the Monster, will have you reaching speeds of 95 mph while soaring 1246 feet (380 meters) above the jungle, while the Beast zipline puts you in a bird-like harness allowing you to freely fly 4.75 feet (1.45km) at speeds up to 60 mph. One of the most unique things to do here is to ride the Toro Bike Circuit, which holds the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest cable bike circuit in the world. How does that work you ask, essentially you’ll be strapped into the cable with a harness and you’ll get to pedal across the cable while sitting on a bike above the mountains and forest. You can purchase your tickets for each of these attractions with 24-hour cancellation here

The park doesn’t just offer ziplines, but also some very unique and thrilling climbing towers and hanging bridges to trek across. You can spend a day conquering your fear of heights and then reward yourself with a refreshing pint and meal at the on-site restaurant. Toro Verde Adventure Park is located just over an hour’s drive from San Juan, making it the ideal day trip from San Juan. 

Cueva Ventana in Puerto Rico
Photo: demerzel21 | Depositphotos

Cueva Ventana

Cueva Ventana is one of those places where as soon as you see a picture of it, you have to go! The enchanting cave is about an hour’s drive from San Juan and well worth a visit. Upon arrival, you’ll sign up for a tour and then be led on a guided hike a mile into the forest before arriving at Cueva Ventana perched atop a limestone cliff. Your guide will share plenty of information about the area, ecosystems, and rock formations, and you’ll be given a hard hat before entering the cave. Once inside, you’ll be hard-pressed not to take a hundred photos and videos as the view from the cave looking out to the forest and mountains is incredibly breathtaking. The cave is home to many creatures as well, like bats and cave spiders, along with ancient petroglyphs and stalactites to discover. In total, the tour lasts around an hour and a half. However, it’s not recommended that children under the age of four join this activity as the path and rocks are quite slippery.

Flamenco Beach on Culebra Island in Puerto Rico
Photo: ArenaCreative | Depositphotos

Culebra Island

One of the best side trips from San Juan you can do is a day trip to Culebra Island. This little slice of paradise offers the perfect place to enjoy tropical activities, such as snorkeling, swimming, sun tanning, hiking, and more! The island is known for its breathtaking beaches, including Flamenco Beach, which is world-famous for its incredible coral reefs, awesome snorkeling, and rusted graffiti-covered tanks that sit on the shoreline. Visitors can spend the day on the beach relaxing, exploring the marine life swimming or kayaking, or exploring the village and museum. There are also several guided day trip tours you can book, like this highly-rated high-speed catamaran tour to Culebra. The tour includes round-trip transportation from Fajardo, lunch and drinks on board, and snorkeling around the island. 

Beach on Vieques Island in Puerto Rico
Photo: mikehop | Depositphotos

Vieques Island

Another beautiful island to visit on a San Juan day trip is Vieques, located just south of Culebra. This jaw-dropping tropical island is most well-known as the home of the brightest and best bioluminescent water, meaning that the bay and its waters glow due to playful organisms known as “dinoflagellates”. Visitors can book several boat tours to see this incredible work of nature at Bioluminescent Bay (also known as Mosquito Bay). However, the dazzling waters aren’t the only reason to visit this island. Wild horses call Vieques home and can be seen across the island living their absolute best life. The snorkeling here is also just as good as at Culebra and you can book a snorkel tour of the Vieques with roundtrip transportation from San Juan. Other activities on the island include shopping, beach hopping, horseback riding tours, hiking in Vieques National Wildlife Refuge, or exploring the last fort built by the Spaniards in America, Fortín Conde de Mirasol.

Aerial drone view of a beach in isolated Cayo Icacos, Puerto Rico
Photo: ibrester | Depositphotos

Cayo Icacos Island

For a more nature-based island adventure, consider heading to Cayo Icacos for a day trip. Cayo Icacos is an uninhabited island located 1.5 miles off the northeastern tip of Puerto Rico and can be easily accessed by boat. This island is perfect for those who want to immerse themselves in nature or take some seriously stunning tropical photos. The island’s vibrant turquoise water and lush greenery make for incredible holiday photos, plus, the fact that the island is uninhabited means there won’t be any crowds. Visitors can set themselves up for a day on one of the island’s pristine white beaches and spend the day snorkeling, swimming, and tanning. Tourists can opt to make their own way to the island or enjoy a full-day snorkeling and catamaran tour instead. The tour lasts about six hours and includes drinks, lunch, and transportation. 

Cave at the Cavernas del Rio Camuy National Park
Photo: demerzel21 | Depositphotos

Cavernas del Rio Camuy National Park

Finding it too hot in the Puerto Rican sun? Well, why not head underground and explore the natural wonders of Cavernas del Rio Camuy National Park? This beautiful national park is the home of the Western Hemisphere’s largest natural massive limestone cave system, which tourists can explore and take in some seriously jaw-dropping views. There are roughly 220 caves and caverns in the park that have been discovered, as well as the world’s third-largest subterranean river. The main area of the cave system, Clara Cave, is impressively large with ceilings as high as a 10-story building. At the Camuy Cave Park, visitors can join a tour every hour on the hour that brings tourists into the cave with a guide. An audio guide is also handed out in either Spanish or English. 

Cavernas del Rio Camuy National Park is located roughly an hour and 15 minutes drive from San Juan.

Cascada Gozalandia Waterfall in Puerto Rico
Photo: sergey.miami2you.com | Depositphotos

Cascada Gozalandia Waterfall

Cascada Gozalandia is a stunning series of waterfalls located in San Sebastian, just under a two-hour drive from San Juan. This was once a very secluded hidden gem on the island, but over the past 10 years, the waterfall area has been developed for tourism and is easily one of the top attractions in the San Sebastian area. Visitors can park and walk about five minutes down a stroller-friendly cement path and arrive at the swimming hole. The largest waterfall measures roughly 50 feet tall and 20-30 feet wide, but there are several other smaller waterfalls in the area as well. Enjoy a day bopping around in the many swimming holes, listening to the sounds of the rushing water, or indulging in a meal at the on-site restaurant. No coolers are allowed inside. The large swimming pool is also deep enough for small jumps off the rocks and there is an underwater cave that people can swim into. There is also a set of stairs off the main path that leads along the river to the upper falls and swimming holes there, so visitors can enjoy some adventure and cruise around until they find a less crowded swimming hole. Cascada Gozalandia is open every day from about 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. 

Cueva del Indio in Puerto Rico
Photo: sergey.miami2you.com | Depositphotos

Cueva del Indio

If you want to see something truly unique and mind-blowing, then plan a short trip from San Juan to Cueva del Indio. This natural cave by the sea is the home to the island’s highest concentration of petroglyphs originating from the Taíno Indian around A.D. 1200 to 1500. The site would have been used for ceremonies, sacred rituals, and as a refuge for the natives. Today, this incredible cave is a public park and can be explored by tourists! 

The cave is located roughly an hour’s drive from San Juan and takes around an hour to explore. You will want to bring good walking shoes, no flip flops, as there are rocks you’ll need to climb over and don’t forget to bring plenty of water. There are no formal hours of the cave or an entrance fee, just a parking lot that charges a fee. However, you could park up the road and then walk down for free. After exploring the cave, head down the road to the popular swimming cove of La Poza del Obispo for a refreshing dip in the sea or explore some of the smaller villages and towns along the coast. 

Amazing tropical beach with palm tree
Photo: ankamonika | Depositphotos

Beaches

There is no shortage of incredible beaches in Puerto Rico, but if you only have a short amount of time on the island, you’ll want to ensure that you’re visiting the best beach in Puerto Rico for you and your group. 

As previously mentioned, La Poza del Obispo is a fantastic swimming cove near Cueva del Indio. The cove has a shape that pulls in the large waves, essentially making you feel like you’re in a wave pool, so be careful with really young ones at this beach. It is located right beside Arecibo Lighthouse and Historical Park, so visitors could even spend some time hiking and exploring the park next door! Those looking to pack up a picnic for the day and pop down at a beach for a few hours should consider visiting La Oiza de las Mujeres in Manati. This breathtaking beach offers sandy shores with minimal rocks for swimming, along with soft sands and clear waters. The waves here are quite strong, though, so be careful with children. There are also no vendors or restaurants nearby, so pack everything you want for the beach before arriving. 

Those looking to head to the beach with little ones should definitely consider spending the day at Mar Chiquita Beach. The sheltered cove offers a calm swimming pool for swimming and snorkeling. Visitors can grab a bite to eat at one of the food trucks or use the on-site washrooms. Another favorite beach of ours is Cueva de las Golondrinas. There are two sandy and beautiful beaches to swim at here, both with protective rock formations that minimize the currents and waves. The beach gets its name from the small cave in the rock formation, which is more like an overhanging rock but still cool! Playa La Esperanza is another calm water cove beach with impeccable white sands. What’s really cool about this beach is if you start walking west, you’ll watch the sand go from golden to black and back again! Finally, one of the coolest places to visit while beach hopping is Guajataca Beach Tunnel, which leads from Playa Guajataca to Pelicano Beach. Tourists will walk through a 100-foot old train tunnel and down the path that winds through the forest before arriving at the lovely sand beach. There is plenty to explore in the area, including several vendors and murals, and there is even a small train that takes visitors into the tunnel. The family-friendly path continues for roughly two miles, passing mangrove trees and offering scenic views.

Cabo Rojo

The village of Cabo Rojo is an awesome place to visit on a day trip. Located about two hours and 20 minutes from San Juan in the southeast area of the island, visitors will find plenty of top-notch attractions in the area. 

While in Cabo Rojo, tourists should check out Centro Interpretativo Las Salinas, also known as the salt flats. This unique attraction boasts colorful pink waters and squishy sand which is just one of those sites where pictures don’t do it justice. The pink water comes from the high concentration of salt, which when dried by the sun crystallizes and turns pink! There is a visitor center at the site along with an observation deck. Another great attraction to visit in the area is Faro Los Morrillos, which is a 19th-century lighthouse perched on the edge of a 200-foot cliff on the Morrillos Peninsula. The views from the lighthouse are breathtaking as tourists will be able to see the surrounding ocean and beaches. There are also several incredible beaches and viewpoints in the area to explore after. We definitely recommend stopping in for a stroll or a swim at Playa Sucia right next door. 

The beautiful view of the glowing sea at night. Domburg, Zeeland, the Netherlands.
Photo: Wirestock | Depositphotos

Bioluminescent Bays

Puerto Rico is home to three of the world’s five bioluminescent bays and visiting one of them is an absolute must for tourists. The absolute best way to experience these magical waters is with a nighttime tour during the new moon at either Laguna Grande in Fajardo, La Parguera in Lajas, or Mosquito Bay on Vieques Island. If you want to experience Laguna Grande’s water fireflies, then check out this guided five-hour tour from San Juan. The tour includes transportation and a two-person kayak. For those who want to head to Vieques, this one-hour catamaran tour allows tourists to experience the bioluminescent waters in a more relaxed way while the guide explains the phenomenon behind these sparkling waters. 

Cañón Blanco

Cañón Blanco is one of the best places to visit from San Juan if you want to explore more of the ancient Taino petroglyphs. A few of the large rocks in the canyon are etched with petroglyphs and visitors can search for these as they traverse the short trail around Cañón Blanco. Stop along the way and enjoy a refreshing dip in the river or set up somewhere for a nice picnic. The trailhead for Cañón Blanco can be found on Google Maps, however, if visitors are not driving a four-wheel drive vehicle, it could be quite difficult to reach. Instead, visitors can park and walk up to the trailhead. From the trailhead, it’s about a 10-minute walk to the river and a total hike of about one mile. At the end of the canyon, there is also a beautiful waterfall to snap pictures of! 

Cañón Blanco is located in the mountain region of the island just outside the town of Utuado, about an hour and 45-minute drive from San Juan. The attraction is completely free to visit, just remember to pick up after yourself.

Toro Negro State Forest

If you’re looking to get out into nature and away from crowds, then consider visiting Toro Negro State Forest. This is a great alternative to El Yunque National Forest as it’s less frequented by tourists. However, there isn’t a lot of information on the internet regarding trail conditions, so you’re best to ask the rangers at the park entrance about what hiking trails are open for day use. We also recommend downloading or getting a trail map prior to heading out. The most popular hike in this national forest is Cerro Doña Juana via Camino El Bolo, which is a 3.9-mile loop trail rated moderately challenging. Not only will you see fewer people on the trail here, but this awesome hiking route is also great for bird-watching and for panoramic views of the mountains and forest from the old tower on the trail.

San Cristobal Canyon

San Cristobal Canyon is one of the best places to visit in Puerto Rico to see jaw-dropping waterfalls. The dramatic landscaping coupled with steep cliffs and rushing rivers is incredible to experience and leaves us with no questions as to why this was rated one of the top 10 natural wonders in Puerto Rico. Now the canyon can be explored on your own, however, we don’t advise this unless you are an experienced hiker and backpacker as the river and trail can be difficult to navigate. The best way to explore the waterfalls and canyon is with a tour guide. They will take you on a full-day hike into the canyon where you’ll get to see some of Puerto Rico’s most incredible waterfalls. Two companies that have English guides and tour the canyon are Montana Explora and Go Hiking PR. San Cristóbal Canyon is located roughly an hour and a half from San Juan. 

Crispy lechon being roasted in burning charcoal pit. It is a pork dish prepared during festivals in several regions most specifically Spain and its former colonies like Philippines and Puerto Rico.
Photo: crystaleyemedia | Depositphotos

Guavate

The mountain village of Cayey in Guavate is a popular area with tourists and locals because of its incredible atmosphere, parties, and mouthwatering gastronomy; specifically its pork! The region is known as Pork Highway as there are a myriad of lechoneras to stop at. If you haven’t heard of lechoneras, they are a cafeteria-style (most of the time) restaurant that serves lechon (whole pork that has been slow-cooked over coals for hours) and plenty of traditional Puerto Rican side dishes like yuca al mojo, tostones, and mofongo. It’s truly a unique dining experience! These amazing restaurants don’t only serve up mouthwatering foods, though. They also have live bands on weekends that bring the full party atmosphere to life! However, don’t just stop in at any lechonera; the higher up the mountain you drive, the more chance the restaurant you choose will have a view of Carite State Forest. To get to Pork Highway (Guavate), it is a relatively short 50-minute drive from San Juan. 

Charco Azul

Charco Azul near the Cuevas Arenales is a breathtaking retreat and swimming hole for locals and tourists. The incredible turquoise waters of Charco Azul offer a relaxing place to cool down in the hot Caribbean sun with a dip or get the adrenaline pumping by rock jumping. When you arrive, you’ll need to pay for parking and hike up a steep hill which takes about 15-20 minutes, but your reward will be a stunning and refreshing swimming hole. Once you arrive, you can jump right in, explore the river, and swim into the cave. There are also other small swim ponds to explore around the rocks, so have fun and channel your inner adventurer! 

We do not recommend this for families with young children as the hike is quite steep and straining. Several people have also reported their cars being broken into, so make sure to take all valuables with you when you leave the vehicle. If you want to group this attraction with others nearby, then consider booking this full-day tour to Cuevas Arenalas, Charco Azul, and waterfalls from San Juan. 

From the lush rainforests of El Yunque National Park to the enchanting beauty of the Bioluminescent Bays, there are plenty of things to see in Puerto Rico outside of San Juan. So hop in your car, jump on that catamaran, or board a tour bus, and get ready to embark on a Puerto Rican adventure!

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