The Perfect 3-Day Road Trip for Exploring Puerto Rican Beaches

Rent a car to see the Isle of Enchantment's most renowned beaches

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Puerto Rico is the ideal destination for independent travelers, especially those who prefer to explore beaches, towns and attractions at their own pace. Renting a car and embarking on a road trip is the best way to experience all that the island has to offer — everything from tiny beach gems to expansive sandy stretches. In just three days, it's possible to visit some of Puerto Rico's most renowned coastal areas, both in San Juan and in more secluded corners.

Day 1 - Morning

 Old San Juan. Photo: Theresa Boehl

Your beach adventure starts in the capital of San Juan, a colorful, cosmopolitan city that has come a long way in its recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria. In fact, according to the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, there are more than 140 hotels and 4,000 restaurants now open across the 100-mile-long island.

Before setting out on your road trip, spend the morning roaming the cobbled streets of the colonial sector, Old San Juan, established in 1509. Wander just a few minutes from the eastern edge of the old town near the dominating walls of the San Cristobal fort and descend the steps to rugged Playa Peña, a tiny sliver of heavenly oceanfront not known by many tourists.

Day 1 - Afternoon

 Playita del Condado. Photo: Theresa Boehl

For lunch, grab a table at Café Berlin, where you can choose from hearty Puerto Rican dishes or a solid selection of vegetarian fare.

Afterward, take a taxi a few miles east to Playita del Condado, a small public beach that overlooks the Condado Lagoon. After a few minutes wading in the calm, gin-clear waters, head to Enterprise-Rent-A-Car just steps away on Ashford Avenue.

Day 1 - Evening

Best beaches in San Juan - Isla Verde Beach Isla Verde Beach. Photo: Theresa Boehl

Hit the road and drive about five miles east to Isla Verde Beach, a lovely stretch with all the quintessential tropical beach attributes: white sand, turquoise water and plenty of palm trees. Stay at the San Juan Water and Beach Club, home to MIST Rooftop Bar + Kitchen, the best spot for savoring the views while sipping cocktails.

Day 2 - Morning

After an early-morning dip in Isla Verde Beach's irresistibly warm water, pack up, check out, and get ready for a day of beach exploration. Drive east along Route 187, stopping to check out golden-sand beaches near the Afro-Caribbean town of Loíza.

Set along a seven-mile nature and biking trail is Playa La Pocita (also called Piñones), a favorite of both tourists and locals. Rustic food shacks near the beachfront (called kioskos) are the source of enticing aromas drifting to shore.

Day 2 - Afternoon

Despacito: Things to do in Puerto Rico Luquillo Beach. Photo: Theresa Boehl

After a quick bite at one of these kioskos, take a break from the intense midday sun and continue the eastward trek for about an hour until you reach Luquillo Beach, also known as Balneario La Monserrate. One of the country's most beloved spots, this beach combines splendid rainforest views and a pristine shore with access to dozens of kioskos serving up Puerto Rican delights like piononos, stuffed fried sweet plantains, or alcapurrias, fritters packed with meat or seafood.

Need some peace away from the crowds? Take a stroll east toward Punta Embarcadero, featuring a gorgeous natural cove and plenty of hiding spots beneath palm and pine trees.

Day 2 - Evening

Around sunset, make the half-hour drive to the town of Fajardo and check in to the 5-star El Conquistador resort. But don't turn in for the night before you decide between spending the next day at the resort's private 100-acre Palomino Island — perfect for diving or snorkeling — or catching the early morning ferry to Culebra to see world-renowned Playa Flamenco.

If you decide on the latter, it's a good idea to make the drive down to the ferry terminal the day before to purchase tickets (currently priced at $4.50). That way, you won't be stuck waiting in the long line to buy tickets the next morning.

Day 3 - Morning

 Playa Flamenco. Photo: Theresa Boehl

After the 45-minute ferry ride from Fajardo, catch a taxi or a shared van to Playa Flamenco. The scenery is marvelous, but fight the urge to snap photos for a few minutes so you can claim a shady spot for your beach towel or lounger — they fill up quickly.

Don snorkeling gear and float just offshore to see tropical fish, or wander toward the rusty, deserted battle tank that serves as the beach's most iconic landmark.

Day 3 - Afternoon

Casual eats, cold beer and tropical drinks are served at kioskos toward the entrance to Playa Flamenco. Picnic tables are scattered in the shady park space behind the beachfront for those bringing their own grub.

Head back to the ferry terminal early to beat the crowds (and avoid the long line), and sit down for a drink or snack at one of the restaurants across from the terminal on Calle Escudero.

Day 3 - Evening

Best beaches in San Juan - Condado Beach Condado Beach. Photo: Theresa Boehl

The ferry arrives back in Fajardo just as the sun is setting, leaving plenty of time to make the hour-long drive back to San Juan and get settled into the evening.

Need a place to rest your head for one more night? Try the 4-star O:live Boutique Hotel, a polished option not far from the bustling Condado Beach neighborhood, where options for nightlife are plentiful.

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