Caverns where the third-largest subterranean river system in the world flows. A private beach house in Rincon. Sampling crab empanadas in Naguabo. A natural cave with Taino-Indian petroglyphs in Arecibo. Have you heard of any of these unique Puerto Rico trips?
While I’ve previously mentioned how easy it is to visit Puerto Rico as a U.S. citizen (USD accepted + no passport needed) and even described how vibrant the nightlife in San Juan is, today I’d like to lure you to other special parts of my island.
Spots so rich in natural beauty, yet tucked away from most tourists’ trails.
Below, some of my favorite places outside Old San Juan and El Yunque Rainforest.
Unique Puerto Rico Trips: My Favorite Routes
Fajardo to Humacao through Naguabo
Imagine kayaking at new moon, with the ocean glowing blue and green under your paddles — as if you were drawing with florescent sharpies on a blackboard.
That’s the magic behind a visit to a bioluminescent bay!
Dinoflagellate, particularly, are among the rarest and most fragile bioluminescent microorganisms on the planet.
Puerto Rico boasts 3 of only a handful of dinoflagellate bioluminescent bays on Earth. They are Mosquito Bay, La Parguera, and Laguna Grande.
The latter is located in Fajardo–only an hour ride from San Juan.
This makes Laguna Grande the easiest bio bay to visit on a day trip from the capital, so ask your agent or concierge to book a sunset kayak tour there.
Got at least a week or this isn’t your first time in Puerto Rico? Head southeast!
Unless you plan to head to Puerto Del Rey and catch a ferry to Vieques or Culebra, I recommend an adventurous road trip through the rural, coastal towns of the East.
From Fajardo, take PR-53 South to Humacao. You can follow it straight or take an interesting detour when you see an exit for PR-3.
Why? So you drive down the rural coast and make a pit stop at one of Naguabo’s beaches!
The draw here is not so much the ocean, but its seafood. Naguabo is popular among locals for its outstanding juey–a type of crab, abundant in this area.
I highly recommend stopping at one of the seaside hole-in-the-walls (locally known as “chinchorros”) and grabbing pastelillos de juey (crab empanadas)–a Naguabo specialty.
With full bellies and happy hearts, continue down PR-3 until you reach Palmas Del Mar: another hidden oasis in Puerto Rico’s east coast.
The five-star resort is a large compound little known to most Puerto Rico tourists. Yet, it is quite popular among affluent expats and local residents.
In Palmas Del Mar, you will find stunning golf courses, acclaimed restaurants, and well-appointed accommodation either walking distance or a short right away from off-the-beaten-path beaches.
Some popular things to do in Palmas Del Mar and the vicinity include:
- Chez Daniel French Restaurant: a rarity for foodies in Puerto Rico
- Rancho Buena Vista: horseback riding at the beach and other outdoor activities
- Monkey Island day trip by kayak
- Snorkeling boat trips from Maragata Yacht Center
- Humacao Nature Reserve: truly off-the-beaten-path hiking and cycling trails
- Casa Roig: a historic Frank-Lloyd-Wright-inspired home, now converted into a beautiful museum
- La Pescaderia: another outstanding Palmas Del Mar spot, specializing in seafood
Rincon to Arecibo through Camuy
Porta Del Sol, as Puerto Rico’s West Coast is known locally, is one of my favorite regions of the island.
Its vibe is a total contrast from our pulsing capital.
If you remember, I surprised my American beau with a stay at Puntas Tree House for our second-year anniversary.
He was blown away. So much in fact that Rincon became his favorite base in the Caribbean after second trip the Puerto Rico.
Most visitors who flock here are either surfers, body boarders or laid-back spirits seeking sleepy beach towns or unspoiled natural attractions.
While the surf season (November through February) brings with it world-class competitions and an influx of tourists, Porta Del Sol only sees a fraction of Old San Juan’s numbers.
Better yet? The low season (July through September, excluding local holidays) leaves most West Coast surfing beaches swell-free and nearly deserted–except for a few local beach bums.
Beyond Rincon, you’ll find many hidden gems, particularly in neighboring Porta Atlantico.
Located only a few miles north of Porta Del Sol, my favorite towns there include Isabela, Camuy, and Arecibo.
Top Puerto Rico day trips on this region include:
- Cueva Ventana and Cueva del Indio, Arecibo: jaw-dropping natural caves
- Camuy Caverns: home of the third-largest subterranean river system in the world
- Shacks Beach + Blue Hole, Isabela: some of the finest waters and marine life in the region
Extra tip: if you’ve been to Puerto Rico before and wish to explore the West Coast exclusively, I highly recommend you fly into Aguadilla airport (BQN) instead of San Juan International (SJU). Currently, it is serviced by JetBlue, United, and Spirit Airlines.
Finally convinced? Build your unique Puerto Rico itinerary by following one of my favorite routes. They are my favorites!
Great tips – I would love to visit this part of the world at some stage. It looks so beautiful!
you certainly should Jennifer. Puerto Rico and the Caribbean just so stunning, especially the melting pot of vibrant cultures. I love where I grew up 🙂
Great post. I’d love to visit!