72 Hours in Puerto Rico
April 6, 2009 3:10 PM   Subscribe

72 hours in San Juan - should we rent a car and explore or stay put?

BF and I are going to San Juan for 3 days next week (leaving Easter Sunday). We are planning to stay at the AT WIND CHIMES IN near the beach in Contado for the 3 nights. My question is this: Will our trip be 10 times better by renting a car and getting out of San Juan, or will we be ok walking and relying on public transport to get a good feel of PR in those three days. (note, we would prefer not to drive, but are willing if its really worthwhile.)

I've heard we can do some hiking in the national park and arrive by bus. Is this true? That might give us at least one day out of the city without renting a car.

Also, in general, for those of you who have spent lots of time in PR (and SJ specifically), what would you plan for 72 hours? Overall, we would like at least one day in the beach/sun, one day in nature, and one day immersed in history. I have read the other posts with related tags, but I still feel a bit lost, so thank you in advance for any tips. Restaurant recommendations are also welcome.
posted by shrimpsmalls to Travel & Transportation around Puerto Rico (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Hell yes, explore. Puerto Rico is beautiful.
posted by not_on_display at 3:17 PM on April 6, 2009

Whoops, I meant to mention Vieques: take the ferry from Fajardo. (Bias: I have family there and wish I were there right now. It;s one of the most beautiful places on the planet.)
posted by not_on_display at 3:20 PM on April 6, 2009

Vieques won't fit your schedule, but I'd check out El Yunque. There are tours available, which may be cheaper than renting a car, but it's worth the visit either way.
Public transportation is pretty good in the San Juan area, buses are cheap and frequent, but it's nearly non-existent elsewhere on the island. By all means explore, I spent 2 weeks in PR last month and it's gorgeous, it wasn't nearly long enough.
posted by Floydd at 3:54 PM on April 6, 2009

There is a lot to do in San Juan. If you can't get out of the city, you can still have a great vacation. That said, there is a ton of great stuff outside of the city as well.

I basically spent a day and a half of driving around and stopping at whatever looked interesting. I went from San Juan to El Yunque, then Fajardo, and then spent the night in Caguas. The next morning I got up really early and was coming out of the mountains towards Ponce as the sun came up. Near the ocean I got off the highway and followed the coast as closely as I could into Ponce. From there I went Guanica State Forest, then followed the coast to La Parguera. After that I headed inland a bit and went on to Cabo Rojo. The lighthouse there at the south-western most point of the island is fantastic (actually, the beach and the cliffs are fantastic, try to get there early on a weekly and bring a bathing suit and good walking shoes). It started raining and I continued my trip up the coast stopping at Mayaguez, Rincon, and Aguadilla. There I ran into the afternoon rush hour and, because I wanted to make it to my hotel before dark, hopped on the highway and headed straight for Arecibo.

Pretty much everything was amazing. My trip was very superficial, and I missed most of San Juan and the interior of the island, but I still really enjoyed myself. The end of the second day wasn't as fun, but I think that was mostly a combination of the weather, the traffic, and having spent so much time driving. One great thing about Puerto Rico is that everything is relatively close. It was actually hard for me to adjust my sense of scale from the continental US. I'd see something out of the way on my map and almost skip it for being to far, until I realized it was actually only 15 minutes away.

I have some pictures here. I geotagged most of them in case there is something that catches your eye and you want to know where to find it. It was done a week after the fact so some of the more ambiguous country road locations might not be exact.
posted by indyz at 4:09 PM on April 6, 2009

I just got home a few minutes ago from about 90 hours in Puerto Rico, and I really urge you to rent the car. You might not need it for the entire time you're there, and rental places are easy to find, but absolutely get a car and explore around the island. Have a great time!
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:05 PM on April 6, 2009

I'd also suggest El Yunque for a day of nature. Another idea if you go exploring is to check out the bioluminscent bay and go kayaking. That was the highlight of my trip to Puerto Rico. Have fun!
posted by kjackelen05 at 5:10 PM on April 6, 2009

My husband and I spent a day in Old San Juan during our honeymoon (cruise), and we had a lot of fun exploring Fort San Felipe del Morro and Castillo de San Cristobal. If you like history and gorgeous scenery then you really can't miss it. We also had a delicious and inexpensive lunch at El Jibarito. There are tons of walking tours that you can find online or in guidebooks so that you can customize which things you would prefer to see. Also, there is a free trolley that runs around Old San Juan, so it's probably easiest to just take a taxi from your hotel to the nearest trolley stop.
posted by gatorae at 5:25 PM on April 6, 2009

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