As exciting as Puerto Rico’s capital is, there are treasures to be found all over the island that many tourists simply never encounter. Existing as both the capital of Puerto Rico and the oldest city under U.S. jurisdiction, San Juan offers so much for curious travelers. San Juan has a little something for everyone: historical buildings, a world class food scene and numerous salsa bars where you can dance the night away. There’s so much to see and experience in every pocket of Puerto Rico, and three days on the road will allow you to fit in many sights.

Day 1: San Juan to Isabela
Leave San Juan on Highway 2, along the north side of the island. Expect spectacular views as you begin your journey. Watch groves of banana trees and colorful concrete houses fly past as you begin to edge along the island. Stop at one of the many roadside produce stands for some local miel de abeja (honey) and seasonal fruits like parcha (passion fruit) and quenepas, a small, sweet-tart fruit with a big seed. Grab some fresh, cold agua de coco for the road and keep heading toward Isabela.

Located in the northwest corner of Puerto Rico, Isabela is a coastal city originally settled by the Spanish in the early 18th century. You can walk through the ruins of the original settlement, known as the Hermitage of San Antonio de la Tuna, but note that the museum on the site is only open by appointment , so be sure to call ahead. Afterwards, visit Isabela Jobos Food Stop for a variety of options, or pick up some queso de hoja — a local specialty consisting of white cheese wrapped in banana leaves — and a freshly made pan de agua from one of the local panaderías. Make your way down to Playa Jobos, a beach spot to relax and take in Puerto Rico’s endless natural beauty, which is only short walk away from Pozo de Jacinto. This natural pit cave that is truly a sight to see when the waves are high. After you’ve had your fill, head back into Isabela for dinner and stop at one of the many food trucks or restaurants along the coastal highway

Day 2: Isabela to Rincón
Grab a breakfast from one of the many local eateries in Isabela, then jump back in the car and start making your way south to Aguada. Located just 45 minutes away, Aguada is a small, relaxed town with plenty of history and lots of festivals.

Spend your day walking down Playa Espinar, a long stretch of beach, to Parque de Colón, which locals believe to be the place Christopher Columbus originally landed when he discovered Puerto Rico in 1493. (Nearby Aguadilla, a larger town, claims to have the first site as well, so you can decide for yourself which one has a more valid claim!) Enjoy an enormous stuffed papa (potato) for lunch, and then start to make your way to Rincón. Take the main road out of town, as it runs right along the beach and offers incredible views of the little bay.
Rincón is a west coast town known for its stunning beaches and sunsets. At Domes Beach you’ll cross sections of the old Spanish wall and see the rounded roof of the now-defunct nuclear facility rise into view — a surreal meeting of the historic and futuristic. After the sunset, visit the town plaza for melt-in-your-mouth cupcakes and Puerto Rican coffee from Dulcis Vita coffee house and catch live bomba or reggae from one of the many local bands. If you’re lucky enough to be around on a Thursday or Sunday, catch the Rincon Art Walk featuring art and music (every Thursday), or the farmers market with fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms (every Sunday).

Day 3: Rincón to San Germán
Heading south from Rincón, your next stop is Mayagüez. The third largest city in Puerto Rico, Mayagüez was once a flourishing colonial port, and today, evidence of this illustrious past can still be witnessed. Stop for breakfast at Franco’s (located in a historic building worth seeing) and don’t forget to try a “brazo gitano” for dessert. Then head to the Plaza del Mercado, a rich marketplace built in 1876 that is still a hub of activity and tradition. The city offers much in the way of museums, historical statues and beautiful buildings (the cathedral of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria is well worth a visit), but don’t dally too long as there’s still much to see to the south in Cabo Rojo.
The best word to describe the scenery of Cabo Rojo is dramatic: limestone cliffs, waves crashing against the rocks, and pink salt flats flashing in the afternoon sun. The lighthouse itself, Los Morillos, may not be accessible due to ongoing repairs, but the real attraction is the landscape. Wander the trails and then stop at Las Salinas, the salt flats, before you get back on the road for your next stop of San Germán.
San Germán dates its founding to 1511 and was a city to rival San Juan for hundreds of years. Founded by the Spanish and pillaged by the French, it’s now primarily a coffee town. Spend half a day (or more) walking through San Germán’s historic district. Most of the buildings are privately owned, so interior tours aren’t available, but simply walking the street and seeing the architecture is a history lesson. Be sure to find Museo de Arte Religioso Porta Coeli , dating from 1606, the most famous landmark in San Germán. The church of San Germán de Auxerre , built in 1688, is famous for its lavish interior decorations. Enjoy a cup of fresh Puerto Rican coffee at WakeyMonkey , a favorite of local students, or visit Charr & Mar for some comida criolla and a mojito.

Tour buses can be great for the big attractions, but without renting a car you’ll miss out on some of these little gems. Take a few days to dip deeper into the cultural and historical identity of Puerto Rico — we guarantee you won’t be sorry.
If you’re looking to get out of town, Puerto Rico has more than its fair share of historical gems to explore.