Experience more by taking it easy in Puerto Rico.
Has anyone ever told you that you need to stop and smell the roses? Well, maybe it is time to take a step back and listen. Slowing down won’t turn your vacation into a snooze fest, especially in Puerto Rico. The Island invites you to breathe in the Caribbean air, let go of your worries, and be present as you explore the slow-paced lifestyle and soul-refreshing environment.
The itinerary below outlines some suggestions for a mindful and slow travel experience in Puerto Rico.
Note: Choosing where to stay is essential, especially if your goal is to stay away from the bustle of the city. There are plenty of eco-friendly, laid-back properties to accommodate you, and most of them carry the amenities and services of a resort. If you're planning to explore around the Island, be sure to check out our Regions page for more details on distances between cities and drive times.
Unlike other times you’ve gone on vacation – where you rush to take in as much as you can from the destination – slow travel is all about moving at an unhurried pace and practicing mindfulness throughout your visit. Start your first day of slow travel by sleeping in and enjoying a cup of Puerto Rican coffee at your hotel or other accommodation. Whether you’re staying at an eco-lodge like Hacienda Horizonte in Utuado, a parador like Combate Beach Resort in Cabo Rojo, or a treehouse nestled near El Yunque in Río Grande, you must first look out the window and breathe in the fresh Caribbean breeze. Then, clear your head of all stress and thoughts and prepare your mind for a day of enthrallment in nature.
Once you’re ready to begin your day, head to a coffee shop, coffee hacienda, or panadería (local bakery) to get your first (or second!) cup of locally roasted coffee. Pair your java with a Puerto Rican pastry, like a quesito, and watch people pass by… you’ll get a sense of the vibrancy of boricuas in no time. You can also take this time to brush up on your Spanish (or maybe not – most locals speak English) and mingle with a few people to ask for recommendations.
After you’ve fueled up both physically and mentally, hit a nature reserve or forest to complete a mindful hike and be swept away by Puerto Rico’s natural wonders.
For those near the west coast of Puerto Rico, an easy and popular hike takes place in the stunning Guajataca Forest in Isabela. The park offers 27 miles of trails, one of which leads to Cueva del Viento, a well-known cave with a secluded beach where you can let out your inner explorer. If you find yourself in the central region, head over to Toro Negro State Forest, home to the Island’s highest peak. Bring your swimsuit or a change of clothes, as you’ll be tempted to jump in one of the many rivers and natural pools you’ll find within the forest.
If the east coast is calling your name, you can’t miss all the beautiful paths at El Yunque National Forest. From easy to challenging, the trails of El Yunque are filled with giant ferns and coquís singing, and will lead to cloud forests or unbelievable waterfalls. Remember that no matter which trail you choose to follow, the important thing is to keep your own pace and purposefully take in everything that surrounds you.
To complete your first day of “taking it easy,” enjoy a nice authentic dinner like a true local. Visit restaurants like El Terruño or La Fonda Gourmet in Luquillo for a delicious mofongo; Desecheo in Aguadilla for the best-fried snapper around; or Asador San Miguel in Naranjito for the best mountain views at dinner.
Who says slowing down means not doing anything? Today, prepare yourself for a leisurely road trip around the coast of Puerto Rico, where your destination is Cabo Rojo. Located in the southwest corner of the Island, it’s one of Puerto Rico’s most relaxing and laid-back towns. Before embarking on this could-be-lengthy trip (depending on where you’re staying), go to your local panadería or closest mini-market to stock up on snacks, a neverita (cooler), and some drinks for the road. Pro tip? Buy a few bread rolls (ask for pan sobao), break bread with your friends, and sip on an ice-cold malta in the car while listening to this playlist with the windows down!
Once you’re in Cabo Rojo, head over to the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge, where you can bike around, visit the bright pink salt flats (oh, the pictures will be stunning), and hike up the Los Morrillos Lighthouse. The cliffside structure overlooks the Caribbean Sea and is the second lookout tower built under Spanish rule – check the National Register of Historic Places! If you’re in the mood for more panoramic views, pass by the popular Puente de Piedra for that off-the-beaten-path feel.
Then, spend the rest of your day at La Playuela (locally known as Playa Sucia), an awe-inspiring beach full of scenic views and explorable wilderness. Does it get slower than achieving the perfect suntan?
Set time apart to have dinner at Marina 308, a casual oceanfront restaurant ideal for sipping some cocktails, trying some local beers, and enjoying the catch of the day.
After your roadtrip to Cabo Rojo, you’ll be in need of some true rest and relaxation. This morning, sleep in and let your body recharge. No alarms, no hurries, that’s the rule for the day!
Once you’re awake, head out to brunch. From Caficultura and Waffle-era Tea Room in Old San Juan to La Nueva Pastelería and Café y Viajes on the south coast, the Island is filled with cozy brunch spots serving up a blend of traditional and innovative Island cuisine. Visit the Food & Drink page to find a brunch spot near your hotel in Puerto Rico.
After brunch, there are plenty of activities you can do to ease your mind and keep relaxing your body. Find a yoga studio near you, like Ayurvedic in Isabela, Shanti Yoga Studio in Fajardo, Innergy Wellness in Guaynabo, and Sukha Wellness in Dorado. If you want to experience the ultimate yoga retreat that is suitable for both adults and kids, visit Aeroyoga Institute in Aguas Buenas for a combination of yoga techniques and aerial support overlooking the mountains that’ll leave you completely repaired and untangled.
Complete your day of yoga therapy with a rejuvenating massage and a sunset stroll down the beach. Remember, there are nearly 300 miles of coastline in Puerto Rico, so there’s a spot for everyone around the Island.
Part of taking your time to explore the Island includes learning about Puerto Rico’s history and heritage. So, if you’re following along this itinerary – or just sampling ideas here and there – be sure to include a day to navigate a central part of Puerto Rican culture: its African descendants.
Today you’re headed to Loíza, which you can reach through the panoramic road of Piñones. Along the way, you can stop at small kiosks called chinchorros and sample more local cuisine and street food like alcapurrias, bacalaítos, pinchos, and more. You can even stop and have a quick stroll (or dip) at the beach. It stretches for quite a few miles!
Once in Loíza, your first stop should be Cueva María de la Cruz, a historical park dedicated to highlighting the Island’s African heritage and the importance of preserving its historical value. There, you can tour the massive cave, which according to archaeologists, evidences the inhabitance of nomadic humans near the area. In addition, you’ll get to see on display some of the pre-Colombian artifacts found in the cave.
When you’re done touring the cave, head just down the road to Samuel Lind’s art studio. This is the real home of this important Puerto Rican artist, and Lind himself guides some tours. The beautiful experience will have you feeling like you’ve stepped back in time in Puerto Rico’s countryside as you tour the rooms decorated with sculptures and paintings Lind has developed over the years. The studio is a haven for those looking to connect with history and art. Some days, you can see him working in his studio or walking around the property. This walking tour is relatively quick, leaving you some time to cross the street to Batey de Los Hermanos Ayala. This cultural center and small museum houses memorabilia that showcases Caribbean culture, specifically Puerto Rico’s folklore. A visit to the batey is not complete without learning about vejigante crafts and the beats, movements, and discipline of bomba.
If you’re not full from all the fritters and roadside kiosks you visited along the way, eat fresh and local produce at El Nuevo Acuario, a locally owned business where they’ll treat you like family and serve you from sea to table.
Day 5: Last call!
Hopefully, by now, you are feeling restored. How can you not? You took your time to navigate the heart and soul of the Caribbean without the pressure of doing it all at once. Piece by piece, you’ve experienced a glimpse of paradise. You know there’s a lot more to do and explore in Puerto Rico, and before your departure, you can take your time to walk around and mingle, sit outside, breathe peace, or hit one last spot on your way to the airport.
Whatever you do, remember to carpe diem and start planning your next trip to beautiful Puerto Rico.