Puerto Rico is a tiny island at just 100 x 39 miles, making it an accessible destination to explore even if you only have a few days on the island. The best way to make the most out of your days here? By taking the scenic road and taking a Puerto Rico road trip, of course!
Home to Caribbean shores, cave systems, deserts, and tropical rainforests, what Puerto Rico lacks in size, it makes up for with great natural diversity. If you want the adventure of a lifetime, take any (or all!) of these scenic drives in Puerto Rico.
The Most Scenic Drives For A Puerto Rico Road Trip
Ruta Panóramica translates into Panoramic Route, which is pretty much a sign of its fantastic views. The best thing about this drive is that it will get you off the beaten path beyond Puerto Rico’s main tourist attractions, giving you a glimpse of the island’s countryside.
At 167 miles, this drive can take anywhere from two to three days to complete depending on how many stops you want to make along the way. This route starts in the town of Mayagüez and ends in Maunabo, located on opposite ends of the island.
While creating a list of stops worth making on Ruta Panórimica deserves its very own blog post, there are a few of the ones you absolutely cannot miss. Maricao State Forest is one of them, where you’ll find plenty of hiking trails and a Stone Tower offering unparalleled vistas of the mountains.
Guilarte State Forest is another gem along Ruta Panoramica, where you can choose from numerous hiking trails or rent a kayak to explore Garzas Lake. Your next stop should be Toro Negro State Forest, a lush park where you’ll find a waterfall and seven natural pools you can swim in to get refreshed before continuing the drive.
Ruta Panorámica is the best scenic Puerto Rico road trip if you don’t mind getting away from the main tourist sites for a couple of days! This drive is the longest on the list and perfect if what you’re looking for is to hit the open road and explore gems along the way. The best way to make the most out of this drive is by planning your main stops but leaving room for fun and unplanned uncertainty.
El Yunque’s Route 191
El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rainforest in the United States, making it a one-of-a-kind experience you can only have in Puerto Rico. The best way to explore the forest in a short period is by driving along Route 191, which takes you straight into the heart of El Yunque. You’ll find plenty of lookout towers, hiking trailheads, and striking waterfalls worth parking your car for along the drive.
The Rio Grande to Ponce
With plenty of stops to boast about, including one of Puerto Rico’s best beaches, the Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve, and Bioluminescent Bay, this scenic drive is a beautiful excursion to take to tick off some of the most iconic destinations in Puerto Rico.
From the Rio Grande, the first stop you’ll make is Luquillo Beach, one of the best shorelines in Puerto Rico. From there, drive Route 3 to Fajardo, where you can make a stop at Las Cabezas de San Juan. This nature reserve offers a wide array of varied landscapes, including a fantastic bioluminescent lagoon, dry forests, sandy beaches, coral reefs, and mangroves. Make sure you stick around till dusk to join a guided kayak tour to check out the natural wonder of bioluminescence!
You’ll start noticing a dramatic change in scenery as you drive through the mountains and into drier lands. Once you get to the final stop of the drive, Ponce, you can either opt to drive back (check out the next scenic drive on the list that starts in Ponce!) or explore the city’s historical wonders!
Ponce to San Juan via Highway 10
Highway 10 is a true gem and one that will prove just how diverse Puerto Rico can get. Despite most people thinking the island is all about palm-fringed beaches, this scenic route is the perfect example of how much more it offers.
This scenic route will take you straight into the heart of Puerto Rico and away from the shoreline, passing mountains, forests, coffee plantations, caves, and an array of cultural gems unique to the island.
Along the drive, you’ll get to explore Rio Abajo State Forest, where you can stop to take a hike, explore caves, or do some serious birdwatching. Next, head towards Playa Sardinera and Cueva del Indio Natural Reserve, an impressive cave surrounded by cliffs facing the Atlantic Ocean.
Car Rental For Your Puerto Rico Road Trip
If you are renting a car in Puerto Rico, be sure that you make your reservation ahead of time and that you pick the car up at the scheduled time. On my trip to Puerto Rico, there was such a shortage of cars that we almost did not get to get a rental.
If the traditional rental companies do not work for you, be sure to try out other rental options such as Turo. They tend to have more car availability and less strict rental policies.
Places to Visit on Your Puerto Rico Road Trip
If you are looking for things to add to your itinerary after your road trip around Puerto Rico, check out this post discussing top 10 things to do in Puerto Rico.
Plan Your Puerto Rico Road Trip
I hope this list of the best scenic routes for a Puerto Rico road trip inspired you to take a break from the beach and hit the road instead. Even though there are many more insanely beautiful routes to take, these are some of the most varied and a good glimpse into why Puerto Rico is often dubbed the Island of Enchantments!
Which of these scenic road trip drives in Puerto Rico catch your eye the most? I’d love to know which one you’re most excited about in the comment section below!
Related Reading: Top Islands in the Caribbean Near Puerto Rico