Puerto Ricans love their niños, and places all over the island are kid-friendly. The nature of the island itself, with its parks, beach-studded seaside resorts, and amusement centers, virtually invites you for a family outing. Because of islanders' welcoming attitude toward children, you will meet a lot more Puerto Ricans on your trip if you are traveling with children. And remember, don't forget that picnic lunch. Start: San Juan.
Days 1 & 2: San Juan
Old San Juan has more to offer children than any other Caribbean capital. The massive wall of the square-mile Spanish colonial enclave joins the two historic fortresses that were built at the land and sea entrances to the city. Children will enjoy exploring the tunnels, vaults, look-out points, dungeons, and ramps of Castillo de San Felipe del Morro (the must-visit of the two) and Fort San Cristóbal. And the grassy fields surrounding El Morro are a favorite spot for kite-flying. You can buy a kite at the street-side refreshment carts outside the park's entrance. You'll also want to visit Museo del Niño (Children's Museum), with interactive exhibits, a rooftop nature center, play areas, and a theater. It's right in the middle of major sites, next to Hotel El Convento and Catedral de San Juan. The historic city's plazas are also a playground for kids, who love feeding the pigeons in Plaza de Armas and running through the shooting fountains at Plaza Quinto Centenario. Skateboarding is also popular at some of the plazas.
There's a free trolley to ride, a dirt-cheap ferry that goes across the bay and back in about a half-hour, and even horse and buggies to rent. Abundant high-quality Puerto Rican, Mediterranean, Asian, and European cuisines are available at Old City restaurants, so a nice lunch is in order. Make sure to take a break at Ben and Jerry's, with free Internet, DJ music, books, magazines, big tables and chairs, and, oh yes, those baked goods and that ice cream.
Afterwards, walk off lunch by doing some shopping and maybe taking in a few more sights. Another option is to take a cab back to the hotel for some sunshine and a swim before sunset.
The next day, you'll want to take your kids to the beach. Depending on where you are staying, that will likely be Condado, Ocean Park, or Isla Verde. And of course, kids prefer some of the resort pools, many of which cater to them with slides, tunnels, and spray and play areas.
If you don't want the little ones in the sun too long, take a cab to Plaza las Américas, the largest mall in the Caribbean. There's Time Out, which has top-of-the-line video games, a multiplex cinema, several restaurants, a food court and lots of great shops for kids (Discovery, a Border's with a reading room, Game Stop, and so on).
Day 3: El Yunque & Luquillo Beach
While still based in San Juan, journey east for a day or two of the island's biggest attractions: El Yunque rainforest and the island's most famous and best beach, Luquillo. For suggestions, refer to Day 3 of the "Puerto Rico in 1 Week," itinerary.
Days 4 & 5: Ponce & the Southwest Coast
On the morning of Day 4, leave San Juan early in the morning for a scenic drive southwest to the second city of Ponce, a distance of 75 miles (121km). Stop at the historic downtown area, concentrating on the ring of sites surrounding Plaza las Delicias, the central plaza dominated by a huge lion statue. Kids will enjoy the 1883 Parque de Bombas, a strangely shaped, black and red, wooden firehouse. After stretching the legs, it's time for lunch.
If your kids are just as happy at a hotel pool as a beach, then you can stay the night in Ponce, which lacks a good swimming beach. After some fun in the sun and dinner, you can take a stroll on the boardwalk along a public harbor called La Guancha. This is like a more wholesome version of New York's Coney Island and is often mobbed with families. Food stands sell local delicacies and snacks, and there are often free concerts and other events with family appeal. It's particularly lively on weekends and holidays.
But unless there is some event or other compelling reason to stay in Ponce, I'd recommend heading out straight after lunch to Guánica, the first of a string of beach towns 21 miles (34km) west of Ponce that makes a good base to explore the southwest regardless of your budget.
En route, you can drive the family through parts of the Guánica Dry Forest, an internationally protected biosphere that's home to 100 rare bird species and unique vegetation that gives it its distinctive stunted forest look. There's still plenty of time for the beach after checking in. You might consider taking a 15-minute boat ride to Gilligan's Island (yes, the same name as that old TV sitcom). Part of the forest reserve, the island is one of a series of mangrove and sandy cays off the Caña Gorda peninsula. Kids have a blast in the shallow water surrounding it and the saltwater canals that cut through the island.
Have dinner at your hotel or head down to the main harbor in downtown Guánica. The Blue Marlin and several other simple seafood restaurants front the water, serving up freshly caught fish criollo style.
The next day, take a scenic drive west along the green Lajas Valley, with the towering Cordillera Center looming dramatically over it in the distance. Your destination is the palm-fringed public beach at Boquerón, whose calm, warm waters are perfect for families. A big, wide beach, Boquerón offers plenty of room for all sorts of beach play as well as picnic tables, barbecue pits, and roofed shelters. The facilities also include showers and changing rooms, as well as restrooms. There are numerous hotel rooms for all budgets here, or you could stay a second night in Guánica.
After showering up and changing from the beach, take a short drive to the nearby fishing village of La Parguera. Restaurants in town cater to families with freshly caught seafood and local Puerto Rican food. There are also food stands selling everything from pizza and fried chicken to fresh seafood salads and turnovers made with lobster and conch. There are video game arcades and other activities for kids. After dinner and a stroll, take a 90-minute boat trip through the glowing waters of the bioluminescent bay. Boats leave frequently from the docks in town.
Day 6: Aguadilla
On the morning of Day 6, head to the northwest coastal town of Aguadilla, which has an enormous number of reasonably priced hotels perfect for families. You'll have time to visit picture-perfect Crash Boat Beach. The town is also popular with kids, since it has Las Cascadas Water Park and Aguadilla Ice Skating Rink, undoubtedly the only rink of its kind in Aguadilla.
Day 7: Arecibo, Indian Ceremonial Park & Rio Camuy Caves
For your final day, you can take in three major island attractions before your drive east back to San Juan and its transportation hub. If you choose to fly directly out of Aguadilla, you will buy an extra afternoon in the region.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.