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Should I Rent a Car for Puerto Rico Travel? Here’s Why.

Gorgeous Luquillo Beach is easiest to get to by car.
Gorgeous Luquillo Beach is easiest to get to by car.

Car Rental in Puerto Rico is Worth it!

All my life I’ve been a public transportation lover, but as I researched our Puerto Rico trip in the weeks before we went, a theme kept recurring: “Get a rental car!” everyone “in the know” advised.

But why? Why is having a car so essential in Puerto Rico when we’ve traveled just fine to other locations without our own vehicle?

This is how happy we felt about having a rental car in Puerto Rico.
This is how happy we felt about having a rental car in Puerto Rico.

Once Colin, traveling baby, and I arrived on the island and picked up our car rental, however, it became clear why we needed it. Here are the nine reasons you should rent a car in Puerto Rico.

1. Car Rental Gives Freedom.

There is little public transport in Puerto Rico, so if you don’t rent a car, your options are to stay in one small area, to purchase package day tours, or to muddle through the public transport that exists. All of these are possible, but we felt so much more free and empowered in Puerto Rico with our own car.

Our trusty vehicle took us through the shockingly narrow cobblestone streets of Old San Juan (click here for info on our great San Juan hotel) to the far west coast, deep into the island’s interior, to the far east coast with zero problems.

Gazing at palm trees through the windshield as we drove through the west coast.
Gazing at palm trees through the windshield as we drove through the west coast.

2. Puerto Rico Beach Access!

Puerto Rico has phenomenal beaches, and the famous ones as well as the lovely hidden ones are easily accessible by car… and a big pain to get to without one.

3. Renting a Car Enables Adventure.

Many of the most thrilling parts of our Puerto Rico trip came when we decided on a whim to pull off the road into a small town, grabbing a yummy bite to eat or sipping the milk from a freshly chopped coconut by a random beach off the tourist trail.

This was far easier since we had our own wheels. Do not underestimate the quantity of charming hidden spots all around Puerto Rico.

Touring the Bacardi House is much easier with a car!
Touring the Bacardi House is much easier with a car!

4. A Rental Car Provides Comfort.

Puerto Rico is hot, constantly. How delicious it is to be in control of your own air conditioning in your own car! How nice not to have to load your stuff on and off of a bus, or share your space with a dozen other sweaty folks! Further, the main roads are in good condition, and even the twisty mountain ones in the interior are doable by taking it slow.

5. El Yunque Rainforest is Easiest by Car!

The rainforest in Puerto Rico is a must-see attraction, but did you know you can drive right into and through it, popping out of the car at various outlooks?

We took full advantage of this, since our baby is small, and we were advised that many of the hiking trails would be too slippery to take him on. Thanks to our car, we were still able to get a ton of fun out of El Yunque. (Click here for info on our nice hotel near El Yunque.)

El Yunque rainforest is super accessible by car.
El Yunque rainforest is super accessible by car.

6. Puerto Rico is the Perfect Size for Driving.

Puerto Rico is a delicious driving size. It took us just three hours to drive across the whole island the long way, so in the two weeks we had there, we were really able to explore a bunch of nooks and crannies, giving us a satisfying feeling that we were not missing out.

7. Nature is More Accessible by Car.

We adored how lush and natural Puerto Rico was, and most of the best nature is spotted on narrow side roads. Our favorite sights were the shockingly red “Flamboyant Trees,” and the lazy cows (both pictured below).

Two sights common in Puerto Rico: The red "Flamboyan" tree and cows.
Two sights common in Puerto Rico: The red “Flamboyant” tree and cows.

8. Arecibo Observatory is a Puerto Rico Gem.

2020 update: The Arecibo Observatory has tragically collapsed! I will keep this section in this article in the hopes that it will be rebuilt.

The largest radio telescope in the world is located in Puerto Rico’s interior, down a winding series of country roads, and it is not to be missed.

It was even featured in the movies “Contact” and James Bond’s “Goldeneye!” Nearby are the famous Camuy Caves, but we didn’t get a chance to stop because of a certain baby diaper situation paired with exhaustion.

Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico with a baby
The famous Arecibo Observatory is easily accessible by car.

9. Smartphone GPS Works in Puerto Rico.

Did you know that U.S. smartphones work perfectly in Puerto Rico, with no extra fees? (At least in our experience — Double check with YOUR phone company.)

This means that Americans like us can roam around the island with no maps except for our little electronics, exploring and enjoying hither and yon. It made planning the trip and navigating a joy.

Important Note: Though we loved our Puerto Rico renal car, it’s important to remember that driving in a new place can be tricky, and PR can pose some different challenges than you’re used to. Please use caution while navigating on the island. 

We loved zipping through this tunnel of trees in our rental car.
We loved zipping through this tunnel of trees in our rental car.

Logistics of Puerto Rico Car Rental

Now you’re convinced to get your own wheels, right? Lovely. So what else do you need to know about car rental in Puerto Rico? First, there are a number of rental companies to choose from, all located conveniently in the airport.

KAYAK has quality car deals (click to see via the affiliate link), as does Travelocity, and Expedia.

We ended up using CarRentals.co.uk and had a good experience, though Colin was mightily disappointed that I wouldn’t allow him to blow our vacation budget on a red Mustang sports car. Our snazzy silver non-Mustang served us just fine, though, thank you very much.

Renting a car in Puerto Rico
So many great beaches to explore in Puerto Rico by car! This one is on the east coast.

Vieques and Culebra with a Rental Car

Second, remember that you CANNOT take a rental car from the main island on the ferry to Vieques or Culebra — you have to either rent another car on those islands or just use taxis and other forms of transport. (Click for Vieques car rental deals.) This fact totally changed our plans when we realized it at the last minute, so heed it well!

Coconut Puerto Rico car rental
On our way to the airport, we stopped for a fresh coconut by a random beach, thanks to our car.

In Short: DO Rent a Car for Puerto Rico!

In the end, all those people who told us to rent a car in Puerto Rico were right. I can’t imagine how much tougher our trip would have been without a car, schlepping the baby and all our stuff on various buses, but I do know that I would have missed out on a whole lot of chilled coconuts that we sipped along oceanfronts the whole island long, not to mention all the other goodies listed above!

Car rental Puerto Rico
Cute country roads of Puerto Rico beckon you.

Where to Stay in Puerto Rico:

Puerto Rico Tours and Guidebooks:

Want more travel advice? Here are all the rest of my Puerto Rico articles. Buen viaje!


We were provided with our car by CarRentals.co.uk, but all opinions and cow rump photos are my own. Some links here are affiliates, providing a commission at no extra cost to you. Gracias!

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