Puerto Rico is an amazing place to visit and the southern region around Patillas, PR is a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered.
From secluded beaches to kid-freindly surfing, waterfalls to wonderful restaruants, Patillas Puerto Rico and the surrounding area has it all. At only an hour and a half drive south of San Juan, its got it all.
Why Choose Patillas Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico is a wonderful destination for US-based travellers. It is close, connected via direct flights to most major metropolitan areas, and does not require a Visa.
One issue we’ve had with PR is that the northern end of the island is too built up for our tastes. We love hidden gems that are off-the-beaten-path and full of rich culture and unique non-touristy experiences.
That is why we loved Patillas. It is in the southeastern corner of Puerto Rico and away from the hustle and bustle of San Juan. Hotels are limited, however there are many amazing Airbnbs to choose from and tons of small, family-owned restaurants serving up local Puerto Rican delicacies.
Add to that a laid-back Carribean vibe, hidden beaches, waterfalls, hiking, surfing, and more, and we think we found our heavon on earth.
Is Patillas, Puerto Rico Safe?
Yes, Patillas, Puerto Rico is safe. The are is relatively isolated and rural, so does not suffer from some of the same safety issues as some areas around San Juan. It is also less touristy, so you do not have the same issues, such as pick pockets, theft, etc. that you would in a more tourism-orieted destination.
We stayed in Patillas our entire trip and never once felt unsafe.
Patillas, Puerto Rico Travel Guide – 6 Day Itinerary
Whether you are traveling alone, as a couple, or with kids, we think this itinerary will work for you. It has a good mix of adventure with hidden beaches, surfing, waterfalls, and more, with plenty of downtime to read a book, enjoy a drink, and take in the blue skies and warm sun.
One great part of htis particular itinerary is all of it can be mixed and matched. Patillas is a small area and drives are all less than 30 minutes. So you are tired one day or the weather isn’t cooperating, then switch it up!
And remember, in our experience, Patillas Puerto Rico is safe!
Should you rent a car in Puerto Rico?
Yes. It is 100% worth it. Puerto Rico is relatively easy to drive in and you do not need a special driver’s linces if coming from the continental United States. You will find almost all of the major car rental comanies at the airport terminal, including Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty,
We almost always rent a car when we travel as it affords us unlimited flexibility. This is especially important in Patillas due to its distance from San Juan and limited public transportation options.
We are Hertz Presidents Circle members which is a welcome perk of our Capital One Venture X credit card, which allows us to skip the lines and walk right to our car. It is one of those benefits that seems trivial, but is so nice after a long flight.
Do rental cars have to pay tolls in Puerto Rico?
No. If you rent a care in Puerto Rico, you do not have to pay road tolls. You can drive through the fast lanes and will not get charged extra from your rental car company .
How far is Patillas from San Jaun, Puerto Rico?
Patillas, PR is 48 Miles (78 km), or a1 hour and 30 minutes drive, from San Jaun International Airport.
Day 1 – Arrival in Patillas at our Airbnb Finca Corsica
Puerto Rico benefits from numourous direct flights from the continental US, both with budget carriers and top-tier carriers like Delta. We left Minneapolis on an 8AM flight and arrived in San Juan at around 3PM. For us, the 4.5 hour flight.
Finca Corsica – Our Airbnb in Patillas, Puerto Rico
We are huge fans of Airbnbs and smaller hotels/bed and breakfasts. In our expeirence, they almost allways offer a more genuine experience when compared to large hotels. Plus, there are not many traditional hotels in Patillas.
By and large our favorite logings are farm stays. Farm stays are very popular in southern Europe (Agriturismo in Italy, Casas Rurales in Spain) and offer the right mix of action and solitude. There is no better way tot travel with young kids than to stay at a local agrotourism.
Our Airbnb in Patillas, Puerto Rico, Finca Corsica is an old sugarcane plantation. It has several different lodging options with plenty of shared spaces like outdoor picnic areas, lounge areas, an outdoor kitchen, a pool, and tons of room to roam.
We stayed in Casa Coral, which faces the pool and has plenty of room for a family. Guests are free to pick any fruit growing on the farm (star fruit was in season during our visit). There are cows, chickens , a puppy, and birds and frogs galore. It is truly a magical place to stay with young kids.
Finca Corsica’s Private Beach
The best part is that guests have about a mile of beach all to themselves. We walked this stretch of beach daily and rarely saw another soul.
Keep in mind, it is a part sand/part rock beach. It is not the perfectly manicured white-sand beach you see in the brochures, but rather a real beach with rolling waves coming in that lulled us to sleep each night.
Being a real beach, it also suffers from the unfortunate side effect of humanity’s addiction to plastic… trash. It by no means ruins the experience, however it is different than high-end resorts where employees clean the beach each morning before guests are out of bed.
Restuarants in Patillas, PR – Restaurante el Marullo
Our first meal out was at Restaurante El Marullo. It was not on our Airbnb Host’s recommendation list, however it was close, open, and sounded easy after a day of travel. We arrived a bit early and were the first diners.
The food was great, however they seemed to be out of everything, including Mofongo. Turns out the most recent hurricane destroyed the country’s entire plantain crop. Plantain is the main ingredient in many of the local dishes, so of course they were difficult to make in the current environment. It is one of many lessons we’d learn about the impact of hurricanes in PR.
I switched over to Chuleta Kan Kan, which is a local pork chop delicacy. Henrik ate a hamburger (go figure), Betty chicken wings (alitos fritos), and Kristen fish tacos. The kids wanted ice cream and my horrible broken Spanish and bad accent resulted in a GIANT bowl of ice cream covered in chocolate and, for a lack of a better term, some sort of breaded and deep fried cheesecake.
The kids were happy, which means we were happy, and which meant bedtime was a breeze.
Day 2 – Exploring Patillas’ Hidden Beaches
We started the day off right. The kids and I “snuck out” for a morning walk on the beach and let mom sleep in.
Beaches and plastic do not mix well
The recent Hurricanes took their toll on Puerto Rico. In addition to having to import all of their plantains, the hurricanes also left a trail of debris and destruction.
We noticed our Airbnb’s private beach was not spared and made a pact to fill one garbage bag each day with trash.
There is no better way to come to terms with our unhealthy relationship with plastic than to visit an island country, especially when the resort isn’t combing the beach each morning. As a global family we have a problem and its time to get to work, even while on vacation.
The truth is it took us five minutes each morning. Just five and in the end we hauled out six large bags of plastic.
Reserva Natural Punta del Viento – Beaches and Seashells
After breakfast we walked west along our beach to Reserva Natural Punta del Viento. We had the entire beach AND nature reserve to ourselves outside of one local family! This also probably explains why there is almost no information online about this hidden gem.
We spent the morning hunting for seashells, watching the other family catch fish, swimming, building sand castles, and relaxing. We found a plastic baseball in the hurricane debris and a piece of bamboo that we could use for a bat.
Puerto Rico is the land of baseball and Henrik just couldn’t help himself. It felt very similar to “Pinecone Baseball” that we play on our camping trips.
Restaruants in Patillas – Playa Villa Pesquera
After lunch we went down the road (really just on the other side of the nature reserve) to Playa Villa Pesquera in Patillas. This is a true local hangout. It was packed with families out for their Sunday get together and reminded us a lot of our time in Malta.
The food/drink stalls were packed and everyone was having a great time. We spent the afternoon enjoying a real beach experience as the only foreigners in a sea of local families.
Dinner at El Rancho de Papi
I am not a huge fan of wearing a wet swimsuit all day, so we made the five minute drive back to Finca Corsica to change. Dinner would be at El Rancho de Papi, which came recommended by our Airbnb host for great seafood and affordable prices
Once again, I was reminded that my Spanish had passed the stage of rusty to being almost nonexistant. Between the loud music and my poor communication skills, we were struggling to even place an order.
Luckily another patron saw our sorry situation and offered to translate. After a lot of laughs we successfully ordered fried red snapper, locally called chillo frito (when they say frito they mean pan fried, not deep fried) with tostones (plantain chips), mixed-seafood mofongo (plantain-based), pastelillos de pizza (local version of empanadas) and chicken wings for the kids.
The food was amazing and we all fell in love with chillo frito. You’ll see this meal come up on a daily basis from here-on-out. The other benefit was that all but the pastelillos were gluten-free!
Restaurants in Patillas, PR – COTTON CANDY!
Sunday evening is probably the best time to hang out around Villa Pesquara. All of the food stalls are open, there is music playing, and vendors set up shop everywhere.
Our favorite was the candy vendor that had every type of gummy critter you could think of AND the best cotton candy we’ve ever had. I guess it pays to be in the right place at the right time.
Day 3 – Secret Beaches and Hidden Waterfalls
The morning started with a walk on our beach and our daily cleanup project.
Reserva Natural Ines Maria Mendoza is home to one of the most beautiful and secluded beaches we have visited. It is also almost completely unknown to foreign tourists. It is definitely Patillas, Puerto Ricos’s best beach.
The last stretch of road leading up to the reserve is rough and the parking is tight and not well marked. Like everywhere in Puerto Rico, just pull as far over to the side of the road to park. As long as a passing car can squeak through you’re good.
The hike takes about 10 minutes and then you are at an amazing cove with a beautiful beach.
Learning to Snorekl at Patillas’ Most Unique Beach
We brought a bunch of old snorkel stuff from home and taught the kids to snorkel. Betty wasn’t comfortable breathing with the snorkel, so she would just swim next to us or on our backs and put her face in the water when she wanted to look around. Henrik was a natural and would have disappeared completely had we not told him he had to stay with us.
We saw a ton of fish and the the unfortunate effects of the hurricanes. Much of the coral had died off or been covered with sand as a result of years of abnormal weather.
The fascinating part was finding patches where the coral was regenerating. Nature has an amazing ability to adapt. We saw a ton of lizards and butterflies around the beach as well and very little garbage.
Patillas, Puerto Rico Restaurants – La Rumba Bar & Restaurant
Our Puerto Rican friend recommended one of his favorites, La Rumba Bar & Restaurant in Yabucoa. The menu was in English which was a nice surprise.
The staff were amazing and the kids had smoothies (frappé) with chicken tenders and a hamburger. Kristen had her favorite fried red snapper (chillo frito) with mofongo balls (boletos de mofongo) and I had what may have been the best octopus of my life.
When I told the waitress I wanted octopus and she asked how I’d like it cooked. I had no clude so resorted to my normal “what is your favorite” response (qué prefiere) and she did not disappoint!
Whenever you aren’t certain, just ask the waitress what she prefers. You’ll get an honest answer and it will be good!
Exploring the Small Waterfalls at Las Cascadas Tres Chorros
Los Tres Chorros is a set of rapids and waterfalls outside of the town of Patillas. This is definitely a local haunt and not nearly as busy as many of the other waterfalls in Puerto Rico, especially when compared to El Yunque.
Park on the side of the road near Tres Chorros Sports Bar and walk down the little road and over the bridge. To the left is a small foot trail with will lead you to Los Tres Chorros. The hike only takes a minute or two.
The kids loved hopping around on the rocks and splashing in the water. Bring your swimsuit as there is a nice ledge in the natural swimming pool area where you can get back massage from one of the waterfalls.
Originally we had planned to also walk upriver to Cascada el Survivor, but it was getting late and we were hungry. We decided to head home with the hope that we could come back again before our trip was over.
Another fun option that we unfortunately missed is Charco Azul, which is a natural swimming pool (lake) in Caritas Forest. Like many parks, Hurricane Maria laid itto waste. Charco Azul is wonderful, however it is now being maintained by voluneers, so do not expect perfection!
The devastation from Hurricane Maria is everywhere. You can also drive up to San Lorenzo, which was hit hard by the hurricane and suffered numerous landslides.
Day 4 – Lionfish and Cascada El Survivor
Our original plan was to take a catamaran to Icacos Island. Unfortunately a “cold” front moved in and with it came a lot of wind. All boat tours were cancelled for the week and there was a rip-tide warning for much of the north.
Thankfully we were staying on the south side of the island which was quite sheltered.
Snorkeling at Villa Pesquera
The kids had their hearts set on snorkeling so we went back to Playa Villa Pesquera. It couldn’t have been more different compared to Sunday evening. It was dead quiet! No reggaetón, no parties, no families out for a picnic. We had the place to ourselves!
The weather did decrease visibility. There was just too much sediment in the water to be able to see far. Luckily for us, the kids were new to snorkeling so expectations were low.
We found a submerged boat engine that nature had turned into an artificial reef. In only 3 feet of water we could see lion fish, lobsters, corals, and a bunch of smaller tropical fish.
From the shore we saw tons of what we coined needle fish. Who knows the real name but they are long with pointy noses and almost translucent skin. Right when we were leaving we also saw a young sea ray swim right up to shore!
We also hiked down to the mangroves that made up Reserva Natural Punta del Viento, the nature park between our Airbnb and this beach. We ran into an older gentleman that was fishing with a small net for baitfish that he said he fished to feed his family. His English was spotty and my Spanish is almost gone, but we were able to get by.
Restaurants in Patillas, Puerto Rico – Agua Salada Bar and Restaurant
We had lunch at Agua Salada Bar and Restaurant, which is right when you come into Patillas from the west. It had been on our list of places to try all week and always seemed busy. It also happened to be the only restaurant nearby that was open on a Tuesda!
If you are traveling in the southern part of Puerto Rico, especially with hungry kids, just keep an eye on opening times and days on Google Maps. Many restaurants are only open Thursday through Sunday.
Our meals were starting to see a pattern… we all clearly had found our favorites! I had mofongo with shrimp and octopus. The kids and Kristen split a giant fried red snapper (chillo frito). Both are gluten-free and delicious. I had a Medalla beer, Kristen a Pina Colada, and the kids had smoothies (Frappés), one Nutella and one strawberry.
Patillas’ Best Waterfall – Cascada el Survivor
To get there, follow the same path for Los Tres Chorros, except instead of turning left onto a footpath you turn right, cross another small bridge, and to another short footpath.
You can swim across the first pool to a rope swing perched on top of a large rock. It was too intense for the kids but fun for adults. Please Be Careful! There is only a narrow expanse of water that is safe for landing and this safe zone is surrounded by shallow rocks. Walk around and familiarize yourself with the underwater landscape before you use the rope swing.
Then we swam through the narrow section up to the main waterfalls. There is a small ledge you can jump from to the left of the falls. Again, just feel around with your feet so you know where to land.
This is a really fun stop and is truly off the beaten path. Unlike many of the waterfalls you read about in the north, and especially in El Yunque, this is as non-touristy as they come. It will feel like more of an adventure and is why we think Patillas, PR is a true hidden gem.
After the falls we went back, swam in the pool, and enjoyed our nightly sunset from the beach. Our morning trash cleanup routine was definitely starting to pay off!
Day 5 – Learning to Surf
One of our Top 10 tips for traveling with kids is to involved them in the planning, which we do for every trip. When we asked the kids what their number one activity would be on an island in the Caribbean, they both said surfing.
Things to do in Patillas, Puerto Rico – Surf Lessons
Our lesson was held at Playa Pozuelo in Limones, Guayama about 40 minutes west of our Airbnb. We arrived bright and early at 9AM to see Cano already set up on the beach. The wave conditions were perfect for two youngsters learning to surf.
Cano was amazing and had both kids up and surfing in no time. On Betty’s first wave, she started falling and just stepped over onto Henrik’s board mid-surf and continued the ride on his board. It was hilarious and amazing that she was able to keep her head that calm! Both kids caught wave after wave for a whole hour.
Cano’s Other Guiding Services
A quick note on Cano. While we only used him for surf lessons, he also provides countless tours around the southeastern portion of the island, including many of the places detailed in our itinerary.
If you and your kids are looking to see this amazing part of Puerto Rico, but doing it alone seems overwhelming, shoot him an email. I’m sure he’ll be able to put something together that hits all of our high points and likely some we missed. He’s also a really fun guy.
Patillas’ Best Pool
The kids were exhausted so we decided not to snorkel and went back to Finca Corsica. The truth is we had spent very little time there.
For the first four days we generally ate breakfast and left. We often didn’t come back until after dark. It was great having time to enjoy the farm and the pool. We probably ended up getting too much sun, but it was well worth it.
Patillas, Puerto Rico Restuarants – El Tenedor de Mario
After our lounge day we headed into town to try El Tenedor de Mario. It was another recommendation from our Airbnb host and we were not disappointed.
The kids had hamburgers (go figure), but really good ones! They were clearly made from scratch. Kristen and I split a surf and turf composed of lobster with butter sauce (langostina con salsa de mantequilla), and skirt steak (churrasco). The kids had strawberry smoothies (frappé de fresa), Kristen had a piña colada, an I had a Medalla beer (or two).
Menus are in English and the wait staff spoke excellent English. All in all a great meal and one we would go back for again.
Day 6 – Heading Home
This was our last day. Kevin, the owner of our Airbnb Finca Corsica, gave us a late checkout so we could enjoy our last half day, shower, and make our 4:40PM flight back to MN. He is very communicative and checked in on us a number of times via the Airbnb app to see if we needed anything. Definitely a Superhost!
Patillas, Puerto Rico Restuaraints – Playa Los Hoteles and Frappé Vista al Manatí
Our last swim was at Playa los Hoteles beach, largely because it always seemed busy and we had scouted out some appealing spots while eating at Agua Salada Bar & Restaurant. The water clarity was still not greatdue to the weather in the north, but we saw quite a bit of activity in the rocks in front of the restaurant.
After a quick swim and snorkel we stopped at Frappé Vista al Manatí (Manatee View). We had driven by it what felt like a million times but it was always closed. It was Thursday and it was finally open! We had our last, and best, frappés of the trip and then went back to Finca Corsica. We could take turns watching the kids swim while the other showered and packed up.
All in all we had an amazing time in Patillas, Puerto Rico and would recommend it to anyone looking for a unique and real (verdadero) Puerto Rican experience.
Our hope is that more people venture out of the tourist hot spots and give less well-travelled areas like Patillas a try. If you are looking for a true sense of adventure, it’s the only way! Patillas, Puerto Rico is the perfect destination.