Ask any globe-trotter to recall their favorite road trips, and you’ll likely hear stories of America’s iconic Route 66 or France’s idyllic Pas de Calais. Perched in the heart of Puerto Rico, however, is one of the world’s most stunning stretches of highway: La Ruta Panorámica Luiz Muñoz Marín. This 266-kilometer network of roads winds through the some of the country’s most off-the-beaten-path forests, palm-fringed valleys and hillside villages, and it’s a perfect romantic jaunt for weekend getaways and longer vacations alike. Here, we give you the inside scoop on the trip’s must-see stops.
Carite Forest Reserve
Grab a quick breakfast in San Juan’s Old Town, and then hit the road. Route 184 will lead you to the nearby sights, but make sure to follow both the dedicated signs and a recent map. This is rural territory, after all, and the roads can get confusing.
Make your first stop at the Carite Forest Reserve — one of four reserves along the route — and spend a little time hiking through the area’s verdant palm forest. Though Hurricane George damaged many of the trails, you’ll still find one that leads to the serene Charco Azul swimming pond.
Follow the signs past Lago Carite to make your way to Puerto Rico’s highest village, Aibonito. Nicknamed the City of Flowers, this spectacular little town blossoms with floral color in the summer months, and it’s an ideal home base for exploring the cliffs and waterfalls of Cañon de San Cristóbal. If you have time to spare, plan to spend a full day in this area so that you can experience every corner of the breathtaking canyon.
Ready for a little shopping and sightseeing? Just beyond Cañon de San Cristóbal is the peaceful town of Barranquitas, and it’s here that you’ll find the burial places of two iconic Puerto Rican politicians: Luis Muñoz Rivera and Luis Muñoz Marín. Visit during the summer months, and you’ll be able to combine a trip to the museum in Rivera’s home with an afternoon at the Feria Nacional de Artesanías, one of the country’s best festivals for local arts and crafts.
Toro Negro Forest Reserve
Though Central America is the go-to place for cloud forests, this pristine reserve is home to a lovely Puerto Rican gem. Take your time driving through the towering heights of the Central Cordillera mountains to get here; this is one of the route’s longest uninterrupted stretches, and you’ll pass a dazzling area of palm forests, foggy cliffs and picturesque peaks. Just make sure to purchase your American Express travel insurance in advance of the journey so that you can be protected if you encounter travel emergencies in one of the more remote areas.
Adjuntas and Maricao
Situated near the end of the Ruta, these sleepy towns are both fantastic places to wrap up a road trip. Stop in Adjuntas for a peek at a rural Puerto Rico that feels worlds away from San Juan’s hustle and bustle, and then head to Maricao to explore the coffee plantations, people-watch in the local cafes and relax near the San Juan Bautista grotto. You may be bidding adiós to your Puerto Rican adventure, but this sort of atmosphere is nothing short of unforgettable.