Living in the Northeastern United States means long winters. However, when you think about adventures to break up the cold months, a tropical destination becomes an easy “yes”. Puerto Rico with a toddler is the perfect choice, offering a fairly quick flight, no border crossing hassle, diverse experiences, welcoming communities, and a balance between familiar convenience and a new adventure.
Traveling to Puerto Rico with a toddler may initially seem daunting because of their active and very opinionated nature, but it ultimately proved to be a wonderful opportunity for our family to connect and create lasting memories together.
What You’ll Find in This Article on Puerto Rico with a Toddler:
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Where to Stay in Puerto Rico with a Toddler
Puerto Rico offers a diverse array of experiences and accommodations. For our 5 day trip, we chose to stay fairly close to the main airport, San Juan. The city of San Juan offers a variety of both beachfront and city-center hotels with unique amenities.
Within the city, there are great options for traveling with a toddler in Puerto Rico. For this trip, we chose to stay a bit further outside of the city near Loiza in an Airbnb. Our chosen AirBnb was in the Aquatika condo community. It turned out to be the perfect “home” for traveling with a toddler in Puerto Rico.
Our rental was incredibly clean, and even included toddler gear! Three bedrooms, two full bathrooms, and a full kitchen directly inside our condo gave us the space that we needed. Relaxing on the balcony in the morning, with a cup of coffee (of course), gave this momma some much-needed restful moments while our toddler slept peacefully in the provided pack-n-play.
With a small beach, multiple pools, a lazy river, two playgrounds, and a mini golf course on-site, the amenities were a great alternative to heading out on adventures every day. While hotels are a great option, we often find that Airbnb, and other family vacation rentals, are much more conducive to our family’s needs when traveling with a toddler.
Getting From The Airport in San Juan
The airport in San Juan is directly in New San Juan. No long shuttle or car rides here! We chose to rent a car for this trip. To save a bit of money, we went with a rental company that was not on airport property (but very close). Popular Auto was great to work with. Their airport shuttle was on time and consistent, and their staff was kind and patient with our toddler.
One tip when renting a car with this company is to make sure that you bring a copy of your personal car insurance declaration page to avoid additional insurance charges.
While my husband picked up the car, I stayed behind with our toddler to retrieve our checked bags, stroller, and car seat. You’ll also want to make sure you have a car seat travel bag, if you checked your car seat!
Being in an airport alone with multiple bags and a toddler may sound terrifying, but our LILLEBaby toddler carrier consistently makes it manageable. Our toddler is happy to be close to me as she acclimates to a new place, and carrying her on my back allows maximum mobility on my end.
Managing a large checked bag, car seat, diaper bag, backpack, and stroller from the baggage carousel to the curbside pickup area was not a problem. A tip that works well for me is to place the backpacks inside our stroller when I am wearing our toddler on my back. With this method, one hand pushes the stroller, one hand pushes the suitcase, and we can easily move from Point A to Point B.
Getting Around Puerto Rico With Toddlers
While renting a car brings added convenience, it can also bring stress as you navigate a new and unfamiliar city with a little one in tow. This is very much not the case in Puerto Rico. A big perk of traveling as an American in Puerto Rico is that all major US cellphone carriers offer strong high-speed internet access across the north shore of the island.
Rarely did we find ourselves without cell service – which made navigation while traveling easy and efficient. Not having to rely on wifi for directions brought some added piece of mind that felt good when traveling with our toddler in Puerto Rico for the first time.
Puerto Rico Itinerary With A Toddler
As school administrators traveling on a school break, we intentionally crafted a Puerto Rico itinerary that balanced a slow vacation recharge pace with some action and adventure. If you are looking for a similar vibe, this itinerary might be just the thing.
There is A LOT to do in Puerto Rico, and, specifically, the San Juan area. Here are some of the best places to visit in Puerto Rico with a toddler.
Day 1: Arrive, Essentials Stock Up, And Pool Day At The AirBnb
On our first day in a new place, we always take a minute to settle in. Taking advantage of the space the condo provides to unpack, grab some food essentials from the grocery store, and explore the amenities was the perfect way to spend our first day. This also helped our toddler get a good nap (in an effort to help our toddler sleep on vacation) and get acclimated to her “home away from home” for the week.
Toddler Travel Tips:
- Create a Toy Station:
Pulling out some of her favorite (and a couple of new) travel toys, giving them a dedicated spot, and organizing them similarly to how they are displayed at home helps our toddler acclimate to her new space. It also promotes some much-needed independent play while Mom and Dad unpack.
This time around MP played with a pompom coloring sorting activity while I got her swim stuff ready to go. Then, we were off to the pool!
- Grocery Pick Up:
Traveling to Puerto Rico with a toddler from the US mainland offers the much-needed warmth and sunshine our Northeastern souls crave in the winter, with the added perks of familiar amenities. Specifically, grocery pick up!
While we were waiting for our bags at the airport, I did a quick grocery pickup order with some breakfast and snack essentials for the week. By the time we got into our rental car, the order was ready! On our way to the Air BnB, we picked it up without ever getting MP in and out of her car seat.
Day 2: Luquillo Beach And Restaurant Kiosks
For this trip, we were looking for a beautiful beach with shade, mountain views, playful waves, and enough shallow water for a toddler to splash in. Luquillo Beach was the perfect fit! This beautiful beach was clean, close to our Air BnB, and offered our toddler hours of entertainment playing in the waves and sand. This is a popular spot, but we never had trouble getting a shady spot under the palms when we arrived prior to 10:00 AM.
Luquillo is also home to a row of restaurant kiosks. Each kiosk houses a locally owned restaurant with food options ranging from dessert to fast casual, full-service establishments, and bars to grab a quick drink.
We are shameless foodies, so a centrally located, locally owned series of restaurants was exactly what we were looking for. We ended up enjoying lunch at La Parrilla. Focusing on fresh seafood, we chowed down on local mofongo and red snapper.
The restaurant offered both inside (with AC) and outside seating, and was very accommodating to our toddler. They were able to offer us a children’s menu, highchair, and kid’s cups with lids. The food was great! We all enjoyed ourselves after soaking up some sun and sand on the beach.
Toddler Beach Tips:
- Pack the water shoes:
While this is a very sandy beach, there is the occasional shell or pebble among the surf. Water shoes are an important part of our toddler beach essentials. They helped MP get her bearings in the sand, and gave me the piece of mind that her little feet were safe from harm.
We have tried a few different water shoes, but these water shoes are our current favorite. Super easy to get on and off of those squirmy toddler feet, and flexible enough to fit in just about any little nook in our suitcase.
- Bring some water to rinse with:
There are limited showers at this beach, and it can get popular. A couple of gallons of tap water from the AirBnb were very helpful when we got MP and our things loaded into the car.
Day 3: Old San Juan (Fort, Food, And Playground)
Old San Juan has so much to offer! History, beautiful views, and wonderful food – just to name a few. On this day trip into the old city, we decided to focus on Castillo San Felipe del Morro. This fort overlooks the crashing Atlantic waves and has ties to multiple major historic Puerto Rican events.
With original construction beginning in 1539, it filled our teacher souls with significant Puerto Rican history and cultural beauty. The surrounding grounds are also wonderfully grassy with lots of room for energetic toddlers to run, and beautiful sea views to take in.
Puerto Rico Toddler Tip:
Bring the Toddler Carrier! There are quite a few stairs and significantly rocky terrain inside the fort. We opted to park our stroller in an unused corner and popped MP in the toddler travel carrier when she got tired of walking.
After visiting El Morro, MP was ready to burn some energy – time for a playground stop! We took a quick, and architecturally beautiful, walk to a unique playground along the Paseo de la Princesa. This shaded playground was the perfect spot for MP to play and for Mom and Dad to plot out our next stop – food!
Puerto Rico Toddler Travel Tip:
Bring the Fan! It gets HOT and HUMID. San Juan also has a lot of hills. It is definitely worth it to throw a fan in the diaper bag. Our small rechargeable stroller fan was just the thing to help everyone stay cool.
At this point in the day, everyone was hungry. Authentic Puerto Rican food was just what we needed, so we decided to head over to Deaverdura. Seating is first come, first serve, so we had to wait about 15 minutes outside for a table. MP passed the time singing songs (thank you cell service!) and playing with some playdough (my secret weapon for killing time when we are traveling with our toddler).
The wait was worth it! This meal was a highlight of the trip. Between the delicious and fresh food, fresh juices, and colorful atmosphere, this was truly an experience based dining adventure. The space is small, but the servers were kind, quick, and very accommodating with our toddler. They even made her a special kids portion of her favorite meal on the island – rice and beans with pork.
San Juan Toddler Travel Tip:
Bring your own travel highchair! This was the only restaurant we visited while traveling with our toddler in Puerto Rico that did not have a high chair for our toddler, but it was still useful in our AirBnb or at the beach!
Our hiccapop OmniBoost travel booster seat was a perfect fit in the restaurant chairs. We love traveling with this portable travel highchair because it is compact enough to fit in the basket under the stroller. It also has detachable no-slip grip feet to make sure that MP stays extra secure while enjoying her meal.
Day 4: El Yunque National Forest
El Yunque is the only tropical forest in the national park system. It is home to some truly unique biodiversity and breathtaking views. At first, we were hesitant to include El Yunque on our Puerto Rico itinerary. A day of hiking and sightseeing seemed like a lot to ask of our two-year-old.
In the end, we decided to scope out some family-friendly trails and take a risk. It was one of the best decisions of our trip! The park offers dozens of trails and viewpoints, as well as a scenic drive with multiple stops for pictures and short walks.
The US Forest Service requires you to book timed entry tickets prior to entering the park. Details about reservations can be found here. We found that these time slots fill up quickly. Make sure to reserve your space ahead of your visit. The extra step is worth the experience!
We started our day with a scenic drive to get acclimated to the park and MP acclimated to the higher altitude. From waterfalls to mountainous ocean views to beautiful tropical birds – we saw so many unique sites!
From there, we decided to hike the Angeltio Trail as a family. This is a pretty short hike, only about half a mile round trip, but it is relatively steep in some areas. MP walked for a bit but ended up in our LILLEbaby carrier about halfway through the trek.
The trail takes you to a winding river with rocks to lounge on. We spent quite a bit of time hanging out on the rocks and watching the fish swim by. The water was perfect for our toddler to wade in. She loved picking up rocks, splashing, and interacting with the curious fish as they swam around her feet. All in all, a really wonderful afternoon.
Toddler Travel Tips:
- Bathing Suits or a change of clothes are a must for the toddlers in tow:
Splashing in the river is the best part of this trail, but can get messy.
- Bug spray and sunscreen:
With the hanging forest, it is easy to underestimate the impact of the sun’s rays.
- Water Shoes or Sandals:
The river bed is rocky. An extra pair of waterproof shoes will make sure that everyone is comfortable while exploring the riverbed.
- Pack a Picnic:
During our visit, food options in the park were very limited. Packing some snacks and quick lunch items for our visit helped combat the limited food and long kiosk lines.
Day 5: Hacienda Munoz Coffee Farm and Cafe
Whether we are traveling or spending time at home, this momma loves her coffee. Puerto Rico is home to many beautiful coffee farms that have tours and experiences available for visitors.
On our last full day on the island, we decided to drive a bit to visit Hacienda Munoz, a specialty coffee farm in San Lorenzo. The farm is located about 45 minutes south of San Juan. With a coffee shop, restaurant, and farm tours on-site, Hacienda Munoz has a lot to offer!
We decided to opt for a coffee tasting in the cafe and a self-guided walk around the grounds. The coffee was delicious, and the baked goods and light sandwiches were a hit for everyone.
The true star of the experience for our toddler was the roosters that wandered the property. MP is a city toddler, and she enjoyed getting (reasonably) up close and personal with the roosters as they flapped their wings and cawed. Running after them on the grounds tired her out!
Luckily, we had our toddler travel stroller in the car for an easy and shady napping space. MP loves the full recline that the Evenflo Urbini Reversi offers, and I love the extended sunshade that makes sure her sensitive skin is protected from harmful UV rays.
Toddler Travel Tip:
When we travel abroad, we always get MP a book or two from the trip (remember – teacher parents here). During a car ride, we give her a book and talk about the different places we have visited while we drive in the car together. Then, when we get home, we have a tool to continue talking about our trip and time together in a way that is developmentally accessible for her growing mind.
We especially love the Good Night books. They are simple, give examples of real landmarks, and are small enough to easily fit in a diaper bag or suitcase. On this trip, MP was reading Good Night Puerto Rico!
What to Bring To Puerto Rico With A Toddler
In addition to your usual packing items, you may want to consider some of these best toddler beach essentials to help keep your trip to Puerto Rico running smoothly. These packing additions helped us navigate traveling to Puerto Rico with a toddler and kept our toddler safe on the beach and in the sun.
- Sunscreen: Our favorite sunscreen to use on MPs sensitive skin is Blue Lizzard. It spreads easily and absorbs quickly. I especially love their unique cap. it turns purple when exposed to UV rays, and is a reminder to me when it is time to reapply. One less thing for busy parents to think about when traveling with a toddler.
- Toddler Sun hat: The sun’s rays can get intense in Puerto Rico. Packing a toddler sun hat (or two) helped keep our toddler protected and helped her regulate her body temperature. We love the side buckle on this hat! You’ll want to check out this list of best toddler beach hats for more options, too.
- Fan: It gets HOT and this fan helps! This fan is rechargeable, and the bendable legs help it attach to anything (like a stroller). Ours has held up well during our travels and is a must when visiting PR.
- Water Shoes: Water shoes are easy to pack and they are great for protecting those little feet from hot sand and shells.
- Pool Float: This pool float was great for lounging in the lazy river at the AirBnB. We did not use it in the ocean. MP loved the easy splash access that the float positioning allows, and I love that it is easy to deflate and pack up.
- Travel High Chair: We love the non-slip grip feet on the hiccapop booster seat. As an added bonus, it is easy to remove the fabric seat and wash it when you get home.
- Toddler Travel Toys: Crayons, Playdough, Water WOW Books. While we found restaurants to be very family-friendly on our trip, few provided crayons and coloring pages for our toddler. Adding a few tools to help keep your toddler entertained may be something to consider.
- Sippy Cup or Water Bottle: We found that many restaurants only provided paper straws which were tricky for our toddler to use. To help keep our toddler hydrated we used a toddler travel sippy cup like this water bottle for toddlers. Reusable straws for toddlers, like these ones, are another great option for older toddlers who won’t spill their entire drink.
- Car Seat Travel Bag: This car seat travel bag with wheels has made traveling in the airport with our convertible car seat so much easier. With the added backpack strap option, we always have an easy way to maneuver MP’s heavy convertible car seat.
- Travel Stroller: This item was very helpful in the airport and when we were visiting Old San Juan, specifically. We chose not to bring it to the beach. I opted for the Evenflo Urbini stroller on this trip due to the deep recline and extended sunshade. It worked well for what we needed but was a little rocky on the San Juan cobblestones. If you have the room and plan on spending more time in Old San Juan, consider a stroller with all-terrain tires.
- Toddler Carrier: We LOVE our Lilliebaby. It was especially helpful when hiking and visiting El Morro. a solid toddler carrier proved to be a very helpful tool in Puerto Rico.
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