DETAILS: Copamarina Beach Resort, (800) 468-4553, www.copamarina.com; rooms from $165. Guanica Biosphere Reserve, (787) 821-5706. Mark's at the Melia, (787) 842-0260. Ponce History Museum, (787) 844-7071.
THREE DAYS: DRIVE THE CORDILLERA
Hacienda Gripinas may be the most peaceful inn in all of Puerto Rico. After the drive to get there, you'll appreciate that. A series of highland roads that wind up hillsides, twist down valleys, and snake along mountain ridges, the Panoramic Route is for lovers of tight steering. Blind curves, narrow roads, and stray chickens challenge the overland route charting the island's Cordillera Central midsection from coast to coast, rewarding drivers with mountaintop towns, verdant valleys, and awesome Atlantic-to-Caribbean views. Assurances of locals aside, don't go without a good map and avoid the drive on Mondays, when many roadside attractions are closed.
Cruising from west to east front-loads your itinerary with beauty. Starting in Maunabo (or shortcut down Highway 52 from San Juan), motor up to the Carite Forest Reserve and stretch your legs on the trails (if you like to hike, do it here, because despite the many parks along the way, footpaths can be few and overgrowth dense).
Lechoneras, or roast pig vendors, congregate along the roads nearby. If you can withstand the tempting aromas, save lunch for La Piedra farther down the route, where Sanjuaneros drive for gourmet mountain meals. Though your first overnight at Gripinas in Jayuya isn't distant, curving around mountains makes it so. Stop for refreshment in one of the picturesque towns of Aibonito or Barranquitas before driving through the Toro Negro Forest Reserve, the most stunning and remote stretch along the route. Finally Gripinas, a former coffee plantation house turned parador, or inn, makes it easy to do little but laze in a porch-front hammock, sip potent rum punches, and listen to roosters crow on the next ridge.