Puerto Rico is known as La Isla Del Encanto. This directly translates to The Island of Charm.
And there is no wonder. With so many things to do in Puerto Rico, it is truly an island that will charm you over and over again.
You like beaches? We got those
You like the mountains? We have those too.
What about the rainforest? Yup. Got you covered
You like to eat? Oh man are you in for a treat.
With so many things to see, do, and eat in Puerto Rico it is definitely worth a visit.
Where is Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico is located in North America, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. More specifically it is east of the Dominican Republic and west of the Virgin Islands.
I have to confess. My family is originally from Puerto Rico. So I am a bit biased. But the first time I visited Puerto Rico was when I was in college. So I am not that biased.
Ok. Fine. Maybe I am a little biased.
Best Things to Do in Puerto Rico
You could easily spend a month in Puerto Rico and not get to see and do everything. But that is truly what makes it amazing. There is something for pretty much everyone. To sum it up below is a list of some of the things to do in Puerto Rico.
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Best Things to Do In San Juan Puerto Rico
- Ponce, Puerto Rico
- Best Things to Do In Ponce, Puerto Rico
- San German
- Things to see and do in Fajardo
- Mar Chiquita, Manati
- Playa Pena Blanca, Aguadilla
- Playa Sucia, Cabo Rojo
- Gilligan's Island
- Visit El Yunque: The Puerto Rico Rainforest
- Visit Guanica: Puerto Rico's Dry Forest
- Go Kayaking in Mosquito Bay in Vieques
- Visit El Charco Azul swimming hole
- Rio Camuy Cave Park
- La Cueva Ventana
- San Sebastian
- Cayo Santiago (Monkey Island)
- Flamenco Beach, Culebra
- Toro Verde Adventure Park
Feel free to skip to the parts you're most interested in or just scroll down to read more about this amazing island.
Places to Visit in Puerto Rico
When visiting Puerto Rico there are a few key places you should add to your list. Especially for first-timers.
While trying to hit all these places in one trip might be a bit of a challenge they are definitely worth visiting over the course of several trips to the island. Depending on where you call your home base you can easily visit these places in one trip.
So let's get started.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico. And it truly is the main hub of the island.
Most visitors (especially first-timers) arrive in San Juan via cruise ships or by air.
Located near the North-Eastern part of the Island, San Juan is an excellent home base, especially for first-timers. Day trips to places like El Yunque, Culebra and even Vieques
But even if you're short on time or just are not interested in traveling anywhere far you can easily find lots of stuff to do right in San Juan.
Best Things to Do In San Juan Puerto Rico
There is a ton to do in San Juan Puerto Rico. But we have narrowed it down a bit for you.
Visit Old San Juan
With buildings dating back to the 16th century, Old San Juan or Viejo San Juan is an amazing place to just wander and get lost in the history. The colorful buildings make for the perfect Instagram photo.
Wander the streets, admire the architecture, and don't forget to pop into one of the many shops for a cafecito (coffee) or a medalla (the local beer) depending on the time of day.
Ready to explore Old San Juan. Check out some amazing tours here.
While in San Juan make sure to check out La Fortaleza. La Fortaleza is the residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico. And while most visitors can admire the beautiful architecture from outside if you want to see more then you definitely should consider booking a tour.
Guided walking tours are offered Monday through Friday between 8:15 am and 3:30 pm. They last about 30 minutes and mostly cover the grounds but depending on the day you may actually also have the chance to venture inside La Fortaleza.
Calle Del Cristo, Old San Juan, Outlet Shopping
If you love to shop then Calle Del Cristo is a must visit. This is where you will find cafes, galleries and boutiques so you can shop to your hearts content.
But the draw for Calle Del Cristo are the outlet shops that you can find here. So if you're looking for a bargain this is the stop to be.
Castillo San Felipe del Morro
Castillo San Felipe del Morro or El Morro as most call it is one of the must-visit spots on the island of Puerto Rico. If you google Puerto Rico, chances are one of the first photos you will see is of El Morro.
Fun fact. My husband actually proposed to me at El Morro many many many years ago. So it holds a place in our hearts.
It is recommended to visit in the morning. There is a lot to see and do however there is not much shade which means that you will be exposed to the hot Puerto Rico sun.
Get there early, spend a few hours exploring the Fort and then maybe hop on over to El Hamburger for a yummy lunch.
Castillo de San Cristóbal
Located on the east side of Old San Juan San Cristobal is another must-visit. It is not as large as El Morro but it still plays a huge part in Puerto Rico's history.
Admission to El Morro also includes admission to San Cristobal. Most people go to El Morro therefore you will not see the same crowds. Definitely take advantage of this. You will not be disappointed.
Have a Pina Colada
Ok. So if you tried to fit that all one-day chances are you're hot and thirsty. It is time to quench that thirst. There are two places in Puerto Rico that claim to be the birthplace of the Pina Colada.
Both the Caribe Hilton and Barrachina claim to be the birthplace of the pina colada. And to be honest they both have pretty amazing stories.
So in order to solve this problem.
I say why not try both.
You can read more about the birth of the pina colada here.
Ponce, Puerto Rico
Next let's take a trip to the Southwest part of the island where you will find Ponce.
Ponce, also known as the “Jewel of the South” is Puerto Rico's second largest city however most visitors never make it down to this part of the island.
The drive from San Juan to Ponce is approximately 2 hours. So you can do a day trip if you like however I would recommend planning a few days in the area as there is so much to see in do in the southwest part of the Island.
Best Things to Do In Ponce, Puerto Rico
When visiting Ponce the first thing you will notice is the architecture. It is just spectacular. Spending time in the Old Town is truly a treat. Some places you should definitely check out are right in the Plaza de las Delicias.
This white cathedral is stunning. The architecture is absolutely incredible. If you have a chance take a peek inside however please be respectful.
Also, another fun fact. I actually attended a wedding here. How cool is that?
Parque de Bombas
It's hard to believe this was a fire station. But that is exactly what it once was.
It is now a museum and has been one since 1990. It is definitely worth a visit.
San German is the second old city in Puerto Rico. So for those that love the charm of Old San Juan a visit to San German is a must.
San German is located near the southwest part of the Island.
Just like in San Juan here you will find cobblestone streets, plazas and amazing architecture.
Places that you should definitely check out:
This is a convent and church that dates back to 1609.
Iglesia San Germán de Auxerre
This roman catholic church which was built in 1688 is stunning inside. If you have a chance be sure to take a peek inside. (And as always please be respectful).
Museums in San German
If you love museums then make sure to check out some of the following museums in San German.
- Museo de la Historia de San Germán
- Museo Farmacia La Botica
- Museo de Arte y Casa Estudio
- Casa de Lola Rodriguez de Tio museum
Love the beach? Well then you definitely need to take a trip to Fajardo.
Located on the most eastern point of the Island Fajardo makes for a great home base for those that are looking for beaches and water sports.
You can pretty much visit a different beach, island or cay every day of the week if you really wanted to.
Things to see and do in Fajardo
Laguna Grande Bioluminescent Bay
One of five in the world, the Bioluminescent Bay in Fajardo is one of the most popular attractions in Puerto Rico. As the sun goes down rent a kayak. As you paddle admire the water as it is lights up in a blue glow.
It's pretty amazing to see in real life.
Seven Seas is the most popular beach in Fajardo and attracts many visitors. The beach is surrounded by kiosks where you can get food and drink.
If you are looking for something a bit quieter consider heading over to Playa Escondida. It's a 20-30 minute walk but well worth it as it is completely isolated. So chances are you won't be sharing the beach with many other people.
Icacos Island is only accessible by boat however it is worth the 20-30 minute trip to this Cay. The views are breathtaking on the way there and when you get there you will be treated to one of the most beautiful beaches in Puerto Rico.
If you're a water lover then La Paguera is a must-visit.
There is so much do here from swimming and snorkeling to kayaking. Or you can just lay on the beach. That's ok too.
What draws people to this seaside village is the food. After you've had enough of the sun and sea stop in at one of the many amazing restaurants in the village.
At the end of the day don't forget to save some energy because as the sun goes down its time to check out another one of the bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico.
Rent a kayak and get ready to be mesmerized.
Best Puerto Rico Beaches to Visit
Isabella has some of the best beaches on the Island. Look for the Pozo's which mean swimming hole. These are great places to spend the day with the family as these pools.
Pozo Teodoro is a great one. The pozo is surrounded by rocks which protect it from the other wise rough sea. You can enjoy calm water that is
In the winter this is a surfer's paradise. People come here in the winter months from all over the world to catch a wave. I personally come to just watch as the water can get really rough in the winter.
In the summer Rincon is a great place for snorkeling. The water's are calm and the cliffs make for some amazing snorkeling right from the shore. Just be careful. The drops are no joke so I would only recommend this for strong swimmers.
Mar Chiquita, Manati
Mar Chiquita is a local favorite. My friends might actually be mad at me for putting in on the list.
I will warn you. It's kinda hard to find. So if you do find it it is well worth the treat.
What is fascinating about Mar Chiquita is that it is a natural pool that is protected by cliffs with block the rough Atlantic waters.
What you get is a pool that is great for swimming and relatively calm. In the winter the water is a bit deeper but it is still very much enjoyable.
Playa Pena Blanca, Aguadilla
Located in Aguadilla, Playa Pena Blanca is another local favorite.
In the summer it is a great beach to visit for snorkeling and exploring the caves.
In the winter the water is a bit rougher but it makes for a great spot to set up a picnic and admire the amazing views.
Playa Sucia, Cabo Rojo
Playa Sucia is probably one of the most beautiful beaches in Puerto Rico. Playa Sucia actually translates to Dirty Beach.
The first time I visited this beach though I was completely mesmerized. The colors, the landscape. Just everything is absolutely something out of a postcard.
Just absolutely stunning. You will not disappointed with a visit to Playa Sucia.
Located in the Southwest of the island and accessible only by boat Gilligan's Island makes for a great day trip.
The show Gilligan's Island wasn't actually filmed here but who is checking? Pack a picnic and your snorkel gear.
Gilligan's Island is the perfect spot to truly feel like you're on a deserted island.
It actually kinda is. Keep in mind that facilities are limited on the Island so pack everything you need.
What to Do in Puerto Rico if you love Nature
Puerto Rico is a nature lovers dream. You want mountains. We got those. You want rivers. We got those. You want rainforest. We got that as well.
Here are just a handful of some of what Puerto Rico has to offer for the nature lover.
Visit El Yunque National Forest: The Puerto Rico Rainforest
The only tropical rainforest in the National Forest system, a visit to El Yunque Rainforest is a must. Especially for first-timers.
El Yunque is a perfect day trip from San Juan. You can easily spend the entire day however many just do a half day trip and then head off to one of the many beaches nearby.
If you choose to spend a whole day make sure to pack sturdy hiking sandals ( I really like these) and a bathing suit.
With over 18 miles of road and 24 miles of trails it's up to you how you want to explore El Yunque.
By car take Road 191. You can find more information here about things to see and do along Road 191.
Two of the most popular waterfalls located right off of 191 and that are easily accessible are La Coca Falls and Juan Diego Falls.
If you are up for an adventure consider hiking La Mina Trail to reach La Mina Falls.
Visit Guanica: Puerto Rico's Dry Forest
Puerto Rico doesn't only have a rain forest. There is also a dry forest. I have to say I personally had no idea. I stumbled upon it while doing research for my trip.
Guanica Dry Forest, a UNESCO biosphere reserve, is a gem. Most people will make it a point to visit El Yunque but don't ever make it to the Guanica Dry Forest.
Don't make that mistake.
Go Kayaking in Mosquito Bay in Vieques
Imagine kayaking under a new moon as the water lights up and glows around you.
This is Mosquito Bay.
Mosquito Bay, located in the Island of Vieques is one of the best bioluminescent bays in the world. Visitors come to see this natural wonder from all over the world. And once you get an opportunity to visit you will understand why.
For those that are curious about this natural phenomena then make sure you add this to you list.
Insider Tip: Try to time your visitor during a new moon. This is when you will really get to experince the glow.
Visit El Charco Azul swimming hole
Located in the Carite Forest, El Charco Azul is a fresh water swimming hole that is the perfect spot to cool off from the warm Puerto Rican sun.
After parking it is about a 15 minute hike to the swimming hole however it is well worth it. If your looking for a quiet little getaway this is the perfect spot to visit,
Rio Camuy Cave Park
One of the top five largest cave networks in the world, Rio Camuy is a an amazing experience. Book a tour and be prepared to spend at least a half day exploring all the caves.
As you spend time exploring it is fascinating to see the stalagmites and stalactites which were created by the Camuy River that has run for over 40 million years.
Visiting Rio Camuy Cave Park makes for a great day trip from San Juan and definitely something to add to your list.
La Cueva Ventana
If you haven't gotten enough of caves we have another one for you.
Be sure to check out La Cueva Ventana located in Arecibo.
The views from La Cueva Ventana are well worth the short hike through the caves.
Keep in mind that these caves have gained in popularity in recent years so if you are interested in visiting make sure to plan well ahead and make sure to book a tour which includes the appropriate gear such as flashlights and helmets to safely explore these caves.
What is one thing you should do while visiting Puerto Rico if you love food and drink?
I could easily visit Puerto Rico and just eat and drink all day long. Don't judge me.
Just trust me. Once you have your first meal you will find it hard not to do anything else.
And because I like to torture you and see whether you have more self-control than I do here are some places you must visit if you're a foodie like me.
I wouldn't normally recommend fried food and beer just before going to beach, however, when in Puerto Rico this is a must do.
Because they are not to far away from each other, start your day with a hike in El Yunque, and then head to Luquillo for lunch. After lunch join the locals on the beach.
If you need help figuring out with Kioskos to visit I say go where the locals are. If you see a line chances are that you're going to get good fresh eats. I have yet to go wrong at any of these places but I find that some are definitely better than others.
Also everything is super cheap. I am talking $1-2 for a beer. Coconuts for $2-3. And the frituras are between $1-$3 each.
Visit the Pork Highway
Guavate is where you will find the Pork Highway. Also know as La Ruta de Lechon, the Pork Highway is a Puerto Rican right of passage.
As if you go hopping from stand to stand you will see open spits where whole pigs are being roasted. If you are a vegetarian or vegan it may be best to skip.
But for meat lovers, you will be treated so so many pork delights as well as sides to go with it like plantanos and yuca.
Uff. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Santurce is a great hang out spot. After dark it is not uncommon to find bands playing in the plaza and locals and visitors alike having dance parties under the stars.
But what brings people to Santurce is the street food. Similar to Luquillo here you can find amazing frituras such as Relleno de Papa (Fried potato stuff with meat or seafood filling), pastellilos (meat pies) and alcapurrias (similar to a relleno but made with banana, yautia or yuca).
Come hungry. And don't forget to wash it all down with a Medalla.
If your landing in San Juan it is a good chance that you may end up in Piñones before you even make it to you hotel. Especially if you're hanging out with locals or just a Nurorican like me.
Similar to Luquillo Piñones is home to Kioskos which sell some of the best frituras on the island. This is one our favorite places to get our fill of Alcapurrias.
Puerto Rico's Coffee Zone
If you love coffee then head south to Puerto Rico's coffee zone where you can visit, explore, and taste the island's amazing coffee in one of the many haciendas and estates.
While many don't think of Puerto Rico when they think of coffee, Puerto Rico has some of the best coffee in the world.
Don't believe me. Just order a cafecito. That little shot of amazingness will have you running marathons.
Is Puerto Rico worth visiting?
Yes. And here are some more reasons why you should visit.
Looking for more water falls?
Then head to San Sebastian and spend the day at Gozalandia.
Don't forget to pack good hiking sandals and your bathing suit.
This area is very popular with the locals. At any given time you can see some of the local kids swinging from the trees right into the falls.
Visitors are always invited to join in on the fun. However, be careful. It is scary and can be dangerous if you don't know what the heck you're doing.
And yes. Here is a picture of me scared to death but living my best Puerto Rican life.
Cayo Santiago (Monkey Island)
Cayo Santiago or Monkey Island is located about a mile off the east coast of Puerto Rico and it is definitely something to check out.
Ok. You technically can't actually set foot on the island however there are plenty of tours that will give you an opportunity to ride by on boat to view this island which is home to over 2000 monkeys.
At only a mile you can rent kayaks to head to the island and view the monkeys in their natural habitat however humans are not allowed to step on the island so admire from afar and be respectful.
Flamenco Beach, Culebra
Grab a ferry from Fajardo and plan to spend the day or a few on the Island of Culebra.
Once there make sure to make some time to lounge at Flamenco Beach. This is definitely one of the top 5 beaches in Puerto Rico. Pictures do not do this place justice whatsoever.
Toro Verde Adventure Park
Want a little more adventure then Toro Verde is the answer.
Go ziplining on “The Monster” one of the largest ziplines in North America, or the Bullmaze, an obstacle courses suspended in the air.
This is definitely a must visit for any adrenaline junkie.
If you've had enough of the beach then head to the mountains and check out Utuado.
For adventure lovers, you will find everything from cave tubing and kayaking to rappelling.
And if you are looking for something a bit quieter than checking out Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Park where you will learn about the Puerto Rican Taino culture and history.
Where to stay in Puerto Rico
I don't know about you but I am so ready to go back to Puerto Rico. But the biggest question people ask is where to stay when visiting Puerto Rico.
For first-timers I always recommend making San Juan your home base. However, depending on what you want to do on the island there are so many other places to consider.
The top three choices for me are San Juan, Rincon, and Ponce.
Depending on how long you plan on visiting the island each of these places make for a great home base. And you can easily do day trips from any of these locations.
Best Places to Stay in Puerto Rico
The top three choices for me are San Juan, Rincon, and Ponce.
Depending on how long you plan on visiting the island each of these places make for a great home base. And you can easily do day trips from any of these locations. There are a ton of options from luxury hotels to Airbnb's in the mountains. And you will easily find things in every price point
Things to do in Puerto Rico (Map)
If you are looking for even more adventure in Puerto Rico here are some amazing tours to check out.
Below is a map of all the places discussed above to help you plan. I have also included places to stay so that you can have an idea of where everything is located.