San Juan, Puerto Rico

22 Things To Do In Puerto Rico

Hi there traveler!

I can sense you’ve been thinking about taking a trip to Puerto Rico, and you want to know all about the best things to do there.

Puerto Rico is such a great destination for all types of travelers. So you’re bound to have a great time here with your travel buddies, whoever they may be: couples, families, friends’ groups, etc.

It’s really amazing how much Puerto Rico has to offer. From beaches and water activities to great food and amazing culture and history, there are truly so many things to do in Puerto Rico.

If you plan well, you can experience all this and more in a single trip. Otherwise you may just have to visit again 😉

So! What are all the amazing things to do in Puerto Rico? Let’s dive in…

1. Sightsee

When traveling to a new place, most people want to explore the local culture and try new things. This is why sightseeing is top on my list for the best things to do in Puerto Rico.

Do not miss exploring the city streets, and taking in the different regions’ natural beauty.

Be a tourist and visit popular attractions like museums and cathedrals. Below is a short list of places to add to your sightseeing plans:

2. Old San Juan

Old San Juan is such a fun place to walk around and absorb the culture! This town is a mecca for history buffs and culture vultures alike.

Old San Juan is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walk along the cobblestone streets and check out statues, fountains, and other landmarks in the squares.

The buildings are colorful and well-preserved and just plain gorgeous. There are shops and eateries to satisfy any taste. And you will have no trouble finding an awesome backdrop for your selfie 😉

3. Castillos

There are a number of castillos (castles & fortresses) scattered around Puerto Rico.

Two of the more well known and well preserved are Castillo San Cristobal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro (also known as El Morro). These two fortresses are both located in San Juan and are easy to navigate if you’re staying in the area.

El Morro (shown above) is an iconic fortification built by the Spanish. It stands guard at the Bay of San Juan, and was chosen for its strategic location.

The views are breathtaking. So if you get a chance, definitely go!

Castillo San Cristobal is another fortress built to defend the coast of San Juan. It is one of the largest forts in all of the Americas.

There were some additions made to this structure by the US Army during WWII, a part of which serves as the visitors’ center.

There are other notable castillos at different locations around the island as well.

Check out the Castillo Serralles, located in Ponce. This mansion was built by the Serralles family of the DonQ rum company.

The property has a butterfly nursery, a Japanese garden, as well as beautiful views of the downtown area below.

While this is more of a modern mansion than a historic fort or castle, it is absolutely beautiful. And it does offer a glimpse into the history of the sugar cane and rum industries during the 1930s. Very worth a visit!

If you find yourself on the island of Vieques, visit Fort Conde de Mirasol. It was used by the Spanish as another outlook for invading nations, then by the US for the same.

It was abandoned and now serves as a museum and visitor center. It has gardens, old cannons, and beautiful views. Another worthy stop.

4. Museums

Don’t worry! There are other museums besides former castles and forts 😉

The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, in Santurce, has an expansive collection. In the south, there is Ponce Museum of Art which boasts classical pieces dating back to the 17th century.

The Museo de las Americas (pictured above) is an expansive cultural museum located in Old San Juan. It holds 4 permanent exhibits: Popular Arts in the Americas, African Legacy, El Indio in America, and Conquest and Colonization.

Definitely worth seeing to get a vision of Puerto Rico’s cultural evolution.

Also in San Juan is Museo Casa Blanca, home to Ponce de Leon’s family.

5. Cathedrals

Puerto Rico has a rich Catholic heritage. And as such, there are several beautiful cathedrals to visit throughout the island.

In the metro area of Puerto Rico, you can visit San Juan Church, the second oldest church in the Americas. It was built in the 1500s under Spanish rule, and was the resting place of Ponce de Leon for hundreds of years.

The San Juan Bautista Cathedral is also in the metro area. This church was also built in the 1500s and is the oldest church on US soil.

Check out the beautiful Gothic architecture and stained glass windows, it’s truly a sight!

If you’re staying in the West region, the Catedral Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria is worth a visit. It’s located in the Plaza Colon in the town, Mayaguez.

In the South region, Ponce to be exact, is Catedral Nuestra de la Guadeloupe (Our Lady of Guadeloupe Cathedral). If you find yourself on a walking tour of Ponce, this Cathedral will definitely be on the list!

6. Arecibo Observatory

**As of this posting, Arecibo is currently temporarily closed due to damage from the hurricane. Stay tuned for updates on the reopening!

7. Hike

If you love hiking, then this has to be on your list of things to do in Puerto Rico!

There are many trails and sites to choose from, and in all areas of the island. So you don’t have to worry about picking a particular region to stay in simply to get your hiking fix.

If you’re staying in the East region, then El Yunque is your obvious choice. It’s a beautiful and complex rainforest mountain with trails for all hiking levels. Expect to see great views from up top, cool flora and fauna, and really friendly nature lovers sharing your path to the top.

In the South region visit Guanica Dry Forest Reserve (just the opposite of El Yunque’s rainforest). Expect to see cacti and other desert-like plants and animals. Here too you’ll have many trail options.

There is also Toro Negro State Forest. This is a huge area of nearly 7,000 acres. It includes four types of forests and the three highest peaks on the island.

In the West region, check out Guajataca Forest in the town of Isabela. This forest has 27 miles of trails. One leads to Cueva del Viento (cave of the wind). This trail is very walkable, but be sure to wear sturdy walking shoes and bring flashlights for the cave.

In the North region is Arecibo’s Cambalache State Forest. This one is less of a hike, and more of an enjoyable nature walk where you can enjoy birdwatching and a picnic with your peeps.

8. Snorkel

When it comes to snorkeling, you’re either going to stay in a hotel/resort that has gear rentals for their beach or you’re going to have to visit a snorkel tour shop to rent some gear.

You can just rent gear or you can sign up for a tour that will take you out and show you some good spots for fish spying.

La Parguera Nature Preserve, in the west region, is perfect for snorkeling. It has small mangroves, coves, and peaceful channels to swim around and enjoy the fish.

There is a marine reserve in Rincon that offers great waters for snorkeling as well.

In San Juan, you’ll find great snorkeling too. Escambron beach right next to the Caribe Hilton hotel is a good one.

If you can get over to Vieques island, there is wonderful snorkeling there. You’ll have to take a ferry there and back if you’re not already staying on the island. It’s doable, just make sure you pay attention to the time schedule.

9. Scuba

To scuba, you’ll definitely have to visit a pro shop. Scuba is available in basically all the regions of Puerto Rico (along the coasts anyway, don’t expect it if you’re staying in the central mountain region~ hopefully that goes without saying, lol).

There are pro shops and diving schools scattered around the island.

So if you’re a newbie, don’t let that get in your way! You can take a short certification and go on a beginner’s dive that day.

If you’re an advanced diver looking for a real treat, check out Mona Island. It’s an ecological reserve known as “the Galapagos of the Caribbean.”

You’ll see an abundance of fish life as well as turtles, dolphins, sharks, and even whales in the winter time!

 

10. Kayak

As with snorkeling, you can rent kayak gear and go off on your own with your besties.

Or you can schedule a tour with a guide that will take you to some cool spots, and teach you a little something about the area.

Check out these tour options both for day and evening adventures.

You can’t go wrong either way.

Also, many resorts offer kayaks at their beaches to rent out to patrons. Oftentimes kayaking from your resort will be limited. But if you’re just looking for some laid back fun, then it’s perfect.

Kayaking is a great way to explore the island’s coasts.

11. Eat & Drink

There are multitudes of amazing places to eat in Puerto Rico! Truly something for every taste.

You’ll find high end restaurants, great local bars & grills, and everything in between.

Make sure to try the local cuisine. A signature dish in Puerto Rico is mofongo (pictured above). It is made from fried green plantain pieces mashed with garlic and often stuffed with a meat, like the chicken shown above.

Dishes also include other fried plantains (sweet and savory varieties), delicious pork (lechon asado), rice and seasoned beans, and don’t forget about the desserts!

Here you’ll find sweet rice puddings, various custard dishes, guava flavored treats and other pastries.

The cocktails and mixology tradition is strong in Puerto Rico as well. PR is considered the rum capital of the world, after all.

Have a pina colada, but don’t stop there. There are many great rum drinks offered at any of the bars and restaurants.

12. Beach Hop

Puerto Rico has many many beaches, all worthy of a visit!

There are gorgeous beachfront resorts in Puerto Rico, but don’t let that stop you from visiting other beaches.

The west region of Puerto Rico has some of the best beaches of the island. Here you’ll find surfers and beach bars, fishing villages and great spots for swimming and soaking up the rays.

On Vieques, you’ll find white sand and black sand beaches. Flamenco beach on Culebra is consistently ranked one of the best beaches in the world.

Condado Beach is located in San Juan and is a fun lively beach, great for people watching. The water currents are a bit strong here, so if you’re traveling with children head over to Playita del Condado (not far away) for calmer waters and atmosphere and a beautiful view of the city.

13. Play Golf

There are many great golf courses throughout Puerto Rico.

Most are located along the island’s coast. Which makes sense, right? If you’ve got a gorgeous coast then use it!

Some are a part of resorts, but anyone can make a reservation to play the course. Be sure to check if there is a dress code. Many of the private clubs require collared shirts.

There is budget-friendly golf too with rates between $60 to $70 per person, including a golf cart.

Playing golf on the island is so beautiful and so relaxing. I recommend it to anyone with even the slightest interest. You won’t be disappointed!

14. Whale Watch

Like many of the other Caribbean islands, you can whale watch in Puerto Rico too!

Whale watching is a winter activity. The season lasts from January through March (February is considered the prime time).

The best region for sighting is the West. Rincon is the top spot for catching the sights.

You can visit the Rincon Lighthouse to view the migration. Or you can charter a tour to seek out an up close view of the whales as they make their way north.

These are humpback whales migrating, and if you’re lucky you’ll catch a view of the babies in tow with their mamas.

15. Go Surfing

I bet you didn’t think of surfing when you started researching things to do in Puerto Rico, didya??

Well, there’s a whole surfer culture on the west side of the island!

Rincon is the quintessential surfer town (they even have a surfer statue in the middle of town).

A beginner? No problem. Visit Rincon Surf School for private or group lessons, or other guided adventures.

Aguadilla is also a great surfing town. It was designated the Caribbean’s first World Surfing Reserve by the organization Save the Waves in 2018.

Isabella is another great destination for surfing. It hosts the site for the annual Corona Pro surf circuit.

There is some surfing on the other side of the island as well, near San Juan. Some good beaches are: La Ocho, La Pared, and Los Tubos.

16. Visit the Adventure Parks

There are two really great adventure parks for the visitors looking for the more exhilarating things to do in Puerto Rico.

Toro Verde Nature Park is located in the mountain region of Puerto Rico. This region is a lot more rustic and less developed than the others of the island, making for an excellent backdrop to an adventure park.

Here you’ll find the second longest zip line in the world. Not only that but you can mountain climb, mountain bike, and enjoy climbing towers as well.

Definitely visit the link above if you are interested as there are important things to know, like age and height restrictions, and reservation schedules.

The second adventure park of note is Carabali Rainforest Adventures. This one is a bit more family friendly than the former, but action packed nonetheless.

Here you and your travel buddies can ride ATVs and UTVs (like an ATV but with side by side seating for more riders), horseback ride, and go-karting. It’s a fun time all around and you could easily spend your whole day there.

17. Take a Tour

Isla Caribe offers a walking tour of the historic town of Ponce. In this tour you’ll discover local favorites, food, art and history. They invite you to discover why Ponce is considered the “pearl of the South” (south region of PR, that is).

If you’re staying in the metro area, consider taking a San Juan guiding snorkeling tour. With this tour you and your favorite travel companions will be guided by a professional to some of the best sites.

It’s hassle free as you won’t have to be responsible for gear. And you’ll receive a GoPro video of your outing for some great memories.

Unique Things To Do In Puerto Rico

18. Go Caving

Consider visiting Cueva Ventana. Located in the north region, in Arecibo, Cueva Ventana is one of Puerto Rico’s most famous natural attractions.

This is a popular destination for tourists and locals. If you take a guided tour, you can see the sights and learn all about the flora and fauna natural to that area as well as the history of the Taino people that were indigenous to the area Pre-Columbus.

There is also Rio Camuy Cave Park (located in Camuy) where you’ll find the third largest underground river. There are over 10 miles of caverns and 220 caves, an immense network well mapped out.

In Isabela you’ll find Cueva del Viento. Bring sturdy shoes and your own flashlights to this one.

Canon de Tanama (Tanama Canyon), located in Puerto Rico’s mountainous region, is home to several ecotourism companies that will take you caving, caving tubing, repelling, hiking, and rock climbing. Be warned, you’ll have to be in good physical condition for these tours.

19. Horseback Ride

There are a ton of trails for horseback riding in Puerto Rico.

You’ll find guided adventures for families, couples, and groups. You also don’t have to be an experienced rider to enjoy this outdoor adventure.

There are seaside riding options in Rincon and Aguadilla. Pintos “R” Us in Rincon, offers guided rides along the surfing beaches, past the whale watching parks, and onto cliffs overlooking beautiful vistas. You can book morning and sunset rides here too.

You can also find a guided trail through one of the many nature parks such as Carabali Rainforest Park or El Yunque.

20. Visit a Bioluminescent Bay

 

There seems to be a debate on how many bioluminescent bays exist in the world. Regardless of the exact number there are but a few, and Puerto Rico is blessed with 3 of them.

If you’re not familiar, a bioluminescent bay is an area of water that contains microorganisms that glow in the dark when disturbed. These microorganisms are called dinoflagellates.

Technically, these organisms are found throughout the ocean. But there are certain areas (like some of the bays in Puerto Rico) where the concentrations are so high that they become visible to us on a good dark night.

They are best seen at night (obviously) around the new moon cycle. Any light pollution will really diminish your visuals.

The best and brightest bio bay in the world is located at Vieques Island, just a quick ferry ride from San Juan.

If you’re set on visiting Mosquito Bay (at Vieques), expect to stay overnight. You can’t get a ferry back to the main island that same evening. No worries though! There are excellent lodgings on Vieques.

Another bio bay is located at Fajardo. And there are plenty of tour companies offering a kayak evening tour to check it out.

Be aware though, according to many reviews, you’re not as likely to see them as well here due to the lower amount in the water, and due to there being more light pollution in the area.

If you want a really immersive bio bay experience, head to the west side of Puerto Rico at La Parguera. This is the only area where you can swim in the waters and witness up close the glowing microorganisms.

21. Visit El Yunque

Did you know that El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Park system?

It’s something to do in Puerto Rico that can’t be missed! El Yunque is a must see for any nature lover.

It is absolutely family friendly and there are different paths, some easy and some challenging.

Some of the paths are paved which is nice, but most are at an incline (as you are on a mountain). You know your abilities best. Make sure to bring water, bug spray, and expect a probability of some rain.

**Since the hurricane of 2017 a few trails have been closed due to severe destruction. While services are still working to rehab the area and bring it back to its former glory, there are some things that have changed:

Be aware that you now have to make an appointment to arrive for your visit. Visit www.recreation.gov to reserve your spot and learn the requirements.

You will also need a rental car to access the park. A taxi or Uber won’t be able to pick you up as they won’t be able to access the starting points.

There are also a variety of guided tours of El Yunque available to you and your crew. You can bundle the rainforest and a kayaking tour, you can find a tour focused on waterfalls, the sky’s the limit.

The benefit of a tour is that the company will handle entrance tickets/times and transportation. But then you’re also paying a premium.

22. Visit a Coffee Farm

You can visit a working coffee farm in Puerto Rico’s central mountain region.

Get a lesson in the history of Puerto Rico’s coffee production as well as how they run today and even a tasting.

You’ll need to make a reservation ahead of time. And as most travelers don’t stay in the central region of Puerto Rico, expect to make this a full day affair when including travel there and back.

23. Take a Night Tour of the Rainforest

For something really different, consider a nightwalk in the el Yunque rainforest. This is truly a unique thing to do in Puerto Rico, and something you’ll remember forever.

El Yunque Tours takes a group of up to 22 for a walk and a dip in one of the natural pools.

You’ll start in the early evening and the guide will educate you on the daytime sights, plants and animals.

 

After being led to Las Damas pool for a relaxing rest and swim, you’ll be led back as the sun sets. The sights and sounds change dramatically!

It’s really a whole new world at night time and an original experience to say the least.

Puerto Rico FAQs

Where to Stay in Puerto Rico?

There is a place to stay for every type of traveler in Puerto Rico.

The island boasts over 130 resorts and hotels of all styles and budgets. You’ll find trendy urban boutique hotels, beachfront resorts, luxury and budget facilities.

You can stay in paradores (family-owned inns that reflect the culture of the island and its people) as well as traditional inns and B&Bs. These all offer a more intimate setting than your typical hotel.

There are also vacation rentals available for families and groups. Again, this offers more privacy. And this way you also have access to a kitchen for a more home-like and budget-friendly atmosphere.

How to Get Around in Puerto Rico?

Where you stay and what you plan on doing will determine what kind of mode of transportation you will need.

If you’re staying in or near San Juan, you’ll have ready access to taxis and Ubers (Lyft is not used in Puerto Rico).

You can rent a vehicle if you plan on visiting multiple locations, or destinations that are at a distance. It is recommended that you rent a vehicle if you are visiting El Yunque as taxis do not have access to pick up passengers.

Be aware street signs are worded in Spanish! Also, you’ll find that the driving is slightly more aggressive than what is typical in the States. Don’t let this deter you, but also be aware and keep your wits about you.

When is the Best Time to Visit Puerto Rico?

As Puerto Rico is a tropical climate and warm year round, people visit the most during the winter season. Therefore the high season for Puerto Rico is mid-November through mid-April (also making it the most expensive time to go).

Spring is a good time to go. It’s after the busy winter season, and still warm and relatively dry before summer’s rainy season starts.

Off-season would be from June through November. It’ll be hotter and wetter then, but also a bit less expensive. There are good deals to be found late summer.

Well, there you have it. A comprehensive guide to getting the most out of your trip to Puerto Rico.

It’s such a great island to visit. I know you’ll have the best time!

Happy vacation!

XOXO