10 Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: Top Rated Attractions
As a tropical Caribbean tourist destination, Puerto Rico has it all and something more. Beautiful palm-fringed beaches, some with calm, warm waters lapping the golden sand and others with huge waves and famous surf breakers, attract all types of beach seekers, from couples and families to hardcore surfers.
Home to the only rainforest in the US forest system and the nocturnal wonders of the Bioluminescent Bay, Puerto Rico is a pleasant surprise for nature lovers. Add the culture and charm of historic San Juan, with its colonial architecture and ancient fortresses, and the picture is complete.
Puerto Rico is a complex island with a Spanish Caribbean culture with an obvious American touch. This is particularly visible around San Juan, with its American chain restaurants and other conveniences associated with the continental US Venturing further afield. You’ll find quaint towns, small villages, beautiful islands, caves, and a rugged mountainous interior.
For more sightseeing ideas, check out our list of Puerto Rico’s top tourist attractions.
Climate and Weather of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is an archipelago of the Greater Antilles, bathed in the north by the Atlantic Ocean and in the south by the Caribbean Sea. It is located to the east of the Dominican Republic (whose east coast, starting from Punta Cana towards the south, is in front of the western Puerto Rican coast) and to the west of the Virgin Islands. Further south is the coast of Venezuela.
The climate of Puerto Rico is tropical with warm temperatures throughout the year. However, there is a fairly clear difference between the coasts and the mountains, the lowest temperatures being at the top of the mountain.
Similarly, it is a bit warmer in the south of the island than in the north. During the hottest months, in June for example, the heat may be less in San Juan than in Ponce, for example. The climate is divided into two seasons: a rainy season from May to November and a dry season from December to April. Like many islands in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico is susceptible to being affected by violent hurricanes between August and October.
During the rainy season, the climate in Puerto Rico is quite humid. Note that on the eastern coast, more exposed to the trade winds, precipitation is higher than on the western coast. If you go in this period, it would be preferable to choose Mayagüez in Palmas del Mar, for example.
Puerto Rico’s climate is ideal during the dry season: high temperatures, low rainfall, and the absence of hurricanes. It meets all the requirements for a sunny vacation, be it active or relaxing.
When to go to Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico can be visited all year round. Due to the danger of hurricanes and increased precipitation, the “rainy season” from April to November is not necessarily the best season to travel to the region. Temperatures can get unbearably high, as high humidity can cause nasty sulphates.
You will be much better advised during the drier months, even though the Caribbean is absolutely peak season in the best travel season from December to April and many hotels are already booked months in advance. The months of May to August are particularly popular with surfers because of the high waves. However, the months after the hurricane season ends are more suitable for a beach vacation or a cruise.
10 Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico
1. Old San Juan (San Juan Viejo)
Walking through the streets of Old San Juan, with its beautiful colonial architecture and imposing forts, is like stepping back into another era. This is one of the best places to visit in Puerto Rico, so be sure to allow time on your itinerary for this city.
Over 500 years old and the second oldest city in the Americas, Old San Juan blended Spanish colonial history and current Puerto Rican life. The entire region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with hundreds of restored Spanish colonial buildings from the 16th and 17th centuries. Today you can dine, shop, or even stay in some of these beautiful old structures.
The main attraction is Fort El Morro (Fuerte San Felipe del Morro) which juts out onto a peninsula above the ocean, a short walk from the city center. Built-in 1539, the history, setting, and preservation of El Morro make it one of the country’s top tourist attractions.
In Old San Juan, some of the most notable sites are La Fortaleza; the Castillo de San Cristóbal (Fort of San Cristóbal); and the Cathedral of San Juan, which houses the tomb of Ponce de León.
2. El Yunque National Forest
Discover the lush inner beauty of Puerto Rico in the El Yunque National Forest. Stretching throughout the Luquillo Mountains, including El Yunque Peak, El Yunque National Forest is home to the only rainforest in the US National Forest System. the El Yunque National Forest is home to the only rainforest in the US National Forest System.
Hiking trails weave through the forest, allowing hikers to Take a closer look at some of the 240 tree species and hundreds of plant species. (only 50 orchid species), as well as an abundance of small wildlife. The peak of El Yunque reaches 3,500 feet above sea level and the forest covers 43 square miles, including three-quarters of the island’s remaining virgin forest.
El Yunque National Forest is one of the the most popular natural attractions and is often visited on an excursion from San Juan. The main highlights of El Yunque National Forest include La Coca Falls, Yokahú Tower, Baño Grande, Baño de Oro, and La Mina Falls.
Located next to the highway, La Coca Falls features an 85-foot waterfall over rock formations and is the first major attraction visitors will come to in El Yunque.
The El Portal Rainforest Center is a welcome center for those looking for information about the area. Nearby is the Yokahú Tower, a 1930s tower open to the public for climbing, offering a beautiful view of the rainforest.
The climate here is considerably cooler than along the coast and at lower elevations, and it is noticeably wetter. Back-to-back hurricanes severely damaged El Yunque National Forest in 2017. Repairs and recovery have It has been slow, but the park is beginning to recover. Check with local carriers for the latest updates.
3. Culebra Island (Isla Culebra)
Although Culebra is often mentioned simultaneously as Vieques, this small island with beautiful beaches and lush hills has its unique character. The rhythm here is calm, and the atmosphere relaxed. Ecotourism is important on the island, and ex-pats run many tourist establishments.
Approximately 17 miles east of Puerto Rico and 12 miles west of the Caribbean island of Saint Thomas, Culebra is only seven miles long and three miles wide, with 23 islands off its coast. The coral reefs in the region are considered some of the best in the entire Caribbean.
In the shape of a horseshoe, Flamenco Beach is the most popular beach on the island and the most perfect one possible. The water is clear with no swell, making it a great place to swim or snorkel, and the crisp white sand is lined with palm trees.
The Isla de Culebra National Wildlife Refuge is a well-preserved portion of nature that includes the entire coast of Culebra and more than 20 offshore keys. More than a third of Culebra is designated as a Culebra National Wildlife Refuge, including Cayo Luis Peña, a small island west of Culebra. Here, the coves and rugged terrain provide interesting but challenging hiking opportunities.
4. Vieques and Bioluminescent Bay
Eight miles from mainland Puerto Rico, Vieques has become a popular seaside resort with small luxury hotels, restaurants, shops, and galleries. With the departure of the American army from the island in 2003, Vieques focused on tourism.
The beautiful beaches are now backed by a quality tourism infrastructure that attracts Puerto Ricans and foreign travelers, who take the time to get to the island. There are no large hotels or high-rise condominium complexes. At 21 miles long and five miles wide, Vieques is the largest of the Spanish Virgin Islands, but it still offers a small island feel.
The island is also known for a phenomenon unique to Mosquito Bay (also known as Bioluminescent Bay). A large concentration of phosphorescent dinoflagellates illuminates movement in the water at night.
Take a tour, either by boat or canoe, or a kayak trip through the bioluminescent bay after dark to experience this natural wonder. Although this phenomenon occurs in other areas of Puerto Rico, this is the best place to experience it. Vieques is accessible by plane or ferry, with ferries leaving from Fajardo.
5. Surfing and Whale Watching at Rincon
Often called “Pueblo del Surfing” and “Little Malibu”, Puerto Ricans know Rincón as a “gringo paradise.” The dominant language in the area is English, with many foreign surfers and other expats making this city their home.
Rincón became a surfing mecca after the 1968 World Surfing Championships, when images of Rincón and the frequent 15-foot high waves were broadcast around the world. Surfing not your thing? The beautiful beaches that are suitable for swimming are mainly to the south of the city.
Rincón is also one of the main areas in Puerto Rico for whale watching excursions. The main whale watching season is from mid-January to March, when humpback whales are found in the area. Tours are easily organized in the city.
6. Luquillo Beach
For an easy escape from the crowded beaches of San Juan, Luquillo is a great option. Luquillo Beach, a short drive from town, is a palm-fringed stretch of golden sand that offers a considerable degree of tranquility, with no high-rise buildings or surrounding developments.
The water is generally calm for swimming, and the beach stretches for almost a kilometer, making it ideal for walking. On the grounds, shaded by coconut trees, there are modern bathrooms, showers, and changing rooms with lockers, and just outside the entrance are food vendors.
A stop on the beach can be combined with a day trip to El Yunque National Forest.
7. Rio Camuy Caves (Parque de las Cavernas del Río Camuy)
Rio Camuy Cave Park includes a huge cave system that covers 268 acres and is considered the third largest cave system in the world. A trolleybus transports visitors to a 200-foot deep cave or abyss that is now an unspoiled area known as Cueva Clara Empalme.
There are several rooms in the caves, in some cases with very high ceilings, stalagmites and stalactites, and rivers running along the base. The guided tour takes you through the Clara Empalme cave. In addition to the natural wonders of the cave system, it is also worth noting that the caves have been used by indigenous peoples for a long time.
8. Ponce’s Historic City Center
While Ponce is a large city and usually not on the typical tourist route through Puerto Rico, its historic downtown is a delight, with its 17th-century architecture and open plazas. Plaza Las Delicias is a good starting point for visitors, with cafes and benches in the parks for easy people-watching.
The buildings of particular interest here are the old Ponce fire station with red and white stripes, the City Hall and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, of much more recent construction. Ponce also has a large number of quality museums, among which the Museo de Arte de Ponce stands out.
9. Isla Verde
For the all-inclusive crowd looking for nice resorts and a decent beach near a major airport, Isla Verde is just the answer. Everything an overworked, sun-seeking, beach-loving vacationer could ask for, minus Puerto Rican culture, can be found here. With calm waters fringed by a white sand beach and backed by palm trees and spas, Isla Verde is a tropical getaway with all the amenities.
This area is a suburb of San Juan, and those looking to get out of the resort without venturing too far will find the historic streets of Old San Juan just a short cab ride away. Similarly, the El Yunque National Forest can also be done as a quick excursion for a beach getaway.
10. Seven Seas Beach – Things To Do In Puerto Rico
Just 30 miles from San Juan, Seven Seas Beach is a quiet beach with calm, clear waters and excellent facilities. The beach is family friendly and just back from the sand you’ll find picnic tables, restrooms, food stalls, and easy parking.
The sand is golden brown and the beach is gently sloping. The swimming area is cordoned off and boats are prohibited. The best section of the beach is at the west end; the eastern end can be rocky.
Frequently Asked Questions: Things To Do In Puerto Rico
What is the best time to visit Puerto Rico?
The best time to visit Puerto Rico is from December to May. It is the dry season, and at this time the weather will always be warm and sunny. You will pay more, but it is worth it.
What is the best way to get around Puerto Rico?
In the historic old town of San Juan, it’s all about walking. The streets are narrow and you will want to take your time to check things out. If you are arriving by cruise ship, the port is only a 10-minute walk away.
If you plan to explore the rest of the island, car rental is easy and affordable. The same traffic rules apply as in the continental United States.
There are intercity buses, called guaguas, but the routes and schedules are not ideal for tourist use. For short trips between cities or around town, ride a crowd. These are minibuses and they are very inexpensive. You can stand on the side of the road and say hello to them.
Is Puerto Rico famous for anything?
Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island and U.S. territory with a landscape of mountains, waterfalls, and tropical rainforest. The island is known for its beautiful beaches and Spanish Caribbean culture with an American twist.
Is Puerto Rico expensive?
That being said, Puerto Rico is still more expensive than the majority of countries around the world and is one of the most expensive areas in Latin America, so don’t expect things to be as cheap as they would be in Thailand or Vietnam.
Where should you not stay in Puerto Rico?
Other spots to avoid at night are the neighborhoods of La Perla (next to Old City) and parts of Puerta de Tierra. Stick to the neighborhoods of Old San Juan, Isla Verde, Miramar and Condado at night, where there are regular police patrols. Should you have an emergency, call 911 as you would in the US.
How many days do I need in Puerto Rico?
We recommend spending 4 to 5 days in Puerto Rico. While the island is quite small (about the size of Connecticut) there’s lots to see, do and eat!
Do Puerto Rico have all inclusive resorts?
Puerto Rico, including the capital of San Juan, does not have any true all-inclusive resorts that bundle rooms, meals, activities, and gratuities into one price, such as those found in Mexico and the Caribbean.
Is San Juan Safe?
There are safety concerns, however. A recent change in administration turned violent, with demonstrations in Old San Juan. Like Mexico and some other Caribbean islands, there’s a high level of gun crime, drug trafficking and gang activity, and the homicide rate is relatively high.
Is Jamaica or Puerto Rico better?
Compared to Puerto Rico, Jamaica has a much broader all-inclusive resort offering. Travelers suggest choosing Jamaica for a primarily AI experience. Jamaica is a little rough around the edges but an incredibly beautiful island. Jamaica has tourist attractions in most parts of the island except for a few areas.
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