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Best Vacation Destinations in Puerto Rico

Unlike many guides by travel media outlets, this guide is not driven by hotel sales or sponsorships.  It is fueled by the love and passion we have for Puerto Rico and our desire to help travelers plan an unforgettable vacation you’ll cherish forever.  Vacation time is precious…you’ve worked hard to earn it, so allow us to help you choose a destination that meets your travel needs and expectations.

More than a hotel / resort stay, we encourage our readers to get out and experience the natural treasures that make Puerto Rico such a special place.  We hope to inspire you to do activities that will give you special memories with your loved ones.

How did we come up with the Top 10 Best Destinations List? 

Although reviews and popularity are a helpful tool to research a destination, it really doesn’t tell the whole story.  Just because a place is popular among many, does not necessarily mean it’s right for YOU.  The capital city of San Juan gets most of the press and we don’t think it’s fair to other amazing destinations in Puerto Rico or to visitors seeking other experiences.  Even as you search for hotels on popular hotel booking sites, they’ll show you the most popular destinations.  Sadly, you may miss out on picking amazing places and hotels that best suit your travel style and needs.

Best destinations guide written based on:

  • Our own experiences, we know the following destinations very well.
  • Many conversations we’ve had with visitors on the island.
  • Quality of attractions
  • Accessibility to beaches
  • Activities / Things to do
  • Accommodations
  • Safety
  • Ease of getting around
  • Food
After the following list of our 10 best destinations, we have included an interactive map at the bottom of this page for your convenience.

Old San Juan

The Most Vibrant, Historic & Romantic Destination in Puerto Rico

Old San Juan - Top Destinations in Puerto Rico

Why we love Old San Juan: The romance… is everywhere… Old San Juan is like the Paris of the Caribbean, with the added pleasures of a Caribbean coastal destination and the sultry flavors and colors of Puerto Rican culture.  San Juan is an easy, affordable and convenient getaway, a destination rich in culture, with a vibrant nightlife, festive events year round, historic UNESCO sites…one of the most romantic places in the Caribbean.  Whether you stay in the capital city or not, every visitor ought to spend at least one day in Old San Juan.

Can’t miss attractions: San Juan National Historic Site, the most interesting sites are El Morro and Castillo San Cristobal.  Take a walk down Paseo de la Princesa, visit Museo (Museum) de las Americas.  Be sure to take a stroll down Calle Cristo and Calle Fortaleza where you’ll find unique shops, great restaurants, beautiful balconies and historic landmarks.

Things to do in Old San Juan: Sightseeing, dining, dancing, shopping.  Ditch the map, and just spend two full days walking every street in Old San Juan, romantic colorful streets lead to castles, historic buildings, museums, shops, and restaurants.  If you love events, arts, crafts, live music on the streets, you’ll love Old San Juan, there’s always something happening in Old San Juan.

During Christmas, Old San Juan is a wonderful place to be, the holidays don’t end until mid January with San Sebastian Festival, lights light up the street with more romance and magic, Navitown is great for families.  Be festive with live music on many of the squares.

Recommended and options for hotels in Old San Juan and nearby:

  • Stay at a hotel in Old San Juan in order to have access to everything the historic city has to offer within walking distance or need for taxis. El Convento, Sheraton Old San Juan, Cervantes Hotel.  Check for the hotel deals at Priceline.com
  • The district of Condado is just 10 minutes away, a trendy beachfront tourist area with hotels from luxurious to budget friendly. Check deals at Condado hotels.

Isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico

A Bioluminescent Bay, Secluded Beaches, and more…Magical

Isla de Vieques / Vieques Island - Puerto Rico Destinations

What we love about Vieques:  Hmmm… what’s not to love?  Once you get here, we think you’ll agree.    Two thirds of the island have been declared a National Wildlife Refuge making it one of the greenest and less developed on the Caribbean.  Vieques gives visitors an opportunity to experience Caribbean beaches in all their natural glory. Picture perfect beach coves without crowds, crystal clear waters, great snorkeling, sand colors ranging from white, to gold to black, the beaches are live postcards.  Beautiful Paso Fino horses elegantly peacefully grace and gallop free around the island.  The vibe is old Caribbean with a small population, there’s little development,  At night the waters glow at Mosquito Bay, the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world.

Can’t miss attractions:  Mosquito Bay (Bioluminescent Bay), beachesFortin Conde de Mirasol, Ceiba Tree.

Things to Do in Vieques: swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking, bicycling, kayaking, fishing, paddle boarding, sailing, and endless beach hopping.  Rent a jeep and spend days discovering beach coves with its own unique qualities, no beach looks the same in Vieques.

Vacation Planning Tips: If you’re a first time visitor to Puerto Rico, we encourage you to start your vacation in the capital city of San Juan and then head over to Vieques for a few days.  Old San Juan and Vieques are a beautiful mix, and not hard to plan.  We recommend you fly to Vieques to save time and hassles of taking the ferry.

Check for the Best Hotel Deals at Priceline.com

Isla Verde, Puerto Rico

Easy Weekend Escape & Best Urban Beach Destination

Isla Verde - Top Puerto Rico Beach Destinations

#1 Best Urban Beach 2016 by USA Travel Readers

What we love about Isla Verde:  Destination just minutes from the San Juan Airport so you don’t waste any precious vacation time.  Isla Verde beach is a vibrant place, a district in the municipality of Carolina with a beach metro style yet relaxed. Isla Verde has some of the most popular beachfront resorts in Puerto Rico from luxurious to budget friendly, with popular lounges, nightclubs and casinos.  Visitors can enjoy a variety of water sports and plenty of dining options.

Can’t miss attractions: The beaches of course!!  Alambique is a favorite among locals and visitors, with restaurants along the water, beach rentals and water sports.  Historic Old San Juan is just 15 minutes from Isla Verde.  Visitors can arrange many day trips to major attractions and interesting places on the north and east coast such as the rainforest, bioluminescent bay in Fajardo, day trip to Icacos Cay and much more.

Things to Do in Isla Verde:  Relax at the beach, have fun with water sports, if you’re a foodie you’ll find plenty of options, go surfing / take surfing lessons, go paddle boarding, cycle through nearby coastal and forest trail next door in Loiza, try your luck at the elegant casinos. Go shopping to Mall of San Juan, Plaza Las Americas and luxury shops in Condado.  Other activities include parasailing, banana boats, jet skiing, scuba diving,

Check for the Best Hotel Deals at Priceline.com

Culebra, Puerto Rico

Best destination for snorkeling, seclusion, romance and beaches

Isla de Culebra / Culebra Island - Puerto Rico Top Beach Destinations

Why we love Culebra: Flamenco beach of course!!  Hopping behind the wheel of a jeep and beach hopping all week long through gorgeous beaches with even less crowds than Vieques.  If you’re a snorkeler, Culebra is a destination you don’t want to miss, put it on your bucket list.

Dining in Culebra is simple yet pleasurable, there’s only a handful of places to eat, but the charm, deliciousness and relaxed true island style ambiance will keep you going back for more.   Culebra is one of the best destinations for eco travelers.

Can’t miss attractions in Culebra: Flamenco Beach, Zoni Beach, El Polvorin Museum, Culebrita Island.  We painfully have to say Carlos Rosario reef…yes, we painfully share this because it is so precious it feels like a sin to share it with the world because we want to protect it.  PLEASE, never, ever, touch, step on, stand on any part of the reef, never take anything away from the reef and never feed fish. Leave nothing behind, only take the beautiful memories. 

Things to do do in Culebra: Beach hopping, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, surfing (yes! there’s surfing in Culebra), relaxing to its purest form, driving on fun dirt roads leading to dreamy, safe and secluded spots, hiking, a little shopping, birdwatching.

Check for the Best Hotel Deals at Priceline.com

Dorado, Puerto Rico

Most Exclusive, Luxurious Beach Resort & Golf Destination

Dorado - Best Luxury Destinations in Puerto Rico

Dorado is a small charming town, quiet, with small museums, a beautiful coastline and green areas to explore protected from development.

Why we love Dorado:  Who doesn’t like luxury?  Dorado Beach, A The Ritz Carlton is one of the few resorts in Puerto Rico that can rightfully claim to be a destination all on its own. Although we recommend you go outside the property to explore some of the wonders of Puerto Rico, we totally understand guests that may be tempted to never leave the premises.  The Ritz Carlton has redefined luxury in Puerto Rico, allowing Dorado & Puerto Rico to reclaim its spot as one of the most luxurious and exclusive destinations in the Caribbean, setting a higher standard for the island.  Travelers seeking for the ultimate luxury, exclusivity, a private beach and interesting places to visit outside the resort, ought to place Dorado at the top of their list.  Dining is superb and the golf courses are magnificent.

Can’t miss attractions: Part of Ritz Carlton Reserve: Rockefeller Nature Trail, Watermill Aquatic Adventure ParkLivingston Park & Dorado Beach.  Visitors will have easy access to a number of world-class attractions and fun activities in nearby towns including San Juan, just a 45 minute drive from Dorado.

Things to do in Dorado: Golfing, a variety of watersports, fishing, walking, bicycling.

Recommended places to stay in Dorado: Travelers that prefer exclusivity and luxury will enjoy staying at The Ritz Carlton.  There are more hotels in Dorado to meet a more modest budget.

Check for the Best Hotel Deals at Priceline.com

Isabela, Puerto Rico

Great beach destination…Secluded beaches, surfing all year and pure relaxation.

Isabela - Best beach destination in Puerto Rico

This is the first travel guide to feature Isabela as one of the top destinations in Puerto Rico and we are very proud and excited to help promote this amazing town.  We love Isabela so much, we created a full guide to show off its beauty.  Isabela is a wonderful town, people are very friendly, the coastline is gorgeous with a very unique landscape.  The mayor of Isabela has worked really hard over the past few years cleaning up the town, improving access to beaches, revitalizing the town plaza and creating some really great events for both residents and visitors to enjoy among many other things.  If you dreamed of buying an investment property or vacation home in the Caribbean, Isabela has many great opportunities since prices are still low and the town has not been exploited by tourism.  You may have heard of Isabela on HGTV, it’s been featured various times on House Hunters International and Caribbean Life.

Why we love Isabela: The beaches…The beaches of Isabela offer something for everyone: surfing all year round, reefs for snorkeling, underwater caves for divers, and excellent offshore fishing spots.  Isabela offers many scenic peaceful spots for watching waves crash against rocks, perfect for relaxation, reading your favorite book or doing nothing at all. When we crave total seclusion and quiet, we pretty much have many guaranteed spots in Isabela.   Scattered along the coastline, there are various restaurants facing the beach with great food and drinks still offered at non-touristy prices.

Can’t miss attractions:  Explore all the natural pools with crystal clear waters, some shallow enough for toddlers.  Explore the coastline of Isabela and go searching for natural bridges, blowholes, natural pools.  Visit the Guajataca Tunnel, a historic railroad tunnel with a scenic trail and beaches.  Go for an afternoon walk to center town of Isabela and visit the local restaurants and relaxed cafes. Don’t miss Indian Face, Golondrinas Cave.  See guide on attractions in Isabela.

The location of Isabela is amazing due to all the additional interesting places one can visit on the west coast of Puerto Rico within an 1.5 hour.

Things to do in Isabela: Surf or learn how to surf at Jobos Beach.   Activities include snorkeling, fishing, windsurfing, scuba diving, hiking and horseback riding.

Recommended places to stay in Isabela: Royal Isabela, Villa Montana

Check for the Best Hotel Deals at Priceline.com

Rio Grande, Puerto Rico (East Coast)

Top Luxury Beach Resort & Golf Destination

Rio Grande - Best beach resort destinations in Puerto Rico.
Why we love Rio Grande:  We love the close location of Rio Grande to the San Juan International Airport, no valuable vacation time is wasted after arrival.  The resort communities are intimate and private with controlled access for guests.  Rio Grande is very green, after all it’s home to El Yunque National Rainforest, just a short drive from the resorts.  The golf courses of Rio Grande are amazing, and various resorts offer pampering spas.

Can’t miss attractions: El Yunque Rainforest and the golf courses. From Rio Grande, you can arrange a visit to Old San Juan. In nearby town of Fajardo, you can arrange a night tour of Laguna Grande, a bioluminescent bay, during the day you can book a charter or water taxi to Icacos Cay.

Recommended hotels / resorts to stay in Rio Grande: The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort is a perfect oasis for honeymooners with world-class golf.

Check for the Best Hotel Deals at Priceline.com

Fajardo, Puerto Rico

Island hopping, hiking, nature reserve, bioluminescent bay, secluded beaches and the gateway to Vieques & Culebra

Fajardo - Puerto Rico Tourist Destinations

Fajardo is a municipality on the east coast of Puerto Rico just 45 minutes from the capital city of San Juan and the main airport.  Fajardo is a great home base for those that wish to go island hopping to the cays and offshore islands of Vieques & Culebra.  One of the most popular attractions is Laguna Grande, a bright bioluminescent bay, one of the few in the world.  Fajardo is home to the one of the most desirable resorts in Puerto Rico, El Conquistador – A Waldorf Astoria Resort.  Outside the resort, adventurers can enjoy hiking, kayaking, and touring a beautiful nature reserve.  El Yunque Rainforest is a short drive from Fajardo.

Why we love Fajardo:  Home to El Conquistador Resort, one of our favorite and best rated resorts in Puerto Rico, offering guests the exclusive use of the gorgeous secluded island of Palomino.  Great location to explore Vieques & Culebra without having to stay overnight by taking the ferry.

Can’t miss attractions: Las Cabezas de San Juan, Laguna Grande bioluminescent bay, Icacos Cay, Seven Seas Beach, La Escondida Beach and La Colora Beach.  El Yunque Rainforest is a short drive away from Fajardo. Old San Juan is 45 minutes away.

Things to do in Fajardo:  Schedule a night kayak tour of the bioluminescent bay, go swimming and snorkeling at Icacos Cay, hiking on the trails leading to the secluded beaches of Playa Colora and Playa Escondida (not swimming beaches), day trip to Culebra and spend the day at Flamenco Beach.

Please note:  We have to be honest here, compared to other towns of Puerto Rico, the condition of the town is actually disappointing, it looks run down.  The attractions and things to do make up for it in our opinion.   The ferry terminal, although operational, visually it needs a total overhaul, there are many abandoned homes in residential areas and many scenic areas that has much potential as tourist / entertaining areas really need TLC and cleaned up.  If you can overlook those things and focus on the main attractions which are very nice you’ll have a wonderful time. The wonderful resort experience, Palomino Island, the bioluminescent bay and offshore experiences certainly take Fajardo to the top of the list.

Recommended hotel in Fajardo:

Check for more nearby hotels at Priceline.com

Rincon, Puerto Rico

Best surfing destination in Puerto Rico

RIncon - Top Tourist Destinations in Puerto Rico

Rincon…you probably heard the name on the Beach Boys tune “Surfing Safari”.  Rincon is a surfing beach town located in the west coast region of Puerto Rico where the fourth World Surfing Championship in 1968 took place. Rincon is also well-known for its picture perfect sunsets everyday of the year.  A-List celebrities choose Rincon for privacy, uncrowded scenes, and pampering intimate accommodations. Rincon is also a popular destination for weddings and honeymoons.  Rincon is a great place for those seeking to experience a laid back and authentic beach town that’s also tourist friendly.

Can’t miss attractions:  Rincon was blessed with many beaches loved by surfers and those seeking for peaceful settings without crowds.  Coral reef at Steps Beach, Punta Higuero Lighthouse Park, Desecheo Island,

Things to do in Rincon: If you love surfing, Rincon is where you want to vacation in Puerto Rico.  Rincon offers the best surfing in the Caribbean with waves up to 25 feet in the winter months, where two World Surfing Championships have been hosted.  If you love scuba diving, Rincon is a great home base to have a full week of dive sites to explore such as Desecheo Island.  Snorkeling is excellent during the summer months only, don’t miss Steps beach / Playa Escalera. Be sure to have a car so you can beach hop all week long.  If you like whale watching, you may get lucky during your visit to Rincon.  During the winter months, humpback whales move along the coastline of Rincon it is quite a sight, so bring your camera.

Check for the Best Hotel Deals at Priceline.com

Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico

Most authentic and budget friendly beach and nature lover’s destination in Puerto Rico.

Cabo Rojo - Best Destinations in Puerto Rico

Why we love Cabo Rojo: We must tell you that this is our home town.  We lived in Pennsylvania and decided to make the move to Cabo Rojo to fulfil our island life dream and we could not be happier. Cabo Rojo’s has many beaches, one to explore each day of the week.  We love how you can eat great food at local prices pretty much everywhere you go.  Locals are very friendly.  Hiking is a real experience in Cabo Rojo, with the breathtaking trails along Los Morrillos and the trails along the protected wildlife areas.  Fishing is excellent, nightlife is lively in Boqueron on the weekends, all week on summer months. Sunsets are amazing everyday of the year.  Cabo Rojo is a great town to purchase real estate, and great beaches are always a short drive from pretty much anywhere in town.

Can’t miss attractions:  Los Morrillos Lighthouse, La Playuela / Playa Sucia, Balneario de Boqueron (Boqueron Bay Beach), La Plaza.   Offshore island of Isla de Mona; the Galapagos of the Caribbean, Las Salinas / The Salt Flats,

Things to do in Cabo Rojo: beach hopping, hiking, tarpon fishing, offshore fishing, bicycling, kayaking, ATV tours, birdwatching, stargazing.

Recommended hotels in Cabo Rojo:  Sadly, we wish Cabo Rojo had better hotel offerings for US tourist standards.  Most small inns and apartments offer basic accommodations that appeal to families who are going to spend most of their time exploring Cabo Rojo and nearby places.

For US travelers, we can only recommend Aquarius Vacation Club at Boqueron Beach Resort, check for rates at hotels.com & expedia.com.  Parador Combate Beach is a small inn with clean, comfortable accommodations within walking distance of Combate Beach, check for rates at hotels.comexpedia.com.

Check for more hotels in Cabo Rojo and nearby towns at Priceline.com

Map of the Top Ten Destinations in Puerto Rico

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Top Ten Tourist Destinations in Puerto Rico

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Old San Juan - San Juan, Puerto Rico: 18.465363, -66.115723
Isla Verde - Carolina, Puerto Rico: 18.443706, -66.026201
Culebra, Puerto Rico: 18.334973, -65.304108
Vieques, Puerto Rico: 18.152050, -65.441437
Dorado, Puerto Rico: 18.459664, -66.267300
Fajardo, Puerto Rico: 18.327314, -65.652409
Rio Grande, Puerto Rico: 18.380429, -65.841408
Isabela, Puerto Rico: 18.505657, -67.024841
Rincon, Puerto Rico: 18.342468, -67.250061
Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico: 18.090381, -67.145004

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