Puerto Rico > Best Things to Do in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico…The Island of Enchantment, The Land of a Thousand Blessings…we invite you to step outside the boundaries of your hotel and experience why this island is referred to this way…
We thank you in advance for your visit and support to Puerto Rico… a vacation you can feel good about that keeps on giving.
The followings points of interest are all tourist ready post Hurricane Maria.
Most of the tourists arrive to the San Juan International Airport, the majority will choose a hotel in the capital city and nearby tourist districts. Some of the most impressive sights are in the capital city of San Juan, however, for those wanting to experience the true magic of Puerto Rico should check out our list of places beyond the city. We’ve had long conversations with thousands of visitors, the ones truly enchanted by the island also venture out of the tourist hot spots, mingle with locals and experience the true spirit of the island.
Many travel guides give an unfair amount of attention to attractions and things to do in the city of San Juan and popular tourist districts, where most tourists traps are found, sales of hotel rooms are a driver, many articles are sponsored taking away objectivity. Tourism has always been an important drive to the economy, Hurricane Maria has made tourism vital to the recovery. Your visit to Puerto Rico makes a direct contribution to families, small businesses in less touristy places are ready to serve and give visitors a great time, your visit to the small towns has a direct impact to average families working in the tourism industry. Once here, the best way to help Puerto Rico and residents is to simply explore the island beyond your resort and the city. Before moving on to the list, again…thanks in advance for coming to Puerto Rico and for visiting IslandsofPuertoRico.com
We are not affiliated with any hotels or businesses on the island, what we write is independent of any advertisements. We gain nothing by losing your trust in our travel guides. We provide some links to tours you can book online for your convenience through Viator.com, a trusted online booking engine from which we get a small commission when you book. We assure you that it does not influence the inclusion of that particular activity nor do we endorse it, but we do appreciate supporting our efforts by booking through our site.
San Juan - Capital City of Puerto RicoTop Things to Do & Best Points of Interest
San Juan, the capital city of Puerto Rico is the most popular vacation destination on the island. Just 15 minutes from San Juan Airport, visitors can quickly check in, drop their bags and begin enjoying world class attractions. Following are the top things to do and best points of interest in San Juan. Many tour operators offer transportation from hotels in San Juan to great places on the east, north, offshore keys, Vieques & Culebra, one of the advantages of staying in the city, so be sure to check out the rest of the list.
Spend a Day Walking the Streets of Old San Juan
History, Culture, Great Food, Nightlife, UNESCO Sites, Romantic
Old San Juan is the cultural epicenter of Puerto Rico, an open living museum that houses over 500 historic buildings. As you walk around Old San Juan you can tour five century old castles, churches, relaxed squares and restored buildings turned into great shops, excellent restaurants and casual cafes. Old San Juan is constantly changing, offering something new and interesting to repeat visitors.
Although we have included attractions within Old San Juan below, we find that many visitors focus on specific places and feel stress about not checking everything on the list. Relax, ditch the map, take in the sights, sit at a square and have a cup of coffee, dance to the music playing, enjoy the company of your party…that’s what Old San Juan is all about.
If you’re short on time and you’ve never been to Old San Juan, be sure to visit at least one of the forts, then walk the streets (Calle del Cristo, and Fortaleza are great), and simply do what catches your eye, that’s how you find YOUR special place in Old San Juan.
We’ve created two self-guided walking tours (more to come), to get the most of your walk, maps at the end of the pages.
Time Needed: At least one full day, but the two nights is perfect to get a feel for the old city.
Getting around the city & Tours
Post Hurriane Maria Status: Tourist ready
San Juan National Historic Site
While in San Juan, you can’t miss San Juan National Historic Site, which include two of the most spectacular landmarks in Puerto Rico, the forts of Castillo San Cristóbal & Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
- Castillo San Felipe del Morro (known as El Morro) is one of the most beloved landmarks on the island rich in history, where many cultural events are held. Most Puerto Ricans have fond memories of flying a kite on the lawn, a must do while here.
- Castillo San Cristobal is the largest of the two, a lot of fun for kids as they tour the tunnels, views are spectacular.
If you wish to tour both forts, you can follow our Calle Norzagaray Walking Tour.
Time to visit San Juan National Historic Site (Both forts)
At a relaxed pace, you can tour both forts and walk along Calle Norzagaray in a full morning / afternoon. You’ll need about 1.5 hour at each fort.
Swimmings, Sunbathing, Surfing & Snorkeling
Escambron Beach is located right in between Old San Juan & Condado. It is easily accessible through Paseo Puerta de Tierra by bike or walking. The beach is protected by a reef, keeping the strong ocean waves from coming in too high. Beyond the reef you may catch locals surfing. Depending on the tide, the beach is shallow, clear, warm and perfect for snorkeling. This beach offers plenty of shade and sand for laying down and getting the perfect tan.
Calle del Cristo
Historic Sites, Shopping, Restaurants, Charming Parks
Calle del Cristo is a romantic street, one of the top points of interest in Old San Juan. If you’re short on time, El Morro & Calle del Cristo are a great combination. After enjoying a delicious lunch, grab a treat to cool off such as a Piragua, tropical ice cream from street vendors or a treat at the Ben & Jerry’s shop. Stop at the historic Hotel El Convento, they have a nice bar at the terrace. Right across is the romantic Catedral San Juan Bautista. There are various artisan local shops, jewelry stores, clothing, authentic Panama hats and more. Right at the end of the street you’ll find Capilla del Cristo, Parque de las Palomas with sweeping views of the bay and if you turn left at the end, you can take a picture in front of the narrowest house on the island. Hungry again? There are plenty of restaurants at the south end of Calle de Cristo and Fortaleza.
Bacardi Rum Factory, Cataño, PR
The world's largest premium rum distillery
Casa Bacardi is the World’s Largest premium rum distillery. This is one of the most popular tours in the San Juan / Metro Area. Casa Bacardi offers a Historical Tour, Rum Tasting Tour & Mixology Tour, you can book directly on their official website, or book a tour with local operators which include transportation. The gift shop is excellent.
East Region - Puerto RicoTop Things to Do & Best Attractions
El Yunque National Rainforest – Luquillo / Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
The Enchanting Forest of the Caribbean...
El Yunque, nominated as one of the natural wonders of the world is within reach, officially located in Rio Grande, on the east coast of Puerto Rico. Cool, breezy, crisp air, lush greens and refreshing spring waters you can jump into. El Yunque National Rainforest is one of the reasons this island is called The Island of Enchantment, the forest is simply captivating and awe-inspiring.
Getting Here: Driving Distance from San Juan: 45 minutes. You can drive to El Yunque or hire a tour operator. You can do both El Yunque and a bioluminescent bay tour at Las Cabezas de San Juan in Fajardo.
Time Needed: If you wish to explore the best trails, you’ll need a full morning and afternoon. Stop by a bakery (Panaderia) in town, get sandwiches and plenty of drinks before visiting.
Post Hurricane Maria Update: For residents and visitors that were fortunate to visit El Yunque, it is heartbreaking to face the damage that our enchanting rainforest suffered from Hurricane Maria. Time, sun, rain and the hard work of employees and volunteers have helped with the recovery of the rainforest. El Yunque is open for visitors, you’ll find many operators offering great tours of the open trails and facilities. Although you won’t experience El Yunque in its glorious state, visitors will enjoy a visit and be a witness of the recovery of this world wonder.
Las Cabezas de San Juan – Fajardo, PR
Bio Bay, Amazing Views, Beach, Educational...
Las Cabezas de San Juan is located on the municipality of Fajardo on the east coast of Puerto Rico. Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico offers guided tours, you’ll hop on the trolley with knowledgable guides making the experience educational and fun. You’ll make a stop on secluded beach with a thick carpet of polished pebbles with sights of playful curly waves, sorry no swimming allowed. You’ll stop for a walking tour along the forest where you can learn about the importance of mangroves, observe birds and get up close to native plant species.
The best is truly saved for last when you arrive to the lighthouse for great stories and the best views on the east coast of Puerto Rico. From the platform, you’l’ll able to see the offshore islands and cays, the shores of Fajardo, the bioluminescent bays and as neighboring islands.
Tour the nature reserve early afternoon, get dinner and end your day touring Laguna Grande Bioluminescent Bay at night.
- Tuesdays to Saturdays: 9:30am, 10:00am, & 2:00pm
- Taking groups of 18.
- Call ahead to book at 787-722-5882 You can book a tour of Las Cabezas de San Juan online.
Hurricane Maria Update: Open – Flora, walking trails, beach visit and lighthouse visit. Due to damage on the rooftop of the lighthouse there is no access to panoramic viewing area, stay tuned for updates. We think it is still well worth the visit for nature lovers.
Be seduced by Sun, Seclusion & Snorkeling
Let a catamaran or water taxi swept you off to a Icacos, a secluded cay sorrounded by turquoise clear water, with coral reefs teeming with colorful fish, you may find yourself swimming along dolphins often seen here. You may feel like a kid on a playground, but be sure to take time to relax, take a walk along the beach with your loved one and simply be… from the white sand of Icacos be sure to take a few minutes to receive the benefits of color therapy by the shades of the Caribbean Sea.
Catamarans takes a group to Icacos, if you’re the type who wants to enjoy a beach more to yourself, you can book a water taxi in advance to take you early in the morning. Either way you get there, we think you’ll love Icacos Cay.
Laguna Grande Bioluminescent Bay
Experience the magic of bioluminescence...
Bioluminescence is a natural phenonemon everyone ought to experience at least once in a lifetime. You may have seen bioluminescence on scenes of movies such as Avatar and Nim’s Island. You can book a kayaking tour, which allows you to be closer to the water, you can touch the magical waters with your hands, it looks like twinkling stars running down your fingers. Laguna Grande, located in the town of Fajardo, is the most convenient option for visitors staying on the metro and east coast of the island.
The only complaint from travelers about Laguna Grande is the amount of people at one time during a tour. If you want to experience the bioluminescent bay with less crowds, you may want to make the trip to Vieques or the bio bay in Lajas (best experienced by kayak or small boat). High season weekends and holiday weeks are busier.
Be sure to check out the moon calendar, bioluminescence is best seen on new moon phases. Most bio bay tour operators will not do the trip on full moon.
Most tour operators offer / include pick up service at your hotel in the San Juan / Metro and East Coast hotels.
Culebra - Island of Puerto RicoBest Points of Interest & Top Things to Do
Simple Perfection...World class beach consistently ranked among the best in the world
Puerto Rico offers about 300 beaches, each offering something unique, you may be thinking…how much better can a beach really get? Once you get to Flamenco Beach, you’ll understand why it is one of the most glorified beaches around the world.
Flamenco is located on the sleepy island of Culebra, located off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. Be sure to make the day trip to Culebra, better yet, split your vacation by spending a few nights there and you’ll have bragging rights to visiting one of the best beaches of the planet.
Getting Here: You can take a short flight from the San Juan Airport, Isla Grande Airport or Ceiba Airport. We highly recommend you fly to Culebra in order to save time on travel. You may also take the ferry boat from Fajardo.
Time Needed: This is a wonderful day trip, plan on spending the full day in Culebra.
Post Hurricane Maria Status: After writing this article, we called the Alcaldia for an update, we were told that the park is officially closed for a limited time for cleaning and checking of unexploded ordance as a precaution. Food kiosks and facilities are closed. Please come back for updates.
...you'll experience "paradise"
Being on a beach is a great experience, but putting your head down where noise is cancelled and senses are introduced to a new world where sea turtles gracefully glide in tempered waters over grass beds…are among the experiences that make Caribbean life so enviable. This is an activity you simply can’t miss while in Culebra.
Tamarindo Beach is a protected cove with calm water offering easy access to the snorkeling site. You can drive to Tamarindo and snorkel on your own, or book a tour.
Tamarindo is also a popular spot for kayaking, you can paddle out to Luis Pena Marine Reserve where you can snorkel on the reefs, the scenery is stunning.
If you’re not staying in Culebra, there are tours available meeting up at Fajardo offering a full day of adventure. A day in Culebra and we can confidently say you’ll soon be planning a full week vacation there next.
Go to Culebrita
...just when you think it doesn't get any better...
The beauty of Culebra intoxicates visitors with the simplicity of unadulterated Caribbean pleasures…then they take a trip out to Culebrita, even more secluded with jeweled toned waters impossible to capture on camera and a few other lucky visitors there. Once there you can snorkel above coral reefs with sightings of sea turtles, dolphins, swim at the amazing Playa Tortuga, hike to the lighthouse, float on tidal pools and get lost for a day in the magic of the Caribbean the way nature intended, with no concrete high rise buildings or signs of tourism exploitation in sight.
During the summer months and holidays, we personally do not enjoy Culebrita, boaters head there, some people drink too much, music gets loud and the feeling of isolation and tranquility dissapears… residents of Culebra and peace seekers must wait until late August for scene to return back to normal.
Please take care of our reefs, by never touching, stepping, or taking away. In land, leave only footprints.
- From Fajardo you can book a tour of Flamenco Beach or Culebrita on a Catamaran cruise, these are very popular.
- You may also book a water taxi, they will typically drop you off in the morning and you can tell them when to pick you up. From all the numbers we have, we were only able to get through the following. Culebra’s land lines are still having issues, so that may be part of the problem. We will update this list as we gather more information.
- Culebra Water Taxi — (Luis) 787-360-9807 $50 round trip minimum of 4 people.
Vieques - Island of Puerto RicoTop Things to Do & Points of Interest
Vieques Bioluminescent Bay...The Brightest in the World
Puerto Rico was blessed with 3 of the 5 bioluminescent bays in the world. This world class attraction has been included by many travel experts as one of the “things to do before you die”, and one of the most romantic experiences in nature. This place is often described as magical, you have to see it to believe it, no video or photo an capture the magic. There are various charters that will take you to Vieques for the day.
Time Needed: We encourage you to spend at least two nights in Vieques to experience the incredibly beautiful beaches by day and the bioluminescent bay at night.
Note: If you can’t make the trip to Vieques, you can visit the bioluminescent bay in Fajardo or the bio bay in Lajas.
Hurricane Maria Update: The bio bay is regaining its brightness. Please call individual tour guides for tour info.
Find your perfect beach...
Vieques must be the best beach hopping destination in the Caribbean. The island is only 21×5 miles making it easy to explore many beaches without wasting precious vacation time driving. Driving is a fun adventure on it’s own, no major highways or street lights, just narrow dirt roads surrounded by lush flora with views of the Caribbean pulling you towards its shores. Once in Vieques you’ll be in awe at how many beach coves there are to explore, each with their own unique qualities, impossible to say which is best. If you’re short on time, head to the Wildlife Refuge on the south side, the calmest and clearest water beaches are hidden there. If you only have a day in Vieques, you can walk from Esperanza Beach to Sun Bay. More about the beaches in Vieques, Puerto Rico.
West Puerto RicoTop Points of Interest & Things to Do
Cabo Rojo Wildlife Refuge – Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
The most breathtaking views on the island, moon shaped beachcove, pink waters, hiking trails, natural bridges...a full day of adventures
The most scenic location on the island is located in the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge. The Cabo Rojo Wildlife Refuge is an eco traveler paradise offering 4 attractions into one, hike along nature trails with scenic vistas, take a tour of the Salt Flats, visit La Playuela Beach, one the prettiest beach coves on the island. Visit the elegant Los Morrillos Lighthouse, and walk along the limestone cliffs with breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea, the most photographed natural bridge and impressive rock formations.
Time Needed: Plan on spending at least a full morning or afternoon here, then head over to the village of Boqueron for a local nightlife experience.
Post Hurricane Maria Update: Tourist ready. Call before visiting the lighthouse to be sure is open at 787-357-0066. Even with the lighthouse closed, it is still well worth the visit, the beauty is outside.
A giant natural pool with a live aquarium underneath...
We adore this place…and so does everyone we know. So much fun for the kids, so romantic for couples, so connecting for nature lovers. The nickname says it all…”Gilligan’s Island”, a tiny paradise where one could easily dream of being lost away from it all. This tiny mangrove island formally named Cayo Aurora has the clearest water in Puerto Rico all year round. The bottom is white and the “pool” is shallow, making it safe for children to swim where they can see schools of fish swim around their feet. Romantic couples should get to the island early mid-week to pick the most intimate quiet spots.
After a fun day, you can head to Copamarina Beach Resort for a nice lunch or dinner, it is the best place to dine nearby.
Time Needed: Plan on spending a full morning or afternoon here. Mornings are best, during the summer afternoons tiny sand flies tend to come around.
Getting there: Gilligan’s Island is a short ferry ride from the coast of Guanica. See full article for more detailed info.
Places to Stay nearby: Copamarina Beach Resort
Post Hurricane Maria Update: Tourist ready.
Go Horseback Riding
The most romantic way to explore the quiet shores of Puerto Rico
We know is tough to step off the sand and water, but we encourage you to explore the shores from a different perspective. Horseback riding is perhaps one of the best outdoor activities to get your mind to truly relax and recharge your mind. You’ll be completely immersed in the beauty of the landscape and access more remote beaches you would have missed. The beaches on the west coast and Vieques are the best for horseback riding.
Tropical Trail Rides are a reputable company with friendly guides and beautiful gentle horses. 787-872-9256
Great views, whale watching, surfing and sunset...
The Rincon Lighthouse Park is a nice point of interest, a starting point for a variety of things to do to fill a day at a relaxed pace. The park itself is very simple, the views is the reason to come here. During various holidays and special events, the ambiance is more festive with music, artisans, food trucks and special activities for the whole family.
During the winter months, both locals and travelers alike visit the lighthouse hoping to catch the sights of humpback whales.
Bring your lounge chair or beach towel, just down from the lighthouse you can get a front seat to watch surfers at Domes Beach. Domes is a great place to watch the sunset, but just about anywhere along the shore you can enjoy it.
There are plenty of restaurants nearby for a nice lunch or dinner by the water or higher up on the hills, many offering breattaking views.
Time Needed: Half Day. Full Day to explore the area or enjoy the activitivies at a relaxed pace. + Rincon, Puerto Rico.
Post Hurricane Maria Update: Tourist ready.
Crystal clear, waves crashing shows, uncrowded scene
No other travel guide has included the tidal pools of Isabela on their list of “top things to do in Puerto Rico”, to be honest, we don’t want to, we really want to be selfish and keep it to ourselves.
Most of the tidal pools are visited by few local families, during the week they’re typically empty. There are no facilities, and two of them require some walking, so that keeps them uncrowded and more pristine. They don’t look like much from a distance, but once you stand in front of them and take a dip, you don’t want to get out.
The water is very clear, there’s a constant flow of clean cool water coming in from the ocean, the pools are protected by a rock wall. The pools are shallow, keeping parts of the pool nice and warm, the rocks and boulders inside the pools become playgrounds for schools of colorful fish. The sights and sounds of the waves are mesmerizing. These pools have all the conditions for a high dose of sea therapy.
Winter is the best time to visit the pools, during summer, some of the tidal pools may be empty or too shallow for swimming.
North Puerto RicoTop Points of Interest & Things to Do
World's 2nd Largest Radiotelescope
For decades the Arecibo Observatory held the record of largest radiotelescope in the world until 2016, when China finished construction now holding the title, still the Arecibo Observatory is named the most powerful radiotelescope in the world. High in the karst region of the town of Arecibo, one of the most interesting man-made wonders in Puerto Rico and the world.
Post Hurricane Maria Status: Open for visitors
Cueva Ventana – Arecibo, PR
Prepare to be wowed at the window...
Photos are a disservice to Cueva Ventana, the scene you encounter at the window after hiking through the forest and passing through the dark cave is truly rewarding. The tour guides are bilingual and very friendly.
Need to Know: Average physical shape is necessary to make the walk. You’ll be stepping on boulders that service as steps once inside the cave, so be sure to wear appropriate non-slip sneakers / hiking boots (no sandals).
South Puerto RicoBest Places to Visit & Things to Do
Gorgeous beach, hiking, snorkeling, bird watching...
Caja de Muertos, located off the coast of the city of Ponce on the south coast of the island. This island is one of the most under rated places in Puerto Rico. The island is a nature reserve, this is the kind of island a developer or cruise line would pay high dollar to acquire. The little accessibility has kept Caja de Muertos sort of a secret, that even few residents of Puerto Rico have visited.
This uninhabited island is home to Playa Pelicano which has won the Blue Flag award for many years. You can enjoy a full day of beach-combing, suntanning and snorkeling. If you're staying in Ponce, Playa Pelicano is truly the only beach by our standards.
Getting there: Caja de Muertos is accessible from the town of Ponce. Driving distance from San Juan to Ponce is about 45 min to 1 hr depending on traffic.
Tours to Caja de Muertos: Island Ventures offers a catamaran cruise to Caja de Muertos.
Post Hurricane Maria Status: After hurricane Maria, the hiking trails were covered with debri and broken trees, you may or may not be able to hike, depending on status of clean up. Once the trails are cleared, we recommend the hike leading up to the lighthouse ruins with rewarding views.
Museo de Arte de Ponce
A must visit for art lovers...
Museo de Arte de Ponce is the most prestigious art museum in Puerto Rico, one of the most well known across the Caribbean.
"The Ponce Museum of Art is recognized worldwide as an important center of European art in America, and continues to offer its visitors a rich panorama of Western art, from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century. Two strong points within the European collection are Baroque art and Victorian painting."
"The permanent collection consists of 4,500 paintings, sculptures, decorative arts, ceramics, three-dimensional objects, photographs, engravings, drawings, videos and installations of sound art. The works of art span 30 centuries (from 900 BC to the present) and come from Europe, America, and Africa. In 1956 Luis A. Ferré established a foundation that bears his name and acquired his first group of European paintings for the future museum in Ponce that opened in 1959."
Don't miss the impressive and captivating Flaming June by Frederic Leighton.
Updates on Top Attractions that Remain Closed
The third largest underground river in the world...
Even if you’re not into caves, you’ll be mesmerized by the Camuy River Cave Park, one of the most impressive natural attractions of Puerto Rico. Camuy River Cave Park is the third largest underground river in the world and not to be missed. You can do both the Cave Park and the following Arecibo Observatory in one morning or afternoon.
Getting Here: Driving time from San Juan is about an hour with traffic. See maps on pages for directions.
Time Needed: You can do both the Cave Park and the Arecibo Observatory in one full morning or afternoon.
Hurricane Maria Status: Closed. Cleaning underway.