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Things to Do in Puerto Rico: The Ultimate Island Travel Guide

by Caitlin J

Puerto Rico is a tropical island, located in the Caribbean. The island is home to many popular tourist destinations. With so much to see and do, it can be difficult to decide what’s worth your time. 

Whether you want to experience a perfect beach day in Rincon, or stay in a historic hotel in Old San Juan, this guide will teach you everything you need to know about Puerto Rico. 

From exploring the rainforest at El Yunque, to touring coffee plantations on the eastern mountains of the island, read on for some of the best things to do in Puerto Rico!

What to Expect in Puerto Rico

Located in the northeast Caribbean Sea, about 1,000 miles from Miami, Puerto Rico has about 3.2 million residents. Comprised of a large main island and several smaller islands, like Culebra, Mona, and Vieques, Puerto Rico was colonized by Spain in 1493. 

Puerto Rico remained the property of Spain until 1898, when it became a U.S. territory after the Spanish-American War. Residents of Puerto Rico have been considered U.S. citizens since 1917, and are able to move freely between their country and the United States.

The first time I went to Puerto Rico was years ago as a solo female traveler. Ever since then, I have been dying to go back! My fiance and I came here last October, and our trip was amazing. We spent a few weeks traveling around this beautiful country and exploring all of the incredible beaches, historical sites, and delicious local cuisine.

It’s no wonder why Puerto Rico is a major tourist destination. With a lovely Caribbean climate, stunning beaches, and many attractions, there are so many things to do in Puerto Rico. Read on for more details!

  • Weather and Climate: Puerto Rico’s hurricane season is between June and November, so the best time to visit Puerto Rico is in the winter or spring. The year-round average temperature is about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so the weather is almost always warm.
  • Getting Around Puerto Rico: I highly recommend renting a car to explore the entire island. However, Old San Juan is highly walkable, so you won’t need a car for this particular area.
  • Safety: Puerto Rico is one of the safest Caribbean islands. When I came here as a solo female traveler, I never had any problems. 
  • Currency: Puerto Rico uses the U.S. dollar, so there’s no need to exchange currency.
  • Language: The two official languages of Puerto Rico are English and Spanish. English is widely spoken, especially in areas that see more tourism.

What to Eat and Drink in Puerto Rico

The food in Puerto Rico is SO delicious. From the coastal offerings of Rincon to the more traditional dishes of the interior mountains, there are many delicious dishes to try. 

You can’t go to Puerto Rico without tasting the island’s national dish, the Mofongo. The Mofongo is a dish made of mashed plantains, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. The dish is usually served with fried pork chunks or chicken chunks on top.

Another popular dish is the Arroz Con Gandules. It’s rice with pigeon peas and it has a very spicy red sauce. If you’re looking for something sweet, order a Borinquen Crema. This is a pastry filled with cream cheese, egg, cinnamon sugar, and grated coconut.

Puerto Rico is also known for its signature rum, Bacardi. You can find it in almost every bar and it’s delicious mixed with cola or water and served on ice. 

Puerto Rico Travel Gear Essentials

6 Unique Things to Do in Puerto Rico

So what to do in Puerto Rico? Why visit Puerto Rico? Well, here’s a little preview of some of the top unique things to do in Puerto Rico.

  1. Hike the El Yunque Rainforest, the only National Park rainforest in the United States!
  2. Be mesmerized by the pink Salt Flats in Cabo Rojo.
  3. Visit the Birthplace of the Pina Colada in Old San Juan
  4. Dive into the Emerging Craft Beer Scene and explore the craft breweries around the island. 
  5. Surf it up at some of the top beaches in the world.
  6. Bask in the glow of the Bioluminescent bays. (The island is home to four of only a handful in the world!)

Top Destinations in Puerto Rico

From metropolitan areas to beachy islands, there are many different destinations within Puerto Rico. Here are some of my favorites!

San Juan || North Puerto Rico

best beaches in puerto rico

If you’re looking for a cosmopolitan area with plenty of beautiful hotels and resorts, San Juan is a great option. As the capital of Puerto Rico, this city is home to over 335,000 residents, so there are many attractions and things to do, including great beaches, restaurants, and bars.

For some of the best beaches in the area, check out my list!

Old San Juan || North Puerto Rico

Old San Juan is a picturesque neighborhood in San Juan, featuring a rich history, ancient forts, brightly colored homes, and a romantic atmosphere. This area is very safe, walkable, and one of my favorite things to do in Puerto Rico. 

For more details on planning a trip to Old San Juan, check out this Big World, Small Girl blog post!

Fajardo || East Puerto Rico

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Located on the easternmost tip of Puerto Rico, about an hour from San Juan, Fajardo is home to one of the three bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico. As a glow-in-the-dark section of the ocean, this is one of the most unique things to do in Puerto Rico. This area also boasts plenty of keys, inlets, and a lighthouse.

If you’re looking for more things to do in the area, make sure to read this in-depth guide to Fajardo!

Culebra Island || East Puerto Rico

Culebra

Culebra Island is a tiny island off the coast of Puerto Rico. However, don’t let its size fool you! With white powdery sand and extremely blue water, this island is home to some of the best beaches in the world, including Flamenco and Tamarindo Beach.

There are two ways to get to Culebra: flying (about a 30-minute flight), or driving to Fajardo and then taking a ferry, which would take a few hours. While you’re here, you can find bird sanctuaries,  turtle-nesting sites, and abundant marine life. You will need to take a ferry to get here, which can be time-consuming, so plan for a full-day trip.

For more info on the stunning beaches and things to do on Culebra Island, check out this blog

Vieques Island || East Puerto Rico

As the largest island off the coast of Puerto Rico, Vieques Island is home to the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. In order to get here, you’ll need to take the ferry, or you can fly in from San Juan (about a 30-minute flight). You should plan to spend at least one night on this island. 

If you’re looking for the best attractions on Vieques Island, make sure to click here to read my in-depth travel guide on the area.

Luquillo || East Puerto Rico

If you’re looking for a unique dining experience, you need to visit Luquillo, about a 40 minute drive from San Juan. This town is home to the Luquillo Kiosks, an area comprised of over 60 roadside diners, one of the best hidden things to do in Puerto Rico. If you plan on visiting the El Yunque Rainforest, Luquillos is a great place to stay, or visit on the way there.

Rincón || Northwest Puerto Rico

Situated on the west side of the main island,  about a two-hour drive from San Juan, Rincon is a surfer town, and for good reason! Home to the famous Domes Beach, you can find some of the biggest waves off the coast of this town.

Aguadilla || Northwest Puerto Rico

Aguadilla is best-known for Playa Crash Boat, a sandy, palm-fringed beach with a strong surf. Less than two hours from San Juan, this colorful town is a great place to stay if you would also like to visit Cabo Rojo and Rincon.

Click here to read my travel guide to Rincon and the west side of Puerto Rico.

Isabela || Northwest Puerto Rico

best beaches puerto rico

Isabela in northwest Puerto Rico is a wonderful spot to come for snorkeling. It is where the Blue Hole is located which features almost 1,000 feet of reef where you can see coral and even sea turtles. Pictured above is Playa Jobos in Isabela.

Cabo Rojo || Southwest Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Salt Flats in Cabo Rojo

Known for salt flats and rustic beaches, Cabo Rojo makes for a fun day trip from San Juan. About a 2.5 hour drive from the city, the main feature here is the lovely scenery and wilderness areas.

Ponce || South Puerto Rico

As one of Puerto Rico’s larger cities, Ponce, about 1.5 hours from San Juan, is worth visiting for a day or two. While you’re here, enjoy this city’s amazing architecture, plant life, waterfront views, and incredible food and drink!

My Honest Advice on Where to Go in Puerto Rico?

Definitely plan for a few days in Old San Juan or San Juan, and then plan for a few days on both the west side of the island and then the east side of the island. 

Overall the east side of the island is great for calm, Caribbean beaches. While the beaches on the west side of the island are a bit rougher and better suited for surfers. Hang ten, bro!

Check Out These Guides for More Help Planning Your Trip to Puerto Rico

Whether you want to spend time in charming coastal villages or relax on the beach, the many areas of Puerto Rico have something for everyone. If you’re looking for more Puerto Rican travel inspiration, check out these other Big World, Small Girl blogs below!

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