Planning a visit to Puerto Rico? Today, we’re going to walk you through what to do in Puerto Rico!
Whether you are planning to party, to explore the wild jungle, stroll through timeless art galleries, dive among reefs or sample local culinary delights, Puerto Rico has just the right places for you.
Spread over only 3,500 square miles, this island has the diversity and the rich spirit forged through a turbulent history, by friendly, hospitable and welcoming people.
Let the local spirit take you on the journey of exploration. Immerse yourself in the local life and open your heart to the friendly natives as they will to you.
What To Do in Puerto Rico: Amazing Activities You Must Do
Old San Juan
Old San Juan or Viejo San Juan is Puerto Rico’s link between the past and present. You can spend your entire vacation just exploring this ancient Spanish town with its cobblestone narrow streets, grand forts and colorful houses.
You will probably start by exploring the past in El Morro, Castillo San Cristóbal and Calle del Cristo. But the true spirit of San Juan is in its people.
See how people live by visiting local markets, eating at the small mom-and-pop restaurants and cafes, visiting galleries and art shows.
Pay attention to the colorful, elegant architecture of the old mansions. Take a peek at the hidden walled gardens. Cool off in the stately museums.
And when you want to relax, sit in one of many street cafes and eateries and watch people go on with their lives while sampling local fare and sipping the famous sangria. It was allegedly invented here.
If you feel for a bit of hiking, go see fascinating Cueva Ventana. This famous cave is located on top of a massive cliff in the town of Arecibo, less than an hour’s drive from San Juan.
The cave got its name for the opening in the cave wall that creates a window through which you can see the valley below. You will have to climb a bit, so it is not for folks with limited mobility. It is a lovely part of the island, well worth visiting.
Pública Espacio Cultural
Pública Espacio Cultural is a large open gallery in San Juan where there is always something going on. It is open to the Puerto Rican artists to showcase their latest works but it also hosts political gatherings, fashion shows, food market events and similar gatherings open to the public.
It is an interesting window into the modern Puerto Rican life not usually visited by tourists.
Rum is one of Puerto Rico’s main exports. The island is often called the “rum capital of the world,” so you should use the opportunity to find out how this popular drink is made, and indulge in tasting it at the source.
Some of the world’s biggest producers of rum are located in Puerto Rico, including Bacardí, Ron del Barrillo and Don Q.
You can take a tour of Bacardí and Ron del Barrilito and see how it all works. Of course, the most interesting part of the tours is the sampling.
A nice way to visit Casa Bacardí is by taking a ferry from Old San Juan. It is located in Cataño, just across the bay from the city.
Ron del Barrilito is located in the historic Hacienda Santa Ana, in Bayamón, about 10 miles from San Juan.
Coamo Thermal Hot Springs
If you feel like a bit of pampering, visit Coamo, one of the oldest towns in Puerto Rico. It is located in what was once a prehistoric volcano, and now a lush green valley south of the island’s central mountain range.
Coamo is famous for its thermal baths, baths filled with healing spring water. The waters are believed to help with diabetes, circulation problems, gout, joint pain and respiratory issues.
According to the local legend, Juan Ponce de León believed the thermal waters to be the fabulous Fountain of Youth.
The springs became a main tourist attraction since they were discovered in 1847. A hotel-sanatorium Hotel Los Baños de Coamo has been renovated since and now you can enjoy its two pools, a spa, and a café.
Cayo Icacos is a tiny, uninhabited island about a 5-minute boat ride from the town of Fajardo. It is part of the La Cordillera Reef Nature Reserve.
The small cay is a perfect spot to unwind and relax – it has nothing but sugar-fine sand, turquoise sea and lush jungle in its center.
Spend the day snorkeling or napping in a hammock in the shade of a palm tree. Read more about all the snorkeling options here.
There is no camping or any other facilities on the island, so come early and go back to San Juan in time for a nice dinner. It takes about 45 minutes to drive from Fajardo to San Juan.
San Juan Guided Snorkel Tour
With healthy reefs all around the island, there are snorkeling opportunities everywhere. Make it easier and more comfortable by taking one of the organized tours. It is one of the easiest ways to enjoy spectacular reefs around the island.
A private tour from San Juan includes all the equipment including a GoPro camera for underwater photos. They will offer you basic instructions if you have never done it and will take you to some of the best snorkeling spots near San Juan.
Castillo San Felipe del Morro
One of the main icons of San Juan, Castillo San Felipe del Morro is the 16th-century fortification built by the Spanish rulers to guard the city.
You will have to explore the ancient fort on your own, there are no organized tours, but you should not miss it. It will envelop you in the sense of history and the turbulent past.
As you walk along the crumbling walls, take a look at the ocean spreading ahead and try to imagine pirate ships gathering around. What you can see today are massive cruise ships. While pirates never conquered San Juan, the tourists are doing it daily.
El Yunque National Forest
Covering the misty slopes of the rugged Luquillo Mountains, the lush and verdant El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rainforest in the US. The mountain slopes rise to 3,533 feet receiving often more than 200 inches of rain, having an average temperature of 73° F (21° C).
These conditions are perfect for the incredibly rich biodiversity and thriving plant and animal life. It provides a home to 240 tree species, 150 fern species and thousands of other native plants.
Only 40 percent of El Yunque is open to the public. There are 12 great hiking trails, biking trails and running trails, the ideal way to enjoy the forest, see the waterfalls and spot some wildlife.
Many trails end at one of the refreshing pools where you can go for a swim. La Coca trail has several ponds along the way. If you climb 1,575 ft, to the Yokahú Observation Tower, the view will take your breath away and you will be able to take some of the most spectacular photos of your life.
Mercado Agrícola Natural Viejo San Juan
The Mercado Agricola is the popular farmers market in Old San Juan. Every Saturday morning it brings together the locals and tourists to the big plaza in front of the San Juan Museum to try local produce, fruits, vegetables, bread, cheese, homemade chocolate, and local crafts.
Enjoy the colorful and fragrant stands, meet the farmers, taste some local kombucha and learn what grows locally.
Vaca Negra is a cheese factory located in the small town of Hatillo you should not miss. At Vaca Negra (black cow) they make aged cheese and lactose-free yogurt in delicious flavors such as Piña Colada, Coconut, Guava and Papaya. Their cheeses are made of raw milk and are free of lactose.
You can sample yogurt for free and a sampler of cheeses is $5.
On weekends Vaca Negra offers a two-hour workshop with tasting all of their cheeses accompanied by wines. You can learn about the process of making cheese and even try your hand at it.
If you make it to Fajardo, you should not miss LaEstacion, a quirky restaurant just off the highway. It occupies an old gas station and the décor is a combination of a tiki bar, industrial chic and a lot of island charm thrown in.
The food is fabulous, mostly traditional BBQ with Caribbean Flavors. Everything is cooked on the open wood fire. The ingredients are locally sourced by the nearby farmers and fishermen. Try their pulled pork. Everything is served on plantain leaves.
La Placita de Santurce
Santurce is an artsy San Juan neighborhood known as the location of the Puerto Rico Museum of Art and the Contemporary Art Museum. Many houses around Calle Cerra are covered in colorful murals. The Centro de Bellas Artes regularly stages theater, opera and concerts.
One of the liveliest parts of Santurce is a 100 years old Placita, located in a beautiful ornate historic building. Originally, it was a normal farmers’ market, where people could buy fruits, vegetables, and more.
Today, it comes alive at night, with dozens of little restaurants, bars and food stands selling empanadillas, bacalaítos and alcapurrias. There is always music, laughter and dancing.
Every weekend, La Placita hosts the local farmers’ market.
Parque Nacional de las Cavernas del Río Camuy
Located on the north coast of Puerto Rico, about hour and a half drive from San Juan, Rio Camuy Cave is one of the largest networks of caves in the world. Rio Camuy is one of the world’s largest underground rivers. The main part of the cavern is massive, with a ceiling over 10 stories high.
There are organized walking tours through the network of tunnels and caverns. Enjoy nature’s artworks such as magnificent stalactites and stalagmites carved by the Camuy River for the last 45 million years.
Bioluminescent Mosquito Bay, Vieques
Mosquito Bay beach in south Vieques is a lovely, very popular beach during the day, but it gets much more interesting at night. It is one of three places in Puerto Rico where you can observe bioluminescence.
Small microorganisms called dinoflagellates turn water glowing blue with every move you make while swimming in the dark or paddling on your boat.
With a sky full of stars above your head, swimming in the glowing dark waters is quite an experience. The darker the night is, the more startling the glow is. Avoid nights with a full moon.
Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico is Puerto Rico’s pride and its institution. Located in the Santurce, artsy San Juan neighborhood, it hosts a world-class collection of over 1000 paintings, sculptures and installations by local artists created since the 17th century.
The museum frequently organizes a rotating exhibition of modern art.
The museum is occupying a magnificent grand building that was once a municipal hospital.
Boquerón is a charming village on the Boquerón Bay, a popular tourist destination on the southwestern end of the island. It has some of Puerto Rico’s best beaches, a lovely marina full of pleasure boats and a chain of fantastic dive sites. There is even a wildlife refuge full of birds.
Great restaurants, bars and cafes add to the relaxed atmosphere that attracts both locals and tourists.
Culebra Island and Flamenco Beach
Culebra is part of a small group of cays off Puerto Rico’s east coast. It has a few year-round inhabitants but thousands of tourists come every year to enjoy its fantastic sandy beaches and crystal clear waters that surround the lush tropical forest in the heart of the island.
The sea is full of marine life and snorkelers can spot turtles, rays and colorful reef fish.
One of the most popular beaches is Flamenco Beach, frequently listed as one of the best beaches in the world.
Full of life, history, art and music, Puerto Rico is a tropical jewel and you do not have to worry what to do in Puerto Rico. The biggest problem is finding enough time to do everything you would love to do and see.
Enjoy the lovely mix of sea and lush tropical land, great music and fantastic food. And if you do not manage to see everything you wanted, just come again.
Lorena Maia runs the TravelCroc blog and has written this guest post for us. Lorena is originally from Brazil, and has lived and traveled to all the continents. On her blog, she publishes travel guides to destinations all over the world.