Puerto Rico has endless opportunities for vacationers. Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, explore lush, verdant jungles, or steep yourself in cultural history, this island is the perfect destination.
But how can you be sure you don’t miss anything?
We’ve put together a list of nine highlights of Puerto Rico so you can make the most of your time in paradise.
Let’s dive in!
About Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is the island paradise of the United States. Rich in beauty and culture, it’s the ideal destination if you want to get away without needing a passport.
You’ll find no shortage of opportunities for adventure in Puerto Rico. The central mountains are great for hiking. Meanwhile, coral reefs off the coast are perfect for snorkeling and diving. And many historical landmarks dot the island so visitors can immerse themselves in the past.
Several environmental groups have successfully stalled mass development. Because of their efforts, it remains one of the last unspoiled slices of paradise in the Caribbean.
Pro Tip: Can’t make it to San Juan, Puerto Rico? Head to the San Juan Islands instead and stay at one of these 5 Excellent San Juan Islands Campgrounds.
#1 Visit the Brightest Bioluminescent Bay in the World
One of the most striking natural phenomena in Puerto Rico is its bioluminescent bays. In fact, they have the most and brightest in the world.
Tiny microorganisms called dinoflagellates shine bright blue when they come into contact with anything in the water. This makes for a stunning light show.
You won’t find bioluminescence on the coastline. This unique sight is in the island’s lagoons and mangrove bays. Here you can kayak, canoe, or paddleboard on the gentle waters and enjoy the show.
The bay offers multiple places to experience this natural wonder, so be sure to look into all your options!
#2 Stroll Through Old San Juan
Old San Juan was one of America’s first European settlements. The Spanish built this walled city in 1521. Now, there are dozens of historical landmarks. Visitors can stroll down cobblestone streets while admiring the striking architecture of fortresses and bungalows alike.
But Old San Juan is more than just a historical site. It’s also a bustling neighborhood with restaurants, museums, and shops of all kinds. A large cruise ship terminal is outside its walls, making the area accessible to incoming visitors.
#3 Check Out the San Juan National Historic Park
The San Juan National Historic Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a valuable part of the historic preservation efforts on the island. Three forts, the San Juan Gate, and most of the city’s walls are included in the park.
Visitors can sense what life was like when the Spanish first settled here, as the fortifications are so well preserved. One of the most notable features, Castillo San Cristobal, is the largest castle built by the Spanish in the new world.
#4 Visit Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
Rich history meets modern art at Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. Part of this massive museum is in a building that initially housed the San Juan Medical Hospital. The rest is in a newly constructed addition. Together, these two wings have 24 exhibition spaces stretching over 130,000 square feet.
The museum offers a range of guided tours catered to all different interests. The permanent exhibit features a collection of Puerto Rican works from the sixteenth century to the present.
#5 Take a Rum Tour
Rum is the chief export of Puerto Rico. In fact, 70% of the spirit sold in the US comes from the island.
The drink originated with sugarcane workers who figured out how to distill molasses and water. Today, the rums of Puerto Rico maintain specific standards that beverages must meet before receiving the coveted approval.
There are tours at many of the distilleries where you can learn about the process while you taste samples. Casa Bacardi and Castillo de Serralles are two of the most popular, so be sure to book in advance.
Pro Tip: Want to go on an island vacation? These are 5 Reasons to Avoid Hawaii for Vacations.
#6 Snorkel at Crash Boat Beach
Crash Boat Beach is Puerto Rico’s premier party spot. Visitors come from all over to enjoy the sandy beach, crystal clear waters, and tasty treats served up by food vendors.
The pier is a leftover US Air Force relic. One of the beach’s most recognizable features is a decommissioned tank on its shores. But the true attraction is under the waves.
You can see fish, sea turtles, and coral in this snorkeling spot. Aquatic life tends to congregate around the pier pilings. And when you don’t feel like hauling all your gear with you, you can rent snorkeling equipment on the beach.
#7 Explore El Yunque National Forest
Puerto Rico is home to the only tropical rainforest in the United States National Forest system. El Yunque National Forest is a lush, emerald-green paradise in the eastern mountains. Hiking trails meander through dense jungle, leading hikers to majestic waterfalls and pristine natural swimming pools. An observation tower lets explorers get a good look at the whole landscape.
When your craving an adrenaline rush, you can go ziplining through the trees and horseback riding through the foothills.
#8 Tour Historic Ponce, Puerto Rico
The city of Ponce is known to Puerto Ricans as the “Pearl of the South.”
Steeped in history, Ponce is a cultural relic. The unique architectural style here is known as Ponce Creole and can be seen throughout the city, particularly around the town square.
Restaurants, coffee shops, and food kiosks all over town offer the flavors of the island all over town. The Hacienda Buena Vista Coffee Plantation offers tours and tastings. You can also find local and European art at the Museo de Arte de Ponce.
#9 Soak Up the Sun at Playa Flamenco
Off the east coast of Puerto Rico is the tiny island of Culebra. This islet is home to Playa Flamenco, the quintessential vacation beach. Sparkling white sands meet brilliant turquoise waters on this quiet, remote strip of paradise.
Nestled in a small alcove on the north side of Culebra, this beach is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. You can also find camping accommodations and bathrooms. Lifeguards patrol the area, and there are plenty of food vendors to keep you happy while you enjoy the beach.
And when you want to get to Playa Flamenco in style, you can book a catamaran tour from the main island that will take you there and back in a day.
Puerto Rico: Ready to Enchant You
This island has so much to offer its visitors. Rich cultural heritage makes the stunning scenery much more memorable. Even to this day, you can see the old world influences on Puerto Rico, and there’s nowhere else to find these one-of-a-kind experiences.
But Puerto Rico is also just a great place to experience the Caribbean, with no passport needed. It’s the perfect destination if you’re looking for picture-perfect beaches, lush tropical rainforests, and vibrant cities steeped in history.
Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA
To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).
You should give it a try!
As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.
Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers who love to score the best site!
We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below: