PUERTO RICO TRAVEL GUIDE
Puerto Rico is a gem in the Caribbean with a little bit of everything from history and large cities to laid back crystal clear beaches. And, with no passport requirements for Americans, Puerto Rico travel is a super easy quick escape. One of the larger islands in the Caribbean, it will probably take several trips to experience the best of what the island has to offer. So, pick an area or two to explore and save the rest for next time. Don’t try to fit too much into one trip or no one will enjoy themselves!
On a first trip and just want to know where to go?? Spend a day or two in Old San Juan, a day or two hiking and exploring El Yunque, and another couple of days on either Culebra or Vieques snorkeling and relaxing on the beach.
San Juan is the hub of the island with the main international airport, and where most people will arrive and depart. Make sure to plan a day or two to explore Old San Juan and the beaches near the city. If a more metropolitan beach vibe is your style, the beaches around San Juan are the perfect spot.
Puerto Rico is home to both some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean and the only tropical rainforest in the US National Park Service. So, after exploring San Juan, make sure to plan some time away from the city to relax on the beach, climb a mountain, splash in a waterfall, or surf along the coast.
BUCKETLIST PUERTO RICO ACTIVITIES
If you love nature, El Yunque is probably the one place that should be on your absolute can’t miss list! With tons of options for hiking trails, gorgeous waterfalls, and even scenic drives, El Yunque is an incredible place to spend a day or two.
And, on a personal note, it’s where we got married, so it holds a special place in our hearts.
Another absolute must is a visit to the islands of Culebra and Vieques, just off the east coast of Mainland Puerto Rico. They’re so close to the US and British Virgin Islands that they’re often referred to as the Spanish Virgin Islands. The beaches are picture perfect white sand with crystal clear calm water.
San Juan is the international hub of the island, so chances are you will probably begin and end your trip there. Make sure to plan at least a day to wander the streets of Old San Juan, check out El Morro, and visit the Beaches.
Rincon, on the west coast, is famous for it’s surfing, and the towns along the coast offer a more laid back surfer vibe. Plan a trip to Rincon based on the seasons. The summer offers calmer shores for snorkeling and exploring the Marine Reserve, while winter brings in the surfing waves.
Of the 5 bioluminescent bays in the world, Puerto Rico is home to 3 of them! If you’ve never heard of a bio bay, they are bays with high concentrations of an organism that glows when disturbed. So, as you move through the water, it appears to glow all around you. It’s truly a can’t miss experience!
AREAS TO VISIT PUERTO RICO
San Juan will most likely be where your trip to Puerto Rico starts and ends, and it’s worth spending at least a day or two exploring the area. Old San Juan with it’s gorgeous blue brick roads and historic forts is an absolute must.
Not looking to venture too far from the city, but want a beach getaway, check out our post about all of the beautiful beaches around San Juan to find the right one for you.
Things to Do
Where to Stay
Our favorite place to stay in Old San Juan is El Convento. It has a perfect location right in the center of the historic district, and the property is a truly gorgeous old world Spanish gem. We Love the terraces and courtyard for relaxing afternoons and evenings with a drink or a book enjoying the view.
If you’re looking to enjoy the beaches in San Juan, there are several great options. Make sure to check out our Best San Juan Beach Hotel post to find the perfect spot to stay!
East Coast, Puerto Rico| El Yunque, Fajardo, and the “Spanish Virgin Islands”
The East Coast and offshore islands are our personal favorite spots in Puerto Rico. With El Yunque for hiking and snorkeling on Vieques and Culebra, we just keep returning to this area.
Culebra and Vieques are somewhat difficult to get to unless you’re willing to fly, which has its pluses and minuses. The added bit of work to get to the islands will reward you with far fewer crowds on the beaches, not to mention fantastic snorkeling.
Taking the ferry is MUCH cheaper (around $2 vs $120), but they are notoriously unreliable with very limited capacity for tourists. We’ve both flown and taken the ferry and would hands down suggest flying. Not only is it much less stressful, but the views from the plane are gorgeous!
Things to Do
West Coast| Rincon, Surfing and the Camuy Caves
The West Coast is not nearly as popular with tourists, giving it a more laid back beach vibe. But, when the winds pick up in the winter, surfers from all over head to the area to surf some of the biggest waves in the Caribbean.
In summer when the waves die down, there are several good snorkeling spots near Rincon as well. Make sure to check out our post on the best snorkeling spots in Puerto Rico!
The Western side of Puerto Rico is also home to many beautiful and off the beaten path waterfalls and the Camuy Cave System where you can explore several caves and caverns.
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