Top 10 things to do in Puerto Rico is your ultimate Puerto Rico guide designed to give you a general idea of what to expect in this Caribbean paradise. Top attractions in Puerto Rico include Bio Luminiscent Bays, Old San Juan, El Yunique Rain Forest and the islands of Culebra and Vieques.
What Puerto Rico is famous for
Puerto Rico is well known for its picture-perfect beaches, and rightfully so. Warm and friendly people. But Puerto Rico is rich in tradition, too — shaped by Spanish and African cultures over hundreds of years. In the capital city of San Juan, alongside the ancient structures, you’ll also find large office buildings – peacefully coexisting. It’s a delicate dance, balancing the new with the old, the modern with the heritage. Such a versatile city!
Colonial, yet cosmopolitan city of San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico and is one of the oldest cities on US territory. Modern, yet traditional San Juan is also one of the biggest and best natural harbors in the Caribbean!
What places should I avoid in Puerto Rico
I find Puerto Rico to be very friendly and accommodating. Puerto Rico is a very safe place to visit. In San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico, you can walk safely and easily to restaurants, night spots and more.
What about the gangs? Gangs are only a problem in the public housing areas, and activities linked to the drug trade often take place there. How to spot them? If you see cement facades and apartment-like balconies – these areas are known in Puerto Rico ascaserio.
Most Popular Places in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is a popular holiday destination for visitors looking for sun, sand, and sea. This Caribbean Island has a rich history that is visible in its people, food, and culture. You will find so much to see and do other than spending a day at a pristine resort!
Most popular places in Puerto Rico include Bio Luminiscent Bays, Old San Juan, Castillo San Felipe Del Morro, surfing and whale watching in Rincón, Rio Camuy Caves, El Yunique Rain Forest and the islands of Culebra, Vieques, Icacos and Isla Palominos. Overwhelming, isn’t it?
So let’s get down to the countdown of the most popular places in Puerto Rico!
10. Puerto Rico’s La Perla
La Perla is a beautiful neighborhood in Old San Juan, established in the late 19th century. It is also known as the historic district of Puerto Rico’s capital! You will find it in the vicinity of San Felipe Del Morro Castle among other amazing attractions in the area. La Perla is Spanish for “the Pearl” and you can even watch the video for a drone view of La Perla.
Is La Perla safe to visit?
Years ago, La Perla neighborhood was not a safe place to visit, but the entire vibe of the place has changed so much. That said, I would still be cautious and respectful of this urban neighborhood. There’s a difference between visiting during the day and wandering around the streets alone in a place you are not familiar with at night time. If you are still weary of La Perla, visit during the daytime! To get a visual glimpse into Puerto Rico’s La Perla, you can explore these oceanside photos.
9. Old San Juan Cemetery
Old San Juan Cemetery is another iconic place to visit. Its official name is Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery. A lot of Puerto Rico’s most famous people are buried at this cemetery.
8. El Morro Castle
Do not skip visiting El Morro Castle. Take advantage of breathtaking views and its iconic value! Facing the Atlantic Ocean and situated in what is now known as Old San Juan, the capital city’s historic district, El Morro connects the past with the present.
The Castillo San Felipe del Morro, or El Morro for short, was the second fort built on the islet of what is now Old San Juan.
El Morro is open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The entrance fee is $7 for adults, and children under 15 years of age have free admission.
7. El Yunique Rain Forest
El Yunque National Forest is a tropical rainforest in northeastern part of Puerto Rico. It’s about 40 minutes drive from San Juan. Unfortunately, you cannot just enter the forest whenever you like. You will need to make a reservation per vehicle to get timed reservation ticket.
It’s very easy to do! You can access the information on registration using El Yunique Reservations online and get your timed El Yunique Reservation Ticket. Then all you have to do – is drive there! The reservation is per vehicle and the attendant will ask for it when you enter. Flawless service!
Walking trails wind through the El Yunique rain forest, allowing hikers a closer look at over 200 different species of trees and hundreds of species of plants, as well as an abundance of smaller wildlife. I didn’t see any animals though.
El Yunque’s peak reaches 3,500 feet above sea level, and the forest covers 43 square miles, including three-quarters of the island’s remaining virgin forest. El Yunique rain forest is the home to 50 species of orchids! Talk about tropical beauty!
How much does it cost to go to El Yunique?
Not very much at all! The El Yunique Portal Visitors Center current price is $2 per car. If driving your own vehicle, of course. The best way to explore this beautiful unforgettable place is in your own car! The forest is well mapped road wise, and I highly recommend renting your own vehicle!
However, there are also lots of tour operators who will provide transportation from your hotel and give you a guided tour of the El Yunique rain forest for a fee. Try it if you prefer more certainty!
Can you drive into El Yunique? Do you need a car for El Yunique?
The road that goes up into the rain forest is road #191. You will need your own car (or rental car) in order to get into and out of the park. This is because taxi’s and Uber’s are not allowed into the park for drop-offs or pick-ups due to fees imposed on them (as explained to me by one of the drivers).
The entire rain forest can be discovered by driving on a road that takes you to different spots and trails. When you first get to the rain forest, you will have to stop into El Yunique Visitor Center. Then you choose where to stop and take long or short hikes depending on the trail.
6. Humacao Wildlife Refuge
The Humacao Wildlife Refuge is also known as the Punta Santiago Natural Reserve in Humacao. Not many people know about this place, but the Natural Preserve is located on the east coast of Puerto Rico.
There are numerous trails for walking, biking and light hiking as well as long stretches of beach and spectacular views of the coast. Magnificent views! You can also fish, kayak and bike. The best thing is that since the reserve is not heavily visited, so you may very well have this large area almost all to yourself! Highly recommended!
How to get to Humacao Wildlife Refuge
It’s located right on Route 3, just south of the Punto Santiago Beach. Look for a brown sign for the “Reserva Natural de Humacao”. Pull your car right through the gate and park. For free!
You can easily spend 3-4 hours at this Nature Reserve meditating and relaxing. You can see kayakers and bikers there too. Additionally, the bike trail is nice and well-kept. Did I mention the spectacular views? And the fact that side trails take you to the ocean?! I highly recommend visiting Humacao. Simply set your intention, pack your healthy snacks, bring an umbrella, water and make a full day of it. Unforgettable!
5. Puerto Rico’s Best Beaches
Puerto Ricos beaches are diverse, peaceful and beautiful. Emphasis on the diverse! There are over 270 miles of coastline in Puerto Rico and nearly 300 beaches to choose from! Surfing beaches, white sand beaches, black send beaches – you name it! Puerto Rico and its surrounding islands boasts some of the prettiest beaches in the Caribbean! Puerto Rico truly has it all when beaches are concerned!
Soak up the sun, and visit the golden, black sand and white-sand beaches backed by deep blue hues. Peace and quiet is a bonus! I love Puerto Rico Beaches. Personally, I highly recommend Flamenco Beach, Liquillo Beach, Pelicano Beach, Cayo Icacos and many other fascinating Puerto Rico Beaches. Additionally, Puerto Rico’s hidden beaches are fun to explore as well!
4. Laguna Grande – Bio Bay Fajardo
Laguna Grande is the home to the bioluminescence tour to see thousands of bioluminescent organisms that make the water sparkle like bright blue gemstones! It’s located to the east of San Juan in the town of Fajardo and it’s one of three bio-bays found in Puerto Rico. \
We used kayaking Puerto Rico (alternatively you can also use yokahukayaks.com) to do the bioluminescence tour. You will have to rent a car, or find a shuttle (see my recommendations further down) to get there. I hired a private driver and he waited for me to take me back to the hotel.
3. Mosquito Bay – Vieques Island
Mosquito Bay is the other bio bay in Puerto Rico and is one of the most stunning sights in the world! This one is located the southern shore of the island of Vieques, just off the coast of Puerto Rico and it’s a second most popular place to take the bioluminescence tour!
You do need to take a ferry to get to this bay. More on ferry service further down!
2. Mar Chiquita Beach
Mar Chiquita beach deserves a separate mention because it’s a natural pool. The place is absolutely amazing! Stunning unreal views! And it’s one of the most beautiful natural pools! The half-moon opening is created by two limestone structures. Out of this world! You will hear the waters rushing in from afar. And the entire area, with the exception of the cliff, is ideal for swimming!
You can climb the limestone cliff, which looks like a moon surface. Wear shoes! There is also a small pond area that is quite warm and has no current. The beach itself has strong waves, with all the water flowing from different directions and breaking off the limestone hills. All this ocean water playing with itself!
There is also a smaller beach that can be accessed from the parking lot. This smaller beach is quiet and has a beautiful view on one side, but you can see the buildings if you look the other way! The parking lot is located in between the trees and is very tropical looking and spacious!
Are you traveling with family? Let the kids enjoy local ice-cream flavors from the ice-cream truck on Mar Chiquita beach, while you enjoy margaritas and mojitos!
1. Puerto Rico Beautiful Islands
Puerto Rico Islands are beautiful destinations on their own! So many islands in the Caribbean! Why not explore the most beautiful ones?
- Vieques is the largest island other than Puerto Rico itself, and it is home to the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. You will be able to move around Viejas either by scooter, taxi or a rental car.
- Another large and magnificent island is Culebra. Culebra consistently wins prizes for having one of the world’s 10 best beaches – Flamenco beach. Worth visiting either by ferry or a small plane.
- There are also other smaller islands worth visiting, such as Icacos and Palominos, but that’s a topic for a different article. For now, I will just say that you will need to rent a catamaran boat or a private charter to visit Icacos and Palominos.
Black Sand Beach on Vieques Island
Black Sand Beach on Vieques Island is the home to wild horses! It’s very secluded and cannot be accessed by a car because the dirt road is uneven and bumpy. But you can rent a scooter or a bike to get to the beach. From the main road, you will hit a dirt clay road with the wild horses welcoming you to the Black Sand Beach.
I highly recommend discovering Caracas Beach and Black Sand Beach in Vieques.
Culebrita is a pristine island in the Caribbean Sea. Its beautiful beaches and relatively remote location make it a lovely place to visit and enjoy peace and tranquility.
The horseshoe-shaped Playa Flamenco is the most popular beach on the island. The water is crystal clear with no surf, making it a good place for swimming or diving.
Puerto Rico Ferry Service between the islands of Vieques and Culebra
Ferry service between Puerto Rico and Culebra and Viejas is dependable and a fun way to get in between the islands. Ferries depart every couple of hours, unless halted by protestor in the water.
Summer 2021 Update: there were no ferries running in the summer of 2021. The only way to get to Vieques or Culebra was by plane.
I always find it helpful to compare places before visiting them. If you are like me and if you are interested in comparing the two islands against each other, I found this article on Vieques vs. Culebra comparison to be very informative.
Smaller Islands of Puerto Rico
Besides Vieques and Culebra, there are even smaller islands in Puerto Rico. These are Island Palominos and Icacos Island and they can be accessed by water taxis and boats.
How to get around Puerto Rico
To get around Puerto Rico, you can either rent a car, go on a great variety of tours — from exploring the island to water adventures — or use one of the typical, white taxis. It’s the ideal destination for travelers who seek novelty, relaxation and excitement!
How to Rent a Car in Puerto Rico
How to rent a car in Puerto Rico can be easy or difficult depending on the season. If you are traveling during high travel times, such as spring break, Easter or memorial day weekend, vehicle supplies will be limited, unless reserved in advance.
Otherwise, congratulations! You are on the island with tons of plans to visit as many places and beaches as possible. Unfortunately rentals can be unpredictable in Puerto Rico compared to the main land. It’s completely understandable since vehicle supplies are limited due to the territory.
You can rent car through Enterprise or a smaller place such as this. I highly recommend reserving your car rental for Puerto Rico well in advance, especially when traveling during busy times!
How to get an Uber in Puerto Rico – Transportation Guide
Puerto Rico transportation guide is largely a discussion on whether to Uber or not to Uber. It depends on where you are going.
San Juan – Yes to Uber!
Are you thinking of taking Uber within San Juan, the largest city in Puerto Rico? Uber service is very reliable as long as you don’t leave San Juan, with an average wait time of 20 minutes. However Ubers are extremely limited and often unavailable outside the San Juan area, so you will risk not finding a ride back, specially at night.
Rio Grande, Fajardo or West End – Rent a car!
Are you thinking of taking Uber from San Juan to Bioluminocent Tour in Fajardo? I do not recommend Uber from San Juan all the way to Fajardo! It will it be hard to get an Uber after your kayak tour at night. Instead you can get a driver that will come pick you up and then wait for you when you are done kayaking. See next section below.
How to get a ride from San Juan to Fajardo
Ubers are extremely limited outside San Juan capital district and often unavailable outside the area, so you risk not finding a ride back if using Uber all the way to Fajardo, specially at night. This is what I did.
I used two services to get from San Juan to Fajardo to access Bio Bay or El Yunique rain forest.
- First one is Puerto Rico shuttle service. It is very reliable and charges $80 to $90 per ride. If there are two of you, or five – it does not matter – you will still pay the same price.
- I have also used Shawn with Luquillo Taxis & Tours ~ (787) 513-7685 to get around that area and he is very reliable. I highly recommend giving him a call.
- Option 3 is to contact kayak companies. Some Kayak Companies provide pick up for an additional fee.
- Go to Vieques Island for a night if you want the real bio bay experience. Vieques Island offers THE BEST BIO LUMINESCENT EXPERIENCE!
Most Beautiful Destinations in Puerto Rico
There’s no limit to cool experiences to have on the island! You can swim in beautiful beaches and zipline through exotic rainforest. You can jump on a ferry and get to the nearby islands! Most Beautiful Destinations in Puerto Rico are its natural wonders, such as natural pools and islands, and opportunities for adventurous activities such as kayaking, hiking and surfing.
If traveling to Puerto Rico, you can book more trips in Puerto Rico and decide for your self which Puerto Rico you want to see.
Can you recommend a place to stay that will house a family of 5 and also has beach access?
I would recommend Rio Grande area – it’s about 30 minutes from San Juan. In my opinion it’s the best location if traveling with kids for several reasons: less metropolitan than San Juan, more beautiful, very close to stunning beaches including several hidden ones, and it’s close to El Yunique Rainforest, Laguna Grande and plenty of options for affordable sailing/catamaran/speedboat.
Is there a ferry service to Culbera right now? Do you know?
The ferry service between PR and Culebra (and Vieques) was suspended during summer of 2021, so I wasn’t able to use a ferry. However I did take a ferry to Vieques (and there were ferries running to Culebra) in March of 2021.