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The 9 Best Places to Stay in Puerto Rico (Local Recs)

Updated December 29, 2022

Wondering where to stay in Puerto Rico? According to island locals, these are 9 of the best places to stay in Puerto Rico. See what locals say about the charms of classic Old San Juan and the strikingly beautiful Vieques Island. 

For everything from safety tips to restaurant recommendations, work with a local to plan your trip. They'll introduce you to a side of Puerto Rico that most tourists miss. Learn more.

(PS-Looking for specific accommodations? Check out our articles on Puerto Rico hostels and boutique hotels.)

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Kate, Recent Traveler
Kate, Recent Traveler

#1. Old San Juan: Rich in color and history

Greater San Juan is beautiful, safe, vibrant, and in our opinion, one of the best places to visit in Puerto Rico. The neighborhood of Old San Juan, on the northmost tip of the city, is full of history: ancient forts, monuments, museums, and colorful historic houses.

Take advantage of local advice. Locals tell us that Old San Juan can be "hit or miss" when it comes to restaurant options—lots of stuff in this area is geared at tourists. Still, they say it's easy to find "diamonds in the rough." One of our locals raved about Punto de Vista, where you can get great Puerto Rican food and enjoy a stellar sunset from the restaurant's rooftop. 


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#2. Rincon: A paradise for surfers and beach lovers

Just near the northwest tip of Puerto Rico lays Rincon, a top destination for surfers. The town’s two nicknames—Pueblo del Surfing (surfing town) and El Pueblo de los Bellos Atardeceres (the town of beautiful sunsets)—are only two of reasons why Rincon is an excellent (and beautiful) place to stay. 

Local Tip:

Fuel up at Rincon's Sunday market before hitting the beach. Locals tell us you'll find tons of great, locally sourced food here. 

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#3. Santurce: San Juan's hipster haven

The neighborhood of Santurce, just outside of Old San Juan, bursts with art and culture. Locals tell us that Santurce's photo-worthy street murals and electric nightlife make it one of the coolest places to go in Puerto Rico—and Santurce easily one of the top options for places to stay. Once the sun goes down, night owls gather at La Placita de Santurce (the neighborhood's public square) for cheap drinks, good music, and plenty of outdoor grooves. Locals recommend bringing cash! 

Local Tip:

If you're looking for a more low-key nightlife experience in Santurce, get tips from locals.  One of our Puerto Rico trip planners recommends El Almacén, a La Placita speakeasy that posts their password on Instagram.

#4. Vieques: A beautiful island destination

A quick ferry ride from Puerto Rico is the exquisite island of Vieques. This is an awesome place to stay if you want to hang out with friendly wild horses, explore black-sand beaches, and enjoy all the benefits of island life—and, conveniently, Vieques has some great hostel options. (If you're looking for something more luxurious, locals recommend Hix Island House, pictured above.) Locals recommend grabbing a meal in the foodie Esperanza neighborhood and definitely checking out the wonder of Bahia Bioluminiscente (Mosquito Bay) to see its famous blue bioluminescence. 

Local Tip:

Local advice is valuable when it comes to the ferry, which costs $2. Our trip planners tell us that the line to get on the ferry can take a while, although it's a good way to access the island. You can also opt to take a plane—a quicker, but more expensive option.

#5. Ponce: Puerto Rico's incredible "Jewel of the South"

Ponce, Puerto Rico's second-largest city, is packed with incredible things to do—which makes it a pretty stellar place to stay. Ponce offers amazing history (you'll want to take a photo in front of the bright red Parque de Bombas, Ponce's historic fire station) and fun activities like sipping pina coladas along La Guancha boardwalk. Less-visited than San Juan, it's also a great place to stay if you want to avoid crowds. 

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#6. Culebra Island: (Another) nearby island paradise

Speaking of great island destinations...if you're looking for beachy things to do in Puerto Rico Culebra is a great place to stay. Just off the coast of Puerto Rico proper, Culebra is home to Playa Flamenco (Flamenco Beach), which is known for its warm turquoise waters and white sands. It's a great place to go in Puerto Rico if you dream of sunning yourself near the ocean. 

Getting suggestions from locals is a great way to enjoy Culebra's excellent, healthy options for meals. One of our trip planners recommends Vibra Verde, a locally-owned brunch spot that bakes their own bread! 

Local Tip:

You can believe those TripAdvisor Puerto Rico reviews—Playa Flamenco is gorgeous and classic. It would make Bachelor contestants envious. 

#7. Cabo Rojo: Serene nature and jaw-dropping hikes

If you're looking to get off the beaten path, this remote southwest locale is a great place to stay for something different than San Juan. Home to some of Puerto Rico’s most scenic sights and best hikes, our Puerto Rico locals recommend exploring the wildlife refuge and Las Salinas (gorgeous pink salt flats). They tell us that the hike from Cabo Rojo's iconic lighthouse to Punta Jaguey is especially lovely. Basically, if you love being outdoors then Cabo Rojo is a good place to stay! 

#8. Isla Verde: Luxurious resorts and stunning seasides

No trip to Puerto Rico is complete without a visit to San Juan’s beautiful beach-and-resort area: Isla Verde. Technically in the neighboring town of Carolina, Isla Verde is just a short ride from the airport. Its coastline is home to three of the beaches in Puerto Rico that we adore (and come highly recommended by locals): Condado Beach, Balneario de Carolina, and Isla Verde Beach. 

Local Tip:

It's easy to visit Old San Juan from Isla Verde. Locals recommend waving down the A5 bus (they say you have to wave, or it may not stop). Bring exact change—a ride costs between $.50 and $.75. 

#9. Isabela: Where the locals love to vacation

Isabela, in the northwest part of Puerto Rico, is famous for its wealth of natural beauty. Underground rivers, mangrove forests, mountains, lakes, and wildflowers pack this town—which is a traditional vacation spot for Puerto Rican locals.

Benefit from local knowledge in this locally-beloved town, where our locals recommend ordering a classic Puerto Rican dish at Restaurant El Platanal—the mofongo gets rave reviews. 

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