ViaHero · Updated November 6, 2019
Puerto Rico is full of incredible things to do. But with so many activities—running with wild horses, eating freshly-caught seafood, exploring colonial towns—it can be hard to pick. Rest easy, travelers. This is our 2019 guide to 35 amazing things to do in Puerto Rico.
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#1: Hang out with horses on the black sand beaches of Vieques
On the island of Vieques—a quick ferry or plane ride for Puerto Rico proper—you'll find black sand beaches populated by 2,000 horses. The horses are not really wild, but they do have *free rein* of the place. Say hello, snap some pics, and enjoy digging your toes in the unique black sands.
While on Vieques, Mosquito Bay (known for its incredible bioluminescence) is also definitely worth a visit. But to get more off-the-beaten-path locals recommend checking out the kaleidoscopic Playa Cofi (Seaglass Beach).
Local tip: Locals say that the ferry is the best way to get to Vieques, but prepare to wait in line.
#2: Eat up Santurce’s incredible food truck scene
Santurce is San Juan’s up-and-coming artistic neighborhood—and no artsy hotspot would be complete without food trucks. Locals highly recommend the Miramar Food Truck Park (open daily from noon–11 pm) where you can try awesome fusion dishes like Peruvian ceviche at the Peru Rico Food Truck or fried cheese rolls at Que Toston.
#3: Kayak magical Mosquito Bay
After dark, the waters of Mosquito Bay light up in brilliant electric blues thanks to the millions of microscopic, bioluminescent critters that call the lagoon home. Mosquito Bay is located on the eastern side of Vieques Island.
Our local trip planners tell us that you can't swim or snorkel in Mosquito Bay—but this is allowed in La Parguera, back on the main island. They suggest booking a boat tour to see the water light up at night.
#4: Dive through Spanish shipwrecks
Puerto Rico is known for its stunning blue waters, but even more amazing treasures lie beneath the surface. To snorkel past shipwrecks that date all the way from the 1500s, head over to Vieques or Rincon. You can also scuba-dive if you're certified.
#5: Pop around in Ponce, Puerto Rico’s “Jewel of the South”
Located on Puerto Rico’s southwestern coast, the city of Ponce is full of unique architectural gems and acclaimed museums. Don’t miss the Parque de Bombas firehouse, the Hacienda Buena Vista Museum, or the city’s beloved boardwalk, Tablado La Guancha.
Locals tell us that Ponce is also a great home base for day trips, as there are tons of unique places to visit within an hour radius. One guidebook created by a Puerto Rico trip planner suggested checking out the lovely and isolated Gilligan's Island, which is about 50 minutes from Ponce.
#6: Wave hello to the monkeys living on Cayo Santiago (Monkey Island)
Home to hundreds of macaque monkeys, Cayo Santiago is just off Puerto Rico’s eastern coast. Since the island is monkeys-only, you’ll need to wave hello from a boat or snorkel just offshore.
#7: Stroll through colorful Old San Juan
No Puerto Rican adventure is complete without a day spent visiting Old San Juan. Beautiful and historical, Old San Juan is packed with some of Puerto Rico’s coolest tourist attractions like Castillo San Felipe del Morro, Puerto Rico's iconic fort.
#8: Discover unique hikes in Puerto Rico’s “dry forest”
Basically a desert next to the ocean, Bosque Estatal de Guanica is filled with beaches and cacti-covered cliffs. The dry forest is great for beach biking and hikes next to stunning Caribbean views. Since this southern forest is just a 40-minute drive from Ponce, it makes for an unforgettable day trip—ask your local trip planner for the best route to get there, and where to stop for a snack along the way.
#9: Get caffeinated in Puerto Rico’s Coffee Zone
A group of coffee plantations in the western mountains of Toro Negro, exploring the Coffee Zone is a great way to see Puerto Rico’s sights while diving into a tasty part of the island’s cuisine. With picturesque backgrounds, coffee plantations like Hacienda Tres Angeles belong at the top of any coffee lover’s Puerto Rico itinerary. Plus, you can feel good about exploring the island's coffee heritage—actor/playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda is behind a recent push to use coffee to revitalize Puerto Rico post-Maria.
#10: Surf with sea turtles in Rincon
Located on Puerto Rico’s western coast, Rincon is a magnet for leatherback sea turtles. If you’re traveling to Puerto Rico in the springtime, organize your vacation package around turtle nesting season (April–June)—then you can sign up for a tour to swim, snorkel, or scuba next to these gentle giants.
Local tip: If you surf, you’re in luck—Rincon is known as the best surf spot in the Caribbean. If you don't, then simply enjoy Rincon's beautiful beaches.
#11: Explore Castillo San Felipe del Morro
Castillo San Felipe del Morro was built by the Spanish in the 1500s to protect San Juan. Since the fort is open daily from 9 am–6 pm, you’ll have plenty of time for incredible pictures on the castle walls. Locals tell us that, once you've finished seeing the fort, it's fun to try kite-flying with families on the fort battlegrounds.
#12: Cool off at El Charco Azul swimming hole
A seemingly bottomless blue lake in eastern Puerto Rico, El Charco Azul is a favorite local spot for cooling off in the jungle with the locals. A great half-day trip, El Charco Azul is accessible via a short, clear jungle path. Since few tourists know of El Charco Azul, you’ll likely have this off-the-beaten-path Puerto Rico attraction all to yourself. It is a bit tricky to find—our Puerto Rico trip planners can provide specific instructions in your custom guidebook.
#13: Treat yourself to incredible pork dishes along the Ruta de Lechon
Just an hour south of San Juan, La Ruta de Lechon (“The Pork Highway”) is an
#14: Scan the trees for parrots in El Yunque Rainforest
The only tropical rainforest in the US, El Yunque is both an awesome hiking spot and home to the endangered Puerto Rican parrot. Keep an eye out for the parrot’s bright red and green plumage, especially around the forest’s largest trees where the parrots make their nests. One of our local trip planners called exploring the forest: "A rite of passage for any adventurer!"
#15: See the pre-Columbian carvings in Cueva del Indio
Nestled next to crashing ocean waves, Cueva del Indio is an ancient cave covered in petroglyphs from Puerto Rico’s indigenous Taino people. For $5, you can climb a wooden ladder into the cave’s depths. Locals tell us that since Cueva del Indio is close to Arecibo, it’s easy to make a combined day trip with La Cueva Ventana.
#16: Venture through the Humacao Nature Preserve
An ecotourism must-do, the Humacao Nature Preserve is full of iguana colonies and coqui frogs. Free and open to the public, the preserve also features drastically different ecosystems, like swamps, lagoons, and beaches, and mangroves. Humacao was damaged during Hurricane Maria but has since reopened; for more information on hurricane recovery, check out this Puerto Rico tourism update.
#17: Salivate over street food in Piñones
A quick drive from San Juan, Piñones is a small beachside town where street food is an art. Indulge in some classic Puerto Rican fried treats like empanadas, bacalaito, and alcapurrias—then picnic on the beach or enjoy the boardwalk alongside the locals.
Local tip: Kiosko El Boricua is a great stop for Puerto Rican food.
#18: Dazzle your senses at the beachside cliffs in Isabela
Only 20 minutes from the northwestern tip of Puerto Rico, the coastal town of Isabela boasts massive, surreal cliffs and rock formations. Locals suggest exporing spots that most tourists miss, like the abandoned Guajataca Railroad Tunnel or the pit cave of Pozo de Jacinto, both of which lead to white-sand beaches. Finish the adventure by getting some local advice about where to grab dinner—our Puerto Rico trip planners tell us that Restaurant El Platanal is a great stop for Puerto Rican fare.
#19: Fall in love with colonial San German
San German is a smaller, more manageable version of San Juan, but don’t let its size fool you—San German’s cobblestone streets and colonial-era churches are bound to charm. Locals say the best way to tour San German is on foot since the city’s 200 historic sites are within 30 minutes of each other. This is a spot where connecting with a local trip planner is a good idea, as the city is less visited than San Juan.
#20: Experience the unparalleled beauty of beaches in Culebra
Culebra Island is a Puerto Rican highlight just off of the main island’s east coast. Among many other natural wonders, it’s home to Playa Flamenco, one of Puerto Rico’s best beaches. To get to Culebra, you can take a short flight from San Juan for around $100, or take a ferry from nearby Fajardo for $4.50. Locals recommend double-checking the ferry times—and, if you're up for it, hopping on the early ferry at 6 am to maximize your time on the beach.
#21: Check out the amazing nature in Fajardo
A serene seaside town, northeastern Fajardo is off most tourists’ radars. Fajardo’s beaches, home to native manatees and turtles, don’t just border the western trails of El Yunque National Forest—the city is also a departure point for ferries to Vieques and Culebra, making it one of the best places to stay in Puerto Rico.
Local tip: It takes only a glance at TripAdvisor to see that taking the ferry in Fajardo can be confusing. So connect with a local trip planner who can explain how locals use the system.
#22: Adventure through Rio Camuy Cave Park
“Awe-inspiring” is an understatement when it comes to the Rio Camuy Cave Park, one of the world’s biggest cave systems. With over 200 10-story caverns to explore, there’s plenty to see for adventurers of all ages, making it one of the coolest places to visit in Puerto Rico.
#23: Discover PR’s soul in San Juan
Whether you’re looking for a popping party or low key time in the sunshine, you’ll find it in San Juan, Puerto Rico's beating heart. Here, you'll find distinct neighborhoods like Santurce, beautiful beaches like Isla Verde and Condado, and of course, lots of incredible food.
Local tip: Looking for beach snacks? Hit up Pueblo Supermarket in Isla Verde.
#24: Explore secluded beaches in Guanica
Located on Puerto Rico’s southwestern coast, Guanica’s beaches are some of Puerto Rico’s best-kept secrets. Locals recommend setting aside a day or two for the real-life Gilligan’s Island (Cayo Aurora), full of mangroves and coral reefs. They also suggest checking out Playa Jaboncillo and Punta Ventana, white-sand beaches with gorgeous cliffs for cliff-jumping.
#25: Stroll the farmers' markets in Rincon
Open every Sunday from 8 am–2 pm, the Rincon Farmers Market is the perfect local spot to support Puerto Rico’s farmers and buy some of Puerto Rico’s legendary produce. Plus, eating as the locals do helps a lot if you’re trying to take a cheap trip to Puerto Rico. Our trip planners suggest grabbing breakfast or a late afternoon snack here.
#26: Hit up hidden gems in Parguera
We've mentioned Parguera's beautiful bioluminescent bay—and the area offers a lot more. Full of mangroves and a sizeable iguana population, this coastal town is only a 30-minute drive from the stunning Cabo Rojo Lighthouse on Puerto Rico's southwestern coast.
We adore Parguera's clear, calm ocean waters. If you're into scuba-diving, locals definitely recommend signing up for a tour of the Parguera Wall to see some amazing coral reefs.
#27: Stargaze at the Observatorio de Arecibo
Puerto Rico’s Observatorio de Arecibo is essentially 20-acre dish-style telescope in the middle of the jungle. The interactive museum is especially cool to visit—and can be a neat stop if you're in Puerto Rico with kids.
Pro tip: Remember the James Bond movie Goldeneye? The climax was filmed here!
#28: Look out for pirates and pink salt in Cabo Rojo
Perched atop Puerto Rico’s southwestern cliffs, the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse looms over the beautiful waters of the Caribbean. Don’t be dissuaded by the bumpy, dirt road entrance—this off-the-beaten-path spot is easily one of Puerto Rico’s most dramatic landscapes. Our local trip planners recommend checking out Las Salinas, Cabo Rojo's dramatic pink salt flats.
#29: Take in the beauty of Mayagüez….
Mayagüez is known as the “Sultana of the West” for its gorgeous architecture and even more beautiful natural scenery. A 30-minute drive from Cabo Rojo on Puerto Rico’s southwestern tip, Mayagüez is also accessible by plane through the Eugenio Maria Hostos Airport. From there, you can access prime snorkeling spots like Desecheo Island and Isla de Ratones.
#30: ...and chow down on Mayagüez’ world-famous bread
Puerto Rico is known for its delicious sweet bread, and Mayagüez has some of the best. Be sure to visit Massa Artisan Bakery and Cafe, the Ricomini Bakery, and Panaderia La Candelaria—your taste buds will thank you. Locals also recommend grabbing some seafood in this seaside town. Gonzalez Seafood comes highly recommended by our trip planners.
#31: Marvel at the Taino Stonehenge
Taino Stonehenge is part of a sacred ceremonial site of the Taino, Puerto Rico’s indigenous people. With petroglyphs and craggy edges, this stone circle is an impressive reminder of Puerto Rico's vibrant history. Have a trip planner add an English-language tour to your custom guidebook—the tour is led by local archaeology experts at the Caguana Ceremonial Park.
#32: Climb La Cueva Ventana for an unbeatable view
A huge inland cave looking over the lush Arecibo Valley, La Cueva Ventana (“The Window Cave”) boasts one of the most iconic views of Puerto Rico. Every day between 10 am–4:30 pm, La Cueva Ventana tours are given by an official park guide—and our Puerto Rico trip planners recommend signing up!
#33: Brave the ghosts in Puerto Rico’s military bunkers
Puerto Rico hosts many spooky World War II landmarks—if you know where to look. Locals suggest hitting up the El Morrillo bunkers next to the Humacao Nature Preserve or the abandoned Fort Buchanan in Bayamon. These WWII bunkers are not only historic—they also boast stunning jungle and ocean views.
#34: Go on a Pina Colada taste test
Two places in Puerto Rico claim to have invented the pina colada: The Caribe Hilton Hotel (which also happens to be one of the best beachside resorts in town) and Barrachina Restaurant (which happens to be near one of the best boutique hotels in Puerto Rico).
Basically, you have no other choice than to taste pina coladas at both establishments. Tough, we know, but we don’t make the rules.
#40: Catch a baseball game at Estadio Hiram Bithorn
One of the coolest off-the-beaten-path things to do in Puerto Rico is to just sit back, have a beer, and enjoy some baseball. Locals tell us that although you’re most likely to see local Puerto Rican teams play, MLB teams pass through every now and then.
To get the most out of your trip to Puerto Rico, connect with a local Puerto Rican trip planner. They’ll design a custom guidebook full of amazing things to do in Puerto Rico—because nobody knows Puerto Rico better than someone who actually lives there.
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