When it comes to the best things to do in Puerto Rico, no one knows better than the people who live there.
So, we asked some locals about their favorite activities! Their suggestions range from eating freshly caught seafood to exploring colonial towns to hiking through a rainforest.
With their help, we created this list of the 35 best things to do in Puerto Rico.
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 veggies. Plus, eating as the locals do helps a lot if you’re trying to take a cheap trip to Puerto Rico.
Don't miss out on local advice. Puerto Ricans suggest grabbing breakfast or a late afternoon snack here.
The Rincon Beer Company has live music on Thursday nights!
La Factoría is THE cocktail bar in San Juan.
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 of our Puerto Rico locals suggested checking out the lovely and isolated Gilligan's Island, which is about 50 minutes from Ponce.
You can buy feed to give to the tarpon (big fish!) at the boardwalk. It's a good activity to do with kids.
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.
Locals recommend checking out attractions that give this part of the island its character. They suggest visiting the beautiful Raíces Fountain along Paseo de la Princesa and feeding the pigeons at Parque Las Palomas.
Only 20 minutes from the northwestern tip of Puerto Rico, the coastal town of Isabela boasts massive, surreal cliffs and rock formations. Locals suggest exploring 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.
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 getting local advice is a good idea, as the city is less visited than San Juan.
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.
(It takes only a glance at TripAdvisor to see that taking the ferry in Fajardo can be confusing. So get tips from a local who can explain how locals use the system.)
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.
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.
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. Enhance your trip with local tips. Our locals tell us that, once you've finished seeing the fort, it's fun to try kite-flying with families on the fort battlegrounds.
Are you into travel? History? Check out Yesterday in Travel, a podcast sponsored by ViaHero. One recent episode covered the "Great Migration" of Puerto Ricans to NYC:
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.
Rincon is known as one of the best surf spots in the Caribbean.
The cave is hard to access. Before Hurricane Maria, visitors would use a ladder—which has since disappeared. You'll need to scramble into the cave yourself, which can be a challenge.
Puerto Rico’s Observatorio de Arecibo is essentially a 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 want to visit Puerto Rico with kids.
NOTE: The Observatory sadly was damaged at the end of 2020. Stay tuned for updates about repairs.
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. Locals recommend checking out Las Salinas, Cabo Rojo's dramatic pink salt flats.
You can climb the observation tower at Cabo Rojo for an incredible (pink!) view
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 local add an English-language tour to your custom guidebook—the tour is led by local archaeology experts at the Caguana Ceremonial Park.
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.
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.
Just an hour south of San Juan, La Ruta de Lechon (“The Pork Highway”) is an
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.
Kiosko El Boricua is a great stop for traditional Puerto Rican food.
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. Benefit from local advice: Gonzalez Seafood comes highly recommended by our trip planners.
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.
Barrachina offers a varied menu of genuine Puerto Rican food, from appetizers to entrées. It also happens to be a perfect place for events and celebrations, such as weddings, rehearsal dinners and many more.
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.
Benefit from local advice. Our 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.
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. Instead of traveling blind, ask a local for the best route to get there. (And for where to stop for a snack along the way.)
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, so utilize local advice from our trip planners on how to get there.
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 locals called exploring the forest: "A rite of passage for any adventurer!"
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.
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—although a popular spot among tourists. Get tips from locals: our Puerto Rico trip planners recommend checking out the kaleidoscopic Playa Cofi (Seaglass Beach) if you hope to get off the beaten path.
Locals say that the ferry is the best way to get to Vieques, but prepare to wait in line.
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.
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. Use local advice to navigate with confidence. Our 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.
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.