Things to do in Puerto Rico : Complete Guide to Explore San Juan and Beyond

My first trip to Puerto Rico was packed full of sight seeing and Pina Coolada tasting. I had such an a blast, which is why I’m super excited to share with you my guide on all the things to do in Puerto Rico. This if everything you need to know to explore San Juan and beyond!

Since I had been living in England for 6 years up until a year ago, I haven’t traveled around the Caribbean too much. Now, instead of being in Med in a few hours flight I can jet to the Caribbean in just a few hours! I’m so happy I had the chance to discover so much of what there is to do in Puerto Rico.

Where is Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico is a Caribbean archipelago consisting of three islands. Culebra, Vieques and the main island are situated between the Virgin Islands and Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated U.S. island.

What you should know before traveling to Puerto Rico

  • Currency: American Dollars
  • Language: Spanish, but English is widely spoken
  • Best time to go: May, June
  • Electric: U.S.
  • Drive on the right side of the road
  • Tap water is safe to drink
  • No Passport required for U.S. citizens

Getting There

Start by flying into San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín Airport from NYC in just under 4 hours. The 5am flight was painful at the time, but ended up working out great. I felt like I squeezed a whole extra sun day in! Thankfully, the airport is a short 20 minute drive from old town San Juan and only 5 minutes from Condado. I was glad I chose to stay on Condado (close to a beautiful beach) and just grab the 5 minute uber into town when needed.  The taxi ride from the airport to Olive Boutique Hotel in Condado cost me $25.

You should make sure yo check with your hotel to see if they offer a shuttle service and if it costs extra.

Uber is now allowed to pick up at the airport!

Top Tip-there are beaches REALLY close to the airport so it’s a great move to head there a few hours before your flight your flight for max sun time.

How to Get Around

Car Rental

Realistically, renting a car in this country is the most convenient option. Mostly because, not having a car will restrict you on , unless you’ll only be in San Juan. In that case, San Juan is a very walkable city and even if you wanted to go ten minutes away the uber will be no more than $7. In terms of road safety,  I did a mini road trip from San Juan to Rincon to San Sebastian and back to San Juan and had no major issues.

Public Transportation

Unfortunately, the Public transportation in Puerto Rico is limited, unreliable and very timely. However, it is the cheapest option. I have no personal experience using the bus, but here is some bus information.

Taxi/Uber

I used Uber constantly on this trip. It’s widely available and wasn’t too expensive.  For an idea of taxi expenses here is a fixed rate table. If you don’t want to rent a car, I would recommend uber or taxis.

Where to Stay on the Island of Puerto Rico

Ideally, Puerto Rico has a variety of well known hotel brands, family run accommodation and quirky boho properties. You know I love my boutique hotels and Puerto Rico has some incredible ones! Here is my guide to the best Puerto Rican hotels.

San Juan Hotels

OLV:55   + Olive Boutique Hotel – Sister Hotels in Condado. A five minute drive to Old San Juan and a walk to either the Condado Lagoon or Condado Beach. Whether you prefer modern and glamorous or globally inspired rustic chic they have got you covered. Stay in either and you are welcome to use the facilities in both hotels.

The Dreamcatcher – A gorgeous Eco Hotel. The only vegetarian hotel is San Juan, it is known for it’s brunch. Boho chic decor with a treehouse feel. Located in the residential area of Ocean park.

Hotel El Convento – This historic hotel was built in 1646, was the first Small Luxury Hotel of the World Member in Puerto Rico and is the oldest member of the Historic Hotels of America. This hotel some some amazing amenities including access to their Beach Club, fitness center, pool and a nightly complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres reception.

Hotels in Other locations

Villa Montana Beach ResortPrivate luxury at this lush boutique hotel. Boasting secluded beaches, extensive gardens and two restaurants. Located in Isabela.

Tres Sirenas – On the beach hotel in Rincon, close to the best surfing beaches in Puerto Rico. All 5 of the accomodations at this hotel have an ocean view! The stay includes a gourmet breakfast spread.

Hostels

  • Nomada Urban Beach Hostel
  • Vieques Good Vibes House
  • Rincon Inn
  • Conturce Hostel

 

 

Map of Things to do in Puerto Rico

 

Things to do in San Juan

Of course visiting San Juan is a must! Most people associate San Juan with it’s old town, but there is actually more to see than just that. When looking for what to do in Puerto Rico, don’t forget to include other parts of San Juan on your itinerary.  There are beaches, and other neighbourhoods in the greater San Juan area.

Take a Tour of Old San Juan

Tour Old San Juan yourself or join a guided one. There are food tours by Flavours of San Juan or the Spoon Experience and a walking tour where you pick the price. Old San Juan has one of the most adorable old towns filled with colorful houses, bars, restaurants and even some cool Instagram spots!

Walk down the Umbrella Street 

On La Fortaleza street leading up to the governor’s mansion there are dozens of pretty umbrellas above you.  It is known as the Umbrella project and is an art installation put in place after the hurricane to bring people back to San Juan. It’s become quite the Instagrammable location!

Visit the Govenor’s Mansion- La Fortaleza 

 At the end of Fortaleza street in the 16th century governor’s mansion. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. It’s a pretty pale blue and sits on the edge of the city walls. Guided tours are offered daily and entrance is free.

Explore a Fort – Castillo San Felipe del Morro & Castillo de San Cristobal

You can visit Forts El Morro and San Cristóbal. Incredible structures that have protected the city of San Juan for centuries. A $7 entry fee gets you into both forts within a 24 hour period. 

things to do in Puerto Rico

El Morro

Have a beach or pool day in San Juan.

Visit one of the beaches in San Juan or head to a hotel pool. Condado Beach and Ocean Park beach are easily accessible. Serafina hotel has an infinity pool and outdoor bar that I made excellent use out of on one of my days there.

Pamper Yourself.

Multiple pampering options are available in San Juan including the Spa at Condado, Zen spa, Spa Botanico, Well & Being Spa at El San Juan Hotel and Cloud Spa.

See la Perla in Old San Juan.

La Perla is a historical shanty town outside the city walls of Old San Juan. It’s recently been in the spotlight for being featured in a music video.

Check out a Food Park for some tasty eats. 

San Juan has a couple different food parks with a variety of food and drink to try. You have the option of Miramar Food Truck Park or Lote 23.

Party with the locals at La Placita.

When deciding what to do in Puerto Rico I highly recommend experiencing La Placita. This place is raging on Saturday nights. It’s a plaza of bars and restaurants where the locals hang out. If you want, have a light bite and some drinks at Lote 23, then walk down to La Placita for the open air party. Drink prices were the lowest I’d seen on the island and the vibe is incredible!

Adventurous Things to Do in Puerto Rico

 Visit El Yunque Rainforest 

El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rain forest in the US Forest System. There are 16 different hiking trails. You will certainly come across plenty of waterfalls and wildlife. Choose whether to explore on your own or book a tour with an expert. Above all, this is my top choice for what to do in Puerto Rico.

Yokahu Tower is a popular destination in El Yunque and can be accessed by using Mount Britton Trail.

 Chase Waterfalls

  • The San Sebastian Waterfalls are my favorite things to see on my what to do in Puerto Rico list.  Park for just $5 and explore two huge falls. Use the rope swing or just people watch here. The falls are very close to the parking.  The lower falls are down a steep staircase and the other is via a flat cement path.
  • La Choca is a waterfall in  El Yunque Rainforest.
  • Salto Curet Waterfall
  • La Mina Waterfall is in El Yunique Rainforest and can be accessed by the La Mina trail.
  • Doña Juana Waterfall
  • Juan Diego Waterfall
  • Las Cataratas Waterfall

Beaches in Puerto Rico

When deciding what to do on your Puerto Rican vacation, I’m sure the beaches are high on your list. Ideally, this island is surrounded by gorgeous blue water and the beaches are plentiful. Here are some of the best ones.

Beaches in/near San Juan

  • Luquillo – About an hours drive form San Juan this beach is popular with locals and tourists alike. $5 to park and stay all day! There are facilities including bathrooms, showers and snack bar. You can buy a pineapple filled with Pina colada for $12!! The El Yunque Rainforest in the distance makes for a lovely backdrop.
  • Beaches by the airport – Isla Verde and Balnaerio de Carolina are ideally conveniently located right next to the airport! Since my flight home was at 9pm, after hotel checkout I drove here and sun bathed until the last second. I paid $5 to get into the beach.
  • Ocean Beach– Just a bit further down from Condado is Ocean Beach, a more residential area with it’s own beach.
  • Condado Beach is a ten minute drive from Old San and is where many of the high end hotels are located. I went to this beach a couple times because it was an easy walk from Olive Boutique Hotel and there are dining options all along the main road behind it.  It actually gives off somewhat of a Miami vibe!

Other Beaches

  • Playa Sucia  is definitely one of the most beautiful beaches in Puerto Rico. Its secluded and rustic with turquoise waters.
  • Crash Beach gets its’ name from the ship remnants left on one side of the beach. It has plenty of vegetation and lots of seashells.
  • Domes Beach, located in Rincon, is possibly the best surfing beach in Puerto Rico. The reason for its’ name is that there is a Dome on the beach which used to be home to a nuclear power plant.
  • Flamenco Beach is on island of Culebra and is frequently rated one of the top beaches in the world. You can catch a ferry to Culbera from Ceiba or take a day boat tour to get here.

turquoise water will mountain in background

Go Beyond San Juan and explore the other Puerto Rican towns 

Puerto Rico has cute towns dotted all along is coastline. If you have a spare few days I would highly recommend exploring one of the more off the beaten path locations. I  did a mini road trip around Puerto Rico in just 5 days. The island is small enough to make it happen.

Rincon 

Rincon is a cute surfer town. It is home to the famous Domes Beach, a lighthouse and one of the cutest boutiques I’ve ever seen! Since Rincon is on the west side of Puerto Rico the sunsets are epic. I was very happy I decided to stop over here for on night.

Cabo Rojo

Home to salt flats, rustic beaches and a lighthouse. A scenic area do explore for a day in the Southwest part of Puerto Rico. Cabo Rojo is 2 and a half hours from San Juan.

Luquillo

Luquillo has a locals beach and a strip of bars and restaurants along the beach. I high recommend  including this spot in your Puerto Rico vacation if you want to authentic cuisine!

Arecibo

Arecibo is a town on the Northern coast of Puerto Rico. What puts Arecibo on the map is the Arecibo Observatory.

Fajardo

Fajardo is on the eastern most tip of Puerto Rico. Home to one of the three bio-bays in Puerto Rico, plenty of keys and inlets as well  as a lighthouse.

Isabela

The blue hole is located in Isabela and is and ideal snorkeling destination with 300m of reef.

Things to do in Culebra 

Why not head to Culebra, the most peaceful of Puerto Rico’s islands.

How do you get to Culebra?

Take a boat day tour from Fajardo or take a boat ferry/taxi from Ceiba. There is also the option to fly.

Ferry Boat

A roundtrip ticket from Ceiba to Culebra is $5. Be sure to book your ferry in advance on PorFerry. Boats can fill up quickly and you don’t want to mss your chance if you wait until last minute. As a warning, the ferries are known for having issues so it’s probably best to arrive early to your booked time.

I found some helpful ferry tips from the Globetrotting teacher that are definitely worth looking over.

Day Tour or Charter Options

There are a range of day tours and charters trips and I’m sure you could find one to fit your budget. The more you have to spend the more intimate your boat trip can be. The cheaper tours will be on a bigger boats with plenty of other passengers. Keep in mind that some of the boat tours, won’t even dock. You’ll actually have to swim from the boat to the shores. That being said, you can only bring things ashore safely in a waterproof bag.

  • East Island Excursions
  • Pure Adventure PR
  • Caribe Bliss

Fly to Culebra

Take a puddle jumper flight from San Juan Airport.

Flamenco Beach

Culebra is known for Flamenco beach, which is said to be the best beach in the world! It is also home to a National Wildlife Refuge. Culebra is a serene place for basking in the sun and embracing paradise.

Flamenco Beach has a couple of different accommodation options if you wish to stay overnight. Villa Flamenco is literally right on the sand and has a few basic apartments and studios. Last time I was there, I also saw a sign that glamping would be coming soon!

Restrooms, and food vendors are available at Flamenco Beach. Grab an empanada or a pina coolada to sip on.

Staying on Culebra

Culebra Activities

There area number of wellness activities to do on Culebra.

  • Yoga
  • Biking
  • Snorkel and Scuba

Culebra National Wildlife Refuge

More than 20% of Culebra is part of the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge. Sea turtles, birds and secluded beaches are just some of the things you’ll find here.

 

couple sitting on edge of catamaran

Things to Do in Vieques

Vieques has the incredible natural phenomenon, (Mosquito Bay) bioluminescent bay and is more populated that Culebra. Water sports and horse back riding can keep you busy or choose to sun bathe on one of the handful of secluded beaches!

How do you get to Vieques?

Pretty much the same deal as Culebra.

Ferry Boat

A roundtrip ticket from Ceiba to Vieques is $4. Be sure to book your ferry in advance on PorFerry.

I found some helpful ferry tips from the Globetrotting teacher that are definitely worth looking over.

Day Tour or Charter Options

  • East Island Excursions
  • Pure Adventure
  • Caribe Bliss
  • Vieques Sailing Charters

Fly to Culebra

Take a puddle jumper flight from San Juan Airport.

Staying on Vieques

There are a surprising number of modern concept boutique hotels in Vieques.

Experience Bioluminescent Bays

There are only 5 bioluminescent bays in the world and surprisingly 3 of them are in Puerto Rico! Mosquito Bay, is located on the island of Vieques, Laguna Grande on the north side of the island in Fajardo and La Paguera on the far southwestern side. In the Bioluminescent bay micoorganisms in the water glow a blue green when they are disturbed, making for quite the light show!

Horseback Riding

Playa Negra

Playa Negra is is a black sand beach on the south part of the island.

Grand Old Ceiba Tree

A glorious ancient tree off route 200. Said to have a striking majestic presence.

Where to eat, Drink and Party in Puerto Rico

I just loved the food and constant supply of Pina cooladas in Puerto Rico. Here are some of my favorite spots to get a bite or cocktail!

Restaurants + Cafes

  • La Cambija – Casual seafood restaurant in Rincon. I loved their fish tacos and watermelon juice! SO fresh and very affordable.
  • Numero Uno Beach House– A boutique hotel on the beach with a restaurant where your chair is literally in the sand!
  • OceanoA mansion on the beach offering views, cocktails and cuisine. Perfect date night or occasion spot.

Bars + Nightlife

  • Barrachina – Famous for creating the Pina Coolada! They serve food and drinks and have an adorable courtyard.
  • Jungle Bird + La Factoria + CanecaA trendy set of nightlife spots by Colectivo Icaro. All three are located within a 15 mile radius of San Juan.
  • Cuatro Sombras – A cafe with delicious coffee and light breakfast located on the edge of Old San Juan.

Are you looking for other island activities?

Some of the other things to do in Puerto Rico include:

  • Go horseback riding.
  • Go snorkeling over a coral reef.
  • Go surfing in Rincon.
  • Take a boat trip to another island.
  • Biking
  • Go hiking.
  • Visit Casa Bacardi for some rum tasting.
  • Take a cooking class to learn to make traditional Puerto Rican dishes.
  • Go on a food or architecture tour around San Juan.

Is Puerto Rico Worth Visiting?

Would I have went to Puerto Rico twice in one year if it wasn’t?! Honestly, the diversity of Puerto Rico is incredible and it has the history and culture to give so much depth to your travel experience . I highly recommend visiting, especially if you are a history buff an adventure seeker or a foodie!

 

Thanks for reading my guide on what to do in Puerto Rico! I really hope this helps you fully explore the island!

If you’d rather have your entire week in Puerto Rico planned out for you, check out my detailed 7 day PR Itinerary.

Are you interested in finding the best places to take photos in Puerto Rico? Check out my Instagram Guide!

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