Puerto Rico is no regular island with regular beaches. It’s a safe haven for beach lovers and a paradise for adventurers. The shores on this island are unspoiled pieces of nature bestowed upon our planet. Although it’s deemed the most popular beach destination in the Americas, it offers more than splendid shores.
Unfortunately, many people mistakenly view the Caribbean islands to just be perfect spots for summer vacations. While they’re flawless destinations, there is also so much history and heritage to deny. Puerto Rico is home to several historic sites that feature architectural masterpieces that trace back to the Spanish colonial period.
The culture of Puerto Rico is rather fun and impressive, and it goes way beyond the stereotypical Caribbean vacations. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with enjoying an authentic Caribbean holiday by the beaches. What we’re actually saying that it goes way beyond that by offering delicious cuisines and great music.
The best part is that Puerto Rico welcomes its visitors with an open arm. If you own an adventurous soul, many destinations are available to match your expectations, or even exceed them. However, if you happen to fall more into the relaxing category, this island is definitely calling your name.
This list below feature some of the top tourist destinations in the island. You will come across unmissable spots that you should check off your bucket list. Also, we promise there’s a perfect place for you no matter who you are. Outdoor adventures, historic sites, unbending beaches, pristine nature, and more are awaiting.
1- Explore the Old Town of San Juan
San Juan is a renowned old town in Puerto Rico that draw many tourists, given its historic ambiance. It’s one of the oldest places where America’s oldest settlements took place. There’s no stunning beaches or natural landscapes around here but rather an old-themed town. Despite the intense history that fill the breeze, it’s still has that fast-pace energy of the modern world.
Whether you’re a history savvy or not, this spot will give you lots of joy. The highlights of this area is the colonial buildings that soak in amazing pastel colors. It is laden with iconic landmarks that you can visit and dig deeper into the darker side of history. Also, the region is home to more than a few shops that serve flavorful food and beverages. You can have a taste of the Puerto Rican culture while strolling around its unprecedented streets.
2- Visit the Museo de Las Americas
The Museo de Las Americas is a must-visit by all the history buffs out there. This magnificent museum sits within the walls of the largest military structure build by the Spaniards, the Cuartel de Ballajá. It also happens to be the last military building the Spaniard constructed in the New World. Apparently, you can expect to see glimpse of old history within this impressive building, and you’re right.
There’s no room for boredom when you’re exploring this splendid museum. It has several collections and exhibitions, with three of them being permanent and others are temporary. Nonetheless, they all share one thing; narrating the development of the culture and heritage of Puerto Rico.
3- Travel Back in Time at El Morro Castle (Castillo San Felipe del Morro)
El Morro Castle is one of the architectural marvels that restfully sit in the old town of San Juan. This fantastic fort has survived for almost five centuries, reserving a symbolic spot in the history of the world. Setting foot into the entrance of the impressive fortification is sufficient to take you on a historic journey to the past.
In this place, you will learn more information that you can take in, but in an exciting way. Several layers of the history of Puerto Rico lays within this castle. You’ll also realize the great role this island played in the Caribbean history. The location of this fortress is image-worthy thanks to the magnificent waters it overlooks. So, don’t forget to bring your camera.
4- Immerse in Nature at El Yunque National Forest
Well, it’s time to pay more attention to the great natural landscapes that Puerto Rico offers. El Yunque National Forest is a hidden gem that allows you to be absorbed by nature and destress. This tropical rainforest lies in the northeastern part of Puerto Rico. There’s so much to see and do at this natural treasure.
El Yunque Rainforest is home to natural pools that result from enchanting waterfalls. The great news is, bathing in these refreshing waters is permitted. Moreover, it has several trails from which you can choose and hike your way through the lush greenery. It’s a great way to stay active while enjoying the picturesque scenery.
5- Discover the History of Puerto Rico in San Germán
Located in the southwest of Puerto Rico, San Germán town comes second after San Juan when it comes to their archaic existences. This town puts forward great historical landmarks that managed to survive long centuries. It has a vintage appeal thanks to its neoclassical architecture and well-maintained cobblestone streets.
San Germán is home to a hundred of iconic building, with Porta Coeli being the most significant among them all. This building is a church and convent that dates back to the 15th century. The ambiance is significantly religious. You can even observe religious artworks in the prevalent museum sitting at the end of the splendid grand staircase.
Other prominent buildings that you can find in San Germán include art museums as well as historic ones. These buildings include the famous Roman Catholic Church of Iglesia San Germán de Auxerre. It’s another worship building that dates back to the 15th century; it also overlooks the splendid Plaza Francisco Mariano Quiñones.
Besides the religious buildings, many museums fill the region as well. These museum include Museo de la Historia de San Germán. It embraces several small galleries that sketch the history of the town, hence the name. While in San Germán, you also shouldn’t miss Museo de Arte y Casa Estudio. This small art museum portrays the history of Puerto Rico through an impressive collection of religious artifacts, paintings, and drawings.
6- Find Serenity on Culebra Island
Culebra Island is a real treasure in Puerto Rico that needs to be discovered. You can just visit this island casually; you need to plan a whole day to spend there. Not only is it spectacular, but it also offers more than a few spots that call for your admiration.
Culebra is a tranquil island that embraces untouched natural spots. It’s home to unique ocean life that is no where else to be found. The ocean on this island holds endangered species of seabirds and sea turtles. They will definitely leave you in awe along with the other creatures that live around. For that, snorkeling is a popular activity, allowing you to have an up-close look at these treasures.
The island is home to several beaches, with Flamenco Beach being the most recognized. Visitors are welcomed to relax by the beach and enjoy their stay. Moreover, swimming is allowed in most of the beaches on the island.
7- Have Great Fun at Las Cascadas Aquatic Park
In Aguadilla, you will find the largest water park, not only in Puerto Rico, but in the Caribbean region. Water parks are fun destinations for kids and adults equally. If you are in the mood for having some fun time in the splashing waters, you should visit this fantastic water park. Also, it’s a great family destination to get your children occupied during your stay in Puerto Rico.
8- Take a Guided Tour in Puerto Rico Museum of Art
Tours in museum always have a special charm, especially when you’re learning about an island as fascinating as Puerto Rico. The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico is one of the most popular tourists destinations in the country. It also happens to be located in Santurce in San Juan, where many other historic buildings stand.
The museum embraces 18 exhibition halls, displaying a wide array of collections and artifacts that portray the island’s history. Moreover, the exterior of the building is also one to capture your attention. It’s been constructed with modern standards that can’t help but leave you spellbound. There are also several gardens and lakes surrounding the museum that you can explore and enjoy the fresh air.
9- Visit Guánica Dry Forest
Nature reserves present unblemished landscapes and unique wildlife, and Guánica Dry Forest is no exception. This region is a couple of hours away from San Juan and is much closer if you’re visiting from Ponce. No matter what direction you’re taking, you shouldn’t miss this tropical forest by any mean.
Apparently, Puerto Rico happens to be home to several unique forms of wildlife, most of which are endangered species. You can many of them at this great coastal forest along with evergreen species of plants and flora. Birdwatching is also one of the popular activities in the region.
This destination is perfect for nature lovers to enjoy spotting new forms of wildlife. It is also a great hiking spot, given its famous 12 trails that vary in difficulty. So, you can choose any of them, depending on your stamina and fitness level. Other famous sports that can be done around is bike riding. This place is basically a slice of paradise for nature and adventure lovers.
10- Spend the Day on Icacos Island (Cayo Icacos)
Puerto Rico is full of splendid cays that you will surely fall in love with. In case you’e not familiar with the term, cays are little islands. Despite their small sizes, they are home to several picturesque scenes and offer many activities to keep you busy and joyful. Cayo Icacos is one of the island’s most popular cays. It’s also the largest cay in Puerto Rico.
It’s a great destination to chill and destress away from the buzzing never-sleeping cities, thanks to its clear turquoise waters. To reach Icacos, you need to do so by boat, and there’s no other way to do it. It sits in the middle of waters, which makes it a little isolated. Once you decide to sail your way to the island, make sure you leave your worries behind.
11- Explore the Bioluminescent Bay
No one says no to unearthly experiences that leave every cell in your body screaming joyfully. Bioluminescent Bays can effortlessly give their beholders this feeling. But what exactly are those bays? Well, rather known as bio bays, they’re rare ecosystems where a body of water glows blue when agitated. Quite interesting, isn’t it?
This process of glowing happens when substances known as dinoflagellates are disturbed, resulting in a bluish green color in the water. Puerto Rico happens to be home to three of the world’s ecosystems, Mosquito Bay, Laguna Grande, and La Paguera. They are located in different corners in the country, in Viesques, Fajardo, and Lajas, respectively.
This bizarre experience only takes place when it’s dark. Thus, some motorboats offer visitors guided tours with special equipment. You can have a fun dive at night, where you can get lucky enough and see the waters glowing in the dark. If swimming isn’t your thing, you can just sit by the shore, waiting for this natural wonder to make an appearance.
12- Tour the Splendid Castillo Serrallés Museum
El Castillo Serrallés Museum is a prominent castle in the municipality of Ponce. Although it was formerly a castle, it’s today managed a museum, welcoming visitors from all around the world. This building used to be home to the Serrallés family; they constructed it back in 30s. The family was popular for the production of their renowned DonQ rum, one of Puerto Rico’s premium rums.
As the castle is now a famous museum, it provides its visitors with many things to do. Interested visitors can tour the insides of the building in guided tours. There are also benches that sit in the garden outside, known as the Japanese garden, where people can sit and enjoy the peacefulness. Other things to do include visiting the Cruceta del Vigia that sits on top of a hill under the same name.
Having some tranquil time is the best thing to do at this spot. It may not seem like much, but we promise you’ll enjoy your time there while observing objects from a bygone era. Moreover, this venue has now become suitable for holding weddings, funerals, and other social events. So, you may find it a little crowded at some days if there’s some occasion going on.
13- Hike to Gozalandia Waterfalls
The Americas are popular for holding so many waterfalls that you’ll eventually lose count. Puerto Rico is blessed with the same feature; it’s home to several waterfalls that are equally spectacular. However, not all of them are either quite popular or easy to find as the renowned Gozalandia Waterfalls.
Gozalandia is a famous attractions in San Sebastian although it’s commonly referred to as the secret waterfall. The name comes from the fact that you need to have a little adventure in order to reach those cascading waters. These waterfalls plunge into a refreshing pool of water where people can swim.
Enjoying the scenes of the cascading waterfalls of Gozalandia is one thing, but the adventure reaching this spot includes is a different story. Trekking your way to the waterfalls is worth every step. You’ll be observing several great landscapes on your way. Eventually, you can end your trip with a great dive into the waters.
14- Watch Beautiful Sunsets in Rincón City
With the numerous beaches that Rincón city offers, it’d be a loss if you missed it during your trip around Puerto Rico. Rincón is popular for the abundance of dazzling beaches, for it’s where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a true paradise for those who are searching for an authentic Caribbean experience.
Tourists have been flocking to this city for years to seize the opportunity of watching the sunset by the spectacular beaches. It’s also a great destination where you can partake in several water activities, including surfing, snorkeling, diving, and paddleboarding, fishing, and swimming. However, you can just spend the day relaxing at the slow-paced city away from the overwhelming vibrance of the big cities.
Besides the beaches, Rincón is also somewhere where art and culture thrives. You shouldn’t miss the Rincón Art Walk. It’s a small festival where a tropical ambiance takes over, and music, art, and cuisines come together. There are also plentiful art galleries that you can visit.
15-Visit the Monkey-Inhabited Island, Cayo Santiago (Monkey Island)
Cayo Santiago is one of the magnificent islands in Puerto Rico that falls in Humacao. This island is home to some odd inhabitants that you don’t get to see everyday, monkeys. They literally control the whole island in a very exclusive way, where humans are not at all welcomed.
This island is a little remote, probably to give the monkeys the space they need. This thing started back in 1938, where hundreds of monkeys were delivered for research purposes. Today, it’s home to many of them. The island is not open for any visitors at any time through the day. However, you can arrange a kayak trip, where you get to sail around the island and watch the monkeys.
16- Spend a Lovely Night in La Placita de Santurce
San Juan is home to so many historic districts and sites. One of the unmissable destinations that you should pass by during traveling around Puerto Rico is Santurce. It’s known for embracing many iconic landmarks, yet La Placita remains a hot tourist destination. La Placita is one of the historic districts that have different functions, depending on when you’re visiting.
This area has been around for a century now. It has always been a popular market place, where people purchased different produce, including fruit, vegetables, and meat. Today, La Placita remains a popular marketplace but only during the day. When the night takes over, La Placita becomes a livelier place, where people can have fun.
Through the years, La Placita has become quite popular for its vibrant nightlife. The market is up by night and the fun begins. Several restaurants and locals kiosks start operating. They sell flavorful meals for the visitors hanging out at the area while holding their drinks. You will also find some energetic people dancing salsa and living la vida loca. Lots of fun await you there!
17- Adventure Into La Cueva del Viento (The Cave of the Wind)
One of the great natural wonders that Puerto Rico possesses is this magnificent cave, La Cuevo del Viento. It’s located deep in the Guajataca Forest, with many trails available to take the visitors to the required cave. There are also several activities to engage in while in the forest, including camping, hiking, and jogging.
Once you reach the cave site, you’ll be stopped by nature-formed staircases that take you into the cave. They’re a bit sketchy and have been reported to be in a bad shape, yet they’re still used. Luckily, there are hand rails to assist you during your descending journey.
Amazing formations take shape, making the cave’s interior quite interesting. You can take some good pictures down here. However, you should be careful with using your phones flashlights or cameras as you get further deep. The cave is home to many bats which the lights annoy them, so make sure you don’t lose your tour guide while venturing deeper into the cave.
18- Plan a Visit to Castillo San Cristóbal
If you happen to be a history savvy, then Puerto Rico is actually going to be your haven. Thanks to its capital city, San Juan; it’s laden with many historic sites that are worth a visit. One of the greatest castles and most recognized is Castillo San Cristóbal. This fortification happens to be part of the National Historic Site of San Juan. So, you will quite enjoy your time around this region.
Castillo San Cristóbal is several centuries old, being built back in 1634. It is one of the many historic buildings that the Spanish built during the colonization period. Castillo San Cristóbal has always been the safeguard of San Juan, protecting the city from potential attacks.
There’s so much to explore around this great castle, given its magnificently enormous size. Besides, the castle’s strategic location put it on the top of the tourist destinations lists. It offers more than a few beautiful landscapes that please the beholders. Also, it overlooks the vast ocean, creating a breezy weather that you’ll enjoy during your journey around the site.
19- Have a Unique Coffee Experience at Hacienda Tres Ángeles
Hacienda Tres Ángeles is a fascinating coffee shop in the middle of vast green islands hidden in the mountains of Adjuntas. It serves authentic Puerto Rican cups of coffee that come straight from the crop. This place offers interesting tours around the coffee hacienda. You will get to learn about the production process of the coffee until it gets poured into your cup.
The shop will serve you with specialty coffee that will leave you in awe. Meanwhile, you will be praising the unprecedented views of the green lands blended with the mountains. You will also take a look at the coffee plantation lands during your tour. It’s an experience that you will definitely remember for years to come.
20- Discover the Underwater Treasures of La Parguera
La Parguera is a great destination that overlooks the Caribbean sea, yet it has no beaches at all. It lies in the southwestern part of Puerto Rico, in Lajas. Despite the lack of beaches, La Parguera serves another interesting element, the cays. Several cays (little islands) are scattered around this seaside destination.
Visitors can reach any of those cays by renting a small boat that takes them to the other side. La Parguera is also home to one of the renowned bioluminescent bays; it’s one of the reasons tourists show interest in visiting the region. After all, you don’t get to see bodies of water glowing blue in the dark many times in your life. It’s a rare wonder of nature.
La Parguera is also known for its adventurous water activities. It’s a popular spot for diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and fishing. Since it’s home to bountiful coral reefs and splendid marine life, you need to discover the treasures hidden below. You can also just chill on one of the great cays that surround the region. Have some delicious snacks and sip on a tropical drink while enjoying the great weather.
21- Live the Caribbean Life at the Capital of the Sun, Luquillo
Luquillo is rather known by the locals as la Capital del Sol, or the Capital of the Sun, and it sits between Rio Grande and Fajardo. It’s home to several beaches that are all equally fascinating. One of the challenges that many visitors face is choosing one of the beaches. After all, you can never go wrong with any of them as they offer the same elements that make for an authentic Caribbean life.
Luquillo also happens to be home to the renowned Luquillo Mountain Range. The mountains’ peak is known for its quite high level, offering great landscapes. You will be overlooking the mesmerizing golden sands of Luquillo, blending with the relaxing blue waters. It’s a hypnotizing view that’s worth the effort of getting up there.
Needless to say, Luquillo offers several water-sports that keep the visitors busy having fun. Many beaches offer paddle-boarding, kayaking, kite surfing, and snorkeling. You can also treat yourself to a hearty meal at the restaurants that line the roadside; there are many bars and restaurants.
22- Visit the Pristine Mona Island
Puerto Rico possesses several islands that tourists flock to every year for spending an unforgettable vacation. Throughout the years, many visitors have been missing one of the untouched parts of the Caribbean lands, Mona Island. This uninhabited small island lies in the west coast of Puerto Rico. It used to be a safe haven where pirates hid.
Nowadays, it serves more than just that. Its relative seclusion made it a great choice for those who are looking for an escapade from the fast-paced life. The lack of human inhabitants leaves Mona Island in its natural state, untouched and unspoiled. It’s the perfect place to let yourself blend with nature. You’ll breeze some fresh air and listen to the relaxing sounds of waves.
Moreover, the island had long years of history, being the original home of the Taíno tribe. It had witnessed several pirates getting away on the island. Thus, you will find remnant scraps of history on the island. It possesses several caves where the walls are covered by ancient petroglyphs. Also, it’s filled with many archaeological sites and prominent artifacts.
23- Explore Manatí, the Athens of Puerto Rico
Manatí is one of the amazing regions in Puerto Rico. It’s located on the country’s north coast where the Atlantic Ocean borders it on the north. Reaching this town takes around 40 minutes from San Juan. It’s a perfect escapade from the modern life, where you can be one with nature.
This ancient town dates to the early 20th century, when it gained its famous name. Locals have called Manatí the Athens of Puerto Rico, given its being a cultural center, like Athens, at that time. This splendid town is famous for the abundance of beaches, espeicially Los Tubos and Mar Chiquita.
Besides its fame for snorkeling and swimming, there are other activities to do in Manatí. It’s home to several historic sites, with downtown Manatí being the most popular. You can explore this site through a guided tour.
On this tour, you’ll observe amazing 19th-century buildings that still stand strong. These include the town’s famous cathedral, City Hall, the library, the Taboa Theater, and a tobacco factory. There’s so much history that had happened around this town.
Also, make sure you don’t miss the nearby cave formation, Cueva de las Golondrinas. It’s one of the rare natural wonders to observe. Moreover, it lies near a small beach, from which you can view the beach.
24- Attend Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián
There is a great energy that you can’t deny while strolling around the streets of Old San Juan. Still, nothing can beat the vibrant energy of Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, Puerto Rico’s largest festival. This celebration takes place on January 20 in honor of Saint Sebastian, and it’s led by the Catholic Church.
The festival takes place over several days, where joy and excitement fill the air of the town. During the daytime, you will find displays of artworks by local artists lining the sides of the streets. You can purchase from them anything varying from handmade jewelry to artistic paintings.
When the night arrives, the city gets filled with parties and concerts. Music comes out from every corner, creating a joyous ambiance. If you happen to visit Puerto Rico during that time, make sure you participate in marching the festival.
25- Explore Rio Camuy Cave Park
Traveling Puerto Rico is undeniably the experience of a lifetime. This island will never fail to impress you with the all the great wonders it has to offer. In fact, Puerto Rico happens to be home to the world’s third largest underground river, Rio Camuy. This river flows through a cave system that has been around for years.
According to archaeological excavations, several inhabitants had previously explored this part of the country. However, the caves were only discovered in the modern world in 1958. The Camuy caverns consists of 220 caves; there are also 17 different entrances that can lead you inside.
Given the abundance of caves in this region, it became a popular park, the Rio Camuy Cave Park. Many visitors are welcomed to explore the region and observe the magnificent works of nature. According to experts, they’re expecting the existence of hundreds more caves in the region that are yet to be discovered.
26- Wander the Street Art in Ponce’s Historic City Center
Ponce is not a just ordinary city in Puerto Rico; this town is home to the warmest forms of urban art. In fact, the colonial city of Ponce is the Puerto Rican point, where art, history, and culture meet. This city is always vibrating with pulsating movement and lively energy that you can’t help but sense through every cell of your body.
The neighborhoods of Ponce city depict the real significance of street art. There is no lane or alley around this city, where art doesn’t dominate the walls. Murals are everywhere to be found; they vary greatly despite their prominent abundance. You can learn so much about social movements and political crises from the evidence left on the wall.
It’s an unconventional way to learn about culture and history. Many popular artists have left their artsy mark on these walls to aid in changing the ways people regard history and culture. The main aim of these street arts is to stop and wonder. Besides admiring the mesmerizing artworks, you can’t help but ask questions and seek answers.
27- Take A Boat Ride Around the Two Mouths Lake (Lago Dos Bocas)
The Two Mouths Lakes is one of the brilliant features of Puerto Rico despite being a manmade lake. It’s rather known as Dos Bocas, and it lies between the two towns of Utuado and Arecibo. This huge lake adds a great accentuation to the surrounding areas.
Several boats operators launch boat rides around the lake, where the visitors can absorb the beauty of the surrounding sceneries and mountain views. Besides the interesting boat rides, the Dos Bocas is a great place to treat yourself to a nice meal. Various restaurants line the shores of the lake. Most of them are close to water level, offering mesmerizing views from inside.
28- Go On A Rum Tasting Tour in Casa BACARDÍ
The Caribbean islands are known for so many things, including the production of premium rums. Puerto Rico is home to the world’s premium rum, BACARDÍ. You can visit the distillery that sits on a bay across Old San Juan.
When you get to the other side, you’ll find the Bat Bar Pavillon welcoming you with a nice cocktail. You can have a delicious sip before starting your tour around the house. It’s a brand new rum experience that you should try.
The tour is divided into several parts. It all starts with the historical tour, where you get to learn about the family owning the business and history of the craft. Later on, the Rum tasting tour starts, allowing the visitors to taste and tell. Lastly, you can attend the mixology class and learn how to bottle your very own BACARDÍ.
29- Spend the Day by the Tropical Beaches of Isla Verde
Isla Verde, which means the green island, is home to multiple beaches that call for a tranquil vacation. It’s one of the best family destinations in Puerto Rico. Isla Verde possesses deluxe resorts and high-end hotels in which you can stay during your trip.
There’s so much to do around this mesmerizing island. Several vendors offer adventurous activities, including banana boat rides, jet skis, and parasailing. Given the huge water access, most of the activities are, undoubtedly, water-based. Thus, snorkeling, diving, and swimming are available to keep you occupied in a fun way.
After discovering the magnificent fish world and coral reefs, you’ll find yourself craving a yummy meal. Visit one of the many eateries and restaurants available to treat yourself to a hefty meal. The promenade of the seafront is also a busy area. It embraces several buzzing casinos and nightclubs that come to life when the sun sets. You’ll always find some exciting to do on this great island.
30- Discover El Indio Cave in Las Piedras
Visiting caves can never get old. It’s a once in a lifetime experience that we live to tell. Since Puerto Rico is home to several natural wonders, make sure you never leave before visiting its prominent caves. El Indio Cave is one of the most prevalent caves in the country that tourists flock to. It lies in the northern part of Arecibo town.
The cave possesses a marvelous appearance that can leave you in awe. However, visitors are always advised to proceed with caution, given the fact that the area is composed of cliffs. Those cliffs overlook the Atlantic ocean, leaving room for hypnotizing sights to be seen.
As for the cave’s name, it literally translates into the Cave of the Indian. It got this name after experts analyzed the petroglyphs found on the walls. Those petroglyphs belonged to the Tainos tribe that were once the settlers of Puerto Rico. You will also admire the magnificent rock formations that surround the cave. The view in which the waves hug these formations is incomparable.
Traveling around Puerto Rico is a fascinating experience. You will head back home feeling like a brand new person. The amount of culture and history that you absorb on this mesmerizing Caribbean island is worth every penny and every second. So, buckle up and head to an enthralling Caribbean experience.