Nestled within a chain of islands bordering both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Puerto Rico is a popular vacation spot. Plus, U.S. citizens don’t even need a passport when visiting although it can feel as if you’ve been transported to the ultimate far-flung tropical beach vacation.
Yes, sand and sea are a big part of the allure. But if you’re wondering what are some cool things to do in Puerto Rico, you’ll likely be happy to know that parks, museums, shopping, and historical sites are all waiting.
Read on to learn about top spots and attractions across the island, plus the best times of the year to go and other important details. With this advice, you’ll be ready to have an amazing getaway when visiting Puerto Rico.
Best Times to Go to Puerto Rico
If you’re looking for warm weather without the threat of hurricanes, plan your Puerto Rico trip for the winter or spring months. Temperatures average in the 80s all year long, but you’re more likely to avoid crowded beaches and other tourist spots if you focus on these milder months during the school year.
In fact, ending your holiday season with a trip to Puerto Rico lets you take advantage of festivals held throughout the island marking the epiphany in early January. Larger street parades are held in San Juan, but you can also find charming events in smaller towns as well.
Bad Times to Go to Puerto Rico
There are a couple of times of year that are less than ideal for a Puerto Rican vacation. Because a large portion of the local population is Catholic, crowds tend to swell around Easter. That could mean more lines and higher prices.
Another relatively bad time to visit: Hurricane season, which technically lasts from June through November. The most severe weather activity occurs between the middle of August through the middle of October. If you do travel to Puerto Rico during these months, consider purchasing travel insurance through an insurance provider or accessing credit card travel insurance.
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Average Cost of a Puerto Rico Vacation
Before you figure out where to keep your travel fund, calculate how much it will likely cost you. Flight costs vary depending on where you live and what time of year you plan to go.
Once you’re on the island, here are some estimated costs: Food costs can total $39 a day, and local transportation to be about $18. The average nightly hotel cost is $277 for a couple and $139 per person, though there are certainly ways to save money on hotels.
You’ll likely have other incidental costs as well, but here’s how much a week-long Puerto Rico vacation could cost once you’re there.
• One Person Total: $1,524
• Couple Total: $3,048
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10 Fun Must-Dos in Puerto Rico
No matter where you plan to stay, there are fun things to do in Puerto Rico across the entire island. The list you find here gathered intel from top-rated attractions on online review sites. In addition, travelers who have explored the island shared their knowledge. As a result, you’ll find a diverse range of activities for people of all ages and all types of groups, whether you’re going on a friends trip, a romantic getaway, or a family adventure.
1. Explore Old San Juan
When visiting Puerto Rico, a must-see is Old San Juan, the historic district of Puerto Rico’s capital city. The streets are lined with colorful buildings featuring Spanish colonial facades. You can take a guided walking tour if you’d love to know all the best historical facts and stories, or you can stroll on your own at no cost.
Be sure to include Fortaleza Street on your itinerary of things to see in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It has beautiful buildings as well as frequent modern art installations. There are plenty of shops and restaurants to try out in the neighborhood, as well as attractions like La Casa Blanca — the former home of Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon. nps.gov/nr/travel/american_latino_heritage/old_san_juan.html
2. Trek Through El Yunque National Forest
The only tropical national forest in the U.S., El Yunque is packed with natural excursions just outside of San Juan. It’s considered one of the top things to do in Puerto Rico. There are plenty of hiking trails, ponds, and a lagoon (complete with a rope swing so you can tap into your inner child).
There are more than 28,000 acres in El Yunque, and trails span 25 miles. You can create a plan for any level of exertion. If you’re staying in the San Juan area, definitely put this on your list of unique things to do in Puerto Rico. Admission is only $2, but make sure you have an advance reservation before you go. Bonus: If you are traveling with a pet, the trails are dog-friendly, though only service animals are allowed inside buildings. recreation.gov/ticket/facility/300017
3. Immerse Yourself in Art
Back in the city, get a dose of world-class art at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. Open Thursdays through Sundays, this museum features permanent collections displaying the work of Puerto Rican artists dating from the 17th century to today.
Explore over 1,000 pieces that include paintings, prints, sculptures, photographs, and more. The museum, which is typically closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, is located in the Santurce neighborhood, which is about a 10-minute drive from Old San Juan. Tickets are $6 (not including taxes) per exhibition for adults; $3 for children. mapr.org/en
4. Get Glowing
One of the best things to do in Puerto Rico is to explore one of three bioluminescent bays, which have an otherworldly glow, thanks to microscopic organisms that light up. Seeing these bodies of water can be an amazing and memorable experience.
Mosquito Bay in Vieques is considered the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay. However, you’ll need to take a short flight or boat ride from San Juan to get there.
Alternatively, you can explore Laguna Grande in Fajardo (which is the closest option to San Juan) or La Parguera in Lajas, which is closer to Rincón. La Perguera is also the only place where you can swim rather than take a boat tour or kayak. The best time to go for any bioluminescent bay tour is December through April when there isn’t a lot of rainfall to cloud the water.
Tours can range from about $50 to $75 per person. This can be a good time to swipe with plastic when paying to earn credit card rewards.
5. Tour a Grand Historical Home
Museo Castilla Serrallés is a great thing to do in Puerto Rico if you love history and architecture. It’s the former home of the Serrallés family (of DonQ Rum), who built the extravagant tile-roofed Spanish Revival castle in the 1930s. It takes just under an hour and a half to drive from San Juan to Ponce where the property is, so you may want to think about getting a rental car.
Today, you can explore the home’s interior, as well as beautiful gardens outside. Learn about the history of rum through immersive exhibits, then stroll through the butterfly garden and Japanese gardens. The property is typically open from Wednesday through Sunday, and tickets cost $15 for adults. museocastilloserralles.com/
6. Get Wet
Located on the northwest corner of Puerto Rico, Aguadilla is about a two-hour drive from San Juan. It’s home to the pristine Crash Boat Beach, which is a great place to indulge in almost any kind of water activity you like, including swimming, snorkeling, and surfing (which is ideal during the summer travel season).
Crash Boat Beach is public, so add it to your list of free things to do in Puerto Rico. It definitely has a lively atmosphere, full of music and food to enjoy when you’re not in the water.
7. Stroll Through El Parterre Park
When you need a break from the beach, check out El Parterre in downtown Aguadilla. This beautifully landscaped park offers the perfect spot to casually stroll under mature trees, and there are plenty of benches for resting, reading, or picnicking, just like a local would. It’s also a good sunset watching spot.
El Parterre contains a natural water spring that has quite a bit of historical significance throughout the centuries. It was used as a water source by explorer Sir Francis Drake in the late 16th century and also by Spanish soldiers in later years.
8. Wander Into River Caves
Just an hour west of San Juan, Arecibo is a coastal location with diverse natural wonders to explore. One of the best things to do in Puerto Rico’s Arecibo area is to visit the Camuy River Cave Park. It’s one of the largest cave networks in the entire world.
Recently reopened in early 2023, you’ll walk through immense caverns that are estimated to be over 45 million years old. One of the most breathtaking spots is a sinkhole that shines in sunlight from hundreds of feet above. Tickets are $18 for adults, $13 for kids ages 4 to 12, with younger children admitted for free (which can help families afford to travel).
9. Surf at Domes Beach
Is surfing on your list of fun things to do in Puerto Rico? If so, check out Domes Beach in Rincón, located on the West Coast of the island (a little south from Aguadillo). Even if you don’t surf, you might enjoy catching a professional surfing competition throughout the year.
Domes Beach is also a great place to enjoy a sunset over the water. If you need a break from the waves, check out the Punta Higuero Lighthouse, a historic landmark originally built in 1892.
10. Venture to Vieques Beaches
A smaller island just to the east of the main Puerto Rican island, Vieques can only be reached by a short flight or ferry ride. Because of this, however, the beaches in Vieques are extremely tranquil and secluded. If you want a beach experience without large crowds or noise, this is an incredible option.
Plus, you can take one of the world’s best bioluminescent bay tours while you’re there.
It’s easy to find dozens of things to do in Puerto Rico, whether San Juan or elsewhere. The hardest part is simply narrowing down your list of options to fit your time there. Whether you want a relaxed beach or an outdoor adventure, a historical home or a top-notch museum, you’ll find it all in Puerto Rico.
Is Puerto Rico cheap for tourists?
It depends on your point of comparison. You’ll probably find it cheaper than large coastal cities on the U.S. mainland, but it also tends to be more expensive than other Caribbean island destinations.
What food is Puerto Rico known for?
Exploring traditional Puerto Rican cuisine is one of the best parts of visiting. Definitely check out mofongo, a mashed fried plantain side dish, as well as pasteles — similar to tamales but made with green banana masa and many options for fillings.
What can’t you bring back from Puerto Rico?
You can’t bring back fresh fruits or vegetables from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland. Cactus and citrus plants are also prohibited.
Photo credit: iStock/benedek
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