Tropical Puerto Rico is a great way to visit the Caribbean without breaking out the passport since it’s a territory of the United States. With more than 300 miles of coastline and a gorgeous tropical rainforest, it’s the perfect place to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, surfing, snorkeling, and sailing, while the country’s cities offer vibrant nightlife and art scenes. So, whether it’s your first time visiting, or you’ve been several times already, you may be wondering which are the best places to visit in Puerto Rico.
The archipelago of Puerto Rico consists of a large central island, four smaller islands, and hundreds more islets, making it practically impossible to see everything in one visit. Before the pandemic, PR attracted millions of visitors every year. The country’s small size and isolation makes it the perfect place to spend some quality time with your friends or family. Also, a study shows being near blue and green spaces improves brain health. With the vast turquoise waters and tropical foliage, your brain will be happy to be in Puerto Rico.
With warm water and weather year-round, Puerto Rico is a beach lover’s paradise. After you soak up the sun to get some Vitamin D, you can go shopping in eclectic markets, enjoy delicious Puerto Rican cuisine, or tour historic town squares to admire Spanish colonial architecture. Speaking of sun, new research shows spending time bathing in it can lower the risk of breast cancer in women.
You can also visit one of the country’s many UNESCO World Heritage sites, or go see exotic wildlife, like cliques of Caribbean flamingos. The island nation is also the perfect place to indulge in tasting rum from different distilleries.
With so much to see and do, you may think that figuring out what to do will be tough, but you don’t have to worry. StudyFinds consulted the experts to create a list of the five best places to visit in Puerto Rico for your next trip. Let us know what you think in the comments below.
The List: Best Places to Visit in Puerto Rico, According to Experts
1. El Yunque National Rainforest
“Located in the northeastern part of the island, El Yunque is 29,000 acres of lush mountainous terrain,” writes Lonely Planet. “Take the Angelito Trail down to the Las Damas pool. A winding trail with thick vegetation will lead you to a deep pool of clear, cold water with a rope swing. This popular swimming hole is perfect for families looking to relax in the pools. Or, if you’re looking for a bit more of a challenge, try the more intense 2.6-mile El Yunque Trail. This trail takes you to the highest points in the forest, where from the trailhead you’ll ascend through sierra palms and the Cloud Forest, a unique zone under a nearly constant state of rain.”
“El Yunque National Forest is home to an incredible amount of biodiversity—even after Hurricane Maria,” writes Condé Nast Traveler. “There are 240 tree species alone, making it a must-see on any nature-lover’s itinerary. One need not worry about big wildlife, but lizards and frogs—like the island’s coqui mascot—abound. Hike the rather easygoing trails to see all the vegetation, small animal life, and waterfalls.”
The Culture Trip states, “Puerto Rico’s natural beauty comes from a lush rainforest in the most famous national park on the island. Hike through the mist under giant green canopies in the Sierra de Luquillo, and try to spot as many of the forest’s 240 species of trees and hundreds of plant species as you can. The 111sqkm (43sqmi) park contains El Yunque’s 1,055m (3,461ft) peak, the 26m-tall (85ft) La Coca Falls and much more.”
This tiny island municipality sits just off the main island’s east coast and has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. The island’s south end is also home to Puerto Mosquito (Mosquito Bay) which is the world’s biggest and brightest bioluminescent bay.
“Catch a ferry at the port outside the town of Ceiba to reach the quiet island of Vieques off the east coast of Puerto Rico,” writes Tripadvisor. “Vieques’ secluded mangrove bay is beautiful during the day but simply astonishing after sunset.”
Global Grasshopper adds, “Don’t miss your chance to drop by the stunning Puerto Mosquito while visiting Puerto Rico because you won’t be able to forget this magical natural wonder for a lifetime.”
3. Old San Juan
Walking the “Viejo San Juan” neighborhood will take you to some of the island’s most famous attractions, including Castillo San Cristóbal, El Morro, and Calle del Cristo. The historic area is a vibrant haven to go shopping and eat delicious food.
“Despite how tiny this area is, you’ll find some of the most popular things to do in Puerto Rico,” writes Travellers Worldwide. “There are golf carts at your disposal for no additional cost that can transport you around the city to see some of the most popular Puerto Rican landmarks, like Castillo San Cristóbal, El Morro, and more.Guided tours are available for visitors interested in understanding Puerto Rican culture and heritage, as well as the history behind some of the island’s oldest buildings. Some of which are half a century old and hold great significance.”
U.S. News & World Report notes that “Many of the best tours in Puerto Rico include strolls through this area.” It goes on, “Numerous travelers encourage others to walk the cobblestone streets to view the historic, colorful architecture and experience the vibrant culture. No need to leave for lunch, this section of town is bursting with street vendors and restaurants ready to satiate your appetite. At night, the city comes alive and is filled with a bustling nightlife known for its drinks and dancing.”
“Tucked away in the far west corner of the island lies the surf town of Rincón … the perfect antidote to the more fast-paced, urban San Juan,” writes Lonely Planet. “Surfing is the main attraction here, with many spots to check the swell like Domes, Marias, and Tres Palmas, just to name a few. But there are plenty of other activities to do as well, like horseback riding along the beach, snorkeling the horseshoe reef at Steps beach, paddle-boarding at the Balneario (public beach) or shopping at the Thursday Art Walk or Sunday Farmers Market at the town square.”
“This famous surfing town is hugely popular with international travelers, prompting Puerto Ricans to call it ‘Gringo Paradise,’” notes The Culture Trip. “The area is also popular for humpback whale-watching trips from mid-January to March.”
Puerto Rico’s second largest city, known as “La Perla del Sur” (the pearl of the south), is a national treasure. The port lies on the southern coast and is home to the Museo de Arte, Plaza de las Delicias, and the Castillo Serrallés Museum.
Global Grasshopper notes that Ponce is “distinguished by its historical and cultural attractions.” It continues, “The historical quarter is dotted with squares, churches, beautifully decorated old houses, and magnificent fountains of the colonial period. Here is located one of the oldest fire stations in the world.”
“Many say it serves as a reflection of the true essence of Puerto Rico as a country,” writes Travellers Worldwide. “The deep history of Ponce is palpable when taking a stroll down the narrow streets or just by simply seeing the beautiful fountains in the square. As you wade through traffic, the typical obstacles in modern and urban cities, you’ll see gorgeous colonial architecture, fabulous restaurants, and more than a dozen museums for you and the family to visit.”
And Town & Tourist says “Ponce is a picture-perfect town. Many visitors make time to stop in Ponce during their trip to get a glimpse of the world-famous architecture. This place is also known for its exotic native flowers, including several types of heliconia and sintenisii.”
You might also be interested in:
- Best Hotels In San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Best Caribbean Islands for 2023
- Best Hotels in the Caribbean
- Best Sunscreen
- Condé Nast Traveler
- Global Grasshopper
- U.S. News & World Report
- Travellers Worldwide
- Town & Tourist
- Lonely Planet
- The Culture Trip
- Puerto Rico Travel Guide
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.