With its sparkling beaches, world-class resorts, and delicious food, the US territory of Puerto Rico is an excellent place to visit and explore. Below, we’ve rounded up some of the best things to do when you’re on the island.
21 Things to Do in Puerto Rico in 2023
As a tourist-friendly island, Puerto Rico has the usual entertainment and opportunities. It’s also small enough that you can drive from one side to the other for different entertainment.
However, don’t focus exclusively on the tourist areas. Many of the local hangouts are equally excellent, and much cheaper, too. Just make sure to check each destination’s rules ahead of time.
Some of the best things require reservations, and the sooner you can claim a spot, the easier it is to plan out your trip. Without further ado, let’s get into the different things to do in Puerto Rico.
1. San Felipe del Morro
Set in Puerto Rico’s Old San Juan area, which is itself worth a visit, San Felipe del Morro is one of the island’s most iconic attractions.
Slowly built up between 1539 and 1790, this fortress, known locally as El Morro is a six-level fortress made to protect the island and served as a notable base for the United States during World Wars I and II.
Today, San Felipe del Morro is a UNESCO World Heritage Site open seven days a week throughout most of the year.
Entrance fees are low and help maintain the place, so it’s also a budget-friendly destination. Visit on a sunny day for the best experience, and avoid clothing that might be a problem in the wind.
2. Old San Juan
San Felipe del Morro is worth a visit all on its own, but it’s just part of the Old San Juan area. San Juan is the top destination in Puerto Rico for visitors, and one of the most popular cruise stops in the Caribbean.
If you don’t know where to go on a trip to Puerto Rico, go here. Old San Juan is an islet full of old Spanish-style buildings, colorfully decorated and boasting hundreds of years of history.
Outstanding local restaurants offer Puerto Rican-style cuisine, while lodgings cover everything from budget-focused to world-class facilities. You’re welcome to explore at your own pace, but consider taking a guided tour if you want to see the sights.
3. El Yunque National Forest
El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rainforest in the United States’ managed forests network. At about 29,000 acres, El Yunque is smaller than most other forests, but it also has astoundingly high biodiversity.
There are hundreds of local plant species and countless more animals. Bird-watchers can expect a great time. El Yunque has a little something for everyone. Horseback rides, ATV trips, ziplining, and more are located just an hour away from San Juan.
Don Pepe, a restaurant just outside the entrance, offers excellent food in case you get hungry while passing through the gate. Expect rain, though, and dress appropriately.
4. Mosquito Bay
Don’t let the name deter you. Set on the small island of Vieques, to the east of Puerto Rico’s main area, Mosquito Bay is the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay. Just by running your hand through the water, it will light up with a surreal and gorgeous effect.
For the best results, get a clear-bottomed kayak tour and visit during the new moon. It is slightly harder to get to this bay, though. While you can fly into Vieques, the easiest option is probably to take a ferry from the mainland.
It needs to be dark for the proper effect, so try to find a hotel nearby. Reserve rooms well ahead of time, too, as it may be harder to get a room as you get closer to dark and popular nights in the bay.
5. Rio Camuy Cave Park
If you like hiking, make your way to the northwestern side of the island and visit Rio Camuy Cave Park. This park covers an extensive cave system carved out by an underground river, and although rediscovered in 1958, evidence indicates exploration hundreds of years ago.
The caverns have 17 known entrances and more than 220 caverns across ten miles of space, with experts suspecting hundreds more caves further in its depths. Most of the park’s caverns aren’t open to visitors, but you can still explore the entrance area and one of Puerto Rico’s best-hidden natural wonders.
If you’re looking for authentic flavor, it’s hard to beat the Piñones neighborhood in Loiza, the eastern part of Puerto Rico’s main island. This neighborhood has two standout qualities: the beach and the food, and the beach is only a secondary draw.
Instead of heading into the surf, hit up a few of the dozens of local food stands in the area, where you’ll find some of the best cuisines on the island. Don’t go for too heavy a meal at one stand, though. Instead, try smaller bits of food as you walk around and enjoy the neighborhood to the fullest.
7. Gilligan’s Island
No, not the famous 1960s television show. Gilligan’s Island, also known as Cayo Aurora, is a gorgeous island full of mangrove trees.
Clear, shallow waters around the island make snorkeling a delight, while basic facilities like picnic areas and bathrooms mean you aren’t leaving all modern comforts behind. Gilligan’s Island doesn’t have too many other visitors, either.
In most cases, you’ll need to take kayaks out to the island, so you can’t drive or take a ferry. That makes the island a quieter, calmer area to get away from crowded areas and relax.
8. Cabo Rojo
Set in the far southwestern part of Puerto Rico, Cabo Rojo is a delightful beach town and a frequent stop on the way to some other attractions in the area. Beach towns aren’t exactly rare, but Cabo Rojo stands out from other locations thanks to the presence of its pink salt flats.
These offer an almost surreal experience for anyone traveling through or walking along the area. For safety, the salt flats themselves require scheduled tours.
You can look from a distance without trouble, but if you want to get the best experience, visit on a Thursday. That’s when the area has the least traffic, so you can enjoy a more leisurely experience in one of Puerto Rico’s most vivid destinations.
9. Toro Verde Adventure Park
If you’re looking for some unusual experiences, stop by Toro Verde Adventure Park. This area is particularly famous for its ziplines and cables, starting with a trip known simply as The Monster.
At 8300 feet, or more than one and a half miles, The Monster is the longest zipline in North America, and it’s an incredible high-speed experience. For something a little more leisurely, Toro Verde also has cable bike paths where you can progress under your own power.
These offer a great way to get exercise while enjoying some fantastic views of the area. Either way, Toro Verde is a must-see if you love exercising and the outdoors.
10. La Pared
Set in Luquillo, La Pared is a northeastern-facing beach with one specific reason to visit: the surf. It has excellent conditions for riding the waves year-round, making it an ideal spot for anyone who wants to hop on board. You don’t need to bring your board because rentals are available on-site.
It’s hard to get tired of the waves, but if you want to do something else, a strip of kiosks near the beach offers dining, shopping, and other forms of leisure.
Expect the party to keep going past midnight on the weekends, complete with local music and alcohol. If you prefer things a little quieter, visit La Pared early in the week, and you won’t see the same crowds.
11. Coamo Hot Springs
If you’re looking for relaxation, few places are better than Coamo Hot Springs on the southwest side of the island. Puerto Rico’s only thermal hot springs, Coamo offers a luxurious experience with the main baths.
Don’t jump right in, though, because there’s a process to enjoying it. After a quick rinse to clean off, you’ll slide into a warm pool to help your body adjust to the hotter temperatures in the area.
When you’re ready to move on, you can dip into the main pool for ten to fifteen minutes, where you’ll soon feel the tingle as the sulfuric water does its work. For even more relaxation, get a massage after your dip in the pools.
The Fuga Spa service offers per-minute massages, which are affordable on practically any budget, while the baths themselves cost almost nothing to use.
12. Casa Bacardi
Why is the rum gone, the pirate asks? Well, it’s never gone at Casa Bacardi, the largest premium rum distillery in the world.
This facility offers three different types of tours, including a kid-friendly historical tour, a mixology tour focusing on the drinks themselves, and a tasting tour where you can enjoy some of their signature creations.
With over one thousand drink awards at various events since its opening in 1876, Bacardi is a distillery of genuine talent.
The most popular rums are available around the world, but you can also find rarer local specialties if you visit in person. If you love rum, you cannot miss a trip to Casa Bacardi on a visit to Costa Rica.
13. Heladeria Lares
Heladeria Lares is part of Costa Rica’s inland area and not somewhere you’ll stumble across if you’re sticking by the beaches or staying in Old San Juan.
However, if you’re passing through the northwestern part of the island on a warmer day, stop by for some of the most unusual and exotic ice cream flavors in Puerto Rico. Heladeria Lares gleefully produces unusual treats like garlic, rice with Vienna sausage (no, seriously), sweet pepper, and ginger.
Don’t worry if you aren’t in the mood for a risky flavor, though, because they also have common favorites like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Either way, you’ll have an experience if you stop by this unassuming ice cream parlor.
14. La Cara del Indio
Set along an easily-accessible part of Puerto Rico’s northwest coast, La Cara del Indio is a carved statue of the face of Chief Mabodamaca, an indigenous leader who protected his people when the Spanish first came to the area.
It’s also one of the easiest attractions to work into a trip, as the monument serves as both a welcome to the town of Isabela and the point where you transition to or from the popular western coastal region.
Whether you just want to slow down as you pass by or get out for a better look, this bold statue is a nice addition to a trip.
15. Guanica Sunflower Field
If you enjoy flowers, a visit to Finca El Girasol, or the Guanica Sunflower Fields, is worth a visit when they’re in bloom. Long rows of flowers dot the fields here, and it’s a great way to pass an hour or so outdoors.
The flowers tend to bloom best in summer, so call ahead to check the status of the fields.
While you’re in the area, you can also buy fresh sunflowers, get treats like sunflower seeds, or do a photoshoot. There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy yourself, so relax away from the busier venues and see what these fields have to offer.
16. Parque de Bombas
Built in the southern Ponce region, the Parque de Bombas is the first fire station built on the entire island. It’s instantly recognizable even from a distance thanks to the red and black stripes along the outside.
Although originally a functional facility, it’s since been renovated into a museum where you can learn more about the building, the city, and the island. The Parque de Bombas is right next to the town cathedral, another great sight in its own right.
And it’s just a few blocks away from several outstanding shopping destinations. It’s open throughout the year, so it’s especially good if you’re visiting during the cooler months when the beaches aren’t quite as attractive.
17. Vieques National Wildlife Refuge
Mosquito Bay is a stunning attraction by itself, but the nearby Vieques National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to spend a day waiting for the nightly lights.
Covering the eastern half of the island and a much smaller part of the western half, the Wildlife Refuge is the largest protected area in the Caribbean and one of the most astoundingly diverse.
If you want a simpler trip, visit the western part of the refuge. Some parts of the eastern area are currently inaccessible due to an ongoing cleanup process involving unexploded military ordnance, but it will become more accessible once that’s done.
18. Desecheo National Wildlife Refuge
Puerto Rico has an impressively high number of wildlife refuges, but Desecheo is easily one of the most impressive. The main refuge is on an island off the western coast, but by law, you can’t set foot there because of (more) unexploded military ordnance, just like the Vieques refuge.
What you can do is take some scuba gear and dive down to the ocean floor. There, you’ll find caves, enormous amounts of marine life, gorgeous reefs, and more.
Desecheo is easily one of the top diving destinations in Puerto Rico, which is already a fantastic place with plenty of amazing places to enjoy the water. Consider going with a tour group the first time so you can learn more about the area.
19. Plaza Las Americas
If you enjoy shopping on your vacations, stop by Plaza Las Americas in San Juan. The largest mall facility in the entire Caribbean, and the second-largest in all of Latin America, it hosts over three hundred stores across almost two million square feet of retail floor area.
From major anchor stores to movies, electronics, clothing, and more, the Plaza is a one-stop destination.
It also hosts more chain stores from the mainland than many other parts of Puerto Rico, so if you’re looking for something from a familiar retailer, this is the single best spot on the island. Best of all, it’s in San Juan, so it’s easy to access during most trips.
20. Castillo Serralles
Another outstanding location in Ponce, Castillo Serralles Museum is an immersive experience going through the history of Don Q rum and the Serralles family. It’s more modern than many other museums, using both augmented and virtual reality systems to enhance the experience.
Castillo Serralles also has a delightful Japanese-style garden just outside, complete with koi ponds, pagodas, and a completely different architectural style than you’ll see almost anywhere else on the island. That makes it a uniquely special place to visit, and certainly a highlight of any stop in Ponce.
21. Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico
The Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico is easily one of the top museums on the island, focusing on art from the island, the broader Caribbean, and Latin America since the mid-20th century.
Heavily influenced by its artistic and cultural creators, this museum in San Juan has an extensive collection and a frequently-changing list of exhibits.
Make sure to come on the weekend, as it’s often closed during weekdays for other work. The Museum is also a great thing to visit several times across multiple visits to the island, as you can see many different exhibits each time you come.
Things to Consider
There are a few things to know before you head out to visit Puerto Rico. First, Americans don’t need passports to visit.
Puerto Rico is a US territory and its people are US citizens, although there has been some talk of becoming a state instead of remaining a territory. As long as you have a regular ID for a flight or cruise, you’re good to go.
Similarly, Puerto Rico uses the US dollar, so you don’t need to worry about currency conversion. However, Spanish is the main language on the island. Most locals know enough English to communicate with visitors.
But you may run into the occasional language barrier outside the tourist-focused areas. San Juan is easily the most popular destination on the island, and you might not even want to leave the city because there’s so much to do.
It’s a fantastic default choice, but consider spending at least a day or two on other parts of the island for the full experience. Finally, remember that Puerto Rico is a tropical island in the hurricane belt.
Travel insurance is always a good idea when visiting, but especially so from July to November when the weather could take a turn for the worse.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions people have about things to do in Puerto Rico:
What should I not miss in Puerto Rico?
There are plenty of great things to do on the island, but if you have to narrow it down, go to Old San Juan and try the local cuisine. That’s the core of the Puerto Rican experience.
What should you not do in Puerto Rico?
Don’t assume everyone you meet is fully fluent in English. Most people are, but Spanish is still the most common language in the area.
Is Puerto Rico expensive to visit?
Puerto Rico isn’t particularly cheap, especially if you compare it to some other destinations in the Caribbean. However, budget travelers can still minimize costs by cooking meals and visiting in the less-popular seasons.
Can you drink tap water in Puerto Rico?
Yes. Puerto Rico filters water at the source, so it’s generally safe to drink.
Which area of Puerto Rico is best for tourists?
Old San Juan is the highlight for tourists, but consider stopping by the Rio Grande for outdoor fun or Vieques for the bioluminescent beach.
So, What’s the Best Thing to Do in Puerto Rico?
The best thing to do in Puerto Rico is whatever sounds fun! Old San Juan is a world-class sightseeing destination all by itself, but there are plenty of gorgeous sights – and delicious meals – if you go outside the main city.