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Puerto Rico Visitors Guide

How to Get There, Things to Do & More

Updated April 2024 ⋅ Written by Vanessa Howard ⋅ Edited by Laura Schulthies

Puerto Rico Visitors Guide: How To Get There & The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico Visitors Guide

Welcome to Puerto Rico

Welcome to our comprehensive guide to Puerto Rico, a captivating island in the heart of the Caribbean. From the enchanting beauty of its landscapes to the rich tapestry of its culture, Puerto Rico beckons travelers with open arms. Whether you’re seeking adventure in the lush rainforests of El Yunque, a stroll along the historic cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, or the ultimate relaxation at luxurious Puerto Rico resorts, this guide is your passport to discovering the best this tropical paradise has to offer. Join us on an unforgettable journey as we explore the hidden gems, vibrant traditions, and unparalleled hospitality of Puerto Rico.

Welcome to our comprehensive guide to Puerto Rico, a captivating island in the heart of the Caribbean. From the enchanting beauty of its landscapes to the rich tapestry of its culture, Puerto Rico beckons travelers with open arms. Whether you’re seeking adventure in the lush rainforests of El Yunque, a stroll along the historic cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, or the ultimate relaxation at luxurious Puerto Rico resorts, this guide is your passport to discovering the best this tropical paradise has to offer. Join us on an unforgettable journey as we explore the hidden gems, vibrant traditions, and unparalleled hospitality of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico Map

Puerto Rico Map

Contents

Puerto Rico Visitors Guide: Los Marrillos
Puerto Rico Visitors Guide

A Bit Of History

Puerto Rico has a complex colonial history and political status, but the island was originally inhabited by a peaceful hunter-gatherer tribe called the Arawak. The Arawak developed the island’s Taino culture and was clan-based.

In 1493, Christopher Columbus anchored in a bay on the west coast of Borinquen and promptly renamed the area San Juan. He claimed it for the Spanish, who eventually brought African slaves to work with the Arawak slaves on sugarcane and ginger plantations.

Puerto Rico was ravaged by disease thanks to the French, British and Dutch pirates that would dock on the island’s shores. San Juan was eventually turned into a Spanish fort to ward off attacks. However, by the late 1500s, the British attacked and eventually took over the city.

In 1898, after years of turmoil, Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States.

Puerto Rico Visitors Guide

Puerto Rico Today

Today, Puerto Rico is a captivating destination where tradition meets modernity. The island’s vibrant culture thrives, offering a rich tapestry of history, art, and music. Visitors can explore the historic charm of Old San Juan, indulge in delicious cuisine that fuses local flavors with global influences, and bask in the sun on world class beaches. Despite the challenges of the past, Puerto Rico has emerged as a resilient and welcoming place, where warm smiles and breathtaking landscapes invite travelers to experience the best of the Caribbean.

Is Puerto Rico Safe?

Is Puerto Rico Safe?

Puerto Rico is considered very safe for travelers, as it has a much lower crime rate than most American cities, as well as some other Caribbean islands. The island does have its share of occasional violence and petty thefts, but most gun crimes and dangerous activity are due to drug trafficking and gang feuds that don’t affect tourists.

Tourists should be less concerned about criminality and more worried about the weather, as earthquakes and hurricanes are quite common.

Where is Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico Caribbean Map

click map to enlarge

Puerto Rico is located on the continent of North America. You’ll find the small Caribbean archipelago between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. It’s east of the Dominican Republic and west of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Puerto Rico Visitors Guide: Beautiful Sunset
Puerto Rico Visitors Guide

The Best Time to Visit Puerto Rico

Looking for the best time to go to Puerto Rico? The climate in Puerto Rico is considered tropical marine, meaning the average temperatures hover around 80℉. Puerto Rico enjoys sunny, warm and humid days for most of the year and does not experience seasons. April through June tends to be the best time to visit the island.

Looking for the best time to go to Puerto Rico? The climate in Puerto Rico is considered tropical marine, meaning the average temperatures hover around 80℉. Puerto Rico enjoys sunny, warm and humid days for most of the year and does not experience seasons. April through June tends to be the best time to visit the island.

December – March

You’ll find more travelers in Puerto Rico during this time of year since the weather is perfect. The average highs are in the low 80s, but you’ll also find higher room rates and larger crowds during this peak season.

April – June – Best Time to Visit

The Spring weather is sunny and breezy, and by April, the winter crowds dissipate. Keep in mind that June is one of the hottest months on the island, but it’s also a great month for events. There are several festivals that take place in June, which makes it a great time to visit.

July – September

During this time of year, the chance of hurricanes increases greatly. Temperatures sneak into the high 80s during the peak summer months, but you’ll also find great hotel deals. There will be fewer travelers on the island, making it easier to get great dinner reservations and see the most popular destinations.

October – Mid-December

Autumn, with its tropical climate, is an amazing time to visit Puerto Rico. You’ll find reasonable airfare and great room rates at resorts. The island’s west coast, near Rincon or Carolina Beach, right in the heart of San Juan, is particularly beautiful at this time of the year.

December – March

You’ll find more travelers in Puerto Rico during this time of year since the weather is perfect. The average highs are in the low 80s, but you’ll also find higher room rates and larger crowds during this peak season.

April – June – Best Time to Visit

The Spring weather is sunny and breezy, and by April, the winter crowds dissipate. Keep in mind that June is one of the hottest months on the island, but it’s also a great month for events. There are several festivals that take place in June, which makes it a great time to visit.

July – September

During this time of year, the chance of hurricanes increases greatly. Temperatures sneak into the high 80s during the peak summer months, but you’ll also find great hotel deals. There will be fewer travelers on the island, making it easier to get great dinner reservations and see the most popular destinations.

October – Mid-December

Autumn, with its tropical climate, is an amazing time to visit Puerto Rico. You’ll find reasonable airfare and great room rates at resorts. The island’s west coast, near Rincon or Carolina Beach, right in the heart of San Juan, is particularly beautiful at this time of the year.

  When Is Puerto Rico Hurricane Season?

Puerto Rico hurricane season is from early June through late November, with the peak month being September. During hurricane season in Puerto Rico travelers can expect to experience heavy rains and high humidity, but the good news is that your odds of experiencing a hurricane are extremely low. Puerto Rico was hit hard by Hurricane Maria in 2017, but prior to that the last severe storm was in 1931.Be sure to check weather reports before your trip, and we always recommend getting travel insurance during these months just in case of inclement weather.

Puerto Rico Visitors Guide: Cueva Ventana
Puerto Rico Visitors Guide

How To Get to Puerto Rico

Getting to Puerto Rico, particularly from the United States, is incredibly easy. Once you’re on the island it’s easy to navigate in a taxi or rental car.

Arrival by Air

The easiest way to get to Puerto Rico is to fly. The island’s international airport is the Aeropuerto Internacional Luis Munoz Marin in San Juan (SJU). There are numerous flight options from both the mainland of the United States and all of the Caribbean.

Most of the major cities in the United States have direct flights to Puerto Rico. In fact, numerous daily nonstop flights connect Puerto Rico with cities all over the U.S. The cheapest and most frequent departures from gateway cities in the U.S. are from Miami and New York.

There are also several smaller airports on the island located in Aguadilla and Ponce.

  Search for great deals on flights here.

Arrival by Cruise

The San Juan Cruise Port is ranked among the top 20 ports in the world. Most cruises visit the island for 3 to 7 days.

There are two main cruise terminals in Puerto Rico, San Juan Bay and the Pan American Terminal. Cruise lines that visit the island are Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess, Norwegian, and Disney cruises, among others.

The San Juan Bay terminal has received an impressive 7 cruise ships at once and is close to Old San Juan, making it a fun port of call. The Pan American terminal can accommodate 2 ships and is located in Isla Grande.

  Search for great deals on cruises here.

Shuttles in Puerto Rico

  Shuttles or private transport can be pre-arranged to pick you up and take you from the airport to your accommodation. You can easily book ground transportation from the airport to your hotel here.

Rental Cars in Puerto Rico

It is incredibly easy to get around Puerto Rico in a rental car. All major rental car companies are available in Puerto Rico, as well as smaller local businesses. The San Juan airport has the widest selection of rental car companies to choose from.

For people traveling from the United States, renting a car is the same. You need to be at least 25 years old and possess a valid driver’s license and a credit card.

Many of the toll roads use the automated AutoExpreso pre-paid system. Many rental cars come with this, just keep in mind that the rental company will bill you after your car is returned.

  Search for great deals on rental cars here.

Taxis in Puerto Rico

Publicos are the most popular method of transportation in Puerto Rico. These spacious vans make transportation easy by offering regulated rates and designated pickup points at airports and other highly trafficked sites. Keep in mind that you might find yourself riding in a van with others, but that’s how the Publicos remain affordable.

Finding a taxi in Puerto Rico is easy as both cabs and shuttles are located outside of the main exits of airports, hotels, and popular attractions. Trips around San Juan are metered, and the rates are fixed and posted. They are cash only and must be paid directly to the drivers.

Puerto Rico also has fixed rates between towns and points of interest.

Ferries in Puerto Rico

There are several ferries that travel to Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Ferries Del Caribe will take you from Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic, to San Juan. Ferry crossing operates weekly with a scheduled sailing duration from about 13 hours. There are three round trips a week, and one half of every round trip per day,  Monday through Saturday.  Keep in mind you will need to pay a boarding fee and additional fees for seats, a cabin, and for your vehicle.

Puerto Rico Visitors Guide: Gozalandia
Puerto Rico Visitors Guide

Things to Do in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico's Top Highlights

Puerto Rico has undeniable charm with its beautiful beaches, year around sun and an amazing number of things to do!

Puerto Rico Visitor Guide
The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: Wander Old San Juan

Check Out Old San Juan

San Juan is the vibrant and colorful capital city of Puerto Rico. This bustling area is a hub for arrivals, government, and an incredible restaurant scene, making it a destination not to be missed on any trip to the island.

Make sure to visit Old San Juan with its charmingly colorful houses and for a bit of history about the island. This Old San Juan Walking Tour is perfect for those wanting to explore the colored buildings while getting a tour from knowledgeable writer David Rodriguez.

  Check out this other great Old San Juan Walking Tour.

The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: Visit El Morro
The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: El Morro

Visit Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro)

This fortification is the most significant historical sight in Old San Juan. This immense stone fortress dates back to the early 16th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll learn about Puerto Rico’s engineering marvel from the colonization through WWII. You can tour Castile San Felipe del Morro yourself to get an up-close look at almost 500 years of history.

  If you’re looking for something a bit different, check out this Sunset Sail by San Juan Historical Bay or San Juan Catamaran Sunset Sail. Both of these tours will give you amazing views of Castilla San Felipe del Morro with colorful San Juan as the backdrop.

  ISLAND LIFE TRAVEL TIP : GET TRAVEL INSURANCE

Travel Insurance is a must in our opinion. Standard health insurance likely doesn’t cover you while outside of the country so travel insurance will cover any emergency medical needs as well as trip cancellation, lost or stolen luggage (it happens), flight delays, missed connections and more. You can easily compare the top-rated travel insurance plans here.

The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: Explore El Yunque
The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: Explore El Yunque

Explore El Yunque National Forest

This beautiful tropical rainforest is part of the U.S. National Forest System. Those looking for adventure will love the outdoor playground awaiting at El Yunque. Hiking is a great way to explore the forest; make sure not to miss out on some of the waterfalls in this tropical paradise.

The rainforest is home to 240 species of plants and animals. Be sure to keep your ears open in the evening for the sounds of Puerto Rico’s tiny coqui tree frogs.

  If you are interested in exploring El Yunque National Forest in more of a small group setting as opposed to going alone, take a look at this El Yunque National Forest Rainforest and Waterfalls Half-Day Tour or this El Yunque National Forest Half Day Tour.

  Looking to spend a full day in the El Yunque National Forest, then check out this Day Trip To El Yunque National Forest In San Juan or this El Yunque Rainforest Guided Hiking With Waterfall Tour.

The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: Magical Bioluminescence
The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: Bioluminescence

Take in The Magical Bioluminescence

There are several bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico where you can marvel at magical glowing waters at night. This strange yet beautiful natural phenomenon happens due to organisms in the water.

During the evening, the entire waterfront begins glowing in a gorgeous blue. This unique occurrence can’t be experienced in many other places in the world. Mosquito Bio Bay, a luminescent bay outside of Vieques, is one of the top destinations of bioluminescence.

There are several amazing tours for kayaking in bioluminescence. Take a look at these Bio Bay Night Kayaking or Fajardo Bioluminescent Bay Night Kayak Adventure.

If you’re interested in both a rainforest tour and a night bioluminescent kayak adventure check out this Bioluminescent Bay Night Kayak + Rainforest Combo Tour.

For more information, check out our Puerto Rico Bioluminescent Bay Guide.

The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: Beach Hopping
The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: Beach Hop Puerto Rico

Beach Hop

Puerto Rico has miles of golden and white sand beaches with beautiful shorelines of turquoise, deep blue, and emerald waters. The island boasts some of the prettiest beaches in the Caribbean, so make sure to see as many as you can!

Some of the most stunning beaches in Puerto Rico include Luquillo Beach, a long crescent stretch of golden sand lined with swaying coconut palms. Playa Crash Boat is a fantastic surfing beach for all skill levels. Canando Beach brings a bit of Miami to the island, but due to its location, the currents can be strong here.  

Playa Colora is perfect for those looking for a bit more solitude while beach hopping. Flamenco Beach on the island of Culebra is absolutely worth a visit as well.

For more information, check out our Puerto Rico Beaches Guide!

The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: Sample Rum
The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: Sample Puerto Rican Rum

Sample Puerto Rican Rum

No trip to Puerto Rico would be complete without a trip to a local rum distillery. The Bacardi Rum Factory is located on the island and produces thousands of bottles internationally. You can discover how traditional rum is made during this Puerto Rican Rum Distillery Tour – Ron Pepon. While at the Ron Pepon Distillery and sugar cane plantation, you’ll learn all about the rum making process with a tasting included!

Puerto Rico Visitors Guide
The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: Get Out On The Water

Get Out on The Water

There are so many amazing ways to experience Puerto Rico from the water. Whether you choose to explore the gorgeous turquoise waters by boat, catamaran, jet ski, or kayak, you can’t go wrong when it comes to getting out on the water. For something truly special, check out this LED Night Kayak Tour where you explore the waters of the island in a clear glass bottom boat at night.

  Options for water fun abound in Puerto Rico, take a look at these incredible water tours.

The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: Eat Through San Juan
The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: Eat Your Way Through San Juan

Eat Your Way Through San Juan

San Juan, Puerto Rico is a bit of a foodie paradise, where the local traditions of Taino, African and Spanish ingredients and flavors are intoxicating. There’s no shortage of food to try on the island, but make sure to try traditional dishes like gandules, one of the best-known rice dishes in Puerto Rico. Or ensalada de pulpo, this octopus salad is another island favorite.

Don’t miss out on the fresh passion fruit, mango, or papaya in Puerto Rico. A great way to experience the food scene in the capital city is by taking a Flavors Of Old San Juan Tour.

The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: Snorkel & Scuba Dive
The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: Snorkel & Scuba

Snorkel and Scuba Dive

The gorgeous clear waters of Puerto Rico are perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. There are many fantastic places to immerse yourself in the beautiful underwater world of Puerto Rico. You can scuba dive shipwrecks in Rincon, but this area is also a great place to snorkel.

Many Spanish ships sank on the coral reef in this area, making for an interesting underwater adventure. Culebra is another great spot to snorkel and see vibrant coral reefs and amazing Marine life. Check out this Culebra Snorkeling Day Trip for a fun snorkeling experience.

  Check out these other fun snorkeling trips: San Juan Guided Snorkel Tour or this Snorkeling Tour Of Culebra Island.

  Or this fantastic Beginner Scuba Diving Tour.

The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: Have Adventure
The Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico: Have An Adventure In Puerto Rico

Have an Adventure

Puerto Rico is an adventure lover’s paradise, and there are a number of adrenaline-pumping ways to explore the island. Whether you want to ATV through rocky jungle terrain or zipline over rainforests, Puerto Rico has an adventure for you! These adventure tours are designed to make your time on the island unforgettable. Take a look at this full-day Zipline And Waterfall Rappelling Tour near San Juan.

  Check out these fun ziplining tours JungleQui Zipline Park, Rainforest Zipline, or The Monster Zipline At Toro Verde.

  Or take a look at these great ATV rainforest tours ATV Double Hacienda Campo Rico or ATV Single Adventure Hacienda Campo Rico.

Where to Stay in Puerto Rico

There are all types of accommodations in Puerto Rico. From all inclusive resorts to boutique hotels and more. Location and amenities are the two top things to look for. For great hotel info and recommendations, check out our Puerto Rico Hotel Guide or our Puerto Rico All Inclusive Resorts Guide.

Puerto Rico Hotel Guide: Best Hotels In Puerto Rico

For hotel recommendations for every budget, check out our Puerto Rico Hotel Guide

What to Eat in Puerto Rico

You can find a wide range of wonderful bites to eat in Puerto Rico. If you’re looking for a culinary adventure, check out our Puerto Rico Restaurant Guide.

Puerto Rico Restaurant Guide

For great restaurant recommendations, check out our Puerto Rico Restaurant Guide

What To Pack For Your Trip!

The Caribbean is an enchanting wonderland of relaxation and adventure, one can easily have the trip of a lifetime here. Packing for such a vacation shouldn’t be hard, so we’ve put together a checklist to help you pack and included some of our favorites as well. Check out our What To Pack For Your Trip Guide.

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Maggie S. says:

    Walking the streets of Old San Juan is always old of my favorite things to do in Puerto Rico. Definitely do the walking tour if it is your first time visiting.

  2. Samantha says:

    Do Americans need a passport to visit Puerto Rico?

    1. Daniel says:

      You don’t, but one time I lost my drivers license while in PR and didn’t have my passport, so I had no way to get home! There’s no consulate or DMV in PR sooooo. I suggest bringing two forms of valid ID and keeping them separate.

  3. Maya & Hannah says:

    This was an excellent guide for planning our trip to Puerto Rico. We had no idea where to start when planning and thanks to this guide we had the best time! Our favorite things were the Rum tour and Zip line adventure. Thanks!

    1. Daniel says:

      Glad you liked the guide Maya!

  4. Frieda Coleman says:

    We highly recommend doing the Snorkeling Tour Of Culebra Island. This was one of the best parts of our trip!

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