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Puerto Rico Visitors Guide

How to Get There, Things to Do & More

Updated May 2022

Puerto Rico Visitors Guide
Puerto Rico Visitors Guide

Welcome to Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is an intoxicating combination of tropical, meets a bygone era. A melting pot of Spanish, Indian and African influences make Puerto Rico a fascinating place to visit. This beautiful island has pristine beaches, excellent dining and a vibrant nightlife. See what’s waiting for you in Puerto Rico with its perfect blend of charm and adventure!

Puerto Rico Map

Puerto Rico Map

Contents

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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 Arkwak. The Arkwak developed the islands Taino culture and were 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 help the Arkwark slaves on both 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. In1989, after years of turmoil, Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States.

Puerto Rico Visitors Guide

Puerto Rico Today

Puerto Rico remains a territory of the United States today. There are 3.2 million residents that are U.S. residents on this Caribbean archipelago. The island remains subject to U.S. Federal law, but island-based Puerto Ricans cannot vote in Presidential elections. It is neither a state nor an independent territory. Today Puerto Rico is a tropical paradise with the perfect blend of old and new that will have you wanting to explore every square inch of the island.

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.

Best Time to Visit Puerto Rico

The climate in Puerto Rico is considered tropical marine, meaning the average temperatures hover around 80℉. The coldest month of the year is typically January when temperatures dip to a low of 70℉. 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. The islands west coast, near Rincon or Carolina Beach right in the heart of San Juan, are particularly beautiful at this time of the year.

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.

By Air

The easiest way to get to Puerto Rico is to fly, the islands international airport is the AeropuertoInternacional Luis Munoz Marin in San Juan. There are numerous flight options from both the mainland of the United States and all the Caribbean. Most of the major cities in the United States have direct flights to Puerto Rico. There are also several smaller airports on the island located in Aguadilla and Ponce.

Puerto Rico Visitors Guide

By Ferry

There are several ferries from the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands. American Cruise Ferries operates a twice weekly ferry between Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic and Mayaguez on the west coast of Puerto Rico. Rates begin at $169 (USD) one-way, and $96-$216 (USD) for a cabin. You can also travel between St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the east coast of Puerto Rico. These ferries depart on Satrudays at 4 pm only, fares cost around $70 (USD) one way, and $90 (USD) for a return trip.

Puerto Rico Visitors Guide

By Taxis

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. Taxis can be  easily hailed in the streets of San Juan as well. 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. Tolls and tips are not included in fixed rates. Puerto Rico also has fixed rates between towns and points of interest.

Car Rental

It is incredibly easy to get around Puerto Rico in a rental car. If you’re planning to stay in San Juan then ride sharing or walking is the best option for you. However, if you’re wanting to really explore the island then rent a car! All major rental car companies are available in Puerto Rico, as well as smaller local businesses. For people traveling from the United States renting a car is the same, you need to be at least 25 years old, possess a valid driver’s licenseand a credit card.

Puerto Rico Visitors Guide

By Cruises

The San Juan Cruise Port is ranked among the top 20 ports in the world. Most cruises visit the island for three to seven 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 even Disney cruises among others.

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!

1. 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 can’t miss destination 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.

2. 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.

3. 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, make 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 opposed to 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.

4. Take in The Magical Bioluminescence

There are several places in Puerto Rico where you can marvel at magical bioluminescence 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. 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.

5. 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 all 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.

6. 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!

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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 into the beautiful underwater world in Puerto Rico. You can scuba dive shipwrecks in Rincon, but this area is also a great place to snorkel. Many Spanish ships sunk 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.

10. 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 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.

  ISLAND LIFE TRAVEL TIP : GET TRAVEL INSURANCE

When going on vacation in the time of Covid, Travel Insurance is a must in our opinion. Most of the current policies cover Covid medical issues as well as vacation delays due to Covid. They typically even cover your hotel if you test positive while on vacation and have to extend your trip a few days until you get a negative test. Our visitors almost unanimously choose a Trawick International Safe Travels plan which was a Forbes top-rated travel insurance plan of 2021. Easily compare the different Trawick, Generali and other top travel insurance plans here.

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