THINGS TO DO IN PUERTO RICO
A 2.5 hours flight from Miami shall land you in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is a US-territory located in the north-east Caribbean sea. From exotic beaches to lush green rain-forests, it has something to offer to everyone, be it honeymooners or the adventure loving vacationers or the history loving wanderers. The fusion of american and spanish culture makes it an ideal sunny carribean getaway.
That’s why it is considered to be one of the best vacation spots. If you are looking for things to do in Puerto Rico, this article is for you. Starting from the island’s culturally rich capital,San Juan, we have divided the articles into various sections to provide you maximum information about this island.
EXPLORE THE OLD SAN JUAN
The colorful Old San Juan is the most famous point of interest. It is rich in Spanish colonial architecture. Musical cobble stoned streets and pastel colored buildings are it’s highlights. This UNESCO world heritage site is meant to be explored on foot by walking. It is also known for its famous churches. The most famous churches are El Catedral de San Juan Bautista and San Jose Church.
The former has a tomb of a Spanish explorer. Other highlights of San Juan are neighborhoods like La Perla, and ancient historical monuments like the Spanish fort El Castillo San Felipe del Morro. Feeding pigeons at the grand promenade of Paseo de la Princesa and basking under its magnificent fountains is also recommended. You can check out various walks happening around Old San Juan here.
Galería Botello is another highlight of Old San Juan. It’s a 350 year old monument that has been turned into a gallery that hosts international and local artists’ exhibitions. The exhibits don’t follow a specific genre of art and it changes according to the artists being displayed at the time. You can visit from Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
A quick drive from Old San Juan is a small beach side town called Pinones. Visit this place to indulge in some classic Puerto Rican fried treats and street food like empanadas, bacalaito, and alcapurrias while having a picnic alongside the beach.
INDULGE IN ADVENTURE SPORTS
Puerto Rico is a paradise for people who are into watersports and that adrenaline rush. Because of such diverse topography, from zip lining to snorkeling to scuba diving to kite boarding, there’s a location for all of it in here.
Puerto Rico offers a chance to look at its beauty while flying via hang gliding. Hang gliding is offered at about seven different locations, namely Canovanas, Gurabo, Morovis, Isabela, Arecibo, Guayama and Penuelas, throughout the year. Check out everything that you want to know about hang gliding in Puerto Rico here.
Although there are numerous companies offering zip lining in Puerto Rico, Toro Verde has the distinction of housing the largest zip line in the world of 2.5 kilometres or 1.57 miles. It is called The Monster (El Monstruo). Toro Verde Adventure Park also has other things to offer, as mentioned on its website.
The opportunity to observe the aquatic life and coral reefs is also here. Puerto Rico has some of the best places to dive. Various companies like Island Scuba in Guanica offer scuba diving.
Depending on the weather and each individual climber, there are four best places in Puerto Rico for rock climbing: Cerro Las Tetas in Salinas, Caliche in Ciales, Rosario in San German, and Nuevo Bayamon in Bayamon.
The climate of Puerto Rico is also very good for kiteboarding/ kitesurfing. Various companies like GoodWinds Watersports and Kitesurf Center offer the service near the San Juan Metro area.
EXPLORE HISTORY AND CULTURE IN PUERTO RICO’S MUSEUM AND ARCHEOLOGICAL SITES
Since everyone wanted a piece of the new world, Puerto Rico has its share of blood and drama, and mysteries in its history. The architecture that has passed the test of time and behold the magnificent history of it are worth exploring. From the fountains to historical promenades and squares to lavish houses and fortresses, exploring every single example of colonial splendour and impressiveness of Puerto Rico would demand a stay of months.
The island’s diverse tradition and creative history that spans over centuries shall provide ample opportunities to museum goers and history buffs. Every museum here has something different to offer. San Juan and Ponce have most museums. A visit to one of these sites would be a fun addition to your plans. That’s why here is a curated list of the most famous architectural gems of Puerto Rico.
1.CASA DE ESPANA
Also known as House of Spain, it is a typical “Moorish” palace designed by Puerto Rican architect Pedro de Castro in 1932 for a private civic and cultural organization composed of people with common Spanish lineage, living in Puerto Rico.
Although it is not open to the public regularly, private events are held here throughout the year. It happens to be one of the people’s favourite wedding locations.
Built between 1533 and 1540 to defend the harbor of San Juan, this monument now serves as the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico. Also known as Santa Catalina’s Palace or The Fortress, it’s one of the oldest mansions. Decorated with sheltered gardens, this pale bluish fortress overlooks the bay of San Juan.
3.SAN FELIPE DEL MORRO CASTLE
This 16-th century citadel is remnant of old Spanish rule in Puerto Rico. Also known as El Morro, this is one of the leading tourist attractions of San Juan. Overlooking the San Juan Bay, this structure has chapels with the most beautiful view of the sea. One can spend their afternoon here walking and watching kites fly in the caribbean winds.
El Morro is also the house of marvellous Faro de Morro Port San Juan Light. This was the first lighthouse of Puerto Rico. Along with Castillo San Cristóbal, City Walls of Old San Juan, and Fortín San Juan de la Cruz (El Cañuelo), El Morro makes up the San Juan National Historic Site.
4.CASTILLO SAN CRISTÓBAL
Right next to El Morro is Castillo de San Cristóbal. It is the largest fortification ever built by the Spanish in the USA. This palace is built on 27 acres of land. It was made to protect Puerto Rico from land invasions. The moated intricate structure has five units interconnected by tunnels.
One can gaze from a massive cannon that overlooks the rocky shore to relive the the first Spanish-American war on Puerto Rico. Creepy dungeons, ancient soldier barracks and military-based exhibits are highlights of this castle. Ranger tours are available twice a day to facilitate the experience. It also provides a distinct view of the cityscape of San Juan.
5.PARROQUIA DEL ESPÍRITU SANTO Y SAN PATRICIO
Parish Church of the Holy Spirit and Saint Patrick is one of Puerto Rico’s oldest Catholic parish churches. It was constructed in 1645 and named after Saint Patrick. It is located in the municipality of Loíza, Puerto Rico. The church belongs to an ethnically distinct community of Afro-Hispanic cultural and folk craft tradition.
The structure has massive walls and fortifications that helped the building withstand floods and hurricanes and likewise provided the people of Loíza with shelter from such natural disasters.
Another important archaeological site is Caparra ruins. Situated in the municipality of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, it contains the remains of the first Spanish capital of the island. It shows remnants of the oldest known spanish settlements in the USA. It has the ruins of the residence of Puerto Rico’s first Spanish governor. The Museum of Conquest and Colonization of Puerto Rico is on these lands.
7.SERRALLES CASTLE MUSEUM
Located in Ponce. On a high hill with beautiful gardens, this museum dates back to the 1930s. It is housed in a castle made by the Serralles family. The family was into rum business but is not doing business from its family house now. The visitors can take a guided tour of the castle and visit its wine cellar and gift shop.
8.PONCE MUSEUM OF ART
The Museo de Arte de Ponce is home to approximately 4,500 objects and works of art, spanning centuries. This museum houses a fusion of pieces from three regions that are responsible for Puerto Rico’s vast diverse history: Europe, Africa, and the Americas. The museum has its own library. Few temporary exhibits keep happening here around the year.
9.PUERTO RICO MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART
Situated in Santurce, San Juan, this museum showcases artistic and creative pieces of the island from recent past. It is a hotspot of various art workshops and events.
VISIT THE MOST PUERTO RICAN CITY IN PUERTO RICO
On the south coast of Puerto Rico lies its second largest and most Puerto Rican city called Ponce, jewel of the south. Ponce provides a contrasting laid back experience in comparison to bustling capital, San Juan.
Ponce provides a very attractive downtown cityscape that can be explored on foot. Cabs are also easily available. There are various things in which one can indulge in Ponce.
1.PLAZA LAS DELICIAS
It is the main plaza in the city. It contains many museums, monuments and restaurants and other centres of attraction in the city. The center has quality sidewalks and is known for its lavish fountains and well kept gardens.
The historic museum of firefighter, Parque de Bombas, and famous Ponce Cathedral buildings are located within the plaza. It is made of two distinct sections. This plaza also hosts multiple celebrations and musical events throughout the year.
This cathedral lies in the middle of Ponce’s town square. It has great historic significance that dates back to the 1600s. The church has intricate neoclassical design. It follows a monday to friday routine. However, the building was temporarily closed because of the 2020 earthquakes.
3.PASEO TABLADO LA GUANCHA
If you want to have a relaxing walk while catching cool sea breeze and mingling with local Ponceños, then this broadwalk near the harbour is ideal for you. Some visitors simply contemplate the water and relax here. It is livelier during the weekends, with live salsa music and large crowds.
4.CARRIBEAN IMAGES MARINA AND WATERSPORTS CENTRE
You can go on a snorkelling excursion on the beautiful reefs. Visitors also enjoy jet skiing here. It’s a good spot if you’re looking for some adrenaline rush while you’re relaxing. You can check out their website here.
5.ISLA DE CAJA DE MUERTOS
It is an almost 4000 years old island. The island, which can be reached by ferry, is uninhabited and protected because of its native turtle population. However, if you’re a hiker and beachgoer then the island is a treat for you.
The island has four beaches, namely Pelicano, Playa Larga, Carrucho, and Coast Guard, and its own endemic flora and fauna. Author Robert Stevenson wrote “Treasure Island” after getting inspired by this island. A still-functioning, century old lighthouse, Caja de Muertos Light, sits atop the highest hill on the island.
EL YUNQUE NATIONAL RAINFOREST
This is a tropical rainforest found in the north-east of the island, on the slopes of the Sierra de Luquillo mountains . It has all the features of a forest, be it lush foliage, or tall trees. It also has famous waterfalls like La Mina Falls, rivers, and extensive fauna. The Taíno petroglyphs are also a great highlight of these forests.
These indigenous people believed that El Yunque was the throne of their chief god Yúcahu. El Yunque National Rainforest was partially due to Hurricane Maria. Be sure to check out this website to know which areas are available to visit.
The forest has a tropical year round growing season. The flora of this distinct type of species. There are at least 240 plant species endemic to this region.
There are many beautiful hiking trails, walks, waterfalls, scenery to explore and animals to observe. Puerto Rican Parrot is found here.
If one that needs a calming stress relieving walk, head over to La Coca Trail for it. However, if you’re in the mood for some in the form of a rope swing and a dive into the lagoon, El Angelito trail is there for you. Various packages of tours are offered in this region.
Yokahú Observation Tower gives you a bird’s eye view of the island with an elevation of 1,575 ft.
RELAX AT EXOTIC BEACHES AND BAYS
Puerto Rico is home to few of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. There are clear white sand relaxing beaches as well as beach resorts for all budgets and styles of traveler.
This Miami style beach in San Juan’s Condado is hipsters’ favourite. It has the most stunning beach lined with the most lively neighborhood filled with shops and restaurants.
2.SUN BAY BEACH
Just eight miles from Puerto Rico’s mainland, Isla Vieques is 21 miles long island which is home to beautiful Sun Bay Beach. Calm blue ocean view coupled with a wide stretch of sand and cool sea breeze makes up for the most tropical getaway. One of the most famous features of the island is also known for the presence of natural bioluminescence.
This happens on certain nights, when conditions are right, at a place known as Bioluminescent Bay (Mosquito Bay). The water in the bay glows bluish from the movement of phosphorescent dinoflagellates that house this bay in a large population. To experience this natural wonder, you can join an after dark tour in a boat, canoe, or kayak.
Situated right behind El Yunque National Rainforest, Luquillo Beach is famous for swimmable shallow waters and it’s crescent shape. Because of this reason, it is the family ‘s favourite spot.
The beach is dotted with bathrooms, lifeguard stalls, and local vendors who sell various snacks and refreshing drinks here.
Luquillo beach is one of the four beaches in the city that has a Blue Flag classifications, which is why if you’re not in the mood for swimming, you can also go kayaking or fly-boarding here.
Just walking distance away from Old San Juan, there is Escambron Beach. It is another beautiful beach loved by people who are into water sports. There is also a Luis Muñoz Rivera recreational park which is a perfect destination for families on vacation with kids. This is another beach with Blue Flag classification, so be sure about the crystal clear water juxtaposed with perfect facilities.
Featuring naturally sacred rock carvings and coral reefs, Playa Pastillo is Located in Isabela, Playa Pastillo is a picturesque beach with palm trees and green shrubs. The beach is also famous for its rock carvings and coral reefs. People like to go for walks here to explore the caves along cliffs.
However, there are no fancy facilities here at Playa Pastillo. Still it’s a great escape for people looking for a refuge in nature.
INDULGE IN SAVOURY AND DIVERSE CUISINE OF THE ISLAND
Having its cooking roots in European, American and native Tainos culture, Puerto Rico has a vast vibrant range of delectable food. The effect of the island’s diverse culture can be seen in its dishes. The meals here involve crispy fried plantains with garlic, slow-roasted juicy pork, savory rice and beans, accompanied with a cold local beer or fruity rum cocktail. Puerto Rico is also known for its artisan sweet bread.
Mayagüez has some of the best. Be sure to visit Massa Artisan Bakery and Cafe, the Ricomini Bakery, and Panaderia La Candelaria. Locals also recommend grabbing some seafood in this seaside town. Gonzalez Seafood is highly recommended by locals.
Some of the favorites dishes here are mofongo, tostones, pasteles, arroz con gandules, tembleque, and coquito. Don’t miss out on these dishes while you’re staying at the island.
1.ARROZ Y HABICHUELAS
Rice and beans are an important staple in the island. Pink beans are cooked with onions, peppers, garlic, ham hock, calabaza squash, and as many herbs and spices like sofrito, culantro, cilantro, and oregano. White rice is cooked with olive oil and salt. Both of these are served together.
This Puerto Rican delicacy is a whole pig (lechón) marinated in a mix of garlic, oregano, black pepper, vinegar, and water, called adobo, and then slowly roasted over coals for several hours. The final dish has juicy meat and crispy skin. Guavate has some of the best lechoneras that line the road leading to the mountains of Cayey.
Mofongo is a traditionally made comfort dish. It has deep-fried green plantain pieces mashed with garlic and either pork crackling, and butter. It can also be served as a side dish.
4.TOSTONES AND AMARILLOS
These are also classic plantain dishes. Green plantain is cut and marinated in water and garlic, then deep-fried in oil to soften, smashed, and deep-fried again until crispy. This is how tostones are made. In contrast, Amarillos are ripe plantains that are fried until they have a crispy black outside and a soft core.
Just like everywhere else, the dessert here also is the best part of the meal. A coconut custard with the silkiest texture possible, called tembleque, is a traditional dessert here. Rice pudding with cinnamon and raisins is also very famous.
Other traditional desserts include flan, and guava paste with white cheese, called casquitos de guayaba. Coquito, a remix of eggnog, is made with evaporated milk, condensed milk, coconut milk, cinnamon, white rum, and flavors like chocolate, pistachio etc.
There are two places in Puerto Rico that claim to have invented the pina colada: The Caribe Hilton Hotel and Barrachina Restaurant. It’s advised to taste this people’s favourite drink at its birth place.
Check out this website for famous food trails in Puerto Rico.
GET CAFFEINATED AND DO SOME INDULGE IN SOME RUM
Puerto Rican coffee, also called coffee of popes and kings, is famous among coffee drinkers. The extensive coffee plantations in the island is always a good spot for people who always need their morning caffeine to function. The 200 hundred year old history of coffee is debated a lot here.
The western mountains of Toro Negro is the Coffee Zone of the island. One can explore this region while enjoying great sights and diving into a tasty part of the island’s cuisine.
Coffee plantations like 19th century’s Hacienda Tres Angeles and fourth-generation coffee plantations in Yauco mountains, Café Don Ruiz’s specialty gourmet coffee, are few must visit spots. Actor Lin Manuel Miranda is the biggest Puerto Rican coffee stan.
Puerto Rico is called the rum capital of the world and rightly so. The most popular rum in the world is made at Casa Bacardí, in Catano. It is the world’s largest premium rum distillery that was founded in 1862. Around a century later, since 1965, the Don Q has become the Serrallés distillery’s most famous brand. Don Q produces a cleaner and more refined rum that has a delicate balance of flavours.
La factoria in San Juan is a famous bar where video of the song Despacito was filmed.
FESTIVALS AND EVENTS TO TAKE PART IN
Puerto Rico, like the other caribbean islands, hosts a lot of carnivals throughout the year.
There are a number of special events, not of a carnival nature, which also take place throughout the year. Make sure to go through this website to check what events or festivals will be happening at the time of your visit.
One of the coolest events to catch in Puerto Rich is to watch a baseball game while having a beer. From local Puerto Rican teams to MLB teams, you can catch just any match every now and then.
Ponce carnival is the most colorful celebration of the island that happens in the month of February.
SHOP AND MISCELLANEOUS
Although there are plenty of malls and markets that cover both international and local brands, the real deal here is shopping local. The San Juan metro area has many neighborhoods where you can indulge in local and handmade goods.
Old San Juan is littered with jewelry stores and unique handicrafts store. The Condado district offers luxury brands, upscale boutiques, and a variety of dining options.
Local designers can be found in Santurce. Small shops like Len.T.Juela, Moni & Coli, Love is You and Me, Sixne, and Nude, located in La Calle Loíza are hidden gems.
IS IT SAFE TO VISIT PUERTO RICO?
Puerto Rico opened for the visitors on 15th july because of the recent drop in cases. This has also led to a relaxation of many coronavirus policies. Beaches are now open for all. Restaurants are open at 50% capacity. Visitors will need to provide a negative COVID test upon entry.
Travelers without a test result will have to take one upon arrival. Anyone who tests positive or is reluctant in getting tested will be quarantined for fourteen days. Travelers will also have to comply with Puerto Rican safety policies like wearing a mask.
Crime rate here is lesser than the USA, however, petty theft happens a lot.
Make sure you check the natural disaster announcement before your visit because that is the one major concern of the island.
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