Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island and U.S. territory with a rich and turbulent history, a spectacular and diverse landscape of mountains, grottos, islands, coral reefs, and waterfalls, and many historic structures. Beautiful historic San Juan is the capital and the delight of history buffs who enjoy its charming colonial architecture and old forts that actively defended the island from invaders. The El Yunque tropical rainforest is a fascinating place with unique plants that thrive in hot and very humid conditions. Hundreds of islands, big and small, are surrounded by magnificent sandy beaches and coral reefs teeming with life. Please note that certain attractions remain closed after Hurricane Maria.
1. Castillo San Felipe del Morro & Castillo de San Cristobal
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Spanish engineers built two castles to protect San Juan from the attacks: Castillo San Felipe del Morro, guarding the city from the sea, and Castillo San Cristobal to defend it from the land. Castillo San Felipe del Morro, or El Morro, is a six-level fort built on top of a high promontory, standing guard from anyone coming from the ocean. It was completed in 1787 and was attacked in 1595 and again in 1598, by the Dutch in 1625 and by the US Navy in 1898.
Today, its 60-foot tall walls and old cannons make for a great destination when you want to take a trip into the past, and the walls offer a spectacular view of the ocean. Castillo Can Cristobal was completed in 1790 at the eastern gate of the walled city. It covers 27 acres, the biggest fort the Spanish built in the New World. The fort and its sentry boxes are very well preserved and are fun to explore. Don’t miss seeing Devil’s Sentry Box, from which, as legends say, soldiers used to disappear mysteriously.
Calle Norzagaray | Old San Juan, San Juan00901, Puerto Rico, Phone: 787-729-6777
2. The El Yunque Rain Forest
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El Yunque National Rainforest, one of very few rainforests in the US, is located in northeastern Puerto Rico high up on the slopes of the Sierra de Luquillo mountains. It covers 28,000 acres of land. The highest peak, El Toro, rises 3,494 feet above sea level. Rainfall and high humidity create lush, dense jungle rich in tropical species and diverse ecosystems, including unique dwarf forest.
El Yunque is a popular tourist spot and excellent hiking trail allow visitors to enjoy waterfalls, dense foliage, rivers and crags, as well as Taino Indians petroglyphs. Two observation towers offer spectacular views. There are lodging opportunities at the edge of the rainforest, but not in it.
Carolina, Puerto Rico | 65664556, El Yunque National Forest 00979, Puerto Rico, Phone: 787-888-1880
3. Puerto Rico Tour Desk
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Whatever your age and interests, Puerto Rico Tour Desk has specially chosen well trained guides and the most interesting tours for you. They combine thorough information about the places you will visit with a focus on safety, support of local small businesses, and care for the environment.
You can choose from the large range of tours, from “Off the Beaten Path” Hiking Tour in El Yunque Rain Forest and kayaking in the Bio Bay to exploring the caves and tarpoon fishing. If you are interested in history, the tour of Old San Juan will enchant you. For the adrenaline junkies, there are several zip lining tours over the jungle canopy, handgliding, or hiking through the jungle.
Kiosco numero 1 Plaza Colon, San Juan00901, Puerto Rico, Phone: 787-710-1109
4. Museo de Arte de Ponce (Ponce)
© Museo de Arte de Ponce
One of the best art museums in Puerto Rico, Museo de Arte de Ponce is the biggest art museum in the Caribbean and is also considered one of the most significant in the Americas. It is home to a collection of 4,500 artworks located in 14 galleries, mostly focusing on European art and the most important Puerto Rico artists. There are also a number of exceptional pre-Raphealite works.
The museum was established by philanthropist, industrialist, and art collector Luis A. Ferre in 1959 and moved to its current building in 1965. The magnificent structure on Avenida Las Americas has 14 hexagonal galleries full of natural light, two gardens, and a spacious amphitheater. The front yard of the museum features Roy Lichtenstein’s 28-foot-high aluminum sculpture Brushstokes in Flight, and it is considered "the largest public artwork in Latin America.”
2325 Ave. Las Americas, Ponce 00717,Puerto Rico, Phone: 787-840-1510
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5. Culebrita Island (Culebra)
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Culebrita Island is a small, one kilometer long uninhabited coral island off the coast of Culebra Island in Puerto Rico. The entire island is a nature reserve and is accessible by boat from Culebra. The island has six magnificent sandy beaches. Playa Tortuga is famous as a breading and feeding ground for turtles, and people can be seen swimming with these gentle giants.
On the east side of the island are large tidal pools that many people use as bathtubs. They are rich in sea life trapped in low tide. There are two small shallow lagoons on the west side of the island and the Culebrita Reef off the southern coast, both of which are great for snorkeling and scuba diving. The island is home to 97 species of plants, 32 birds, four reptiles, and two mammals. The oldest lighthouse in the Caribbean is on Culebrita.
6. Kayaking Puerto Rico (Fajardo)
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There is so much to see in Puerto Rico on land and on the water, and you can easily miss some very special places unless you have exceptionally good guides to show you around. If you like to spend time on the water and enjoy kayaking, let Kayaking Puerto Rico take you to the pearls of the country such as Seven Seas Bay, which is located on the secluded Northeast corner of the Island.
There is also a protected, spectacular snorkeling area with abundant marine life or the bio-luminescent Laguna Grande. You can combine kayaking and snorkeling with their Aquafari Culebra trip, or can have fun on land and water by hiking through El Yunque Rainforest and kayaking in Fajardo’s Bio Bay. They provide all equipment, instructions, light refreshment, and the best guides and instructors you will find anywhere.
Rt. 987 Km. 5 Las Croabas, Fajardo, PR 00738, Phone: 787-245-4545
7. Bioluminescent Bay
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One of the most romantic spots in the magnificent Puerto Rican Caribbean waters is Puerto Mosquito Bio Bay, hidden on Vieques Island where the mysterious green light called bioluminescence created by micro-organisms will mesmerize you. The bay is a very special environment with unique conditions necessary for the tiny animals to thrive. A night trip with Island Adventures Biobay will be the highlight of your visit to Puerto Rico.
Their highly trained guides will explain the fragile, unique ecology of the bay and the plants, animals, and mangroves that live in this fascinating world. After an interpretive lecture aboard the boat, they will stop where the bioluminescence is high and let you enjoy the spectacle created by nature. Island Adventures Biobay Boat Tour’s electrically powered double-pontoon Luminosa II glides slowly and quietly through the glowing waters of Puerto Mosquito Bay.
Laguna Grande | Las Croabas, Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Phone: 787-435-1665
8. Los Morrillos Light (Cabo Rojo)
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Faro Los Morrillos de Cabo Rojo, or Los Morrillos Light, is a historic lighthouse located at the southwestern end of Puerto Rico in Cabo Rojo. The Spanish built the lighthouse in 1882 to assist passing ships through the through the treacherous Mona Passage from the Caribbean Sea into the Atlantic Ocean. The lighthouse is perched on a white lime cliff surrounded by salt water marshes.
There is a 200-foot drop from the cliffs where the lighthouse sits to the ocean below. The lighthouse was renovated in 2002, and its original simple unadorned architecture has been preserved, while the structure was returned to its original condition and painted in its original gray color with white trim. It is open to the public as a museum.
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Aguadilla is a small charming coastal town on the northwest of Puerto Rico between the towns of Aguada, Moca and Isabela and the Atlantic Ocean. Luis de Córdova founded Aguadilla in 1775, and today it is a popular tourist destination famous for its 16 magnificent beaches.
The most popular is Crash Boat Beach, great for surfing and other water sports, located just north of Aguadilla. Aguadilla has the only skating rink in the Caribbean, several golf courses, Las Cascadas Aquatic Theme Park with fun rides and a lazy river, historic Punta Borinquen Lighthouse built in 1889, Punta Borinquen tennis courts, and wonderful horseback rides through the surrounding jungle.
10. Carabali Rainforest Park (Luquillo)
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Carabalí Rainforest Park is a 600-acre ranch in a lush tropical jungle snuggled between El Yunque National Rainforest and the the Atlantic Ocean. It is a great adventure destination combining plenty of action with the magnificent tropical jungle full of life.
You can go horseback riding through the El Yunque National Forest, admire the unique eco system with rare plants and animals, and go swimming in the Mameyes River, or you can take your horse to the beach. You can zoom through the forest, hop over creeks, and climb hills on a 650cc four track or hit the jungle trails on a mountain bike. And when you come back from your adventure, you can enjoy one of several excellent restaurants, bars, or wine cellars.
Puerto Rico 992, Luquillo, 00773, Puerto Rico, Phone: 787-889-4954
11. El Museo Castillo Serralles (Ponce)
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Museo Castillo Serrallés or Serrallés Castle Museum is located in Ponce, Puerto Rico in the magnificent four-story colonial revival building built in 1930 for the proprietor of Destileria Serralles, one of the largest rum distilleries in Puerto Rico.
The museum has one permanent exhibition showcasing the history of sugar cane production and rum industries in the area and in the country, demonstrating its impact on Puerto Rico economy. There are also several galleries with changeable temporary exhibits. The museum, which opened in 1991, is surrounded by a 2.5-acre lot and is now one of several attractions. Others include an observation tower, a Japanese garden, and a butterfly garden.
17 Calle El Vigia | (take a taxi), Ponce 00730-2926, Puerto Rico, Phone: 787-259-1774
12. Arecibo Observatory (Arecibo)
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Located in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, the Arecibo Observatory was the largest radio telescope in the world from 1963 when it was completed until 2016. The observatory is the facility of the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center and is operated by several agencies under the National Science Foundation. The observatory used to have a 1,000-foot radio telescope and serve as a venue for research in radio astronomy, radar astronomy, and atmospheric science. The telescope collapsed in 2020 but it can still be visited.
Self-guided tours of the observatory are available – there are 3,500 square feet of exhibits. Tour guides provide help when requested. The 20-minute movie Beyond the Big Dreams plays in the auditorium. It covers the work and discoveries that have taken place in the Arecibo Observatory. You can also visit to the observation deck.
HC-3 CAJA 53995, Arecibo 00612, Puerto Rico, Phone: 787-878-2612
13. Flamenco Beach (Culebra), Puerto Rico
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Voted as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Flamenco Beach on the island of Culebra in Puerto Rico attracts thousands of tourists with its warm, shallow blue waters, powder fine white sand, wonderful diving and snorkeling and one mile of beautiful sandy shore that stretches along the wide, protected horse-shoe-shaped bay.
The beach has lifeguards on duty and small concession stands with beach chairs, umbrellas, snacks, food, and diving and snorkeling equipment. The beach is easily accessible from from the town of Dewey where the ferry lands. There is a well-organized campground at the entrance to the beach.
Route 251, Puerto Rico
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14. Blue Beach-La Chiva (Isla de Vieques)
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For six decades, Vieques Island was a navy bombing range and testing ground. After a series of protests, the navy left the island in 2003, and part of the island previously occupied by navy was proclaimed a national wildlife refuge.
One of the most beautiful beaches on the island, Blue Beach (as the navy called it) regained its original name La Chiva, but some keys off La Chiva are still off limits because of abandoned ordnance. Wide sandy beach stretches all along the azure bay, and it is wonderful for long walks, snorkeling, sunbathing, swimming, kayaking, and diving. Protected waters are calm and warm, perfect for the kids. The best snorkeling is next to the rocky areas and near the small key.
15. Playa Caracas Former Red Beach
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Playa Caracas on the south side of Vieques island in Puerto Rico is a gorgeous wide sandy beach with fine white coral sand that stays cool underfoot even when the sun is at its strongest. The water changes colors as it gets deeper, and it is a photographer and painter’s dream.
Gentle waves protected by the wide bay make the beach perfectly safe for the kids. There are a few gazebos for family picnics, as well as volleyball nets. The beach is surrounded by magnificent tropical greenery and palm trees that offer patches of shade. The beach is part of the wildlife preserve and was previously located on the navy testing ground when it was known by the name of Red Beach.
16. La Cueva del Indio (Arecibo)
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Located just outside charming Arecibo, La Cueva del Indio, one of the oldest colonial towns in Puerto Rico, is a spectacular cave cut into limestone rock by thousands of years of rain and wind. The most interesting features in the caves are petroglyphs left by Taino Indians long before Columbus came to Puerto Rico.
It is believed that the petroglyphs were part of the religious ceremonies held in the caves, and they are amazingly well preserved. The walk from the busy highway to the caves is short but treacherous – the exposed limestone gets slippery and the drop from the trail to the cave below is 25 feet. The ceiling of the cave is open to the sky so there is enough light to see petroglyphs from above. There is also a ladder going into the cave. Once you get to the caves, the view that stretches all the way to the ocean and the beaches is spectacular. Take a walk around and see the spectacular cliffs, arches, and a natural bridge.
Arecibo 00612, Puerto Rico
17. Playa Sucia (La Playuela) - (Cabo Rojo)
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La Playuela is located in Cabo Rojo on the south west end of Puerto Rico. It is a true Caribbean paradise in a wide crescent-shaped bay that is protected, secluded, and big enough to offer a spot for a solitary swim or snorkel.
The scenery around the beach is magnificent – on one side are turquoise clear Caribbean waters and on the other is lush tropical greenery that offers pleasant shade from the intense sun. You can see the lighthouse perched high on the cliff and the line of seagrass at the end of the beach. The sand is very fine, and sometimes it makes the water look a bit murky. There are many trails around the beach for a bit of exploring and bird-watching.
Cabo Rojo, Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
18. Icacos Island (Fajardo)
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Cayo Icacos is a small uninhabited island off the coast of Fajardo, a small town on the east coast of Puerto Rico. It is part of the Cordillera Keys Nature Reserve and can be reached from Fajardo by a fifteen-minute water taxi ride.
Magnificent healthy reefs that support abundant marine life surround the island, so snorkeling and scuba diving are out of this world. The beach on the island is made up of fine coral sand perfect for long strolls. You can also explore inland, as the island is covered with lush greenery. The island and its fantastic beach are very popular among locals and tourists, so expect it to be crowded on weekends.
19. Palomino Island
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Isla Palomino is a small private island on the east coast of Puerto Rico near Las Croabas, Fajardo. Most of the island is occupied by the El Conquistador Hotel & Casino. This luxury 100-acre resort has its own ferry that brings guests to the island.
Besides presenting wonderful sandy beach surrounded by stately palm trees and crystal clear Caribbean waters, the resort offers a range of activities such as horseback riding, windsurfing, Jet skiing, kayaking, and snorkeling and scuba diving on the surrounding reef. You do not have to stay at the resort to enjoy the island and its amenities; they offer a day pass that provides access to most that island offers.
1000 El Conquistador Plz Ctr, San Juan00976-6448, Puerto Rico
20. Tamarindo Beach (Culebra)
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Tamarindo Beach is for a good reason one of the most popular beaches in Culebra, and it is famous for its fantastic beaches. Protected by small key Cayo Luis Pena, the water is calm and perfect for kayaking, snorkeling, and fun for kids.
Almost not a day passes that the snorkelers do not see green turtles and manta rays gliding across the bay, and the coral reefs are healthy and teeming with marine life. The shore is unique, with a mix of golden sand and wide trails of colorful smooth pebbles and coral stones pushed ashore by the waves. Kids enjoy collecting colorful stones, but keep an eye on them, as the water gets much deeper near the shore. There are no lifeguards on site, so don’t go snorkeling or swimming alone.
West end of island, Puerto Rico
21. Zoni Beach (Culebra)
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Of all the Culebra beaches, Zoni is one where you should go if you want to spend some time in solitude. The long, wide expanse of fine sand is perfect for long walks, or you can hang your hammock between two leaning palm trees and read a book in the light shade while the gentle sound of surf soothes you.
The scenery is breathtaking. The water changes its color from pale green to deep blue as it gets deeper, and the coast gets more rugged and rocky towards the end of the beach. Zoni Beach / Playa Soni is a nesting site for Leatherback and Hawksbill turtles, so you might be able to spot these gentle giants laying eggs between April and June. Stay away and do not disturb them; they come back year after year to the same spot. There are volunteers who mark the sites so that they are not disturbed.
East end of PR 250, Puerto Rico
22. Parque de Bombas (Ponce)
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This striking red and white building at the Plaza de las Delicias in the center of Ponce is always attracting the attention of tourists, and it is the pride of locals. Wooden Gothic structure with Moorish influence was designed by Maximo Meana and was built as the main pavilion for the 1882 Ponce World Fair.
After the fair ended in 1885, the building became Ponce's official firehouse – Parque de Bombas de Ponce – and it served the city faithfully for more than 100 years. Today, it is a museum honoring Ponce's firemen and has a display of various artifacts used by the fire brigade to combat the famous 1882 and1883 fires as well as some other artifacts of historical significance.
Plaza de Las Delicias, Ponce, Puerto Rico