Puerto Rico: La Isla del Encanto (“the island of enchantment”). With so many island getaways to choose from in the Caribbean, there's a reason why Puerto Rico earned it’s nickname.
Puerto Rico is picture-perfect on the surface and only gets more beautiful and enjoyable as you travel deeper within this island territory’s culture and natural environment.
Because Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, you can travel there just as easily as you would to any other state, but with the rewarding experience of engaging with new terrain, culture and history.
As a popular travel destination brimming with things to do and see, this island is worth exploring. This Puerto Rico travel guide is designed to help you get to know the destination and what to expect when you’re there before your trip.
- Where is Puerto Rico?
- When to travel to Puerto Rico
- Things to know before you visit Puerto Rico
- Things to do in Puerto Rico
- Places to visit in Puerto Rico
- Getting around Puerto Rico
- Highlights of travelling to Puerto Rico
Where is Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico is an archipelago that resides in the northeastern Caribbean Sea that consists of one main island and smaller surrounding islands. It is situated just east of the Dominican Republic and west of the Virgin Islands.
Puerto Rico is the smallest and most eastern island of the Greater Antilles, which is a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea that includes Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and the Cayman Islands.
When to Travel to Puerto Rico
The best time to travel to Puerto Rico is just after the busy winter season and just before the island’s rainy summer season. So the best time to plan your trip to Puerto Rico would be anytime between April and June.
Traveling to Puerto Rico in the spring will help you avoid the crowd of winter travellers who want to escape the cold and you’ll still get the chance to experience beautiful weather that isn’t too humid.
Weather in Puerto Rico
The weather in Puerto Rico stays true to its tropical climate with temperatures averaging from 70 to 90 °F and the average temperature being 80 °F. The days are typically warm, sunny and humid in Puerto Rico.
Don’t fret if a little rain should start to fall while you’re on your trip to Puerto Rico. Rain storms are normal even on an otherwise sunny day, and they typically only last a few minutes.
Like other islands in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico has a hurricane season from June 1 to November 30. Puerto Rico experiences most of its hurricanes between August and October.
Things to Know Before You Visit Puerto Rico
Before you travel to Puerto Rico, you should know how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting travel and tourism on the island.
Although Puerto Rico is typically easy to travel to as a US citizen, there are extra steps everyone must take during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of now, Puerto Rico encourages essential trips only, but if your trip can’t be postponed, you must file forms with the Puerto Rico Health Department and get a COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours before visiting the island.
You won’t have to present a passport to get in, but you will have to present a negative COVID-19 test or you will be required to quarantine for at least 14 days.
It’s also important to know that Puerto Rico has a curfew barring anyone from being out between 9:00 PM and 5:00 AM, along with a 24-hour lockdown on Sundays, except for emergencies until January 7.
The public beaches and natural reserves on the island are open only for individual sports Monday through Saturday from 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM as well.
As of now, restaurants, casinos, and museums are operating at 30 percent capacity and bars remain closed.
Along with the impact of COVID-19, it’s important to know that certain parts of the island and its tourism industry are still recovering from when Puerto Rico was hit by the strongest hurricane in its history just a few years ago.
Hurricane Maria made landfall in 2017 and compounded destruction caused by hurricane Irma that hit the island just weeks before. As a result, Puerto Rico has recovered mostly, but there are still places that have yet to bounce back completely.
Traveling to Puerto Rico
A trip to Puerto Rico gives you the unique chance to enjoy an exotic island getaway without the hassle of international travel.
As a territory of the US, Puerto Rico offers expedited travel for US citizens saving you time and stress when it comes to bringing the necessary travel documents and going through customs.
Traveling to Puerto Rico can be a breeze for US citizens. With an easy transition, it's a great trip for travellers who want to venture outside of their comfort zones without the stress that comes with long haul travel to foreign countries.
Visa & Passport Requirements
Even though Puerto Rico is located in the Caribbean, it is a US territory which means US citizens are free to travel to and from the island with ease.
If you’re a US citizen, you won’t have to go through customs or present your passport when you get to Puerto Rico. The same goes for when it’s time to head back to the US.
Those travellers not from the US will instead have to present a US visa that is issued by the U.S. Embassy in the traveler’s country of origin upon arrival.
Flights to Puerto Rico
While you might be accustomed to long haul flights that take you to far-away island destinations, Puerto Rico is just less than a 4 hour flight from New York and a little more than a 2 hour flight from Miami.
United, Delta, American and JetBlue airlines each currently offer regular flights to Puerto Rico’s capital of San Juan. United and JetBlue also offer flights to the town of Rincón which is located on Puerto Rico’s western coast and is known for its beautiful beaches.
Is Puerto Rico Safe to Travel To?
Puerto Rico is considered relatively safe especially in places frequented by visitors.
As always when traveling somewhere for the first time, it’s important to stay alert while on your trip and the same goes for exploring Puerto Rico.
You should be mindful of your surroundings in Puerto Rico and a good rule of thumb is to stay close to any visitor sites or to your resort area to keep yourself safe while you’re out and about.
What Language is Spoken in Puerto Rico?
Combining its influence from the US and the Caribbean, Puerto Rico’s two official languages are Spanish and English.
Most locals, who are born US citizens, are able to speak one or both languages. While Spanish is the more widely spoken language in Puerto Rico, you shouldn’t have a problem finding someone who will be able to help with translation to English should you need it.
Money in Puerto Rico
Remembering that Puerto Rico is a US territory will help you know what to do when it comes to managing your money on your trip.
You’ll find that there is very little change in currency and how you use it when you travel to Puerto Rico from the US. So don’t sweat when it’s time to pay, you’ll still know exactly what to do while on your trip.
Puerto Rico’s Currency
The US dollar is the official currency of Puerto Rico. That means you won’t have to worry about exchanging your currency before, during or after your trip as a US citizen visiting Puerto Rico.
Is Puerto Rico Expensive?
A trip to Puerto Rico is an island getaway that can fit any size budget.
Because the cost of living in Puerto Rico is relatively low, you don’t have to worry about overspending for food or amenities while on your trip.
You’ll also find it relatively easy to book resort stays, island tours and other excursions without running into many high costs.
Tipping Etiquette in Puerto Rico
When it comes to tipping in Puerto Rico you’ll be relieved to know that it's the same as it is in the US. In Puerto Rico, tipping hotel staff, restaurant servers, and cab drivers is expected and tipping the average 15 to 20 percent of the check is customary when you’re dining out in Puerto Rico.
How to Pay for Things in Puerto Rico
When it comes time to pay in Puerto Rico, you’ll be able to do so with cash, credit or debit without any issues.
Puerto Rico accepts the US dollar as its cash currency, and Visa and MasterCard are also accepted most widely throughout Puerto Rico.
Dress & What to Pack for Puerto Rico
Whether it's laying by the beach, hiking in the rainforest, or getting ready to walk around a museum in Old Town San Juan, there’s a lot you’ll need to pack for your trip to Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico’s tropical climate might mean you won’t have to pack as many layers, but you will have to consider what you’ll be wearing for a variety of activities offered throughout the island.
To make sure you have exactly what you need for your trip to Puerto Rico, here are a few pieces of clothing we recommend you bring with you:
- Bathing suit and cover up
- Resort wear for a special dinner
- Hat or sunglasses to protect your eyes from excessive sun exposure
- T-shirts and athletic tank tops for hiking
- Athletic shorts
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Flip-flops or sandals
- At least one pair of long pants for evenings
- Sweater or light jacket for early morning and late night temperature drops
Packing during the COVID-19 pandemic is more important than ever and you have to be sure to prioritize your health during your trip to Puerto Rico.
Especially when you don't have to worry about customs restrictions as a US citizen traveling to Puerto Rico, packing vitamins and supplements will help you maintain your health and boost your immune system.
Puerto Rican Laws to Know
- Although the legal drinking age is 21 in the US, the drinking age in Puerto Rico is 18.
- The legal age for gambling is also 18.
- The legal system in Puerto Rico is not the same as the US and operates entirely in Spanish.
Things to Do in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico entices visitors with its promise of rest and relaxation, but many travellers will find that the island is home to unique adventures that many deem bucket-list worthy.
One activity you’ll want to cross off your bucket list is kayaking in one of Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent bays.
In these waterways, single-celled organisms native to Puerto Rico float through the water and create a glow-in-the-dark effect when there’s any movement nearby. So as you paddle through the water, these organisms light up in a neon blue-green colour and change the water that colour as well.
Puerto Rico is home to three of the world’s only five bioluminescent bays making this starlight experience both beautiful and rare.
For more adventure on the water, Puerto Rico is home to some of the best conditions for surfing. The west coast towns of Rincón and Aguadilla are known for their spacious and sprawling with miles of coastline. For surfers, that means they can catch as many waves as possible without worrying about too much crowding.
With so much adventure to be had out on the water, you’ll work up a big appetite. Lucky for you, Puerto Rico is a great place to go looking for food.
One popular Puertorican dish to try is mofongo, which is made with mashed and fried green plantains, meat, vegetables and covered in a sauce made from garlic, oil, and broth. It’s beloved by locals and travellers alike and it's served at many restaurants around the island.
To pair with your authentic Puerto-Rican food, you can try a taste of one of the most popular drinks in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico: Rum.
Sample some of Puerto Rico’s finest rum at any of the three distilleries on the island. Whether it's Casa Bacardí, Hacienda Santa Ana, or PitoRico, each distillery has its own flare that makes the rum tasting unique and exciting to experience.
You can also visit museums in Old San Juan, just 15 minutes from the San Juan airport, if you’re looking to keep exploring and dive deeper into the rich culture of Puerto Rico on your trip.
Where to Stay in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is a diverse island with plenty of amazing hotels, resorts, inns, and unique accommodation options.
Where you choose to stay will depend on your travel style, as well as the neighborhoods you're drawn to!
There's the west coast district of Mayagüez-Aguadilla for a laid back beach vibe.
Or the popular beach town of Rincón for surfers and adventurers.
The towns of Isabela and Aguadilla are just north of Rincón and are also home to some of the best beaches in Puerto Rico.
You can stay in Puerto Rico’s capital city of San Juan is also home to a historic, metropolitan setting.
If you're into luxury travel or a fan of history, there's Old San Juan, or if you're a nature lover there's Río Grande in the Northern Coastal Valley of Puerto Rico.
And if you don't mind a short boat ride to get to your accommodation, just off of Puerto Rico’s eastern coast are the islands of Vieques and Culebra, with world-renowned beaches and the world's brightest bioluminescent bay.
Either check out our top picks below, or find a spot that's perfect for your itinerary here:
Places to Visit in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico might be the smallest island of the Greater Antilles, but it still has plenty of places worth visiting on your trip.
As the only tropical rainforest in the US, El Yunque National Forest is a must-see attraction for any traveler who visits Puerto Rico.
Overflowing with waterfalls and fresh vegetation, El Yunque is perfect for hiking and experiencing nature in its purest form.
If you’re interested in visiting another attraction unique to Puerto Rico, you can spend the day browsing the shops in Plaza Las Américas, the island’s first indoor shopping mall. Plaza Las Américas is located in San Juan and is the largest shopping mall in the Caribbean.
While you’re in San Juan you’ll want to visit Old San Juan to see legendary landmarks like the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, also known as El Morro.
El Morro is a citadel that was built between the 16th and 18th centuries that served as a defensive fortress for Puerto Rico. It is currently a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an iconic location for travellers to take in the history and enjoy the surrounding area.
Getting Around Puerto Rico
The best way to get around Puerto Rico is by car. Renting a car is the most common way to get around the island, especially because Uber does not operate in Puerto Rico.
Because the island of Puerto Rico is just 90 miles long and 30 miles wide, you make sure you see everything on your list before it’s time to head home.
When driving in Puerto Rico, it's important to be patient with traffic and to be very attentive behind the wheel.
Highlights of Traveling to Puerto Rico
Just when you thought we were done telling you about this small island in the Caribbean, here are a few more things you should know about Puerto Rico:
Under-rated Attraction: Laguna Grande Biobay is only an hour east of San Juan and it's the ideal place to experience Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent waters without having to worry about running into too many other visitors. With fewer crowds at this bay, you’ll have more opportunities for special tours like glass-bottom boat trips and midnight kayaking.
Best Cup of Coffee: Puerto Rico has an ideal climate for growing coffee and is home to some of the best coffee beans in the world. When it comes to making the best cup of puerto rican coffee, Hacienda San Pedro is one of the most popular and locally-owned coffee shops in the capital city of San Juan. You can even visit where the family grows their coffee at their hacienda (ranch) in the mountain town of Jayuya.
Best Hidden Gem: With gorgeous scenery that often goes unseen except by seasoned travellers, Lago Dos Bocas is a lake tucked away between the towns of Utuado and Arecibo. It’s an attraction that not many people know about but its beauty and serenity is worth taking an excursion to Lago Dos Bocas on your trip to Puerto Rico.
Local Favourite Restaurant: Serving authentic dishes made with local ingredients, Santaella is an elegant restaurant that celebrates and showcases the Caribbean culture of Puerto Rico. This local favourite is the creation of Chef José Santaella who transformed a historic building into this thriving restaurant located in San Juan.
Little-Known Fact: The piña colada was invented in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1954 when Ramón “Monchito” Marrero mixed rum, coconut cream and pineapple juice to create the signature drink.
Don’t Forget to Pack: You’ll thank yourself for remembering to pack an umbrella for sudden rain showers that are known to happen in Puerto Rico despite its usually sunny weather.
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