If you’re planning your trip to Puerto Rico, you have probably already gathered that the list of things to do is very long. From historical landmarks to adventurous zipline adventures, boutiques for shoppers, and beaches for relaxing, there’s a little something for everyone here.
Obviously, all those attractions are why Puerto Rico is often touted as one of the best vacation spots in the Caribbean. But it can also make it hard for first-time visitors to figure out where to start!
While it would be impossible to list out all the wonderful things to see and experience in Puerto Rico, I can give you a list of the absolute do-not-miss attractions and experiences on this Caribbean island.
Visit Old San Juan
You can’t go to Puerto Rico without visiting Old San Juan, one of the first Spanish settlements in the Caribbean. This historic district is filled with colorful architecture, busy plazas, and cobblestone streets. Of course, you’ll find the touristy spots, like shops, restaurants, and sidewalk cafes. But more importantly, it’s a vibrant, unique place packed with culture and history.
The Catedral de San Juan Bautista is here–the second oldest cathedral in the Western Hemisphere. The current structure dates to 1540, but the church itself dates to 1521.
Don’t miss Patio del Níspero, an open-air restaurant offering gourmet authentic Puerto Rican food in a 17th-century convent that’s been converted to a luxury hotel. Take a guided walking tour of La Fortaleza, a 16th-century fortress that now serves as the governor’s mansion.
Get Tropical at El Yunque National Forest
Covering more than 28,000 acres, the El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rainforest in Puerto Rico. Visit this lush, humid rainforest to witness beauty and biodiversity that can only be found here.
More than 240 species of plants, birds, and animals can be found here — some of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world. See them from all kinds of sightseeing trails on your own, or take a guided tour or nature walk. Don’t forget to bring a camera to capture snaps of waterfalls, orchids, imposing tabonuco trees, and colorful Puerto Rican parrots.
Taste Traditional Puerto Rican Food
One of the best ways to experience local culture is through the food! You can’t visit Puerto Rico without taking in the tasty traditional food, a cuisine the locals call “cocina criolla.” It’s a unique blend of Taíno, Spanish, African, and American influences.
The original inhabitants, Arawaks and Tainos, thrived on a diet of corn, tropical fruits, and seafood. Later Spanish and African influences brought beef, pork, rice, sugarcane, okra, and more. All of that melded together into today’s unique Puerto Rican cuisine.
Mofongo, pasteles, arroz con gandules, Plantains, tostones, frituras, and rice and beans made with sofrito will leave you feeling stuffed and happy. And for a seriously noteworthy food experience, check out La Ruta del Lechón — the “Pork Highway.” You’ll find many places roasting whole pigs in open-air smoke pits, plus plenty of other traditional Puerto Rican foods.
Visit the Museo de Las Américas
There are plenty of museums to visit in Puerto Rico, but the Museo de Las Américas is a special one that you should absolutely visit while here. That’s because it’s one of the few museums that is actually about Puerto Rico!
With three permanent collections and changing temporary exhibitions, this museum emphasizes the cultural heritage of Puerto Rico and the Americas. You’ll find artifacts, artworks, textiles, and more. There is an audio-visual room to learn more about tribal traditions through short films. They also have interactive stations for kids to touch and hold things.
The museum is housed inside the historic Cuartel de Ballajá, which was used as the military’s barracks during Spanish colonial times.
Get Some Sun at Flamenco Beach
Everyone traveling to Puerto Rico wants to enjoy the island’s warm tropical climate! While the food, culture, and historic buildings are amazing, nothing beats a little fun in the sun. And Puerto Rico’s beaches are consistently named among the best in the world, after all.
Flamenco Beach is picturesque. The turquoise water is perfect for snorkeling and swimming, or relax with your toes in the white sand. There are lifeguards, showers, changing rooms, and kiosks where you can find tasty authentic food.
The iconic World War II tanks covered in graffiti are here, too. The tanks, which were used by the US Navy for target practice, were left to rust when the Navy cleared out. They stand as a reminder of the Navy’s occupancy of Culebra.
Have a Blast at Toro Verde Adventure Park
If you’re an adrenaline junkie, Toro Verde Adventure Park is a must for your itinerary. Located in the town of Orocovis, the area has some seriously breathtaking mountain views — with some breathtaking ways to see them.
You’ll see everything from a birds-eye view, thanks to their zipline and bridge tours. Within their network of ziplines and suspension bridges, Toro Verde boasts The Monster. At 2.5 km, it’s the second-longest zipline in the world. Or, check out the Escape If You Can” adventure course that includes ziplines, suspension bridges, and rappelling down a rock wall.