If you’re looking for an island holiday in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico is a destination you must consider. This tourist-friendly territory of the United States is made of a group of islands with a wide range of things to see and do. It’s got beaches and mountains, rainforests and history, vibrant culture and colorful buildings and such good local food and drinks. Here’s a quick look at the top 10 things to do in Puerto Rico.
1. Do a walking tour of Viejo San Juan
Viejo San Juan is the historical district of Puerto Rico. It’s one of the oldest settlements on the islands and the place that still bears proof of the colonial city it once was. This is where you will find all those colorful buildings you see when you look up Puerto Rico.
Walk the cobblestoned streets of Old San Juan and you’ll see a lot of Spanish Colonial Architecture. Some of the historical buildings you’ll see are La Forteza, which is now the Governor’s Palace; Catedral de San Juan, one of the oldest churches in America; Casa Blanca, the oldest residence on the islands, presently a museum and the famous fortresses of Puerto Rico.
2. Learn about Puerto Rico’s past at its historical fortresses
Some of the most-visited spots in Puerto Rico are the two forts that were meant to safeguard the island that was once a Spanish colony: Castillo San Filipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristobal.
Castillo San Filipe del Morro was built between the 16th and 18th centuries as a protection against invaders & pirates who might approach from the sea. Constructed on 6 levels, this fortress near San Juan harbor has over 2 miles of wall, and there are prisons, tunnels & barracks for visitors to see.
Castillo San Cristobal, on the other hand, was constructed as protection against land invasion. This 27-acre fort that dates back to the 18th century became one of the biggest and strongest forts that the Spanish built.
3. Hike the wilderness of El Yunque National Forest
An hour’s drive away from the historical district of Puerto Rico is the island’s biggest natural attraction, the El Yunque National Forest. It’s definitely worth making the top 10 things to do in Puerto Rico!
Lying to the northeast of the island, the rich greenery of this place forests the slopes of the Sierra de Luquillo Mountains and the area around it. It’s rich in fauna and flora, and has a few waterfalls making it a matchless place for a hike. The trails in this rainforest range from easy to strenuous so there’s a trail for everybody here. Experienced hikers who would like to rough it up in tropical wilderness can try the El Toro Trail to the highest peak in the mountains. Then there’s the La Coca Trail another challenging trail that’s highly recommended for pros.
While you’re here you might also want to go atop the 1,575-feet tall Yokahú Observation Tower, which promises to show you a grand view of the greenery of the area and the Atlantic Ocean in the distance.
4. Witness some bioluminescence
Puerto Rico is home to 3 of the 5 ecosystems that have been qualified to be called bioluminescent bays. Mosquito Bay in Vieques, La Parguera Bay & Laguna Grande have an abundance of tiny microorganisms called dinoflagellates that glow in the dark when agitated. As such, when you’re in these Caribbean islands you can take a kayak and go witness this natural wonder!
Of the 3 areas, Mosquito Bay is said to be one of the brightest bio bays in the world. Parguera Bay allows you to take a motorboat out into the water or you can swim or dive in it to see the phenomenon even closer. Or you could experience it from a glass-bottomed boat. If you don’t have much time on the island, you might want to consider Laguna Grande, which is close to San Juan.
5. Explore the island’s cave systems
Puerto Rico has some caves that are open to visitors. The Cañon de Tanama in Utuado in the Southwest has some of them. The Tanama River that flows there has eroded the limestone cliffs creating caves, canyons & tunnels.
Rio Camuy Caverns not very far from there, is another place to see some caverns. The 3rd largest underground river in the world, Rio Camuy is responsible for the formations here. You could also take a guided tour of Cueva Clara, the main cave of the area.
You can also choose to do a guided tour to Cueva Ventana, a ‘Window Cave’, that will show you the rich green landscape of Puerto Rico through a hole in the limestone rocks of Arecibo. The hour-long program led by biologists will also tell you about the plant & animal life of the area, the indigenous people who lived there, and even show you some petroglyphs. The caves are an amazing attraction in Puerto Rico, definitely making it one of the top 10 things to do in Puerto Rico.
6. Enjoy the richness of an island destination
Puerto Rico is an archipelago and that means the coast is not too far, no matter where you are on the island. Puerto Rico claims to have 270 miles of coastline and around 300 beaches on its fringes. There seem to be all kinds of beaches here — everything from party beaches to family-friendly beaches and some quiet deserted ones, too.
Being in Puerto Rico also means being close to places where you can swim in the sea, go surfing & snorkeling.
Some of the most popular beaches are Flamenco Beach, Isla Verde Beach, Cayo Icacos, Buye & Jobos beaches.
7. Pay a visit to Puerto Rico’s pink lakes
Did you know that there are pink salt lakes on the island? In the southeastern corner of the main island, there are salt flats and near them are some saline pools that are pink in color. The color can be attributed to the concentration of salt and a microorganism that lives in the water.
After you’re done taking in the color and taking photographs of the place and the shades of light pink, you might want to go see Los Morellos Lighthouse at the very tip of Cabo Rojo. Another thing to see there is a rock formation that looks like a natural bridge.
8. Do a rum tour
Puerto Rico is also home to one of the biggest rum distilleries, so if you want to do one of the top 10 things in Puerto Rico, you should go for a taste. If you can find your way to Casa Bacardi on the northern part of Puerto Rico island, you can do a guided history tour of the Bacardi Factory there, do a rum tasting, some rum shopping and even get your name engraved on a bottle.
If you’re looking for more to do there, you could take a mixology class at the factory.
9. Go ziplining
Batey Zipline has 7 different ziplines that will give you an opportunity to see Tanamá National Forest from above its trees. If that’s not enough adrenaline rush for you, head for Toro Verde Adventure Park at the heart of the main island. This park has the zipline of ziplines within it. There’s an 8,300ft long cable here that is said to be the longest one in the world.
10. Party on the street in Placita de Santurce
La Placita de Santurce is a happening square near Old San Juan. During the day you see a marketplace over here. But at the end of the day it turns into an open-air party with stalls selling local food and all kinds of drinks. There’s music & dancing and lots of fun to be had! There are even some nightclubs in the area.
Now you know where to go for some nightlife while you’re holidaying in Puerto Rico!