10 Things To Do In Puerto Rico on Your First Visit
Puerto Rico serves as a tropical destination for tourists from all over the world. Puerto Rico has warm weather year-round and has some of the most breathtaking beaches in the Caribbean.
Puerto Rico, a non-incorporated United States (US) territory, is perfect for Americans looking for a tropical escape without a passport. The delightful climate and stunning scenery make Puerto Rico a great candidate for weddings, honeymoons, and family trips, or even luxury vacations. To get the best travel experience, plan excursions, site visits, and shopping. Here is a list of ten things to do in Puerto Rico.
1. Visit Or Swim In A Bioluminescent Bay
Puerto Rico is home to three bioluminescent bays. The glow is caused by single-celled plankton called dinoflagellates. The dinoflagellates glow when the water is disturbed or agitated, giving the water a glow-in-the-dark effect.
The bio bays in Puerto Rico are Mosquito Bay, Laguna Grande, and La Parguera.
Mosquito Bay, located on the island of Vieques, is the brightest bio bay in the world, according to Guinness World Records (2006). Laguna Grande, popular because of its location, is closest to San Juan and most hotels. La Parguera, located in Lajas, is the only bio bay that is swimmable and that is accessible by motorboats.
Due to laws created to conserve the bay, electric boat and kayaking tours are the only available to experience Mosquito Bay or Laguna Grande. For La Parguera, there are more options to explore, such as chartering glass bottom boats, swimming, snorkeling, or even scuba diving in the bay.
2. Visit Old San Juan
Old San Juan is a popular area to visit in Puerto Rico. In 2022, it turned 500 years old, making it the oldest city in the US. It is a historic district in the city of San Juan that has shops, restaurants, and bars. The area is rich in Puerto Rican culture and history and holds a unique legacy as a former Spanish outpost and port.
Explore The Castillo San Felipe Del Morro
The Castillo San Felipe del Morro, (or ‘el morro’ for short), was the second fort built when Spanish settlers arrived in Old San Juan. The construction of this historic fort took 250 years to complete. It was instrumental in helping the Spaniards defend Puerto Rico from the British, Dutch, and many attempted pirate invasions.
Today, El Morro serves more as a historical monument than it does for defending against invasions. Visitors can explore the forts and enjoy views of the Atlantic Ocean from the highest points in Old San Juan.
Go Shopping On Calle Del Christo
Calle del Christo is a steep, cobblestone street populated by restaurants, boutiques, and many coffee shops. The area is in the middle of the shopping district and is the main shopping area of Old San Juan. It is a lively area, and a scenic stroll down the street is a must for visitors.
Old San Juan is famous for its fantastic architecture and food, with Old San Juan food tours and walking tours being popular attractions among visitors.
3. Get Adventurous At Carabali Rainforest Adventure Park
Carabali Rainforest Park is for adventure seekers looking to try fun outdoor activities. It is an all-in-one park that conducts adventure tours, such as horseback riding, zip-lining, ATV riding, and much more, all in one park.
The park is in Luquillo, a town about an hour from Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport in San Juan. The park has an on-site restaurant. After burning calories on your excursion, you can replenish yourself at the restaurant Carabali Bar & Grill, ranked amongst Luquillo’s top 10 most popular restaurants by Tripadvisor.
4. Hit The Beach
Puerto Rico is home to some of the best beaches in the world. Some are secluded and deep in the rainforest, while others are surrounded by luxury hotels and resorts. Popular beaches to visit in Puerto Rico are Flamenco Beach, Isla Verde Beach, Condado Beach, and Seven Seas Beach.
Flamenco Beach is one of the most popular public beaches in Puerto Rico, known for its clear and calm water and crisp white sand. Every day, the beach is covered with locals and tourists, creating a fun and upbeat vibe. One of the best things about Flamenco is the secluded landscape giving the feeling of a faraway paradise. The beach is family-friendly, making it the perfect spot for summer vacation.
5. Get Tipsy On A Rum Tour
Many parts of the world are known for the primary alcohol type they produce and export. For example, Mexico is well known for its tequila. Similarly, islands in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico included, are well known for their rum.
Rum is made by fermenting molasses, a waste by-product of sugar production. Settlers figured out a way to turn this waste into one of the world’s most popular spirits.
There are many rum distilleries in Puerto Rico to visit, with one of the most popular ones being Casa Bacardí, the world’s largest premium rum distillery. This tour shows the history of the development of Bacardi rum with a tasting at the end.
6. Tour A Historic Coffee Plantation
Coffee is another well-known product produced in Puerto Rico. The island has a rich and long withstanding history of making coffee. Coffee plantations, or haciendas, date back to the 19th century. Many have preserved historical manors, slave quarters, and stables that visitors can tour.
There are plenty of haciendas that are open for tours. A famous plantation to visit, Hacienda Buena Vista, is the original plantation of Puerto Rico and was started in 1833.
When planning things to do in Puerto Rico, check for available times the haciendas are open for tours because many continue to be operational and can only accommodate tours on certain days.
7. Go Dancing At La Placita
If you have visited Bourbon Street in New Orleans or Beale Street in Memphis and enjoyed it, you must visit La Placita de Santurce in Puerto Rico. During the day, it is a market square, but at night, it transforms into an area of thriving nightlife. The street includes bars, clubs, shops, and restaurants.
The marketplace is popular amongst tourists and locals, making the area a melting pot of nationalities and the perfect formula for a good time. If you are looking for a place to hang out, have drinks, and dance La Placita is the place for you.
8. Hike El Yunque National Forest
El Yunque is a tropical rainforest in Puerto Rico. Yunque rainforest is the only national rainforest in the US. It is open every day except Christmas, from 7:30 am to 5 pm. There are many activities available in the El Yunque forest. For adventurers, there are hiking trails with varying difficulty. Zip-lining and horseback riding are available in the forest’s foothills.
Since the rainforest receives many inches of rainfall yearly, the ecosystem and wildlife are diverse. The rainforest has many birds and plants to see, so it is an excellent visit for wildlife enthusiasts.
9. Visit Cabo Rojo
Cabo Rojo is a beach town in southwest Puerto Rico and makes up the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge. The most popular attraction for this town is the salt flats, the famous “pink lakes,” and the 28 miles of coastline that hold 18 beaches.
Across the lakes spans a natural stone bridge, which is an excellent area for a photo op. There is a beautiful hike that shows the landscape and architecture of the island.
You will cross Los Morillo’s Lighthouse on the hike to the natural stone bridge. This historic lighthouse was built in 1877 and is still functional today, helping ships cross from the Caribbean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. Visitors can climb to the observation deck of the lighthouse to observe panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea.
10. Go Snorkeling At Gilligan’s Island
Cayo Aurora, nicknamed ‘Gilligan’s Island’ after the popular TV show, is an island a mile southwest of the coast of Puerto Rico, near Guanica. It is one of the hidden gems of Puerto Rico.
Gilligan’s Island is a nature reserve regulated by the Department of Natural Resources. Visitors must strictly follow the rules to preserve the island; for example, the island is closed on Mondays.
The island can be accessed by kayaking or taking a private ferry from Guanica to the island. According to Puerto Rico Travel Guide, the ferry operates from Tuesday to Sunday, and the cost is $9.59 per person with an additional $5.58 charge if you bring a cooler.
A day trip to Gilligan’s Island is rewarding for travelers who like snorkeling and scuba diving. It is especially friendly to beginners since the current around the island is gentle.
The island is off the beaten path of Puerto Rico, so few facilities are available. Picnic tables and BBQ pits are free to use, but they are first come, first serve, and you must get there early.
Get Started Discovering Puerto Rico
There are many great reasons to visit Puerto Rico. The island is the world’s leading rum producer and is the site of the United States only rainforest. It is one of the best islands in the Caribbean and exudes a cosmopolitan vibe.
These are a few of the top fun things to do in Puerto Rico. While this list is only a small inventory of Puerto Rico’s great attractions, it emphasizes the fun and unique gems to discovering Puerto Rico and all it offers. This list is great for travelers with limited time on the island.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.