Popular El Yunque / Luquillo Beach Tour
If you’re planning a vacation to Puerto Rico, prepare for quite the adventure. Puerto Rico is an island full of beauty, wonder, history, and rich in culture. For its size, one may think it was unfairly blessed with a list of natural marvels, making Puerto Rico the most exciting and accessible destination in the Caribbean, you don’t have to travel far to enjoy them all, plus is safe to explore. From historic UNESCO sites, a tropical rainforest, bioluminescent bays, romantic European architecture, dreamy offshore secluded islands, charming towns, waterfalls, elegant lighthouses… and so much more… Puerto Rico truly has it all.
In this Guide: We created a list of the most interesting places to visit divided by region to make your planning easier. In addition, we included suggested itineraries, getting to the places, and more. We will start with the San Juan / Metro Area, welcoming the most visitors in Puerto Rico, then we continue around the island with the East Region, followed by the North Region, West, and lastly the South. At the bottom of the page, we have included an easy-to-use map with places listed.
Content - Places to Visit in Puerto Rico
Places to Visit in San Juan Capital City
Places to Visit in East Region
- El Yunque National Rainforest
- Laguna Grande – Bioluminescent Lagoon
- Icacos Cay
- Cordillera Reef Nature Reserve
- Las Cabezas de San Juan Reserve
Places to Visit in North Region
Places to Visit in West Region
- La Parguera Nature Reserve
- Cascadas Gozalandia
- Los Morrillos Lighthouse
- Las Salinas
- Natural Pools of Isabela
- Gilligan’s Island
- Punta Higuero Lighthouse Park
- Guanica State Forest
- Guajataca Tunnel, River & Beach
- Plaza de Colon
Old San Juan… El Viejo San Juan… the place that looks, feels, and sounds like a song… and indeed one of the most beloved songs in Puerto Rico was dedicated to this very special place for Puerto Ricans. We invite you to come to experience the reasons it stands apart from other cities in the Caribbean. Old San Juan is a cruise destination and a must-visit place for travelers. Old San Juan is a safe place to visit where one can wander the colorful streets with European charm leading to majestic 500-year-old castles, elegant squares, historic cathedrals, museums, relaxed cafes, great restaurants, and wonderful local shops with unique finds. You can stay at charming small inns and hotels in five-century buildings carefully restored into romantic spaces for that special experience. Just about every weekend, visitors can immerse themselves in cultural celebrations. Old San Juan is best explored by foot, it is only about 6 blocks, so it is easy to navigate.
If you’re in Old San Juan for one day, below we have recommended places to visit within the Old San Juan Historic District. You may also book a tour with guides that bring the buildings and history to life, then you can spend the rest of your time at your leisure, shopping, and taking in the architecture and romance of the city. This tour is excellent as well including tasting traditional food.
+ Recommended Attractions in Old San Juan
Suggested Place to Visit:
- Visit San Juan National Historic Site
- Walk down Paseo de La Princesa
- Casa Blanca Museum
- Cathedral San Juan Bautista
- Iglesia San Jose
- The Scenic Plazuela La Rogativa
- Walk down Calle de Cristo
- Walk down Calle Fortaleza
Top Rated Old San Juan Tours
Take a walk back into history by visiting the magnificent fortifications of Castillo San Cristobal & Castillo San Felipe del Morro, build over five centuries ago to defend Puerto Rico’s beautiful city. The history is intriguing and the entire family will be engaged as they walk through tunnels, barracks, dungeons, and more. The views from the forts are breathtaking with the Atlantic Ocean, and San Juan Bay in the background. These historic landmarks are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a must-visit while in Puerto Rico.
Which fort is best to visit? If you had to choose one fort, we love Castillo San Felipe del Morro, it is smaller, but mightly, the views are fantastic and the green law is part of the experience. If you or someone in your group has mobility concerns, Castillo San San Cristobal is easier to navigate with fewer steps.
Exploring The Forts: You can explore on your own, and inquire about guided tours when purchasing entry tickets. If you wish to have a tour of Old San Juan that includes a fort visit, this tour is making visitors happy with a great itinerary.
Whether you’re celebrating your honeymoon, traveling with the whole family, or entertaining a group of business travelers, Hacienda Campo Rico is a great spot to visit offering fun ATV / Can-Am Off-Road Experiences, horseback riding in Paso Fino Horses and ziplining in a 2,300-acre Hacienda. For those staying in the San Juan / Metro area, you won’t have to spend much traveling, Hacienda Campo Rico is a short drive from Isla Verde in the town of Carolina.
El Yunque National Rainforest, is one of the most enchanting natural treasures of Puerto Rico, one visit and you’ll be enamored with the island. Hike through lush verdant hiking trails leading to romantic waterfalls and breathtaking overlooks. Observe the flora, hear the sounds of the forest, feel the cooling mist, and bring a swimsuit to jump into the basins of waterfalls the Taino Natives considered sacred places. El Yunque covers 28,000 acres, and although you’ll only be visiting the highlights of El Yunque, we are confident it will spark a desire to come back and explore more. Although El Yunque is only 45 minutes away from the capital city of San Juan, once you step foot into the trails, the modern world seems to disappear, one is totally surrounded by the magical wonders of El Yunque Rainforest sure to soothe the soul. Enthusiastic tour guides offer experiences from half-day to full-day adventures to different parts of the forest to meet your physical ability and interest.
Laguna Grande and the bioluminescent bay of Puerto Rico lure travelers from all over the globe wishing to experience the magical phenomenon. This protected lagoon, surrounded by mangroves is the perfect environment for dinoflagellates, the microscopic organisms that glow when there’s movement. Laguna Grande is one of the most accessible bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico, located in the municipality of Fajardo on the east coast of the island. The best way to experience the bioluminescent lagoon is by kayak. If you’re not comfortable with kayaking, there are a few boat tours available leaving from Las Croabas in Fajardo. Before you get excited about booking a tour, we strongly recommend you read thoroughly our guide to bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico, in order to plan the best experience.
Cayo Icacos (Icacos Cay), part of Cordillera Reef Reserve is among the most popular offshore excursions in Puerto Rico, satisfying that wanderlust for that secluded island tropical experience. Lay on the sand without the need of dreaming, because you’re already there… on a cay surrounded by nothing else but the Caribbean Sea. Enjoy the warmth of the sun, jump in crystal clear turquoise waters… float, swim, and snorkel… experience the enchantment of Puerto Rico. The experience begins as soon as you begin to sail away from the shores of the main island, as you admire the coastline and the lighthouse at the top of Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve from the best viewpoint.
Choose from various wonderful experiences to visit Icacos from luxurious private sailing charters, fun catamaran trips, or small group boat tours. Tours leave from Fajardo, and various tours offer to pick up in hotels and resorts in San Juan / Isla Verde and east coast resort communities.
Culebra is one of the islands of Puerto Rico, the world knows about it through Flamenco Beach, consistently included on lists of the most beautiful beaches in the world. For decades, Culebra was a secret place, with many US Expats making the island their new home… fulfilling dreams of a pristine island escape not overrun by tourism. Still today, most of the island is a nature reserve, and there’s not a single big-name resort, keeping Culebra relaxed with a protected landscape, pristine beaches, and colorful coral reefs. One of the top things to do in Puerto Rico is an excursion to Flamenco Beach. Visitors also head to Culebrita, part of Culebra’s archipelago. Tamarindo Grande Beach is magical underneath the surface where you can swim with sea turtles over grassy sea beds. Carlos Rosario is the best snorkeling spot in Puerto Rico with a colorful reef, you can get there by charter or hiking from Flamenco. Many first-time visitors go to Culebra on a day trip, and many come back to Puerto Rico and spend more time in Culebra to explore it all.
Suggested Itinerary: If you’re staying in San Juan or the east coast, you can book an excursion to Flamenco, Culebrita, or a snorkeling charter.
Top Rated Tours to Culebra Puerto Rico
Vieques… whether you spend a night on the island or a week-long trip… one thing is for sure, you’ll fall in love all over again… with Vieques. We have to admit we have a very soft spot for Vieques. As Puerto Rico travel experts, having traveled the entire island, time and time again, we can tell you that Vieques is indeed a very special place, due to its history and natural landscape hard to find anywhere else in the modern touristy Caribbean destinations. No pictures, videos, or words can truly describe it, you have to be there to experience it… to feel it… with your heart… and if you speak to someone that has been there… you may get a similar response. The main activity in Vieques is driving, such a pleasurable experience with no traffic leading to a long list of undeveloped beach coves free of crowds, each has unique sand, distinct tones of turquoise waters, and diverse landscapes, some constantly making it to the top beaches list year after year. The one attraction that has gained worldwide attention is Mosquito Bay, the brightest bioluminescent bay on the planet. The photos you see online used to market other bioluminescent waters are actually the brightness and bioluminescent blue of Vieques. Although the bioluminescent bay in Vieques is the brightest, it gets the least amount of visitors because you must spend the night there to take the tour.
Itinerary Idea: If experiencing bioluminescence is at the top of your list of places to see in Puerto Rico, we recommend you spend two nights in Vieques, explore the coastline, go snorkeling, and end your trip with a tour to Mosquito Bay. You can start your trip by staying in San Juan, enjoying the top attractions, and then heading to Vieques for the rest of your trip.
A Little History
A little history… For 62 years, three-quarters of the island was used for bombing practices by the US Navy. In 2003 residents, Puerto Ricans from the main island, and the world began to re-discover this place blessed with beauty and magic. The land previously controlled by the Navy is now managed by U.S. National Fish & Wildlife Service. Most of the east side is closed due to contamination by bombings, but much of the coastline that was off-limits is now open to be explored.. you’ll be seeing the Caribbean of the past.
Top Rated Vieques Tours
Cordillera Reef Nature Reserve is a small archipelago of islands, islets, and cays that capture tropical dreams, you may have seen the tiny island of Palominito on the last scene of Pirates of the Caribbean. (See Video Pop Up) The “Cordillera Reef” is 1.5 miles off the eastern coast of the municipality of Fajardo. The archipelago extends for 18 nautical miles, starting at Las Cabezas de San Juan all the way to Culebra. Popular excursions go to Cayo Icacos, Palomino, and Palominitos.
The most romantic and luxurious way to enjoy and appreciate these offshore treasures is by sailing, there are a few sailing tour charters that will plan an unforgettable experience.
Top Rated Private Charters to Cordillera Keys
Las Cabezas de San Juan is a nature reserve comprised of 434 acres preserved by the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico; it is made up of mangroves, the bioluminescent lagoon of Laguna Grande, the historic lighthouse Faro De Las Cabezas De San Juan, a dry forest, and the gorgeous Playa Rocosa. At the top of the lighthouse, you’ll enjoy magnificent views of the northeastern tip of Puerto Rico.
Casa Bacardi is the largest premium rum distillery in the world. We recommend a Rum Tasting Tour, after the experience, you’ll be sipping on rum neat, some of Bacardi’s finest rums are too delicious to mix. A general tour includes the history of Casa Bacardi, the distillery process, and a welcome cocktail. Casa Bacardi also offers a fun Mixology Tour. For something really special to take home, only at Casa Bacardi Gift Shop, you can purchase Bacardi Casa Special Reserve, which you’ll be personally pouring into a bottle straight from the barrel.
Top Rated Bacardi Distillery Tours
Top Rated Tour to Camuy River Cave Park
Camuy River Cave Park is the most impressive natural wonder in the northern region of Puerto Rico. This cave is very family-friendly and does not require hiking. It is one of the world’s largest cave networks. Take a peak at what awaits at Camuy River Cave Park… we promise you it has a wow factor not possible to capture in photos.
Cueva del Indio & The Seven Arches is spectacular and so scenic it was one of the filming locations of Pirates of the Caribbean. If you want a place with a wow factor, this is a natural wonder you don’t want to miss. Cueva del Indio (Indian’s Cave) is a very important archeological treasure of historical value in Puerto Rico. The cave contains a large number of petroglyphs drawn by Taino aboriginals that date back to the 1400s or earlier. At this location you can take a walk on the cliffs to observe the breathtaking Seven Arches, seven beautifully arches crafted by wind and the sea. This tour made it to the coveted list of Top Adventure Experiences in the World – 2021 by TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice. Cueva del Indio was also a filming location of scenes of Perfect Getaway, Runner Runner, and Treasure Island.
Top Rated Tours to Cueva del Indio - Arecibo, Puerto Rico
The great fond memories we hold of La Parguera growing up, we can re-live today. This seaside fishing village has managed to retain the casual, low-key ambiance with the warmth and charm that makes the west coast of the island the best destination for travelers that wish to experience the island life. La Parguera is in the town of Lajas and attracts sea lovers, scuba divers, sailors, eco-travelers, and foodies.
During the day, you enjoy the water under the sun. At the end of the afternoon, head back to the village to eat dinner at local prices. After eating, head back to the water and jump into the water to swim in the bioluminescent water. The Bioluminescent bay in La Parguera is the only one where you are allowed to swim.
Top Rated Lajas Bioluminescent Bay Tours
Local - From Lajas
From San Juan
Cascadas Gozalandia… nestled in the mountains of San Sebastian, about a 45-minute drive from Aguadilla and an hour from Rincon. Take a break from the salty waters and blue colors of the coastline and experience the refreshing agua dulces (sweet/fresh waters) in the green mountains of San Sebastian. If you’re vacationing on the west coast, and you’re unable to visit El Yunque, although a miniature in comparison to the rainforest, you’ll be enchanted with a short hike into the lush forest with two waterfalls with basins to refresh the soul.
Los Morrillos Lighthouse is located in Cabo Rojo, in the southwest corner of Puerto Rico. Visitors will enjoy touring the lighthouse, but a visit to Los Morrillos is only part of a number of activities you can do at the natural reserve. From the cliffs enjoy sweeping views of the Caribbean Sea, migratory and endemic birds flying over the Salt Flats, the stunning beach cove of La Playuela, and views of the lush green mountains extending out to the town of Lajas. A short hike down from the lighthouse will take you to Puente de Piedra (Natural Bridge), one of the most photographed scenic spots.
Don’t leave the west coast, without spending at least a full morning or afternoon at Los Morrillos Peninsula inside the Cabo Rojo Wildlife Refuge. This place feels like you’re in a faraway place, the topography is like nowhere else in Puerto Rico. Your first stop in Cabo Rojo will be at the observation tower of Las Salinas (The Salt Flats), here you’ll be able to get a bird’s eye view of the various ecosystems in the area. As you an abandoned hotel on the right, park along the road and walk into the salt flats, you can see them from the road but seeing them up close is a fantastic experience for your sight sense. You’ll see hiking trails along the salt flats, it is a popular cycling trail for locals. Get back in the car and head over to Los Morrillow Lighthouse, the best is yet to come.
Crystal clear water, romantic ambiance without crowds… No other travel guide has included the tidal pools of Isabela on their list of “Things to Do & Places to Visit”, To be honest, it is hard to share them, we wish we could keep them nice and quiet to ourselves. Our favorite natural pools are Pozo de Teodoro, Posita Sardinera & Poza de Las Golondrinas. Most of the tidal pools are visited by a few local families, during the week they’re typically empty and the vibe is total bliss. There are no facilities, and two require some walking, keeping them uncrowded and more pristine. They don’t look like much from a distance, but once you stand in front of them and take a dip, you may not wish to leave. The water is very clear, there’s a constant flow of clean cool water coming in from the ocean, and a rock wall protects the pools. The pools are shallow, keeping parts of the pool nice and warm, and the flowing water nice and cool… is a total pleasure to all your senses. The rocks and boulders inside the pools become playgrounds for schools of colorful fish, little toddlers can safely snorkel and be amazed by the natural aquarium. The sights and sounds of the waves are mesmerizing. These pools have all the conditions for a high dose of SEAtherapy.
The best time to visit is from early fall until late spring, the pools have more water. During summer months, there are more crowds on weekends with families, and some of the tidal pools may be empty or too shallow for swimming.
Back in the early 2000’s barely anyone knew about this gorgeous place, not even residents of Puerto Rico… we’ve always loved exploring the island, and when we experienced it, we shared it with the world… today it is one of the most beloved places in Puerto Rico.
Cayo Aurora (Gilligan’s Island) a tiny little paradise absolutely adored by families with small children and honeymooners wishing for a dreamy quiet spot in the winter months. Although this is not the same island featured on the famous “Gilligan’s Island” show, it’s so pretty, it should be featured in a paradise-themed movie. The formal name of this cay is Cayo Aurora, the waters are among the clearest on the west coast of Puerto Rico. Giligan’s Island is a giant pool with shallow waters lined by mangrove trees, a perfect environment for schools of fish to flourish and play. Small children can see the fish around their feet or simply put their heads down in the water… parents will rejoice at the children’s reactions. Get here early in the morning for the best conditions, bugs tend to come in the early afternoon, so bring bug spray if you plan on being here in the afternoon. After enjoying Gilligan’s, stop by Copamarina Resort for a nice lunch or dinner, some drinks and sunset.
Rincon, home to the best surfing beaches in Puerto Rico and arguably the most stunning sunsets on the island (they’re great in Cabo Rojo too. If you’re passing Rincon, we invite you to make a stop at Punta Higueros Lighthouse Park. Here you can enjoy sweeping vistas of where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, during heavy a surge, you can see the force of the bodies of water colliding. From January to March, best in February, Punta Higueros Lighthouse Park is the best spot to watch humpback whales 📹 in Puerto Rico. Stay a little longer and drive a bit further to Domes Beach, bring a beach towel or lounge chair to watch surfers and the stunning golden sunsets of Rincon.
The crown jewel of Guanica is The Guánica State Forest & Biosphere Reserve, often referred to as the best example of a dry forest in the world. In 1981, the forest was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. At the Guanica State Forest, you can spend days hiking the numerous trails leading to scenic spots, caves, and secluded beaches. The Guanica State Forest has the largest population of birds on the island. It is very important to know that you u must hydrate well the night before hiking and bring a lot of water and healthy snacks for your hike as it gets very hot.
The best time to visit is during the winter months when the weather is cooler. Bring bug spray as well to repel mosquitos, especially on the interior hiking trails of the forest.
The Guajataca Tunnel Park is one of the most scenic locations on the west coast of the island, starting from the moment you see it from the highway. A walk along Guajataca Beach is wonderful for those that enjoy admiring natural landscapes. The waves are melodic, boulders create spots to relax and admire the view. On the sand, there are hundreds of palm trees where you can find your own spot to hang a hammock and enjoy the pleasures of island life.
The plaza of Mayaguez is one of the most elegant plazas on the island. During Christmas, don’t miss visiting Plaza de Colon, the Christmas decorations are spectacular, the best and most festive on the island, it’s a party almost daily, especially on weekends, with live music, food, crafts, and activities for weeks before and after Christmas Day. As you’ve heard, Puerto Rico celebrates the longest Christmas in the world, Mayaguez goes all out for the festivities attracting visitors from all over the island.
Ponce is the most visited town in the south region with a number of interesting places to visit. Visitors will enjoy walking around the main square to admire the architecture, visit museums, and historic sites. During weekends visitors may find cultural events celebrated at the Plaza de Las Delicias. The best place to start is by taking a stroll around the plaza of Ponce. Ponce did suffer damage from the earthquakes in 2020, and since then many buildings are being restored.
Castillo Serralles, a 4 story mansion built in early 1930, was designed with an elegant Spanish revival style. The mansion was built by Juan Serrales, son of Juan Serralles, founder of Destileria Serralles (Serralles Distillery), which was the family’s headquarters for 70 years. Today the mansion belongs to the Municipality of Ponce, and houses a museum where you can learn about the sugar industry in Puerto Rico and the making of rum. You’ll also get a guided tour of the elegant mansion. You can walk around the gardens on your own. As you drive around town you can see Castillo Serralles sitting at the top of the hill next to La Cruceta overlooking the center city of Ponce.
Centro Ceremonial Indígena Tibes is the oldest Antillian Indigenous ceremonial complex. The flooding of Hurricane Eloisa in 1975, uncovered a great archeological treasure in Ponce of great significance to the Antilles. If you are traveling with children, it is educational and fun. As you walk around you can have the kids look for petroglyphs on the rocks. This is a great place to visit in conjunction with Museo de Arte de Ponce.
Top Rated Taino Cultural Tours
If you’re a coffee-lover, make a call to make a reservation and head up to the mountains for a tour of a charming Hacienda with passionate coffee growers. Learn about the island’s coffee history, coffee production on their plantation, and a wonderful coffee tasting at the end. Their coffee is delicious and best of all you will be able to grab a bag of fresh coffee to take home.
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Tours are from Tuesday – Saturday from 11 am – 1 pm. Be sure to call and make a reservation in advance to secure a spot.
- Tel: 787-844-3541
- Cost of Tour: $20 per p/p / Children (10 and under) – $10. (Prices subject to change)
Caja de Muertos Island, is an inhabited island off the coast of the city of Ponce. Caja de Muertos offers visitors Playa Pelicano, one of the prettiest beaches in Puerto Rico, an interpretive hiking trail that leads to lighthouse ruins with spectacular views of the island. There are no facilities on the island, but the experience and beauty is the reason why it is kept pristine and undeveloped.
For the past few years, Yaucromatric, a non-profit organization begun to take abandoned and not-so-attractive spaces in town and converted them into works of art. Their colorful eye-catching work began to change the look of the town, turning it into an attraction and pulling residents from all over the island to visit Yauco. The art has helped the economy of Yauco and revived the spirit of the residents.
If you drive along the southern region of Puerto Rico, we invite you to make a stop in Yauco. The most visited area is “Macromural Brisa Tropical”, a street full of colors; every house, stairway, and wall is painted with the happiest colors. Samuel Gonzalez led the community with this fun project and on weekends you may see him welcoming visitors. On Sundays, the street is filled with music, street vendors, and just happy people walking around and taking selfies in the most colorful street on the island. The colorful detour will take you about 1 hour of your day if you choose to park and walk, and about 30 minutes if you just drive around.
In the southeast coastal towns of Salinas & Guayama, visitors can sail to explore Bahia de Jobos (Jobos Bay). Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve consists of mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass beds, mudflats, and evergreen littoral forests. Bahia de Jobos is a rich natural educational resource for students and researchers on the island. Locals love exploring the cays and snorkeling the coral reefs by kayak or boat. Visitors can book a sailing trip to explore the cays.
Sailing Charters - South Coast of Puerto Rico
Head up to the mountainside of Ponce and visit Hacienda Buena Vista, there you can enjoy a guided tour of what used to be one of the most important coffee plantations in Puerto Rico. Hacienda Buena Vista was built in the mid-19th century. Visitors can learn about the methods of coffee production back in the 1800s. The plantation was purchased from the Vives family in 1984 by The Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico. Hacienda Buena Vista is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visit ParalaNaturaleza for more information.
Map - Best Places to Visit in Puerto Rico
More Places to Visit in Puerto Rico
Cueva Ventana (Window Cave) – Arecibo, Puerto Rico
Temporarily Closed – Hike through the forest, explore caves, and caverns, and end the adventure at the breathtaking Cueva Ventana “Cave Window” with gorgeous views of the green valley. You can drive on your own and purchase tickets or book a tour that will take care of all the details.
Arecibo Observatory – Arecibo, PR
Arecibo Observatory was the largest radio telescope in the world until a few years ago when a bigger one was built in China. Sadly, the telescope collapsed on December 1, 2022. The telescope was nestled in the gorgeous karst region in the town of Arecibo, you’ll drive up high into the mountains until you get to one of the most important scientific structures in the world. In March of this year 2022, the Arecibo Observatory re-opened its doors to those who wish to visit the Museum & Visitor Center.
Fun Fact: If you’re a James Bond fan, you’ll be thrilled, a scene was filmed here. Another Hollywood hit also filmed a scene from the movie Contact, see the clips on the attractions page.