Puerto Rico is an archipelago made up of about 143 islands, cays, and islets. Just like Hawaii is the major island of the islands of Hawaii, Puerto Rico is the major island of the islands of Puerto Rico. The largest islands consisting of Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, along with the islet of Old San Juan, are the only ones inhabited. The offshore islands, cays, and islets are all unique, offering visitors the more natural side of Puerto Rico and possibly the last true “virgin islands” experience in the Caribbean. Vieques & Culebra are truly special, just ask anyone who’s been there. The well known Islet of Old San Juan is a destination every traveler ought to visit.
There’s no denying the beaches on the main island of Puerto Rico are beautiful, but the beaches of Vieques & Culebra are pure perfection. The rest of the islands and cays offer seclusion and lush green landscapes with little to no development – that true “island life” feel Caribbean dreams are made of. IslandsofPuertoRico.com now PuertoRicoTravelGuide.com was the first website to bring the most complete guide to the offshore treasures of Puerto Rico. We consider them among the top treasures of Puerto Rico and we just had to share them with the world.
We’ll start our list with the best islands and cays to visit. There are various tour operators that offer excursions to these offshore treasures. On some of the towns, there are businesses offering boat and kayak rentals so you can go and explore the cays and islets on your own.
For your convenience, we’ve included a map at the bottom of this page of Puerto Rico Islands, Islets, and Cays that are most enjoyable, easily accessible, and popular among tourists.
The Islet of San Juan / Isleta de San Juan
The Islet of Old San Juan consists of Old San Juan, the historical area in the western half, and the Puerta de Tierra government/business district in the eastern half. This once walled city is connected to the main island of Puerto Rico by bridges – 1 to the east and 2 in the southeastern corner. Old San Juan is the most popular tourist destination in Puerto Rico and the hottest cruise port in the Caribbean. Old San Juan is packed with world-class historic attractions, excellent restaurants, and unique shops.
This colorful town is the cultural center of Puerto Rico, the best place to immerse yourself in the warm and vibrant culture of the island. Whether you choose to vacation in San Juan or another destination in Puerto Rico, Old San Juan is one place you can’t miss visiting during your stay.
Best Islands to Stay & Cruise for a Day
Following, we’ll introduce you to Vieques & Culebra, known by sailors as the Spanish Virgin Islands, two of the few unexploited islands by tourism in the Caribbean. These islands are homes to the Brightest Bioluminescent Bay in the World & Flamenco Beach. While most destinations in the Caribbean are saturated with high rise hotels and tourist traps, these gems allow visitors to experience the Caribbean of the past.
Isla de Culebra, Puerto Rico
Culebra, an archipelago made up of smaller islands and cays is the sleepier of the two islands. Few get to make the trip to this gorgeous island, residents and Culebra lovers would love to keep it that way. This tiny island is home to Flamenco Beach, consistently included on “Best World Beaches” lists. Culebra’s coral reefs and superb underwater visibility make it a world-class snorkeling and scuba diving destination.
Isla de Vieques, Puerto Rico
Vieques, the bigger of the two sister islands is a unique island with unmatched beauty, winning various prestigious awards as one of the best islands in the Caribbean. Spend all day beach hopping on pristine beaches without a single building onsite or crowds. After dinner, the magic begins under a starry sky on the bioluminescent bay, where you can kayak over waters that light up like a science fiction movie.
You may not stay on the following islands, but they are among the most popular day trips from the main island of Puerto Rico
Icacos Cay, Puerto Rico
If you’re staying on the metro or east coast of the island, be sure to book a trip to Icacos Cay. These cays are surrounded by crystalline turquoise waters, perfect for a fun day of swimming and snorkeling.
Caja de Muertos, Puerto Rico
With an hour’s drive from San Juan and a scenic ferry ride, you could be at one of the most underrated places in Puerto Rico. Here you can spend the day suntanning and swimming at Pelican Beach, hike a trail leading to a lighthouse with heavenly views, go snorkeling and explore more unique beaches.
Culebrita, Puerto Rico
Culebrita is part of the Culebra Archipelago. You may book a charter for a marvelous morning or afternoon enjoying the pleasures of total seclusion. While visiting Culebrita you can spend the morning hiking to the lighthouse ruins with awe-inspiring views. After the hike, refresh with a dip on the tidal pools. Finally head over to Tortuga Beach, a gorgeous cove with clear turquoise tinted water and white sand popular for boaters and typically only busy during summer months when boaters from the main island head over to Culebra with family and friends.
Fun Puerto Rico FactPuerto Rico Islands Guide
Palominito Island – Pirates of the Caribbean Location
Palominito is (was) perhaps one of the most picture-perfect cays on the Caribbean. So perfect it was used as a location on the final scene of Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides. On this perfect white sand little island, Jack Sparrow leaves Angelica.
Over the past decade, Palominito started to disappear, sadly in 2017, most of the island disappeared with Hurricane Maria. Depending on the tide, you may be able to see what’s left of it.
Private Resort IslandsPuerto Rico
Palomino Island, Puerto Rico
El Conquistador, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, offers guests exclusive privileges to spend full days on this dreamy island. At Palomino Island, you can enjoy swimming on calm crystal clear waters, snorkeling, horseback riding, kayaking, and other fun water sports. This may be a secluded island, but friendly El Conquistador Resort staff will serve you Piña Coladas and delicious healthy lunch options without having to get up from your lounge chair. Note: El Conquistador is closed for renovations.
Uninhabited Islands of Puerto Rico - Nature Reserves
+ Desecheo Island
You can’t step on Desecheo Island, but you may book a charter to take you scuba diving deep around its walls. Desecheo is right off the coast of the town of Rincon. + Isla Desecheo / Desecheo Island
+ Mona Island
If you dreamed of visiting the Galapagos Islands, you may want to consider making the trip to Isla de Mona. Mona Island is often referred to as” The Galapagos of the Caribbean”. If you’re one of the lucky ones to set foot on this secret treasure, you can enjoy secluded beaches, explore impressive caves, and get lost in the beauty of the colorful world beneath the surface of the waters surrounding Mona. If you love camping, Mona on your bucket list. Stargazing is spectacular. + Mona Island, Puerto Rico
Best Cays to Visit on the West CoastPuerto Rico
Cayo Aurora (Gilligan’s Island)
The little mangrove island is a favorite among locals on the west coast region on the island. We adore this place, we love to share it, and more visitors are heading to this secret little gem. During the regular high tourist season, you can enjoy this place without crowds on weekdays. Gilligan’s Island is like a giant natural pool of shallow clear water. Here you can snorkel, kayak, picnic, read your favorite book or do nothing at all.
La Parguera Nature Reserve
Popular for locals but still considered one of the unbeaten paths for tourists. La Parguera Nature Reserve is made up of 30 cays and islets. La Parguera is one of the best day trips you offered on the west coast of Puerto Rico. Various charters offer deep sea fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, and kayaking trips. After a fun day on the water, head back to land, and enjoy a delicious authentic Puerto Rican meal at the village.
More Islands & Cays in Puerto Rico
Cayo Luis Peña
+ Cayo Luis Peña
Cayo Luis Peña is part of the Culebra Archipelago and Culebra National Wildlife Refuge. It is located off the west coast of the Culebra. With so many beaches in Culebra, few visitors make the trip to this wildlife refuge. You can access the island by water taxi or kayak. Once here, you can have a very quiet day swimming, snorkeling pristine coral reefs, hiking on trails and beachcombing. + Culebra
+ Cayo Afuera - Vieques
Everywhere you go in Vieques is gorgeous, every beach and every cay. Cayo Afuera is one more place to add to your places to go while in Vieques. Rent a kayak and glide through crystal clear waters or book a tour with a guide to explore the coral reefs surrounding Cayo Afuera.
Cayo de Tierra
+ Cayo de Tierra - Vieques
+ Isla Ratones
Isla Ratones is located right off Joyuda, a fishing village in the town of Cabo Rojo on the west coast of Puerto Rico. The cay covers .99 acres, currently managed and protected by the Department of Natural & Environmental Resources. Book a charter, in just a short 3-minute ride you can enjoy the beach with clear calm waters. Isla Ratones offers visitors an inexpensive activity with easy access. + Isla Ratones – Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
- Cayo Berbería – 5.5 km from Caja de Muertos
- Cayo Blanco – This beautiful cay with white sand is just 2.5 miles off the coast of Vieques. Here you can have a great snorkeling experience.
- Cayo Caribe – Part of Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve made up of 15 islets on the southern coast of Puerto Rico between the towns of Guayama and Salinas.
- Cayo Magueyes – Part of La Parguera Nature Reserve – Facilities of University of Puerto Rico Marine Sciences Department
- Cayo Monito – 5 km northwest of Isla de Mona
- Cayo Norte – A privately owned cay / island on the northeast of Culebra. It is the only cay on the Culebra Archipelago that’s not part of the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge. Cayo Norte is about 321 acres covered in semi-arid vegetation. This site is a refuge for two endangered sea turtles (hawksbill sea turtle and the green sea turtle), seabirds and various species of fish.
- Cayo Piñero – Ceiba
- Cayo Santiago – On the east coast of Puerto Rico in the town of Humacao. Land size of about 37 acres. Research site of monkeys by The University of Puerto Rico. Other names used are Santiago Island & Isla de los Monos.