Things to do in Puerto Rico
A place where new meets old, Puerto Rico is a destination of contrasts. San Juan’s old town is a town in a time capsule whilst New San Juan is reminiscent of South Beach Miami. Just an hour’s drive from here and you are in the tropics! Its food, its culture, its rum cocktails, and its rhythm are quite intoxicating.
Best things to do and see
SHOPPING AND DINING
Outlet shoppers who visit Old San Juan should be ready to part with a few dollars. The city’s Calle del Cristo is a haven of restaurants, art galleries and boutiques. In addition to popular stores, you will also discover local crafts and artisan shops as you wander along the cobblestone streets.
La Copa Llena at the Black Eagle is a gorgeously picturesque oceanfront restaurant. The outdoor terrace, framed by swaying palms strung with pretty fairy lights, looks directly out over the Rincon sunset. Progressive cuisine, delicious cocktails, wine and craft beer.
Que PezCa’o is an unassuming seafood restaurant near the harbour with a covered alfresco seating area where guests can relax and enjoy their meal while listening to live music. Try the national dish of Arroz con Gandules, a delightful rice dish made with a sofrito sauce.
CULTURE AND HISTORY
El Morro (Fuerte San Felipe del Morro) is a hulking six-storey fortress that juts out from the San Juan harbour. Built between 1539 and 1589, it has withstood two World Wars and several other conflicts. It is now one of Puerto Rico’s go-to tourist attractions, both for its extensive history and its outstanding panoramas of the Atlantic Ocean. You can also walk through the fortress’ depths, which include a maze of tunnels, barracks and prison cells.
Fort San Cristóbal (Castillo de San Cristobal) was built to protect the city of Old San Juan from land attacks. It doesn’t receive as many visitors as the city’s El Morro fort, but visitors are equally amazed by the majesty and significant history of the site.
WATER AND SPORTS
Flamenco Beach on the island of Culebra, sits about 20 miles east of Puerto Rico. Visitors will find a beach perfect for families, snorkelers and those looking for a remote spot that boasts a delightful aesthetic from nearly every angle. It’s 1½-mile strip of sand is the most popular on Culebra.
Water sports are popular in Puerto Rico including kayaking, snorkelling, scuba diving and stand up paddle boarding, as are beach sports such as beach volleyball. Kayaking through the bioluminescent bay in Vieques is a favourite experience of many travellers in Puerto Rico. During the day the Bay is your stereotypical Caribbean hideout, but at night the sky and waters emit a blue glow from the half-plant, half-animal microorganisms that live there.
Puerto Rico boasts numerous PGA golf courses boasting exquisite mountain and sea views. Year round sunshine makes the island a golfers’ paradise.
The gorgeous weather is perfect for many other outdoor activities such as hiking and horse riding. Puerto Rico’s steep mountains and spectacular scenery has led to ziplining becoming a popular activity.
NATURE AND WILDLIFE
El Yunque National Rainforest is a lush expanse of tropical forest, the only one in the U.S. National Forest System. It’s a distinct favourite for vacationers who like to hike, and even if nature isn’t really your thing, you should give it a try.
The caverns of Camuy River Cave Park are tucked into the karst region of the north coast – a perfect day trip approximately a 1 hour and 20 minute drive from San Juan. This cave is the third largest underground cave system in the world, Rio Camuy runs through it.
Hike up to the Cueva Ventana in Arecibo The ‘window cave’ is situated atop a limestone cliff with spectacular views over the Río Grande de Arecibo valley. The hike takes around 45 minutes to an hour and is requires a level of moderate physical activity, but the views are well worth the effort.
Bioluminescent Mosquito Bay
This south Vieques beach is one of travellers’ favourite experiences in Puerto Rico.
During the day, Bioluminescent Mosquito Bay is your stereotypical Caribbean hideout — but at night, the sky and waters emit a blue glow from the half-plant, half-animal microorganisms that live there.
More than 700,000 bioluminescent dinoflagellates live in each gallon of bay water, and travellers have been amazed by just how much visibility these tiny creatures provide.
Events and holidays
Jan – Three Kings Day, San Sebastián Street Festival
Feb – San Blas de Illescas Half Marathon, Carnival Ponceño, Coffee Harvest Festival, Casals Festival
Mar – Emancipation Day
Apr – Saborea, Cancun Jazz Festival, José de Diego Day, Sugar Harvest Festival
May – Puerto Rican Danza Week, Heineken JazzFest
Jun – San Juan Bautista Day, SoFo Culinary Festival, Aibonito Flower Festival
Jul – Luis Muñoz Rivera’s Birthday, El Gigante Marathon, Loíza Carnival
Aug – Cuadragésimo Cuarto Torneo de Pesca Interclub del Caribe, International Billfish Tournament
Oct – La Raza Day (Columbus Day), National Plantain Festival
Nov – Start of Baseball Season, Festival of Puerto Rican Music, Jayuya Indian Festival, Puerto Rico Discovery Day
Dec – Old San Juan’s White Christmas Festival, Puerto Rico Heritage Artisans Fair, Las Mañanitas, Lighting of the Town of Bethlehem, Hatillo Masks Festiva
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