Tourist Attractions in Puerto Rico is a tropical Caribbean destination, Puerto Rico has world-renowned beaches that boast beautiful turquoise waters and a variety of waves. In addition to the gorgeous beaches, there are also plenty of opportunities for surfing.
It is no surprise that the US Forest System has its only tropical rainforest in Puerto Rico and the Bioluminescent Bay, an active nightlife destination. Add to this Puerto Rico’s rich heritage, with a vast array of sites spanning colonial-style architecture and other powerful sites dating back hundreds of years ago.
Puerto Rico is a diverse country with Spanish and Caribbean influences. San Juan, the capital city, has many American comforts like restaurants that offer typical American food habits. The island offers scenic views, natural beauty and rugged mountain ranges.
For more sightseeing ideas on Puerto Rico, see our list of the top tourist attractions.
1. Old San Juan (San Juan Viejo)
Walking the streets of Old San Juan is like stepping back into another era, with its beautiful colonial architecture and imposing forts. This is one of the best places to visit in Puerto Rico. You should allow some time on your itinerary for this city.
With a colonial history of almost 500 years old, Old San Juan is mixed with present day Puerto Rican life. The entire area is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there are over 1600 buildings dating back to the 16th or 17th centuries. Today, you can dine, shop and even stay in some of these beautiful old structures.
2. El Morro Fort (Fuerte San Felipe del Morro)
The main attraction in Old San Juan is the El Morro Fort (Fuerte San Felipe del Morro), dating from 1539. This is a fascinating step back in time with its majestic location on a peninsula.
Wander through the well-kept grounds of this national park and give some thought as to what life would have been like here nearly 500 years ago. Explore the dungeons, walkways, ramps, and tunnels, much of it built in the mid to late 1800s. Be sure to ascend to the top of the walls and walk out to one of the guard towers for fantastic views out over the ocean and back towards Old San Juan, the modern city towering in behind.
It is often a short walk from Old City to the fortress in El Morro. Try to come in the morning when temperatures are cooler. At night, El Morro lit up and makes for beautiful photographs.
3. Castillo de San Cristóbal
Hiding in plain sight but still in the shadow of the more famous El Morro, Castillo de San Cristóbal is definitely worth a visit. Bring your walking shoes – San Cristobal is bigger than El Morro. In fact, it is the largest Spanish fort ever built in the New World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With multiple defendable units and moats, Castillo de San Cristobal is an interesting place to explore. With defensive capabilities and 27 acres for expansion, it can survive a breach of one of its five separate units.
Constructed between 1634 and 1790, Castillo de San Cristobal was designed to prevent attacks from the landward side. El Morro was constructed and designed specifically to protect against a sea attack.
Castillo de San Cristobal is a national park. There is free entry and you can get into El Morro as well when you come here with your entrance ticket.
4. El Yunque National Forest
Experience some of Puerto Rico’s lush inland beauty at El Yunque National Forest. El Yunque National Forest is home to the only tropical rainforest in the National US Forest System, and only one of three forests in the United States with a mountain top.
Visitors can walk trails through the rainforest and see a variety of 240 different trees and native flora, including 50 species of orchids. The forest stretches 43 square miles and most of the island’s untouched forest remains. Its peak is at 3,500 feet above sea level. The forest is also home to three-quarters of the remaining virgin forest in Puerto Rico.
El Yunque National Forest is one of Puerto Rico’s most visited natural attractions and is often visited on a tour from San Juan. The main highlights in El Yunque National Forest include La Coca Falls, Yokahú Tower, Baño de Oro, and La Mina Falls.
Located beside the highway, La Coca falls is a waterfall that descends 85-feet onto boulder formations. It is the first major attraction for visitors to El Yunque.
The El Portal Tropical Forest Center is a visitors’ center for those seeking information on the area. Nearby is Yokahú Tower, a 1930’s tower open to the public that has good views out over the rainforest.
Weather differs here more noticeably than inland. Cities are drier, but this region is wet and the daytime temperature average is cooler than the coast.
El Yunque National Forest was damaged by back-to-back hurricanes in 2017 and is still very much recovering. The main visitor center will open in 2022. Contact local operators for the latest updates.
5. Culebra Island (Isla Culebra)
Although Culebra is often mentioned in the same breath as Vieques, this smaller island with beautiful beaches and lush hills has its own unique character. The pace here is unhurried and a relaxed atmosphere prevails. Many of the tourist establishments are run by expats.
Seven miles long with 23 offshore islands, Culebra is located 17 miles east of Puerto Rico and 12 miles west of Saint Thomas, a Caribbean island. Coral reefs are considered some of the best in the entire Caribbean.
The horseshoe-shaped Playa Flamenco is the most popular beach on the island and as seen in photos, seems to be perfect. It’s a place you can go swimming or even diving due to its clear water with no waves. It’s also luxuriously white sand, lined with palm trees.
Isla de Culebra National Wildlife Refuge is a well-preserved slice of nature, including the entire coastline of Culebra and more than 20 offshore cays. More than a third of Culebra is designated as the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge, which includes Cayo Luis Peña, a small island just west of Culebra. Here, rugged coves and challenging terrain make for some interesting but challenging hiking opportunities.
6. Vieques and Bioluminescent Bay
Vieques, which is eight miles from the main island of Puerto Rico, is a popular beach resort that has many upscale hotels, restaurants, shops and galleries. When United States Army left in 2003, Vieques focused on tourism.
Foreign and Puerto Rican travelers alike benefit off the quality tourism infrastructure of Vieques, which includes beaches, a small-island “traditional” feel, and areas for outdoor recreation.
In Mosquito Bay (also known as Bioluminescent Bay) thousands of small organisms emit pretty cool blue and green lights from their movements at night.
This natural phenomenon occurs in other areas of Puerto Rico but the best place to experience it is Vieques. The lights are visible from the sky and there is a combination of these two methods of transportation. You can get to Vieques by either air or by ferry, with ferries departing from Fajardo.
7. Catedral de San Juan Bautista
Dating back to 1540, the Cathedral of San Juan is one of the most important religious sites in Puerto Rico. The church is famous for being the final resting place of Ponce de Leon, the Spaniard who undertook a quest for the Fountain of Youth.
The church is the second oldest building in North America and the church has aged well because of generous support from its parishioners. The inside is immaculate, with the stained-glass windows shining as brightly as they did when they first went up.
The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista is the seat and working church of the Archdiocese of Puerto Rico.
8. Cayo Icacos
In order to visit the beautiful beaches on the mainland of Puerto Rico, you should not let lack of motivation get in the way. The best thing to do when visiting Puerto Rico is to take a boat there.
Cayo Icacos, also known for its beautiful beach, is around 20-30 minutes from Fajardo. The area is filled with lush tropical forests and a natural reserve so there is no development here: it’s as close to a deserted island as you get.
Most people take a sailing tour that includes transportation, a light lunch, and drinks for 12 hours on very large boats. Each morning the tour leaves around 9am and returns around 4pm, with a stop at an offshore reef along the way.
9. Surfing and Whale Watching at Rincon
Rincón is known to Puerto Ricans as a “Gringo Paradise.” The dominant language in this town is English, with many foreign surfers and other expats making it their home.
With becoming a surfing mecca in 1968, Rincon became a famous destination for surfers from all around the world. In other words, Rincon is one of the best places to go if you’re into surfing. Surfing isn’t your thing? There are beautiful beaches in Rincón that are perfect for swimming.
Considered Puerto Rico’s best destination for whale watching, Rincón is the prime whale watching location during the mid-January to March season when humpback whales come to visit. This can be easily arranged in town.
10. Luquillo Beach
Beaches in San Juan, Puerto Rico offer a quiet escape to sun bathers. Luquillo Beach offers palm lined, golden sand beaches that is just a short drive away and features low-rise apartment buildings and development.
The beach stretches on for over a mile while the water is calm and generally suitable for swimming. There are modern bathrooms, showers, and changing areas on site and food vendors right outside. For a short stop or day trip combined with El Yunque National Forest, this resort offers visitors what they need.
11. Rio Camuy Caves (Parque de las Cavernas del Río Camuy)
The Rio Camuy Cave Park features a huge cave system that covers 268 acres, and is the third largest in the world. A trolley bus transports visitors to a 200-foot-deep sinkhole known as Cueva Clara Empalme and at one point it was thought to be a preserved area.
Depending on the room, Cueva Clara Empalme includes towering ceilings, stalagmites, and stalactites, as well as rivers of flowing water along its base. One of the most prominent natural wonders within the cave is the guided tour that leads visitors through its depths. Not only are the caves a unique geological structure with diverse bio-spherules clinging to its walls, but they were also used by indigenous communities long ago.
The entrance to the caves is located in the Quebrada area of Camuy.
12. Ponce’s Historic City Center
On a non-traditional tourist path, Puerto Rico offers up an interesting city with 17th century architecture. The Plaza Las Delicias is a good place to start for individuals who are looking for places to sit and people-watch.
Buildings of particular note here are the red- and white-striped Old Ponce Fire Station, the City Hall, and the much more recently built Cathedral (Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Guadalupe). Ponce also has a large number of quality museums, most notably the Ponce Museum of Art.
13. Isla Verde
For those looking for a relaxing tropical getaway with lots of comforts and not a ton of culture, Isla Verde is the perfect vacation. There is everything you could want – no pesky pirates or locals here! You can lounge in the warm waves bathed by palm trees and swaying in comfort while at one of the resorts.
Those looking for quick escapes from the beach want to explore San Juan’s historic streets. Similarly, El Yunque National Rainforest can provide a refreshing getaway from the beach.
14. Condado Beach
In Old San Juan, Condado Beach is an area of beach that is minutes from the historical sights of the city. There are many hotels and condo towers along the beach, which create a lively scene with great people watching opportunities.
In terms of miles, Condado Beach is a small beach with golden sand. But if you’re looking for more sand, try heading east to towards Punta Piedrita.
The Condado area of San Juan is a trendy and luxurious area with Michelin-rated chefs whipping up the latest trendy dishes, while upscale boutiques showcase the latest stylish clothing and home décor.
15. Seven Seas Beach
Driving close to 30 miles away from the city of San Juan in Puerto Rico, Seven Seas Beach is a friend beach, family friendly and with calm water, places for picnics and restrooms. There’s also food, parking and convenient stores.
With a gentle slope and limited boat traffic, the best section of the beach is at the western end. Without clear boundaries and restrictions, the eastern part of the beach can be rocky.
16. Museum of Art Puerto Rico
With an impressive permanent and temporary collection in 24 halls, the Museum of Art is one of the top cultural things to do in San Juan. The museum has one historical building with 130,000 square feet and a modern building.
The permanent collection stays true to its mission statement by focusing on work from the 17th century through to more contemporary pieces. A quick way for visitors to learn about all the masterpieces is to take one of the 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. tours.