Planked by the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico shares the beauty of the Caribbean. It boasts long stretches of white sand beaches, natural wonders, and vacation destinations. The best places in Puerto Rico to stay offer to solo travelers, couples, groups, and families who are planning a relaxing getaway
Puerto Rico has a main island and four smaller islands. It’s an unincorporated U.S. state and is neither a state nor a sovereign nation. It’s a commonwealth that’s under the jurisdiction of the United States Territorial Clause.
If you want to get the best beach experience in Puerto Rico, you must head to Vieques. It’s about eight miles away from mainland Puerto Rico and the perfect place for relaxation. There are no high-rise hotels here, but you can find upper-end accommodation to stay at. It’s just a quick ferry ride from Fajardo or a 30-minute flight from the capital San Juan.
One of the most anticipated sights here in Vieques is the bioluminescent display in the Mosquito Bay. It’s also called the Bahía Bioluminiscente or Bioluminescent Bay. After dark, large numbers of dinoflagellates rise to the surface, making the water glow in color blue. This phenomenon happens in other areas of P.R., but Vieques is one of the best places to witness it.
Aside from its alluring shores, Vieques is also home to the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. Here, you can see semi-wild horses, sea turtles, and other animals living freely.
You can also rent a car to drive around the island and visit various coves and beaches. Just be careful with your driving since you share the road with roaming horses.
2. Playa Flamenco
If you want to escape the noise of Puerto Rico proper, you can head to Playa Flamenco, about 17 miles away. It’s located on the Isla Culebra and boasts its white sand and blue shores. It’s one of the most acclaimed beaches in P.R. and the most beautiful in the world. Like Vieques, you can head to Playa Flamenco via a ferry ride or a flight.
What we like the most about Playa Flamenco are its very calm waters. It’s almost waveless, which makes it a safe and ideal choice for families with kids. If you’re a bad swimmer, you’ll surely have a great time here. Still, there are lifeguards around.
Playa Flamenco is reasonably developed with kiosks, parking areas, changing rooms, villas, and cottages dotting the area.
One of the biggest attractions here is the ‘Tanks’ which are military tanks from the U.S. Navy occupancy. From above, you can see how beautiful and pristine the Culebra island is.
Aside from that, Playa Flamenco is also one of the best places to taste authentic Puerto Rican cuisines.
3. Old San Juan
If you want to experience classic Puerto Rico, stop by its capital, San Juan. It’s a very historic neighborhood and a charming town. The capital is surrounded by 16th to 17th-century buildings dating back in the Spanish colonial era. Don’t forget to take a stroll through its cobblestone streets on the Umbrella Path.
You can also visit the Fuerte San Felipe del Morro, a fort built to protect the entrance of the San Juan Bay. Nowadays, this fort is composed of branching dungeons, tunnels, barracks, ramps, and sentry boxes.
You can continue sight-seeing on Castillo de San Cristobal. It’s much bigger than El Morro, which was built to protect the capital from attacks coming from the sea.
We also recommend visiting the Museo de las Americas where you get to see the history of Puerto Rico. It’s a great starting point if you’re headed for a historical trip around the capital.
To cap your day at San Juan, you can soak at the Condado and Ocean Park Beach. This white sand beach is a public area and can get packed during peak season. Also, there are no changing areas here, so we recommend checking in to nearby accommodation.
For avid surfers, Rincón is the place to be. Also known as Pueblo del Surfing or Little Malibu to many, Rincón is considered as the surfing mecca of Puerto Rico. In fact, this is where the World Surfing Championship in 1968 was held.
Expect waves up to 15 feet, especially from September to February. During winter, you can experience fun-sized waves here, too.
Nevertheless, you can find quieter spots along the Rincón shoreline where you can relax. Also, during the summer season, you can see humpback whales migrating and passing near the shore. January to March is the best period to go whale watching here.
Aside from enjoying the beach, you can also stroll around to visit the Punta Higuera Lighthouse. This 100-feet lighthouse is still operational. From the top, you can watch the undisturbed beauty of Rincón sunset.
There’s also the Rincón Art Walk that happens in the town every Thursday evening. During this time, Caribbean music and dance are performed. You can also find food trucks, handicrafts, and other goods that you can buy.
If you’re tired of finding a spot on crowded P.R. beaches, we recommend that you head to Luquillo instead. It’s located beside Fajardo and Vieques. From San Juan, you can drive to Loquillo for about an hour.
The palm-lined shoreline offers a tranquil and pristine experience. The waves are very calm and ideal for swimming for the entire family. You can also take a calming walk along the shoreline or take refuge in the shade of coconut palms.
There are modern changing and restrooms here. When you feel famished, there are food sellers on the beach entrance.
The good thing about Luquillo is it’s only a short distance from El Yunque National Forest. You can take a day trip here after spending a few hours on the beach. You can also go horseback riding at Carabali while traversing the Mameyes River banks.
If the beach isn’t enough for a soak, you can go the less-traveled path to Las Paylas. It’s a river waterfall with natural water slides. The trail going here is a little rugged, but that’s what adds to the thrill.
6. Isla Verde
If you want to stay within San Juan and Carolina’s beach resort area, you should head to Isla Verde. It’s one of the most enchanting beaches in P.R. and surrounded by high-rise hotel buildings. Despite the developments in the area, Isla Verde gets to retain its island and pristine feel.
The whole strip of the beach offers a lot of fun. You can rent banana boats, parasails, kneeboards, catamarans, and jet skis. You can get reasonable prices for these rentals, but expect that the cost of staying in Isla Verde is much higher than less developed beaches in Puerto Rico.
You can also dive to witness the lush marine life of Isla Verde. Fishing is also a great pastime here once you find a decent angling spot.
If you want to dine in style, you should head to Lupi’s. This chic restaurant serves a fusion of Puerto Rican and Mexican cuisines. They also serve vegetarian meals as well as delicious cocktails on large cups.
Isla Verde is an excellent refuge for those who want a luxurious beach experience without going out of the mainland.
7. San German
If you’re not much of a beach lover, you can head to San German for a day of sight-seeing and history. It’s also a great destination if you want to avoid the crowd, especially during the summer season.
San German is a quiet town and is the home of Puerto Rico’s Historic District, an area protected under the National Register of Historic Places list. It’s also the second-oldest town in the commonwealth next to San Juan.
Its cobblestone streets are one of the first things that will appeal to visitors. There are over 100 historical buildings surrounding the town. The most iconic and a must-see is the Porta Coeli. It was a church and convent build in 1609. It houses wood-carved saint statues, tiles with biblical passages, and other Christian items.
There’s also the Museo de la Historia de San German. It has a small gallery that details the history of San German. You can also find here a collection of Puerto Rican coins as well as basketball memorabilia, a nod to the town’s love of the sport.
8. Isla de Mona
Dubbed as the Galapagos of the Caribbean, Isla de Mona is home to natural beauty, incomparable to anything you can find in the commonwealth. It’s an uninhabited island, which is just off the west coast of Puerto Rico.
There are several caves and beaches on Isla de Mona. However, it’s not the easiest to reach and travel to. It’s highly protected by the Puerto Rican government, though some tourists can be allowed for a stay.
If you want to experience the pristine and quiet of Isla de Mona, you need to bring all your sustenance: food, water, shelter, and more. There are no facilities on the island since it’s not habited. Also, you need to secure various permits before you can travel to the island. Only 100 tourists are allowed to enter and stay each time.
Still, the risk is all worth it. The nights here turn into a stargazing paradise. You can also go diving by securing permission from the government and hiring professional dive boat operators.
If you want to safe and guarded, we recommend that you stay on Playa Sardinera. This is where rangers and police officers stay to guard the island.
Mayaguez is the eighth-largest municipality in P.R., also known as the ‘Sultaness of the West’. It lies between Rincon and Aguada, giving it a very diverse environment. Also, it’s very accessible to the best beaches in the commonwealth.
You can reach Mayaguez by driving for about two and a half hours from San Juan Airport.
The first thing you have to do upon arriving in Mayaguez is visiting the Playa de Colon, where you can watch cultural events. This cultural hub comes to life during Christmas when the locals organize festivities and live music. It’s also a great place to shop for crafts, food, and souvenirs.
If you’re visiting on a different period, you can go scuba diving. Mayaguez is one of the favorite launching points to various scuba diving spots on the west coast. It’s also one of the gateways going to Isla de Mona.
During February, Mayaguez celebrates the Fiestas Patronales Virgen de la Candelaria. The following month, the locals celebrate their yearly agro-industrial fair called Five Days with Our Land Fair.
If you’re into water activities, you can visit the Rio Grande Anasco or Guanajibo, among others.
Last but definitely not the least, is Isabela located on the northwest coast of Puerto Rico. Isabela is also a surfing hub, specifically Jobos, where fun-sized waves hit the shore. It’s not over-run by tourists yet so that you can enjoy a little quiet time here. There are also food sellers around if you feel hungry.
Aside from that, you can also visit the Shacks if you want to go snorkeling, diving, or surfing. There are underwater caverns here, which make it an excellent choice for diving. If you’re into coral reefs, you should head to Baño La Princesa or Blowhole. Tourists flock this place during summer and spring, where the natural pools make an excellent place for a dip.
You can also take a day off the beach by trekking the Guajataca Tunnel and exploring the wonders of the Guajataca Forest. After a tiring day, you can stop by Ocean Front Restaurant where you can dine al fresco. They serve fresh seafood and other Caribbean cuisines.
These ten listed destinations are just some of the best places in Puerto Rico to stay. You can find more majestic spots in the commonwealth where you can spend an unforgettable vacation. But if you want to skip the hassle, these ten places will surely give you your well-earned getaway.