Puerto Rico Summary
- Stunning white-sand beaches
- Beautiful colonial architecture, especially in San Juan and the Southwest
- Average of 75°F year-round
- Wonderful criolla (local) food and some of the world's best coffee
- Hopping nightlife
- Over 20 forest reserves
- Great surf, especially on the north and east coasts
- Generally safe, but for a couple of neighborhoods in San Juan
- English is the second official language
- Crowds in the high season (mid-December to late April)
- Traffic jams in San Juan
- Winding, slow, 1.5-lane roads in most parts of the country (though good freeways in the main areas)
- Poor public transportation, with no island-wide bus or rail service
- Expensive hotel prices compared to other countries in the Caribbean
- Hurricane season from September to November
- San Juan: A business and tourist hub with preserved Spanish colonial architecture, shops, bars, restaurants, and bustling nightclubs
- Northeast: A short drive from San Juan, this area is densely populated, but low-key and home to beautiful rainforests and secluded beaches
- Northwest: World-class surfing, natural wonders and some of the best beaches in the island; Aguadilla, Rio Camuy Cave Park and Rincon are main draws, but also Dorado, with its golf courses and casinos
- Southwest: Arguably the island's most beautiful region, with white-sand beaches, forest reserves, exotic birds, phosphorescent waters, charming colonial architecture, and opulent villas
- Southeast: It's the land of contrasts, with luxury living, golf courses, miles of beautiful sandy beaches, and undeveloped areas.
- Islands: The most famous offshore islands are Culebra and Vieques, with clear waters, breathtaking beaches, and coral reefs; uninhabited Isla Mona has beautiful soaring violet cliffs
What It's Like
Once under Spanish rule and now a commonwealth of the U.S., Puerto Rico has features of both the Caribbean and the States. Huge malls, golf courses, and casinos meet tropical rainforests and beautiful white-sand beaches, while well-preserved 15th-century Spanish forts loom over charming towns with colorful colonial buildings.
However crowded this island might seem, Puerto Rico is not a tourist trap, and there’s always a secluded spot where visitors can leave behind the traffic jams and nightclubs in San Juan, and the glitzy casinos of the north coast. Whether you are looking for a quiet retreat or a party destination, you will find it in Puerto Rico -- it’s only a matter of choosing the right place (and time of the year) to go.
Where to Stay
Prices are similar to those in the U.S., and the hotel offerings are varied, from luxury resorts, to government-sponsored inns, to chain hotels. Public transportation can be hard to find, and driving is a challenge in some areas, so it's a good rule of thumb to say as close as possible to the attractions you want to see.
- In San Juan, stay close in either Isla Verde or Condado for the easiest beach access, or in Old San Juan for proximity to historic sites, restaurants, and bars.
- In eastern Puerto Rico, you’ll find big resorts, nature reserves, miles of beautiful beaches and luxury living.
- Head to the western side of the island to be close to charming towns like Ponce, with Spanish colonial architecture, natural wonders like the phosphorescent waters of Bahia Fosforescente, and the forest reserves in Boqueron.