Unusual Places You Can Visit in Puerto Rico

The large radio telescope dish at Arecibo national observatory
The large radio telescope dish at Arecibo national observatory | © PhotoSpirit / Alamy
Photo of Mariela Santos
22 April 2021

Puerto Rico offers everything you’d expect from a Caribbean island. There are golden beaches, inviting swimming waters, lots of beautiful nature inland and an atmospheric city at its centre. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find Puerto Rico is full of surprises, some natural and some man-made, so here’s our guide to the most unusual spots to visit.

Museum Cemi

Museum
Map View
Cemi Museum, Jayuya, Puerto Rico
D21A6J Cemi Museum, Jayuya, Puerto Rico | © Efrain Padro / Alamy

Located in the town of Jayuya in central Puerto Rico, the Museo Cemi contains exhibits dedicated to the indigenous Taino community. The small museum is shaped like a cemi, an artifact with religious significance. Learn about Puerto Rican history in this one-of-a-kind environment.

Monkey Island, Cayo Santiago

Natural Feature
Map View
Beachgoers stroll along the pier on the beach in the Humacao municipality of Puerto Rico. Behind them is a good view of Cayo Santiago, popularly known as Isla de los Monos, or Monkey Island. (Iris Gonzalez Roman, GPJ Puerto Rico)
2C093G6 Beachgoers stroll along the pier on the beach in the Humacao municipality of Puerto Rico. Behind them is a good view of Cayo Santiago, popularly known as Isla de los Monos, or Monkey Island. (Iris Gonzalez Roman, GPJ Puerto Rico) | © Global Press / Alamy

Cayo Santiago is known as Monkey Island for its popular inhabitants. There are about 1,000 monkeys on site now studied by the University of Puerto Rico’s Caribbean Climate Research Center. They are descendants of about 400 rhesus macaque monkeys that have been on the island since 1938. Visitors can view Monkey Island and its furry residents from a boat.

Military Bunkers in Vieques

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
Abandoned ammunition depot, Vieques, Puerto Rico
DH6WGB Abandoned ammunition depot, Vieques, Puerto Rico | © Efrain Padro / Alamy

Vieques is one of the smaller islands that make up the archipelago of Puerto Rico, and it is known for its beautiful beaches and resorts. Less known about Vieques is that it was used by the US government for naval training and exercises starting in WWII. The bunkers are abandoned; there hasn’t been Navy presence in Vieques since protests in 2003.

Arecibo Radio Telescope (Arecibo Observatory)

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Puerto Rico, North Coast, Arecibo, Arecibo Observatory, world's largest radio telescope, visitors, NR
JK53FM Puerto Rico, North Coast, Arecibo, Arecibo Observatory, world's largest radio telescope, visitors, NR | © mauritius images GmbH / Alamy

The radar de Arecibo, in the town of Arecibo, has been open since 1963. The concept of the observatory was developed and supported by Cornell University professors Bill Gordon and Tommy Gold. The radio telescope is used for scientific research in atmospheric and planetary science. Supported by both local and federal organizations, “it’s the largest single dish radio telescope in the world,” per the Ana G. Mendez University System.

Bioluminescent Bays

Natural Feature
Map View
Wooden Dock with Sunset, La Parguera, Puerto Rico
CR7001 Wooden Dock with Sunset, La Parguera, Puerto Rico | © George Oze / Alamy

Few bioluminescent bays exist in the world but Puerto Rico boasts three in separate locations on the island. The water glows due to living organisms in the water, and visitors can kayak or even swim in some of the bays. The bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico are located in La Parguera, Fajardo, and Vieques.

Cerro de Punta

Natural Feature
Map View
Jungles around Cerro de Punta, Puerto Rico, highest point
FYXRRF Jungles around Cerro de Punta, Puerto Rico, highest point | © ALAMTX / Alamy

The highest peak in Puerto Rico exists in the town of Jayuya. The rare plant species Elaphoglossum serpens is unique to Cerro de Punta and cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. For access to the peak, it’s necessary to drive partially up the mountain, park the vehicle, and hike the rest of the way.

The Narrow House in Old San Juan

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
Map View
Front Door To The Smallest House (La Casa Estrecha),  In  Old San Juan Puerto Rico, Also Known As The Smallest House In The World.
HTCNEW Front Door To The Smallest House (La Casa Estrecha), In Old San Juan Puerto Rico, Also Known As The Smallest House In The World. | © Norman Pogson / Alamy

The Narrow House, or La Casa Estrecha in Spanish, may be easy to miss but it has the distinction of being one of the narrowest houses on the globe. Located in the historic Old San Juan district beautiful doors, this five-foot-wide (1.5m) house is painted yellow.

These recommendations were updated on April 22, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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