The 39 Most Beautiful Destinations in Puerto Rico

| Wei Zeng on Unsplash
Courtney Stanley

Puerto Rico is a beach lover’s paradise, and its pristine shores and many attractions make the US territory the biggest tourist destination in the Caribbean. You’ll walk through historic squares lined with Spanish colonial architecture, float in bioluminescent lagoons and take incredible snorkelling trips in the dazzling Caribbean waters. Here are the most beautiful destinations on the island.

1. Old San Juan


Fort Cristobal, Old San Juan | © Heather/Flickr
© Heather / Flickr
Visiting this historic district is like travelling back in time. Walk the twisting cobblestone streets of Old San Juan to find grand, pastel colonial architecture from the 16th and 17th centuries and old Spanish military forts. Despite its well-preserved history, the more than 500-year-old settlement – the oldest in Puerto Rico – is also home to more modern Puerto Rican culture. Be sure to stop by the 16th-century El Morro citadel, the neoclassical San Juan Cathedral and the Fortaleza. However, the whole district is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site, so you really can’t go wrong. If you want to really dive deep into this gorgeous old city then be sure to book a spot on the Old San Juan Walking Tour.

2. Playa Flamenco

Natural Feature

Isla Culebra Puerto Rico USA territory Flamenco Beach two young boys build sand castle
© Kevin Galvin / Alamy Stock Photo

The pristine white-sand shores and sparkling crystalline waters of Playa Flamenco are regarded as the best on Culebra, a small island about 27km (17mi) off the east coast of Puerto Rico. Indeed, Playa Flamenco is often noted as one of the best beaches in the world. The beach’s name comes from the flamingos that rest in a nearby lagoon in the winter. Visit during the week when the beach is at its least crowded. Some chill time on the pristine white sands is included in the full day ferry tour from San Juan to Culebra.

3. El Yunque National Park

Forest, Park

Along with its stunning beaches, Puerto Rico’s natural beauty comes from a lush rainforest in the most famous national park on the island. Hike through the mist under giant green canopies in the Sierra de Luquillo, and try to spot as many of the forest’s 240 species of trees and hundreds of plant species as you can. The 111sqkm (43sqmi) park contains El Yunque’s 1,055m (3,461ft) peak, the 26m-tall (85ft) La Coca Falls and much more. See the very best of the park on one of the many guided day trips departing from San Juan.

4. Mosquito Bioluminescent Bay

Natural Feature

This incredible, rare sight is not to be missed on a trip to Puerto Rico. The glowing waters of the island’s three bioluminescent bays are the result of many factors, including the water’s shallow depth, high temperature, low circulation and high nutrients. These qualities combine to make an excellent habitat for dinoflagellates, the plankton that creates the stunning star-studded sight of the glowing lagoons. Swim, kayak or watch the glow from the shores. Mosquito Bay is regarded as the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world, though its magic is hard to capture on camera. Book a nighttime kayak experience with Viator to see the bay at its beautiful best.

5. Rincón

Architectural Landmark

This famous surfing town is hugely popular with international travellers, prompting Puerto Ricans to call it “Gringo Paradise”. The waves swell to huge proportions here, but there are also beaches on the south side of town that are great for swimming and relaxing with a piña colada. The area is also popular for humpback whale-watching trips from mid-January to March. There are a range of bookable experience in Rincón, including scuba, snorkeling and chiliboating.

6. Ponce

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark

Ponce | © fortherock/Flickr
© fortherock/Flickr
Ponce is a city that is uniquely Puerto Rican. Take a walk through the Pearl of the South’s historic town centre to see fantastic examples of colonial architecture and well-preserved mansions as well as a dozen or so great museums – including art, history, music and more. You can also walk 5km (3mi) south to the coast to find the Paseo Tablado La Guancha – a boardwalk home to many excellent restaurants and bars. Book a guided walking tour with a local expert to gain a deeper insight into the city.

7. Río Camuy Cave Park


The San Juan Gate
© MJCdetroit/WikiCommons
This cave park is one of the largest cave systems in the world, covering 108ha (268 acres). The limestone caves and waterways were carved out by the Río Camuy, the third-largest underground river in the world. Here, you can ride a trolley bus into the depths of the 61m-deep (200ft) cave. There are numerous rooms featuring stalagmites, stalactites and running rivers. Although the cave system wasn’t rediscovered until 1958, there is evidence that Puerto Rico’s first inhabitants explored them. Make sure you don’t get lost in the caves by booking a guided day trip from San Juan.

8. La Parguera Natural Reserve

Natural Feature, Park

Near La Parguera village and resort is a beautiful area of preserved natural beauty. The reserve houses some of the most extraordinary natural sights in Puerto Rico, including mangroves, salt marshes, coral reefs and a smattering of satellite islands. There is no camping allowed on the reserve, but there are hiking trails, boat rides, and snorkelling and windsurfing opportunities.

9. Lago dos Bocas

Natural Feature

In the centre of Puerto Rico, between Arecibo and Utuado, this human-made lake was constructed in 1942, and it’s one of the island’s drinkable water reserves. Jump on a ferry and take a ride on the lake’s calm waters – the area is full of natural charm and beauty. Enjoy lunch at one of the lakeside, open-air restaurants while you bask in the peacefulness of it all.

10. Guánica

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark

Guánica Sunset | © Angel Xavier Viera-Vargas/Flickr
© Angel Xavier Viera-Vargas/Flickr
In southern Puerto Rico, Guánica is a town that lies in the narrow harbour of the same name. It has stayed connected to its traditional roots, and there are plenty of historical sights to see. Visit the Caprón Fortress, Guánica Lighthouse and the Guánica State Forest. You can also visit a little place called Gilligan’s Island, named after the popular TV show.

11. Fajardo

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark

A View at El Conquistador Resort, Fajardo | © Antonio Rivera/Flickr
© Antonio Rivera/Flickr
This area is popular among native Puerto Ricans and tourists. Fajardo is known for its excellent seafood, high-quality hotels and proximity to Palomino, Icacos and Palominito – all popular islands for day trips. The turquoise sea on Fajardo’s shores is calm and fitting for snorkelling trips, and it houses one of Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent lagoons, Laguna Grande. Visit Las Cabezas de San Juan Lighthouse, one of the oldest in Puerto Rico, and check out Puerto del Rey Marina, one of the largest marinas in the whole Caribbean. And don’t forget to book a snorkeling safari to make the most of those turquoise waters!

12. Toro Negro Forest

Natural Feature

This nature reserve is located within the Cordillera Central, the mountain range that spans from the town of Yabucoa to Mayagüez. It covers about 7,000 acres (28 square km) and in addition to the lush foliage, there are rivers and waterfalls inside of the reserve’s borders for visitors to discover and enjoy. One of Puerto Rico’s most beautiful waterfalls, Dona Juaña waterfall, is part of the reserve. There are areas for hikers and restaurants nearby. Recommended by Mariela Santos.

13. San Cristobal Canyon

Natural Feature

A natural beauty, the San Cristobal Canyon is an open crevice that extends 500 feet (152 metres) into the Cordillera Central and is home to the Usabon River. It’s fairly easy to view the canyon, but entering it isn’t recommended for everyone, as some mountaineering skills are required. The canyon may take some visitors by surprise, as it seems to open out of nowhere. This is definitely a must-visit attraction for your to-do list. Recommended by Mariela Santos.

14. Tanama River

Natural Feature

By traveling to and along the Tanama River, visitors can go hiking, cave tubing, and look at petroglyphs. Many adventures are available, and there are many companies that can guide visitors in these activities, including Tanama River Adventures and Westside Adventures. Make sure to bring necessities such as sunscreen and water for these outdoor adventures to guarantee that your experience will be more comfortable. We recommend booking a spot on the Tanama Eco-Adventure experience. Recommended by Mariela Santos.

15. La Piedra Escrita

Historical Landmark

La Piedra Escrita or “the written rock” is a huge rock, some 32 feet (10 metres) high, featuring ancient petroglyphs. The meanings of these markings aren’t known. Not far from the rock is El Cemi Museum, and both attractions are great locations for learning about the Puerto Rican indigenous people, the Tainos. You can combine both when you join the New Taino Route tour. Recommended by Mariela Santos.

16. Guilarte Forest Reserve

Natural Feature

Found in part of the Cordillera Central, the Guilarte Forest Reserve offers beautiful views; visitors can even see sections of San Juan and Ponce on a good day. There are cabins available in the reserve for visitors, places to go for picnics and some great spots for birdwatching. Entering the reserve is fairly easy as there are various entrance points in a handful of different towns, including Adjuntas and Yauco. Check out the stunning scenery and be in the know about one of Puerto Rico’s great spots. Recommended by Mariela Santos.

17. Cueva Ventana

Park, Hiking Trail

© J. Carr / Flickr
Located in Arecibo, Cueva Ventana, or “window cave” is a breathtaking spot towards the top of a cliff that visitors and locals hike to. Guided tours are available with biologists who can explain the surrounding environment which includes insects, bats and snakes, according to Cueva Ventana PR; all in a 45-minute walk. The river visible from the cave is the Rio Grande, which cuts through a considerable portion of northern Puerto Rico. Recommended by Mariela Santos.

18. Los Morillos Lighthouse

Architectural Landmark

Located at the tip of Puerto Rico’s southwest coast, the lighthouse’s observation deck provides great views, and inside there are interesting photos and park rangers who can give you more information, but the jaw-dropping view is from the cliffs outside the lighthouse. Obviously you must take care to not walk too close to the edge, but if you take the short walk to the cliffs you can turn your back on the world and pretend that there is nothing but you and the sea. Better yet, hike down the trails to La Playuela, walk along the beach, and then hike up the cliffs on the opposite side of the bay from the lighthouse for even more astonishing views. You can also drive down to La Playuela if you don’t want to walk down the cliff trails, and then spend the day at one of the most beautiful beaches in Puerto Rico – Playa Sucia. Recommended by Kris Pethick.

19. Cerro Punta

Natural Feature

This point has the distinction of having the highest peak in Puerto Rico, and being home to an endangered fern that can only be found here. Since it is 4,389 feet above sea level, visitors can have the unique experience of seeing the east and west coast of the island as long as the weather doesn’t pose any inconveniences. The peak is part of Puerto Rico’s central mountain range and getting there may be a bit tricky but definitely worth the effort. Recommended by Mariela Santos.

20. Cabezas de San Juan Natural Reserve

Natural Feature

A 316-acre reserve in northeastern Puerto Rico, the Cabezas de San Juan Natural Reserve houses mangroves and a scientific research center. There are a total of seven ecological systems in the reserve, which is diverse for a relatively small piece of land. The reserve is notably part of the Northeast Ecological Corridor and guided tours are available for visitors. Recommended by Mariela Santos.

21. Arecibo Observatory

Architectural Landmark

The Arecibo radio telescope was built in the 1960s and was managed by Cornell University. Until 2016 it was the largest single-aperture radio telescope in the world, but is now second to FAST in China. Many people know the Observatory from movies like GoldenEye and Contact. From the observation deck you can see not only the telescope itself, but also the landscape for miles around. Recommended by Kris Pethick.

22. Castillo de San Cristobal

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

From the top of the Old Fort, Castillo de San Cristobal, each way you turn you have an incredible view. To the north are the crashing blue waves of the Atlantic Ocean, to the east you can see San Juan, to the south is the soul of the area, Old San Juan, and to the west you can see Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery, La Perla, and in the distance Castillo San Felipe del Morro. All amazing scenery, varied and exciting, and a wonderful site at which to take photos. Recommended by Kris Pethick.

23. The Cordillera Central Mountain Range

Natural Feature

The central mountain range of Puerto Rico got hit hard by Hurricane Maria, and the people there are still struggling to get roads, bridges, power and water, and much of the foliage was decimated. But this island, just like the people on it, is resilient, and is coming back to its full beauty and strength. The breathtaking views of waterfalls and green valleys may not be as accessible right now, but it will be one day soon and you do not want to miss it. Take any of the small winding roads through the interior, stop at some of the small roadside stands or restaurants for a bite to eat and a cold drink, and take home some of the most amazing photos you will ever see. Recommended by Kris Pethick.

24. Cruceta de Vigia

Architectural Landmark

The Watchman Cross is a 10-story, 100-foot high tower that overlooks Ponce. Visitors can reach the top by elevator or stairs, and then capture panoramic views of the City of Ponce and the Caribbean Sea. Recommended by Kris Pethick.

Magical Places in Puerto Rico Even Locals Don’t Know About

Recommended by Mariela Santos.

25. The Flamenco Beach Tanks

Architectural Landmark

Flamenco Beach in Culebra is one of the most well-known beaches on the same-named Puerto Rican island; it’s a beautiful location for swimming and sun bathing. What some people may not know, however, is that there are still U.S. Navy tanks on the beach that date back to before the Second World War. The beach was utilized as a place for testing and training before and during the war, and the tanks were left when the Navy evacuated the island in the 1970s, after locals protested their activities. Sometimes graffiti is now painted on the Flamenco Beach tanks, which are a reminder of the past.

26. Arecibo’s Birth of the New World Statue

Architectural Landmark

In the same town where the Arecibo Observatory is located, travelers can find a 350ft (100m) statue of Christopher Columbus, called the Birth of a New World Statue. It was erected in Puerto Rico during the summer of 2016, after different cities in the U.S. passed on becoming the sculpture’s home. Created by Zurab Tsereteli, this statue was originally intended to honor Columbus’ 1492 arrival in the “new world.” Notably, this statue is approximately 45ft (15m) taller than the Statue of Liberty in New York City.

27. Pico del Este Radar Station

Architectural Landmark

Inside of Puerto Rico’s stunning rainforest, El Yunque, there are the remains of a radar station on one of the mountains. This tropical rainforest is the only one in the U.S. System of National Forests, and reaching the location of the station is possible by car. No longer in use, over the years the station has been dismantled so visitors won’t be able to see it in its entirety.

28. Aguadilla Treehouse and Park

Architectural Landmark

Whether traveling with children or if you’re a big kid at heart, a visit to the Aguadilla treehouse and park might be the perfect activity. Parque de Colón, which is where the treehouse and park is situated, is close to the waterfront and also includes a boardwalk and a playground. The wooden treehouse is probably the most notable feature of this attraction.

29. Guánica’s sunflower farm

Architectural Landmark

Big, yellow sunflowers are a beautiful sight to see, and visitors to Finca el Girasol in Guánica can see an entire field of this bright flower. Take a stroll through this field and snap away with your camera, and maybe even buy some of the flowers yourself. If you can’t make it to Guánica, there is another sunflower “farm” in the town of Isabela.

30. Guavate

Architectural Landmark

Known as Puerto Rico’s “Pork Highway” by some – due to its population of spit roast joints – visitors can find Guavate within Cayey, in Puerto Rico’s mountainous region. There are numerous restaurants in the area, which is popular with locals for its fun environment in addition to the delicious food. The restaurants can fill up quickly, so it helps to arrive at your desired destination a bit earlier than when you want to eat, especially on the weekends. Conveniently, you can book a full-day tour of Guavate and Charco Azul, departing from San Juan.

31. Guajataca Tunnel

Architectural Landmark

The Túnel de Guajataca is its name in Spanish, and the Guajataca Tunnel dates back to the early 20th century when Puerto Rico was newly under United States rule. Leading to a beautiful beach, this railroad tunnel is approximately 560 feet (170 meters) long and was declared a historic landmark in 2000. Due to the way the tunnel was constructed, very little light passes through, earning it the nickname “El Túnel Negro,” or “The Black Tunnel.” The tunnel is one of the highlights on the full-day West Puerto Rico Tour.

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Recommended by Kris Pethick.

32. Vieques

Architectural Landmark

One of the most well-known islands of Puerto Rico is Vieques. This is the largest of Puerto Rico’s islands, measuring approximately 21 miles (34 kilometers) long and four miles (six kilometers) wide. This island was once home to a US Naval base, and evidence of that base can still be found today. The island has been transformed into a lovely vacation destination with about 10 beaches of varying sizes, with different types of sand and amenities. Fly into San Juan and then take the short ferry ride from Fajardo to Vieques and experience a little bit of paradise. The most common experience booked on Vieques is an evening kayak on the Bioluminescent Bay.

33. Culebra

Natural Feature

Another well known island is Culebra, whose beaches are considered some of the most beautiful in the world. Culebra and its cays offer ample snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities and stunning beaches for swimming and sunning. Be sure to plan a day trip to Culebrita, as you will not want to miss its sugar-white sand and sparkling blue water. You can book a catamaran day trip to Culebra from Fajardo.

34. Isla de Mona

Natural Feature

Isla de Mona (Mona Island) is the third-largest island in the archipelago of Puerto Rico, and located 41 miles (66 kilometers) off the west coast of the main island; it is considered a barrio of Mayagüez. Isla de Mona is for the adventurer. It is rugged, rustic, and challenging. Camping is allowed, with a maximum of 100 people on the island at a given time; you must get your permit at least two weeks in advance. This island, too, has incredible snorkeling and scuba diving options. Mona Island is home to over 100 endangered species, including giant iguanas and sea turtles.

35. Monkey Island

Natural Feature

Monkeys, specifically rhesus macaques, were brought to this island in the 1930s for a primate study and they continue to thrive there today. Visitors cannot go on the island itself, as only the scientists are allowed, but you can find a number of excursion outlets that offer kayak rental for the 0.5-mile (0.8-kilometer) trip to the island, which you can observe from the water; if you are not a kayaker, there are boat trips available. The water is very clear and shallow, and there is a sunken barge that can be explored.

36. Palomino Island

Natural Feature

Some of the sea lions that youll see in the Palomino Islands
© Capri23auto / Pixabay

You might know El Conquistador Resort from reading about idyllic honeymoon resorts in Puerto Rico, but there is a related spot even more beautiful than the resort on the mainland, and that’s Palomino Island. A private island in the Caribbean Sea, Palomino Island offers a beautiful and relaxing atmosphere where guests can take part in watersports, snorkeling, diving, and horseback riding. The water is many shades of blue and they all look stunning. There are a number of boating day trips to Palomino, mostly departing from Fajardo. Recommended by Mariela Santos.

37. Gilligan’s Island

Natural Feature

Gilligan’s Island, of course named after the popular TV show from the 1960s, is a perfect day trip for the family. It is a very short boat ride from Guanica on the southern coast of Puerto Rico. The water is shallow enough for kids to swim around the entire island. Snorkelers can find schools of fish and coral. There are picnic tables, barbecue pits, and composting toilets, so bringing the kids for a day should be easy. There are no shops on the island itself, but you can order food at the ferry in Guanica and they will bring it out to you. If you go during the week during the low season, you will probably have the island to yourself, perhaps for a romantic getaway.

38. Coffin Island

Natural Feature

Isla Caja de Muertos, or Coffin Island, lies eight miles (13 kilometers) off the coast of Ponce, also on the southern coast of Puerto Rico. There are ferry rides and catamaran trips available, or you can take your own transportation. As with all of the islands of Puerto Rico, Coffin Island has beautiful beaches and opportunities for snorkeling, including a guided snorkeling tour with underwater signs. There are also hiking trails and a lighthouse to explore, so there is a little something for everyone. You need to bring your own food and water, but there are picnic tables available for your convenience. Coffin Island is a great place to find conch shells.

39. Isla Desecheo

Natural Feature

Desecheo is a very small island (with an area of 0.37 square miles, or 0.97 square kilometers) about 12 miles (19 kilometers) off the cost of Rincon on the western side of the island, that is managed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Visitors are not allowed on the island, because of the danger of unexploded bombs from the days when it was used as a practice site by the US military. So why go there if you can’t get on the island? Desecheo is one of the top 20 locations in the Caribbean region for scuba diving and snorkeling. Visit “Candy Land” (named for its colors), “Ladder Reef,” and “the Caves.”

Looking for somewhere different to stay? Book into one of the best boutique hotels in Puerto Rico, or treat yourself to an unforgettable luxury hotel. Inspire your itinerary with the most beautiful beaches in San Juan; don’t miss the must-see attractions. And, when in the Puerto Rican capital, book yourself a table at one of the best restaurants in San Juan. To discover delicious food, check out the best food festivals in Puerto Rico.

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