Planning a family trip to Puerto Rico this summer? It’s the perfect Caribbean destination and one that my family has visited many times throughout the years. In hopes of helping you plan a fun trip of your own, I came up with 10 recommended activities to do when in Puerto Rico that you absolutely shouldn’t miss!
Oh, Puerto Rico. I love you so much! From your beautiful beaches to your cobblestone streets to your out-of-this-world cuisine. I just love you…period.
My family and I just took a trip to Puerto Rico over Spring Break in celebration of my mom’s 60th birthday, and as you can probably tell, I’m jonesing to go back ASAP.
The planning and anticipation of taking the trip seemed to last forever, but once the trip arrived, our time flew by in what seemed like seconds. I hate how that happens. It’s kind of like Christmas, you know? You spend a month looking forward to Santa Claus arriving and spend 1 hour or less opening up the presents he left you. It’s just not fair!
Since we’ve been back, I’ve added a couple of posts on the blog about our trip. I shared the reasons why I believe you should visit Puerto Rico and 3 travel apps I used to help plan my vacation.
I wrote these posts for two reasons:
- For starters, they allowed me to live vicariously through my photos and memories. Sounds crazy, but writing these posts are helping me trick myself into thinking I’m still lying by the pool with a piña colada in my hand!
- More importantly, though, it’s giving me an opportunity to share what I’ve learned while traveling to Puerto Rico. My hope is that my recommendations will be helpful to you when you begin planning your own Puerto Rican vacation.
The suggestions you are going to see in this post are all activities we did while on Spring Break in March. For reference, we were only in Puerto Rico for 3 nights and 4 days. We were able to accomplish each and every one of these items on the list. We kept busy but never felt overwhelmed and still had room for plenty of downtime in our itinerary.
10 Recommended Activities To Do When In Puerto Rico
Visit the Casa Bacardí
Rum and the Caribbean go hand in hand, don’t you think? It’s only fitting that one of the homes of the Bacardí rum company can be found in Puerto Rico. After checking into our hotel, this was over very first stop and it didn’t disappoint.
There are 3 different activities available at Bacardí to choose from: Historical tour, Rum Tasting, and Mixology Class. Because we were traveling with a minor (our son Zach is 16), we opted to do the 45-minute historical tour. The price was only $15 a person and included a free cocktail which was delicious!
They even created a virgin-version for Zach.
The tour was very simple including a short film about the creation and history of Bacardí, a brief presentation on how the different types of rums are made, and a stop in the gift shop.
Note: I have heard amazing things about their rum tasting and mixology classes and hope to do one of them on a future trip.
Because we were coming from our hotel in Isla Verde, we took an Uber directly to Casa Bacardí. When leaving, however, we took a quick cab ride to the ferry station and road the ferry back to Old San Juan. Cab drivers are lined up at Casa Bacardí ready to take you directly to the ferry. The ferry was only 50 cents per person, each way, and departed every 30 minutes from the station.
Take a food tour through Old San Juan
This was probably my most favorite activity we did while in Puerto Rico. I feel like you learn so much about people and their culture through the foods they eat.
I booked our food tour through a company called Flavors of San Juan and I would HIGHLY recommend them. Our food tour included a 3-hour stroll through Old San Juan where we not only ate delicious Puerto Rican cuisine but also learned about the history of the country along the way. It truly was a great way to see Old San Juan.
The pace of the tour was perfect and the food stops along the way were timed just right. The group size was small, 10 of us all together, which allowed us to get all our questions answered. Because they like to keep the groups small, the tours can book really quick. I definitely recommend making reservations ahead of time because of this reason.
We stopped at five different locations to eat and the food was amazing at each and every spot. Having a father who’s Puerto Rican, I am pretty familiar with the food served in Puerto Rico but even I tried something I’d never had before…cheese inside of hot chocolate. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. The sweet and salty combination was pretty amazing!
Shopping for souvenirs in Old San Juan is a most! There are so many shops to walk into that you probably couldn’t see them all if you wanted to. You’ll find everything from shirts to towels to bags to bathing suits to shot glasses!
My favorite store by far was the hat shop, Olé. Here you can purchase a customized hat that is fitted to your head and embellish it with your own ribbon choice. And the best part, we received a 10% discount on our hats. It was a special price given to those who went on the food tour I mentioned above!
Visit Castillo San Felipe del Morro aka El Morro in Old San Juan
This beautiful fort built back in the 1500s is a must-see landmark when visiting Puerto Rico.
There are 6 levels within El Morro and you’ll be blown away at everything there is to look at. The history behind the creation of El Morro paired with the spectacular views of the Atlantic ocean makes this UNESCO site a must see.
You can explore El Morro on your own or take part in one of their guided tours. If you’ve never been before, and have the time to spare, I would recommend starting with a guided tour to educate yourself on all the magnificent history behind this amazing landmark. History buffs will love this one!
El Yunque National Forest
The El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rainforest in the national forest system of the United States which makes this destination a must-see while in Puerto Rico.
There is so much to explore while visiting the rainforest. You can spend days walking the hiking trails through the mountains. You’ll find beautiful greenery along the way and get to see waterfalls too. The views are absolutely exquisite.
Due to Hurricane Maria, there was no running water in the rainforest during our most recent visit in March 2019. This means the only bathrooms that were available were Port-o-Potties which kind of stink…literally. The good news is they are currently working on repairing any hurricane damage and will hopefully be back to normal soon. Check their website I linked above for updates.
Puerto Rico is home to 3 bioluminescent bays: Mosquito Bay, La Parguera, and Laguna Grande.
What is the bioluminescent bay? The bioluminescence of a bio bay is caused by single-celled microorganisms called dinoflagellates. These microorganisms glow briefly, usually in a blue-green color, whenever they are disturbed. This means that every splash and every movement in the water causes the dinoflagellates to light up in the water around you, giving the bay its distinctive glow. There are bioluminescent dinoflagellates all throughout the ocean, however, it’s rare for them to be present in the water in concentrations high enough for them to be noticeable.
We did an 8 pm bioluminescent bay kayaking tour at Laguna Grande in Fajardo with a company called Yokahú Kayaking Trips, Inc. They were awesome and I would highly recommend them! They teach you everything you need to know about maneuvering your kayak through the mangroves of the bay.
We had 3 employees with us on our trip, one stayed in the front, one in the middle and one in the back, so you always felt secure that if something happened you’d have help. This was good considering some of the people in our group had never kayaked before. Beginners would do fine with this activity.
What I liked best about the company was the fact that they brought large tarps to hide underneath so we could get a better view of the glowing water. The night of our tour was a really clear night and the moon was shining brightly on the water which made it extremely hard to see the glowing water below. Just so you know, you ideally want a cloudy night for the best views of the bioluminescent bay. By pulling out the tarps, we were able to make a barrier between the moon and the water and could finally see the bioluminescent bay in all its glory. It was totally worth the manual labor to get there!
Rent a car
El Yunque National Forest and the bioluminescent bay are about an hour from where we’re staying in Isla Verde. To explore that area of Puerto Rico a little more, we opted to rent a car. This allowed us the freedom to take whatever route we wanted, stop when we wanted to, and have the convenience of being able to store our things in our own vehicle.
We just turned on our GPS and away we went! It was awesome because we took the scenic route along the coast to El Yunque and the views were unbelievable. All you could see for miles were palm trees and turquoise waters. We absolutely loved it!
Enjoy your resort
We were fortunate to stay in Isla Verde at the Courtyard Marriott which is literally on the ocean. Not only did we have access to an amazing pool with swim up bar but we were footsteps away from the sandy beach as well. Most of the resorts you’ll find in Isla Verde or The Condado will have a similar experience.
I definitely suggest fitting in some downtime throughout your vacation to enjoy the pool and beach.
My husband, Patrick, and I also used the gym facilities every day which was a nice change from working out in our living room at home.
We even splurged on our last morning and ate breakfast overlooking the ocean at the resort’s restaurant.
The resorts in Puerto Rico are amazing so don’t miss out on what they have to offer.
Find time to hit up the casino
You will find casinos all over Puerto Rico, especially where we were staying in Isla Verde and The Condado. We love to gamble and the casinos in Puerto Rico don’t disappoint. You will find a large selection of table games plus hundreds of slot machines to choose from.
We love to play craps and were happy to see that the table only required a $5 minimum bet to play. This is huge because most places in the Caribbean or in Vegas usually require at least a $10 bet. Basically, it was cheaper to gamble.
Another cool perk! When you’re gambling, you drink and eat for free! Cocktail waiters are constantly walking around the casino to take your drink order, and if you’re hungry, ask for a sandwich to go along with it. Not too shabby, right?
Eat some more
Please make sure to eat yourself silly while in Puerto Rico. The food is amazing and so flavorful! You can accredit most of that to sofrito which happens to be the base of almost every Puerto Rican dish you’ll try.
Hopefully, you do the food tour I mentioned above early in your trip so you get some ideas of places to eat and what you want to try more of. Your tour guide can help recommend some restaurants but I also swear by Yelp! And TripAdvisor too. See how I use them, here.
If you only try one thing, make sure it’s mofongo. Mofongo is made with fried green plantains that are mashed together with garlic and oil. They can be topped with anything from vegetables (for a full vegetarian option) to garlic shrimp to fried pork.
Another favorite of mine are arroz con habichuelas which is simply rice with red or pink beans. The flavor is out of this world due to the sofrito used as the base of the dish.
You can’t go wrong with pork chunks, pork chops, or pernil (roasted pork).
Seriously, the food makes Puerto Rico so don’t miss out!
These 10 recommended activities to do when in Puerto Rico are just skimming the surface of the possibilities for you and your family on your summer vacation. I hope you find this useful in your planning process. Enjoy your trip to Puerto Rico and overnight me some mofongo if you can! Pretty, pretty please!
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