At the beach in Koh Nang Yuan, Thailand

By Norbert Figueroa, an experienced architect, travel writer, long-term budget traveler, and photographer with over 13 years of travel experience in over 139 countries and counting. @globotreks


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Looking for the best Puerto Rico travel tips? You’ve come to the right place. Sitting in the northeastern Caribbean Sea, Puerto Rico is a stunning tropical island that’s on many travelers’ bucket lists.

Beautiful beaches, rich culture, amazing food – Puerto Rico’s got it all. From the colorful capital of San Juan to the lush El Yunque National Forest, there is lots to look forward to when visiting Puerto Rico.

There are, however, a few things you should be aware of before visiting this gorgeous Caribbean Island. This Puerto Rico travel guide will take you through them.

Travel Tips for Puerto Rico

There’s so much to do and see in Puerto Rico that can easily overwhelm any traveler visiting the island for the first time.

Here are some simple, yet great tips for traveling to Puerto Rico that can help you plan your tropical adventure succesfully.

1. Know That Puerto Rico is a U.S. Territory

Puerto Rico’s current political status might be confusing to many. One of the things to know before traveling to Puerto Rico is that it is a U.S. territory, but it is not a state. Puerto Ricans speak Spanish officially, but English is also widely spoken.

Like in any U.S. territory, the official currency is the US dollar. US citizens don’t need a passport to go to Puerto Rico unless their visit is the starting point of a cruise vacation.

Door with the Puerto Rico Flag

2. Know What You Want to Do

One of the most important things to know before visiting Puerto Rico is that Puerto Rico’s tourism is focused on the leisure and outdoor adventure niches. So it’s good to know what you want to do when you visit Puerto Rico.

Looking for a relaxed time at the beach? Want to spend time at a resort in Rio Grande? Surfing in Rincon? How about eco-tourism and outdoor adventures such as snorkeling with turtles? Exploring Spanish and Puerto Rican culture and history in Old San Juan? All this can be done and more.

There are many interesting facts about Puerto Rico that you might not know. For example, Puerto Rico has the oldest city in the United States – Old San Juan. And it has the only rainforest protected by the U.S. – El Yunque.

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Just an hour away from San Juan, you can find a dry forest, a dwarf forest, or the largest cave network in the western hemisphere, among other natural features. If you love exploring caves, Puerto Rico is the place to do it!

Did you know Puerto Rico is considered the rum capital of the world? You know what this means… lots of nights out to experience the vibrant nightlife! You can even take a tour of the world-famous Bacardi Rum distillery.

Vieques Island, Puerto Rico

3. Know When to go to Puerto Rico and What to Pack

The island sits at latitude 18N, so the tropical weather lasts 365 days a year (highs in the 90s, lows in the 70s). Awesome, eh? That said, your packing should consist of bathing suits, flip-flops, polarised sunglasses, and sunscreen.

For hikers and outdoor adventurers, hiking boots and a rain jacket are highly recommended. For a night out, stylish is what’s in.

While it’s a year-round destination, the ideal months to visit Puerto Rico are between March and August (late spring/summer).

During the winter, beaches get full of algae; and during late summer/early fall, the hurricane season is at its peak. This hurricane preparation guide can help you stay safe.

4. Understand Your Transportation Options in Puerto Rico

Let’s be honest, public transportation in Puerto Rico sucks big time! As a result, one of the best tips for visiting Puerto Rico I can give you is to rent a car. Unless, of course, you are staying at a resort that will shuttle you wherever you want to go.

Planning on walking around? Old San Juan, Condado, and the old sector of Rio Piedras are the only pedestrian-oriented urban centers in the metropolitan area. You can easily Uber or take a taxi between them and then roam around on foot.

Sadly, apart from San Juan, all the other cities and urban centers on the island weren’t designed with pedestrians in mind. Plus, walk for three minutes under the scorching sun and you will wish you were inside an air-conditioned car.

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A useful form of public transportation is the Tren Urbano single rail line, but it mainly serves people that live in San Juan’s suburban areas.

Another convenient way to get around the San Juan area or Condado is via an E-bike rental or by using the local scooter rental network, Skootel, via their app.

So, how can you reach other beautiful sights around the island? You either need to rent a car or take a tour.

For tours, I recommend checking here for the best tour options on the island. For cars, I recommend checking DiscoverCars and Expedia, as they have some of the cheapest car rentals.

El Yunque, Puerto Rico

5. Know Your Budget

Visiting Puerto Rico is not necessarily cheap, but traveling to this Caribbean island on a budget is possible.

You can find budget-oriented accommodation, most commonly known as paradores (rustic government-sponsored accommodations). However, they can still cost $100 per night or more.

Vrbo is also a popular option, or you can save money by checking the best-reviewed hotels across the island and their latest deals on Hotels.com.

Cheap food can be typically found at beach shacks or mountain kiosks, and at local markets (around $5-$10 per meal). I personally love Piñones and Los Kioskos de Luquillo to get some of the best Puerto Rican cuisine on a budget.

Most restaurants have mid-range prices (say $12-$25 per meal) and are similar to other U.S. destinations. The further you get from the metropolitan area, the cheaper things get.

6. English is Widely Spoken in Puerto Rico, But Learn a Few Spanish Words

While English is widely spoken on the island, Spanish is the official language. The more you venture outside urban areas, the less you will be able to communicate in English.

Although most Puerto Ricans speak English, learning a few Spanish words can help you go a long way when visiting Puerto Rico.

It is recommended to learn a few Spanish expressions, greetings, and phrases. The effort is always appreciated by many Puerto Ricans.

Keep in mind that due to there being two official languages, the “official” Puerto Rican language can be considered to be Spanglish (so full of funny and horrible slang). Check out this Puerto Rican slang dictionary.

El Morro, Old San Juan

7. Know That You Can Explore the Island by Yourself

Don’t get fooled by tour companies or hotels that say places are far and hard to reach.

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These are lies and tourist traps. No single place on the island is more than 2.5 hours away, and the expressway circles the whole island, making most municipalities easily accessible.

Don’t be afraid to ditch the tour bus and experience the island by yourself. This is one of the Puerto Rico vacation tips I can give you.

Take your car and go to the mountainous region (off the beaten path), or take the ferry to one of the surrounding islands – Vieques and Culebra. You’ll find many beautiful beaches there.

While Vieques and Culebra are accessible and doable on your own, the local ferry company sucks, which makes the accessibility logistics a bit of a pain sometimes. Still, you can test your luck and book your ferry tickets ahead of time. (roughly up to two weeks ahead)

Alternatively, if you don’t want to deal with the transportation logistics to get to the pier in Fajardo to catch the ferry, then I recommend doing this catamaran day trip to the iconic Flamenco Beach in Culebra or Culebrita Island.

Final Thoughts on Things to Know When Traveling to Puerto Rico

There you have it – seven great tips to help you plan your Puerto Rico trip. As you can see, with just a little research, you can have a tropical vacation under a decent budget and with a wide variety of activities that can easily cater to any traveler’s niche.

Read More on What to Know Before Traveling to Puerto Rico

7 Tips To Prepare For Your Trip To Puerto Rico

Images by Angela, Michael, csuspect, and churl respectively from Flickr’s Creative Commons.
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33 Comments

  1. In only had a few hours in Old San Juan because I came on a cruise ship. I would love to explore the jungle and your tips are very useful, particularly as far as getting around on your own is concerned.

    1. Thanks Inka! Many tourists go to Puerto Rico on cruises, since it is right in the middle of the Northern and Southern Caribbean route. When you have the chance to explore the interior of the island, you will see it is completely different from what you experience at Old San Juan.

  2. This is a really, really helpful post, and the photos are gorgeous! I’ve always wanted to see Puerto Rico. Hopefully I’ll make it there soon!

  3. We are very interested in gong to Puerto Rico, especially since we have been listening to “In the Heights” non-stop for WAY to long (and the neighborhood is largely Dominican, Puerto Rican and Cuban – at least it is in the broadway musical).

    “…Alza la bandera,
    La bandera Puertoriquena…”

    I just read a brilliant article about how PR is going through some multi-billion dollar redevelopment plan to improve public transportation and make part of the city car free. Perhaps it is just a proposed plan (I don’t remember) but it is the kind of thing that piques our interest for sure.

    1. It’s a shame I haven’t seen “In The Heights”, but I’ve heard it is great and that it does a pretty accurate representation. Ha! I bet it must be a catchy soundtrack since some of my friends have done the same… repeat!… 🙂

      Wow, you guys are well informed. In my opinion, some of those redevelopment projects will take a (long) while to be implemented (knowing how the government works), but the island is doing a good job by implementing these initiatives in becoming more “sustainable” to its inhabitants and visitors. But for sure, PR has been redeveloping a lot in the tourism industry, since it has a lot to offer.

  4. I loved Puerto Rico, but you are right – the public transportation isn’t the greatest. Fortunately, I stayed pretty much in San Juan, so I didn’t have to worry about it too much, but still.

    1. Exactly, if you stay in San Juan you can manage moving around with the local alternatives or by walking around. Glad you loved it! 🙂

    1. LOL!! That is a must! Especially is you plan to visit Carolina, the “birth place” of reggaeton. If you see how those girls dance! O_O They know how to polish walls with their booty!
      I’m not sure if I’m proud or not to say reggaeton and I share the same hometown. 🙂

  5. Norbert,
    This is definitely on my bucket list and yes, I am still surprised that people think this is the 51st state.

    1. Renee, you have no idea how many people ask me about that everywhere I go. But that’s fine with me, it is a good conversation starter since everyone has an opinion on politics.

  6. Great photos!! Even though I’ve been to Puerto Rico before, now I feel like I need to go back- so much I didn’t see!

  7. Nice article and totally agree about the public transport, though it seems that the mayor of San Juan is looking to the future with his light rail plans.

    It’s also worth noting that you can get some decent deals on car rentals which is the best way to get out of San Juan and explore the rest of the island

    1. You got good points there Brian. There are plans for a light rail to connect with the airport and to go to Old San Juan. Hopefully it will be developed in the following years. And yes. Often times there are great deals on car rentals.

  8. Really interesting overview, I had no idea the island was so expensive.
    I’ve always been interested though, seems like a fascinating culture.

    1. Yes, it is somewhat expensive since most of the economy follows the U.S. standards. I love Puerto Rican culture and history, it spans for over 500 years and it is a mix of native, african, spanish, and now american cultures.

  9. beautiful photos and great info! definitely appreciate the tips to avoid being pawns in the tourist con game!

    1. Thanks Lorna! That’s one of the things I try to avoid too; being a pawn of the tourist industry. Good thing we can all help each other through these blogs and more. 🙂

  10. I’m leaving for puerto Rico on Saturday and am looking for the best places to SCUBA dive. I’m open water certified, but my brother needs to get his certs. Any thoughts on the best place to start?

    1. So cool you’re going there! Definitely… In my opinion the best places to SCUBA are in the small islands of Vieques and Culebra (loved Culebra more), and on the west coast of the island. You can also go to Fajardo (lots of diving shops to rent equipment there), take a catamaran and dive at some of the “in between islands” spots. Let me know if you need any more info. 🙂

  11. Thanks for these bunch of tips about puerto rico’s island. $100/night’s quite a good deal for europeans who’re not facing the very bad effects of the crisis. alright i’ll see puerto rico .com

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Yes, it can be relatively affordable to many europeans who visit the island. The currency exchange gives you an advantage there.

    1. You should definitely go there. Hike to the top, and if you have the chance swim in the river. It’s cold, but fun!

  12. I’m leaving for puerto Rico on Saturday and am looking for the best places to SCUBA dive. Enjoy your morning desert safari dubai completely in your Dubai excursions, breathe life in Dubai’s gold sands. the Pulsating desert quad motorbikes, dune buggy.

  13. My wife and I are going to Puerto Rico this summer and couldn’t be more excited. Getting to the Caribbean has always been on our bucket list. I appreciate the advice on packing some rain gear in case we do encounter some weather.

    1. Hi Brian –

      Well, while Puerto Rico is catching up with ADA accessibility, many parts of the island are still not compliant. Unfortunately, Old San Juan is one of those, given that it is a historic city. Still, there are areas in Old San Juan you could reach with a mobility scooter, like the grounds at El Morro, the southern part of the city, and some streets in between. Sorry I don’t have specifics here as, with all honesty, I’ve never taken a proper look at it.

      Condado and Isla Verde, on the other hand, are more ADA friendly as their sidewalks have been re-done in the last decade to include more accessibility. Any part of the island that has been designed in the last two decades has ADA accessibility in mind. There are handicapped parking spaces everywhere, also.