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Puerto Rico

Explore the Best Places to see in Puerto Rico

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Puerto Rico is a Caribbean paradise bursting with history, culture, delectable cuisine, stunning beaches, majestic mountains, relaxation, and thrilling adventures. Known for its warm and welcoming people, Puerto Rico offers an experience that goes beyond being a mere tourist; its people make you feel like family. As a U.S. territory, no passport is required for U.S. travelers; a valid ID like a driver's license or a state ID card is sufficient. During our visit, we had unforgettable experiences, and we highly recommend renting an SUV to explore this diverse island, especially if you plan to visit the remarkable El Yunque National Forest.You can take guided tours if you prefer rather than driving around. You can use Viator, Visitacity or Tripadvisor to see other points of interest and/or tours that might be of better interest to you than the ones we visited.

Puerto Rico Map with notes

Old San Juan (Viejo San Juan)

Old San Juan with fountain and lampost
Old San Juan
Old San Juan
Old San Juan
Old San Juan
Old San Juan

1.  Old San Juan (Viejo San Juan)

Old San Juan boasts has 500 years of history, making it one of Puerto Rico's most cherished treasures to see in Puerto Rico. Stroll along its charming cobblestone streets, marvel at the unique architecture, and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere. Local shops, lively restaurants, and bars await you at every corner.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro)

Castillo San Felipe with water view
Castillo San Felipe
Castillo San Felipe
Castillo San Felipe
Castillo San Felipe lighthouse
Castillo San Felipe lighthouse

El Morro Lighthouse

2. Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro)

This colonial masterpiece has been guarding Puerto Rico since 1539, culminating in its completion around 1790. Castillo San Felipe del Morro, situated atop Old San Juan, started as a castle then it became an imposing six-level fortress designed to protect the island from sea-borne attackers.This historical structure is a must see in Puerto Rico.It features barracks, dungeons, and storerooms housing the original cannons. Despite witnessing numerous battles, this fortress has never been conquered. In 1898, the island transitioned from Spanish to U.S. control after the Spanish-American War. The castle even houses the island's oldest lighthouse, constructed under Spanish rule in 1846. In 1961, it was retired by the U.S. Army and became a museum under the National Park Service.

Paseo del Morro (Boardwalks)

Paseo del Morro

3.  Paseo del Morro (Boardwalks)

Paseo del Morro, a picturesque boardwalk, traces the outer perimeter of Old San Juan's formidable Castillo San Felipe del Morro. On one side, you'll be flanked by the fort's massive outer walls, and on the other side, you'll walk along the Bay of San Juan. As you approach the iconic Gate of San Juan, a monumental gateway leading into the city walls, Paseo del Morro seamlessly merges with the Paseo de la Princesa.

Cementerio Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis

Cementerio Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis

4.  Cementerio Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis

Established in the 19th century, this cemetery is renowned as one of the world's most beautiful memorial parks. Its oceanfront location is rooted in a superstition that the deceased embark on a journey to the afterlife. This cemetery serves as the final resting place for many of Puerto Rico's most prominent figures.

Castillo San Cristobal

Castillo San Cristobal
Castillo San Cristobal
Castillo San Cristobal

5.  Castillo San Cristobal

In response to English attacks in 1598 and Dutch incursions in 1625, the Spaniards extended their fortifications in San Juan. Castillo San Cristobal, considered the largest fortress built in the Americas, was constructed to protect the city from both land and eastern sea attacks. This formidable structure features three levels and an elaborate system of outer defenses, taking over 150 years to complete. Its design includes a deep dry moat, tunnels for troop movement, and five cisterns capable of holding approximately 800,000 gallons of rainwater.These cisterns are in use today for the maintenance of the park.This historical structure is a must see in Puerto Rico.

El Yunque National Forest (El Yunque Bosque Nacional)

El Yunque map
El Yunque - Yokahu Tower
El Yunque road to the park

Driving to the El Yunque enctrance

El Yunque
El Yunque - view from the top of Yokahu Tower

View from the top of Yokahu Tower

El Yunque small waterfall

Yokahu Tower

El Yunque waterfall
El Yunque waterfall
El Yunque la Mina waterfall

La Mina waterfall

6. El Yunque National Forest (El Yunque Bosque Nacional)

Located on the east side of the island, El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest within the U.S. National Forest System and a must see in Puerto Rico. A mere one-hour drive from San Juan, you can explore El Yunque at your own pace or join guided tours to discover its most captivating sites. We opted for a self-guided adventure, taking advantage of our SUV rental. El Yunque boasts over 240 tree species, unique birdlife, native creatures like the coqui frog, and a sprawling 28,000-acre expanse encompassing 25 waterfalls, meandering rivers, and ancient Taino petroglyphs.

The Coqui Frog

Puerto Rican Coqui

Coqui - photo by Audra Barrios

7. The Coqui Frog

The Puerto Rican coqui frog, a small arboreal amphibian, displays brown, yellow, or green coloring and distinctive toe pads for vertical climbing. Male coqui frogs emit a distinctive, resonant night call often heard throughout the island. Named after the sound it produces ("Ko Kee"), spotting one of these elusive creatures during nighttime strolls is a challenge worth pursuing.

Casa Bacardi

Bacardi - Puerto Rico - entrance

Bacardi entrance

Bacardi distillery Puerto Rico

Bacardi distillery

Bacardi mixology class
Bacardi Rum logo
Bacardi welcome Pavilion

cocktail at the Pavilion

Bacardi Family Museum

Bacardi Family Museum

8. Casa Bacardi

Our visit to Casa Bacardi included a Mixology class tour, featuring a welcome cocktail at the Pavilion, a trolley ride, a visit to the Bacardi Family Museum, and a mixology session. The tour provided insights into the history of Bacardi rum and its founders. These tours are exclusively for adults aged 18 and above. During the mixology class, we mastered the art of crafting the perfect Bacardi & Cola (Cuba Libre), Mojito, and Rum Sunset. To join this tour, please visit the Bacardi website.

Bacardi mixology class

Cueva Ventana (Window Cave)

Caverna Ventana view

Caverna Ventana view

Caverna Ventana
Caverna Ventana
Caverna Ventana

9.  Cueva Ventana (Window Cave)

Accessible only via guided tours, Cueva Ventana is located in Arecibo, just off Route 10. There are two caves on this tour and they are conveniently situated next to each other.It is a short hike to their entrance. While exploring the first cave, your guide will unveil petroglyphs and introduce you to the resident bat population. The cavern is well-lit and has a spacious interior.The tour will provide each adventurer with a flashlight and hard hat for exploration. Your guide will share insights about the cave's natural wonders, including stalagmites and stalactites. The cave houses numerous bats, so wear comfortable closed-toe shoes with non-slip soles to navigate the guano (bat poop)-covered areas. Upon reaching the main cave opening, you'll be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the lush fields and river below. Thanks to its dual openings, the cave remains well-ventilated and surprisingly odor-free despite its bat population. To embark on this cave adventure, research and schedule your tour, which typically lasts about one and a half hours.If you enjoy visiting caves, this cave is a must see in Puerto Rico because the view from its opening is stunning.

Puerto Rico's National Drink - the Piña Colada

Pina Colada Southern Living photo by Emily Laurae

10.  Puerto Rico{s National Drink - the Piña Colada

The Piña Colada, a delightful blend of ice, rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice, was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. While three bartenders lay claim to its invention, you can enjoy a Piña Colada at Barrachina Restaurant, where don Ramon Portas Mingot, one of these bartenders, is said to have first concocted this iconic beverage in 1963. During your visit to Puerto Rico, savor a Piña Colada and toast to the island's tropical flavors.

Piña Colada - Southern Living photo by Emily Laurae

Traditional Food -Mofongo

mofongo - from IStock by Alleko

Mofongo - from IStock by Alleko

11. Traditional Food - Mofongo

Experience the vibrant tapestry of Puerto Rican culture through its delectable dishes, a symphony of flavors waiting to be savored. Among the favorites is Mofongo, a dish centered around green plantains. These plantains are sliced, fried, but can be boiled or roasted, and then mashed with salt, garlic, broth, and olive oil. The result is a dense ball of mashed plantains, ready to absorb a variety of condiments, often featuring cooked pork or bits of bacon. Traditionally served with fried meat and chicken broth soup, Mofongo offers a range of variations, including vegetables, chicken, shrimp, beef, or octopus.

These are just a few of the captivating places to explore and see in Puerto Rico. This enchanting island has so much more to offer, and we can't wait to return and uncover more of its hidden gems.

Check out my travel photo techniques article for suggestions to make your memories more interesting.

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