Puerto Rico offers a juxtaposition of cultures, flavors, geographical areas, and even ethnicities. It's a Caribbean spot that's also under the thumb of the United States, so while it feels super exotic, going there is a lot like visiting the mainland.
At the same time, there are many facets of life in PR that make it unique and intriguing to travelers. From sun-soaked beaches to the effusive nature of the people there, you'll find plenty of travel appeal in Puerto Rico.
Explore The Capital City Of San Juan (Plus Old San Juan)
In a lot of places, the capital city isn't always the most appealing. Traffic, landlocked attractions, and dull accommodations are just a few complaints. But the thriving city of San Juan is on Puerto Rico's northern coast, and it's home to a staggering 3 million inhabitants.
Basically, San Juan is where it's at. Plus, despite the wreckage from recent tropical storms and even earthquakes, San Juan has largely made it out unscathed. In contrast, the southern areas of PR are a bit worse for wear, so we'd advise steering clear for the time being.
Hunker Down At The Sheraton Or Chill At Fortaleza Suites
When we recommend staying in San Juan, it's specifically the area of Old San Juan (in Spanish, Viejo San Juan) that's the highlight. This spot is where the San Juan Historical Site lies, which features an array of 16th-century buildings, two fortresses, and charming old city walls. You'll also find cathedral houses and the tomb of Juan Ponce de León, a Spanish explorer.
It's hard to choose a favorite hotel in Viejo San Juan because all of them have excellent views of the coastline and charming amenities. But we'd have to say that Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel looks super-appealing, with its picture-perfect location and four stars. Of course, Fortaleza Suites Old San Juan is an adorably colonial spot with colorful buildings that make great backdrops for your IG snaps (just saying!).
Definitely Explore Old San Juan
The truth is that Viejo San Juan is one of the top attractions in the capital city. Plus, the cruise port terminal is there (hint, hint). But you can see La Fortaleza, an old fortress, Castillo San Felipe del Morro, Castillo de San Cristóbal, and tons more attractions that are both beautiful and historical.
Head To PR In Early Spring
Puerto Rico can experience some inclement weather, but according to US News, the ideal climate occurs between mid-April and June. Winter is busy and summer is rainy, they note, so this middle ground should be perfect for exploring and even hitting the beach (mid-80's are common temperature readings).
Skip The American Dishes And Get That PR Flavor
Yes, you'll probably find plenty of Americanized foods in PR, but this island destination has its own vibes (and taste buds). Dishes like empanadas (often called empanadillas), alcapurrias (fritters with beef, plantains, and yucca), and mofongo (fried plantains plus pork skins AKA chicharrónes) are all popular here (and superbly delicious, according to Spoon University).
And based on Google reviews (and a shoutout from Forbes that's built into their Google listing), the restaurant Barrachina is a must-hit tourist spot for those visiting PR. It's conveniently located in San Juan (near your hotel digs), so you can't skip it.
Walk Or Bike Around San Juan, PR
If you're taking our advice and checking out San Juan, you can walk to many places or ride a bike. But for longer trips (or when your legs eventually get tired but your wandering spirit won't quit), you can also ride a trolley, take a taxi, or hop on the bus.
The trolleys caught our attention because not only are they free, but they're also a super fun way to see things in the open air. San Juan Puerto Rico offers an often-updated page with details on the trolley schedule and also has a map you can reference. Do note, however, that when there are cruise arrivals in port, stop #1 will be totally dead, so head to another pickup spot for service!
Visit Museums, Parks, And More
Here we are, going on about PR's history again, but we can't help it. The Museo de las Américas (literally the museum of the Americas) is a top attraction in San Juan, and it offers pre-Columbian through modern art from both North and South America. It's housed in an 1800s army barracks, too!
For even more history (and a great ocean view), head to Cementerio Santa María Magdalena de Pazzi, a fancy cemetery that is home to the remains of many famous Puerto Ricans. Practically anywhere you go in PR, though, you're sure to find remnants of the past.
Or, you can visit some of the cute parks around town, like Parque Las Palomas (perfect for birdwatching) or Plaza Colón (tons of cool statues, too). We also suggest walking the path to the panorama platform via the Paseo del Morro trail (from the castle of San Felipe del Morro).
PR Uses US Dollars, Making Transactions Simple
Because Puerto Rico is a US territory, folks there use the US dollar. But you'll hear Puerto Ricans refer to the currency in Spanish as either pesos or 'dolar' (which sounds different than the English 'dollar'). As it's a touristy place and under the thumb of the US, you can expect some things to get fairly expensive.
Still, since there are so many free adventures to be had in PR, you don't have to spend a ton to have a good time. However, the tipping protocol is similar to that in the states, which means people expect a tip of around 15 percent or more (depending on the service quality).
Search For Flight Deals In September
While springtime might be the best time to go to Puerto Rico, September is when it'll be cheapest to fly, confirms Kayak. Flights can go as low as $89 according to their site. For reference, a flight from California to PR costs around $300 in springtime.
But a worthwhile note is that US citizens don't need a passport to fly to PR, which means traveling there could be more affordable than other Caribbean destinations that are technically international.
Don't Forget Your Bathing Suit For Beach Days
Puerto Rico obviously has tons of beaches to explore, but not all of them are sandy and calm. There are cliffside spots (great for views but not for lying out in the sun), but beaches like Condado and Atlantic top reviewers' lists for a reason. What are you waiting for? Get packing that bikini!