Puerto Rico Vacation Planning & Travel Guide

Old San Juan Puerto Rico Street

Planning a trip to Puerto Rico? Well to help you make the most of your Puerto Rico vacation, we’ve created a Puerto Rico trip planner that is packed with things to know before you visit Puerto Rico. Consider this your Puerto Rico travel guide to the ultimate Caribbean vacation.

From the best time to visit Puerto Rico, to how to get around and travel budgets, you’ll be set for some fun in the Puerto Rican sun!

Puerto Rico Vacation Guide

Visiting Puerto Rico – Know Before You Go

Now that you have our Puerto Rico vacation itinerary, we thought we’d give some helpful trip planning tips and travel check list items. There are definitely a few things you want to be aware of before traveling to Puerto Rico.

  • Capital City | San Juan
  • Language | Official language is Spanish, but English is widely spoken
  • Currency | $ USD
  • Electrical Outlet | North American Plug (Need one? Get it here)
  • Drinking Age | 18 years old
  • Tipping | Do it. 15 – 20% is custom, expected and appreciated
  • Time Zone | Atlantic Standard aka an hour ahead of the US eastern time zone
Old San Juan Cemetery

Where is Puerto Rico Located

The island of Puerto Rico is located 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) off the southeastern coast of Florida of the United States. Apart of the Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico is easily accessible from the United States via flight making it a short escape to paradise.

Puerto Rico Airports – Which Is For Me?

Depending on where you are coming from and what you want to see and do on your Puerto Rico vacation, you can plan to fly into one of three of Puerto Rico’s International Airports.

  • Luis Munoz Marin International Airport (Airport Code: SJU)
    • Want to visit Old San Juan? Have a cruise departing from Puerto Rico? This is the airport to fly into.
  • Mercedita/Ponce International Airport (Airport Code: PSE)
    • If you are wanting to visit the historic town of Ponce, in the south of Puerto Rico, then this is your preferred airport.
  • Rafael Hernandez International Airport
    • Looking to explore the west cost of Puerto Rico to visit the beach and surf towns of Rincon and Aguadilla? Then this airport is for you.

Do Americans Need a Passport To Go To Puerto Rico?

Leave those passports at home! US Citizens do not need a passport to visit Puerto Rico. Your drivers license will do just fine.

Wondering about your cell phone reception and coverage too? Well let us help answer that for ya! Your American cell phone data plan will work in Puerto Rico no problem.

So there is no need to purchase an international plan. Wooty woot, are we right?!

Old San Juan Flag Door

What Is The Best Time To Visit Puerto Rico

One of the most important steps in planning any trip is finding the best time to go. Just like the other islands in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico has a “hurricane season.” And when we say season, it’s pretty much half the year.

  • Puerto Rico Hurricane Season: Officially kicking off June 1st and going till about November 30th. If you want to avoid hurricane season, keep reading….
  • The best time to visit Puerto Rico is from December to April. However, the winter months tend to be the most expensive time to visit Puerto Rico. During this time, Puerto Rico gets an influx of tourists from North America trying to escape the cold, winter weather.
  • Cheapest Time To Visit Puerto Rico: If you can’t swing a winter getaway, the spring months, March – May, are great times to visit. Sunny days, hot weather and the spring months tends to be a bit cheaper than the winter months. If you’re a budget traveler, visiting Puerto Rico in the spring is for you.
Puerto Rico Sunset

Getting Around Puerto Rico

Rent A Car

If you’re planing to visit a few places in Puerto Rico on your vacation, then renting a car is must. Renting a car is the easiest way to get from one side of the island to the other.

Plan to pick up a your rental car from the airport once you land and be on your way, driving care-free around the island!

TIP: Parking is near impossible in Old San Juan. Check with your Old San Juan accommodation to see what parking options they provide.

Driving in Puerto Rico Tips

  • Drive on the right side of the road
  • Distances are in kilometers, speed limits are in mph and gas is sold in liters, not gallons
  • Road conditions are fine, not great, but fine
  • Rules of the road are similar to those of the US
  • Road signs are in Spanish, so be sure to brush up on your Spanish
  • Try to avoid driving in Old San Juan – it’s a maze of small, one way streets and loads of people

Uber

When we went to Puerto Rico in January, everything we read said Uber was non-existent in Puerto Rico. Well, we’re here to tell you Uber in Puerto Rico is VERY much in existence, especially in the San Juan area.

Uber was one of the transportation options we took to get around Puerto Rico. We had no issues with scheduling a Uber in Old San Juan and it’s surrounding areas like Santurce and San Juan’s International Airpot.

Taxi

There are loads of Taxi’s around Puerto Rico. While we never took one, we saw plenty of them offering rides to tourists and locals.

Public Transportation

In Old San Juan and it’s surrounding areas are serviced by Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses. What is that you ask? Well it’s a public bus that has routes throughout town and to the beaches close to Old San Juan.

Culebra Jeep Rental

Areas In Puerto Rico To Visit

Wondering where to go in Puerto Rico on your vacation? The charm and colorful houses of Old San Juan is a popular choice amongst tourists making Old San Juan the shinning star in Puerto Rico tourism.

However, if you’re looking to explore other places on the island, we have a few tourist attractions and places to visit just below.

East Coast of Puerto Rico

  • Culebra and Vieques – Two of the best islands off the east coast of Puerto Rico are the islands of Culebra and Vieques. Culebra is home to one of the best beaches in the world (Flamenco Beach) and Vieques is home to Mosquito Bay – a bioluminescent bay. Both islands offer amazing snorkeling and scuba diving!
  • El Yunque National Rainforest – Located on the eastern side of the island of Puerto Rico, El Yunque is unlike any other place on the island. This subtropical rainforest is home to waterfalls and loads of hiking, making it perfect for any outdoor enthusiast.
  • Condado & Isle Verde – Located along the beaches and close to Old San Juan, Condado and Isle Verde are great options for tourists wanting to stay at a beach front accommodation and relax on the beach but also explore Old San Juan.

West Coast of Puerto Rico

  • Rincon – The ultimate surf town and whale watching spot on Puerto Rico is the west cost town of Rincon. Home to amazing sunsets and chill beach vibes, the west coast of Puerto Rico is the surf capital of the Caribbean.

The South Coast of Puerto Rico

  • Ponce –  Puerto Rico’s cultural center and hub of culture is in the southern city of Ponce. From European art collections and architecture to calm beaches, Ponce is a great addition to your Puerto Rico vacation.

Central Mountains of Puerto Rico

  • Adjuntas – Looking for a scenic drive in the mountains. Maybe a hike? How about a visit to a working coffee plantation? Well then Adjuntas in central Puerto Rico is for you.

It goes without saying that Puerto Rico is home to amazing sites. The above places will give you a taste of some of the best things there are to do in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico Flag Street

Puerto Rico Travel Budget

We’re sad to say, but Puerto Rico is not the cheapest destination you can visit, especially if your spending majority of your time in San Juan. To get a general idea of pricing to help you plan your trip to Puerto Rico, check out the below travel budget…

Food

  • Food Kiosks / Street Food: This is the cheap food. You can expect to pay around $2 – $10 per meal/snack
  • Restaurants: Now this is totally dependent on where you go, but on average, you can expect to pay anywhere from the $10 – $25 per meal

TIP: Something we always do when traveling is split food. Order an app and entree, then split it. This ensures a few things – 1) you don’t let food go to waste 2) you’re not uncomfortably full and 3) you save on your per-person, per-meal cost.

Alcohol

  • Beer: A cold Medalla (Puerto Rico’s official beer) will set you back $1.50 – $2 per can
  • Cocktails: Puerto Rico has a thriving, and we do mean thriving, cocktail scene. Expect to pay $10 – $12 per cocktail. Full disclaimer, they’re worth every penny.

Tip: Puerto Ricans are firm believers in happy hours. If you are looking to save some cash, booze it up during happy hour.

Pina Colada's at Barrachina

Accommodations

Okay, to be fair, this is totally dependent on the type of traveler you are and where you are staying in Puerto Rico for your vacation. For the sake of giving you a general idea of price, we’re assuming you’re staying in Old San Juan.

  • Basic Accommodations: $50 – $100 per night
  • Mid-Range: $100 – $200 per night
  • Luxury: $200 + per night

Book Now: Check out the latest accommodations & prices in Puerto Rico!

A general rule of thumb, no matter where you go, the farther you get from tourist hotspots, the cheaper everything gets. Go on then, get your “off the beaten path” adventure on if you’re looking to save some cash!

Old San Juan Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Beaches

Now, it’s no secret that Puerto Rico is home to some amazing beaches. Below are a few fan favorites of some of the best beaches in Puerto Rico. A visit to a beach is a Caribbean vacation must, right?

Our personal favorite? Flamenco Beach on Culebra island.

  • Flamenco Beach, Culebra Island (Northeast Puerto Rico)
  • La Monserrate, Luquillo (Northeast Puerto Rico)
  • Sun Bay Beach, Vieques Island (Northeast Puerto Rico)
  • La Playuela (Playa Sucia), Cabo Roja (Southwestern Puerto Rico)
  • Playa Borinquen, Aguadilla (West Cost Puerto Rico)
  • Crash Boat Beach, Rincon (West Cost Puerto Rico)
  • Jobos Beach, Isabella (Northwestern Puerto Rico)
Flamenco Beach

Wanting to visit one of the best beaches in the world? Learn how to get to Flamenco Beach.

Puerto Rico Festivals

If you’re wanting to experience a festival during your Puerto Rico vacation, then be sure to check out two of Puerto Rico’s biggest festivals – Carnival in Ponce (Carnaval Ponceño) and San Sebastian Street Festival in Old San Juan.

Ponce Carnival is celebrated the last week of February in southern Puerto Rican city of Ponce. Every day, you can expect loud and colorful parades and massive street parities.

San Sebastian Street Festival is celebrated the third week in January in Old San Juan. This is the art festival of all art festivals in San Juan. Plaza’s are booming with local artists, live music is being played and endless parades and artists displaying their works lay waiting for you.

San Sebastian Street Festival is a party that starts in the day and doesn’t stop. Both festivals are basically the Caribbean Mardi Gras aka a great time!

Puerto Rico has loads of festivals throughout the year so be sure to check what’s going on while you’re there. You may never know what celebration awaits you.

Santurce Murals

About Puerto Rico History & Culture

First discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, Puerto Rico soon became an important military outpost for the Spanish in the Caribbean.

With the Spanish colonizing the island, soon with it came slavery. Africans and the native Taíno and Carib Indians all contributed to the cultural influences that shaped modern day Puerto Rico.

The Spanish lost their control of Puerto Rico in 1898 under the Treaty of Paris. Ever since then, Puerto Rico has been a territory of the United States.

If you are visiting Puerto Rico for the first time, it’s centuries of cultural influence especially comes alive in the countries cuisine. Speaking of food, what a perfect segue into our next category…

Must Eat Puerto Rican Food

Puerto Rican food is an amazing blend of Spanish, African, Taíno, and American influences. The cuisine is not spicy but has tantalizing spices likes oregano, garlic, parsley and cilantro.

Some top Puerto Ricans dishes you must try are just below…

  • Arroz con Gandules – The national dish of Puerto Rico is made up of rice with pigeon peas and pork
  • Mofongo – Made from green plantains, chicharrones (fried pork skin) and garlic then topped with meat or seafood. It’s heaven in a dish.
  • Empanadillas – Baked or fried pastry puffs packed with fillings like meat, cheese or veggies.
  • Lechon – If there is one thing Puerto Rico does right, it’s Pork. Lechon is a whole pig roasted over an open fire. Get you some.
  • Tostones – Twice-fried plantain slices. Think of these like chips. Tostones are usually accompanied by a dip of some sort.
La Bombonera's Mallorca

Outside of food, no trip to Puerto Rico is complete without a Pina Colada! The Pina Colada was invented in Puerto Rico after all! Oh and just to be clear, the main ingredient to a proper Pina Colada is Puerto Rican Rum!

With the Bacardi Family calling Puerto Rico home for centuries, you’ll find no shortage of rum on Puerto Rico.

La Casita Pina Colada

Rum’s not the only libation to consume on Puerto Rico. A good cup of coffee is a must as well! Puerto Rico is home to some amazing coffee plantations. A good cup of Puerto Rican coffee is the best way to start any day.

The Best Puerto Rico Day Trips

We get it, you may want to make a home base and do a few little excursions and day trips from your accommodation.

Whether you want to swim in a bioluminescent bay, get off the beaten path and hike to a waterfall or spend a day snorkeling through ocean waters, Puerto Rico has a little something for everyone.

  • Experience the Magic of Bioluminescent Bays: There are only five in the world and three of them can be found in Puerto Rico! Swim through waters that glow in the dark, truly something only a few can say they get to experience.
  • Hike in El Yunque Rainforest: Wanting a day of adventure? Then a hike through Puerto Rico’s rainforest is for you! Swim in natural pools and experience the beauty of Puerto Rico’s flora and fauna.
  • Snorkle and Boat Cruise To Culebra: One of the best islands around Puerto Rico, a beautiful boat ride and snorkeling adventure is the perfect day trip to feel right at home in the Caribbean.
  • Sip Puerto Rico Rum: You should probably see what all the fuss is about and taste some of the best rum around with a Bacardi rum tasting at the Casa Bacardi distillery.

For a full list of other fun day trips, you can check out the latest excursions, reviews and prices here. There is loads of fun things to do in Puerto Rico!

Puerto Rico Scuba Diving

Where To Stay In Puerto Rico

Whether your heart is set on the historic European charm of Ponce, the salty air and beach bars to the west in places like Rincon or in colorful Old San Juan, Puerto Rico has a little something for everyone.

For more accommodation choices and to find the best places to stay in Puerto Rico, you can check the latest place and prices here to secure an unforgettable Puerto Rican accommodation.

Booking.com

Puerto Rico, Post Hurricane Maria and Earthquakes

It’s been a few years since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and while majority of the island has recovered, there are still parts of the island, especially the non-tourist areas, that are still struggling.

Puerto Rico is a resilient country that is used to natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, but it’s during the aftermath when they need tourists more than ever.

If you are worried about visiting Puerto Rico, check in with your accommodation and check the latest stories coming out of Puerto Rico.

Just like other destinations, we highly recommend getting travel insurance before visiting Puerto Rico. We use World Nomads and it’s definitely come in handy a time or two for us!

WANT MORE INFORMATION ON PUERTO RICO?!

13 Amazing Things To Do in Old San Juan

Things To Do In Culebra – One of Puerto Rico’s Best Islands

A Guide To The Best Bar in San Juan, Puerto Rico

The Best Places To Eat in San Juan, Puerto Rico


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Happy Travels,

– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)

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