Note: Due to Hurricane Maria, many attractions remain closed to the public.
El Yunque National Forest
At 29,000 acres, Puerto Rico’s El Yunque is the only tropical rain forest in the US national forest system. There are over 240 species of plants and trees in El Yunque, as well as many species of birds, reptiles and amphibians.
According to ancient Indians, the benevolent spirit Yokahu reigns on his mountain throne and protects the Puerto Rican people. Forming a single, crescent shaped band on the windward side of the El Yunque mountains, the forest offers hiking trails, Mt. Britton Tower and a cool splash in La Mina Falls.
Rio Camuy Cave Park
The Parque Nacional de las Cavernas del Río Camuy, also called the Rio Camuy Cave Park, is a cave system in Puerto Rico. These caves hold the world’s third largest subterranean river, the Rio Camuy. The 268-acre park is one of the most popular natural attractions in Puerto Rico.
The tour is very informative and involves a mini train taking you from the visitor center down to the entrance of the caves. A guide will walk you through some of the caves and sinkholes. Some parts are slippery and I would suggest holding onto the railings provided. There are lots of bats, hence there can be a strong odor in some places. Also, watch out for any bat poop that may come land on your head!
There are only five bioluminescent bays in the world, and three of them are in Puerto Rico. They are Mosquito Bay, Laguna Grande and La Parguera. I went kayaking in Laguna Grande with Eco Adventures, Fajardo. Great tour and highly recommended!
The bioluminescence is caused by single-celled microorganisms known as dinoflagellates. When the water is disturbed, these microorganisms light up in the water. These flashes of blue-green color are what give the bay their unique glow.
Tip: Try to pick a new moon night. It’s more easier to see the sparks of light in the water.
La Monserrate Beach, also known as Luquillo Beach, is one of the most popular beaches in Puerto Rico. It’s pristine and clean, has cafetarias, public bathrooms with showers, and access for individuals with special needs.
Jardin Botanico of Puerto Rico
The San Juan Botanical Garden is completely free and is definitely worth visiting if you are in the San Juan area. This beautiful 300 acre urban garden is dedicated to the conservation and research of native, exotic as well as endangered species of plants. It’s a wonderful place to escape both the heat and bustle of mainland Puerto Rico.
The Ruta Panorámica, also known as the Ruta Panorámica Luis Muñoz Marin, is a167 mile long network of 40 roads that connect the island of Puerto Rico from west to east along the Cordillera Central mountain range.
P.S. For those who suffer from motion sickness, you might want to take your medicines before starting this scenic drive. There plenty of bends and curves as you travel up and down the Cordillera Central.
Bacardi Rum Distillery
Nobody visits Puerto Rico without expericing Bacardi Rum! Casa Bacardy is the world’s largest premium rum distillery.
There are four factory tours that are available at the Bacardi Rum Distillery. All tours have charges. I went for the Historical Tour. It was informative, but nothing I couldn’t possibly read off from a Google search. So, it seemed kind of pointless to pay for something that I could easily read for free. Just my personal opinion though.
1. Historical Tour
2. Rum Tasting Tour
3. Mixology Classes
4. Private Rum Tasting with Food Tour
Old San Juan
Far from the pristine beaches and fancy resort hotels, Old San Juan preserves nearly 500 years of Puerto Rican history. The beautiful colonial architecture, the cobbled streets and bright colors all add to the appeal of one of Puerto Rico’s top attractions. Set aside at least one day to walk around the walled city. There are many walking tours, though I just preferred to do it myself.
If you are pressed for time, you can just visit Old San Juan’s massive fortresses, El Morro and Castillo de San Cristobal. They have guarded Puerto Rico for many centuries and the panoramic views of the ocean from the ramparts are phenomenal.
Here are a complete list of historic landmarks that I visited (get a good walking map!):
Cementario de San Juan
Catedral de San Juan
Capilla del Cristo
Asilo de Beneficencia
Cuartel de Ballaja
Paseo de la Princesa
Plaza del Quinto Centenario
Plaza de Colon
Plaza Felisa Rincon de Gautier
Plaza de San Jose
Plaza de la Rogativa
Plaza de Armas
Puerte de San Juan
Fuerte San Cristobal
Castillo San Felipe El Morro