There are so many things to do with kids in Puerto Rico, it is the perfect destination for families. Easy to reach from the United States, no passport necessary, beautiful beaches, delicious food, a rich history, and friendly people, make this tropical island a popular destination. As a Puerto Rican I may be a little biased, but I think families will not be disappointed booking a vacation to the island because it offers something for everyone.
1. Visit the forts in San Juan
There are two historic forts in San Juan, Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro) and Castillo San Cristobal. Spain built these fortifications to secure their position in the Caribbean and to protect the city of San Juan. The forts are similar, yet different enough that kids will enjoy exploring them both. El Morro is the larger of the two and you can either take the free trolley between them or walk, they are about a mile apart. Buy a pass that covers a visit to both sites, the kids will learn something new at each fort and enjoy exploring the historic grounds.
2. Hike through El Yunque rainforest and play in the waterfalls
El Yunque is the only rainforest in the United States forest system, and in my book, that fact alone requires a visit. Feel free to explore on your own or go with a guided tour. We took a tour that took us to Mt. Britton tower for an expansive overview, allowed us to explore the waterfalls (we swam in Mina Falls, which was amazing), hiked the trails (skip the stroller if you can because the path is pretty narrow), and enjoyed an authentic meal at a roadside café when we were done. Most hotels can book a tour for you, or you can find one on your own.
3. Shop for souvenirs and savor ice cream in Old San Juan
My kids hate shopping, unless we are buying souvenirs for them. I love strolling through Old San Juan and exploring the local stores and colorful old buildings. When the kids start whining, we just head for the nearest ice cream store, and in Old San Juan, we really love the Ben & Jerry’s on Calle del Cristo. The store also serves sandwiches and coffee and when you throw in free wi-fi, this is a win-win for the entire family.
4. Go kayaking in a bioluminescent bay
There are three bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico. One in Fajardo, one in Vieques, and one in Lajas. Bioluminescent bays will glow in the dark when the dinoflagellates (organisms) in the water are disturbed. We went on a tour where we paddled a two person kayak out to a lagoon (Laguna Grande in Fajardo) and saw the water glow when we splashed in the water. The younger kids can ride with mom or dad, the older kids can actually help paddle and steer the kayak. This does take place at night and it can take awhile to row out to the lagoon, so make sure your kids are up for it before you pay for your tour.
5. Try new Puerto Rican foods
Since my kids are part Puerto Rican, I like to think they like the food because it’s in their blood. However, there’s a part of me that knows they love the food because it is DELICIOUS! Our new favorite is the Mallorca sandwich (see below from Pinky’s in Condado), but they also love platanos (fried plantains), chicharrones de pollo (Puerto Rican fried chicken), and arroz con pollo (chicken and rice). Kids will not be disappointed when trying Puerto Rican foods because many of the dishes contain familiar foods such as rice, beans, and chicken.
6. Spend the day at the beach – sunning, surfing, or snorkeling
Obviously, Puerto Rico is an island, so the options for beaches are endless. Many hotels have private beaches, but there are public beaches as well. Luquillo Beach is our favorite place to spend a day playing in the sand, but it’s about 40 minutes outside of San Juan. The best surfing spots are located near Rincón on the northwest side of the island and that’s where you will find most of the beginning surfer classes. If the kids want to go snorkeling, your best bet is to head to Vieques or Culebra, via ferry or plane, or take a snorkel tour out of Fajardo. We did not have a chance to go snorkeling and it is the one thing our kids really wanted to do. Guess we’ll save it for next time!
7. Have a ziplining adventure
Opportunities abound on the island for ziplining adventures. We discovered an amazing tour not far from San Juan (20 minutes driving) that included seven ziplines, suspended bridges, and a Puerto Rican meal as the grand finale. Tailored for visitors aged 8 to 68, Campo Rico Ziplining was one of our favorite experiences on the island. There are other ziplining companies to choose from, but we chose this one based on location and we were not disappointed.
8. Fly a kite on the grounds of El Morro and enjoy a shaved ice (piraguas)
There is a gorgeous lawn in front of El Morro fort, and locals and tourists alike enjoy flying kites and frolicking on the grass. Families have picnics, photographers capture quinciñeras (15 year old birthday parties for girls), and children run endlessly attempting to fly their kites higher and higher. Kites are available for purchase from vendors around the perimeter and when they’re done running around, head to a vendor selling shaved ice from a cart (piraguas). They come in a variety of flavors; tropical ones like guava, papaya, and coconut or traditional favorites like grape, strawberry, and cherry. So much better than a snow cone and the kids will love them!
9. Explore the Children’s Museum (Museo del Niño)
Located just outside San Juan in the Carolina neighborhood, the Museo del Niño is not your typical children’s museum. With over 100 hands-on activities covering three floors of exhibition space, no child will have a chance to even think about being bored. There’s a mini zoo, a playground, and Go Kart ride for kids of all ages to enjoy. Outside the building is a full size American Airlines plane that children can explore from the cockpit to the tail. Plan on spending at least a few hours there because the kids will never want to leave!
10. Hang out at the hotel pool
When you’ve exhausted all of the other activities that Puerto Rico has to offer, head to your hotel pool. The kids can entertain themselves in the water for hours.
I hope you’ve found some new ideas for things to enjoy in Puerto Rico with kids. Do you have something that you would recommend?