If your family loves spending time in nature and the outdoors, Puerto Rico needs to be on your travel radar. Puerto Rico has some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, but there are also a variety of activities around the island. If you’re looking for adventures in Puerto Rico, you won’t be disappointed. Of course there’s Old San Juan with its historical sites, but there are a ton of experiences sure to please any adventurer’s heart.
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With mountains, tropical rainforests, uninhabited islands, and many more natural wonders, the Island of Enchantment has plenty of things to do for nature lovers wanting to explore outside of the main cities.
Whether you’re looking for a beach and outdoor adventure vacation or you simply want to see beyond the tropical beaches of Puerto Rico, these are the ultimate Puerto Rico destinations the whole family will enjoy!
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Common Questions About Puerto Rico
What is there to do in Puerto Rico besides San Juan?
There’s quite a bit actually! Many visitors spend their time focusing on the attractions near Old San Juan like Castillo San Felipe del Morro and the Bacardi Rum Factory, but there’s a world of wonder beyond the cobblestone streets.
Families can spend weeks on the island trying everything from the longest zipline (“The Monster” at Toro Verde in Puerto Rico) to learning how to surf in Isabela or Rincón. There’s also hiking in caves and swimming in waterfalls, and that’s only the beginning! If you’re looking for adventures in Puerto Rico, you won’t be disappointed!
Is driving in Puerto Rico difficult?
I have to be honest, Puerto Rico is not my favorite place to drive, but highway driving is quite manageable.
In the busy city centers you will need to pay close attention because distracted drivers are a real thing. I’ve seen people completely turning around to talk to people in the back seat and looking at their phones instead of the road. Divided lanes are merely a suggestion. Just be sure to be extra alert when driving.
Exploring the rest of the island is fairly easy if you stick to the major highways. If you’re heading off the beaten path in Puerto Rico, there might be some off roading. Consider renting a jeep or something with four-wheel drive capabilities.
Where should you go for adventures in Puerto Rico?
You’re in luck, there are adventures throughout Puerto Rico and even on some of it’s 143 islands and islets. Yes, you read that right. There are over a hundred islands that make up Puerto Rico, but only three are inhabited: Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques.
A popular Puerto Rico excursion is to take a plane or boat to Vieques or Culebra island. You can spend the day or a couple of days exploring their pristine beaches and charming towns.
On the main island you’ll find different regions and different facets of Puerto Rican culture. Once you leave the San Juan area, you’ll find mountain towns, fabulous festivals, and a variety of local cuisines. If you want to get to know the real Puerto Ricans, head away from the tourist zones and find your adventure.
1. La Parguera
Located in the southwestern part of Puerto Rico, in Lajas, La Parguera is a dream come true for those seeking water adventures in Puerto Rico. The main attraction here is diving to explore “La Pared”, an ocean wall stretching one hundred feet below the surface.
This popular diving location features amazing marine life, including manta rays, turtles, large crabs, and other beautiful fish. If you pay close attention, you might even spot some dolphins, so be sure to carry along an underwater camera! The low currents make this dive suitable for all levels of divers.
If you’re not a fan of deep-diving, don’t worry, as there’s also snorkeling available around the shallow reefs. This is one of the best snorkeling spots on the island (other good places are Culebra, Vieques, and Icacos). You can also take a kayak tour to explore the mangroves or hike on the beach and take in the spectacular views.
The coolest activity at Parguera takes place at night, as you’ll witness one of the most exciting natural phenomena: bioluminescence! In other words, you’ll be able to see the water glow in the dark.
This is one of three bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico, and the only one you can actually swim in. If you prefer not to swim, you can also see this La Parguera by kayak or a glass-bottomed boat.
2. Cabo Rojo
The Cabo Rojo peninsula looks nothing like the rest of Puerto Rico with its dramatic limestone cliffs and crystal clear waters. In our opinion, it’s one of the most amazing places on the island.
Exploring this area feels like another world, and it’s only three hours from the San Juan airport. Visitors to this area love exploring the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge with over 400 acres of mangrove forests and several hundred bird and plant species.
It’s also home to the Cabo Rojo salt flats which cover over 1,200 acres. Their pink waters make for some fabulous photos.
It’s also fun to stop at Faro Los Morrillos (a lighthouse with an amazing observation deck), then walk to El Puente de Piedra to see a natural stone bridge. From here you can make your way to the beach behind the lighthouse, Playuela (also known as Playa Sucia). This gorgeous cove beach is perfect for a picnic (be sure to bring your own as their aren’t any services here) and swimming.
3. Río Camuy Cave Park
Set in the northwestern part of Puerto Rico’s main island, Río Camuy is an awesome destination for adventure lovers. This park features a cavern system that is more than 10 miles long, with over 220 caves for you to explore freely.
The limestone caverns are part of a giant network of underground waterways which were naturally carved out by the Río Camuy. This river is said to be the third-largest underground river in the world.
Even though the cave system in Camuy was discovered by a group of archeologists in 1958, there is evidence that it was previously explored hundreds of years ago and that there’s still a big part yet left undiscovered! We recommend booking a guided hike to explore these natural wonders.
4. El Yunque National Rainforest
Have you ever imagined exploring a rainforest while on an island in the Caribbean Sea? Well, it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds!
Just a quick 45-minute drive from San Juan takes you to the only tropical rainforest in the United States, El Yunque National Forest. Spanning 29,000 acres, it is smaller than most other rainforests, but it is one of the most diverse ones in the entire world.
A favorite activity here is hiking the trails that lead to one of the many natural pools. While hiking, keep your eyes wide open to catch some gorgeous views. Soak in the natural goodness at El Yunque, which might include sights of woodpeckers, coqui frogs, and mango trees!
If you would rather book a guided tour, there are plenty of companies that allow you to explore El Yunque with a local guide. We’ve done this hiking experience, explored on horseback with Carabalí Rainforest Adventure Park and zip lined through the treetops with Rainforest Zipline Park.
Our favorite zipline in Puerto Rico is Campo Rico Zip lines, and we even considered exploring by ATV in Puerto Rico. No matter how your family chooses to explore El Yunque, we’re sure it will be an unforgettable experience!
5. Piñones Forest
Piñones Forest is located east of San Juan. Like most of Puerto Rico’s coastal forests, it is composed mainly of mangroves that are the home of all types of marine life and shoreline critters.
What makes a visit to Piñones so unique is a boardwalk that allows you to walk through the mangroves and observe the reefs, dunes, islets, seagrass meadows, and salt flats in the area.
Keep an eye out for sea turtles, crabs, and a lot of birds, as well as a large variety of trees, all surrounded by fabulous ocean views.
6. Vieques Island and Mosquito Bay
The island of Vieques lies about six miles away from Puerto Rico’s main island. This is one of the prettiest islands in the Caribbean, with beautiful beaches, jaw-dropping views, and sand so soft it doesn’t feel real.
The best way to reach Vieques from San Juan is by plane, as it’s an easy 25-minute flight. Another option is to drive to Ceiba (about an hour away), and then take a 30-minute ferry to Vieques.
One of the best things about Vieques is that it is home to Mosquito Bay, the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world! This wonderful natural phenomenon is quasi-magical, so consider spending the night to be able to see it from a kayak or a glass-bottomed boat (swimming is not allowed here during bioluminescence) for a once in a lifetime experience.
In the morning, consider a day trip to nearby Culebra, another stunning island with breathtaking beauty and an active reef to explore. It’s also home to Flamenco Beach, consistently voted one of the ten best beaches in the world.
7. Toro Negro State Forest
If you love chasing waterfalls and swimming in idyllic natural pools, then Toro Negro Forest is the place for you!
Known as Puerto Rico’s highest cloud forest, Toro Negro is actually a culmination of different forests that cover several towns in the Central Mountain Range. Put together, they add up to 6945 acres of landscape that is made for families seeking adventures in Puerto Rico.
One of the main highlights here is the Doña Juana Waterfall (Cascada Chorro de Doña Juana), an amazing cascade made up of three smaller waterfalls. Best of all? You can swim in the natural pool that forms at the bottom!
After visiting the falls, hike a bit more and explore the area in search of orchids, birds, and wildlife.
8. Jobos Bay National Estuarine Reserve
If you love the outdoors and are fond of visiting off-the-beaten-track locations away from the tourist hotspots, Jobos Bay Reserve fits the bill. During your visit, you’ll get the chance to see various ecosystems, including mangrove forests, wetlands, seagrass beds, lagoons, and dry forests.
Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve serves as a protection area for several species, including the endangered Brown pelicans, Yellow-shouldered blackbirds, Hawksbill turtles, Peregrine falcons, and West Indian manatees.
As a tip, make sure to check their official web page ahead of your visit for the exact dates they are open to visitors. Due to the nature of their protection activities, sometimes the reserve closes its doors to the general public.
9. Guanica State Forest
Set on the southwestern side of the mainland, Guanica State Forest is the largest dry forest in the entire world and the best-preserved one in the entire Caribbean region.
It is home to several hundreds of species of plants, including several which are considered endemic to the region and endangered. A visit to this unique dry forest is a one-of-a-kind experience.
Even though it’s a dry forest and receives only about 30 inches of rain a year (considerably less than the 200 inches that fall on El Yunque annually), a visit to Guanica is far from desert-like. In fact, it’s recognized for its verdant surroundings and brimming wildlife!
One of the best things to do at Guanica is bird-watching, with over half of Puerto Rico’s birds calling the forest their home. Moreover, hiking is a dream here, with various trails taking visitors to some of the most secluded beaches in Puerto Rico!
10. Cabezas de San Juan
If you’re looking for mangroves, coral reefs decorating the shores, a bioluminescent lagoon, dry forests, and idyllic beaches, then you need to head to Cabezas de San Juan.
Set near the town of Fajardo on the northeastern tip of the island, Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve feels like paradise on earth.
The best way to get the most out of your visit? By taking one of the area tours. You can explore be on a bike, take a small group kayak tour of the bio bay, or even ride a trolley if you don’t want to break a sweat.
Education is a top priority for the park, so each tour guide is a history and nature specialist who will teach you everything you need to know about the place you’re visiting, including its ecosystems, wildlife, and varied landscapes.
11. Caguas Botanical Garden and Carite Rainforest
If you want to learn more about life in Puerto Rico during the Spanish occupation, take a stroll through Caguas Botanical Garden. It will give you a good insight into the island’s colonial past.
Set in what remains of Hacienda San Jose, an old sugar plantation in the town of Lajas, this beautiful botanical garden sprawls on 60 acres of land which you can freely explore during your visit to learn more about Puerto Rico’s rich flora.
Nearby, don’t miss the Tornasol Canyon Adventure located in the Carite Rainforest, just 45-minutes from Caguas. Here you can try zip-lining, hiking through a rain forest, and rappelling 80 feet into El Salto waterfall at the bottom of a canyon. This is one of the best hidden gems in Puerto Rico, and now you know about it too!
12. River tubing in a cave
For the ultimate adventure, head to Utuado in the central mountain region known as La Cordillera Central. Here you will find an opportunity to go cave tubing on an underground river and swim in natural pools.
If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then hiking, caving, and rappelling are also fun to try. Whichever you choose, we are sure you will have a great time!
If you’re still looking for more adventures in Puerto Rico, we highly recommend checking out the latest edition of Moon Puerto Rico by Suzanne Van Atten. She has tons of great suggestions and it’s the perfect travel guide for exploring my favorite Caribbean island!