Puerto Rico Travel Tips: 28 Things You Need to Know Before You Go


What You Will Learn (Click to Expand)

I’m sure you’ve thought about visiting Puerto Rico before but never really looked into it. The more I told people about my trip to Puerto Rico, the more I realized people have misconceptions about this place. Sure, most people have heard of it, but only a select few know what the island has to offer. Sure the beaches are awesome, and the climate is perfect, but so are those in other places. There are many things that make Puerto Rico different from anywhere else in the world, and these things should make anyone interested want to visit the islands!

To make it easier to read, I divided the article into several sections, from things you need before leaving to getting there, what to eat and where to stay.

There is a lot to cover, so let’s jump in!

Preparation: Things to know before you travel to Puerto Rico

1. Do I need a visa to travel to Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico Travel Tips

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, so US citizens do not need a visa or passport to visit. But if you are planning on visiting any neighboring islands or jumping on a cruise ship, it’s a good idea to bring your passport with you.

All other visitors will have the same entry requirements as if they are entering the US mainland, with some visitors getting a 90-day entry and others needing a visa.

2. When is the best time to go to Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico is a beautiful Caribbean island destination, so you will have a blast any time of the year, except if there is a hurricane on the way. Don’t worry too much about those, the national weather system knows they are coming weeks in advance, so there is plenty of time to get to safety if needed.

The busy season is between December and April because that is when you find the best weather. But is it the best time to go? That is debatable, it depends if you are willing to put up with higher prices and crowds. For me, the best time to visit Puerto Rico is between March and early July when the weather is very good, there are fewer crowds, and you can find good deals on flights and hotels.

If you are trying to avoid the hurricane season at all costs, avoid going August through to the end of November.

No matter when you visit, there are always plenty of things to see and do in Puerto Rico!

You should also read my article on the best time to visit the island.

3. What language is spoken in Puerto Rico?

Both Spanish and English are the official languages of Puerto Rico, but Spanish is the most widely spoken. You can get away with speaking just English in the main tourist areas and big cities like San Juan. However, to best understand the culture, it is recommended that you learn some Spanish before the trip. A few hours on Duolingo will make your trip a lot more enjoyable.

4. How many days should I vacation in Puerto Rico?

Most people aim for four to five days when going to Puerto Rico, but you can have a lot of fun on just a weekend getaway or a 2-week extended trip, there is a lot to do and experience.

5. How is the cellphone coverage in Puerto Rico?

If you have a US mobile phone, it will work in Puerto Rico. However, you may experience some signal issues while exploring the center of the island. You should call your carrier and confirm there are no extra charges, just in case.

6. How to dress in Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico is a tropical paradise, and you will spend a lot of time in your bathing suit, but only on the beach. The locals will cover up when leaving the beach, so consider that when you are packing. Be prepared to dress up when walking through downtown, going to dinner, or the clubs.

7. What is the legal drinking age in Puerto Rico?

Unlike the mainland United States, the legal drinking age in Puerto Rico is just 18. You need an ID to buy drinks, and bars, gas stations, and convenience stores will refuse service to anyone under 18. Be aware that drinking is taken very seriously in Puerto Rico, and you may be fined for carrying an open container of alcohol in public. Although the legal age to drink is 18, some clubs will only allow you in if you are over 21, just like the rest of America.

Traveling to Puerto Rico

8. Where is the international airport in Puerto Rico?

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The San Juan Airport is the main airport in Puerto Rico and is close to the city center. Flights are relatively inexpensive from the US mainland, except around the holidays. There are several airlines that have direct flights from Miami, New York, and Dallas.

9. Can you go to Puerto Rico by cruise ship?

Puerto Rico is a very popular stop on many cruise itineraries through the Caribbean from Miami, Tampa, or Galveston. Cruise Ships stop at the San Juan Cruise Port Terminal, where over two million passengers pass every year.

The cruise ship terminal is located right outside of historic Old San Juan, so you will notice a significant uptick in tourists on the days that ships are there.

10. How safe is Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico is generally a safe place, but as with every other place in the world with high tourism, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions. Crime has increased since Hurricane Maria, so it is advised to travel in groups and not wander around at night. Police are present to help keep visitors safe, but use common sense and protect yourself.

11. Does Puerto Rico have a hurricane season?

Puerto Rico does experience a hurricane season that runs from July to November. However, Puerto Rico is rarely hit by hurricanes. If there is a hurricane heading that way, the advanced weather radars detect it weeks in advance, so you have nothing to fear.

When to visit Puerto Rico - Seasons and Hurricanes

12. What is the weather like in Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico has a tropical climate with two distinct seasons: the rainy season in summer and fall and the dry season in winter and spring. During the rainy season, Puerto Rico experiences frequent rain showers, but they come down hard and go away quickly. Temperatures in Puerto Rico vary between 78 and 90 degrees.

13. What is the best time of year to visit Puerto Rico?

The best time to visit Puerto Rico is between March and early July, in my opinion. With the peak season running from December through April, you still get good weather in March, but much better deals and fewer crowds.

Transportation in Puerto Rico

14. Can I drive in Puerto Rico?

Yes, absolutely! All you need is your US driver’s license, and you are good to go. International visitors can also use their international driver’s license with no issues. The roads in Puerto Rico can be very narrow, so be careful if you decide to get a rental.

15. How do I get around Puerto Rico?

There are a variety of transportation options available in Puerto Rico, but the best way to explore is by getting a rental car. You can pick up a rental car at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport.

If you are not planning on exploring much, you can just get a cab from the airport to the hotel and use ride-sharing apps for short distances in San Juan.

16. Do they use Miles or Kilometers in Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico uses both the imperial and the metric systems, which can get quite confusing. They use MPH for speed, but road markers are in KM. Also, they use liters, not gallons for gas, so double-check the prices, they are not as cheap as they seem.

Budgeting for your Trip to Puerto Rico

17. What is the currency in Puerto Rico?

Being a US territory, the currency of Puerto Rico is the US dollar. It’s very convenient for Americans and international visitors alike. Even if you are visiting from Europe or Asia, US dollars can be bought everywhere in the world to have some cash on hand for your trip.

18. Do they accept Credit Cards in Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico accepts all major credit cards for payment. However, if you are an international traveler, there may be fees associated with using a credit card in Puerto Rico. And remember to notify your bank before traveling, as it may flag transactions and lock your card.

19. How much cash should I bring to Puerto Rico?

When budgeting for a trip to Puerto Rico, you should expect to pay mainland US prices. The island is paradise, but a vacation in Puerto Rico will cost just as much as going to Miami or New York. You should also bring cash in small bills for tips and small purchases.

20. Should I tip in Puerto Rico?

Yes, you should definitely tip in Puerto Rico, as it is generally expected. Tipping amounts differ depending on the service, but you should tip $2-$10 for cabbies, bellmen, and hotel staff. The standard restaurant tip is 15%-20%.

Things to do in Puerto Rico

21. What are the most popular tourist destinations in Puerto Rico?

  • San Juan – The capital city is still the most popular spot on the island, with amazing beaches, restaurants, and nightlife
  • El Yunque National Forest – an amazing tropical rainforest full of fun activities
  • Ponce – A historic city with many attractions, including the Plaza de las Delicias and the fire station
  • La Parguera – A popular tourist destination for its Bioluminescent Bay
  • Culebra – A small island off the coast of Puerto Rico known for its clear waters and white sand beaches
  • Vieques – A small archipelago off the coast of Puerto Rico famous for its lush vegetation, clear waters, and beautiful beaches

Did you know Puerto Rico is not just an Island? It’s an entire archipelago with multiple small islands around it.

Also, check out this article on the Top Free Things to do in San Juan.

22. What are the best beaches in Puerto Rico?

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Flamenco Beach on Culebra is one of the best beaches in Puerto Rico and the world. Instagram-worthy, this beach alone is reason enough to visit the island.

If you’re looking for a secluded beach with crystal-clear waters, Luquillo Beach is a great option. This beach is located on the northeastern coast of Puerto Rico and is known for its dramatic cliffs, gorgeous views, and pristine waters.

23. What are the must-see places in Puerto Rico?

  • Visit the El Yunque National Rainforest – Filled with fun activities, this rainforest is a must-see in Puerto Rico because of its incredible biodiversity and lush foliage.
  • Take a guided tour of La Mina Falls – La Mina Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Puerto Rico and a must-see for any nature lover.
  • Visit the Arecibo Observatory – The Arecibo Observatory is world-renowned for its contributions to astronomy, making it a must-see for any science enthusiast.
  • View the Puerto Rico Museum of Art – The Puerto Rico Museum of Art houses some of the most important art collections in the Caribbean, making it a must-visit for any art lover.
  • Tour historical Ponce – Ponce is full of historical attractions, including Plaza de las Delicias and the old firehouse museum, making it a great place to learn about Puerto Rican history.
  • Go bioluminescent kayaking in La Parguera – La Parguera is one of the best places in Puerto Rico to see bioluminescence, making it a must-visit for any adventurous traveler.
  • Relax on the beaches – Puerto Rico has no shortage of beautiful beaches, making it the perfect place to relax and soak up some sun.
  • Visit the Kioskos de Luquillo – The Kioskos de Luquillo are a great way to spend an afternoon if you’re not into swimming or snorkeling, offering many shops and restaurants to explore.

Food and Drinks in Puerto Rico

24. What are the best local dishes in Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico has some of the best Caribbean food you can find, here are some of my favorites:

First, the most popular meal in Puerto Rico: mofongo. Try it at Cocina Abierta in Condado, San Juan.

Pernil (roasted pork) is another popular dish. La Casa del Tico in Condado is a great place to try it.

Bacalaotos (salted cod fritter) is also a local favorite. Wicked Lily in Condado, San Juan, is a great place to try this dish.

Always finish off with a delicious Tres Leches Cake, one of my favorite desserts in the world.

25. What are some must-try drinks in Puerto Rico?

Did you know Puerto Rico is the rum capital of the world? It is responsible for brewing more than half the rum consumed in the United States. The island has the largest rum distillery in the world: Casa Bacardi.

It comes as a surprise to nobody that the national drink of Puerto Rico is rum-based: the world-famous Piña Colada. Made with simple, local ingredients: pineapple juice, coconut water, rum, and ice, it’s the best drink to enjoy on a sunny beach.

If you enjoy the holiday flavors, you will love Coquito! Similar to eggnog, this amazing drink is made with rum, coconut milk, condensed milk, and spices. Each location has its own recipe, so be sure to try it in multiple places! Taste’s like Christmas!

26. Do they have good coffee in Puerto Rico?

Oh yes! Puerto Ricans love coffee, so there are many amazing coffee shops all over the island. The climate in Puerto Rico makes it perfect for growing coffee, so you get amazing local flavors.

Accommodations in Puerto Rico

27. What are the most popular areas to stay in Puerto Rico?

The most popular place to stay is San Juan, the capital city of Puerto Rico and home to two million people. The old town area has great restaurants and bars along cobblestone streets that make you feel like you’re walking through a European village. The beachfront area is also very nice for people watching and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Fajardo is a great place to stay if you are interested in adventures. It is located on the east side of Puerto Rico, near El Yunque National Forest, which has many hiking trails leading into the rainforest. This area has become popular recently because it’s only a few hours away from San Juan but still feels like an adventure into the wilderness. There are many great hotels in Fajardo that also offer water activities, such as kayaking or snorkeling.

If you are interested in the stars, try Arecibo. It’s located on Puerto Rico’s north coast near the Arecibo Observatory, which has one of the largest radio telescopes in the world!

When planning your trip to Puerto Rico, make sure to check out my Puerto Rico Packing List to ensure you don’t forget a thing.

28. Should I stay in a Hotel or Airbnb in Puerto Rico?

Honestly, both are great options, so it all depends on your budget and personal preference. I prefer Airbnbs because I like to support the local people, and they usually offer more space and a kitchen area.

There are plenty of hotels on the island as well, both luxury and budget-friendly, so you are spoiled for choice.

If you are looking for a unique place to stay, try paradores, locally-owned inns around the countryside. You will experience the history, cuisine, and cultural diversity of the islands for an amazing price.

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Which one is your favorite Puerto Rico travel tips?

And that’s it for my top 28 things to know before you visit Puerto Rico.

I hope that these travel tips help out when you’re planning your trip to Puerto Rico! I’ve tried to include some information on the city of San Juan, as well as some of the more natural areas.

I wish you a safe and fun trip, but before you go, can you please let me know:

Have you ever visited Puerto Rico before?

What activity are you excited about the most on your next trip? 

Let me know in the comments below!

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