The best areas to stay in Puerto Rico for first-timers are the neighborhoods of Old San Juan, Isla Verde, Culebra Island, Rincon, Ponce, Santurce, Vieques Island, Rio Grand, and Isabela. These are some of the most beautiful places to stay in Puerto Rico, and offers a wide range of accommodations for all budget travelers.
This blog will tell you all about the where to stay in Puerto Rico for the first time, for couples, families, without a car, all-inclusive, as well as the safest places to stay in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico is an island in the Caribbean Sea, just off the coast of the Virgin Islands, that is an unincorporated territory of the United States. With beautiful beaches, fabulous cities, and incredible national parks, Puerto Rico is an utterly amazing place, with something to offer for everyone.
Puerto Rico is one of the safest Caribbean islands, it is safe for tourist, even women and solo travellers. But as in any tourist area, you should take safety precautions, be aware of surrouding, as well as avoid the dangerous areas. If you are looking for the safest area to stay in Puerto Rico, look into Old San Juan, Condado, and Isla Verde because they are tourist-populated areas.
Old San Juan is the best area to stay in Puerto Rico for first-timers because it is the most picturesque part of Puerto Rico’s capital city. It is the hub of Puerto Rican history and architecture, packed with blue cobblestone streets, boutiques cafés, historical building. Not only does it offer a rich range of attractions, tourist amenities, but also it is conveniently located near a major airport.
Those who want to explore the entire archipelago during their visit will want to stay in:
- Fajardo, as it is located on the east coast and boasts a beautiful marina.
- Cabo Rojo, home to a greatest selection of beaches with 127, so will appeal to all types of beach lovers.
- Isla Verde, home to some of the best beaches on the main island of Puerto Rico.
Dorado and Ponce both offer a great choice of golf courses, so are suitable for players of all abilities. Meanwhile, Rincon is better suited for those interested in surfing competitions. There will even be those who prefer to spend the majority of their trip away from the mainland, exploring the wilds. In that case, both Culebra Island and Vieques Island have plenty to offer.
|💖 Best Area for first-timers:||Old San Juan|
|💎 Best luxury hotel:||Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino|
|🏨 Best mid-range hotel:||Hotel El Convento|
|💰 Best budget hotel:||CasaBlanca Hotel|
Where to Stay In Puerto Rico: 15 Best Areas
1. Old San Juan, where to stay in Puerto Rico for first time
Old San Juan is the most beautful destination in the capital city of Puerto Rico, only 15 minutes from SJU airport. The third oldest city under the jurisdiction of the United States, the second oldest European-founded city in the Americas, it is filled with a rich history dating back to the early 1500s, so you can really explore the island’s past.
The majority of the buildings in Old San Juan have a distinctly Spanish colonial architectural style, allowing you to immerse yourself in the culture of the area. This is a large part of the reason that Old San Juan is considered the main cultural tourist attraction in Puerto Rico.
The oldest executive mansion still in use in La Fortaleza, and the El Palacio De Santa Catalina; Fort San Cristóbal and Fort San Felipe Del Morro are the most historical buildings in Old San Juan which make up part of the San Juan Historical Site.
The Cathedral Of San Juan Bautista is a perfect example of the religious history of San Juan. With stunning architecture and artwork, as well as containing the grave of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce De Leon, it perfectly combines Puerto Rico’s history and culture.
Other buildings of interest in Old San Juan include City Hall, the Diputación Provincial and Real Intendencia buildings, Casa Rosa, the San Jose Church, the Hotel El Convento, the Teatro Tapia, and Paseo de la Princesa.
If you are a history buff, there are several museums to explore like:
- The Museo Casa Blanca, built in 1521 as the residence for Puerto Rico’s first governor, Juan Ponce de León, now served as a museum housing 16th and 17th-century artifacts;
- The Museo de las Américas in the Ballajá Barracks, housed Spanish soldiers in the 1800s, to learn more about the history of the Caribbean and the Americas.
- The Maritime Museum
- the Museum of Art and History
- the Felisa Rincón de Gautier Museum.
Beautiful, cobbled streets weave throughout San Juan, linking the buildings of Old San Juan with other attractions like the Maria Magdalena De Pazzis Cemetery, and beautiful squares such as the Plaza De Armas. These allow you to sit back and enjoy a meal or a drink while taking in the beautiful architecture and culture Old San Juan has to offer.
Old San Juan also comes with the benefit of being located close to the modern part of San Juan, connected by beautiful bridges and a causeway. Downtown San Juan features a great collection of the best restaurants, bars, shops, and accommodation options in Puerto Rico.
If you want more shopping, head to Plaza Las Americas, the largest shopping mall in the Caribbean, which is a short ride away. For high-end shopping, head to The Mall of San Juan, the Caribbean’s premier shopping destination near San José Lagoon.
Within San Juan, you will find a family-friendly area of Condado with a lot of restaurants and bars, a lagoon, beachfront resorts with outdoor pools, on-site casinos, an outdoor terrace, and plenty of family entertainment for kids.
Old San Juan and Condado are both safe neighborhoods for tourist, even for solo travelers but you should void walking alone through Old San Juan at night. There is even a great collection of hostels and lower-cost accommodation. This means it is the best town for budget travelers to stay in Puerto Rico to save money.
Stay In Old San Juan If you are visiting Puerto Rico for the first time; you want to stay in the busiest city, on the main island; you want to be near San Juan Airport; you are interested in Puerto Rico’s historical landmarks and within walking distance to the attractions; you want plenty of bars, restaurants and good nightlife; you want to stay in a safe area.
Best places to stay in Puerto Rico in Old San Juan for first-timers:
luxury ($$$): Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino This 4-star hotel has a 4-story, outdoor sundeck with a spacious infinity swimming pool, a casino, fitness centre, and a spa. Choices Restaurant serves American and Puerto Rican dishes, while the District Lounge is a great place for a relaxing drink.
mid-range ($$): Hotel El Convento Located in the heart of historic Old San Juan, this 4-star hotel features a pool, a hot tub overlooking the San Juan Bay, a fitness center, a library, and a business center. It offers rooms with Spanish décor and is furnished with refrigerators, goose-down pillows, flat-screen TVs, and free WiFi.
budget ($): CasaBlanca Hotel Located in the heart of San Juan, this contemporary hotel features free WiFi, a rooftop sundeck with stone bathtubs, and a panoramic elevator. The rooms are equiped with local art, premium bedding, original floors, and courtyard views.🔍MORE HOTELS IN OLD SAN JUAN
2. Santurce, where to stay in Puerto Rico for nightlife
Located 15 minute drive by car from San Juan Old Town, to the south of Condado, Santurce is the hip neighborhood and a subdistrict San Juan. The largest, most populous barrios in the city, it is one of the most densely populated areas on the island.
It is well known as a cultural hotspot, with vibrant art, cuisine, fashion, film, music, and textiles industries abundant in the area. This makes it the perfect place to stay in Puerto Rico for those after a thriving nightlife scene, or the ability to sample some of the best Puerto Rican cuisine.
For those looking to delve deeper into the arts of Puerto Rico, the Ballets De San Juan and Luis A. Ferré Performing Arts Centre are both fabulous places to take in the local style. The same can also be said of some of the fabulous architecture in the area.
Meanwhile, a collection of museums that includes the Museum Of Art Of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Museum Of Contemporary Art, and the Galería Casa Jefferson, is ideal for history buffs wanting to learn more about Puerto Rico’s past.
There is also a great collection of both churches and synagogues located throughout Santurce. This provides a great example of the religious diversity in the city.
A great number of beach areas are located along the coast, which Santurce shares with 6 different bodies of water. This ensures you will be able to find the type of beach you are looking for, whether you want relaxing days sunbathing, or something a little more energetic.
As its tourist reputation continues to grow, amenities and accommodation options are constantly springing up. This further adds to the well-rounded nature of this part of Puerto Rico.
Stay In Santurce If Nightlife is important to you; You want to stay in one of the neighborhoods within greater San Juan; You are interested in art, architecture, or history;
Best places to stay in Santurce for first-time visitors:
- luxury ($$$): Condado Vanderbilt Hotel
- mid-range ($$): San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino
- budget ($): Hyatt Place San Juan – City Center,
3. Isla Verde, where to stay in Puerto Rico for couples and families
Located immediately to the east of San Juan, Isla Verde is one of the main tourists areas and luxurious resort area. A slightly quieter, more residential area, it is a fantastic location for couples and families who want easy access to the city, while staying in an area that offers more peace and space.
Isla Verde is particularly known for having some of the best beaches on the northern coast of Puerto Rico. Isla Verde beach is divided into 3 beaches including Pine Grove, Carolina Public Beach, and Alambique. Pine Groveis more popular with local sufers.
Isla Verde Beach has water sports and beach facilities like a beach bar and rentable chairs and umbrellas. This ensures even those looking for a relaxing day topping up their tan will have just as much fun.
You also have Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, better known as San Juan Airport, the largest international airport in Puerto Rico. This makes Isla Verde ideal for anyone wanting to stay near the airport to avoid missing a flight, wasting time, or having to drag their luggage all over Puerto Rico.
Like all tourist towns in Jamaica, Isla Verde is a safe neighborhood, but it would be best if you exercised caution. There are lots of beach front resorts, as well as budget friendly hotels and guest houses.
Stay In Isla Verde If you want to stay near the main airport in Puerto Rico and the Old San Juan; you want to stay in a safe neighborhoods; you want to stay in a luxurious beach resort and spend a lot of time at the beach;
Best places to stay in Puerto Rico in Isla Verde for first-timers:
luxury ($$$): Fairmont El San Juan Hotel This 5-star hotel is located in 15 tropical acres, 3.2 km from Isla Verde Beach. There are outdoor swimming pools, a swim-up bar, and new luxury cabanas. You can choose to stay in rooms, suites, pool and beachfront villas. All have free wifi, modern bathroom, flat-screen TV, and docking station.
mid-range ($$): Embassy Suites by Hilton San Juan – Hotel & Casino This 4-star hotel is only 2 blocks away from Isla Verde Beach. Enjoy food and drink at El Patio Latin Bar Café, Coqui Pool Bar, Eterie, and Outback Steakhouse in the lobby.
budget ($): Hampton Inn & Suites San Juan This 3-star hotel is only 1 km from Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, in Isla Verde area. Guest can enjoy American cuisine at an on-site Guacamayo Pool Bar & Grill.🔍MORE HOTELS IN ISLA VERDE
4. Rio Grande, where to stay in Puerto Rico for outdoor activities
Located further east along the northern coast from Isla Verde, Rio Grande is a secluded beach town in a coastal valley. Well off the beaten path, its Coco Beach is a perfect place for a romantic getaway.
Some of the finest Puerto Rico Hotels and resorts provide all the luxury you could ask for during your stay. Meanwhile, the secluded location gives you the freedom to truly relax, away from prying eyes.
Local shops, bars, and restaurants make up the bulk of the amenities in the town. They should have everything you need to complete your relaxing vacation, while also helping to immerse you in the spirit of your destination.
Annual festivals, like Rio Grande Carnival in July, Las Picuas Festival in September, and the Stuffed Potato Festival in April, provide plenty of seasonal attractions, depending on the time of your visit.
However, perhaps the most popular attraction is the El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the United States National Forest System. While the forest is divided among many barrios, Rio Grande contains the largest portion, which is located just a short drive away.
Covering more than 28,000 acres, the forest is split into four different sections, with hiking trails, waterfalls, and streams. A variety of animals and birds live within the forest for you to discover, while there are also a number of man-made watchtowers to look at and get a better view including the Yocahú Observation Tower and Mount Britton Tower.
There are also many waterfalls in this rain forest including 30-feet La Mina Falls surrounded by the Tabonuco forest; Juan Diego Falls; La Coca Falls, Las Pailas, and Las Tinajas.
The El Portal Rainforest Centre can teach you more about the plants and animals that call the forest home. There are also exhibits, classrooms, laboratories and even a theatre, where you can learn about rainforests and the current state of them today throughout the world.
Another must-visit place in the Rio Grande is the Carabalí Rainforest Adventure Park, the biggest theme park in Puerto Rico, where the entire family can horseback riding, ATV riding, go-kart track.
Stay In the Rio Grande If you are an adventure lover who wants to do a lot of outdoor activities; you want to stay in a luxury beach resort; you want to explore El Yunque National Forest and stay close to the beach cities of Fajardo and Luquillo.
Best places to stay in Puerto Rico in Rio Grande:
- St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico
- Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort
- Margaritaville Vacation Club Wyndham Rio Mar
5. Luquillo, where to stay in Puerto Rico for authentic experience
Immediately to the east of Rio Grande, the town of Luquillo, known as the Sun’s Capital, sits at the beginning of the Northeast Ecological Corridor. A protected area helping to maintain forests, wetlands, beaches, corals, and the habitats of rare or endangered species of animals, it is an incredible place for those interested in wildlife or conservation.
The town itself is a small, picturesque destination, with a beautiful square and local businesses, creating a truly authentic feeling. Throughout the year they hold festivals designed to promote their wares, as well as to boost their conservation efforts.
The Leatherback Turtle Festival in April, Festival De Zangueros in June, Coconut Festival in September, and Traditional Cooking Festival in December are all wonderful experiences, assisting very worthy causes.
Perhaps the most noteworthy and entertaining festival though, is the Fiestas Patronales De San Jose held in March. This is when the towns people celebrate their patron saint, with parades, games, artisans, rides, live entertainment and foods from the region.
Like many parts of Porto Rico, Luquillo has a great selection of beaches including Balneario La Monserrate, Playa Azul, Costa Azul, Mamayes beach, Playa Fortuna, and La Pared. Some are backed by beautiful coconut tree groves, others by restaurants, and some even have monuments for you to discover. There are also camping sites, beach chair, hammock, beach bar, parking, restrooms, outdoor showers, and gazebos.
Public transport is almost non-existent in the town, so you may need a rental car or taxi to get around. However, many of the beaches are just a short walk apart, so you won’t need to worry if you just want to relax.
Stay In Luquillo If you want to attend one of the festivals; you want a great choice of beaches; you want to stay in an ecological preservation corridor; you want to explore a national forest.
Best places to stay in Luquillo for first-time travelers:🔍FIND BEST HOTELS IN LUQUILLO
6. Fajardo, where to stay in Puerto Rico for island hoping and beaches
Known as La Metrópolis del Sol Naciente (the city that guards the sun of the Caribbean), Fajardo is located on the very north-eastern point of the island. It is perhaps the most popular destination in all of Puerto Rico for those in the boating community.
Surrounded by islets and other islands in the Puerto Rico archipelago, it is a fabulous destination for those who want to do a bit of island hopping. The Puerto Del Rey Marina is an ideal spot to park your yacht or book a tour out on the water to really make the most of your stay in Puerto Rico.
A collection of 46 beaches also offers some of the greatest choices anywhere in Puerto Rico. Whether you simply want to relax and top up your tan or get involved with activities like snorkeling and scuba diving, you are guaranteed to find a beach to meet your needs.
These beaches are surrounded by some of the best restaurants and hotels on the island. After a long day in the ocean, what better way to unwind than with some fresh seafood and a night sleeping in luxurious accommodation.
Attractions like cathedral, bioluminescent lagoon bay and a U.S. Customs House perfectly compliment the beautiful town square, ports, national parks, and reserves that surround the area.
Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve is a 316 acres headlands, where you can find different ecological systems including a Laguna Grande Bioluminescent Bay, mangroves, coral reefs, dry forests, sandy and rocky beaches. It is also home to a 19th century lighthouse of El Faro de las Cabezas de San Juan.
Next to reserve at the end of Hwy 987 lies the most popular balneario in Fajardo, Seven Seas Beach. it has beach facilities like gazebos, parking, camping areas, restrooms, and showers. Nearby is El Conquistador Golf Course, designed by Arthur Hills in 1993. Great place to visit for golf enthuastics!
there are few islets and cays can be found off shore near Fajardo including Icacos Island, Palomino Island, Cayo Lobos, Cayo Ratones, Cayo Diablo, and Cayo Cucarachas. Meanwhile, its own airport makes Fajardo incredibly easy to access.
Stay In Fajardo If you are interested in sailing around the archipelago; you want an incredible choice of beaches; you are a fan of fresh seafood; you want to be near a small airport; you want to visit Culebra Island and Vieques Island.
Best places to stay in Puerto Rico in Fajardo for first-timers:🔍FIND BEST HOTELS IN FAJARDO
7. Culebra Island, where to stay in Puerto Rico for sandy beaches
Culebra Island, also known as Isla Chiquita, is one of the smaller islands in Puerto Rico’s archipelago, located to the east of Fajardo, off the coast of the main island. Its name translates to “snake island” and it is the least populous municipality in Puerto Rico.
It is a popular destination for both foreigners and main island Puerto Ricans alike, due to its incredible collection of beaches, including Playa Flamenco, Playa Tamarindo, Las Vacas Beach, Brava Beach, Larga Beach, Punta Soldado Beach, Resaca Beach, Tortuga Beach, and Zoni Beach.
Playa Flamenco, also known as Flamenco Beach, is perhaps the most popular option, having previously been ranked as the 3rd best beach in the world. A sandy beach backed by tree-covered hills, it is perfect for those seeking an idyllic tropical getaway. Here, you will see the US Army tanks that were part of past military exercises, dating back to World War II.
While the beaches are the main attractions on Culebra Island, it is also known as a hotspot for animal lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. You can see sea turtles while scuba diving.
The most well-known area is the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge, which covers roughly 6 square kilometers with six beaches, including Playa Tortuga. An important area for the nesting of 13 species of bird and 3 species of sea turtle, it is a great opportunity to see some unique animals.
If you want to take break from the beaches, visit the Culebra’s Museum of History which is a former Naval munition warehouse, and the lighthouse in nearby Culebrita Island.
There is even a selection of festivals held throughout the year, such as the Windsurfing Competition in February, the Fishing Tournament in March, and the Craft Festivities in November.
Undoubtedly the biggest and most important festival though is the Patron Saint Festival in July. Also known as the Fiestas Patronales De Nuestra Senora Del Carmen, it is a religious and cultural celebration in honor of Mary, mother of Jesus.
Parades, games, artisans, rides, live entertainment, and Puerto Rican Delicacies give a fabulous insight into the local way of life for those lucky enough to be present when it is taking place.
Stay In Culebra Island If you plan to spend the majority of your trip on a beach; you want to spend some time relaxing on Flamenco Beach; you are interested in wildlife; you want easy access to Vieques island and Culebrita island.
Best places to stay in Culebra for the first time:🔍FIND BEST HOTELS IN CULEBRA
8. Vieques Island, to see the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world
Located six miles southeast of the Puerto Rico mainland, just to the south of Culebra Island, Vieques Island is another small island in the Caribbean Sea, that is a former US naval base.
Much like its neighbor, it features some of the highest-rated beaches in the area, such as Sun Bay, Playa Negra, and Mosquito Bay Beach, with beautiful white sands and bright blue waters.
Its most popular attraction is undoubtedly Mosquito Bioluminescent Bay, one of the 5 listed National Natural Landmarks located in Puerto Rico. Recognized as the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world, visitors have the unique opportunity to swim or kayak in an area of true natural beauty.
Opening out onto Mosquito Bay Beach, you can even sit back and relax on the sand, taking in the view at the same time. This makes it an ideal, picturesque spot for those lazy beach days spent topping up your tan.
The other popular attraction on the island is Vieques Island National Wildlife Refuge. Filled with beaches, salt flats, lagoons, and mangrove forests, as well as rare and endangered animals, it makes a great way to relax and unwind, surrounded by nature as opposed to people.
One of the cultural attractions on Vieques Island is the Fortín Conde de Mirasol on a hill overlooking the town of Isabel Segunda. The fort open Wednesday to Sunday and you can visit for free.
There is even a number of festivals held here too, such as the Three Kings Festival in January, the Vieques Cultural Festival in June, and the Festival De La Arepa in August and September. These are wonderful experiences if you happen to be visiting at the right time.
Stay In Vieques Island If you want to see the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world; you are interested in visiting a national wildlife refuge; you want to attend one of the festivals; you want to spend a lot of time relaxing on a beach.
Best places to stay in Puerto Rico in Vieques for first-timers:🔍FIND BEST HOTELS IN VIEQUES
9. Isabela, where to stay for local culture and nature beauty
Named after Isabella I of Castille, Isabela, known as the Garden of the Northwest, is situated in the northwesternmost corner of the island. Its location allows it to provide a combination of all the natural features that Puerto Rico is known for.
A collection of 12 wonderful beaches is spread out along the shore, providing different activities and relaxation opportunities, so there is sure to be something for everyone.
Some of the best beaches are Jobos Beach and Middles beach for surfing; Shacks beach, Montones Beach, Villa Pesquera Beach, and Cueva de las Golondrinas for snorkeling. Meanwhile, lakes and rivers flow throughout the area, providing swimming options for those who prefer freshwater.
A dense portion of rainforest allows you to explore the wilder, yet equally beautiful side of the island, looking at incredible selections on plant and animal life.
For the more physically fit, you also have the Cordillera Mountains to climb, to witness some of the most stunning views on the island.
Guajataca State Forest is another option for hiking. It stretches over several towns including Isabela, Lares, and San Sebastián. You will have the track that leads to the Cueva del Viento (Cave of the Wind) with an observation tower and a picnic area. You can visit the Guajataca Lake and the Guajataca Tunnel.
There is also 4.5 km walking and cycling track of Paseo Lineal de Isabela runs along the coast to the beaches of Jobos and Montones.
Caves and archaeological sites even provide a different type of entertainment. You can trek to some of those already found, like the San Antonio De La Tuna Ruins, or hope to stumble across something new and turn your vacation into a scene out of an Indiana Jones movie.
With an incredible 14 festivals held throughout the year and numerous attractions like the Bewitched Well and the Photo Museum Of Isabela, there is always something to keep you occupied, no matter when you visit.
Stay In Isabela If you want to see all the different sides of Puerto Rico; you are interested in archaeology or nature; you like tourist-friendly areas but not very touristy to experience the local culture.
Best places to stay in Isabela for first-time tourists:🔍FIND BEST HOTELS IN ISABELA
10. Rincon, where to stay in Puerto Rico for surfing
Rincon is a municipality, located in a valley on the west coast of the main island. It is best known for its wonderful collection of 53 the Caribbean and surfing-style beaches.
Rincon Town Beach Plaza, Sandy Beach, Marias (the center of surfing activity), Domes (most famous surfing spots in the Caribbean), Pools Beach, and Tres Palmas are just some of the popular options here.
Domes beach was even the site of the 1968 World Surfing Championships. Since then, top level surfers have regularly visited, either participating in competitions or honing their skills.
Surfing isn’t the only water sport popular in Rincon though. As the tourist industry blossomed with the surf competitions, companies set up shops offering all types of activities. Now, everything from snorkeling and scuba diving to jet ski and boat rides is available.
Meanwhile, an incredible collection of bars and restaurants lines the seafront, catering to all manner of tastes and budgets. This gives you the chance to unwind with a drink or meal of an evening while watching some of the most beautiful sunsets you will find anywhere in Puerto Rico.
While the majority of the attractions here revolve around the water, there are some options on land too, to help you break your trip up a little. One such example is the Punta Higuero Lighthouse.
Originally built in 1892, the historic lighthouse was rebuilt 30 years later. Having now stood in its current condition for 100 years, it is a fabulous place to take in some of the histories of the area with one of its most impressive feats of engineering.
The park surrounding the lighthouse is wonderfull place for picnic and watching sunset. There is also the chance to see humpback whales on the coast. You can use telescopes on the site to check them.
You can also visit the nature reserve, Tres Palmas Marine Reserve. It contains Dogman’s beach, Little Malibu, and Steps beach, great place to explore the marine life with scuba diving or snorkeling.
Art lovers will want to take a look at Thursday evening art walk, Secret Garden Art Gallery, and Galería Exodo to admire paintings and crafts by local artists. To grab some souvenirs bring home, head to Playa Oeste.
Stay In Rincon If you’re an experienced surfer, or you want to watch or participate in a surfing competition; you love beautiful sunsets, historic lighthouses, or water sports.
Best places to stay in Puerto Rico in Rincon:🔍FIND BEST HOTELS IN RINCON
11. Ponce, central location south of Puerto Rico with lots of things to do
Also known as the La Perla del Sur, Ponce is the second-largest city in Puerto Rico, behind only San Juan. Surrounded by 14 rivers, the highest point in Puerto Rico, and other mountains, parks, and forests, it creates an incredible balance between the natural and man-made sides of the area.
In recent years, the city has experienced incredible growth, especially in the downtown area. High-end hotel resorts, bars, restaurants, and shops cater to your every need, both day and night.
Speaking of which, Ponce has some of the most vibrant nightlife in Puerto Rico, perfect for when you want to let loose after long days lazing on beaches or roaming the streets, shopping till you drop.
They have even opened the Costa Caribe Golf & Country Club, featuring a 27-hole, PGA Championship golf course. Whether you want to play around or enjoy a drink in more sophisticated surroundings, the option is there if you can afford it.
For shopping opputinities, visit the Plaza del Caribe, Fox Delicias Mall, and the Centro del Sur Shopping Center.
The densest collection of attractions is located downtown, with iconic buildings and coastal sights present in abundance. One of the most popular attractions in the area is the Parque de Bombas on Plaza Las Delicias.
A former historic fire station, it is considered by many to be the most recognized landmark on the island. Now converted into a museum listed on the National Register Of Historic Places, it is a great way to learn about the history of the emergency services in Puerto Rico.
Apart from Parque de Bombas, around the Plaza Las Delicias, you can find Fuente de Leones, the residence of Mayor, and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe. it is also surrouned with coffee shops, restaurants, and boutiques.
If you are interested in history, there are plenty of musuems to explore. The Museo de Arte de Ponce displays European, Puerto Rico, the Americas, and Africa art, while the Museo de la Historia de Ponce is the Museum of the History of Ponce.
To explore the pre-Columbian culture of the Taíno, check out the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center. To learn more the history of the sugar and rum, head to the Museo Castillo Serrallés, or Serallés Castle.
When visitng Castillo Serrallés, you can also check out the 19th-century Cruceta del Vigía tower on the El Vigia Hill and the beautiful natural space called Jardín Japonés.
You can also book a private catamaran tour to the Caja de Muertos island, known as Coffin Island or Dead Box Island, where you find Pelícano beach with many waters-acttivities such as swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and event hiking trails.
The ferries to Caja de Muertos departs from the pier near the boardwalk of La Guancha Paseo Tablado. You can take a stroll along the boardwalk and grab a snack from a kiosk selling criolla.
If you like coffee, why not consider booking a guided tour to a coffee plantation, Hacienda Buena Vista or Hacienda Pomarrosa to learn more about the a Puerto Rico’s coffee culture. Make sure to visit the Salto Vives waterfall nearby!
Stay In Ponce If you are history lovers want to visit the Parque De Bombas museum; you aren’t worried about money; you want to play some golf during your stay; you are interested in exploring rivers, mountains, and national parks.
Best places to stay in Puerto Rico in Ponce:🔍FIND BEST HOTELS IN PONCE
12. Mayaguez, unofficial capital of Puerto Rico’s west coast
Founded in 1760 by Faustino Martínez de Matos, Juan de Aponte, and Juan de Silva, Mayaguez is the unofficial capital of Puerto Rico’s west coast, 1 hour from Rafael Hernández Airport.
This third largest city in Puerto Rico is also known as the sultana of the West, City of Pure Waters and the City of the Mango.
While less visited than many of the areas in the north or the east, Mayaguez has one of the best collections of tourist attractions anywhere in Puerto Rico.
Firstly, it is the origin of many Puerto Rican delicacies and plays a vital role in the gastronomy of the island. Deserts, seafood, and fried foods were created and produced in abundance, as were alcoholic beverages, such as wine, beer, and rum. At one point they even had their own brand of cola.
Then, there is the collection of festivals that takes place in the town. With more than one a month, celebrating everything from sports and saints to family and carnivals, you are almost guaranteed to find a unique experience waiting for you, whatever time of year you choose to visit.
A collection of 13 beaches offers plenty of options for when you want to relax, no matter whether you prefer to spend days lazing in the sand or get out on the water. Or perhaps you are a sports fan, in which case why not watch a game of one of the many sporting teams located here?
You can aslo find some of the best scuba diving location such as the 13,500-acre island, Isla de Mona. It has crystal clear water and abundant marine life to explore.
They even have plentiful landmarks for you to spend your days roaming around discovering, some of which are just beautiful, while others are educational as well.
Many important buildings in Mayaguez were destroyed in an earthquake back in 1918. The tree-lined Plaza de Colón is the main square that hosts many cultural events. It also boasts a fountain commemorating Christopher Columbus and the Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria Cathedral.
Another landmark is the beautifully restored theatre, Teatro Yagüez (Yagüez Theatre) which is U.S. National Register of Historic Places; and Mayagüez Mall, the third-largest shopping center in Puerto Rico.
Speaking of education, Mayaguez is also the location of one of the main campuses of the University Of Puerto Rico. This makes it a great destination if you are thinking of becoming, or are visiting, a student at the university.
Families and children can visit the only Zoo in the island, Juan A. Rivero Zoo, ot Mayagüez Zoo. There are animals, chidren playground, small islands, and a lake.
Stay In Mayaguez If you are interested in the gastronomy of Puerto Rico; you love festivals and sports; you want a good choice of beaches.
Best places to stay in Puerto Rico in Mayaguez:🔍FIND BEST HOTELS IN MAYAGUEZ
13. Cabo Rojo, for best beaches, caves, lagoons, and salt mines
Located on the island’s southwest coast, three hours from SJU airport, the Village of Cofresí, or Cabo Rojo, or Red Cape, has one of the best selections of beaches in all of Puerto Rico, including the most famous, La Playuela Beach, known as Playa Sucia by locals.
As a result, tourist facilities have begun exploding in the town in recent years. Hotels and marinas are particularly popular developments, as they provide visitors with places to stay and a way to get out and enjoy the ocean.
However, as one of the fastest developing parts of Puerto Rico, environmentalists are worrying its growth will harm the local community.
Despite the growth, the area is known as Puerto Real still remains a traditional fishing village. This not only allows you to get an authentic feel of what the area is traditionally like, it also features a number of restaurants serving the freshest, highest quality seafood around.
Known to offer some of the most incredible sunsets you’ll find anywhere in Puerto Rico, you’ll also find the Cabo Rojo Salt Flats, as well as a collection of caves and lagoons.
Some of the most popular attractions include the San Miguel Arcángel Church and the Los Morrillos Lighthouse. These are both historic locations that demonstrate the best of the history, engineering, and architecture of the town.
On the outskirts of the town, there is two protected areas, the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge and the Boquerón State Forest. Featuring beautiful scenery, these lands play home to a number of endangered species of birds, making it a great place to visit for bird watchers and nature lovers alike.
Apart from Playa Sucia, there are numerous of beautiful beaches such as Buyé, Playa Combate, Playa Boquerón, Puerto Angelino, Joyuda. They has calm, crystalline water, good for families with children.
You can find Isla de Mona, 50 miles off the coast of Cabo Rojo, great for snorkeling and diving. There is also excellent snorkeling spot at Isla de Ratones, near Joyuda town.
Cabo Rojo has a large range of vacation rentals, condos, beach houses, and villas, and there is also hotel chains.
Stay In Cabo Rojo If you want to explore caves, lagoons, and salt mines; you are a fan of fresh, high-quality seafood; you want to experience a traditional fishing village or an amazing sunset; you love modern hotels and marinas; you are interested in bird watching or nature.
Best places to stay in Puerto Rico in Cabo Rojo:🔍FIND BEST HOTELS IN CABO ROJO
14. Arecib, great area for history and nature lovers
Located one hour west of San Juan, Arecibo is the largest municipality in Puerto Rico by area. It is best known for the Arecibo Observatory, which houses the Arecibo Telescope, the largest radio telescope in the world until July 2016.
Besides the observatory, the town has a number of other iconic, historic buildings.
There is the Arecibo Lighthouse and Historical Park, which was built in 1898 by the Spaniards. Families and kids can explore the pirate ship, ships the Spanish used to conquer the New World, Taíno village, a mini-water park, a museum, and an aquarium.
Behind the Arecibo Lighthouse, you will find a beautiful beach, La Poza del Obispo. It’s protected by rock formations, with calm, shallow, turquoise water and soft golden sand, pefect for swimming.
Just few miles east from the Arecibo lighthouse lies the Cueva del Indio (Indian Cave), an archeological site, the cave with the larg number of Taíno petroglyph. The area offers a stunning photo op with cliffs, arches, caves, and a natural limestone bridge.
You also find the large cave sits a top a limestone cliff, Cueva Ventana (window cave). It overlooks the Rio Grande de Arecibo valley and offers epic views on the island.
Just a short drive from Arecibo, lies one of the world’s largest cave networks, Rio Camuy Caves Park. It covers three areas Camuy, Hatillo, and Lares with the main entrance in the Quebrada area of Camuy.
Another must see is The Casa Ulanga, orriginally residence of a Spanish conquistador, and then used as a hospital, courthouse, jail, bank, and city hall. it now as Cultural Center of Arecibo that hosts many festivals.
There are also the 18th-century Cathedral Of Saint Phillip The Apostle, the Punta Los Morrillos Lighthouse, and even the stunning City Hall building.
There is even the Birth Of The New World Statue. A monument depicting Christopher Columbus, it is the work of Russian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli and, at 295 feet tall, is the tallest statue in the Americas.
The Arecibo Harbour is a beautiful marina where you can watch boats on the water. Alternatively, a small collection of beaches may be more to the liking of those looking to relax. Sports fans may even want to unwind by watching the local basketball team play a game.
Outside the town, forest reserves, lakes, and archaeological sites provide you with plenty of history and natural beauty to explore. There is even a Museo de Arte e Historia de Arecibo located within the town, which may help you to learn more about what you are seeing.
You can make a day trip the Cambalache State Forest. It has many hiking and biking tracks and campsite with barbecue grills and gazebos facilities.
Located 12 miles south of Arecibo, close to to the Río Abajo Forest, you will find Dos Bocas Lake, one of the principal lakes of Puerto Rico. You can take ferries to this Lago Dos Bocas.
Other places of interest are Las Tunas Beach, Los Negritos Beach, Morillo Beach, and Plaza del Atlantico.
Stay In Arecibo If you want to see the tallest statue in the Americas or the former largest telescope on Earth; you are a fan of basketball; you enjoy history and nature in equal measure.🔍FIND BEST HOTELS IN ARECIBO
Check out my virtual tour about the best places to stay in Puerto Rico:
More about the Caribbean Sea destinations:
15. Dorado, one of the most luxurious destinations in Puerto Rico
Located on the north shore, just 24km to the west of the capital city of San Juan, Dorado is one of the most luxurious destinations in Puerto Rico. It began from an area that was originally purchased by the Rockefeller family, where they built a huge private vacation compound.
Over the years, it has been repeatedly sold and developed into the Dorado Beach resort. Large, expensive, chain hotels, have made it a popular getaway for the rich and famous.
A number of Robert Trent Jones-designed golf courses have also been constructed, making it somewhat of a golf haven for both amateurs and pros.
Numerous festivals are held throughout the year, all boasting different customs, purposes and styles of celebration. With only 4 months not having their own festival, there is a good chance there will be something for you to get involved in during your stay.
A collection of 24 beaches including Ojo Del Buey Beach and Balneario Manuel Morales give you plenty of places to relax and enjoy the sand and calm water, many of which are popular with surfers. It has restrooms, showers, and lifeguards on the beach.
You can also find The Watermill, an aquatic playground after a traditional Puerto Rican sugar mill. It has a lazy river, two 30-foot water slides, and multiple swimming pools.
In terms of attractions, the downtown area has a reasonable selection of landmarks and places of interest to keep you entertained.
The former Spanish garrison, Museo y Centro Cultural Casa del Rey, features exhibits and artifacts dating back to the Spanish colonization of Puerto Rico, so is perfect for history buffs.
You can learn more history of the area at Museo de Arte e Historia de Dorado, an art and archeological museum.
The Sanctuary Of Christ Of The Reconciliation church also offers artifacts of a similar age, style, and interest.
The Distinguished Doradenos Plaza is a fabulous place to sit back and take in some of the stunning local architecture. Meanwhile, the Juan Boria Theater has been recently renovated, so is a fabulous place to take in the area’s style of performing arts.
Stay In Dorado If you are looking for a golfing trip and aren’t worried about money; you prefer quieter, more exclusive destinations; you want a good range of beaches and historical attractions.
Best places to stay in Puerto Rico in Dorado:
- luxury ($$$): Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
- mid-range ($$): Hyatt Residence Club Dorado, Hacienda Del Mar
- budget ($): Paradigm Villa Dorado
Overall, I recommend Old San Juan as the best area to stay in Puerto Rico for first-timers because it is one of the most beautiful places in Puerto Rico and it offers a wide range of tourist amenities such as hotels, restaurants, bars, and, shops. If you stay here, you will be located within walking distance to many tourist attractions, as well as near the airport.
This article should have given you everything you need to decide where to stay in Puerto Rico to have a perfect vacation, based on your own wants and needs. All that’s left is to get look at some hotel recommendations in the area you have decided on and get everything booked, so you can start looking forward to your own adventure in Puerto Rico.