15 Reasons Why Puerto Rico is Our Latest Obsession

Join us to explore this Caribbean island, where the balmy tropical climate, diverse landscape and stand-out cuisine make visitors fall under its spell.

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Looking for a destination that honours its rich cultural and historical heritage while also offering screensaver-worthy beaches and rum distilleries galore? Read on for 15 reasons why Puerto Rico should rank high on your travel wish list.

Totally tropical: why you'll fall head over heels for Puerto Rico

A hammock beside a golden sand beach in balmy sunshine, Puerto Rico
Photo credit: Jacob Elwood

The weather

There's no such thing as the winter blues in Puerto Rico, where a tropical marine climate and average temperature of 26C make for an endless summer. While there is a wet season - between April and November - rather than the sludge-grey skies and sideways drizzle we Brits are so familiar with, it's generally characterised by short, dramatic downpours scattered throughout the afternoon. Don't be alarmed if you see ten days of rain on your weather app: tropical showers rarely hang around for long enough to get in the way.

A chic bedroom in a Puerto Rico Airbnb
Photo credit: Jacob Elwood

Sublime stays

Puerto Rico is home to a range of characterful accommodation, spanning traditional paradores (small country inns) to brutalist concrete pleasure palaces that would look perfectly at home in NYC. Along the way, you'll find glamping sites, coffee haciendas, farm stays, design-savvy urban crash pads and luxurious beachside five-stars. The only downside? Choosing which to book.

A beach near San Juan, Puerto Rico
Photo Credit: Joe Howard

Beach beauties

Looking for a beach that could star in a Bounty ad? You've come to the right place. Puerto Rico's north is best for urban beaches - Isla Verde, Ocean Park Beach, Condado - while the west (we're looking at you, Rincón) offers world-class surfing and myriad water sports options. Or take a 15-minute seaplane ride from mainland Ceiba to the beguiling Vieques island, where you'll have your choice of sands in shades of red, black and icing sugar-white, with only wild horses for company.

A man chops coconuts up beside a Puerto Rican beach
Photo credit: Joe Howard

Fusion food

From a cooking pot that simmers with Spanish, African and indigenous Taíno ingredients, Puerto Rico serves up its distinctive cuisine. For a true flavour of the island, make as many pit stops as your appetite will allow. You'll find mom-and-pop-style roadside stalls selling warm empanadas (pastry turnovers) and corn frituras (fritters) and neighbourhood joints cooking up traditional-style - known as cocina criolla - dishes. They include mofongo (meat- or seafood-filled plantain) and lechón (roast pig). An ever-evolving farm-to-fork movement is also to be celebrated.

Flags hanging outside colourful homes in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Photo credit: Joe Howard

Historic Old San Juan

For that trip in a time-machine feeling, visit Old San Juan's magnificent 16th-century fort. Its luxurious lawn now just perfect for lounging on, and the ice-cream carts a welcome modern-day addition. Stroll along atmospheric cobbled streets flanked by traditional houses in candy colours, explore sun-dappled plazas packed with cafés, cocktail bars and destination restaurants, before checking out Catedral Basilica Metropolitana de San Juan Bautista, home to the tomb of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León. Ignore Google Maps and allow yourself to get lost within the old city walls.

Musicians performing at a festival in Puerto Rico
Photo credit: Joe Howard

Tuning in

Hands up who knows Spotify's most-streamed artist globally in a single day? It's Puerto Rican rapper and singer Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, aka Bad Bunny, whose latest album, Un Verano Sin Ti (A Summer Without You) is currently filling dance-floors everywhere from Puerto Rico to Paris. But this is a country that sways to the beat of all kinds of music, as traditional salsa, merengue and bomba sounds are carried on ocean breezes night and day. Head to San Juan's La Placita de Santurce on a Thursday or Friday night to hear it for yourself at the neighbourhood's joy-filled, salsa street party.

A barista pours a coffee in Filtrado Coffee Shop, Puerto Rico
Photo credit: Joe Howard

Coffee central

Puerto Ricans love their coffee - and so do we. Whether you start your day with an icy frappe or a punchy cortado (espresso with a little steamed milk), at a roadside stand or a chi-chi café, you'll find a spot to hit that caffeine craving. While coffee is woven into the history of this island (with the first arabica trees arriving with the Spanish in the 1800s), island café culture is relatively new having, ironically, been ushered in by the arrival of the country's first Starbucks, in 2022. Seeing the demand for good beans served in a social setting, the island's coffee farmers diversified their offering, and are continuing to develop artisanal coffee brands that are so good you'll wish you had a separate carry-on in which to bring several kilos home. Take a tour of Jayuya's fourth-generation owned Hacienda San Pedro to see where the magic happens.

A man catches a wave off the coast of Puerto Rico
Photo credit: Jacob Elwood

World-class surf

The fact that devotees of surfing come from Hawaii and California to Puerto Rico is some measure of just how good these waves are. Make tracks to Rincón, where the palm-fringed Domes Beach hosted the 1968 World Surfing Championships. While board technology has grown since then, the place's laid-back, community-centric spirit remains unchanged. Novice? Book a lesson with surf instructor Ramse Morales, who's legendary not only for the trophies he's won but for his ability to get first-timers up and riding a wave on their first outing.

A turtle in Puerto Rican waves

Superb snorkelling

Dive into Puerto Rico's breathtakingly beautiful underwater world and you'll be transported to a scene reminiscent of Disney's The Little Mermaid. Thanks to an abundance of protected marine areas and sheltered islets and cays, the island's coastline is known for its vast swathes of healthy reef. Book on a guided excursion with a local operator to see the best of it. Once equipped with snorkel and mask, you'll find yourself sharing the warm, crystal-clear water with sea turtles, dolphins and Technicolor tropical fish, taking home memories you'll treasure forever.

A waterfall in the Puerto Rican jungle

Wow-factor waterfalls

It's not just the glittering coastline that promises to thrill Puerto Rico-bound water babies. Adventurous travellers will relish the country's many waterfalls - there's just something so gloriously cinematic about the moment when, after hiking through the verdant rainforest, the sound of roaring water grows ever louder, and you catch sight of one through the trees. El Yunque National Forest is home to many of the country's best-known examples. Take the La Mina Trail, which follows the river of the same name. At the end of it, you'll be stopped in your tracks by the beauty of the 11m-high La Mina Falls, which feed into a beautiful lagoon - perfect for an idyllic dip.

Tapping Rum barrels in Puerto Rico
Photo credit: Jacob Elwood

Rum galore

Though a relatively small island, Puerto Rico is the source of around 80 per cent of the rum consumed in the US today. For an introduction to a proud history peppered with stories of pirates, moonshine shacks and pina colada-fuelled beach parties, you only have to strike up a conversation with any bartender in San Juan. It was here, back in the 1960s, that author Hunter S Thompson wrote The Rum Diary. For a deep-dive into the kind of cutting-edge artisanal spirits making waves today, book a tour of La Destilería Craft Spirits, in the mountainous town of Jayuya. And leave room in your case for a bottle of its award-winning Ron Bohique, made with honey tea and star anise in place of water.

Bioluminescence in ocean waves, Puerto Rico

Underwater northern lights

Even when you know the science behind it, it's still easy to be blown away when experiencing a night-time kayak tour of Vieques' Mosquito Bay. A paddle trailed through the Caribbean water leaves a glowing blue wake in its trail - splashing a hand in the sea will produce the same effect. This is thanks to the presence of 150,000 tiny, light-reflecting single-celled dinoflagellate (Pyrodinium bahamense or "whirling fire") per litre of water. Declared the brightest of its kind in the world by Guinness World Records, the island's underwater northern lights have to be seen to be believed.

A horse beside a dusty road in Puerto Rico
Photo credit: Jacob Elwood

Horsing around

You'll spot sleek Paso Fino horses all over the island - the ancestors of those used for transportation back when Puerto Rico was under Spanish rule. For a back-to-nature experience, book a full-day guided horseback tour. You'll find a handful of excellent stables in Luquillo, from where you can canter along the banks of the Mameyes River to Luquillo Beach and gallop along the sand. Then let your horse rest up while you take it easy, too, with some swimming, sunbathing and cocktails.

Mountain views in Puerto Rico

Wondrous wildlife

Meet the coquí, a species of tree frog endemic to Puerto Rico. It's known for the males' charming - and loud - call at night to establish territory: "coh-kee, coh-kee". Puerto Rico has many little critters to ensure wildlife lovers will find lots to love, from bats, mongooses and parrots to a huge number of amphibians and reptiles, including non-poisonous snakes, lizards, frogs, iguanas and around 20 different kinds of gecko. Spotting them is all part of the fun.

Dancing at a street festival in Puerto Rico
Photo credit: Joe Howard

Festivals year-round

If you're a Notting Hill Carnival queen, or can't bear the thought of waiting until Glastonbury 2023, Puerto Rico is your kind of place. Almost every weekend, you'll find a festival or street party going on somewhere around the island. One of the most hotly anticipated is January's Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, during which Old San Juan plays host to live bands, dance and circus acts and street-food stalls galore for four dazzling days and nights.

The Lowdown

Keen to plan your own Puerto Rican adventure? Start exploring at discoverpuertorico.com