15 Reasons Why Puerto Rico is Our Latest Obsession

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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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
should rank high on your travel wish list.

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

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

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

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

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

The Lowdown

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