30 Travel Tips & Things To Know Before Traveling To Puerto Rico (2023)

Puerto Rico is a beautiful island in the Caribbean.

This Caribbean archipelago I call home hosts visitors from all across the world thanks to its warm weather, stunning beaches and great people.

Because I have spent so much time here, I can tell you with what you need to know before you arrive.

In this article, I will share 30 travel tips that you need to know before visiting Puerto Rico:


1. Most people speak English

Puerto Rico has both English and Spanish as its national languages. 

You don’t need to learn Spanish in order to visit, but learning a couple of phrases can’t hurt!

image of Old San Juan street
Old San Juan is a major tourist area and mainly everyone working in the area speaks English.

Beach towns and bigger cities along the metro usually have full English menus and websites to make it easier for guests.

You can find English-speaking restaurants and stores by walking down any street!

Find more ideas for things to do by reading our article 45 Things To Do In Puerto Rico.

 

2. Renting a car is useful

Puerto Rico has little to no public transportation outside of the Metro area.

Even Uber, Lyft, and taxis are hard to find. 

Traffic is a big problem on the island!

image of Carolina, Puerto Rico

If you’re thinking of traveling across the island, renting a car is your best option. US license is valid and rental companies are available in all airports.

Learn more by reading our article Renting A Car In Puerto Rico – All You Need To Know.

 

3. Driving here takes time

The island may seem small, but the roads are twisted and long!

Puerto Rico’s roads are well maintained around the coastal areas, but watch for pot holes when you are in the country.

Roads go around the island, so direct drives from town to town aren’t a possibility.

Driving from San Juan to Cabo Rojo can take up to three hours with traffic, so make sure to factor in driving time when making plans.

 

4. GPS maps don’t always work

Because Puerto Rico has so many twisting roads and rural landscapes, GPS maps aren’t always reliable.

image of Dorado Beach
Some areas of Puerto Rico have no GPS or cell phone signal, which is perfect to disconnect and enjoy your vacation.

Maybe the road hasn’t been updated, or maybe you lost the signal and can’t update the map.

Either way, looking up directions beforehand or having a tour guide is always a good idea when headed to areas where signals can get spotty.

Learn more about things to do in nature in our article 15 Best Outdoor Activities In Puerto Rico

 

5. There’s more to see outside of San Juan

Most tourists stay around Old San Juan for their whole vacation, but there’s so much to see!

Some of the best beaches in Puerto Rico are in the west and southwest, and the best hiking trails run along the west coast and central cordillera.

image of Buyé Beach
Some of the best kept secrets of Puerto Rico are in the central and western areas, like Buye Beach in Cabo Rojo.

Buyé Beach in Cabo Rojo is a must-visit spot a few hours drive from San Juan.

 

6. Island towns; Vieques and Culebra

Puerto Rico isn’t just an island, it’s an archipelago.

image of Culebra Island
Ships along the island municipality of Culebra.

Vieques and Culebra are both fully established island municipalities just a boat ride away from the mainland.

image of Flamenco Beach
Flamenco Beach has been voted one of the world’s best beaches many times.

The best beach in Puerto Rico, Flamenco Beach, is located in Culebra.

Learn more about getting to these islands by reading our article How To Get To Vieques From San Juan.

 

7. Cruise ships stop here

The port of San Juan is a stop for most large cruise companies.

image of San Juan port
The Port of San Juan is a popular destination for cruise ships to dock.

Many boats arrive and depart here, but even one-day visitors can enjoy the San Juan area.

 

8. There are three airports

Puerto Rico has three airports!

The main one is SJU in San Juan, where all international flights arrive and leave.

image of Luis Munoz Marin International Airport
Depending on where you fly in from, the drive to your destination could be shorter if you explore flights from one of the island’s smaller airports.

The Borinquen Airport in Aguadilla (BQN) has fewer flights, but it’s still a popular choice for locals.

The smallest airport is Mercedita in Ponce. It only offers flights to and from JFK in New York, and MCO in Orlando.

 

9. No passport is necessary

US citizens don’t need a passport or visa to enter the island! Having a valid US form of ID is enough to grant entry.

Puerto Rico’s Capitol waves both flags!

image showing Puerto Rico’s Capitol
Puerto Rico’s capitol building in Old San Juan displays both the United States and Puerto Rican flag.

International visitors do need visas, but it’s the same process as a visa to the US mainland.

 

10. We use the US dollar

Because Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, we use the American dollar.

image of US dollar
The official currency of Puerto Rico is the United States Dollar.

United States citizens don’t need to worry about exchanging currency, but international travelers can visit the designated centers at each airport to obtain valid currency

 

11. Tipping is customary

Tips are not mandatory but highly encouraged. 

image of an alcohol
Don’t forget to tip when you are out enjoying drinks in Puerto Rico.

Restaurant waiters, bartenders, bellhops, housekeepers, tour guides, etc., all can and should receive tips.

For ideas on where to go, check out our article that features the 35 Best Restaurants In Puerto Rico.

 

12. Hurricane season is September-November

The hurricane season in Puerto Rico can be brutal. 

image showing a radar shot of hurricane María in 2015.
Hurricane season in Puerto Rico is the cheapest time of year to travel to the island.

Prices drop significantly from September to November, so visiting is a good option as long as you keep an eye on inclement weather.

Learn more by reading our article When Is Hurricane Season In Puerto Rico? – All You Need To Know.

 

13. There’s rain year-round

Puerto Rico is a tropical island!

Tropical weather means lots of rain.

image showing a strong winds blowing palm trees during a rainstorm
Rainstorms usually happen for a few hours in the afternoon, depending on the time of year.

Of course, the hurricane season brings more rain than winter or summer, but bringing an umbrella is always a good idea.

Keep in mind that swimming in the ocean during rainstorms is highly discouraged due to the risk of lightning strikes. Stay safe!

 

14. The Piña Colada was invented here

image of Barrachina's piña colada
Barrachina in Old San Juan is the home of the Piña Colada, which was first made here in the 1960’s.

The famous tropical drink was invented in Barrachina in Old San Juan!

Now you can find it all across the world, but trying it in its home country is ideal.

 

15. The legal drinking age is 18

Puerto Rico’s legal drinking age is 18, as opposed to 21 in the US.

image of Don Q rum
Don Q Rum is one of the most popular rums made on the island.

No matter the age, please drink responsibly, and never drink and drive.

 

16. All beaches are public

Puerto Rico has no private beaches! All beaches are public property and can be accessed by anybody for free.

image of Dorado Beach
The best thing about Puerto Rico’s beaches is they are all public and free.

Feel free to head to any beach that calls your name!

You can check out our 30 Best Beaches in Puerto Rico to get some ideas. 

 

17. Hiking trails are popular and plenty

Aside from beaches, Puerto Rico has amazing hiking trails.

image of a jungle trail in El Yunque
El Yunque National Forest offers trails for visitors of all skill levels.

Beach towns like Cabo Rojo and Rincón often have trails with amazing views, while the mountain region has more intense trails. 

Learn more by reading our article 20 Best Hiking Trails In Puerto Rico.

 

18. Booking tours is always helpful

Whether it’s your first or your tenth time visiting, booking a tour is always a good idea.

image of two people in a kayak in the water with bioluminescence glowing around them
Puerto Rico is home to the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay, located on Vieques.

Some natural areas like bio bays, caverns, and rainforests are safer with a trained professional by your side.

Cultural town tours are also highly recommended. If there’s the only one thing better than seeing old buildings, it’s learning the history behind them. 

Isla Caribe offers tours along the south, especially in Ponce.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Puerto Rico Cultural Tours (@islacaribepr)

Photo credit: @islacaribepr

Learn more by reading our article 25 Best Tours & Excursions In Puerto Rico.

 

19. Pack bug repellent 

Because it’s a humid tropical climate, bugs are inevitable.

Packing bug repellent and wearing thin, breathable clothing can help prevent bug bites.  

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Max and Erika’s Bug Pics (@mc_emla_bugpics)

Photo Credit: @mc_emla_bugpics

 

20. There are lots of stray animals

Sadly, Puerto Rico has a stray animal problem with dogs, cats, and horses.

Efforts are being made to spay these animals and provide them with safe homes, but we know it can be a shock for people visiting the island.

image of stray cats
Be aware that there will be many stray animals around the island such as cats and dogs.

If you want to learn more, check out animal conservation initiatives like SASFA

 

21. You can hear coquí frogs at night

Speaking of animals, this small frog native to the island will either be your new best friend or your new enemy.

Coquí frogs are tiny animals that make a noise that sounds just like their name; coquí, coquí.

For locals, the sound is like white noise. For visitors, it might take some getting used to.

Below is a video showing coquís singing at night:

 

22. It’s hot year-round

Because it’s a tropical island, Puerto Rico has an eternal summer.

image of a beachfront in San Juan, PR
Beaches in Puerto Rico are always warm, and in the summer temperatures can reach the triple digits.

Temperatures have an average range of 72° to 88° F, but it can climb above 100°F in the summer!

If you’re sensitive to the heat, try visiting the central cordillera during winter, where temperatures can drop to the 40s. 

 

23. There’s a thriving art scene

Puerto Rico has always been home to artists from every walk of life.

The island currently boasts the Ponce Art Museum, and the San Juan Art Museum, and has small art installations in almost every municipality.

image of a street art installation

Learn more by reading our article 12 Best Museums In Puerto Rico.

 

24. Bring more than just flip flops 

Even though the weather is hot, flip-flops aren’t appropriate for everything on the island.

Plenty of restaurants have more formal dress codes, closed-toe shoes are a must for all tours, and swimsuits are only for the beach.

image of a girl packing for a trip

Still, the most important fashion tip is to stay cool and follow your own personal style. 

For more details, read our article 21 Essential Things To Pack For Puerto Rico.

 

25. We have a rainforest

El Yunque is the only rainforest in the United States National Forest System.

image of La Mina Falls in El Yunque
La Mina Falls in El Yunque is one of the more popular waterfalls you can hike to.

If you decide to hike across the forest, make sure to reach the waterfalls! They make the long walks totally worth it.

Keep an eye out for new plants and animals! This lush landscape is home to over 240 tree species and over 200 animals. 

The Puerto Rican parrot is one of the endangered native species that live in the rainforest.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Fernando (@finaleclipseshots)

Photo Credit: @finaleclipseshots

 

26. We have three Bioluminescent Bays

There are only five bioluminescent bays in the world, and Puerto Rico has three of them!

They’re located in Lajas, Fajardo, and Vieques.

image of Mosquito Bay
Mosquito Bay on Vieques is the brightest bio bay in the world.

Tours are available for all bays and can be seen especially well on moonless nights.

Check out our Bioluminescent Bays Puerto Rico – All You Need To Know article to learn all about these unique places!

 

27. There are lots of hotels to choose from

There’s no shortage of boutique hotels, beachside resorts, and chain hotels across the island.

If you’re visiting during peak seasons, make sure to have reservations well in advance. Popular stays fill up quickly so snatch them up quickly!

One of the most popular chains stays is the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, located right along the Condado strip near Old San Juan.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Condado Vanderbilt Hotel (@condadovanderbilt)

Photo Credit: @condadovanderbilt

If you’re headed west, Rincón Beach Resort is a local favorite for events and getaways.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Rincon Beach Resort (@rinconbeachresort)

Photo Credit: @rinconbeachresort

Learn more in our article Where To Stay In Puerto Rico.

 

28. The local food is delicious

You can’t miss all the delicious eateries across Puerto Rico.

image of a local fruit market in PR
Local fruit markets in Puerto Rico are a must stop for foodies.

Make sure to stop by the fresh produce markets for amazing locally-grown food.

You can also check out our Best Local Food Tours to get a taste of everything Puerto Rican cuisine has to offer. 

 

29. Visiting doesn’t break the bank

It’s an affordable trip great for families and people on a tight budget. 

image of a tourists in Old San Juan
Families visiting Puerto Rico will be excited to find out that a trip can be affordable and there is plenty to do for kids.

If you want to visit Puerto Rico, we have an article covering How Much it Costs to Go to Puerto Rico

 

30. Puerto Rico is safe!

It’s a great, safe destination for families and individuals alike.

image of a tourist
If safety is important to you, Puerto Rico is a great destination.

We cover everything you need to know about Safety in Puerto Rico

 

 

FAQ section

Is it best to bring cash or a card to Puerto Rico?

I recommend bringing both. Small vendors don’t always have card readers, and most money transfer apps aren’t used in the island, so bringing a small amount of cash is smart.

Is tipping a thing in Puerto Rico?

Yes! It’s customary to tip all service employees, and some locations add an automatic gratuity fee for larger parties.

 

Final thoughts

Puerto Rico is a dream travel destination!

If you’re thinking of traveling here, take a look at our 7-Day Itinerary to put all these tips to use! 

For even more vacation ideas, check out our 72 Places To Take Pictures In Puerto Rico. 

You may also enjoy our article 45 Best Things To Do In Puerto Rico.

Article by

Adriana Mercado

Writer at PuertoRico.com. I am a writer, editor, and freelancer. I was born and raised in San Germán, Puerto Rico, where I experienced the best landscapes, local eateries, and shops the region has to offer. Sharing the rich culture and history of Puerto Rico’s Southwest gives me the perfect reason to keep exploring! 

About the author

Find the best things to do
by interest