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The Best Things to Do in Puerto Rico

Spend one week in Puerto Rico and have plenty of time to eat, sight see and shop. Old San Juan can easily be done in a day if you have limited time from a Caribbean cruise but the island of Puerto Rico has much more to offer.

From beautiful beaches to eclectic shopping, from incredible cocktails to flavorful local cuisine, we have narrowed it down to 9 must do things in San Juan and greater Puerto Rico.

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1. Explore Colorful Old San Juan

 Old San Juan is the colorful, colonial section of the island that was originally settled by the Spanish. The quaint cobblestone streets and pastel buildings are meant to be explored on foot and luckily, cruise ships dock right in town for easy access!

Take our guided walking tour to learn about the historic sights from our knowledgeable local guide. 

From great restaurants, good shopping and street side bars, there’s lots to do in Viejo San Juan.

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2. Try Puerto Rican Food

You will be impressed by local Puerto Rican cuisine! Puerto Ricans lovingly call their home the ‘Dining Capital of the Caribbean’ and dishes like mofongo (mashed plantain), aroz con dulche (sweet sticky rice) and arroz con gandules y lechón (rice with pigeon peas and pork) are a delicious blend of Tahino, Spanish and American influences.

Try lots of different restaurants on your Puerto Rico vacation and enjoy your holiday.

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3. Explore a 500 Year Old Fort

Old San Juan is the oldest city in the Western hemisphere. Set on an island and walled on 3 sides, the Spanish constructed massive walls and several forts to protect their colony. Remnants of the thick walls and ballasts still protect the western harbor today and a must visit is Castillo San Cristóbal.

This fort was the largest fortress built by the Spanish in the New World and has over 6 stories across 27 acres of land. Check out the guerites, sentry boxes, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean!

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4. People Watch with A Cup of Puerto Rican Coffee

 If you’re a coffee lover, Puerto Rico is the place to visit!

Puerto Rican coffee has a distinctive smooth, rich flavor thanks to the island’s rich volcanic soil and mountainous farmland. Most of the coffee is made for export (the Pope drank it as the official Vatican coffee for centuries) and it was one of Puerto Rico’s main crops until the 1900s, when sugar plantations took over.

It’s only recently that coffee production is growing again and Old San Juan has many worthwhile coffee shops if you need a break! Try Alto Grande, a premium bean ranking up there with Jamaica’s Blue Mountain Coffee and Hawaii’s Kona beans. If you don’t want to carry it home, no worries you can buy it here on Amazon tooYaucono is another great Puerto Rican coffee brand.

My personal favorite coffee drink to order is a cortadito, espresso with steamed milk, or you can also ask for a café con leche, a simple latte with warm milk. 

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5. Browse Outdoor Art Galleries

Puerto Rico has a vibrant art scene, with galleries all over the island and especially in Old San Juan. Whether you like contemporary fine art, modern art or local Caribbean influenced artwork, you’re sure to find it!

Many of the local boutiques can be found near Calle San Sebastian. 

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6. Join a Puerto Rican Festival

Puerto Ricans know how to let loose! There are festivals each month throughout the year as well as year long celebrations, with the best time to visit San Juan being in December / January.

We happened to be in town during the festival of San Sebastian, or Sanse as the locals call it. The 4 day long celebration includes street parades, dancing, free flowing beer and food trucks. My favorite? The huge paper mache masks that people wore! (I included a photo of it at the very top of this article).

If you want to check out a festival in Puerto Rico, I recommend visiting during the day. At night, things can get much rowdier and extremely crowded and it turns into a packed drinking fest.

Here’s a video of the festival if you want to feel right there with us!

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7. Snorkle & Scuba Dive in Culebra

 Water lovers simply have to take a day trip out east. Culebra offers beautiful blue waves, soft white sand beaches and sunny skies. We took an all day boat tour to snorkel in Flamingo Beach and relax on Culebrita island.

Puerto Rico has some really unique topography so don’t just stick to San Juan! Visit Vieques for its bioluminescent bay and El Yunque Rainforest, the only subtropical rainforest in the United States. 

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8. Tour the Bacardi Rum Factory

I think the most fun you could have is to take a tour of the Bacardi Rum Factory! This is Bacardi’s largest rum factory in the world, where up to 100,000 bottles of rum can be bottled per day.

Opt for the tasting tour so that you can properly learn about and taste 5 different Bacardi sipping rums! It’s an in-depth tasting held after the factory tour in a private room and I loved learning about the different types of rums, bottling and tastes.

  

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9. Try a Rum-based Cocktail

Puerto Rico is the king of rum. Not only has this island invented the Piña Colada, its mixologists are continuing to innovate! We tried so many incredible cocktails and each day only got better and better.

Local bars emphasize local fruits (like passionfruit, papaya, mango, chironja, soursop, star apple and pineapple) and local garnishes so it’s quite a refreshing, unique take on the drinks you might be used to. One of my favorites was a passion fruit punch cocktail with cilantro. The herb kicked in right at the end for a zesty after taste.

We also discovered that many local bartenders enter mixologist competitions so they’re quite talented! Bars were constantly changing up their menu and bartenders were also working on new signature drinks so they often suggested creating their own, off-the-menu drink for us to try and it was always a hit.

If you like great drinks, check out La Factoria, a fun speakeasy; La Concha where the hotel lobby bar is always packed anytime of day and Zest at Water & Beach Club, where we had a 6 course food and drink pairing.

 

 

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