Are you looking for the best hidden gems in Puerto Rico but you keep coming across the same suggestions over and over? Then you came to the right place! – There are plenty of fun things to do on this island besides the best-known tourist attractions.
From exploring the vibrant culture and history to experiencing fantastic culinary delights, there is something for everyone in this beautiful city.
Top 10 Hidden Gems In Puerto Rico
Among other Caribbean Islands, Puerto Rico stands out for its extensive history and cultural richness. This makes it the perfect destination for your next trip. Whether you’re planning a relaxing getaway at the beach to disconnect from your everyday routine or you’re looking for an exciting trip full of adventure, these must-visit hidden gems in Puerto Rico will make your trip unforgettable.
If you’d rather just stay in San Juan, check my 3-Day Itinerary for San Juan here!
Among the best hidden gems in Puerto Rico, El Yunque National Rainforest is for sure a great option. This reserve, located in the northeastern area of the island, is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System and is home to hundreds of extraordinary plants and endangered animal species. An absolute must-see where you’ll find beautiful waterfalls, natural pools, hiking trails, camping areas, and historical sites, making it a fascinating place for your day trip.
You’ll have to pay if you want to visit some of the optional attractions inside, but you can enter and explore the rainforest completely free!
Must-Do Tours In El Yunque
- Natural Waterslide and Rainforest Hike
- Private Rainforest and Waterfalls Tour
- Casual One Puerto Rico
- Rainforest and Bio Bay Kayaking Combo Tour
Things To Do In El Yunque
El Yunque is a really huge forest and there are so many things to do. So if you want to explore every corner, prepare to stay there most of your day – if not the whole day!
El Yunque Visitor Center is the main visitor and information center in the reserve, excellent for first-time visitors. Here you have to walk along a little bridge to get to the Portal Lobby.
Here’s what you’ll find in the Portal Lobby:
- An information booth
- Educational displays
- Counter-service restaurant
- Small gift shop
- Instagram-worthy selfie spots!
Hiking Tours In El Yunque
Take fully guided nature walks surrounded by an immersive atmosphere with 25 miles of different trails to suit all hiking preferences and abilities. Hike along the river while admiring the lush flora and fauna, make a stop at the ‘La Frutera Flores’ fruit stand for some delicious snacks, and have fun with the best water activities – make sure to follow your guide’s instructions to stay safe during your visit since some parts of the path can be slippery.
El Yunque is full of stunning waterfalls that make perfect photography spots. Swimming is not allowed and some of them can only be accessed with a private guide. However, you can bathe in the natural pools after spending a long day exploring the forest.
There are no designated camping areas in El Yunque, but visitors are allowed to set up their tents along most roads and trails.
Want to have a little bit more action? Check out my guide to Antigua, Guatemala here!
La Cueva del Indio is a location in Arecibo that features a series of rock formations and caves that were formed by the sea. Inside these caves, you’ll be able to see over 80 pre-Columbian indigenous carvings on the limestone walls (the largest collection of petroglyphs along the coastline!) and learn more about their culture. Visitors can also take a refreshing dip in the ocean or have a picnic on the beach while admiring the breathtaking landscape. I recommend taking tours like Perfect Puerto Rico Getaway with Snorkeling or Full-Day Cave and Waterfall Adventure so you can experience the cave to its fullest potential.
Fun fact: this has been the filming location for several Hollywood movies like ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’, ‘Treasure Island’, and ‘A Perfect Getaway’!
Note: As of 2023, the ladder to descend into the cave has been removed by the Department of Natural Resources for safety reasons. But there’s still a way in that requires climbing to the top of the rocks where you’ll find a crack that will get you inside the cave. Although taking this trail can be dangerous, you can do so at your own risk if you have the proper hiking equipment and abilities. Also, make sure to ask the guides for more information.
Travel smart and safe with my ultimate list of travel necessities!
Piñones is a vibrant beachside community located on the outskirts of San Juan. It’s the perfect spot to take in some fresh ocean air while tasting some traditional Puerto Rican cuisine from hundreds of food booths that can be found there, such as Kiosko El Boricua, Donde Olga, Mi Casita Seafood, El K’rajo Beach Bar, and many more!
One traditional Puerto Rican activity Piñores is well-known for is being a go-to area for playing chinchorreo, which basically means that friends and families gather to hang out in bars while eating, drinking, listening to live music, and dancing.
If you’re looking for truly unique hidden gems in Puerto Rico, Isla de Cabras should definitely be on your bucket list. This small island is best known for its breathtaking views of El Castillo del Morro, its tranquil waters, mesmerizing beaches, and excellent picnic and snack bar facilities. There are many kiosks and restaurants all over the place and you can even rent small or large gazebos to celebrate your birthday, wedding, or any special occasion!
You can also enjoy many of the incredible recreational activities that this island offers:
- Kid’s Play Zone
Wanna know more ways to experience Isla de Cabras? Check out TripAdvisor’s top suggestions here!
Suggested Hotels Near Isla De Cabras
- Budget ($) — Casa Blanca Hotel
- Best Value ($$) — The Condado Plaza Hilton
- Luxe ($$$) —- Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino
- Unique ($-$$$) —- Caribe Hilton
If you ever visit Puerto Rico, Santurce is the one spot you just can’t miss. This neighborhood has been a home for a free-spirited community of artists over the years. The streets are filled with colorful street art and murals. You’ll be mesmerized by fantastic galleries and museums, and popular events like ‘Los Muros Hablan’ and ‘Santurce es Ley’, among others.
Apart from this, this neighborhood is full of cafés and restaurants that match the lively and artsy atmosphere. Of the most beautiful hidden gems in Puerto Rico, this one should be an absolute go-to for art lovers and for the ‘gram!
Top Things To Do In Santurce
Santurce is a neighborhood like no other in San Juan, Puerto Rico. From museums and art galleries to bars and festivals, you’ll find exciting things to do in every corner at any time of the day. Here are the top things to do in Santurce:
One of the most ideal ways to understand Puerto Rico’s history and character to its core is by visiting its great museums, so if you go to Saturce you cannot miss these must-visit museums:
- Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico – Apart from being one of the most important art museums in Puerto Rico with a wide range of exhibits, the building has beautiful sculpture gardens where you can enjoy concerts and festivals.
- Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico – If you’re not just another regular art enthusiast and you’re eager to explore the depths of Puerto Rico’s creativity, this is the place for you. Here, you’ll come across artists that most people have never heard of, with artwork produced in the last ten years featuring recent and current societal issues – It’s the perfect opportunity to challenge your sense of art!
- Centro de Bellas Arts Luis A. Ferre – Known as San Juan’s premier performance center, the Centro de Bellas Artes hosts some of the best concerts, operas, plays, and dancing performances in Puerto Rico by local artists.
Don’t really know the neighborhoods of San Juan? Check this guide!
Santurce Street Art
Take a tour of Calle Cerra to see gorgeous street art and imponent murals everywhere you turn. You’re obviously free to just walk down Calle Cerra and explore on your own, but taking a tour with the incredibly knowledgeable and friendly guide of The Art Walk will make a huge difference in your overall experience, especially if you go as a solo traveler it would be best to have someone who’s familiar with the area and who shares information about the history and meaning behind each artwork.
Art Festivals In Santurce
There are two annual street art festivals called Los Muros Hablan and Santurce es Ley. These festivals are organized by artists, and the local community, in order to keep the neighborhood alive. They are free and completely open to the public with over 100 artists (both local and international) that showcase their work throughout the weekend, stages with live music, and many food stands with all kinds of food – and cheap beer!
Restaurants, Bars, And Cafés
As if this neighborhood wasn’t already cool enough, it also has the best variety of places to eat. Whether you want to try traditional Puerto Rican dishes, or international cuisine, or go grab a few drinks, Santurce will become your next go-to.
Here are some of the best places to eat in Santurce:
- Lote 23 – perfect for eating outdoors with music, a friendly atmosphere, and lots of food trucks to choose from. You won’t regret this one!
- Vianda – enjoy Puerto Rico’s agriculture at its best. Try Caribbean, Puerto Rican, and Spanish cuisine made with locally-sourced ingredients – not to mention the vegetarian and vegan options, and the fancy whisky bar.
- La Casita Blanca – for those who love a good, homemade dish, this small restaurant is very well-known for offering “food like your grandma would serve”. Its menu includes a great range of options, from a top-notch variety of seafood to authentic traditional Puerto Rican dishes. In addition, you’ll fall in love with the distinctive vintage setting and lovely patio full of plants and ornaments.
- Abracadabra Local Counter Cafe – known for its unique interior design with a 1930s magician aesthetic, a full view of the kitchen, super friendly staff, and occasional live theater. Make sure to try Abracadabra’s delicious brunches, french toast, and natural tropical juices.
Nightlife In Saturce
Saturce is just as alive at night as it is during the day. Make sure to visit one of Puerto Rico’s most iconic spots: La Placita, which functions as a marketplace during the day, but fully lights up in the evening with artists playing all kinds of music styles, local food restaurants, and locals gathering to dance all night.
6. Kayaking in Bioluminescent Bays
If you are looking for your next big adventure, then you should go for a night kayak tour (or take a ride on an electric boat) in some of the three bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico: Mosquito Bay on the island of Vieques, Laguna Grande in Fajardo, and La Parguera in Lajas. These are bays where microscopic organisms grow in the water producing a magical effect as if glowing in a neon blue color. This is a one-of-a-kind experience you can’t miss!
The Arecibo Observatory is a gigantic radio telescope that has contributed to various scientific discoveries since the 1960s and has also taken part in important projects in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.
Some people might recognize it better for appearing in many movies and TV shows, like James Bond’s ‘Goldeneye’ and ‘Contact’. If you’re a science or film enthusiast, you’ll definitely want to add the Arecibo Observatory to your list of the best hidden gems in Puerto Rico.
Note: The actual Radio Telescope collapsed in 2020 and it will not be rebuilt. However, the installations and visitor center remain open and the place has become an educational center, so you can still visit the Observatory.
Must-try activities in Arecibo Observatory:
This might not be an amusing attraction for everyone. The purpose of the observatory is to be educational and provide a memorable learning experience. So this option might be best for those who are really interested in space and science.
There are different sections of exhibits:
- The Earth and Solar System
- Stars and galaxies
- The technology used in studying space
Learn About The Telescope
You can watch a short movie that explains the importance of the Observatory for scientific advancements, finding faraway galaxies, and learning about the universe.
And in case you’re starving after a long visit to the Arecibo Observatory, check out the best restaurants in the area here!
8. La Perla
This colorful San Juan neighborhood with an extensive and troubled past has now become a destination in itself, as well as one of the best places to visit in Puerto Rico.
Take a walk through La Perla to witness the brightly colored homes and businesses, lively street art, and fantastic views of the water.
Sounds good? Book a private tour for the weekend!
Make sure to also check out these San Juan Neighborhoods – each of them has something unique to offer!
Enjoy an incredible view of Puerto Rico from Cueva Ventana (which literally means ‘window cave’). After about an hour of hiking and climbing, you’ll get to an impressive cave with a short rock passage inside that finishes opening into a big, circular hole that frames the Río Grande de Arecibo valley as if looking through a huge window.
This natural wonder can be visited every day and there are several guided tours by trained biologists who share information about the cave’s interior as well as the plants and animals that live there.
The Helipuerto de Bahía Urbana in San Juan offers a 10-minute helicopter tour so you get to fly over the neighborhood’s most iconic places and experience the beauty of Old San Juan from a completely different point of view. But before coming back, make a stop for dinner at a restaurant of your choice! The pilot will wait for you before flying back.
Make sure to check out the 10 best restaurants in Old San Juan beforehand. That way, you won’t waste time deciding where to go.
All in all, Puerto Rico is one of the most complete locations to visit either for solo travelers, families, or friends. Beyond its wonderful views and tourist attractions, this place has such richness of history and culture you just cannot miss the chance to explore it.
If you decide to make Puerto Rico your next destination, you can be sure you’ll never get bored or run out of things to do!
P.S. Having so many amazing places to visit can also be overwhelming! If you’re still unsure about where to stay in Puerto Rico, take a look at my list of San Juan neighborhoods. Pick the one you like the most 🙂