Puerto Rico Area Map
Puerto Rico sits in the Caribbean, between the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with the Caribbean Sea to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the north. Although the island is small – Puerto Rico has around 300 miles of coastline – its geographic and cultural diversity makes it an interesting place to explore. Technically, Puerto Rico is made up of 78 municipalities; for tourists, it's easiest to decide where to visit by using the coastline as a guide.
Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan, is a northeast city with some of the best-preserved Spanish architecture in the Caribbean. The city is densely populated and home to Puerto Rico's governor, numerous shops, a variety of restaurants and some top historic attractions like 16th-century forts. Resorts dot the coastline, sprawling along the Condado and Isla Verde beaches. And if you love nightlife, a trip to San Juan is a must. The city boasts plenty of spots for drinks and dancing.
Old San Juan
Characterized by its chromatic historic buildings and winding cobblestone paths, Old San Juan is popular among tourists. In addition to its charm, this northwest portion of San Juan is home to major attractions like El Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal. Dining and nightlife abound in Old San Juan, as many popular hotels and resorts can be found in this area. This quaint portion of San Juan is surrounded by the coastline with the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Bay of San Juan to the south.
This area of San Juan is defined by its lively nightlife and hip arts scene. Casinos, bars and restaurants are easy to come by, and many tourists tend to spend much of their vacation exploring the allures of this densely populated neighborhood. You'll also find plenty of street art and museums like the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. When you've had enough of the city vibe, head to Condado Beach, which is in the northern section of Santurce.
This is the second-most populated town in Puerto Rico. Though known as the Pueblo del Chicharrón ("pork rind city"), Bayamón offers more than salty snacks. In this town, you'll find the Centro de Bellas Artes Luis A. Ferré, which hosts a variety of musical events. Scientists of all ages will enjoy a trip to Ecoexploratorio Museo de Ciencias de Puerto Rico, a science museum. It's accessible by the island's Tren Urbano. And if you like rum, be sure to visit the Ron del Barrilito distillery here.
Just west of San Juan is Dorado, the island's oldest resort town that consists of six beaches along the northern coasts. Located along Puerto Rico's northern coastline, this area is popular with tourists thanks to its golf courses, luxury hotels – including the top-ranked Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve and the nearby Watermill water park.
To the east of San Juan, you'll find Carolina, where the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport is located. This town's biggest draw for tourists is its beaches. Here, you'll find both the Isla Verde Beach and the ever-popular Balneario de Carolina. Isla Verde Beach features long stretches of golden sand and turquoise waters that attract visitors and locals alike. The Balneario de Carolina features everything from water sports to gazebos (available for rent) to lifeguards. Know that if you drive, you'll pay a small sum to park.
You can find Playa del Condado just east of Old San Juan. This crowded beach is backed by high-rise hotels, such as The Condado Plaza Hilton (whose stretch of beach enjoys calmer waters, popular among families). Many travelers choose to book hotels in the San Juan area because of its proximity to major attractions and a cache of popular beaches.
Balneario de Escambrón
Located along the outskirts of Luis Muñoz Rivera Park, this stretch of golden sand is a favorite among families. It offers typically gentle waves that are watched by lifeguards. It is also a Blue Flag beach, which means it meets strict environmental, safety and accessibility standards as determined by the Blue Flag organization.
The island's west coast is home to some of Puerto Rico's oldest towns, such as Aguadilla, a water sports paradise; and Rincón, a small town known for its beautiful surfing beaches. In addition, any one of the spots in this region will give you a gorgeous sunset.
Sitting far northwest on the island, Aguadilla gets a bit of tourist traffic in large part because of its reputable beaches. Its well-known Crash Boat Beach has been popular with surfers for years. Among the other attractions in Aguadilla is the Aguadilla Foodtruck Park and even an ice skating arena. About 5 miles north of Aguadilla is the Rafael Hernández International Airport.
In addition to its beaches, this town is known for its lighthouse. As one of the most powerful lighthouses on the island, the Rincón lighthouse warns passing ships of Puerto Rico's offshore reefs. And in the winter, the lighthouse park is a prime whale watching spot.
If you're making a trip to the west coast (or staying at one of the hotels there), you'll want to make a stop here. Mayagüez is one of Puerto Rico's largest cities. It centers on an open-air plaza. Divers will also relish a trip here as this town is home to some of the island's best scuba diving.
Rincón has 8 miles of beaches. Its public beach (balneario) is popular with families and boasts shops, restaurants, restrooms and free parking. Surfers flock to several of Rincón's other beaches, especially María's, Domes and Tres Palmas, where the waves are large and the surfing is excellent. Shops in the area offer equipment rentals or you can take a lesson with Rincón Surf School.
Crash Boat Beach
This beach is legendary for its collection of water sports. Here, travelers can indulge in surfing, snorkeling, and swimming it the ocean's picturesque blue waters. To refuel, hit one of the food stalls that line the beach's pier. Know, too, that Crash Boat lures more tourists than other beaches.
Some travelers opt to take daytrips from San Juan to the south coast – only about 70 miles south of San Juan by car – to see what the island's cities along the Caribbean Sea have to offer. Ponce is a favorite for many, but there are other treasures here, too. If you're looking for a relaxing trip, pop by the city of Coamo to take a dip in its hot springs. Meanwhile, foodies will want to visit Salinas for samplings of local, fresh seafood.
Note: In late 2019 and early 2020, Puerto Rico suffered a series of earthquakes that damaged much of the south and southwest coast. Some attractions and beaches may be closed for repair, so be sure to check attractions' websites or call your hotel for updates before you travel.
Ponce is home to bustling nightlife and breathtaking architecture. It has several museums, including the Museo de la Música Puertorriqueña, or the Museum of Puerto Rican Music, as well as the Ponce Art Museum (Museo de Arte de Ponce). You won't want to miss seeing the Parque de Bombas, the iconic black and red fire station, either.
Located near Puerto Rico's southeast coast, Coamo is known for its therapeutic mineral springs. These waters are also rumored to be the legendary fountain of youth.
If you need a break from sightseeing, you might want to grab your towel and sunscreen and head to La Guancha. This small public beach, located at the end of Route 12 in Ponce, is frequented by families who enjoy its shallow waters, as well as the shade from umbrellas.
Caja de Muertos
Caja de Muertos (Coffin Island), accessible by boat from La Guacha, is one of Puerto Rico's top places to snorkel. It's located about 10 miles off the southern coast of Puerto Rico. Should sunning bore you, Caja de Muertos also boasts a nature reserve and several hiking trails.
Travelers looking for outdoor adventure should head to this portion of Puerto Rico. Here, you'll find El Yunque National Forest, the only rainforest in the U.S. forest system. If you just want a luxurious resort vacation, accompanied by a relaxing beach, you might want to look in the Humacao and Palmas del Mar areas.
If you want a water-filled vacation, look no further than Fajardo. This northeastern region is known for its calm waters that make sailing, diving and snorkeling pleasant pastimes. There's also a bioluminescent bay in this region as well as a lighthouse.
Palmas del Mar
Located in Humacao, the popular resort community of Palmas del Mar sits on the site of an old coconut plantation. The complex offers a golf course, multiple dining venues, tennis courts, a beach club, an equestrian center and more.
This beach-filled town lies north of El Yunque and is home to a wealth of beaches. No wonder it's called La Capital del Sol ("The Sun Capital"). Here, you'll find Balneario La Monserrate, Luquillo Beach, Playa Fortuna and more. Before you leave, be sure to stroll the famous kiosks along the beach to stop for a bite.
Balneario La Monserrate
This eastern Puerto Rico beach in Luquillo is lauded as one of the most beautiful on the island. Here, you'll not only find a long coastline but also dressing rooms, showers and toilets.
Balneario Seven Seas
This is one of Fajardo's best-known beaches, visitors enjoy this beach for all its amenities: changing rooms, restrooms, showers, campgrounds and watersports contractors.
In sharp contrast to the mostly flat coastal regions, the island's interior is covered with hills and mountains. The mountains are an active traveler's paradise. You can embark on a zip line adventure through the treetops at ToroVerde Adventure Park, take to the Tanama River on a tubing trip or hike through Cueva Ventana. For an educational excursion, visit the Arecibo Observatory.
Puerto Rico's territory includes several smaller islands including Vieques, Culebra, Monkey Island, Mona Island and more. For tourists, the most popular of these remote islands are Vieques and Culebra, which are accessible via ferry or plane from the main island. These islands offer visitors the opportunity to relax on the beach and enjoy fresh seafood without the hustle and bustle of the main island. You'll also experience plenty of outdoor fun from kayaking to snorkeling. Also, know that Vieques is home to Mosquito Bay, Puerto Rico's most vibrant bioluminescent bay.
This northern Culebra beach is a favorite among travelers and experts alike, often considered among the best in the world. With soft white sand, gentle waters and towering mountains penning it in on all sides, visitors feel as if they're in a remote paradise.
Playa Media Luna
You can find Playa Media Luna off a rustic trail just east of Playa Sun Bay. This family-friendly beach has placid, shallow water, though parents should keep in mind that there are no facilities, such as restrooms or restaurants.
Playa Sun Bay
One of the most popular balnearios on Vieques, Playa Sun Bay features about 2 miles of ivory sand just east of the southern city of Esperanza. You'll also find changing rooms, picnic tables and food stands, but on less busy weekdays, you also might see some wild horses.
Puerto Rico sees some violent drug-related crime as well as thefts in San Juan and Ponce, but it's usually not directed toward tourists. Still, watch out for pickpockets, especially on the beach, and don't leave your property unattended or it might be swiped. Steer clear of certain areas in San Juan at night, such as La Perla and portions of Santurce, as these towns are prone to drug activity and violence.
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