Puerto Rico is swiftly becoming one of the most popular travel destinations in the world due to its stunning historic buildings and unparalleled natural beauty. Visitors can view gorgeous architecture that dates back 500 years, or spend the day visiting a rain forest located next to a beautiful beach. Puerto Rico is the ideal destination for history buffs, night life enthusiasts, and beach bums who simply want to relax next to the water.
OLD SAN JUAN
Old San Juan—known in Spanish as Viejo San Juan—features breathtaking architecture that dates back to the 16th century. Cobblestone streets and brightly colored buildings with tall, ornate doorways makes visitors feel as though they are walking the streets of a city which has been suspended in time. Old San Juan is home to countless restaurants, cafes, and boutique shops. Old San Juan features several landmarks, including the stunning Cathedral of San Juan Bautista. Visitors can spend hours admiring stately buildings shaded by palm trees and other vibrant tropical foliage.
SANTA MARIA MAGDALENA DE PAZZIS CEMETERY
Located in Old San Juan, the Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery is a true city of the dead. Elegant statues of weeping mourners and sorrowful angels are perched atop lavish tombs. The royal blue waves of the Atlantic Ocean are visible in the distance. A circular chapel in the center of the cemetery offers visitors a quiet spot to collect their thoughts. The architects of the Santa Maria Magdalena Cemetery purposely built the graveyard next to the sea so that the waves of the ocean could help the dead transition into the spirit world. Perhaps if you visit at just the right time, you may witness a newly disembodied spirit floating out to sea.
EL YUNQUE NATIONAL FOREST
El Yunque National Forest features waterfalls, parrots, and hiking trails. El Yunque National Forest is unique, as it is the sole tropical rainforest under the umbrella of the U.S. Forest Service. Visitors can wander among lush trees and view countless rare plants, insects, and animals. There are numerous pools of water where visitors can soak, relax, and enjoy the unbelievably beautiful scenery. Visitors who want to finish their day on the coast can head to nearby Luquillo Beach to unwind after an action-packed day of exploring the rainforest.
CUEVA DEL INDIO
If you’re an adventure lover, no trip is complete without a little rugged exploration. Cueva del Indio offers plenty of opportunities for daring exploration. Cueva del Indio features ancient rock art created by the Taino people, who are native to the island of Puerto Rico. Cueva del Indio is not easily accessible. It takes a bit of hiking to reach the Taino petroglyphs. The cave is often damp, and the rocks are slick and uneven—so, it is vitally important to wear waterproof hiking shoes. Viewing ancient petroglyphs in a cave surrounded by crashing waves is an experience that no seasoned explorer will soon forget.
MUSEO DE LAS AMERICAS
The Museo de las Americas—otherwise known as the Museum of the Americas—showcases art from North, South, and Central America. The museum’s permanent and traveling exhibitions explore ancient art, folk art, colonial art, and the influence of African culture. A lively display which features colorful clothing and handmade masks never fails to captivate onlookers. A sizable portion of the museum’s collection is dedicated to preserving and celebrating Puerto Rican culture and art. The Museo de las Americas is housed inside of a former Spanish military outpost, which adds an additional rich layer of history to the artworks showcased within.
LOS MORRILLOS LIGHTHOUSE
The Caribbean is home to countless lighthouses, but very few offer a view quite as stunning as the Los Morrillos Lighthouse. The Los Morrillos Lighthouse is located near the edge of a dramatic white limestone cliff. Navy blue water thunders ashore in the distance. The Los Morrillos Lighthouse is situated in a relatively isolated, windswept corner of Puerto Rico where the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean converge. The simple, austere construction of the Los Morrillos Lighthouse makes the space conductive to imagining the lonely lives of the first people who manned the lighthouse when it initially started operating in the late 1800s. Visitors are welcome to enter the lighthouse and climb the spiral staircase for an unmatched view of the gorgeous sea that surrounds Puerto Rico.
There’s a whole lot of monkey business on Cayo Santiago. That’s because this tiny island is populated entirely by monkeys who were imported in 1938 by a scientist who wished to study their behavior. The Caribbean Primate Research Center is very selective about the number of humans who are allowed to visit Cayo Santiago. Even the scientists who study the monkey population only spend short periods of time on the island. Visitors are welcome to kayak, swim, and paddleboard around Cayo Santiago, so that they may catch a glimpse of some authentic monkey business.
CAMUY RIVER CAVE PARK
Centuries ago, Puerto Rico’s earliest inhabitants—the Taino people—explored a vast river that fed into an expansive network of underground caves. Today, that network of caves is known as the Camuy River Cave Park. Visitors can take guided tours which descend deep into an eerie and beautiful world of underground waterways, large caverns, and jagged rock formations. Camuy River Cave Park even offers a limited number of evening tours for visitors who are searching for the spookiest cave exploration possible. A massive sinkhole known as Tri-Towns Sinkhole—or Sumidero Tres Pueblos—is located just outside of the cave.
Mayaguez is a lively city full of delicious things to eat, luscious tropical plants, and Puerto Rico’s lone zoo. This bustling port town is considered by many to be one of the most important cultural centers in Puerto Rico. Several notable festivals take place in Mayaguez, including the Mayaguez carnival, and a large craft fair that attracts participants from across Puerto Rico. If you’re searching for some authentic Puerto Rican food, or an unforgettable night out on the town, add Mayaguez to your list of places to visit.