12 Essential Puerto Rico Bucket List Activities

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The world is a big and beautiful place, with many exciting destinations to explore. It’s no wonder that many people include travel on their bucket list of things to do before they die. One popular travel destination is Puerto Rico.

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Puerto Rico is a small island located in the Caribbean Sea. Because it’s a US territory, it’s a popular travel destination for Americans. But this diverse, tropical destination is warm and welcoming to visitors worldwide thanks to its beautiful scenery and delicious food. If Puerto Rico is on your bucket list, this list will help you make the most of your trip.  

Puerto Rico Bucket List Trip Destinations

While you might think Puerto Rico’s attractions are limited to sunshine and sandy beaches, it also has a rich cultural history. These destinations will help you learn more about this vibrant locale.

1. The historic city center of Ponce

Ponce, the second-largest city in Puerto Rico, is often called La Perla del Sur (which translates to The Pearl of the South). It is also known as the Museum City, thanks to its plethora of museums. The historic city center features architecture dating back to the 17th century. Notable buildings and destinations in this part of town include:

  • Plaza Las Delicias: The main plaza of Ponce is within walking distance of many notable historic sites. It features plenty of benches, so you can take in the stunning surroundings and absorb the city's vibe.
  • Cathedral Our Lady Guadalupe: The centerpiece of Ponce’s historic district, this church has existed in some form since 1670. It features distinctive design details from various periods, so you can really see its evolution. Though it’s been damaged by earthquakes and fires over the past three centuries, plenty of historical details remain. 
  • Fuente de Los Leones: This iconic fountain is surrounded by stone lion statues that represent the city. It was initially purchased from the 1939 New York World Fair, making it a unique piece of American history. 
  • Parque de Bombas: At one time, this building housed Puerto Rico’s first fire station. Now, the distinctive red and black striped structure is home to one of Ponce’s many museums. It’s also one of the most photographed landmarks in Puerto Rico.

2. Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Possibly Puerto Rico’s most iconic landmark, the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, is a site of unprecedented importance. Parts of it were constructed back in 1539 by early Spanish settlers as a fortress. Over the years, it has served many functions, including serving as an army post in both World Wars. Since 1983, it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a rare honor.

Outdoor Activity, Hike, and Adventure Bucket List Ideas for Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has long been renowned for its natural beauty. From sandy beaches to lush rainforests to mountain peaks, the scenery is as diverse and beautiful as the island’s inhabitants.

3. Bioluminescent bays

Dinoflagellates are microscopic single-celled organisms that can glow in the dark when they amass in large enough quantities. When the water is splashed, they light up in an eerily beautiful neon blue glow. There are just five bodies of water in the world with large enough populations of dinoflagellates to be deemed as bioluminescent bays. Three of them are in Puerto Rico. Mosquito Bay, Laguna Grande, and La Parguera are all places where you can glimpse this rare phenomenon. 

4. El Yunque Rainforest

El Yunque National Forest is truly unique, as it is the only tropical rainforest that’s counted as part of the United States National Park System. Though it’s small in size, at 29,000 acres, it features unrivaled biological diversity. You may encounter hundreds of plants and animals unique to this region when you hike through this rainforest.

Spring and Summer Puerto Rico Bucket List Ideas

Puerto Rico is a popular travel destination for people of all ages. During spring break, college students flock to beaches and bars. Meanwhile, during summer vacation, families visit all-inclusive resorts. If you’re visiting during these times, be sure to check out these events:

5. Aibonito Flower Festival

Puerto Rico’s warm, humid climate is a very hospitable environment for a vast array of flora. The island is home to thousands of varieties of tropical shrubs, trees, and flowers, as well as delicate lilies, colorful bougainvilleas, and healthy fruit trees.

Each year in June and July, the mountain town of Aibonito is home to a flower competition and festival. Landscape artists and gardeners display their plants in a showcase that spans acres. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the diversity of Puerto Rico’s plant life. 

6. Fiesta Nacional de la Danza

Music is essential to Puerto Rican culture, and no genre is more pivotal to its traditions than Danza. Danza music, which has some resemblance to the waltz, originated in the city of Ponce at the turn of the twentieth century. Every May, a week-long festival is held to celebrate this expressive and storied musical genre.

Fall and Winter Puerto Rico Bucket List Ideas

Puerto Rico is a popular travel destination year-round, thanks to its temperate climate. Many people escape frozen winter climates to vacation in this tropical hotspot. If you’re ready to get out of the cold, you can time your visit to Puerto Rico with these fall and winter events. 

7. Carnaval Ponceño

Many different cultures celebrate carnivals throughout the western hemisphere. The most famous examples are Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Carnaval Do Brasil in Rio de Janeiro. These festivals are often celebrated in the days before Ash Wednesday, during the lead-up to the religious observance of Lent. Because Lent is a time of abstinence and repentance, these festivals serve as something of a last hurrah before a period of abstinence.

The Carnaval Ponceño in Ponce is a week-long festival typically held in February (though it sometimes extends into March, depending on when Ash Wednesday falls). This storied tradition has been going on for at least 250 years, and it draws as many as 100,000 revelers each year. Attendees often sport colorful costumes and masks while enjoying food, alcohol, music, and dancing. 

8. Casals Festival

Pablo Casals was a world-renowned cellist, composer, and conductor of Spanish and Puerto Rican heritage. Casals, who lived from 1876 to 1973, is still considered one of the greatest cellists of all time. In 1956, he founded a classical music event as part of a more significant cultural renaissance that was intended to attract tourism during Puerto Rico’s off-season. 

This annual festival takes place in February each year and draws renowned classical musicians from all over the world. Noted musicians like Yo-Yo Ma have been guests during the festival, which takes place over several weeks. To this day, the Casals Festival is considered one of the most important cultural events in the Caribbean. 

Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has many culinary wonders to explore. Many travelers like to experience new places through their regional cuisines and beverages. Here are just a few of the spots that should land on your food bucket list

9. Casa Bacardi

For centuries, rum has been one of the Caribbean’s most famous exports. Puerto Rico is home to Bacardi, one of the world’s most popular rum brands. In fact, Casa Bacardi in San Juan is the world’s largest rum distillery. Connoisseurs of this spirit can tour the factory and learn more about its history. You can also sample special reserve rums and attend cocktail-making classes. This informative and exciting tour is a perfect palate cleanser. 

10. 1919 Restaurant at Condado Vanderbilt Hotel

The Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan is a luxury resort known for its stunning oceanfront views. But you might be too distracted by what’s on your plate to enjoy the scenery. The 1919 Restaurant is helmed by Michelin Star-rated Executive Chef Juan José Cuevas, renowned for his innovative food. 1919 Restaurant prides itself on creating contemporary cuisine with local and artisanal ingredients. It’s world-class cuisine in an uncommonly beautiful locale.

San Juan, Puerto Rico Bucket List Ideas

San Juan is the capital city of Puerto Rico and its most heavily-populated area. It is also the third-oldest European-settled city in the Americas. It is home to several historically-significant buildings and is a major tourism destination. There are many must-see sites in San Juan, these are just a few:

11. Paseo de la Princesa

Dubbed one of the most scenic walkways in the world, this promenade has been around since 1853. Now restored, this walkway is studded with shops and restaurants. But the real gems include the scenic views of San Juan Bay and gorgeous and historical sculptures.

12. Catedral Basilica Menor de San Juan Bautista

Initially built in 1540, this church is one of the few examples of medieval architecture in the New World. The oldest church in the United States, this gothic building is also the final resting place of famed explorer Ponce de Leon. 

Experience the Rich Beauty of Puerto Rico

Life is short, but the world is enormous. There are so many places to learn more about and explore. Traveling can be an enriching experience. Puerto Rico is a destination worth considering when making your travel bucket list. Between its incredible history, unparalleled natural wonders, and delectable cuisine, this Caribbean island has many attractions for curious travelers. This list only begins to scratch the surface of what Puerto Rico offers.

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