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Ultimate Guide to a Puerto Rico Family Vacation

Considering a Puerto Rico family vacation? Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Puerto Rico with kids!

girl on swing on beach in puerto rico

Puerto Rico has so much to offer families who want to visit the Caribbean.

It’s affordable, easy to get to, has lots of kid-friendly things to do, and uses American money. 

I’ve been wanting to take my daughter to Puerto Rico for years and finally did so in early 2020. We had so much fun we’ve been back every year since!

We clearly love the island so I’m excited to share my guide to a Puerto Rico family vacation!

Is Puerto Rico good for families?

girl under puerto rican flag

I have to admit, I was a little nervous about taking my daughter to Puerto Rico by myself. 

Though it’s a US Territory, the primary language is Spanish. I know very little, so I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to communicate when I needed to. 

But I’m happy to report we did fine with our limited Spanish and almost everyone we met spoke English.

I was also concerned about the damage Puerto Rico sustained from Hurricane Maria, but most places were rebuilt and open on our March 2020 trip. 

Do I need a Passport to travel to Puerto Rico? 

No, you don’t need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico with your family since it is a US Territory. 

That makes it much easier to get into and out of compared to other Caribbean islands. 

You’ll save on airport taxes, too!

Flying to other islands in the Caribbean that aren’t part of the US will add $80-$150 in taxes per person. 

How To Get To Puerto Rico

puerto rico islands from the air

Puerto Rico is located between the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean.

Is it easy to get to – it’s just a 2.5-hour flight from Florida. 

The main airport in Puerto Rico is Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, which is located just east of downtown San Juan, the capital city. 

Here is a list of the 44 cities that offer non-stop service to San Juan (SJU):

What is the best area to stay in Puerto Rico for a family vacation?

maps of puerto rico

Photo Credit: Google Maps

For families, I’d suggest staying in the northeast part of the island. 

Venturing to the south or west from San Juan will be a logistical challenge, and keeping it simple when traveling with kids is super important. 

You’ll be close to all of the attractions in the northeast part of the island, such as great beaches, El Yunque rainforest, and the bioluminescent bay. 

Many families chose to stay close to San Juan in the popular resort area known as Condado

If you stay in a hotel or rental, I suggest limiting your search to the northeast part of the island to make your vacation as stress-free as possible. 

Here are the best places we’ve stayed on our trips. 

Resorts in Puerto Rico for Families

beach in puerto rico

The private beach at our condo

I chose to rent a condo through VRBO.com for our Puerto Rico vacation. 

I wanted to be able to cook some meals during our trip and have extra space to spread out.

girl in pools

I chose Beach Nirvana, a two-bedroom/two-bath condo in a gated complex with multiple pools and a private beach.

Our condo only cost $78 per night during February, an amazing month to visit Puerto Rico.

Though it wasn’t luxurious, it was safe, comfortable, clean, and lots of fun. You can’t beat that for the price!

bedroom with one queen bed

Photo credit: Vrbo.com

Here is my bedroom in the condo. The other bedroom was similar.

Each bedroom had it’s own bathroom as well. 

condo kitchen

Photo credit: Vrbo.com

The kitchen was perfect for making our breakfasts and a few dinners during our stay.

We hit up the local Walmart for groceries. 

girl on chair on patio

The living room was modern and comfortable. We loved having breakfast on one of the two balconies. 

I would definitely recommend Beach Nirvana and any other unit in the Villas del Mar complex. 

On our next trip (which I am planning now) I’d like to stay closer to the east coast. We loved the attractions there and it would be nice to be a bit closer to them. 

How To Get Around in Puerto Rico

rental car reservation

If you want to venture out of San Juan (which you definitely do!) you’ll want a rental car for your trip. 

At the time we visited, Uber and Lyft were not operating in Puerto Rico. 

I rented a car through Hotwire for our trip at a super affordable rate – $120 for five days!

The only drawback was that we had to take a shuttle from the airport to the rental car office. We ended up waiting  over 45 minutes for the shuttle which was NOT a fun way to start our trip. 

When I return, I will pay the extra money to rent a car that’s at the airport to have less friction on our trip. 

But I’d definitely rent through Hotwire again – you can’t beat the savings. 

Driving was easy and gas was surprisingly reasonable for an island (though be aware it is priced in dollars per liter). 

Things to do in Puerto Rico with Kids

girl walking on flamenco beach in culebra

I can’t emphasize enough how much fun we had exploring the island on our multiple trips.

There are so many family-friendly activities in Puerto Rico you will be spoiled for choice!

Here are my suggestions for the best things to do in Puerto Rico with kids. 

El Yunque National Forest

My top pick for things to do in Puerto Rico for kids is a visit to El Yunque National Forest. 

You’ll see exotic plants, waterfalls, and historic sites within the park. 

Here are my suggestions for what to do with kids in the rainforest: 

  • Short hike to Juan Diego waterfalls (bring your swimsuit!)
  • Moderately difficult 1.6-mile hike up Mt Britton to the tower (if your kids aren’t up for that hike yet, climb up Yokahua Tower instead)
  • Short and easy 1-mile roundtrip Angelito Trail to play in Rio Mameyes
  • Check out El Portal Visitor’s Center for exhibits, the gift shop, and lunch

All of these activities are located in the La Mina Recreation Area.


Currently, you will need a timed reservation to access many of the experiences in the rainforest. 

Click here for all of the details on visiting El Yunque including how to get a reservation. 

The rainforest is not-to-be-missed on a Puerto Rico family vacation!

 

Day Trip To Culebra & Flamenco Beach

My absolute favorite day of our trip was our visit to Culebra.

Culebra is a small island 17 miles off the east coast of Puerto Rico. It served as a U.S. Naval base until 1975. 

The main attraction for us was Flamenco Beach, which often makes it on lists of the best beaches in the world!

 

First of all – Flamenco Beach did not disappoint. 

I feel like I am spoiled for beaches forever.

It has warm, calm, crystal clear water, soft sand, amenities, and places to sit in the shade of a palm tree. 

It’s a challenge to get to, however, which is part of what keeps it so nice!

Check out my post on how to get to Flamenco Beach via ferry or plane here. 

There is an abandoned tank from the Navy on the beach you can walk down to check out. It’s really cool to see and take pictures with. 

We brought our snorkeling gear and were able to see some fish around the reefs off the beach. 

It was my daughter’s first time snorkeling outside of the pool and it was the perfect introduction. The water is clear, calm, and shallow. 

Here was my spot in the sand for the day. Looks like paradise, right? 

In fact we were having so much fun we couldn’t bring ourselves to go home!

I was able to get us tickets on the late ferry so we could spend an extra five hours in Culebra. 

We grabbed dinner at a little restaurant next to the ferry dock and were joined by a new friend (This might have been the highlight of the entire trip for my daughter.)

We are still talking about our day on Culebra more than a year later!

Learn how to plan your own day trip to Culebra and Flamenco Beach here.

Bio Bay Kayak Tour

One evening we ventured over to Fajardo, which was about 45 minutes from our condo, to take a kayak tour of the Laguna Grande “Bio Bay”. 

Bioluminescent plankton live in abundance in the Bio Bay. They give off a a neon blue-green color when you disturb them. 

There are only five places in the world that they live in such high concentrations that the water appears to glow – and three of these places are in Puerto Rico!

I had to see this amazing sight for myself so I booked a kayak tour of Laguna Grande, the most popular of the three Bio Bays.

Unfortunately, you can’t capture the glowing plankton on camera, but here we are paddling into the bay as the sun set. 

We went on a night with cloud cover and a moon about half full, making it hard to see the glow without help. 

So our tour guides pulled a giant tarp over all of the kayaks to make it darker.

Then we could easily see the “bling bling”. They looked like thousands of tiny diamonds in the water!

I booked our kayak tour with Pure Adventures through Viator and was really happy with it.

I paid less than $100 for both of us and the adventure and unique experience made it worth it for me. 

You’d be fine on this trip even if you’ve never kayaked before. 

Our guides gave basic instructions and safety information and were super professional. 

Tours left at 6:15 and 8:15 and we took the earlier one since the later one was after my daughter’s bedtime. 

If you want to best see the bioluminescence, I suggest booking on a night with as little moon as possible.

You can click here to research moonrise times

Since my daughter wasn’t into paddling herself, I did all of the work for both of us, which made it pretty tiring. 

But with two people to paddle it would be an easy trip. I highly recommend booking a Bio Bay kayak tour on your trip to Puerto Rico.

Things To Do In Puerto Rico: El Morro

Image by grapesky from Pixabay

One of the top places to visit in San Juan is the huge fort know as “El Morro” or more officially Castillo San Felipe del Morro

It occupies the northwest corner of the city and was designed to guard the entrance to San Juan. 

We visited on the last day of our trip and it ended up being a highlight for us!

El Morro was built from the 1500’s to the 1700’s and is such a cool piece of history. 

It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is managed by the US Park Service. 

Kids get in free and adults are $10 each unless you have a National Parks Pass – then it’s free!

You also get admission to the other fort in San Juan, Castillo San Cristóbal, if you visit within 24 hours. 

We spent several hours exploring the fort and really had a blast.

It’s rare to be in a building so old in the New World!

You can learn about the Spanish colonization of the Caribbean, the era of pirates, and how Puerto Rico became a US Territory at the fort. 

And get fantastic views of the ocean out of the windows at the fort. 

I highly recommend setting a few hours aside to explore El Morro. I think it’s one of the best things to do in Puerto Rico with kids. 

Old San Juan

On our last day in Puerto Rico we parked the car and explored Old San Juan on foot. 

It’s a beautiful, historic city that’s easy to navigate. 

We grabbed some lunch in a little café that was very affordable.

You can find them all around the city and they are tourist-friendly. Pretty much everyone in the city speaks English. 

We loved the colorful buildings and the old steps. It’s a quintessentially Caribbean vibe.  

Definitely make a stop by Calle de la Fortaleza – it’s the street that was previously covered by colorful umbrellas that now features a huge Puerto Rican flag. 

It’s the perfect place to take a selfie or a group photo to remember your trip. 

I also have to mention the amazing frappes we had at San Juan Frappes – they were so good! Be sure to stop in and grab a drink if it’s hot. 

I think families would love to spend a day exploring the streets of Old San Juan. There’s also lots of shopping of you are into that. 🙂 

Luquillo Kiosks

Friends of ours who used to spend the winter in Puerto Rico recommended the Luquillo Kiosks as a place to grab some local food. 

The kiosks are mostly restaurants but there are some gift shop and bars in the mix, too. 

We went on a week night and it was pretty empty – but I’ve heard that the weekends bring the crowds. 

There were lots of places to eat dinner but we chose Kiosk #20 – Terruno. 

We enjoyed some authentic Puerto Rico food that was SO delicious. Even my seven-year-old daughter loved everything.

Most of the restaurants have open air dining that looks out on the ocean. You can find something for everyone at the kiosks. 

Don’t be scared by their ramshackle appearance – the kiosks are essential Puerto Rico and you won’t be disappointed!

I hope you got lots of ideas for things to do in Puerto Rico in this post.

Be sure to check out my Ultimate Guide to Puerto Rico with kids for all of the details of our trip!

Any questions? Leave a comment below or send me a message on The Frugal South’s Facebook page.

Check out these related posts: 

Can I go to Puerto Rico on a budget?

mom and daughter eating ice cream

Unlike most destinations in the Caribbean, you can absolutely visit Puerto Rico on a budget!

I think Puerto Rico’s affordability is part of why I loved it so much. Your dollars go much farther there compared to most other destinations. 

Here are the costs for our five-day trip: 

  • Condo rental: $468.81
  • Rental car: $132.45
  • Airfare: $249.50 (just for the return flight – we flew there on Southwest points)
  • Activities: $151.70

Without food, our total cost for everything for a five-day trip was $1,000.

I saved on food costs by buying groceries and only eating out at affordable restaurants. 

That’s a super affordable family vacation to the Caribbean!

Is Puerto Rico safe for a family vacation?

We felt 100% safe at every point during our trip. 

Honestly your biggest safety concern in Puerto Rico is a natural disaster such as hurricanes. 

We stayed in a condominium complex with a security guard at the gate plus a code to access the building. 

As long as you use common sense you will be completely safe in Puerto Rico. 

I hope this ultimate guide to a Puerto Rico family vacation will help you plan your trip!

Any questions? Just leave a comment below or send me a message on The Frugal South’s Facebook page

Check out these related posts: 

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Troy

Monday 23rd of January 2023

Love all the info. We are looking to do a family reunion trip to PR. Any links or advice on locations for large families (30-40 PPL)to stay on the island?

Leah

Tuesday 24th of January 2023

Hi Troy! Wow, that sounds like SO much fun. I think your best bet is to try a large Airbnb or work with a travel agent who could arrange booking multiple rooms at a resort. I work with a travel agent who could help - you can email her at siera@destinationsinflorida.com

kene

Saturday 9th of July 2022

Thanks a lot. Quite helpful. planning a family vacation next month

Rosali Humphrey

Sunday 3rd of July 2022

WOW Thank you so much for this information!!!

Aliyma

Thursday 31st of March 2022

Hello Leah, This was great information you shared. I'm thinking of taking a trip for our children's birthday son 8 and daughter's first birthday. We're planning on 3-4days stay. Any suggestions of staying at a very convenient location, with easy access to food and activity? I wouldn't have much time to cook. Also warm thank you for sharing.

Lorena

Saturday 21st of August 2021

Thank you for all this wonderful information. My son is also 7 so I’m glad you and your daughter had a blast. We will be going next week and your guid was super helpful.

Leah

Saturday 21st of August 2021

Thank you and I hope you and your son have a wonderful trip, Lorena!

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