Puerto Rico is not a “tourist trap”; It is a vibrant island where people live, work, and have fun. I have been helping tourists get the most out of their Puerto Rico visits for decades. In this article, I will share fun things you can do in Puerto Rico for free.
1. Go to The Beach
Puerto Rico has almost 300 beaches to choose from. You can practice a variety of water sports in Puerto Rico’s Beaches. Swimming, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, snorkeling, fishing, sunbathing, or simply walking on the sand are fun things you can do for free in Puerto Rico.
Note: All beaches in Puerto Rico, even those in front of hotels, are public beaches where you can get in for free. There are “balnearios” beaches that the government administers where they charge a parking fee.
2. Watch The Sunset
The Village People in the 70’s and The Pet shop Boys in the 90’s recorded two versions of the song “Go West.” The song says: “Go west, life is peaceful there, go west, in the open air, go west where the sky is blue, go west, this is what we’re gonna do.”
The West Coast of Puerto Rico offers the most beautiful sunsets on the island. The setting sun paints the sky and the ocean with shades of red, orange, and yellow. Seeing the sunset on the west coast is something you will remember for years to come.
Tip: They call Rincon, the town of beautiful sunsets: visit Rincon and find out why?
3. Take a Hike
Puerto Rico is home to lush forests and nature reserves. La Cordillera Central (The island’s mountainous interior region) has stunning waterfalls and miles of hiking trails. Puerto Rico is a perfect place to explore the great outdoors.
With diverse ecosystems within Puerto Rico’s valleys, wet and dry forests, and cave systems, you will find hiking trails suitable for every fitness level. Get your hiking shoes and start an unforgettable adventure on Puerto Rico’s Trails.
Special Mention: The salt flat trail in Cabo Rojo, will take you to the oldest sea salt extracting facility in the Americas. Keep on walking up to The Los Morillos Lighthouse to get a breathtaking view of the sea where real pirates of the Caribbean (The Cofresi Pirate) used to sail.
4. Explore Historical Sites
The Spanish came to Puerto Rico on November 19th, 1493, and Christopher Columbus named the island “Isla de Juan Bautista” John The Baptist Island. But before Colombus’ arrival, the island was inhabited by the Taino Indians.
There are Taino Historical Sites you can visit for free. 500-year-old churches, ruins of lighthouses, hermitages, and train tunnels are just a few of the historical sites you can visit in Puerto Rico free of charge.
Real Heroes from Ponce: Visit the old firehouse in Ponce. Brave men risked their lives to save the city from The Great Ponce Fire.
5. See Old San Juan
According to the US National Park Service’s web page: “San Juan Puerto Rico is the oldest continuously inhabited post-European contact city in United States territory and the second oldest in the entire Western Hemisphere. Since the Spanish founded it in 1519, San Juan has served as the capital city of Puerto Rico.”
Puerto Rico’s capital city has many historic landmarks that you can visit for free. Walk on the cobblestone streets and see the Spanish architecture. El parque de las palomas (The pigeon’s park) is a great place to visit.
Old San Juan is also “the birthplace” of the pina colada cocktail. You can see the place they invented the drink.
The Chapel of Christ and San Jose Church are two of the oldest churches of the “New World.”
The Cruise Ship Landing: One of the best things to see in Old San Juan is the “beaching” of a cruise ship. It takes a lot of skill to get such a big ship through the narrow Bay of Old San Juan.
Puerto Rico is not just an island; it’s an archipelago comprised of the main island (Puerto Rico), two smaller islands (Vieques and Culebra) a natural reserve island (Isla de Mona), and over a hundred islets and cays.
The archipelago of Puerto Rico offers hundreds of places to snorkel in calm waters. You can get “up close and personal” with the island’s marine life. The peace and tranquility you will feel while snorkeling in Puerto Rico will surprise you. Most of Puerto Rico’s reefs are just an easy swim to the shore.
Blue Hole in Isabela and The Tres Palmas Marine Reserve in Rincón, are two of the best snorkeling spots in Puerto Rico.
7. Be Part of Something Bigger
Surfrider Foundation Rincon Chapter takes care of The Tres Palmas Marine Reserve, home of the largest Elkhorn coral ecosystem in the Caribbean. You can become a volunteer for a day and make an environmental difference to preserve the Marine Reserve for future generations.
Puerto Rico has dozens of animals shelters that need volunteers to take care of their rescued “guests”; by becoming a volunteer in one of these shelters you can help save a life and make a difference in the lives of those little friends.
8. Visit a Natural Reserve or Forest
Puerto Rico is a dream come true for nature lovers. The Island has 36 nature reserves and 19 state forests. You can enjoy most of these forests and reserves free of charge. If you want to visit El Yunque (The only tropical rainforest under the jurisdiction of the US National Forest Service) you will have to pay 2 dollars per vehicle. You will find hundreds of species of plants and animals in Puerto Rico’s forests and natural reserves.
Special Mention: Puerto Rico has a tropical rainforest, but did you know that we also have what experts consider the best-preserved dry forest in the Caribbean, Bosque Seco de Guánica (Guanica’s Dry Forests) is a dry forest ecosystem worth visiting. If you are into caves, Puerto Rico has Cueva de Los Vientos and Cuevas de Camuy, both are free of charge.
9. Two Words: “Fiestas Patronales”
There are 78 municipalities (we call them municipios) in Puerto Rico. Each has a town square with a Catholic Church. Every time Spaniards founded a city, they had to build a church and dedicate that city to a Patron Saint. Each municipality celebrates “Fiestas Patronales” a semi-religious festival honoring the city’s Patron. 78 different municipalities celebrating 78 different Patron Saints, guarantee that there will be fiestas patronales every week of the year.
The town’s mayor and the municipal workers go above and beyond on these fiestas.
Fiestas de la Calla San Sebastián If you visit Puerto Rico during the last two weeks of January, you can be part of The San Sebastian Street Celebration, a cultural/religious celebration gathering hundreds of thousands of people
10. Go to a “Festival”
Each of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities is famous for something. Maricao has coffee, San Sebastián has bananas, Hatillo has more cows than people, etcetera. Each municipality has its festival. So technically speaking you can go to a different festival every week. These festivals have artisans showing and selling their craft work, typical food, and live music. Festivals are a great opportunity to learn about the town’s culture and to mingle with locals.
Coffee Lovers should go to Maricao the week after Valentine’s Day to participate in La Fiesta del Acabe del Café (The end of coffee harvest festival)
ConclusionYou don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a great time in Puerto Rico. There are many free things to do in Puerto Rico