A family vacation in Puerto Rico has been on my bucket list for some time because it’s like taking an exotic holiday without many of the hassles associated with international travel. Learn a little more about why you might consider going.

1. Some of the Best Beaches in the World

Spending time on the beach is a must-do Puerto Rico attraction, whether you’re relaxing in white sand or surfing the western beaches of Rincon, or snorkeling around Vieques. The island has 270 miles of coastline, so there is much to choose from, including some secluded options. Flamenco Beach in Culebra is often cited as one of the best beaches in the world.

Beautiful Luquillo Beach in Puerto Rico

2. Spectacular Rainforest

El Yunque rainforest is the only rainforest under the U.S. National Park Service. It’s still in pristine condition with very little human modification and has a long history of research dating back to the 1930s. Needless to say, the area is incredibly biodiverse and popular for hiking. Kids will love looking for little coquà­ frogs among other reptiles, tropical birds and native mammalsOne not-to-be-missed sight is the La Mina waterfall located off of the popular and aptly-named La Mina trail.

3. To Eat and Drink

Puerto Rico is becoming the gastronomic center of the Caribbean. Puerto Rican cuisine is similar to that of Mexico, Cuba and Spain, though locals call is cocina criolla (Creole cuisine). Book a culinary tour to learn more about the unique combination of Taà­no, Spanish, and African cultures, recipes, and ingredients. Over 70% of rum sold in the U.S. is from Puerto Rico so why not head straight to the source? Here are five things to eat:

Arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas):

This is the national dish of Puerto Rico and usually a combination of rice, pork and pigeon peas cooked in the same pot with some kind of sofrito (aromatic sauce) typically with garlic, onion, paprika, peppers, and tomatoes.

Arroz con gandules on a plate
Yellow rice with pigeon peas, pieces of salami, and red pimiento.

Asopao (rice soup)

This hearty gumbo-like dish is made with either chicken, shellfish or even pigeon peas with spices such as oregano, garlic, and paprika. Every chef has a slightly different way of making it so take note.

Lechon asado (barbecued pig)

This is a whole, young pig roasted on a barbecue. Though it’s a delicacy served at Puerto Rican holidays, lechon can be found any time of year on the island. Foodies seek it out for the tender, flavorful meat. La Ruta de Lechon in Guavate is a famous street for lechon, lovingly referred to as roast pig highway.


Mofongo is mashed plantain with seasonings and a filling that can please all palates (chicken, seafood, vegetarian… you name it). You can find this beloved dish basically everywhere on the island.

Fried Snacks

Hungry in between sightseeing? Stop for bunelos, fried turnovers, fritters and other hearty delights. Stalls all over the island sell these delights.

4. Historic Sites Like Old San Juan

A visit to Old San Juan is likened to stepping into a time machine with its cobblestone streets, colonial architecture and abandoned fortresses. Kids will love flying kites in the trade winds over the open fields at Castillo de San Felipe del Morro—Puerto Rico’s most famous historic structure. Here, you can step into a sentry box (pictured above) to see how soldiers lived hundreds of years ago while protecting the ever-important shipping route.

Exploring the narrow passageways and look-out points in the important fortress (built in 1539) is a must. Other sites to see include a fantastic Children’s Museum, Casa Blanca (the original home of Ponce de Leon) and much more here.

Historic Spanish watchtower overlooking San Juan Bay in Puerto Rico

5. A Bioluminescent Bay

This type of experience is one the kids are sure to remember. There are only a few bio bays left in the world, and Puerto Rico has three. The Vieques Biobay is one of the most bioluminescent bays in the world, where the water glows with a green aura. When tiny single-cell organisms called dinoflagellates thrive, they release energy in the form of light when agitated and cause the water and everything around them to glow. Go when the moon isn’t full.

No Passport Is Required

Logistics are easy, which is important when traveling with kids. Puerto Rico is in the Atlantic time zone (just 3 hours by plane from New York City, for example), which means U.S. residents are either in the same time zone already or only have to adjust by a few hours. Multiple flights per day are available to San Juan, Puerto Rico’s currency is the U.S. dollar, most Puerto Ricans speak English, and no passport is required for U.S. residents to visit which means you don’t have the laborious issue of clearing customs like you would when visiting other Caribbean Islands.

There Are Really Great Resorts

As a result, we book people in all the time with our VIP benefits at luxury Puerto Rico resorts. The one we book the most is Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve and second most booked is Condado Vanderbilt.

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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  1. I’ve been to Puerto Rico a couple of times via cruise ship, but the time was too short! I’d love to return and explore El Morro or see a bioluminescent bay.

  2. what fun! i’ve always wanted to go visit – this made me want to even more! time to plan! 🙂

  3. OK, you sold me. Checking into it and their Facebook page now. I am always looking for great family getaways.

  4. You only got one thing wrong, the majority of the population speak spanish not english. But everything else is perfect.

    1. Thanks! I was told by the tourism board that the majority can speak English, which doesn’t mean that they do, but that’s an important distinction to make. Appreciate you pointing that out!

  5. I don’t think I came across anyone who didn’t speak English when I went to Puerto Rico a few years ago. It felt like a cool blend of Americana + foreign land to me!