Water activities make up a large majority of what to do in Puerto Rico, an island in the midst of an inspiring rebirth. Surf or Jet Ski atop the frothy peaks of turquoise waves, snorkel or scuba dive down into the crystalline depths, or row out into the open ocean with bait and tackle for a day of deep-sea fishing. You can also head inland to cool yourself off in Puerto Rico's plentiful fresh water, whether you take a swim in the jade pools of its lush rainforests, or use the slick walls of towering waterfalls as natural water slides.
All signs point to the ocean when you're seeking adventurous things to do in Puerto Rico. Not surprisingly, many of the best scuba spots in Puerto Rico are far away from major cities. Ride a speed boat to Mona Island, about 50 miles off the west coast of the island, and swim beneath the surface with coral sharks and kaleidoscopic schools of fish of all sizes. You might even encounter humpback whales if you're lucky!
Prefer to stay closer to civilization but still want to enjoy an undersea adventure? Scuba dive beneath the "Black Wall" of La Parguera, where coral forests filled with purple and yellow tube sponges waft in ocean currents just 15 minutes west of Ponce. Or head for Cayo Ratones, which is less than a half-hour south of Mayagüez on Puerto Rico's west coast, but promises sightings of dozens of species of fish, including vibrant parrot fish and shy peacock flounders popping out from under the sugar-white seabed.
As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico offers all the comforts and conveniences of home. If you board a catamaran, however, even in cities close to cosmopolitan San Juan, you can arrive on a deserted island in almost no time. Set out from the city of Fajardo, located in Puerto Rico's lush northeast, and take a half-day trip to Culebra, which is also a hub for snorkeling in Puerto Rico (more on that spectacular spot in a second!).
Have a full day to take to the sea? Travel instead to Cayo Icacos, whose undisturbed pure white sands and perfectly clear, shallow waters might have you feeling like you've literally stepped into a postcard. Whether you ride a Catamaran into paradise or stick to the best scuba diving spots in Puerto Rico, now is the time to begin rediscovering Puerto Rico. Get here before everyone else realizes the awe-inspiring scale of the island's rebirth!
Swimming in the ocean tops the list of what to do in Puerto Rico, but you don't need your scuba certification to feel like the Little Mermaid. Strap on a snorkel mask and look straight down. Balneario el Escambron, a public beach that sits just offshore from the capital's Caribe Hilton, is a surprising snorkeler's paradise.
Have time to venture further out into the wilds of Puerto Rico? Take a boat trip to Culebra, where the pristine waters and calm winds on paradisaical Tamarindo and Flamenco Beaches make them prime snorkeling real estate. Or, if members of your family embark on a scuba diving adventure, simply accompany them to their dive site, but explore the world closer to the surface. While you need a certification to scuba dive, the only thing you need to snorkel is the ability to swim.
As its name suggests, a main factor that separates a "picnic" boat from its other seafaring cousins is the availability of food — or, in the case of Puerto Rico, a handle of locally-produced rum. Head to Fajardo to take some of the island's most delicious picnic boat tours, which pair tender, melt-in-your-mouth barbecue cooked right on the yacht with a colorful day of snorkeling in some of the clearest waters you've ever seen.
Of course, you don't need to venture so far from San Juan to take a picnic boat. Book an Old San Juan Harbor tour and stay on deck. Choose beer or wine instead of (or in addition to) Puerto Rican rum, and watch the sun sink into the sea with appetizers and desserts. You'll never think of the word "picnic" the same again!
Curious about the best scuba diving spots in Puerto Rico, but don't care to venture under the sea? Fly above it — in some cases literally — using a Jet Ski or another apparatus. Book yourself on a half- or full-day Jet Ski adventure in tourism hubs all over the island, from castaway Boquero on the island's southwest to the paradise island of Culebra, which sits in the immaculate, cerulean seas just off Puerto Rico's northeast coast and the city of Fajardo.
Speeding over the open ocean on a Jet Ski is great fun — but what if instead of having the illusion of flight, you actually were flying? Ask your hotel in San Juan about booking a fly-boarding adventure. Rocket up out of San Juan Harbor like a superhero, waving to thousands of admirers as you zoom by. As rural parts of Puerto Rico invest in tourism to continue fueling recovery from Hurricane Maria, expect more fly-boarding (and other extreme sports) to crop up around the country.
When you heard the phrase "Mosquito Bay," you might instinctively bust out your bottle of repellent. However, if you happen to find yourself on Puerto Rico's paradise island of Vieques, a much different reality awaits you. See the sea literally light up onboard your Bio Bay Cruise, as millions of bioluminescent plankton fluoresce in unison.
Can't make it to Mosquito Bay, which won a 2006 Guinness record as the world's brightest bioluminescent bay? Choose one of Puerto Rico's worthy runners-up, whether you travel to La Parguera in the country's underrated southwest or head to Fajardo (where you'll be anyway if you enjoy several of the other Puerto Rico water adventures on the list) in the beautiful northeast. Puerto Rico is lucky enough to have three "bio bay" sights, which gives you options as a traveler, not to mention plenty of photos and videos to look back on.
Another way to enjoy Puerto Rico is to row, row, row your boat — or kayak — on the waters of Fajardo Bay. Go at night to enjoy the bioluminescence, or the early evening after a day spent hiking and swimming in nearby El Yunque Rainforest. There are few better ways to appreciate the reward of Puerto Rico's natural beauty than doing the work to reach its most gorgeous parts.
Enjoy kayaking closer to San Juan if your trip to Puerto Rico won't extend far from the city limits of the capital. Although Candado Lagoon is slightly less wild than anything you'll find in Puerto Rico's untamed northeastern reaches, you can enjoy views of San Juan's upscale Condado and Miramar neighborhoods as you work up a sweat paddling through the lagoon's calm waters. Alternatively, rent a kayak from a shop in Old San Juan and set off without a specific agenda.
Need another reason to visit Fajardo, the northeastern Puerto Rican paradise where so much of the island's aquatic adventures set off? It's a hub of deep-sea fishing, with dozens of boats leaving every day for the open waters north and east of the Puerto Rican mainland. Rent a rod and tackle box and try your luck reeling in wahoo and yellowtail snapper, or take a wilder approach to deep-sea fishing by embarking on a freediving tour with professional spearfishers.
Of course, deep-sea fishing is still an option for what to do in Puerto Rico, even if you don't plan to leave San Juan or the area around the capital. Book a private tour with a knowledgeable instructor from one of the many agencies located around San Juan Harbor and in old San Juan.
Think Hawaii and California are the only places in the United States worth traveling to for surfing? Think again. Puerto Rico's West Coast is known as the Caribbean's answer to Hawaii's North Shore — and within good reason. In particular, beaches around the cities of Aguadilla, Isabela and Rincon boast Puerto Rico's best surf, as well as facilities like board rental and repair services (not to mention plenty of eateries and watering holes to recharge after a long day on the waves).
Make sure to travel to Puerto Rico between October and February if surfing is high on your list of priorities. These months are when the swells are largest, while still comfortably outside of hurricane season. You might not have previously considered surfing to be among the adventurous things to do in Puerto Rico, but you definitely should now.
Puerto Rico is an island, so it's not a shock much of what to do in Puerto Rico revolves around the ocean. However, rainforests like the aforementioned El Yunque make up a huge chunk of Puerto Rico's land area. Take a wild ride in nature's waterpark when you let loose and coast down Las Paylas, a waterfall whose smooth rock walls have earned it the reputation as a natural waterslide. (Local authorities monitor and maintain the site, so you don't need to worry about injuring yourself, so long as you follow posted guidelines.)
Another refreshing spot to spend the day in El Yunque is Las Damas pool, a tranquil section of the Mameyes River in the northeastern quadrant of the forest. Make sure and hike the Angelito Trail to reach the pool, so that you're sufficiently exhausted (and sweat-covered!) to fully appreciate the supernatural cooling power of a dip in Las Damas.
Want to see Puerto Rico from above before your cruise departures? Book a flight from one of many seaplane operators in Old San Juan to enjoy sweeping views of sights like Castillo San Felipe del Morro from directly overhead. Whether you choose a single sightseeing flight or a day trip that takes you to many places, you'll take off directly out of San Juan Bay and hover closer to the ground than any jet plane could.
Focus your attention on scoping out the spots where you had your favorite plate of tostones during your time in San Juan, or direct your gaze out to sea, appreciating the best scuba diving spots in Puerto Rico from thousands of feet in the air. Or, charter a seaplane to continue your island expedition — the most popular choice is to travel to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where a whole new spate of adventure awaits. The Caribbean begins in Puerto Rico, but it doesn't end there.