Combining the comforts of home and lots of outdoor adventures for all ages, Puerto Rico is an excellent destination for travelers with children.
The options for family activities on the island are extensive and happen mostly outdoors. Snorkeling, rainforest adventures and good old beach fun are some of the highlights. Here are the best things to do in Puerto Rico with kids.
Is Puerto Rico good for kids?
Puerto Rico is a safe and fun destination for kids, with perhaps the best services for families in the Caribbean. Facilities are comfortable and families will find it easy to fill their agendas.
Families will have the most fun in Puerto Rico if they plunge into its beloved outdoor charms: playing on sandy beaches, swimming in warm water and exploring the island’s wildlife. If the weather isn't cooperating, many of the island’s museums have programs for kids and there’s a small kids’ museum in San Juan.
But before you head out, call ahead. Puerto Rican attractions can be notoriously unpredictable with their hours of operation – particularly in state-operated parks – so confirm opening hours before you go.
When considering accommodations, look carefully at your hotel options to see what offerings they have for kids. Even though many of the hotels have swimming pools, some are tiny and not kid-friendly; others splash out with mini water parks. Consider an apartment rental, besides a lot more space than a hotel room, they offer cooking facilities for the vagaries of young appetites. Many have pools and are close to a beach.
Nothing quite excites a young mind like interacting with nature and the best place to do that is at El Yunque National Forest. The lush 28,516-acre forest is home to thousands of native plants and small wildlife. There are around 25 miles of trails passing waterfalls and crisscrossing rivers. These trails are well marked, easy to follow and easy enough for shorter legs. There's a northern entrance near Luquillo and a southern entrance near Naguabo, both off Hwy 191.
There’s also Cabezas de San Juan Reserva Natural, a nodule of land on Puerto Rico’s northeast tip, this Para La Naturaleza–run reserve shelters seven – yes, seven – different ecological systems, including beaches, lagoons, dry forest, coral reefs and mangroves. Animal species that forage here include big iguanas, fiddler crabs, myriad insects and all kinds of birds.
There are about 2 miles of trails and boardwalks that lead through the park, but you can’t follow them on your own: you must take a guided walking tour (there is a fee). It lasts more than two hours and includes a short tram ride through the dry forest section. Tours depart through the day, but most are in Spanish; the English tour is usually at 2pm.
Ample room to run and play in the sand and surf, easy access to food and drinks and let’s not forget the sedative effects of saltwater and sun on small bodies when the day is done. Balneario Condado is San Juan's most famous beach and also a family winner. Beautiful sand, gentle surf and lots of nearby places for treats.
Older kids will enjoy Playa Shacks for its underwater caves for snorkeling at this somewhat secluded beach in Isabela. Playa Luquillo is synonymous with its fabulous – and hugely popular – beach. Set on a calm, northwest-facing bay and protected from the easterly trade winds, this arc of powder-soft sand is shaded by coco palms. And its raft of facilities and gentle slope into crystal-clear water make it perfect for families.
Kids love the sprawling hands-on Museo del Niño de Carolina in suburban San Juan. Interactive and fun displays focus on volcanoes, electricity and music, while dress-up areas, a minicity and construction sites let them play at being grown up. Outside, an MD-82 American Airlines plane is perfect for exploring; a small petting zoo and go-carts are also big hits. Perfect for a rainy day.
If your kids like bugs (which ones don't?), hit up the Museo de Entomología y Biodiversidad Tropical. This small but fascinating museum houses one of the largest collections of insects in the Caribbean. The three rooms contain case upon case of winged insects, jars of larvae big and small, even slides of microscopic creatures. The building also serves as a research center for entomologists at the University of Puerto Rico.
Named after the first Puerto Rican to play in the major leagues (Chicago Cubs, 1942) Hiram Bithorn Stadium is an 18,000-seat baseball stadium and home to the Cangrejeros de Santurce, as well as concerts. It's around a 1.2-mile walk west from Roosevelt station.
Bioluminescent Bays near Fajardo in the east and on Vieques, the waters glow on dark nights, which produces many a delighted shriek as you float along by kayak or small electric boat.
Locals claim that the magnificent Bioluminescent Bay, a designated wildlife preserve about 2 miles east of Esperanza in Vieques, has the highest concentration of phosphorescent dinoflagellates not only in Puerto Rico, but in the world.
A trip through the lagoon – take a tour – is nothing short of psychedelic, with the movement of your kayak, paddle, electric boat, even fish, whipping up fluorescent-blue sparkles below the surface. Reservations for tours are essential in high season; the best time to go is at the new moon. Your children of all ages will be left in awe.
Gozalandia in San Sebastián is a flurry of dramatic cascades 3 miles north of town that tumbles into some inviting plunge pools. The crashing river here is backed by steep forest and is a truly beautiful spot to spend some hours soaking up the quietude. There are two key cascades. At the lower one it is possible, with care, to climb behind the waterfall, whilst at the upper, there is a rope swing.
Puerto Rico’s strategic importance in the Atlantic channel made it a strong destination for the peg-leg and plundering set.
Kids go crazy for the pirate-themed rides at Faro y Parque Histórico de Arecibo. This family-oriented amusement park off Hwy 2 offers a visit to the historical Arecibo lighthouse, and is a good place to break up the long drives across the north coast if you’re traveling with kids, who will likely be enthralled by all the pirate-themed stuff.
A star of Old San Juan, brooding El Morro sits atop a headland, deterring would-be attackers. The 140ft walls (some up to 15ft thick) date to 1539 and it's said to be the oldest Spanish fort in the New World. On weekends, the fields leading up to the fort are alive with picnickers, lovers and kite flyers. The scene becomes a kind of impromptu festival with food carts on the perimeter.