Día de los Reyes, January
Feria Dulce Sueño, March
Fiesta de San Juan Bautista, June
Officially hurricane season on Puerto Rico runs from June through November. However, there have been tropical storms right into December and beyond.
Travelers looking to escape the cold find balmy solace in Puerto Rico, where temperatures hover between the high 70s and 80s and where the Christmas after-party rumbles on.
Día de los Reyes
The island-wide Día de los Reyes party on 6 January toasts the three kings (the Magi) and is the high of a two-month-long extravaganza of Christmas celebrations, most popular in the south coast town of Juana Díaz. Many towns have festivals in their plazas, and families exchange gifts to celebrate Epiphany.
Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián
The Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián is a week-long shindig of parades, food, dancing and music in Old San Juan. One of the island’s hippest street carnivals, it's usually held over January's third weekend.
From late January to late March, migrating humpback whales can be seen off west-coast shores. Snorkeling and dive boats double as whale-watching operators, but you may also be able to spot the mammals from the lighthouses at Cabo Rojo and Rincón.
Though the mountains are coolest during this time of year, temperatures stay fairly consistent along the coast. It is also one of the driest times of year, with only rare, brief, afternoon showers.
During the days preceding Lent, Ponce parties hard before giving up vices. While this event is not as wild as Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival or New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, it’s fun to see parading vejigantes (traditional horned masks) and beauty pageants at Carnaval.
Festival Casals de Puerto Rico
World-class instrumentalists play at San Juan's Festival Casals, honoring native cellist and composer Pablo Casals. For over 50 years, this month-long event from mid-February has offered top orchestral and chamber music events.
Maricao Coffee Festival
Held midmonth, the annual Maricao Coffee Festival has demonstrations of traditional coffee making and local crafting. The rugged mountain backdrop is sublime and the fresh air fills with the scent of roasting beans.
Snowbird tourists return north, but Puerto Rico’s weather remains remarkably beautiful, with warm temperatures and little rain. This might be the slowest month of tourism all year, leaving parks virtually empty.
Feria Dulce Sueño
The streets of Guayama fill with the elegant gait of Paso Fino horses during the two-day Feria Dulce Sueño (Fair of Sweet Dreams). Competitions take place in a dignified rodeo atmosphere and the city goes horse crazy. It’s held in early March.
Puerto Rico JazzFest
Hosted at the Tito Puente Amphitheater in San Juan in mid-March, the Puerto Rico JazzFest draws international artists and jazz fans.
Rincón International Film Festival
Rincón's film festival has a naturally spectacular setting. Understandably, surf films are shown, as well as the best in comedy, short and feature movies. It's held over a week at the end of March and beginning of April.
Trade winds bring a bit more precipitation to the north coast, though rainfall is mostly in the afternoon and temperatures continue to increase.
People in little Juana Díaz near Ponce get tipsy with their Taíno heritage, celebrating Mavi Carnival and toasting a fermented drink made from the bark of an ironwood tree. Festivities include lots of costumes, food and fairly intense hangovers.
Cities across Puerto Rico celebrate the birthday of patriot and revolutionary independence icon José de Diego (b April 16, 1867). It’s a national holiday, celebrated with particular enthusiasm in Aguadilla, where he was born.
The Catholic holiday of Easter gets celebrated for an entire week at Semana Santa festivals across the island. The most vivid festivals will have a procession through the streets to reenact the crucifixion – using a real person tied to a cross.
Many of the little agricultural towns of the south celebrate the arrival of spring with the fruit of their harvests – including a delicious assortment of coconut, mango, shrimp and oysters.
Feria Internacional de Artesanía
Known locally as FERINART, the Feria Internacional de Artesanía (http://ferinart.org) is a chance for artisans from Puerto Rico and throughout Latin America to show off their wares in Old San Juan. Tents with locally carved masks, paintings and crafts fill the streets below the fort.
Semana de la Danza
Ponce’s Semana de la Danza, held in mid-May, features a week of music and dance concerts that celebrate the stately music of string quartets and 19th-century ballroom dance. Many of the events are free.
Puerto Ricans switch to summer mode, with shorter work days and time off from school. The summer tourist season – when road-tripping locals join foreigners – swings into high gear.
Festival de Flores
Acres of roses, carnations, lilies and begonias brighten up the mountain town of Aibonito with the Festival de Flores at the end of June. Vendors have dirt-cheap plant sales.
Festival del Juey
Guánica’s mid-June Festival del Juey delights crab eaters and brings an open-air fair to the town’s seaside. The crustaceans are consumed in every preparation imaginable and washed back with a whole lot of cold beer.
Fiesta de San Juan Bautista
On June 24 Old San Juan explodes with the island capital’s fiesta patronal (patron saint’s festival). Party animals eventually walk backwards into the sea (or sometimes fountains) to demonstrate their loyalty to the saint of Christian baptism.
The Rincón Triathlon has been going since 1982. It’s a classic iron-man contest that’s starting to draw some quality international athletes. Even if you lack the stamina to participate, it makes for a serious fiesta for spectators.
Blazing-hot temperatures drive Puerto Rican families to the beaches in droves. This is high season for sun-seeking locals, so expect plenty of company at the beach.
Fiesta de Santiago
Loíza’s Fiestas de Santiago Apóstol, held at the end of the month, brings Puerto Ricans of African descent to a festival worthy of Bahía in Brazil: parades, fabulous drum ensembles, masks and costumes revive saints and incarnations of West African gods.
Puerto Rico Salsa Congress
The competition among professional dancers is intense during the Puerto Rico Salsa Congress, usually held in late July in San Juan. Spectators have the chance to see the dance at its highest form.
Fiestas Patronales de Vieques
The Fiestas Patronales de Vieques occurs in the third week in July, when islanders celebrate their patron saint, Vírgen del Carmen, with an all-out five-day party of live music, dancing, parades and fireworks. Food stands with comida típica (local fare) and rum cocktails figure prominently.
The tropical rains start to fall during the start of the peak of hurricane season, but the parties continue every weekend.
Bomba y Plena
The music of plantation workers fills the air at Bomba y Plena festivals during late summer. Explosive drumbeats and folk songs are the custom; reliably rowdy ones happen in Ponce and in the nearby mountain villages of Juana Díaz and Aguas Buenas.
San Juan International Billfish Tournament
At over half a century old, the San Juan International Billfish Tournament (http://sanjuaninternational.com/V3) is one of the longest- running deep-sea contests of its kind in the world. And what goes perfectly with fishing? That’s right, drinking beer.
SoFo Culinary Festival
At SoFo Culinary Festival foodies let their rumbling bellies guide them to Old San Juan to feast on some of the city’s best eats. A three-night party with live music and plenty of dancing is a given. A repeat event is held in December.
Tourism in September can be upended by tropical storms, but the heart of the hurricane season really begins at the end of the month. Still, travelers should keep a close eye on the weather.
Fiesta Nuestra Señora de la Monserrate
The Fiesta Nuestra Señora de la Monserrate in Aguas Buenas, high in the mountains above San Juan, is a favorite among the scarce September festivals. Live music and street food make for a lively atmosphere and the mountain setting is lovely.
Though this is the slow tourist season, the island’s typical assortment of parties for patron saints are scattered throughout the month. A lack of crowds anywhere make this a great month for a visit.
Día del Descubrimiento de América
Though Christopher Columbus is loathed throughout most of Latin America, Puerto Rico celebrates his arrival – the so-called Día del Descubrimiento de América (Discovery of America Day) – with a smattering of parades and street festivals on October 12.
Festival de Cine Internacional de San Juan
Cinephiles and casual movie lovers flock to the annual Festival de Cine Internacional de San Juan, which features the best in Caribbean cinema.
American tourists begin descending on the island as the weather turns cold in the north. Puerto Rico also sees many native sons and daughters return to the island for the holidays.
Jayuya Indian Festival
Although all pure-blooded Taíno have been gone for about 400 years, this Jayuya festival, held midmonth, revives the games, costumes, food and music of the original islanders. As with almost all Puerto Rican fiestas, there is a beauty pageant, this time with women in Indian dress.
Winter League Baseball in Puerto Rico is in full swing and stadiums throughout the island host teams of aspiring major leaguers, young players hoping to get a bit more experience over the winter and older players in the twilight of their careers.
Puerto Rico Queer FilmFest
The first and largest LGBTQ film festival in the Caribbean, the week-long Puerto Rico Queer FilmFest features critically-acclaimed films from around the world. Local filmmakers shine in BoriQueer shorts.
Puerto Ricans celebrate Thanksgiving similarly to folks in the continental US: as a largely family affair, on the fourth Thursday of November. Touristy restaurants put on special menus but otherwise places close down on this day, which marks the start of the island's lengthy Christmas season.
Twinkling lights make central plazas sparkle as Puerto Rico gets geared up for Christmas. Near the end of the month, every town celebrates the nativity.
Hatillo Mask Festival
Held on December 28, the Hatillo Mask Festival features masked devils prowling the streets as incarnations of the agents of King Herod, who sent soldiers to find and kill the Christ Child. Kids run and hide from the maskers.
Mexican mariachis parade around the square in Ponce during Las Mañanitas, an annual celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico. It’s a brassy event, with lots of trumpets and drinking.
Waves in the West
Cold fronts push huge waves to the island’s west coast, making it the high season for surfing Rincón and beaches near Isabela and Aguadilla. With perfect tubes and tons of tourists, you’ll need to reserve a board and lessons early.
Rincón Surfing Festival
In surf-mad Puerto Rico there had to be a festival dedicated to surfing. This is it. The Rincón Surfing Festival (http://rinconsurfingfestivalpr.com) is a multi-day celebration of breaks and how to crest them, from exhibitions of surf gear to contests. It all happens near Punta Higüero Lighthouse.