Puerto Rico, a pint-sized island with a giant-sized punch! The lure of gorgeous Caribbean scenery, topped with a tonne of activities and laced with the comfort of every kind a US citizen can dream of. Being a US territory, you do not need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico. From currency to phone networks to power outlets, you will get everything that you get back at your home. As far as language goes, English is understood fairly well everywhere in San Juan, the island’s capital. But Spanish is the main language of this island. And to make things sweeter, you can avail yourself of super cheap flights from the US right now! That’s how bliss and a blessing look put together.
Or does it? It is not that far back in time when we had seen two hurricanes ravaging the island mercilessly. Truth be told, the island has fought back with all its might and tourism has picked up, present circumstances notwithstanding. So if you don’t want to battle bad weather or walk shoulder to shoulder with other tourists on this tiny island during high season, you have to find out the best time to travel to Puerto Rico to plan that perfect island getaway with your family. Yes, save on your precious hours. Invest it by packing in a lot more action, exploring off-the-beaten-path travel spots, or sneak in some extra beach time.
Best Time to Visit Puerto Rico
At a glance, winter might come across as the best time of year to travel to Puerto Rico. But is it? Of course, it is an all-rounder season with the warm sun to combat the cold of the North. The island sees a heady holiday celebration and local festivals like Carnaval and Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián. Tourists throng the cobblestone paths of Old San Juan or laze around the many beaches of the island. Surfers head out to Rincón to catch the tallest wave. Marine life enthusiasts go out to do some whale watching.
But the one thing all of them can’t avoid – the crowd!
The winter season spans from December to April and is the high season. The island sees an outpour of tourists from the US mainland. All is good till you are staying at an all-inclusive resort. Then you don’t have to put a toe outside for mostly nothing. If the resort has a private island, consider yourself lucky. If your family vacation consists of only lazing around the pools, go to the water park, go to chomp town in the resort restaurants, the high season is for you. But then what sets apart your Puerto Rican holiday from any other Caribbean holiday?
To enjoy the full splendor of this Island of Enchantment as Puerto Rico is known popularly, come here during the shoulder season that is sprinkled across mid-April to May and September to mid-December. This is actually the best time to travel to Puerto Rico! The winter crowd went away, the domestic tourist deluge of July has been avoided wisely, the temperature is still to soar and room rates have slashed. June is when the island begins to heat up the most. The following months of July to September see high chances of hurricanes. With a family in tow, we don’t even remotely encourage you to take chances during the hurricane-prone months. If you can keep a hawk-eyed watch on the weather forecast then maybe it is okay, but don’t throw caution to the wind where your family’s safety is concerned.
Where to Stay in Puerto Rico with Kids
When we compare it to a US state, Puerto Rico is roughly the size of Connecticut, the US’s third smallest state. You can drive around the island in around five and a half hours! None of its ends are farther than a few hours’ drive from San Juan. Given the accessibility and stellar road conditions, it is no wonder that most travelers prefer to stay at San Juan and drive down to other places of interest strewn around the island. Most of the tour operators are also located in San Juan. Planning daily excursions becomes a cakewalk if you stay at the capital.
In San Juan, three areas offer quality and safe accommodation options for families with kids of all ages.
Old San Juan
Historic houses dating back to colonial times converted to boutique hotels with charming characters and a vintage vibe. If your children are enthralled by fairytale towns (or love Insta-worthy picturesque spots) with colorfully painted houses and cobbled streets, they will love their stay here. What they might throw a tantrum about is that this area is far from any beach but you can entice them back with a cup of piragua or a tasty treat from a local bakery. The cobbled stone streets might pose some difficulty to strollers, so we recommend a baby carrier.
Near to the airport and sporting many beachfront properties, Condado is the quintessential resort strip of San Juan. Extremely safe with periodic police patrol and pedestrian-friendly to boot, the area has trendy pubs and eateries and you will never run out of things to do here. You can always hop between resorts to check out their individual offerings. Though Condado beach is nice, it is dangerous to swim owing to big waves and strong currents coupled with strong underflow and large rocks.
Residential areas like Santruce or Ocean Park
If you want to avoid touristy crowds and want a relaxed stay like a local, pick quiet neighborhoods like these. Quality vacation rentals are available in Santurce, a hip area located east of Old San Juan. You will catch the boho mood here with a plethora of quirky street arts and artsy cafes. The locality of Ocean Park is right near a public beach. It it laid back and offers good swimming opportunities. You can do windsurfing, kiteboarding, and other water sports here if so you wish.
How to get around Puerto Rico with Kids
The best way to explore the island is to rent a car. That said, if you have planned to explore just San Juan and thrown in a few day excursions into the mix, then we suggest availing public transport or calling for an Uber to travel within the city. Most tour operators will include a pick-up/ drop against extra charges. You can always compare costs with that of a rental or a ride-hailing company and decide likewise.
If you are staying in the resort area, you can also avail a bus to come to the town. Guagas, as locals call public buses here, ply from beaches to town and bac. They operate from about 5 am in the morning to 8-9 pm at night. The schedule is pretty consistent and rates are all fixed.
Puerto Rico is the first of its kind of Caribbean island to have its own metro service. If you are staying at Santurce, you can take a metro to come to the city center. Visit top sights like El Morro and Fort San Cristobal.
Coming back to car rental, be cautious of hiring a driver who comes with a good recommendation. And be ready to pay parking charges and toll fees!
Finally, your feet are your friends if you are exploring Old San Juan. Consider signing up for thematic walking tours to have a more intimate experience of the local food and history of the island. When the tiny feet of your children grow tired, give them relief by opting for a free hop-on-hop-off trolley ride instead.
How Much Time to Stay in Puerto Rico with Kids
Given what style of travel you choose – leisure or active, you can pace Puerto Rico up or down. You can pack in substantial activities with some lazy crazy beach time in 72 hours or spread it all out over five days! The choice is yours.
For a capsule trip with island highlights like Old San Juan, Culebra beach visit, pub hopping, and night markets with a peaceful beach time, aim for a 72-hour trip. In 5 days, you can easily include an escape to the colonial town of Ponce or the surfers’ paradise, Rincón. Remember, any excursion will at least take a full day. And it is advisable to keep the evening light for your children to turn in early. When you choose the best time to travel to Puerto Rico, you can stay however long you like.
Things To Do in Puerto Rico With Kids
San Juan fortresses with kite flying at El Morro
Begin your day by literally walking into the pages of history encompassing 500 years! Located within a mile of each other, the two fortresses of Castillo de San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristobal are covered by a single admission fee which remains good for 24 hours. Kids up to the age of 15 can enter free of charge. Spend some time exploring the sentry boxes, dingy tunnels, and the narrow alleys of this erstwhile fort erected to protect the port city from foreign invaders. To feel like a local, try flying kites from the grassy patches of El Morro Esplanade.
Historic walking tour in Old San Juan
Old San Juan with its Spanish colonial architecture, curious doors painted in flag colors, and expansive city wall is a delight to amble through. Check out Paseo de la Princesa and feed the pigeons at Parque de las Palomas. Stop at La Fortaleza to check out the governor’s official residence and hit the shops at Calle Fortaleza located just next to it. Hydrate with a rum punch at any of its quirky pubs housed in ancient buildings while your kids can savor some ice cream treats to cool down.
Tour the Bacardi factory
The industrial process of rum production and knowing its history as you stroll through Bacardi’s birthplace is a wonder to behold. Adults aged 18 and above can opt for various experiences here. Experience a mixology class, rum tasting, or bottling your own rum. Kids are only allowed for the history tour which doesn’t involve any alcohol tasting. Round off your day here with a complimentary rum cocktail. The kids can enjoy mouthwatering non-alcoholic mocktails created just for them. Kids under 17 can enter without charge.
Day trip to Flamenco Beach on Culebra
For a dip in the pristine blue, book a day’s excursion to Flamenco Beach on Isla Culebra. Pack snorkeling gears as the water teems with marine life and offers unparallel clarity to experience them in their full glory. You can also enjoy kayaking safaris and water sports at Zoni Beach. The water here is soft and shallow and so inviting for a swim in the open, so don’t miss out on that! Stop for some delectable snacks at Mamasita’s.
El Yunque Rainforest
Just an hour’s drive from San Juan and you will find yourself right in the middle of the only tropical rainforest in North America. Arrive here early in the day and opt for a ranger-led guided hike into the forest. The trails are dotted with signage explaining the local flora and fauna which are enjoyable and educational for kids. Head out for the mild to medium waterfall hikes where you can enjoy splashing around in some of the most beautiful natural pools beneath the waterfall.
If your kids are aged 8 and above, give them the ultimate thrill pill! Soaring like a bird, above the tree line of rainforest is an unbeatable experience. Many ziplining companies conduct day’s experience in and around San Juan and El Yunque Rainforest. It is a popular recreational adventure activity and the island is quite famous for it.
Take a Bioluminescent Bay Kayaking Tour
Have you ever imagined how it will feel as you make your way through a neon blue sea of stars? Well, come to Mosquito Bay in Vieques on the east coast of Puerto Rico and find out. Pick a day with the moon at its lowest and kayak your way through Puerto Rico’s brightest concentration of glowing microorganisms and witness this nature’s wonder with your family. This will be one of those unique experiences that you will cherish forever!
Drive down to the ‘Jewel of the South’ to explore its colonial heritage, castle and cathedral, beautiful untouched beaches, deserted islands, abandoned lighthouses, unique forests, lip-smacking Lechon, and its deep rum and coffee connections. Children will enjoy feeding pelicans on the La Guancha boardwalk and paddle-boating in the calm Caribbean waters at its nearby beach.
Things to Eat in Puerto Rico
With a smattering of Spanish, African, and the native Taino cultures coloring its population and history, Puerto Rico cuisine reflects the boldness and vibrant spirit of all these cultures in its cuisine. The pork here is slow-roasted whole on coal-fire for the crispy skin and succulent meat that makes Lechon a sin you have to sink your teeth in. Plantain makes a steady appearance in sweet and savory crunchy avatars in Tostones and sweet Amarillos. Arroz con gandules is the national dish of Puerto Rico, and you can’t go back without having this hearty meal of Pigeon Peas and rice cooked together. We have already mentioned piraguas or local snow cones topped with tropical flavors like coconut, cinnamon, or plain cream.
An island promising such a vast spectrum of adventure and activities needs effective planning so that you don’t regret it later. And a lot of the plan rests on if the best time to travel to Puerto Rico has been factored in or not. After all, no one wants to wait endlessly in the queue for their chance at the zipline or stay in the hotel because it’s pouring outside. There is nothing more disappointing to kids than getting stuck and have nothing to do on a vacation. And thus a traveling parent’s nightmare begins.
That’s why we have carefully curated our information by keeping the needs of kids ahead of everything. We hope that we could answer your question about when is the best time to travel to Puerto Rico with as much clarity as possible. And with this, your vacation to this incredible island will get a good headstart from here!