Colorful houses near the coast in San Juan, one of the top cities in Puerto Rico

13 Best Cities in Puerto Rico in 2023 (A Local’s Picks)

Travelers often stay in San Juan when they’re visiting the island, but there are a ton of great cities in Puerto Rico other than the capital.

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States with 78 cities and towns spread across mountains and coasts. As a Puerto Rico local born and raised in the metropolitan area, I know many travelers seek destinations with beaches, shopping malls, restaurants, and lively nightlife.

In this post, I’ll go over the best cities to visit to experience the best things to do in Puerto Rico.

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13 Best Puerto Rico Cities

👉 Did you know? Puerto Rico has 78 municipalities, of which only 14 are considered official “cities” (meaning more than 50 thousand inhabitants)! Of course, there are many municipalities with smaller populations. You can find some of the best in our article on Puerto Rico’s top towns.

San Juan

From historic sites to nightclubs, San Juan offers the best entertainment.

The author posing for a photo in a street in Old San Juan
Me Walking Old San Juan’s Streets

🏠 Population: 342,259 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | Where to Stay in San Juan | 👉 Browse Hotels in San Juan on Booking

San Juan is the capital city of Puerto Rico, and like every other capital in the world, it’s buzzing with restaurants, historical landmarks, fashion boutiques, and pubs. Walking through the historic district known as Old San Juan is one of the most fun activities to do in San Juan, where you’ll find the best culture and food in Puerto Rico.

If you’re a beach lover or luxury hotel enthusiast, then check out Condado, a San Juan neighborhood similar to Miami with beachfront hotels and fancy restaurants.

Santurce is the place in San Juan where young people and art lovers come together. Full of restaurants, museums, and nightclubs, Santurce is the heart of nightlife in San Juan.


A city rich in history and home to impressive landmarks.

The historic Parque de Bombas in Ponce Puerto Rico
Parque de Bombas in Ponce

🏠 Population: 137,491 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | Best Places to Stay in Ponce | 👉 Browse Hotels in Ponce on Booking

With all the fun things to do and see in Ponce, it’s close to impossible not to fall in love with this municipality. Known as the “South Pearl,” Ponce boasts a historical town center with some of the top Puerto Rico landmarks, including the Parque de Bombas, the first fire station in Puerto Rico, and Plaza de Las Delicias.

Besides its impressive story, Ponce also has a popular boardwalk known as La Guancha, where you and your family can savor Puerto Rican staples and feed the pelicans that roam about the coast.


A city home to a popular Puerto Rican dessert.

The Alcaldia Mayaguez County from the outside in Puerto Rico

🏠 Population: 73,077 | 📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Hotels in Mayagüez on Booking

Foodies will find in Mayagüez the best Brazo Gitano in Puerto Rico, a type of rolled sponge cake popular among Puerto Ricans. But, aside from this exquisite Puerto Rican dessert, Mayagüez has a lot to offer for travelers. The city has a rich history, and it boasts one of the most beautiful town centers in Puerto Rico, Plaza de Colón. 

Right by the coast, you’ll find the Paseo del Litoral “Shorty” Castro, a beachfront boardwalk with beautiful views of the ocean. Outside the Mayagüez coasts, scuba diving fans will love Desecheo Island and Isla de Mona, which hide breathtaking underwater worlds.


A coastal city with beautiful beaches home to many ex-pats.

Aerial view from the Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico

🏠 Population: 35,879 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Dorado on Booking

Dorado is one of the most popular cities among ex-pats in Puerto Rico. Besides its natural beauty and unique geography, the Dorado coast sports multiple beaches for swimming and surfing. 

Dorado also features dozens of restaurants to enjoy, and some of the most popular luxury resorts in Puerto Rico. The city is one of the top places to stay in Puerto Rico as it’s centrally located among other cities, including Toa Baja, Vega Alta, and Vega Baja.


A city that combines culture, shopping malls, and good food.

Aerial view from Caguas Main Plaza at night
Caguas Main Plaza

🏠 Population: 127,244 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Caguas on Booking

Caguas is one of the major cities of Puerto Rico with a total population of 127 thousand habitants. The city is known as the center and heart of Puerto Rico for its central location on the map. It has an activity for every type of traveler.

In Caguas, shopping lovers will find more than enough shopping malls to go on a shopping spree, including the famous Las Catalinas Mall. Those interested in a drink can stop at F.O.K. Brewing Company to taste their 18+ flavors of beer (it’s one of Puerto Rico’s best breweries).

Those that would like to escape the rush will also find the Botanic Garden of Caguas, where a green relaxing landscape will make you forget you’re in the city. It’s one of several fun things to do in Caguas.


Explore what could’ve been the capital city of Puerto Rico.

The Caparra Ruins seen from the outside
Caparra Ruins in Guaynabo

🏠 Population: 89,780 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Guaynabo on Booking

Guaynabo is one of the largest cities in Puerto Rico in terms of population, but still, this municipality manages to combine the rush of the city and outdoor spaces. Like San Juan, Guaynabo has a crowded skyline where city-loving people can eat and shop ‘til they drop. 

Guaynabo also boasts a countryside with hidden gems such as La Marquesa Forest and Mirador Gavilan, from where you can see the whole city.

In Guaynabo, history lovers will find the Caparra Ruins, home to Juan Ponce de León in 1508 and considered the first Spanish settlement in Puerto Rico.

Rio Grande

The city home to El Yunque National Forest.

Aerial view of the Yokahu Tower in the El Yunque Forest

🏠 Population: 47,060 | 📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Hotels in Rio Grande on Booking

Rio Grande is one of the municipalities tourists visit the most in Puerto Rico because it’s home to El Yunque National Rainforest. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the United States forest system, and it sports waterfalls, rivers, and some of the best hikes in Puerto Rico.

But, besides this unique outdoor wonder, Rio Grande has beautiful beaches perfect for a romantic getaway or Puerto Rico honeymoon as they are often uncrowded. Rio Grande also hosts two of the most opulent hotels in Puerto Rico, where you can stay if you want to have a uniquely luxurious experience.

For more info, check out my guide to what to do in Rio Grande.


A city close to the airport with top-notch beaches and hotels.

Aerial view of a beach in Carolina, Puerto Rico

🏠 Population: 176,762 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Carolina on Booking

Carolina is a great city to visit in Puerto Rico if you’re on a layover or don’t want to explore too far from the airport. This city features the Isla Verde neighborhood with beachfront hotels, restaurants, bars, and pubs. 

The Carolina Public Beach is one of the best beaches in Puerto Rico, and it’s just a step away from Piñones, a popular drive with food kiosks that sell traditional Puerto Rican food.

📚 Related Reading: Best Things to Do In Carolina 


Tour a city with a nature reserve and a small cay.

Overlooking view of the Humacao Nature Reserve

🏠 Population: 50,896 | 📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Hotels in Humacao on Booking

Humacao balances perfectly urban and nature. It features both beautiful coasts and a buzzing city home to the largest resort in Puerto Rico, known as Palmas del Mar. 

Humacao is home to a nature reserve, where outdoor enthusiasts can rent kayaks to row along a calm lake, surrounded by dense green foliage. Outside the coast of Humacao, travelers can take a tour to Cayo Santiago, an island with more than one thousand monkeys.


Sail, hike, or swim in the natural surroundings of Fajardo.

View of the blue water in Seven Seas Beach and the clear blue sky

🏠 Population: 32,124 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Fajardo on Booking

If you’re into sailing, then don’t miss a stop at Fajardo. This beautiful town in the northeast of Puerto Rico is home to Marina Puerto del Rey, where dozens of boats and yachts traveling through the Caribbean islands dock weekly. 

The surrounding waters of Fajardo are also great for deep-sea fishing, diving, and snorkeling. And after a day at sea, visitors can head over to Las Croabas, one of the best places to visit in Fajardo to enjoy a meal.


A large city with beaches, rivers, and caves worth exploring.

View of the Poza del Obispo from the top

🏠 Population: 87,754 | 📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Hotels in Arecibo on Booking

Arecibo is one of the major cities of Puerto Rico in both size and population. Arecibo has beautiful coasts with unique Puerto Rico beaches like Poza del Obispo and a mountainous side that connects to the city of Utuado. 

Visitors can find two of the most popular caves of Puerto Rico in Arecibo: Cueva Ventana and Cueva del Indio. As if that weren’t enough attractions, travelers that aren’t beach lovers can still refresh themselves in Charco La Planta, a manmade waterfall hidden inside the city.

📚 Bookmark for Later:  Popular Things to Do in Utuado


The city of arts, sciences, and shopping malls.

The Bayamon main plaza in Puerto Rico
Bayamon main plaza

🏠 Population: 185,187 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Bayamón on Booking

Bayamón is the second most dense city in Puerto Rico and it’s a great urban center for those looking for an alternative to San Juan. There are many things to do in Bayamón, including hopping through shopping malls, enjoying a walk along the river, and hiking to one of Puerto Rico’s popular waterfalls.

Although it looks modern and urban, Bayamón’s town center has a great history and it features buildings over 100 years old. Culture enthusiasts can go on the hunt for galleries, museums, or enjoy a local show at El Nido.


Home to one of the most popular beaches in Puerto Rico.

The author in the Survival Beach in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
Hiking in Survival Beach in Aguadilla

🏠 Population: 55,101 | 📍 Google Maps | 👉 Browse Hotels in Aguadilla on Booking

Although less popular than Cabo Rojo and Rincón, Aguadilla is a west coastal city worth visiting with your family. You’ll never have to wonder what to do in Aguadilla as the city offers beaches, shopping malls, movie theaters, and even bowling. 

Whether you’re diving from Crash Boat Beach’s dock or hiking at the astonishing Survival Beach, you’ll love every second in the city. Foodies will also find great restaurants with local fare.


Thanks for reading my guide to some of the best cities in Puerto Rico you can visit! If you don’t know yet what you’ll be doing on your next trip, check out these unique destinations to visit in Puerto Rico.

Enjoy exploring Puerto Rico’s cities!

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  1. Hello Vanessa, I appreciate you are sharing the most common places visit by tourist but in regard of the best places in Puerto Rico, I would included Patillas this small beautiful town has so much to offer in the southeast full of human quality, restaurants, a panoramic view of the beautiful coast and also has a lake, beach, rivers 10 min from each other’s is very quiet and safe. Here we wait for you

    1. What about Cabo Rojo with of the most beautiful beaches in the island and a great variety of seafood restaurants and nice hotels? And what about San German, a town full of history and culture and wonderful people? I could add also Lajas with it bioluminescent bay and great weekend nightlife and my hometown Hormigueros , town of great culture and our famous Iglesia de la Monserrate which gathers there Catholics of the whole island following their devotion.

        1. You are correct, even though Cabo Rojo has much more to offer than Caguas, Bayamon, Guaynabo, Humacao. Other places would be to visit I would say Lajas, Vieques, and the beaches of Isla de Culebra, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

          1. Vieques, is it the place where water illuminates at night? I’ve heard of this place but never been, I think. I was ver young at the time. My relatives lived in Juncos and San Juan and near the University of Puerto Rico. My geography is limited as I was very young at the time I visited my relatives. And my mother (last name Rosa) never taught us Spanish but we picked up a little bit on our own.

      1. agreed ! I went for the first time in 2019 and I loved it so much I drove two hrs again the next day to enjoy their beaches

      2. I’m from Ponce but I love the south west for the sandy calm beaches like Playa Santa, Boqueron, Buye, Parguera Bay. Always when visit my Ponce and the all south west I really enjoy it.

      3. Hi Magalis! I’m dying to visit Hormigueros! Hopefully, I can go soon. Cabo Rojo is definitely paradise on earth! But, because its population is smaller, you can find it in the best towns in Puerto Rico article.

    2. EXCUSE ME THIS IS FROM A LOCAL PUERTORICAN. These are the cities most liked by are local PUERTOCIAN people…

      1. I love all of the places mentioned, but Luquillo is actually the gem of the island!!! Just saying after living here on the island I find Luquillo to be the best city in my opinion..

    3. María, I fully agree with you; Patillas is a beautiful town full of nature sites, river, lake, caribbean sea beaches, but most of all good, nice, humble and friendly people. For me is paradise. The cities mentioned in this article are the most known but not necessarily the best in Puerto Rico. There are a few of them that I would never go to.
      Thank you for the article, but no, thank you.

    4. Hi Maria! Thank you for sharing! Patillas is a wonderful destination! Thank you for sharing it with our readers. As to this list, I’ve included mostly municipalities with over 50 thousand people, which are considered, in terms of politics, cities. Municipalities with fewer population are mostly considered towns. You can find some of them in the 11 best towns of Puerto Rico article.

    5. I totally agree with Maria! Patillas is very peaceful and filled with good and loving neighbors. My father was born in this beautiful part of the island and I can’t wait to go back!

    1. Camuy is Beautiful coastal city with nice attractions Iglesia De Piedra in Abra Honda, las Cavernas del Rio de Camuy, Peñon Brusi beach etc. Visit Municipio de Camuy on Facebook so you can see everything thats going on in Camuy. We have 3 new food routes that are great. One is in the center of the city around the Plaza. Second one is the coastal route which has lots of great food and 3rd is the #2 road food route. All 3 routes and great. The Mayor Gaby has been hard at Work making the city an attraction to tourists. Camuy is being called The New Capital of The North. #SaborACamuy #CamuyLaNuevaCapitalDelNorte #MunicipioDeCamuy #Camuy

      1. Definitely I agreed the whole island is a paradises, can’t wait for my retirement. Puerto Rico here I come.

  2. Visit Rincón, know as the city of the beautiful sunsets. Small city in the west side of the Island, delicious food, nice people, and beautiful beaches. Great surfing as well.

    1. I visited Jobo beach in Isabela and it’s restaurants. It was fabulous! I loved it! Also Isla Verde & Rincón was full of restaurants and beautiful beaches. Can’t wait to to return to PUERTO RICO and explore more of the island.

  3. I don’t know why Crash Boat in Aguadilla is named like one of the best beaches, I like the water but everything is dirty and the condition of the bathrooms was really bad and no place to change.

    1. Yep! The dry forest, and Fort Capron. Cayo Aurora (Gilligan’s Island ) and it’s many beaches.

  4. You forgot to mention the most beautiful beach and town in Puerto Rico Luquillo one of the oldest and spectacular places on the island it’s named after a real taino king !

    1. Muy cierto tuve el gusto de visitar Luquillo en mis vacaciones. Quede encantada la playa espectacular.

      1. Pom not being from Puerto Rico and attending to visit is there anywhere that is not safe to go or anytime of the day that is not safe in Puerto Rico

    2. I agree on Luquillo if you’re trying to get more tourists. Close to lots of things to do with the 60 kiosks. I’m not from Puerto Rico although have been there over a dozen times and have seen a lot. I’ve never been disappointed on this island.

  5. What about San Germán? Beautiful arquitectura, old University. Everything is bello in San Germán.

  6. What about Hatillo? Hatillo has Sardinera beach one of the most beautiful beach in the área. Rincon and Aguadilla, Humacao. My top 3

  7. Puerto Rico has 78 towns, and 2 of those are islands Culebra and Vieques, on the east coast. Each town, offers a unique experience with nature adventures or gastronomical diversity. This list is the author’s favorite not the locals.
    If you visit the islands of Puerto Rico, do research for historical adventures, natural reserves, beaches, canyons, scuba diving, caves, shopping, festivals (music, flower, sports, film, surf, etc.) all throughout the year, scuba diving and so much more. Discover a new adventure in Puerto Rico!

      1. I agree. Lots to see. Puerto Rico will not disappoint the tourists. A wild horse came up to me and licked my leg in Vieques. I have it on video.

  8. Aguadilla has beautiful beaches, not just crash boat. It’s also a fun place to hang out at night with outdoor bars an restaurants. But I don’t understand how Mayaguez made the list. Mayaguez is a dump.

  9. She forgot to mention the high crime rate on the East coast. To be fair, many West coast, central and southern cities are beautiful and have many great places to visit. Also, the food and drinks are much cheaper.

  10. Thanks for an article backed with real supporting data. We have a lot to discover in our island.

  11. You left out the beautiful mountain town of Adjuntas, well known for its green mountains, crystal clear rivers, delicious coffee, gourgeous plaza and hospitable people. The place is the center of important environmental projects that are examples to follow for other communities. Can’t forget about the solar energy project that allows us to have electric power in many downtown businesses while the Island is dark during the so common blackouts. Thank you.

  12. These cities are great, almost the 78 municipalities of the Island are great, we have Toro Negro in Villalba, Las Cuevas de Camuy, el enclave de Aguada, Aguadilla, Rincon. We have the best two small Islands Vieques and Culebra. Casey with the mountains. In reality Puerto Rico is a beautiful Island.

  13. Hey everyone you really for got las Croabas!!! Playa and the food is excellent. Go and check out…

  14. For me. El Buye and El Boqueron are fantastic beaches. PR has many beautiful beaches. I also thought Crashboat was a bit overrated. Not as clean. La Parguera is in Lajas. And it’s a must go to place. Technically, you can have the best experience just on the outskirts of the Island. You can have EXCELLENT authentic food right on the sides of the roads from local lechoneras. I’m retired now. And I’m looking forward to going more often meeting up .with my family and friends looking forward to

  15. I love my people. Everyone is fiercely defensive of their hometown and felt offended when it was left out of the list, and they are right. That is why is impossible to make a top whatever list for Puerto Rico. You have to include the whole island because all those places that you mentioned and the places they mentioned are stupendous. Puerto Rico lo hace mejor. Eden on earth.

  16. I enjoyed the informative blog. My visit to San Juan/Dorado was touristic, my visit to Aguadilla/Rincon lacked adventure. I will try the Ponce or Magaquez – looking for a Santa Barbara/St. Petersburg atmosphere. Palante..

    1. Being from San Juan and currently a resident of Aguadilla I would like to pint out you maybe overlooked hiking Survival Beach, sailing with Capitán Pelícano on Crashboat Adventures, diving with Acuática, bar hopping in the many restaurants located in road 110, Playuela Horseback riding, visiting el Paseo La Real Marina, and the list goes on and on.
      Aguadilla has plenty to offer to pretty much all types of travelers…

  17. I dont know why Cabo Rojo is not on the top of the list and I am from Humacao but Cabo Rojo is over most of those cities

    1. Look at the map of Puerto Rico or Gooogle it! Will see Rincon, “ Rincon Puerto Rico is home to some of the best surf spots in the Caribbean and across the globe, a fact which has led to Rincon’s reputation as the “surfing capital of the Caribbean.” Rincon first gained global recognition as a Caribbean surf haven beginning in 1968, when the World Surfing Championship was held at.

  18. I agree Cabo Rojo is surprisingly not in the list and how could you jump right over luquillo. Maybe the best of all

    1. Hi Mr. Bryson! Cabo Rojo’s population is under 50 thousand people, so in political terms, it’s considered a town. Of course, it’s one of the best municipalities to visit in Puerto Rico, which is why you can find it in our 11 best towns to visit in Puerto Rico article!

    1. Without a doubt, Vieques is one of the best places to visit in Puerto Rico! You can find it in the 11 best towns in Puerto Rico post. As the population doesn’t go over 50 thousand From a political and ekistic perspective, it’s considered a town.

    1. Hi Mr. Diego! Isabela is definitely great! Officially municipalities are considered “cities” after a certain amount of population in relation to the geographic space. Most municipalities considered “cities” politically speaking have a population of over 50 thousand people. You can find Isabella in the 11 best towns in Puerto Rico post on this same page! Because it’s definitely one of the best to visit.

      1. Is a fact regardless where you may be in the island , your town always have something that may attract visitors. San Lorenzo in my heart is the best town in the island, period.

  19. Thanks you, great article, I just want help, Puerto Rico is the archipelagos and is Commonwealth of United States of America, also classification is Native Nation, like the Seminole Nation or Native Nation in USA, the islands is under section of the Congress of United States of America, Title 48 Territories and Insular possession, Article IV of USA Constitution. Continue writing about this beautiful American Virgin Islands, Saint John beautiful too, less expensive that Saint Thomas.

  20. Agree with all you guys about the nicest towns and beaches in my beautiful Puerto Rico to visit. For me the entire island is a paradise.

  21. I absolutely love the entire island, and the people are so friendly. It makes me sad to read people believe it’s unsafe. Anywhere, at anytime, any town/city could be unsafe. Receive the respect you give.
    I loved driving around the island and grabbing a bite from the roadside vendors. I found myself in Condado, but will always be fond of Fajardo, San Juan, Culebra, Ponce, and Rio Grande.

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