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.
From historic sites to nightclubs, San Juan offers the best entertainment
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
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
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 desert, 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
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
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.
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.
Explore what could’ve been the capital city of Puerto Rico
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.
The city home to El Yunque National Forest
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, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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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