Puerto Rico is not just one island, it’s a few! And if you’ve never been to any of the Puerto Rico islands outside the mainland, you’re missing out big time.
Puerto Rico is an archipelago, composed of the main island and other 143 smaller islands and cays that hide some of the best things to do in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Ricans (like myself) love taking trips to these hidden tropical paradises. From an island with a bioluminescent bay to the “Galapagos of the Caribbean”, these are the Puerto Rico islands you should visit.
Table of Contents
- 13 Best Puerto Rico Islands
- FAQs About Islands in Puerto Rico
Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. Thank you!
13 Best Puerto Rico Islands
An island with a bio bay, a black sand beach, and wild horses roaming about
Located on the east coast just off mainland Puerto Rico, getting from San Juan to Vieques is easy. There are many popular things to do in Vieques, from hiking in Vieques National Wildlife Refuge to doing water sports on the beautiful Vieques beaches.
But the most popular attraction in Vieques is kayaking Mosquito Bay, the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world. Families can also enjoy horseback riding and cycling in this small Caribbean paradise.
📚 Vieques Mini Guide 📚
Best Island for Family Vacations
- ✨ Best Hotels – Bravo Beach Hotel • El Blok • Finca Victoria
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Vieques
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – – Lazy Jacks ($$), Rincón del Sabor ($$), Buen Provecho ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Saint Voodoo’s Mar Azul, El Sombrero Viejo
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Mosquito Bioluminescent Bay, Vieques National Wildlife Refuge
- 🏖️ Best Beaches – Caracas Beach, La Chiva Beach, Sun Bay Beach
A Caribbean paradise home to a few of the best beaches in Puerto Rico
Culebra is the perfect place in the Caribbean Sea to escape the rush of the modern world. This Puerto Rico island, part of what’s known as the Spanish Virgin Islands, doesn’t have any shopping malls, brand stores, or mega-hotels. Instead, it offers a laid-back relaxing atmosphere for true beach lovers.
Culebra’s beaches sum up to 111 white sand beaches praised for their visibility and breathtaking vistas. Culebra is also that dream destination where you can swim side by side with green sea turtles. Scuba diving enthusiasts shouldn’t miss it, as Culebra’s coasts hide shipwrecks, underwater caves, and coral reefs with colorful wildlife.
📚 Culebra Island Mini Guide 📚
Best Island for beach buffs
- ✨ Best Hotels – Club Seaborne Hotel • Palmetto Guesthouse • Aleli Cottages
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Culebra
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Dinghy Dock Restaurant ($$), Tikis Grill Burgers ($$), Moncho’s BBQ ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Happy Landing, Mamacita’s Restaurant and Bar
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Flamenco Beach, Culebra National Wildlife Refuge
- 🏖️ Best Beaches – Flamenco Beach, Tamarindo Grande Beach, Playa Carlos Rosario,
Snorkel in the clearest waters of the Caribbean
Gilligan’s Island, also known as Cayo Aurora, is the most popular Puerto Rico island after Vieques and Culebra. This beautiful island is one of the best places to visit in Guánica, and it’s a local’s favorite for its excellent snorkeling and kayaking.
The island is a mangrove island with crystal clear waters that lets you see pools of fish swimming with the naked eye. The waters surrounding Gilligan’s Island are so shallow that they are safe for all the family. Adventure seekers can choose to kayak from Guánica or take a water taxi from the city.
Sunbath on a private hotel island next to Fajardo
Most Puerto Rico islands and cays are uninhabited and lack facilities, but that’s not the case with Palomino. Palomino is a private island located outside Fajardo that belongs to El Conquistador Hotel Resort. Popular for its turquoise beach, the Palomino also features bathrooms, food kiosks, and beach umbrella rentals.
If you’re not staying at El Conquistador, you can reach Palomino through a private boat tour. Palomino is a great alternative to Icacos if you want to visit a cay, without having to carry everything for a beach day trip.
Party on the shore of this popular cay
Icacos is, without doubt, one of the most popular Puerto Rico islands and one of the most fun things to do in Fajardo. Also uninhabited, Icacos offers a beach with crystalline waters shallow enough to snorkel close to reefs, and a sandy beach perfect to lie on and sunbathe.
But, Icacos is particularly popular among party lovers. During the weekend, multiple catamarans anchor on Icacos shore simultaneously and all visitors meet up in the water to swim, talk, and dance to the music.
👉 Staying in San Juan? Icacos is one of the top day trips to take from the capital city. Check out these other awesome day trips to take from San Juan.
Discover the underwater world of a forbidden island
While Desecheo Island is one of the best Puerto Rico islands to visit, you can’t exactly step on the island itself. Desecheo officially belongs to Mayagüez, and like many other Puerto Rico islands, it was once used as a bombing range by the United States Armed Forces.
As a result, the island itself is forbidden territory, as it’s believed dangerous ammunitions are everywhere. But, if you’re into scuba diving, you can’t miss the underwater caves of Desecheo, where the most colorful marine life comes together. Considered one of the best things to do in Rincón and Mayagüez, you can only visit Desecheo through Taino Divers.
Swim with turtles on the secluded beaches of Culebrita
When it comes to pristine beaches in Puerto Rico, there is no doubt that Culebrita has some of the best. Culebrita is a small uninhabited island that belongs to the municipality of Culebra that is only reachable by private boat.
Playa Tortuga, also known as Culebrita Beach, is a nesting site of endangered sea turtles. It’s said the island got its name from the large population of turtles you could find on its shores and waters. So, if you’re dream is to swim with turtles, you can see it come true at Culebrita.
Isla de Mona
Camp in the Galapagos Islands of the Caribbean
Although Isla de Mona is one of the most known islands of Puerto Rico, it’s the most difficult one to visit.
Isla de Mona is located off the west coast, right between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. This unoccupied nature reserve hosts stunning beaches, coral reefs, and caves with pre-Columbian petroglyphs. It’s a true paradise of natural beauty where you’ll disconnect yourself from civilization.
But, visiting Mona Island is not for the faint of heart. The island doesn’t have facilities or phone signals, and the boat ride from Puerto Rico through the Mona Passage takes about 4 hours. There isn’t potable water, there are venomous plants around the island, and the arid dry weather could dehydrate you quickly. It’s an adventure for outdoor experts only.
Since it’s a nature reserve, you can only visit by soliciting permission from the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DRNA).
Isla Mata La Gata
A beautiful cay with a man-made pool
Mata La Gata is one of the enchanting islands that form La Parguera Nature Reserve, and it’s one of the few Puerto Rico islands with mangrove trees. But, different from many other islands, Mata La Gata sports picnic tables, where you can spend a nice afternoon with your family.
The depthless surroundings of this island make it a safe swimming spot for toddlers and the elderly. Mata La Gata also has a triangular dock with underwater nets that form a man-made pool for visitors to enjoy.
Caja de Muertos
A coffin-shaped small island with blue flag beaches
Reaching Caja de Muertos takes a short boat ride from the southern coast of Ponce. While its name means coffin island, Caja de Muertos is everything but scary! Caja de Muertos is home to white-sand beaches that often earn the blue flag and get considered among Puerto Rico’s top beaches.
Playa Pelicano is the most popular beach on Coffin Island, with calm turquoise waters that make every visitor want to stay there for the rest of the day. Outdoor lovers can also adventure through the island’s hiking trails to reach Caja de Muertos’ lighthouse ruins.
Cayo de Tierra
A small cay easily accessible from Vieques
While you’re spending a vacation in Vieques, don’t miss the chance to visit Cayo de Tierra. You can reach this cay hiking from La Esperanza Beach, as it’s connected by a path of sand to Vieques. This cay offers relaxing views for nature lovers and rises on a small cliff that’s perfect to take pictures and do birdwatching.
A tiny island on the south coast
Another cay that is part of La Parguera Nature Reserve is Cayo Caracoles. This small cay doesn’t have any shore, beach, or dock. Although you can’t exactly enter the mangrove cay, it’s a popular destination among Puerto Ricans for its shallow crystal clear surroundings.
Because it doesn’t have any shore, visiting the cay means always being inside the water, whether you’re sitting, sunbathing, or snorkeling.
An island with a historical lighthouse and a beautiful beach
Isla Cardona is often outshined by its neighbor, Caja de Muertos. But, visiting Isla Cardona is one of the best things to do in Ponce. This island boasts a historical lighthouse, a crystal clear beach, a green landscape, and a pebbly shore where visitors like to build rock towers.
Cardona Island has picnic areas, but no facilities, so beach buffs need to bring everything for a day trip. You can only reach it by kayak, or by booking a tour through Waterland Adventure Puerto Rico.
FAQs About Islands in Puerto Rico
How many islands does Puerto Rico has?
Puerto Rico is an archipelago composed of one main island, and 143 other small islands and cays. Vieques and Culebra are the most popular and the only two outside islands inhabited by Puerto Ricans. Isla de Mona, Desecheo, Culebrita, Isla Mata La Gata, and Isla Palomino are other of Puerto Rico’s islands, reachable by private boats, and water taxis.
What are the 2 small islands off the west of Puerto Rico?
The two islands off the west of Puerto Rico are Isla de Mona and Desecheo Island. Isla de Mona is a nature reserve open to visit with the permission of the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DRNA).
There you have it! The complete list of islands and cays you can’t miss during your visit to Puerto Rico. But, if you want to stay on the mainland, check out these popular Puerto Rico destinations.
Have fun visiting all the Puerto Rico islands!
Help us help you travel better!
Your feedback really helps ...
What did you like about this post? Or how can we improve it to help you travel better?