There are so many things to do in Puerto Rico with kids that one trip to the island is not enough. Puerto Rico dazzles families with its unique mix of attractions. Stroll through centuries-old forts, hike a tropical rainforest, explore underground caves, and soak up the sun on golden sand beaches.
Explore Old San Juan, a 500-year-old city that grew from a colonial heart. In Santurce, immerse yourselves in art. Head east to trek through the tropical rainforest, capping the day with a swim at nearby Luquillo Beach. Or go west to tramp through an extensive cave system in the Camuy region.
Whether your interest lies in history, art, food, nature or all four, the island will delight you and your children. Here are 12 of the best family activities in Puerto Rico.
See Ancient Forts in Old San Juan
Time travel back centuries by exploring two forts. From their ramparts, when you close your eyes and feel the wind in your face, the centuries melt away, and you can imagine the stalwart Spanish soldiers pacing out a watch and thinking of home.
At the old city’s northwestern tip, situated on a rocky promontory high above the sea, stands Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a fort begun in 1539 and completed in 1787. In “El Morro,” as it is called, the Spanish stockpiled the hordes of gold they took from Mexico before loading the booty on galleons headed across the Atlantic.
The massive structure’s thick walls also protected the strategic port from English, French and Dutch attacks. The fort offers sweeping vistas, a small museum, and a labyrinth of tunnels, dungeons, and look-out towers, or garitas. The sea winds make the garrison’s sweeping grounds a good place for flying kites, available at several local shops.
Castillo San Cristobal rises where the eastern gate to the city stood. Begun in 1634 and completed in 1790, this 27-acre garrison, the largest fortified complex built by the Spanish in the New World, guarded the city from land attacks.
You can see cannons in the courtyard, view a troop’s quarter, peer into the dungeon, walk the ramparts, and ponder the Devil’s Sentry Box, an ancient, windswept watchtower from which several guards were said to have vanished in thin air.
Snorkel the Underwater Wall at Escambron
Of course, many come here for the beaches and Puerto Rico’s golden sands delight. Several of the best beaches in Puerto Rico meet Blue Flag’s high standards for clean water, environmental stewardship, water safety, and much more.
In San Juan’s Puerta de Tierra, Escambron Marine Park where the beach is a Blue Flag designee, appeals to families with young children because an off-shore reef tends to keep the surf gentle.
Snorkeling here rewards you with views of rainbow-colored fish that school along the sunken wall and around columns and statues supposed to resemble the lost city of Atlantis. You may spot sea turtles gliding through the blue, as well. For what’s essentially an urban beach, the water is extraordinarily clear and even novice snorkelers will be wowed by the marine life.
Sun and Surf at Isla Verde
Isla Verde, another Blue Flag beach within easy reach of the city center, divides into three distinct strands. Operated as a public beach, Balneario de Carolina offers wide sands, calmer waters than other Isla Verde beaches because of an off-shore reef, as well as lifeguards.
Playa Alambique has beach chairs and umbrellas for rent. Pine Grove, meanwhile, is a magnet to surfers. If it’s not too rough, kids can enjoy lessons at the WOW Surf School here, run by a team of professionals with years of competition experience worldwide. Beginners start with lessons teaching everything from the technique of standing up to beach etiquette.
Stroll and Shop in Old San Juan
Along with exploring the forts, get a sense of Old San Juan by strolling the streets. The Paseo de la Princesa in Old San Juan’s south dates to 1853. The restored promenade charms with bay views, fountains, old city walls, and the San Juan Gate. The cry of seagulls, street vendors, and sometimes, performers all add to the atmosphere here.
With preteens and teens angling for souvenirs, browse San Francisco, Cristo, and Fortaleza streets. Finds might include jewelry, colorful carnival masks made from papier mache, hammocks, and for the adults, Puerto Rican rum, and coffee made with the island’s Arabica beans.
In Old San Juan, consider punctuating the uphill climbs to the forts and shopping streets, which can be slow-going for younger children, with stops at a café for tasty quesitos (cheese-filled pastries) for the kids and a cup of fresh-brewed island coffee.
Immerse Yourself in Art
Kids and teens grow wide-eyed at the graffiti-like murals and the vivid canvases at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico in Santurce. Street artists revived Santurce, a neighborhood south of Condado, by painting murals on the walls of abandoned buildings and turning vacant stores into galleries.
Start exploring along Calle Cerra and meander along the side streets. The outsized tableaus combine graffiti, comic book caricature, sci-fi, and contemporary art elements. A four-story tall rabbit peers back at you, two women with hair rollers grin, and a psychedelic-colored monster faces off with a hummingbird.
Beauty in Santurce is clearly in the eye of the beholder, but there’s no denying that the neighborhood thrums with energy. Grab lunch at Lote23, whose diverse kiosks sell Middle Eastern pita sandwiches, poke bowls, pizza, burgers, fried chicken, tacos, and more. La Placita’s marketplace morphs into a venue for dancing and music, and clubs pulsate with Latin rhythms as the sun goes down.
Pair a street art stroll with a visit to the Museum de Arte de Puerto Rico, also housed in Santurce. The facility’s 24 galleries showcase works by Puerto Rican artists from the 17th century to the present. Browse transporting landscapes, engaging portraits, and vivid contemporary canvases.
Young kids get creative at activARTE, a hands-on art space. Be sure to allow time to explore the garden where more than dozen sculptures are tucked into the greenery.
Glide Along Ziplines
Take in the sunshine and the treetops by zooming along the ziplines at Hacienda Campo Rico, a former sugar plantation located a 30-minute drive from San Juan. Not surprisingly, this is one of the most popular family activities in Puerto Rico.
Once you’re kitted up in your helmet and harness, you’ll “zip” along five lines over the treetops and sway your way across five hanging bridges. The views are magnificent as you whizz over treetops and marshy ponds, with glimpses of the blue Atlantic.
Discover African Heritage in Loiza
One of the best things to do in Puerto Rico with kids is to immerse yourselves in Afro-Puerto Rican traditions in Loiza, 30 minutes’ drive east of San Juan. Native Tainos inhabited the area when the Spanish brought members of the Yorbu tribes from central and west Africa as slaves in the 17th century. Many of the descendants of these slaves residing in the city keep their Afro-Puerto heritage alive in their music and art.
Celso Gonzalez, a noted street artist whose vibrant murals enliven San Juan and other towns, grew up in Loiza. The vibrant canvases of Samuel Lind, another local, fuse elements of African heritage and local life.
The town gave bomba music and dance in the New World. In bomba, musicians rapidly slap a bomba drum, creating a staccato rhythm for dancers. On guided tours, you’ll learn to fashion local instruments and dance to the bomba beat.
Admire the View at Cueva Ventana
Although not far from San Juan, Cueva Ventana (Window Cave) feels worlds away. On the hike to the cave’s mouth, a trail of less than a mile, guides talk about the lizards, birds, trees, and shrubs you pass. The Taino, indigenous people who inhabited the region long before European settlers arrived, carved petroglyphs in the walls centuries ago.
You’ll then walk through the cave, where you’ll see stalagmites and stalactites. The clumps of black high on the cave’s walls are bats. Dormant during the day, the bats won‘t leave their roost.
When you see a glimmer of light ahead, you know that the “window”, the wide opening in the limestone wall, is near. The reward for your hike is the sweeping view of the Rio Grande de Arecibo Valley, lush with trees, fields, and shrubs, framed by the “window” of the cave – a shot for which your Instagramming teens will thank you.
Go on a Food Safari
Traditional Puerto Rican fare mixes Taino, Spanish, African, and American influences. Rice and beans, chicken with rice, and other familiar dishes please youngsters. Masterful chefs have created a Caribbean-Asian fusion cuisine, for example, nachos with wasabi, and spring rolls with mango, that has helped crown San Juan the culinary capital of the Caribbean.
For traditional fare, try mofongo, a mix of masked plantains and often pork, as well as local fish at friendly Raíces on Recinto Sur Street in San Juan. Cayo Caribe, which has several restaurants around town, plates tasty seafood paellas, stews, and fried, local fish, and Vaca Brava, on Recinto Sur, serves up grilled meats and fresh seafood.
At Azalea in Old San Juan, the food fun is a combination of Latin and Japanese dishes. Mojito, in the Caribe Hilton, is noted for its Caribbean fusion, serving, among other items, mofongo made with your choice of chicken, steak, or lobster.
Don’t skip the food parks; their varied options assure something to please everyone in the family. In the Miramar Food Truck Park, San Juan, sample dumplings, ceviche, burgers and other fare. In Santurce’s Lote23, choose pita sandwiches, poke bowls, pizza, tacos, and more from scores of kiosks.
Cruise San Juan Harbor
It was San Juan’s location on the Atlantic Ocean that drew the interest of colonizers. The Spanish used the harbor to load their ships with gold and other booty taken from Mexico before sending the vessels across the Atlantic to Spain. A harbor cruise gives you a new perspective on the history of Old San Juan.
When sailing past Castillo San Felipe del Morro, you can see what the conquistadors envisioned: a mighty fort on a promontory from which lookouts could spot approaching ships. You also take in the thick walls of La Fortaleza, the first fortification built in San Juan harbor.
To protect against Carib Indian raids, the Spanish built La Fortaleza, initially a tower and four walls, between 1533 and 1540. The Dutch burned down La Fortaleza and much of San Juan in 1625. Later rebuilt, the fort became the governor’s residence in 1640, a tradition that still stands.
It’s not all about history. The breeze in your hair and the sun glinting off the turquoise water make for a spectacular outing and one of the best things to do in Puerto Rico with kids.
Hike El Yunque Rainforest
El Yunque, situated about an hour east of San Juan, and officially called the Caribbean National Forest, is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest system. The nearly 29,000-acre preserve takes its name from Yuquiye, an Indian spirit, which means “forest of the clouds”.
Kids love El Yunque because there are opportunities to look out for wildlife; as a day out, this is one of the best family activities in Puerto Rico.
More than 240 species of trees and plants grow in El Yunque, including 150 species of ferns. The lush vegetation shelters prolific wildlife. As you walk along the trails, listen to the flute-like sounds of the plentiful frogs, nicknamed “coqui”, and the rustle of leaves as emerald-green lizards scatter through the underbrush.
Bats hang in the trees, while you may spot mongoose along the trails. Or if you’re really lucky, you could catch a glimpse of the endangered Puerto Rican parrot, with brilliant green, red and blue plumage.
A good place to start your outing is the El Portal Rain Forest Center, which engages kids with an explanatory film and forest exhibits. A nearby trail winds you through an area thick with local, formerly farmed breadfruit and papaya trees mixed with tabonuco trees, giant ferns and other rainforest vegetation.
The 24 miles of recreational trails range from short, relatively flat segments to day-long, strenuous climbs. Popular and easy, the short, paved Big Tree Trail leads to La Mina Falls waterfall. Here, the cascade tumbles 35 feet into a natural pool; wear your bathing suit if you want to cool off with a plunge.
The brief Caimitillo Trail is another good choice with young kids. On the slightly longer Mt. Britton trail, you cross two mountain streams and continue uphill to the stone observation tower with sweeping forest views.
Be sure to bring rain gear. After all, El Yunque is a rainforest, and it’s likely you’ll get wet.
Head Underground at Rio Camuy Cave Park
Children love the adventure of exploring Rio Camuy Cave Park, carved by the Rio Camuy, the world’s third-largest underground river. A tram takes you down a ravine lush with ferns, ficus, and shrubs. Along the hillsides, thick tree roots dangle in the air, while thinner clumps rim the cave’s entrance like otherworldly eyelashes.
From there, you walk through the main cavern, where the temperature hovers around 65F. The interior is less dim than most movie theaters, and the formations are lit. The light, combined with the relatively easy-to-walk path, make this underground experience an excellent first cavern tour for younger explorers.
A guide leads you past giant stalactites and stalagmites and through the Cueva Clara, the main chamber that rises an impressive 173 feet. Along the path, you peer down into the 400-foot deep Tres Pueblos sinkhole. The guides enliven the tour by asking kids to find La Bruja, the witch, and other formations along the route.
Do your teens want more of a challenge? Then, discover Angels Cave, another in the extensive Rio Camuy system with Aventuras Tierro Adentro, an adventure tour company. Their outing involves hurtling across a zipline and rappelling into the mouth of the sinkhole.
Ready to set off on a family adventure and experience the best things to do in Puerto Rico with kids? Browse luxury cruises to and from San Juan on our website and book your vacation today.