The island of Puerto Rico has so much to offer visitors and tourists off the beaten path. Step outside your hotel and make memories with these five activities and adventures.
Who can resist a getaway to Puerto Rico? The beautiful island of enchantment has seen a massive jump in visitors in recent years, with the number of airline passengers heading to San Juan’s airport only to increase this year.
From delightfully appetizing food to gorgeous open beaches to a rich history that African, Indigenous and Spanish cultures influenced to captivating music genres of salsa, reggaeton, and more, Puerto Rico has it all.
Whether you’ve been to the island before or want to do more than a typical hotel-based, walking-distance type of vacation, we’ve curated five incredible options to fill out your itinerary. These are the kinds of experiences you can post to the ‘gram or boast about to your circle. They present opportunities to make new friends and see different areas of the island. Most important, they’ll give you a reason to come back for more.
It’s a dazzling culinary experience nestled right in the heart of San Juan, just an eight-minute drive from Puerto Rico’s hotel strip on Ashford Avenue. When you visit the Epicuro Culinary Center for Chef’s Table, you’ll get a front-row seat to Puerto Rican Chef Antonio Pérez’s cooking.
Chef Pérez teaches, demonstrates and entertains with the personality of an artist who sees each dish as a masterpiece. You’ll be amazed to witness how he makes a five-course dinner in an open kitchen with a built-in guest table. The experience is intimate and maxes out at 12 seats, so you can watch the cooking and ask questions along the way. Lucky guests get to taste delicious dishes hot off the stove as Chef Pérez cooks, then serves them one by one.
Come to Chef’s Table with an open mind and open palate, as Chef Pérez’s influences are global. He blends flavor profiles and ingredients from places like South America, Asia, the Mediterranean and central Europe. Expect to taste proteins like braised beef ribs, grouper and duck as well as unique side dishes and a special soufflé dessert at the end, baked right in the kitchen before you. Perfectly paired pours of wine accompany all the dishes, so come hungry and thirsty for variety.
Prepare to set aside two hours for the entire experience, which is an excellent value for the insider cooking tips you get from the chef and the TLC given to the food and guests. If you want to be more hands-on with your eating adventures, take one of the cooking classes or wine-tasting classes offered at Epicuro.
If you’ve ever enjoyed a pina colada or mojito, you know rum is at the heart of the mix. You can always buy rum drinks in restaurants and bars all over Puerto Rico, but about 25 minutes outside of San Juan, you’ll find the largest and best-known distillery of premium rum in the world: Casa Bacardí, right in Cataño, Puerto Rico.
Visiting a distillery like Casa Bacardí is probably the most lit tour you’ll ever take in life. From the moment you arrive on the distillery’s grounds, you’ll be handed a carved coin featuring Bacardí’s signature bat, which entitles you to free drinks at the standalone bars. Next, you’ll board a trolley, which you can comfortably sit and sip in as the tour guide gives you Bacardí Rum 101 history lessons.
It’s important to acknowledge that enslaved people cultivated sugarcane in the Americas and some experts theorize they may have even created original rum-making processes. But during this tour, you’ll learn about other histories specifically tied to the brand, like Bacardi’s origins in Cuba, the distillery’s expansion and how the product is made.
After talking history, you’ll move into a private room with individual stations equipped with mixers, cups, spoons, and of course, Bacardí rum. It’ll come as no surprise that Casa Bacardí mixology instructors display charisma, confidence and comedic talent during the class. They make it fun for the group, encouraging socializing while demonstrating helpful techniques for mixing all the rum you’ll pick up at the gift shop once the class is over. With friends or solo, this tour is a memorable one!
While the world rang in the new year, Distrito T-Mobile was poppin’ with parties, food and reggaeton artist Farruko on Jan. 1. As the first countdown site for “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest” — a show watched by 36 million viewers — the pristine modern plaza and restaurant hub was the place to be. Even when there’s not a live concert show being broadcast on TV, Distrito T-Mobile has a full entertainment calendar for visitors to enjoy everything from salsa band performances to movies in their VIP Cinemas theater.
You’ll also want to check out the unique restaurant offerings at Distrito T-Mobile. While there are more touristy food places like Pudge’s Pizza and Denko Asian Eatery, “sabor Latino” (Latin flavor) can be found in spots like Sazón Cocina Criolla, which emphasizes using fresh local ingredients to make delicious Puerto Rican dishes. If you prefer a rum bar, check out La Central by Mario Pagán for drinks or Lupes Reyes for your favorite Mexican food with a Caribbean twist (the chicken tingas are mouthwatering).
If you’re staying in San Juan, this gem is situated right next to the Puerto Rico Convention Center. Less than a 10-minute cab ride away from the cluster of hotels on Avenida Ashford, it’s also just a few steps away from convention hotels like Aloft San Juan and Hyatt Place San Juan.
If you want an experience-experience next time you’re visiting Puerto Rico, don’t be afraid to be a little adventurous and visit Toroverde Urban Park.
Perfectly situated right within Distrito T-Mobile, Toroverde Urban Park lets you fly down the Blazing Bull, one of the longest ziplines in the Guinness Book of World Records, situated 120 feet in the air. You can also take part in a ropes course and indoor rock climbing on Pico del Toro. According to Toroverde’s site, it is the largest indoor climbing wall in the Caribbean.
Adventurers can also take part in the Bull Maze obstacle course, which has 41 obstacles.
Toroverde hosts family-friendly options as well as solo adventures.
Whether you want to go for a ride through the forest on four wheels or prefer getting really in touch with nature astride a horse, Carabalí Rainforest Adventure Park has you covered. Just a modest 30-minute Uber ride away from San Juan in the town of Luquilllo, Carabalí sits near El Yunque National Rainforest. Consider it an all-in-one experience, where you can dine at Carabalí’s Bar and Grill, go on an adventure and then come back for more food, drink and shopping in its gift store.
Carabalí is owned by a Puerto Rican family that originally started out renting their cherished horses for beach rides back in the late 1970s. Positive reviews and high ratings from park visitors have contributed to the park’s expansion. Carabalí’s guides are local and knowledgeable about the land and history of the area and do a great job of providing historical context, while also keeping visitors safe during excursions.
ATV and UTV riding are ideal for a great baecation bonding experience or making memories with larger crews of friends. It’s a bumpy ride, therefore we highly recommend wearing shades or a mouth covering to keep dust and dirt at bay! After riding into the forest, visitors get to stop at a surprise food and drink stand nestled into a hill by a river, so bring cash or cards with you.
Puerto Rico has no passport requirement and has infinitely more to offer than what meets the eye. Tourism is a key part of the economy of this U.S. Commonwealth and tourists who come with an open mind and heart, respect for the culture and people and a little adventure in their souls will have a time worth talking about!
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