Sep 17, 2022

Travel Inspiration

The 14 Best Areas to Stay in Puerto Rico: Cities, Neighborhoods & Hotels

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Old San Juan, Puerto Rico Neighborhood

With stunning beaches, great food and a rich history to explore, Puerto Rico is easily one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean. But with its many enticing regions, choosing where to stay in Puerto Rico can be a challenge.

Below you’ll find our top tips for vacationing in Puerto Rico, including our favorite areas to stay – from cities and neighborhoods to specific hotels. 

Or: ready to dive in now? Connect with a Fora Advisor to customize & book your trip to Puerto Rico today. They’ll hook you up with personalized recommendations and VIP hotel perks (at no extra cost to you).

Connect with a Fora Advisor to customize & book your trip today. 

First, a few great tips for staying in Puerto Rico

Before we talk about the best places to stay in Puerto Rico, we should go over a few quick details.

Off-season travel may be the best time to visit

The beauty of Puerto Rico can be savored year-round. If you’re trying to get the most out of your trip, you may want to consider visiting between June and October (i.e., the off-season) as there are fewer tourists during these months. 

Your Fora Advisor can steer you towards the best times to visit – and ensure you’ll get top-tier hotel service as well.

Renting a car is ideal

Puerto Rico is quite small, but it’s still worth it to rent your own car to get around. Public transportation is available, but you may find it difficult to get to some locations without throwing off your schedule. 

Venture outside the touristy spots

Puerto Rico offers so many places to stay beyond its resort beaches and popular shopping locales (not that there’s anything wrong with those).

If you’re curious, our Caribbean vacation guide suggests a few areas in Puerto Rico that are more off-the-beaten-path. 

The 14 best places to stay in Puerto Rico: cities, neighborhoods & hotels

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico Trolly

From the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan to the beautiful beaches of Isla Verde and Dorado, here are the best places to stay in Puerto Rico.

1. San Juan: the best place to stay in Puerto Rico for your first visit

If you only have time to visit one place in Puerto Rico, choose San Juan. Puerto Rico’s capital offers everything you could want in a Caribbean metropolis, plus amazing, blue-water beaches and a rich architectural scene. 

You’ll also find some of the best places to eat in San Juan (check out our San Juan food culture guide for great recommendations like Café Berlin) and a thriving nightlife.

San Juan vs. Old San Juan

The history of San Juan runs very deep. What’s now called Old San Juan was founded in the late 15th century, with stone fortifications surrounding colorful Colonial architecture and narrow cobblestone streets. 

As Puerto Rico’s largest city, modern San Juan offers an equally rich history and incredible nightlife (don’t take it from us – check out our guide). The two parts of the city beautifully harmonize, and you’ll find massive events and festivals all year long.

Interested in an event? Fora Advisors have the inside scoop when it comes to the goings-on in San Juan. Plan your trip with an advisor to make the most of an event you're interested in.

The best hotels in San Juan

Hotel El Convento

Established in the 1640s, Hotel El Convento is a prime example of Colonial Spanish architecture and interior design. The lavish hotel provides access to Old San Juan’s many attractions and is consistently voted one of the top places to stay in Puerto Rico.

Casablanca

The Casablanca puts you right in the middle of the action in Old San Juan. This boutique-style hotel is thoroughly furnished, with early 20th century pieces for a homey feel. The hotels boasts a suite of amenities, including a popular in-house cafe, spas and more.

El Colonial

The El Colonial in Old San Juan is an adults-only boutique hotel that blends modern decor with Neoclassical architecture. Guests also get access to the exclusive El Colonial Bar, featuring Puerto Rican rums as well as your traditional staples. 

Caribe Hilton

There’s something for every type of traveler at the (huge) Caribe Hilton resort. Aside from sublime beach access at the mouth of the Condado Lagoon, there’s an oceanfront pool, 10 dining options and so much more.

Palacio Provincial

The Palacio Provincial is another adults-only boutique hotel located right in the center of historic Old San Juan. When you’re not exploring the city, you can relax in the rooftop pool or grab a drink from the Consular Restaurant & Bar.

ALOFT San Juan 

Conveniently located in San Juan’s hip new T-Mobile district, ALOFT San Juan may appeal to a more energetic crowd. The hotel features its own swanky bar as well as quick access to the area’s top nightlife attractions.

O:LV Fifty Five

O:LV Fifty Five pushes the envelope when it comes to luxury boutique hotels in Puerto Rico. If lavishly furnished rooms, elite spa experiences and intimate romantic packages aren’t enough to draw you, maybe the floating champagne deck will?

La Botánica 

If you want a relaxing and unique experience, La Botánica is it. Each room features a green-filled terrace and outdoor shower, while the hotel’s Ayurvedic wellness center is there to help you mend body and mind. 

And on Friday nights, La Botánica hosts a multitude of local chefs and artists for a taste of health-centric Puerto Rican culture.

2. Rio Grande: one of the best places in Puerto Rico to explore the outdoors

Rainforest

Rio Grande runs along the river of the same name (i.e., the “Great River”), offering easy access to El Yunque rainforest park. Here, you’ll find Puerto Rico’s best golfing and top beach resorts.

El Yunque is one of the United States’ only subtropical rainforest parks. Stunning vistas of waterfalls and small streams are accessible from the park’s many trails – just don’t forget to bring an umbrella, as it rains nearly every day in El Yunque.

Ready to take in the sights? Connect with a Fora Advisor and start your vacation planning today.

The best hotels in Rio Grande

Wyndham Grand Rio Mar 

The Wyndham Grand Rio Mar is a massive resort that caters almost exclusively to travelers looking for a more laid-back trip. It’s a bit secluded from Puerto Rico’s other top attractions but that’s also its appeal. 

Here you can pick a spot anywhere along the resort’s two miles of private beach to call your own. There are also two golf courses, a casino (if you want to liven things up) and a huge variety of local dining options. 

The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico

If you want something more opulent, the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort in Rio Grande isn’t just one of the top hotels in Puerto Rico, it’s one of the best in the whole Caribbean.

Nature lovers will be especially impressed as the St. Regis is found within a 500-acre wildlife preserve sandwiched between the El Yunque National Forest and the Espíritu Santo River State Preserve.

This five-star hotel emphasizes Puerto Rican culture, which is best exemplified by its suite of high-class dining and bar choices.

3. Santurce: the best nightlife in Puerto Rico

Santurce is technically part of San Juan but it deserves its own spotlight thanks to its awesome street art, museums and (perhaps best of all) stellar nightlife. 

Top clubs, awesome venues and more offer a mix of live and authentic Puerto Rican rap, rock and heavy metal music. Psst: your Fora Advisor can give you the lowdown on the best local spots.

4. Condado: casinos and shopping galore

Paddleboarding

Like Santurce, Condado is another gorgeous neighborhood of San Juan, though Condado caters to those who appreciate the finer things (we see you!). San Juan’s most luxurious district is complete with high-class shopping, casinos and upscale clubs and bars. 

Condado Beach also offers family-friendly water sports, sailing and charters. 

Quick aside: if you’re really looking for the best of Puerto Rican luxury, check out Dorado below.

Is it better to stay in Old San Juan or Condado?

It really depends on your taste. Even though Condado offers a more lavish experience, the high demand for hotels in San Juan makes Condado fairly competitive in terms of pricing. 

Beyond that, both neighborhoods offer tons of beautiful sights and things to do. The Fora guide to exploring San Juan provides a little more context; but if you’re really interested in figuring out which neighborhood you prefer, we recommend chatting with a Fora Advisor (remember: planning your trip with an advisor will always save you money, with the best available rates and perks galore). 

The best hotels in Condado: 

Condado Ocean Club

The Condado Ocean Club offers the best of both worlds: exemplary, beachfront relaxation juxtaposed with the allure of a vibrant, urban nightlife. 

The pristine hotel boasts pristine contemporary furnishings and amenities, but the prime beach real estate may be its biggest draw.

Condado Vanderbilt Hotel

The Condado Vanderbilt Hotel was first built in 1919 to cater to America and Europe’s wealthy (it was built by a Vanderbilt after all). Naturally, you can presume nothing short of a luxurious stay with optional butler service, exceptional ocean views and more. 

The Vanderbilt Hotel’s 1919 Restaurant is also one of the island’s best, featuring the culinary skill of a Michelin Star executive chef.

5. Luquillo: laid back & gorgeous beaches

beach-and-palm-tree

Only about 30 minutes from the hustle and bustle of San Juan, Luquillo offers prime beaches for relaxation and additional access to El Yunque park. The other big draw is the Los Kioskos de Luquillo (aka “the Kiosks of Luquillo”), with authentic Puerto Rican cuisine, dancing and live music – especially on Friday and Saturday nights.

6. Isla Verde: the coolest place to stay in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Flag

Once again, we’re back to San Juan. Isla Verde Beach is super close to Puerto Rico’s main airport and has built a reputation as one of the island’s top destinations. If, however, you’re looking for the best areas to stay in Puerto Rico that cater to a lower-key crowd, nearby Carolina Beach has become a local and hipster haven. 

Which is better, Isla Verde or Condado?

Isla Verde doesn’t have the same reputation as Condado in terms of luxury offerings, but it still has an exciting nightlife, albeit with beachy vibes instead of the high-class allure.

A Fora Advisor can help you decide which neighborhood fits your preferences (plus, you’ll unlock best-of-the-best hotel perks).

The best hotels in Isla Verde: Fairmont El San Juan Hotel

The Fairmont El San Juan Hotel capitalizes on its Isle Verde location. Casinos, award-winning beaches, the best shopping in Puerto Rico and much more are all within minutes of the Fairmont’s grand doors. 

The Fairmont also features a wide assortment of room options from poolside suites to ocean villa rooms, so you can wake up, slap on a bathing suit and soak in the rays and waves from dusk ‘till dawn (and then some).

7. Fajardo: coral reefs, hatching sea turtles & water sports

The 14 Best Areas to Stay in Puerto Rico: Cities, Neighborhoods and Hotels

On the main island, the only place that might offer a better natural experience than Rio Grande is Fajardo. The small city is home to plenty of beaches and cays, including the world-famous Seven Seas Beach. Moreover, you can slap on a snorkel and explore the Cordillera Nature Reserve’s coral reefs, with hundreds (if not thousands) of tropical species to discover.

If you time your visit just right (psst...a Fora Advisor can help), you can even see sea turtles hatching along the shoreline

The best hotels in Fajardo: El Conquistador Resort

The Conquistador Resort offers near-unparalleled amenities and comfort along the crystal-blue shores of Fajardo. The resort is relatively secluded, yet provides a magical array of things to do. You can explore the nearby Bioluminescent Bay, check out the Coqui Water park or even charter a private trip to Palomino Island. 

8. Ponce: the (second) best area to stay in Puerto Rico for cultural immersion?

We’ve established that San Juan is the cultural (and literal) capital of Puerto Rico, but it’s not the only place of cultural significance on the island. Ponce, aka the “Museum City” is home to (what else?) a ton of museums and rich points of interest relevant to Puerto Rican culture.

As for architectural appeal, there may be no better example than the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which blends Caribbean and Spanish designs and has been standing for over 300 years. 

Architecture and history aren’t Ponce’s only draws; the city also has an excellent gastronomic presence (work with your Fora Advisor for the best foodie recommendations).

The best hotel in Ponce: The Fox Resort

The Fox Hotel is a major departure from Puerto Rico’s traditional hotel scene. A blend of Vintage Pop Art honors 20th-century icons like Frida Kahlo and Marilyn Monroe while “burgers, shakes, sweets and the best coffee in town” provide a fun throwback to the 1950s. 

9. Isabela: gorgeous vistas and limited development

The 14 Best Areas to Stay in Puerto Rico Cities: Neighborhoods and Hotels

If you’re looking for super-chill vibes, Isabela is easily one of Puerto Rico’s best areas to stay in. The town is relatively small compared to San Juan and Ponce, meaning the surrounding environment is largely untouched and ripe for exploration in the form of snorkeling and hiking.

Isabela also provides access to the Guajataca State Forest, which offers trails, fishing spots and peaceful waters ports.

The best hotels in Isabela: The Royal Isabela

The Royal Isabela is a family-friendly golf resort with beachfront amenities and an emphasis on preserving the surrounding flora and fauna. Leatherback sea turtles often lay their eggs on the nearby beaches and from January to April, you can spot humpback whales breaching from shore.

10. Cabo Rojo: the best beaches in the Caribbean

Count Cabo Rojo among the more hidden gems of Puerto Rico. Beaches like La Playuela are among the best places to stay in Puerto Rico if you’re trying to avoid tourist crowds.

Like Isabel, Cabo Rojo emphasizes nature and the views are breathtaking. Unlike Isabel, Cabo Rojo doesn’t offer much in the way of hotels. Although, it does have a thriving vacation rental market 

11. Rincón: the surfing capital of Puerto Rico

The 14 Best Areas to Stay in Puerto Rico: Cities, Neighborhoods and Hotels

The “town of beautiful sunsets” also happens to be home to some of the best surfing beaches in the Caribbean, and surfers of all experience levels are welcome. If surfing isn’t your thing, Ricón is absolutely still worth visiting: the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve is a great snorkeling destination.

The best hotels in Rincón

Rincón of the Seas Grand Caribbean Hotel & Villas

The Rincón of the Seas Grand Caribbean features classic beach-town vibes and a more laid-back attitude. If you’re not into Rincón’s surf-friendly beaches (which are maybe 100 feet from the doors), you can relax in the oceanfront pool and enjoy drinks at the swim-up bar.

Tres Sirenas

If you prefer something more intimate, the Tres Sirenas boutique hotel is a top choice. There are only five suites available, but the amenities are amazing. In-room massages, private chef services and deep sea fishing excursions are just a taste of Tres Sirenas’ offerings.

12. Culebra: hip beaches with nature reserve access

Culebra is one of the larger islands along the Puerto Rican archipelago, about 20 miles offshore from the main island. World-famous Flamenco Beach calls Culebra home and offers a gorgeous contrast between hilly shores and pristine, white sands. 

The Culebra National Wildlife Refuge is another top destination and is composed of several smaller islands (we recommend island-hopping via Culebrita water taxis).

Sidenote: Culebra is also one of the top LGBTQ travel spots (connect with a Fora Advisor to learn more).

13. Vieques: one of Puerto Rico’s most unique places

At night, the beaches of the island of Vieques shimmer – we’re not exaggerating. Bioluminescent algae literally make the water glow. At a minimum, these glowing beaches are magical to witness – at best, visiting Vieques is a true once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

There are few places in the world where you can see this phenomenon, so Vieques is absolutely a must-see (the Fora guide to exploring Vieques offers more info, BTW).

Vieques’ dining options are enthralling, with exceptionally fresh seafood and a mix of traditional Puerto Rican and Mexican as well. 

The only downside to Vieques is that you have to visit by air or ferry, meaning you have to time your travel well if you’re visiting from afar (ahem: a Fora Advisor can help with that). 

The best hotels in Vieques

El Blok

The El Blok hotel is a Vieques landmark in its own right. The unusual facade hides a contemporary decor style. 

You also don’t have to go far to try some of Vieques’ best restaurants. Placita, which is renowned for its contemporary Puerto Rican menu, is just one of several top restaurants located within the hotel.

Puertas at El Quenepo

You’ll find Puertas at El Quenepo in the island village of Esperanza. The rooms present a quiet, classical decor style but the hotel itself emphasizes exploring Vieques Island, including the nearby bioluminescent bay.

Finca Victoria

Finca Victoria is a (tiny) boutique hotel situated towards the interior of Vieques. Whereas the other hotels emphasize beachy adventures, Finca Victoria aims to serve as a therapeutic getaway. Private gardens supply the property’s vegan kitchen and botanical stores while local art, clothing and other trinkets can be found for sale throughout the estate.

14. Dorado: the most luxurious area to stay in Puerto Rico

If you’re hunting for an upscale vacation, Dorado literally means “golden.” Many of Puerto Rico’s most famous restaurants, like El Ladrillo, can be found in Dorado but that’s far from all you’ll find here.

Dorado also offers a wealth of surfing and other beach allures while the more inland areas feature Puerto Rico’s best golf courses. Best of all, it’s only about 30 minutes away from San Juan by car.

The best hotel: Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve

Living up to Dorado’s high-class atmosphere, the Dorado Beach Ritz-Carlton is arguably Puerto Rico’s most luxurious hotel. Between the five-star, gourmet dining options and curated experiences, the hotel and resort spares no expense to ensure its guests are pleased.

Can’t wait to check out the best areas to stay in Puerto Rico? Let a Fora Advisor help

Ready to visit the best places to stay in Puerto Rico? Speak with a Fora Advisor to get personalized (and expert) travel recommendations.

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