With breathtaking national parks and striking colonial architecture, Puerto Rico is a beautiful country that you must visit! Following centuries of Spanish rule, Puerto Rico became a North American territory in 1898.
Puerto Rico is filled with fun and vibrant people and has a long history that is represented by the many historic sites scattered throughout the islands. The population is also influenced by the mix of Spanish, US, and Afro-Caribbean cultures present throughout the country.
From the old cobblestone streets in San Juan to the luscious spa haven that is Coamo, there are so many places waiting to be explored and added to your Puerto Rico itinerary!
Some of the famous landmarks in Puerto Rico are El Yunque National Forest and Parque de Bombas, and you should definitely make sure that you check those out when you visit.
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Using the map of Puerto Rico landmarks, you can explore all the landmarks.
El Yunque National Forest is one of the most beautiful natural landmarks in Puerto Rico. The forest is filled with peaceful hiking trails to La Mina waterfall and Mount Britton, as well as the Dwarf forest that overlooks the surrounding area. During the evening, coquí tree frogs create a symphony with their calls which can be heard for miles around.
Head to the south of El Yunque National Forest, and you will be able to spot ancient petroglyphs that are believed to have been created by Puerto Rico’s indigenous Taino tribe.
One of San Juan’s more famous landmarks is the Castillo San Felipe Del Morro, also known as just El Morro. The citadel, which was built between the 16th and 18th centuries, was named after King Phillip II of Spain and its purpose was to protect San Juan from Naval enemies.
El Morro was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, paired with the nearby San Juan National Historic Site. The US National Park Service looks after this site and many more sites throughout the United States and North America.
Raices Fountain sits at one end of the Paseo de la Princesa in San Juan, paying homage to the country’s Taino, Spanish, and African heritage. The bronze Gods and Goddesses were revealed in 1992, on the 500th anniversary of the Spanish discovery of the New World.
This statue, along with other Puerto Rico monuments, has been famously defaced throughout the last decade. The gold chains that once adorned the Gods are no longer a feature of the fountain.
This site also marks a popular spot to catch the sun setting over Puerto Rico, and during golden hour is a great time to snap a photo of the beautiful statues.
The Fortress, or Santa Catalina's Palace as it is known, is the Governor of Puerto Rico's official residence. It was originally built in the 1530s as the first of many fortifications to help the military defend San Juan and its harbor from the Kalinago and other European invaders.
In 1640, reconstruction saw the Chapel of Santa Carolina's walls integrated into The Fortress's design (hence the nickname). The impressive pastel-blue fortress is the oldest mansion in the world to still be in use and has been part of the UNESCO "La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site" since 1983.
Translated as the 'Chapel of Holy Christ,' Capilla Del Cristo is a small chapel and museum located in the Old San Juan Historic District. The chapel is extremely famous throughout Puerto Rico as it managed to avoid demolition during the 20th century; you will find its image on plenty of souvenirs in the capital.
Most of the items at the silver and gold altar date back to 1753, and one of the most famous paintings inside the chapel is The Miracle by Jorge Sen, as well as a myriad of iconic artwork by José Campeche.
When it comes to cultural significance, La Placita de Santurce is one of the major landmarks in Puerto Rico. It’s actually a 100-year-old two-tiered food market, and a visit here is a must on a trip to San Juan.
During the week, the market is home to several brilliant restaurants serving delicious local fare. But head there on the weekend, and La Placita de Santurce comes alive with locals eating, drinking, and salsa dancing. It’s the perfect place to taste great food and people-watch late into the night.
This pretty colonial cemetery can be found near Castillo San Felipe Del in the Old San Juan area and is where most of Puerto Rico’s famous residents are buried. The site dates back to 1863 when Ignacio Mascaro had it built, and it was named after Saint Mary Magdeline de Pazzi, an Italian nun.
At the time of its construction, Puerto Rico was run by a colonial Spanish Government who feared death as it was a mystery. To combat this, they built the cemetery overlooking the Atlantic Ocean so that the spirit could make a symbolic journey to cross into the afterlife.
The Capitol building sits at the top of the list of major landmarks of Puerto Rico. Not only is this one of the most stunning classical revival architectural examples in the country, but it’s also the place where the Senate makes big decisions.
Prior to The Capitol being constructed, Puerto Rico requested architectural designs from around the world. 134 designs were submitted from the likes of the US, Cuba, and France, but it was eventually built in 1929 by Rafael Carmoega.
On a visit to San Juan, a gentle stroll along the tree-lined Paseo de la Princesa is a must-do. This is one of the prettiest promenades in the entire country, stretching from the old city towards the bay. Expect exciting street performances and hordes of locals here.
The famous restaurant and bar Princesa Gastrobar is one of the top spots to visit along the boardwalk. You can try traditional Puerto Rican cuisine here or even opt for a classic (and delicious) Puerto Rican rum or two. An evening wander along this street is a great way to spend an evening in San Juan.
The Plaza las Americas (or The Plaza, as locals call it) is an important shopping mall in San Juan. It’s actually the largest mall in the Caribbean and was the first indoor mall built in Puerto Rico.
The Plaza is an important cultural landmark for locals, as a place where they love to gather to shop, eat, and drink. You will find a mixture of over 300 famous American (and global) fashion and beauty brands mixed with Puerto Rican establishments here.
Despite having plenty of beaches throughout the country, San Juan’s Condado Beach is one of the most popular landmarks in Puerto Rico. The white sand and crystal waters are a bustling spot for locals and tourists alike who flock to enjoy the sun and boat rides in the warm sea.
The beach is also known for its party atmosphere in the evening, so if you’re looking for a vibrant evening out as the sun sets over the Atlantic, head to Condado Beach.
San Cristobal Castle is another of the country’s impressive fortresses, built by Puerto Rico’s Spanish rulers in 1783 to protect against foreign invaders. Interestingly enough, it was actually the largest fortress that the Spanish built in the New World.
The fortress originally covered 27 acres of land and partly surrounded the entire city of San Juan, although a third of the wall was knocked down in 1897 to help ease traffic. The fortification has five cisterns that were traditionally used to store water but were turned into bomb shelters during WWII.
Serralles Castle is a romantic mansion overlooking the downtown area of Ponce that was built in the 1930s for Juan Eugenio Serralles. The city of Ponce has since purchased the estate.
Today, the castle is used as a museum where you can learn more about the sugar cane and rum industries that contribute significantly to Puerto Rico’s economy.
It’s one of the most famous buildings in Puerto Rico that is used by many people for weddings and social gatherings. It has featured on a number of global TV shows that showcase castles around the world.
Standing in stark contrast to the other architectural styles in Puerto Rico, Parque de Bombas is a former fire station that has a rather quirky design. It’s located on the main square in Ponce and has now been converted into a fun museum about firefighting.
Parque de Bombas was first built for the 1882 Exhibition Trade Fair, where it was the main exhibition. After this, it was transformed into a fire station (and briefly the Mayor’s office). The red and black design was so striking that the Ponce city flag adopted these colors.
La Guancha Boardwalk is a busy hangout spot where you’ll find Ponce residents relaxing in the evenings and weekends. It’s next to the beach and overlooking the Caribbean Sea, and a fun thing to do is to grab some seeds from one of the local stores and feed the pelicans that patrol the boardwalk.
You should also make sure to grab a bite to eat from one of the restaurants, as you’ll find some of the tastiest food in Ponce here. End the evening with a rum at one of the bars facing the ocean.
Just off the coast of Ponce is a small island named Caja de Muertos. If you are spending a long time in Ponce, it’s worth making a day trip to one of the most popular sites in Puerto Rico. You can reach the island on a small boat that runs multiple times throughout the day.
The uninhabited island is famed for its native turtle population and is protected by the Nature Reserve of Caja de Muertos. As well as heading to the nature reserve to spot turtles, swimming and snorkeling in the bright blue ocean here are highly recommended.
The Ponce Museum of Art is known to be the best art gallery in Puerto Rico and the largest in the Caribbean. The art collection here includes around 4,000 works ranging from the 14th to the 20th century, including Italian Baroque, Pre-Raphaelite, and plenty others.
The museum was first founded in 1959 by Philanthropist Luis A. Ferré in the Ponce Historic Area, although it moved to its current location in 1965. Since 2010, the museum has had a dramatic $30 million renovation, expanding significantly and becoming the best Latin American art gallery.
If you’re taking children to Puerto Rico, a visit to the Children’s Museum needs to be at the top of your bucket list (although it’s a lot of fun for adults too). With over 100 interactive exhibitions ranging from art and science to ecosystems and water production, there’s a lot to explore here.
You can also head into the Mangrove Swamp during your time at the museum and explore this natural wonder. This is a forest filled with trees that have adapted to the salty, swamp-like conditions and managed to thrive nonetheless.
Named after the Pinyon Pine trees that populate it, Piñones State Forest is a tranquil timberland forest in the Carolina area of the country. It’s a beautifully verdant spot that you should explore on your trip to Puerto Rico.
Also known for being the home of the famous mangrove forest, there’s also a really pretty beach nearby. A boardwalk runs through the center of the forest, which is used for biking and walking trails.
Cabo Rojo Lighthouse is one of the most famous Puerto Rico monuments. It sits atop 200-foot cliffs, towering over the Caribbean Sea and marking the south-westerly point of Puerto Rico. The lighthouse is still in operation, helping to navigate vessels through the Mona Passage between the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean.
This is also a popular spot for bird watching, so make sure you pack your binoculars. Or, once you’ve explored the lighthouse, head to the beach or hike along the cliffs and explore the natural landscape.
Sometimes Puerto Rico travel can seem like it’s all about adventure. And while that can be true, you can also find perfect places to relax. One of these places is Coama’s Thermal Hot Springs, where you can soak in healing mineral waters whilst surrounded by lush greenery.
The springs were discovered in 1847 and have since been a part of Hotel Los Baños de Coamo. It is said that they are actually Juan Ponce de León’s much-coveted Fountain of Youth, but you’ll have to try them out for yourself to see if you believe it.
Vieques is one of the smaller islands in Puerto Rico, with the magical Mosquito Bay situated on the southern coastline. The bioluminescent bay lights up due to the plankton that lives in the sea, creating a stunning glow across the water.
After the devastating Hurricane Maria in 2017, many people were worried when the water’s lights went out. But luckily, the plankton recovered quickly, and now the water glows brighter than ever.
The best thing to do is here is to take an evening kayak tour across the sea, where you can get up close and personal with the bioluminescence at Mosquito Bay.
A fun family adventure awaits you in Carabali Rainforest Park in Luquillo. As Puerto Rico’s most famous adventure park, this is a spot that you can’t miss when you visit.
The park is set on a 600-acre space on the outskirts of El Yunque National Forest with beautiful views, 5-star hotels, and lots of brilliant restaurants to keep you entertained for days. From go-karting and hayrides to horseback riding and an ATV cruise through the forests, there is so much to do here.
To the north of Puerto Rico lies El Indio Cave in Arecibo. The natural limestone cave sits on the very edge of the rugged coast, with a view of the Atlantic Ocean.
The trail and the wooden ladder down to the cave can be tricky for some people, but it’s worth the unbelievable sights within. This is one of the most popular historic sites in Puerto Rico.
The cave is so famous because of the pre-Columbian petroglyphs that can be seen all over the walls. It is widely believed that ancient tribes would use this cave as a meeting place between 1200-1500 AD.
The panoramic route is less like the other Puerto Rico monuments and more of a scenic drive across the country. It’s a famous route undertaken by thousands each year due to the beautiful views it treats you to of Puerto Rico’s natural landscape.
Three main roads make up the drive: PR-105, PR-143, and PR-182. The route starts in Mayagüez and stretches the entire way across the main island to Maunabo, a whopping 167 miles (269 km).
These are just 25 of the thousands of landmarks that make Puerto Rico travel so fun. Whether you want to explore one (or all) of the many fortresses built during colonial rule or would prefer to spend some time sunbathing on a beach, Puerto Rico is a country that allows you to do both.
During the day, Puerto Rico is a relaxing haven, but the real party starts when the sun sets, so make sure you check out some of the boardwalk and beach spots in the evening to really immerse yourself in Puerto Rican culture.
This article was edited by Loredana Elena.
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