Best Views in Puerto Rico
Although every view in Puerto Rico can be considered the “best”, be sure you have your camera with you when traveling to these gorgeous sites. This island is full of postcard views from every angle! Tour the island for a couple days to encompass all these sights. Here are the best views of the island, its structures, and the ocean—all from different perches on this small paradise.
Puerto Rico 191
Few visitors to Puerto Rico leave without having visited El Yunque, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. national forest system. Stop at the visitor center to pick up a park map and stock up on bug repellant, ponchos, water, and snacks before heading off on a self-guided expedition of El Yunque’s highlights. These include La Mina Falls and a trip to the top of El Yunque Tower. Along the paths, look for the elusive Puerto Rican parrot, which was on the verge of extinction before its population was stabilized by the Forest Service staff.
On your way to the manmade lake Lago Dos Bocas, you will pass through this amazing bamboo tunnel. Take your time and maybe even pull over for a photo opp -- this is the most bamboo if I’ve ever seen concentrated in one place in PR!
PR-116, Lajas, 00667, Puerto Rico
Down south in Puerto Rico is a totally different climate from that of the west coast. Instead of beaches, here is arid desert land (just over the hill behind the lush rice fields of this picture). Cacti dominate, the breeze is warm, and it rains intermittently. But every now and then during the fall/winter wet season, you catch a glimpse of color as the fields turn green and the hills hide behind clouds and mist. Every inch of Puerto Rico is unique and enticing—rain forests, dry forests, beaches, caves, waterfalls, mountains, valleys, underground cave rivers, desert, and reefs. Go explore every corner and, I promise, you will experience something different in each area.
Ciales, Puerto Rico
I made a drive to the center of Puerto Rico to attend an Oktoberfest in Morovis. This was my first trip into the heart of the island and I was thrilled for the mountainous landscape and cooler temperatures. We first left the north coast and drove through Manati before stopping in the town of Ciales to take this photo from the Paseo Lineal building, overlooking the river and the town below. I love how the clouds snuggle into the tops of the mountains, as though our elevations rival Everest. Although the coast is where I belong, I’m excited that a journey into the mountains is only a short car ride away.
Calle Cementerio, San Juan, 00926, Puerto Rico
San Juan Cemetery lies on the coast adjacent to El Morro (San Juan’s beloved fort) and nestled in the district La Perla, a rougher part of town. Its statues and tombs make it as beautiful as a New Orleans cemetery. Exiting El Morro, head down the grassy field to your left to catch this flustering overhead view. On this day, a powerful storm was rolling in, casting everything in gray.
Playa Sucia, Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
Five years ago, my friends and I found a secret beach near the Cabo Rojo Lighthouse. To this day, we’ve never seen anyone else there. Ignore the beach’s misnomer—Bahia Sucia (dirty bay)—and plan on an 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. outing to this natural extravaganza. From the azure water, hike up to the lighthouse—set on a 200-foot cliff—for a look inside. Once outside again, dig for crabs and anemones. And then refrain from rushing back to plunge into the water. Explore a bit and you might just find an isolated pool surrounded by rocks. Climb down the rocks carefully for a bath in the secret beach brimming with fish. Close by, and hidden by somewhat thorny bushes, our secret bridge will lead you to your private viewpoint (pictured above). Sit undisturbed and listen to the waves lap (or, at times, crash) against the limestone formations. On your way home, be sure to keep an eye out for cotton and salt flats along the right side of the road.
Rincon, 00602, Puerto Rico
Behind one of the most popular surf spots in Rincon is a breathtaking view of the northwest coast of PR. Domes Beach during fall/winter will be packed with surfers, but if you want to enjoy the location without being slapped by boards or crowds, then take the short dirt walk behind the “dome” (old nuclear center) and hike along the raised seawall for a gorgeous and unobstructed view of the rugged, lush, tropical cliffside and the waters below. You can take this trail all the way to Pools Beach (in Puntas, the upper part of Rincon) and watch more surfers pick off waves in another great surf spot. This photo was shot with my iPhone 4S, and edited as HDR.
Llanos Costa, Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
Lighthouses are common in any coastal town or island. Many are still in working condition, others are simply sites for the eyes. Cabo Rojo is a must-visit cliff on the southwest corner of Puerto Rico. From here, your view of the Caribbean is spectacular. Not to mention the picturesque reds, oranges, and browns of the constantly eroding cliff side where this lighthouse is situated. Try snapping photos from all angles. Don’t forget to search the cliff for the green Cuban iguanas—a common sight, but an invasive species on the island. They’ll be sunning themselves on the ledges and may even be a brownish color as they try to blend with their environment. Work your way around the lighthouse and find one of the most beautiful and secluded beaches on the island—Playuela, which some refer to as Playa Sucia. On a calm day, you might even see the West Indies manatee and calf playfully swimming out in the bay. Look for their characteristic “footprints"—ring-shaped water coils on the surface of the ocean.
Estatua Juan Ponce de León, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
You can learn about Puerto Rico‘s history by visiting ancient citadels, churches, and Taíno ceremonial sites. The island, considered the “Key to the Antilles” by the Spanish, was fought over in many wars; the 1539 El Morro in Old San Juan—the Caribbean’s largest fortress—played an important role in many of these conflicts. Hide in watchtowers overlooking the water, role-play in the dungeons, and examine the cannons used in battle. Other educational historical sites include the Church of San Juan, which holds the tomb of conquistador Juan Ponce de León, and the Catholic art museum Porta Coeli, in San Germán, which was built by Dominicans in the 17th century.
San Juan-Caguas-Guaynabo, PR, Puerto Rico
This is my favorite hike by far. Cueva Ventana (“Window Cave”) is a beautiful, scenic hole in the side of a mountain that opens up to a lush, green valley down below. You’ll trample through mud, hunker down under low-hanging stalactites, dodge around stalagmites, and never look up (there are bats, of course) while wandering through the cave. All this winding around through two caves leads you to one of the most spectacular views in all of Puerto Rico (but I may be biased). The hike to this cave is half the fun. You climb down into a small opening under enormous, ancient tree roots, and you get the feeling of a tomb raider. But, if you’re claustrophobic or don’t feel up to lowering yourself down a cave wall, there’s an additional path that bypasses the first cave and leads you straight to the easier hike to Cueva Ventana. There’s something for everyone! I’m pretty sure I saw one Puerto Rican woman doing the whole thing in heels. This is a must-visit site for anyone touring the northwest central part of Puerto Rico. Another tidbit is that it’s practically free! You can find the directions on PuertoRicoDayTrips.com, park at the adjacent Texaco gas station. UPDATE (2014): There is now an easier way to access this awesome view! There are now boardwalks for ease of access, and you must pay $11 to tour the site. You get a flashlight and hardhat for safety.
Puerto Ferro, Puerto Rico
One of my favorite places in the whole world—Vieques! I’m actually a little apprehensive to share, because I’d love to keep it the semi-secret it is. If you time it well, you can have this beach all to yourself.
Lago Dos Bocas, 00641, Puerto Rico
Lago Dos Bocas is a perfect place to take the family to spend a day. This man-made lake is situated behind a dam in the Utuado/Arecibo region of the west/central part of Puerto Rico. There is small park that is freely open to the public and is operated by the Department of Transportation. There are ferry rides around the island that leave on the hour, and these 20 minute rides are free of charge. The main draw of this area are the restaurants situated along the shoreline, to which the boats can bring you to for an meal of local comida criolla. Be sure to head there on the weekend to catch these places during open hours! photo by chelsea harms
Quebradillas, 00678, Puerto Rico
A slight turn off the main highway can have you overlooking the beautiful steep sided cliffs of Quebradillas and Isabella. On highway 2, once you first catch a close glimpse of the water directly off to your right, take your first right at the flashing yellow light. Park and take a look, or instead, pull over at the overlook area for a picture perfect view.
Toroverde Adventure Park is home to Puerto Rico’s highest peak, which beckons hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts, including those who enjoy the adrenalin rush of zip-lining. It’s claimed that this is the longest zip line in the world. Is the superlative true? The answer becomes less important as you’re swooping across the canopy, enjoying the thrill of speed and the bird’s-eye view of the forest.