What Not To Do in Puerto Rico + 42 Things to Avoid as a Traveler

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If you are traveling to the island for the first time and need to know what not to do in Puerto Rico, we have all the tips you need to know about what to avoid, safety, and how to make the most of your trip.

Anytime you travel to a new place, it can be nerve-wracking to plan what you must do and what not to do! This is especially true for a first-time traveler.

If you are excited about an upcoming visit but want to ensure you prepare, I’ve got you covered. I have been traveling to the island since childhood, and it is my favorite place for many reasons!

I am excited to share all my experiences regarding what you need to know to make your trip as epic as possible. This article is all about what not to do in Puerto Rico!

What Not To Do in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a beautiful island in the Caribbean with so much to see and do. The U.S. territory offers a rich cultural experience, plenty of historical sites, and a variety of tourist attractions that appeal to all interests.

Puerto Rico is a beautiful island in the Caribbean with so much to see and do. The U.S. territory offers a rich cultural experience, plenty of historical sites, and a variety of tourist attractions that appeal to all interests.

However, as with any tourist destination, there are things that travelers will want to refrain from doing to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

In this article, I will share 41 expert tips and things tourists will want to avoid doing in Puerto Rico.

What Not To Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Here are a few things you will want to avoid and not do while in San Juan, Puerto Rico! The city is one of my favorites in the world, but there are a few things to be mindful of while visiting.

1. Do not rent a car & attempt to drive in San Juan

One thing to avoid as a traveler to San Juan is renting a car or attempting to drive to get around the city. Uber is my preferred way to get around the San Juan metro area. You will avoid traffic, stopping for gas, paying for tolls, trying to find parking spots/lots, and paying for parking.

Not renting a car or driving in San Juan will save you time and money.

2. Do not spend your entire vacation in San Juan

want to rent one to get out of the city! Outside of San Juan, there is SO much to see (possibly the best of Puerto Rico). So many people make the mistake of staying only in the San Juan Area.

While it is close to the airport and what most tourists do, venture out even for a few days and experience everything Puerto Rico has to offer!

3. Do not go to San Juan expecting calm Caribbean beaches

San Juan beaches are rough, and rip tide warnings are regularly issued. Do not go to San Juan expecting calm, Caribbean waters. If you want to experience postcard-like, tranquil beaches, you should head to the southwest area of the island.

4. Do not go to La Perla without respecting residents and locals

La Perla is a neighborhood in Old San Juan that has long had a reputation for having higher crime rates than other areas of San Juan. More recently, tourists have taken to exploring the area, usually on foot. New businesses and community initiatives have opened to revitalize the area.

If you go to La Perla, you must respect the locals and avoid taking any photos there.

The view of the buildings in Santurce, Puerto Rico. While this area is bustling, what not to do in Puerto Rico is stay in the city the whole time.

What Not To Do in Puerto Rico for Your Personal Safety

Personal safety is something we all consider when traveling to a new destination. Luckily, Puerto Rico is relatively safe, but there are a few things you can avoid and tips you should know to stay as safe as possible on your upcoming trip.

5. Do not worry too much about safety

Puerto Rico is an extremely safe destination; this is one of the reasons I love to travel there so much! You can travel throughout the island without worrying about being a crime victim.

I have always felt safe on my trips to Puerto Rico, especially outside of the city. Use common sense, exercise precautions like anywhere else, and be aware of your surroundings!

6. Do not attempt to buy drugs illegally 

Most of the crime in Puerto Rico is related to domestic disputes and the drug trade. My best advice is to avoid areas where drugs are sold and avoid attempting to purchase any illegal drugs.

You risk becoming an innocent bystander in a shooting unrelated to you, you will most likely be in a sketchy area that you are unfamiliar with, and it is illegal, so you risk arrest. If you find yourself in an unsafe place, here are some tips:

  • Do not take photos while there, and be discreet if you need to use your phone for any reason.
  •  Be respectful of the community, people, and surroundings.
  •  Leave if you feel your physical safety is compromised.

7. Do not drink and drive

Not only is it illegal, but if you are out of San Juan, many roads are curvy and require extra caution even when sober. So be careful and do not drive while intoxicated.

What Not To Do in Puerto Rico & How to Respect Local Culture

Local culture is always something to consider when you travel. Here are a few tips to help you know what not to do in Puerto Rico and things to avoid when traveling to the island.

8. Do not assume everyone speaks English

Many Puerto Ricans are bilingual or have at least a basic understanding of English. But, only expect some people to speak English. Sometimes tourists think that everyone speaks English, or worse, they get angry when they cannot find someone they can communicate with in English.

9. Do not forget to learn some basic Spanish before your trip

Practice some basic Spanish before your trip, or bring along a book of phrases you may need or want to know during the trip. It is unlikely that you will not find someone who speaks English, but it is respectful to at least attempt to communicate in Spanish, especially if you are traveling outside of tourist areas.

Lechonera Restaurant in Guavate, PR where traditional food is sold. What not to do in Puerto Rico, avoid trying authentic foods while traveling

10. Do Not Spend the Whole Time on Your Hotel Property

There are some travel destinations where it is advisable to avoid leaving your hotel property due to safety concerns. Puerto Rico is the opposite. There are virtually no all-inclusive resorts on the island, providing travelers with excellent opportunites to experience Puerto Rican culture.

In addition, when you leave your hotel property, you will experience some of the best beaches and restaurants on the island. So do not hesitate to get out there and explore!

11. Do Not Eat at American Chains or Food You Can Get at Home

One huge mistake some tourists make is dining at the same chain and fast food restaurants that they frequent back home. However, because Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, you will come across many familiar places to dine, such as Chili’s, Cheesecake Factory, Chic-fil-a, and so much more!

So instead of choosing places with foods you have already tried and are familiar with, try something you can’t get at home!

12. Do Not Avoid Trying Puerto Rican Food

Try new foods and the local cuisine. Puerto Rico has fantastic restaurants; you can find everything from upscale dining to an authentic hole-in-the-wall spot. Don’t miss out on the delicious food Puerto Rico has to offer.

13. Do Not Litter

Puerto Ricans take a lot of pride in their island and take littering seriously. Littering is a social taboo, especially at beaches and public spaces. Be mindful of your trash, and pick up what you leave behind!

14. Do Not Forget to Support Small Local Owned Businesses

Many small businesses offer lodging, dining, tours, and more when you visit Puerto Rico. Make the conscious decision to support the local economy when you travel anywhere!

15. Do Not Forget to Tip Service Workers

The minimum wage in Puerto Rico is only $8.50, and many people depend on tips to make a living wage. Tip your service workers! In my experience, many wait staff will go out of their way to tell you that tips are not required or optional when you pay- ignore them, and tip anyway!

What Not To Do in Puerto Rico Regarding Weather & Climate

A trip to the tropics requires one to consider the weather. Rain is common, especially during the summer months or hurricane season. Here is what to avoid and tips to consider regarding the weather and climate when traveling to Puerto Rico.

View of Old San Juan Cemetary and La Perla

16. Do Not Forget a Plan B for Rainy Days

Depending on when you are traveling to Puerto Rico, you may encounter some rainy days; this is the tropics, after all. If you are traveling during the low season, you may have some days unsuitable for beach days.

However, even during the high season, when the weather is favorable, you may have a short afternoon shower. Have a backup plan for some indoor activities if you encounter rainy weather.

There are plenty of museums, malls, and other indoor attractions for you to enjoy during your trip!

17. Avoid Visiting during Hurricane Season

While you may not have your trip ruined by a hurricane if you visit between August and October, be ready to experience lots of humidity and rain. The best time to visit and avoid crowds is May, June, and November.

What Not To Do in Puerto Rico Tips for Getting There + Trip Planning

Planning your travel and logistics is super important for any successful trip. By planning ahead, you can avoid last-minute stress, unexpected expenses, and missed opportunities.

Here are some tips and what not to do when planning a trip to Puerto Rico.

18. Do Not Arrive Three Hours Early at the Airport

You can arrive two hours early when you depart for Puerto Rico or on your way back home. Puerto Rico is not an international travel destination and is considered a domestic flight.

I suggest adding 15-20 minutes to the usual 2-hour arrival time when you head home because you will have to pass your bags through a USDA checkpoint before checking in your luggage!

19. Do Not Forget to Pack Essentials

Pack essentials, especially toiletries. In tourist areas, especially, you may find that prices are marked up, and things are way more expensive than at home. So if you forget anything, your best bet is to head to the nearest Walmart.

San Juan’s Walmart in Santurce is a quick Uber ride away from most hotels and is well-stocked with anything you need. Outside of San Juan, there are many Walmarts throughout the island if you need to pick up anything you forgot.

22. Do Not Bring Your Passport

Puerto Rico is domestic travel, and you do not need a passport to get there! You can treat it like any other domestic travel destination!

Airport, One thing you will not want to do in Puerto Rico is brining your passport as air travel there is domestic.

Puerto Rico has rivers, waterfalls, and lakes to explore. Some may require a small hike to reach, but the beauty of Puerto Rico will be worth it. Some favorites include El HippieEl Charco Azul, and Gozalandia.

25. Do Not Carry Just Plastic, Carry Cash!

While most businesses will accept your debit and credit cards, in my experience, some places will tell you their card reader is broken (sometimes, even after you’ve ordered or eaten). Having cash will be helpful in case you run into this situation.

26. Do Not Try to Bring Home Prohibited Items

While it may be tempting to bring home delicious tropical fruits or other foods, there is a list of prohibited things that cannot be brought back into the states even though Puerto Rico is part of the United States.

Likewise, it may be tempting to try to sneak something, but you must pass all luggage and carry-on bags through a USDA scanner before you board your flight!

27. Do Not Think You Need to be 21 to Drink

The drinking age in Puerto Rico is 18, which means that although the drinking age in the states is 21, anyone older than 18 can drink and purchase alcohol in Puerto Rico!

28. Do Not Forget to Budget Accordingly

Many Caribbean and tropical beach destinations are budget-friendly, but Puerto Rico is only sometimes a cheap travel destination. Prices for hotels, food, and tours are comparable to prices in most big cities in the states, especially in San Juan.

Therefore, if you are on a budget, you will want to plan accordingly or venture out of the city to find less expensive accommodations and experiences.

This is a tropical hotel pool

29. Do Not Expect to Find Any All-Inclusive Resorts

All-inclusive resorts are nonexistent on the island. Instead, check with your hotel for on-site restaurants. It would help if you planned to leave your resort/hotel to experience various food and drinks, or you will get stuck at the hotel restaurant for your entire stay.

30. Do Not Expect to Have Power 24/7

Puerto Rico has been facing more and more challenges with its power system and electricity outrages. If you stay in a smaller hotel or Airbnb, you may experience a power outage.

However, most larger hotels will have powerful generators. If this is a concern, you can inquire about your accommodations but keep in mind and consider that this is something Puerto Ricans have to live with every day.

31. Do Not Expect to See Everything There is to See During a Cruise Stop

It is only possible to see some of Puerto Rico in one week or during a cruise stop that lasts a few hours. Even though Puerto Rico is a small island, there is much to see and do! If you are leaving on a cruise from the island, plan to spend a few extra days sightseeing.

This is a street in Old San Juan

What Not To Do in Puerto Rico & Things to Avoid: Transportation

Planning transportation and getting around is a crucial aspect of any trip to Puerto Rico. Whether you’re traveling by car, taxi, bus, or ferry, it’s essential to research your options, book in advance when possible, and factor in travel time and traffic. Here is a tip to help you get around.

32. Do Not Only Rely on National Car Rental Companies

Local companies like Aqui Coqui offer affordable and dependable cars you can rent from local Puerto Ricans. I have had excellent car-sharing experiences and always save money this way! I suggest reading reviews and terms of service before renting a car from anyone.

What Not To Do in Puerto Rico & What Not to Miss

With so many activities and attractions to choose from, it’s essential to have a plan to make the most of your time on the island.

Whether you’re interested in exploring the history and culture of Old San Juan, hiking through lush rainforests, or soaking up the sun on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, planning ahead will ensure that you have a well-rounded and enjoyable trip.

33. Do Not Only Visit Beaches

While Puerto Rico is known for its stunning beaches, it offers much more than sun, sand, and sea. The island is rich in history, culture, and natural beauty, with various activities and attractions to suit all interests. There’s something for everyone in Puerto Rico, making it a fantastic destination for a well-rounded and memorable trip.

34. Do Not Skip a Visit to the Central Mountain Region

The Central Mountain region has some of the most beautiful views and landscapes. I recommend everyone stay at least a night to experience the magic of the interior area and allow the coquis to sing you to sleep. This region is also home to some of the best food on the island!

35. Do Not Skip a Visit the West Side of the Island

The western part of Puerto Rico is my favorite part of the island. It may take longer to get to and be more remote, but it is worth the trek. You will find the most beautiful beaches and experience authentic culture away from tourists.

This is a view of me riding ATVs in El Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico. Missing fun excursions is not something you want to miss in Puerto Rico.

36. Do Not Skip a Snorkeling Excursion

Puerto Rico has some fantastic spots to snorkel, even in the San Juan area. Pack or rent snorkel gear to see diverse sea life. If you want to visit some of the best snorkeling in Puerto Rico, head to Vieques!

37. Do Not Skip a Trip to El Monstruo

El Monstruo is the longest zipline in America and can be found at Toro Verde Adventure Park in Orocovis. If you are a thrill seeker, you will want to experience this attraction!

38. Do Not Skip a Trip to Local Craft Rum Distilleries

Many tourists head directly to the Bacardí distillery because it is a more known brand. However, while they offer terrific tours and experiences, I love to visit the Ron de Barrilito Distillery in Bayamon. It is smaller, but the grounds are beautiful, the rum is top-notch, and they offer a less expensive tour with a free drink!

39. Do Not Skip a Visit to a Bio-Bay

There are only 5 Bioluminescent bays worldwide, and Puerto Rico is home to 3 of them! The one in La Parguera allows swimming so that you can experience the glowing water close up.

40. Do Not Skip a Trip to Vieques & Culebra

Vieques and Culebra are small islands off the east coast of Puerto Rico. They are home to some of the best beaches in Puerto Rico and have their unique charm. Flamenco Beach in Culebra has been named one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and Vieques is known for the wild horses that roam the beaches there.

The islands used to be challenging to reach, but the new ferry booking system makes them much easier to visit.

Snorkeler Underwater with Tropical Fish

41. Do Not Expect a Relaxing Beach Day- On The Weekends

Puerto Ricans head to the beaches on the weekends, and they tend to get packed. Therefore, you will want to arrive early to snag parking and a good spot for the day. Also, expect a party vibe at many beaches on the weekends- music, drinking, and an overall good time!!

42. Do Not Attempt Certain Sites Without a Guided Tour

If you plan on exploring caves, rivers, waterfalls, or hiking, it is always best to use a guide. Unfortunately, even in the Yunque, people have gone missing on longer hikes. Therefore, going with a local expert when exploring a new place, especially outdoor or adventure activities, is always wise.

What Not To Do in Puerto Rico FAQ’s

Beautiful doorway with a large palm tree in Puerto Rico

What should I be careful of in Puerto Rico?

As with any travel destination, petty crime can happen in Puerto Rico.

You should watch your belongings on the beaches, especially if you leave their stuff on the shore while swimming.

You will also want to lock doors and cars at all times and be aware of your surroundings, especially at night.

Are the beaches in Puerto Rico safe?

Puerto Rico is known for its beautiful beaches, but visitors should be careful when swimming, especially in areas with strong currents.

Rough water and riptides are not uncommon in Puerto Rico, especially in the Northern part of the island, including San Juan!

Pay attention to warning signs or flags posted at the beach, swim in designated areas, and check the National Weather Service for current water conditions when heading out daily.

Is it safe to drive in Puerto Rico?

Driving in Puerto Rico is safe, but there are factors to consider. The island, especially areas outside of San Juan, has many narrow and winding mountainous roads that can be intimidating to navigate.

I love these drives because the views are always epic, but exercising caution and following traffic laws is essential.

You will also want to avoid speeding and always be on alert to your surroundings. Just last year, I barely missed a 3-foot wide pothole while traveling through Lares on the western part of the island.

It would be best to exercise extra caution when driving at night or in inclement weather, as visibility can be compromised.

Overall, driving in Puerto Rico can be safe, and the views are worth it. However, use proper precautions and know the unique challenges of driving on the island.

Conclusion: What Not to Do in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a fabulous travel destination, and I know you will fall in love with its charm, just as I have. While there is so much to do on the island, this list shares what not to do in Puerto Rico and possible tourist traps. I hope it helps you plan an epic trip full of memories!

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