10 Things You Never Knew You Could Do On Your Puerto Rican Vacation

Photo © Zain Deane
The number and variety of things you can do in Puerto Rico often amazes me.
  • 01 of 10

    Visit Monkey Island

    If I told you there was an island full of monkeys in Puerto Rico, you would think I'd had one too many piña coladas. But it exists. The technical name for the place is Cayo Santiago, and it's home to a colony of around 800 free-ranging rhesus macaques. The monkeys are cared for by the Caribbean Primate Research Center (CPRC) and the University of Puerto Rico, and the Cayo, or Key, is located just off the eastern coast of the island. These guys will get you there by kayak (although not physically on the island... the monkeys need their privacy!).

  • 02 of 10

    Drive a Thing

    Photo © Zain Deane

    Need a car while you're traveling? You can rent a minivan almost anywhere. Except on Culebra Island. Here, you can rent a Thing. What's a Thing, you ask? It's a noisy, rickety and long-past-its-prime Volkswagen convertible that Dick & Cathie rent to help you get around the island. And while some people complain about the racket they make, I found them to be tons of fun.

  • 03 of 10
    Photo © Zain Deane

    Seriously, it's as close as you'll get to wearing red underwear and putting a cape on (although you can still do that if you want). Flying like Superman comes courtesy of Toro Verde in Orocovis. This eco-park features an aerial network of zip-lines, culminating in The Beast, one of the longest zip-lines in the world. You'll be strapped in, face-down, and soaring through the sky like ... you know.

  • 04 of 10

    Go Treasure Hunting

    Along with much of the Caribbean, Puerto Rico has had its run-ins with pirates. The island's most famous buccaneer was Roberto Cofresí, who according to legend was a Robin Hood-type character who shared his spoils with the needy. The pirate Cofresí is rumored to have left his buried treasure in caves near his hometown of Cabo Rojo, or somewhere in Toa Baja. Another treasure chest may be found in Mona Island, which briefly hosted Captain Kidd in 1699. Of course, no one has ever found any buried treasured... or if they have, they're keeping it quiet!

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  • 05 of 10

    Visit the U.S. Presidents

    Photo © Zain Deane

    Did you know you could visit President Barack Obama in Puerto Rico? Or Lyndon B. Johnson? Even Teddy Roosevelt? They are three out of eight life-like statues located behind the Capitolio just outside Old San Juan, and they pay homage to the eight sitting presidents who visited Puerto Rico.

  • 06 of 10

    Watch a Bout of Cockfighting

    This one's a little controversial, but among the various spectator sports in Puerto Rico, cockfighting is a longstanding tradition. While it has its opponents on the island, it's still popular, especially in the interior. And if you want to check it out while you're in San Juan, call the Club Gallístico de Puerto Rico, which is located on 6600 Isla Verde Avenue.

  • 07 of 10

    Visit Indigenous Ruins

    The ancient civilizations of the Caribbean (the same ones "discovered" by Columbus) date back millennia, but many islands hold scant traces of their lost legacies. In Puerto Rico, however, you can visit a the Tibes Ceremonial Center near Ponce. The archaeological complex includes nine ball courts and three ceremonial plazas, a large indigenous cemetery, all from the Igneri and other Pre-Taino Cultures. It's just one great reason to visit Ponce.

  • 08 of 10

    Go Whale Watching

    From January to March, those of you visiting Puerto Rico's west coast, or Porta del Sol are in for an annual treat. Migrating humpback whales can be seen from the shore, and up-close encounters can be arranged with local boatmen.

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  • 09 of 10

    Snuba® Dive

    This may be a reflection of my ignorance, but until I came to Puerto Rico I had never heard of Snuba®. This hybrid between snorkeling and scuba diving (which is supposedly easier than both) allows people to explore below the surface at their leisure while breathing through a regulator, with their air supply floating on a raft. And you can try it out with Aqua Adventure and Scuba Puerto Rico are among the outfits that offer Snuba excursions.

  • 10 of 10

    Visit the Grave of Juan Ponce de Leon

    Most of us know Juan Ponce de Leon; the man synonymous with the Fountain of Youth was also a key figure in Puerto Rico's early history; in fact, his family lived on the island for many generations after Juan himself died while hunting for eternal youth. You can visit the ancestral home of the Ponce de Leon family in Old San Juan, and you can also visit the grave of the legendary man at the Catedral de San Juan.