Tune in to the tropical timetable for fun and sun in Puerto Rico
From snorkeling with tropical fish to hiking through lush rain forests, outdoor adventures await you on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. For a more laid-back experience, visit San Juan, the island's capital city, with its cobblestone streets, quaint plazas and white sand beaches. While the island’s climate remains constant, other factors, such as hotel rates and crowd sizes, may play a key role in deciding the timeline for your Puerto Rico vacation.
Puerto Rico’s steady climate
Because of the island’s unwavering climate, weather plays a small role in determining when to visit Puerto Rico. Year-round temperatures fluctuate slightly but linger in the 80s. San Juan and the island’s northern coast are typically cooler and wetter than the southern coast but only by a few degrees.
Puerto Rico’s rainy season falls between April and extends through November, with August usually the rainiest month. The island typically receives between 5 to 6 inches of rain per month. Summer temperatures soar into the high 80s, with June usually the hottest month of the year. Hurricane season also runs from June through November. Heavy rains can occur in the early part of fall as temps dip slightly into the mid-80s. Winter is usually the driest season with mild temperatures topping out in the low 80s. In the spring, it’s often sunny with cool breezes and daytime highs in the mid-80s.
Visiting the island with and without crowds
Peak tourist season in Puerto Rico occurs primarily during the winter, but specifically from mid-December through mid-April. The island is the most crowded and expensive during this time as cold weather residents from around the globe swap freezing conditions for a tropical setting. Hotel reservations for winter should be booked at least two to three months in advance.
Spring, particularly mid-April through June, is one of the best times to visit the island. Most of the winter crowds have left, and many hotels slash their rates. Summer sees smaller crowds and cheap hotels as well, specifically between July and September. Beaches are typically less crowded during the summer, although weekends and holidays may see a slight uptick in tourists. You’ll also find budget-friendly hotel rates and airfare during the fall.
Best time for snorkeling and visiting the rainforest
Accessible from San Juan by ferry or plane, Vieques is an island off the coast of Puerto Rico. The island is popular with snorkelers, as the surrounding coral reef is teeming with turtles, lobster and tropical fish. During the summer, the crowds die down, and the absence of north winds means the calm and clear waters provide excellent conditions for snorkeling.
Less than 40 minutes from San Juan is El Yunque National Forest, a 28,000-acre rainforest filled with waterfalls, orchids and tree frogs. With an elevation of 3,500 feet, El Yunque hovers around 73 degrees year-round. As you’d expect, rain also occurs year-round and totals between 200 to 240 inches annually. While there’s no preferred season for visiting El Yunque, you should arrive early in the day to beat the crowds.
How to explore the island
Explore Puerto Rico on your own by renting a car and setting out for a drive. Just be warned: The roads can be winding and dangerous. If you’re not comfortable with the idea of driving, publicos are minibuses that provide transportation throughout much of the island, including stops at such popular spots as El Yunque and the beach town of Ponce. Publicos are the cheapest option for traveling around the island and can be picked up at designated stops or by simply flagging one down.
You won’t need a car during your time in San Juan as the city can be explored on foot. The capital city also has a light rail system and two bus lines, plus a free hop-on, hop-off trolley in Old San Juan. Taxis are everywhere, and it’s often faster to flag one down than to order one by phone.