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A Beginner’s Guide to Puerto Rico Island Hopping

A Beginner’s Guide to Puerto Rico Island Hopping

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Planning a trip to Puerto Rico and are curious about the other islands? Keep scrolling to find out all about Puerto Rico island hopping to see if you want to add it to your itinerary!
This guide to Puerto Rico island hopping was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

I just got back from a trip to Puerto Rico where we visited 5 islands in one week. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get between islands in Puerto Rico and I wanted to share my personal experience with you.

Keep scrolling to find out everything you need to know about Puerto Rico island hopping so you can plan your Puerto Rico itinerary!

Don’t have time to read a bunch of Puerto Rico blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Puerto Rico.

Popular Puerto Rico Tours/Activities

Where to Stay in Puerto Rico

How Many Islands in Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico is an archipelago that consists of the main island of Puerto Rico and a number of smaller islands and cays.

In total, Puerto Rico consists of one main island and roughly 140 smaller islands, cays, and islets. However, only a few are inhabited or accessible to tourists.

What are the Best Islands to Visit in Puerto Rico?

Besides the main island of Puerto Rico, there are several smaller islands worth visiting. Vieques and Culebra are the most popular and offer beautiful beaches and nature reserves.

How to Island Hop in Puerto Rico

Commercial Flights

Cape Air has several daily flights between San Juan and Vieques and Culebra.

Image of the inside of San Juan Airport with 3 women posing
Posed for a quick pic at the San Juan Airport. Photo credit: Vanessa Hunt

We did a commercial flight from San Juan to Culebra on a 9-passenger airplane. I actually sat right next to the pilot for the most thrilling flight of my life!

Chartered Flights

You can also charter a flight from Puerto Rico’s main island to one of the smaller islands. These are tiny planes and the cost to rent one out isn’t crazy expensive if you have a group of 6-9 people.

Image of people standing near a tiny plane in San Juan
This is the chartered plane we took to Vieques. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

We did a 7-minute chartered flight to and from Vieques and it was such an adventurous experience! Our plane only had 9 seats and we had to be weighed before we got our seat assignments.

Ferry

The ferry system in Puerto Rico is a cheap way to explore the surrounding islands. Two of the most popular Puerto Rico ferry destinations are Vieques and Culebra.

Image of the ferry terminal in Culebra, Puerto Rico
This is the small ferry terminal in Culebra. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

The main ferry terminal is located in Ceiba, on the eastern coast of the main island, which is about an hour’s drive from San Juan.

Boat Tours

Another really great option for doing Puerto Rico day trips is to book a boat tour. You can easily find catamarans to take you to Vieques, Culebra, and Icacos. We did a super cool catamaran party boat to Icacos on our last trip!

Keep scrolling to see my top recommendations for each island.

Vieques Island, Puerto Rico

Vieques is a dream-come-true for families seeking an unspoiled tropical oasis, offering safe, serene beaches that seem almost designed for building sandcastles and creating lifelong memories.

Image of 4 ladies with a I Heart Vieques sign in Puerto Rico
Vieques is a fun Puerto Rico day trip!

Years ago, Vieques was used as a bombing practice site by the U.S. military. But, it’s slowly being restored to its former glory.

Things to do in Vieques

See the Wild Horses

There are SO many wild horses that roam freely all across the island and you won’t have to wait long to see them.

Image of a woman taking a selfie with a horse at the Vieques Airport in Puerto Rico
I couldn’t believe it when I saw a horse roaming around the airport in Vieques! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Apparently, most of them actually have owners who take care of them, but they walk around all over the island (including the airport)!

Stroll Around Isabel Segunda

This is the main town in Vieques and is filled with colorful buildings, quaint shops, local art galleries, and a variety of dining options.

One cool thing is to visit the Fortín Conde de Mirasol. It’s the last fort built by the Spanish in the Americas, and now it’s home to a museum and art gallery.

Relax on the Beaches

Vieques is famous for its stunning, secluded beaches. Sun Bay, Navio, Media Luna, and Blue Beach are among the most popular.

Image of a woman walking on a beach in Vieques under a palm tree
This is one of the many white sand beaches on Vieques. Photo credit: Vanessa Hunt

Each beach has its unique charm, so try to visit as many as possible.

Go Night Kayaking in Mosquito Bay

If you’re able to spend the night in Vieques, you might want to visit Bioluminescent Bay (aka Mosquito Bay). This is one of the coolest Puerto Rico adventures you should have on your bucket list.

It’s one of the most incredible natural wonders in the world because it’s home to microorganisms that emit a surreal, blue-green glow when disturbed.

Taking a night-time kayak or boat tour here is a truly magical experience that shouldn’t be missed. Check the latest rates and availability.

Day Trips to Vieques

If you want to plan your own trip to Vieques, it’s easy to take the ferry or a short flight. But, you can also book an excursion from San Juan.

Vieques Snorkeling Tour

If you want to take the stress out of island hopping in Puerto Rico, you can join a boat tour that will pick you up from your hotel on the main island and goes to Vieques.

You won’t actually get to explore the island itself, but you’ll get to do some of the best snorkeling in the world just off the coast of Vieques. Check the latest rates and availability.

Where to Stay

Vieques is a pretty small island and it’s mostly vacation rental homes. There used to be a W Hotel, but it closed after the hurricane and a new hotel is slated to open in 2025.

For a family of four (or 2 couples traveling together), there’s a great house in Esperanza that has a full kitchen and 2 bedrooms. Plus it’s within walking distance of restaurants, bars, a little grocery store, and beaches. Check the latest rates and availability.

For groups of up to 8 people who are taking the ferry to Vieques, this 3-bedroom house is within walking distance of the ferry terminal. It has a full kitchen and a private pool. Check the latest rates and availability.

Another option is the Sea Gate Hotel which has several types of rooms available. You’ll get free breakfast and they have on-site laundry facilities. Check the latest rates and availability.

Culebra Island, Puerto Rico

Picture-perfect Culebra invites families to step into a postcard scene of sun-kissed beaches and calm, clear waters, perfect for young snorkelers exploring vibrant marine life. It’s no wonder it’s one of the best Caribbean islands!

Image of a rainbow sign that says Welcome to Culebra
This is right outside of the Culebra Airport. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

The laid-back atmosphere promotes quality family time, whether that’s picnicking at Flamenco Beach, one of the world’s top-rated beaches, or spotting local wildlife on a leisurely hike. There are lots of fun things to do in Culebra.

Things to do in Culebra

Flamenco Beach

Often listed as one of the world’s best beaches, Flamenco Beach offers white sand, clear turquoise waters, and excellent snorkeling.

Image of an abandoned tank in the water at Flamenco Beach on Culebra, Puerto Rico
This is one of the tanks at Flamenco Beach. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

There are picnic areas, food kiosks, and camping facilities available, making it an ideal spot for a day-long beach adventure. Personal tip: Just watch out for the sand fleas if you go near the greenery!

Culebrita Island

Accessible by water taxi or kayak, this small, uninhabited island is home to Culebrita Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in the Caribbean.

Image of a woman taking a selfie with a small water taxi at Culebrita in Puerto Rico
This is the small water taxi we took from Culebra to Culebrita. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Enjoy a hike up to the lighthouse for stunning views and spend the rest of your day on the island’s secluded beaches.

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving

Culebra’s clear waters are teeming with marine life, making it a prime destination for snorkeling and diving.

Tamarindo Beach and Carlos Rosario Beach are among the most popular spots. You might even spot turtles, rays, and a myriad of tropical fish.

Day Trips to Culebra

Culebra Snorkeling & Beach Day Trip

For families with kids as young as 3 years old, this Culebra catamaran boat tour is a great option. You’ll get the option to hang out at the famous Flamenco Beach, Playa Tortuga, or Culebrita.

This tour also includes lunch, drinks, and floatation devices. Check the latest rates and availability.

Full-day Beach Tour to Culebra

For families with kids ages 6 and older, this is a cool catamaran tour. You can get transportation from San Juan or any of the other major tourist areas.

You can also book this as a private tour and you can choose which island(s) you’d like to visit. Check the latest rates and availability.

Tobias Culebra Power Boat

This is a cool boat trip for families with kids who are at least 5 years old. It’s a snorkel and beach tour to Culebra Island and Cayo Luis Peña Nature Reserve.

You’ll get a full lunch, floatation devices, and snorkeling equipment. Check the latest rates and availability.

Where to Stay

Families of 4 people might want to consider staying at this 1,200 sq. ft. 2-bedroom hillside house. It has a full kitchen but it’s within walking distance of restaurants. Check the latest rates and availability.

For families of up to 8 people, there’s a cool beachfront villa with a full kitchen. You can walk to several beaches and it’s easy to explore the island. Check the latest rates and availability.

For groups of up to 10 people who really want to get away from it all, there’s an ocean-view villa that looks incredible. It has a heated swimming pool, a private home theater, A/C, and lots of patios. Check the latest rates and availability.

Smaller Islands in Puerto Rico

Dive into an adventure off the beaten path and discover the smaller islands of Puerto Rico, where the rhythm of life is as gentle as the lapping waves.

Let the kids marvel at the rich biodiversity on Mona Island, often dubbed the “Galapagos of the Caribbean”.

These charming, unspoiled islands offer a unique playground for families. You can explore hidden coves, experience boating excursions, or simply enjoy the bliss of a secluded beach picnic.

It’s a secret treasure trove of unforgettable family moments.

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    Gilligan’s Island (Cayo Aurora)

    Even though it’s named after the famous 1960s TV show, there’s really no connection. It’s a small mangrove island off the southern coast of Puerto Rico, near the town of Guanica.

    With its serene environment, turquoise waters, and abundant marine life, Gilligan’s Island is a perfect getaway for those looking to relax and escape from bustling city life.

    Cayo Aurora Kayaking Tour

    Enjoy a 15-minute kayak ride to local favorite Gilligan’s Island where you will have more than 3 hours to kayak, snorkel, swim, or just relax in the warm water.

    You’ll even be able to catch an amazing Puerto Rico sunset at the end of your tour. Check the latest rates and availability.

    Mona Island

    If you’re looking for an eco-friendly and rustic camping experience in Puerto Rico, you might want to visit Mona Island.

    You can take your own boat there but it’s probably easiest to go with a licensed tour operator who can take care of all the permits to go beach camping.

    Icacos Cay

    One of the most popular day trips from Puerto Rico is a boat ride to Icacos Cay.

    Image of a woman in a red swimsuit on a boat at Icacos Cay in Puerto Rico
    You’ll have your pick of Icacos boat tours. Photo credit: Vanessa Hunt

    There isn’t much to do on the island itself (besides the awesome beach) but there’s clear water with great snorkeling. Or you can chill on the boat!

    Icacos Catamaran Sailing Tour

    Icacos is a really fun place to enjoy beach time or go snorkeling. This Icacos boat tour includes a full lunch, snorkeling gear for kids and adults, and there’s even a water slide. Check the latest rates and availability.

    Icacos Sailing & Snorkeling Tour

    This is a great option for kids of all ages (yes, even babies). There’s a water slide, underwater windows, and incredible snorkeling. Plus, there’s a great shaded area to get a break from the sun.

    You’ll get a full lunch and lots of drinks. Check the latest rates and availability.

    Private Charter to Cayo Icacos

    If you’re traveling in a group of up to 13 people, this is an epic all-inclusive party boat to Icacos. Kids need to be at least 6 years old. Check the latest rates and availability.

    Culebrita

    If you’re staying in Culebra, it’s really easy to book a water taxi to take you to the small island of Culebrita.

    Image of a woman walking on the beach in  Tortuga Bay on Puerto Rico
    This is Tortuga Bay in Culebrita. Photo credit: Melissa Conn

    There’s a great swimming beach with turtles, a hike to a lighthouse, a snorkeling beach, and even tidepools.

    We did this on our last trip to Culebra and it was about a 30-minute boat ride and they provided beach chairs and umbrellas.

    Caracoles Cay

    La Parguera Private Boat Tour

    If you’re going with a group of people, you might want to consider this private boat trip. You’ll get to snorkel in the crystal-clear waters of Caracoles Cay and do a bioluminescent swim in Papayo Bay.

    They provide food and drinks and all the snorkeling equipment you’ll need. Check the latest rates and availability.

    Cayos de la Cordillera Nature Reserve

    Mini Boat Tours

    A really fun adventure is to rent a mini boat to head to Cayos de la Cordillera Nature Reserve. The mini boats can hold 1-4 people and you don’t need to have a boating license to do this. Check the latest rates and availability.

    Puerto Rico Packing List for Island Hopping

    Packing for island hopping in Puerto Rico should be all about comfort, sun protection, and preparing for various water activities.

    Image of 4 women on a giant chair that says Vieques Puerto Rico
    Dresses over swimsuits work well for island hopping in Puerto Rico.

    Here’s a basic list of what you might consider bringing:

    Clothing

    If you’re island hopping via boat, you’ll probably want to wear your swimsuit and layer on lightweight clothes (like a swimsuit cover-up or beach dress).

    You might also want to pack a change of clothes, especially if there are restrooms where you get off the boat.

    If you are flying, you’ll probably want to wear lightweight clothing as the plane ride can be pretty warm.

    Footwear

    Some boat trips have you leave your shoes before you get on board. But for the rest, flip flops (or sandals that can get wet) will be your best friend.

    Sun Protection

    Puerto Rico is sunny most of the year, so pack plenty of sunscreen (reef-safe is preferred), a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and lip balm with SPF.

    I highly suggest reapplying your sunscreen every hour, especially if you go in the water. The sun is STRONG in Puerto Rico!

    Accessories

    Bring a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated, and possibly a waterproof bag to protect your valuables during water activities.

    Snorkeling Gear

    If you plan on snorkeling and have your own gear, consider bringing it along. Otherwise, you can choose a Puerto Rico boat trip that includes snorkeling gear.

    Electronics

    If you plan on taking lots of photos or videos, be sure to pack a portable battery pack to keep your phone fully charged.

    Miscellaneous

    Bring along a travel beach towel and a good book (I’m obsessed with Bridgerton).

    Image of 3 women and luggage on a golf cart in Puerto Rico
    This is the golf cart we rented on Culebra. Photo credit: Jill Greising-Murschel

    Visiting Puerto Rico FAQs

    Can you island hop in Puerto Rico?

    Yes! It’s pretty easy to travel between islands in Puerto Rico via airplane, ferry, or boat tours.

    Is there good Caribbean island hopping from Puerto Rico?

    If want to go island hopping in the Caribbean from Puerto Rico, you’re in luck! St. Thomas, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, and more are some islands close to Puerto Rico.

    Is Culebra or Vieques better?

    It sort of depends on what you’re looking for. Culebra is about 1/3 the size of Vieques and has a much slower pace of life than Vieques (and Vieques is pretty slow-paced). If you want to do the bioluminescent bay, you’ll want to visit Vieques.

    What is the secret island near Puerto Rico?

    Puerto Rico is surrounded by a number of smaller islands, some of which are lesser-known and could be considered “secret” in the sense that they’re less frequented by tourists.

    Caja de Muertos (aka Coffin Island) is a small, uninhabited island off the southern coast of Puerto Rico. It’s a nature reserve with hiking trails, a lighthouse, and beautiful beaches.

    Mona Island is located in the Mona Passage between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. It’s often referred to as the “Galapagos of the Caribbean” due to its unique ecosystem and wildlife.

    How do you get to the islands of Culebra and Vieques?

    You can reach both Culebra and Vieques by ferry from the town of Ceiba on the main island. The journey takes about 30-45 minutes. Alternatively, you can also take a small airplane from San Juan, which takes about 20-30 minutes.

    Can you stay overnight on Vieques and Culebra?

    Yes, both Vieques and Culebra offer accommodations ranging from small guesthouses to more luxurious options. It’s recommended to stay at least one night to fully enjoy what these islands have to offer.

    What activities are available on the smaller islands?

    The islands offer opportunities for snorkeling, scuba diving, horseback riding, fishing, and hiking. One of the highlights is the bioluminescent bay on Vieques, where you can see the water glow at night.

    Do you need a car on Vieques and Culebra?

    While you can get by with taxis or tours, having a car gives you the most flexibility to explore these islands at your own pace. There are car rental companies available on both islands that offer Jeeps and golf carts.

    Are there any specific travel requirements for the smaller islands?

    Since Vieques and Culebra are part of Puerto Rico, there are no additional travel requirements beyond those for entering Puerto Rico itself. However, you should check the local guidelines for protected areas and nature reserves.

    What should I pack for island hopping in Puerto Rico?

    Pack beach essentials like swimwear, sunscreen, and a hat. Bring comfortable clothes and shoes for exploring and hiking. Also, consider packing snorkeling gear if you plan to snorkel.

    When is the best time to go island hopping in Puerto Rico?

    The best time to visit Puerto Rico and its surrounding islands is generally from mid-April to June, right after the busy winter season and just before the rainy summer.

    Are the smaller islands of Puerto Rico family-friendly?

    Yes, both Vieques and Culebra offer family-friendly activities and accommodations. The calm, clear waters are great for kids to swim and snorkel.

    Can you visit the smaller islands as a day trip?

    Yes, it’s possible to visit Vieques and Culebra as day trips from the main island, but staying overnight is recommended to experience everything they have to offer. For Mona Island, due to its remote location, a multi-day camping trip is required.

    Visiting the Islands Around Puerto Rico Wrap Up

    As the sun sets on our island-hopping adventure in Puerto Rico, we’re left with countless memories of white sand beaches under our feet, vivid coral reefs teeming with marine life, and the laid-back rhythm of island life still pulsating in our hearts.

    Each island, a popular destination in its own right, offered us a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and tropical charm.

    Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time island hopper, Puerto Rico’s enchanting islands promise an awesome time filled with discovery, relaxation, and sun-soaked fun.

    So, pack your bags and set sail – an unforgettable journey awaits you in the heart of the Caribbean.

    Looking for more Puerto Rico travel content? Check out this guide to visiting Puerto Rico with kids, Puerto Rico travel tips for first-timers, best family resorts in Puerto Rico, Hawaii vs Puerto Rico, and how to book an affordable Puerto Rico photographer!

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