Family-Friendly Spring Break in Puerto Rico
Whether your family’s vacation style is laid back or on the go, the perfect spring break awaits.
Often called the Island of Enchantment, Puerto Rico teems with rich history, diverse culture and stunning landscapes. The island also ranks as one of the most affordable Caribbean islands to visit. With frequent direct flights from U.S. cities and no passport required for American travelers, Puerto Rico is the perfect choice for your family’s spring break vacation. Here are ways to spend your chill getaway in Ponce or an active week in Fajardo.
Low-key vacation in Ponce
Located on Puerto Rico’s southern coast, Ponce wears its moniker La Perla del Sur (the Pearl of the South) well. Though this gem is the island’s second largest city (behind San Juan), the laid-back vibe and unhurried pace suggests otherwise.
Although it was settled by the Spanish in 1692, Ponce was inhabited by the Taíno people long before they arrived. The early 19th century brought European and Latin American immigrants, fueling the city’s growth and importance. Ponce began as the hub for sugarcane production and later became an important center for manufacturing coffee and rum.
Today Ponce is the perfect locale for families to relax and reconnect. Idyllic beaches, historical sites and other diversions await discovery at your leisure.
There are 40 beaches within the municipality of Ponce—28 are on the mainland and 12 are located on the city’s offshore islands (namely Caja de Muertos). Among the most popular beaches are El Tuque and La Guancha, as well as a few on Caja de Muertos.
You’ll find El Tuque Beach in the west of Ponce. The beach was once deserted. However, the government developed the area in the 1960s, then upgraded facilities in 1996. It morphed into a resort destination thanks to further initiatives in 2002 by private investors. Improvements included a water park and speedway. Today visitors can make use of restrooms, showers, snack bars and swimming pools. There are also gazebos and fire pits. A small marina is the launching point for fishing, scuba diving and snorkeling excursions.
South of the city, La Guancha is another fun spot to hang out. The beach isn’t the main lure here so much as the family-friendly boardwalk area. It overlooks a yacht harbor and faces the Caribbean Sea. The earthquake that hit Puerto Rico in 2020 did extensive damage to the boardwalk. However, a $10.6 million revamp in 2021 improved its structure, design and aesthetics. Visitors can sample local fare and drinks at one of the many food kiosks, rent kayaks or take in views from the observation tower. Kids will dig the playground. There’s often live music, especially on weekends. Head to the eastern end of the walk where tarpon tend to congregate waiting for tasty handouts from passersby.
You can book boat tours to Caja de Muertos (Coffin Island) from La Guancha; there’s also a ferry, but it only operates on the weekends and during holidays. Caja de Muertos is uninhabited and blissfully remote. It’s protected as a designated nature reserve because of the large presence of sea turtles and other endangered wildlife. It’s also home to unspoiled beaches like Long Beach, White Beach, Cove Beach and the most popular spot, Pelican Beach. Pelican boasts a Blue Flag status, the first beach in the Caribbean to attain the designation. It’s also the world’s only nature reserve beach with Blue Flag recognition. You can hike, swim and snorkel. A historic lighthouse sits at the highest point of the island. Built in 1887, the structure was eventually restored by the Puerto Rico government. It houses a museum and lookout.
Public squares have been the heart of Latin American cities for centuries, and Ponce’s Plaza Las Delicias is no exception. The lively Spanish colonial plaza actually comprises two smaller ones: Plaza Luis Muñoz Rivera and Plaza Degetau. Together they provide a popular gathering place for locals and tourists. A large fountain serves as an Instagram-worthy focal point. It was salvaged from the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.
Restaurants, food vendors, souvenir kiosks and more line the square. The plaza is also surrounded by sculptures and statues, as well as beautifully preserved 19th-century buildings. That includes two of Ponce’s landmarks, Cathedral of our Lady of Guadalupe (Catedral Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe) and the historic Old Ponce Fire Station (Parque de Bombas).
For nearly 350 years, the Cathedral of our Lady Guadalupe has served as the religious center of Ponce. It earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984—there are 40 registered landmarks in Ponce alone! Inside you’ll find awe-inspiring paintings, statues and a grand pipe organ.
Another registered landmark, Parque de Bombas is one of Puerto Rico’s most iconic structures. Constructed in 1882, it was originally used as the primary agricultural and industrial exhibit pavilion for that year’s Exhibition Trade Fair. It’s easily recognizable thanks to its striking red and black painted Moorish-style construction. The large colorful lion statues that greet guests are quite an eye-catcher, too. The lions are a symbol of honor to Puerto Rico’s first governor, Juan Ponce de León. You might spy more lions throughout the city. (A fun activity for families with younger kids: Embark on a lion hunting scavenger hunt in Ponce!) The 2-story museum showcases firehouse replicas, water pumps, a red 1928 Ford Model AA fire truck and many other historical items.
Where to Stay
The largest hotel in the south of Puerto Rico, this sprawling 18-acre beachfront resort provides ample room for families to spread out. The property features 255 rooms that include a private balcony or patio. Varied on-site amenities appeal to guests of all ages—two expansive pools, a 27-hole championship golf course, miniature golf course, tennis courts, playground and even a splash park. The resort also boasts one of the island’s largest casinos. Dine on property at one of four restaurants: El Bohio, La Cava, La Terraz and Sancho’s Sushi Bar. Read our full review of Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort in Best Family-Friendly Hotels in Puerto Rico.
For a home-away-from-home feel, consider a stay at this family-owned eco-hotel. It’s part of a 10-acre sustainable coffee farm. Each of the nine rooms includes a private balcony and two terraces that provide stunning views of the mountains and Ponce’s bay. Your kids can get first-hand experience on the importance of sustainability with a farm tour (offered weekly). The property is also a designated bird and butterfly sanctuary. The on-site restaurant serves authentic Puerto Rican dishes prepared with locally sourced ingredients and breakfast is included in your stay.
Active Spring Break in Fajardo
Adventurous families should consider spending their week in the East Coast town of Fajardo. A boating center hub with a plethora of rentals and excursions available, it’s the perfect place for nature and water sports lovers. Founded in 1772, Fajardo is often called “The City of the Rising Sun” as it’s Puerto Rico’s first mainland town to see the sun rise each morning.
Fajardo visitors have access to many postcard-perfect beaches— on the mainland, as well as beaches on tranquil offshore islands and cays. Ferry service to Culebra and Vieques is available. Also, local outfitters offer varied excursions to those spots and other areas.
The soft sand of the intimate crescent-shaped Seven Seas Beach beckons visitors. Almond and palm trees line the sand, providing respite from the sun. This beach is a balneario (managed by the local government), so lifeguards are present during the day, and restrooms and other amenities are available. The calm, azure water is ideal for families with children. There’s also a coral reef that’s home to schools of fish.
Though not safe for swimming due to the strong currents, Color Beach is worth a visit. The lure here is a gorgeous hike with striking scenery. Wear sturdy hiking shoes so you can clamber along the rocks that line the beach during low tide. Photo opps are plentiful with dramatic shades of blue skies and water against the reddish-golden sand and large boulders.
Just offshore from Fajardo, Icacos Cay is part of the La Cordillera Nature Reserve. The largest of keys that comprise the reserve, Icacos boasts unspoiled beaches and coral reefs teeming with schools of vibrant fish. Sea turtles and dolphins can often be spotted in the waters, too.
Home to seven distinct sea and coastal ecological systems, the Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve offers ample ways to explore nature within its 316 acres. The reserve is home to rare flora and fauna, as well as many endangered species like the green iguana. Snorkel among the thriving coral reefs or kayak through the mangroves and along the lagoons. Hike through dry-forest areas and the Thalassia prairies or explore along an extensive network of trails and boardwalks. You can even tour the reserve via bike or take a trolley. You’ll also find Puerto Rico’s second oldest lighthouse, El Faro. Built in 1880, this beautifully restored structure has been in continuous operation since 1882. It houses an information center and observation deck. On a clear day, you’ll likely spy neighboring Caribbean islands.
A bucket list item for many, the reserve’s Laguna Grande Bioluminescent Bay is a must for your spring break itinerary. Puerto Rico is home to three of the five bioluminescent bays in the world, and Laguna Grande is the second brightest of the three. The bay’s otherworldly glow is created by reactive dinoflagellates. Every disturbance in the water—a swimming fish or the glide of an oar—generates a fluorescent-blue glittering effect under the water’s surface.
If your family is into epic hiking adventures, you’re in luck. Parts of El Yunque National Forest (to the west) and Ceiba State Forest (on the coast) are situated within the region of Fajardo. The only rainforest on U.S. soil, El Yunque teems with lush flora, almost limitless wildlife and cascading waterfalls. There are well marked trails—25 miles of them—for all ages and levels, making a rainforest hike a memorable family excursion. The extensive mangroves in Ceiba State Forest are home to a thriving population of varied bird species.
Where to Stay
With the long list of lures this iconic property offers guests, it would be tempting to sequester here during your entire spring break vacation. Perched on a 300-foot bluff, the resort overlooks an immaculate beach, as well as the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea beyond. El Conquistador is divided into five villages that comprise 299 guest rooms and suites. Accommodations boast sea or village views, and come with amenities like soaking tubs, free Wi-Fi, mini-refrigerators and more. Additional perks to a stay here include a marina, a casino, the 18-hole Arthur Hills golf course, upscale Golden Door Spa, Coqui Water Park and the pristine private Palomino Island.
Tucked within verdant gardens and towering palms, this hotel is a mere 5-minute walk from Fajardo Bay and other nearby attractions. Each of the 125 air-conditioned rooms is smartly decorated in a classic Spanish style with tropical accents. Families have ample room to spread out in a triple room, suite or one of the connecting rooms (two queen-sized beds and door that divides the two sleeping rooms).
The hotel’s expansive water park is a plus for families. It boasts a beach pool (with beach entrance), a water slide, a hot tub, full-service swim-up bar, a miniature golf course, tennis court, half-court basketball court, a playground area and gift shop. On-site dining options include Star Fish Restaurant, serving international and seafood dishes, and Blue Iguana Mexican Grill & Bar, featuring signature cocktails and Tex-Mex fare. Other amenities include a well equipped fitness center, as well as a hair and nail salon.