Looking for some family fun? Hoping to help your kids catch the travel bug? An island getaway is the perfect trip for people of all ages, and Puerto Rico is the ideal destination for experiencing sun, sand, and sea — all at the same time. And in case you need another reason or two to visit this Caribbean destination: American citizens won’t need to bring their passports to visit this U.S. territory, and flights from the East Coast only take a couple of hours.

Although Puerto Rico was struck hard by devastating hurricanes in 2017, it’s recovering at a steady pace. That said, the island needs your tourism dollars now more than ever — so you and your family should head to the sunny destination, and support its local economy, while the crowds are still thin.

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Where to stay with your family

When you’re traveling with your kids, you’ll probably need to put a little extra thought into where you’ll stay. After all, you’ll want to make sure that they’re safe and that they have fun.

Luckily, Puerto Rico offers a wide variety of options. The island’s resorts are its most famous (and highest-rated) choices, but they tend to be fairly expensive. That said, the resorts usually offer swimming pools and direct access to fantastic beaches, so if you’re staying in San Juan, you might want to look into the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino or the Caribe Hilton. In Ponce, try the Hilton Ponce Golf and Casino Resort; in Rio Grande, the Wyndham Grand offers both beach access and rainforest views. Fajardo’s El Conquistador Resort is home to a water park and a kids’ camp — so, if you give your kids a say in the matter, this just might be the hotel they vote for.

Of course, you could also opt to stay in a locally owned guesthouse, which would benefit Puerto Rico’s economy and residents more directly. Although guesthouses don’t offer all the amenities that resorts do, they have the advantage of being less expensive and more intimate. What’s more, the proprietors usually run their guesthouses from beachfront locations that are within walking distance of many restaurants and shops. Consider Mont Caribe, the Dream Inn, and Andalucia House, although there are plenty of other options across the island.

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What to do

If you’re wondering what your kids might like to do during your family’s stay, the truth is that you’ll probably have to plan your activities through the process of elimination. After all, Puerto Rico offers so much to do and see that you couldn’t possibly get to everything during one vacation — especially if you want to fit in lots of beach time. Creating your itinerary will come down to prioritizing.

With that said, here are just a few of the possibilities.

If castles or fortresses have a tight hold on your kids’ imagination, you’ll definitely want to take them to explore Castillo San Felipe del Morro in San Juan. Better known as El Morro, this Spanish-built castle sits atop a peninsula and once guarded the city against naval attacks. And, while it took Spanish engineers about 250 years to build El Morro in its entirety, it will only take your family a couple of hours to explore the castle’s dungeons, tunnels, and towers. After you’ve taken pictures of your kids next to the cannons or in front of the ramparts, you can head to the grounds outside the castle, where you’ll find many people flying kites or enjoying a picnic — so, to end your visit on a high note, do as the locals do, and bring food or a kite.

Alternatively, you can also visit Castillo San Cristobal, the fortress that guards San Juan from land-based attacks. It’s newer, larger, and a little less famous than El Morro, but it offers stunning views and will stoke your kids’ imaginations. The castillos are part of the San Juan National Historic Site (and are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites), and they’re both open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

If your kids are young, there’s a good chance that they would love spending a few hours at the Museo del Niño in Carolina. In addition to the museum exhibits (which cover everything from volcanoes to physics, music, and the universe), you’ll find go-karts, paddle boats, a small zoo, and a retired commercial jet. While admission is fairly inexpensive ($6 for children and $10 for adults), you should note that the museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

To give your kids an unforgettable outdoor experience, you’ll want to set your sights on El Yunque National Forest. As the only tropical rainforest in the United States Forest Service, El Yunque is one of a kind, allowing visitors to hike to waterfalls or climb observation towers for views, making it an experience the family will long remember. However, it’s important to realize that, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, only part of the forest is currently accessible. That said, you and your family could volunteer to help out with the ongoing recovery projects. It’s a great way to teach your kids about giving back and traveling sustainably.

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For family-friendly adventure on the high seas, you shouldn’t miss a boating or kayaking expedition through one of Puerto Rico’s three bioluminescent bays. These areas are home to a high concentration of microorganisms called dinoflagellates, which emit a blue-green light when they’re disturbed. Because of this, you’ll see dazzling splashes and swirls every time you touch the water with your hand, boat, kayak, or paddle. It’s an incredible phenomenon — in fact, the bioluminescent bays are so gorgeous that it’s near impossible to replicate their beauty in a photo.

Just remember to do justice to this experience by planning it well in advance. Mosquito Bay, located on the small island of Vieques, is the best place to encounter the glowing dinoflagellates, although you could also opt for Laguna Grande (in Fajardo) or La Parguera (on the southwestern corner of the main island). If possible, you should schedule your excursion for a new moon, when the sky is the darkest and the colors appear the brightest.

And, it almost goes without saying, but you’ll want to spend lots of time at the beach during your stay. A few of the island’s most family-friendly beaches include La Posita Beach, Condado Beach, and Balneario de Carolina. But one thing is for sure — whether you prefer to swim, surf, or snorkel, the vacation will be a blast for the whole family.

Have you taken your kids to Puerto Rico or another Caribbean destination? Let us know in the comments what your family enjoyed the most!

Header image by David Straight
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Whitney Brown
Whitney Brown is a recent journalism graduate and travel writer based in Utah. She has lived in France and Ireland, and she's always planning her next big adventure. In addition to her passion for travel, Whitney loves archaeology, photography and floral design.