The Essential Puerto Rico Packing List

Woman standing on brick road in Old San Juan holding her hat

Puerto Rico is an absolutely stunning island destination in the Caribbean with truly so much to offer. From bioluminescent bays to historic Spanish forts to rainforest hikes, this little island truly has something for everyone. Personally, I like to do lots of different things in a trip, so this was a perfect escape for me. Because of the variety of activities the Island of Enchantment has to offer, packing for this trip might seem a little daunting. But fear not, this Puerto Rico packing list has all you’ll need for a variety of different activities.

I am a big fan of packing everything I need into my carryon so all of this fit into my standard carryon for a week-long vacation. I use an Away Bigger Carryon and a Peak Design backpack on every trip and it hasn’t done me wrong yet. Everything I mention on this list I fit into my carryon items, so this shouldn’t be too crazy for you by any means.

Puerto Rico Packing List – Activity Categories

I’m going to break this Puerto Rico packing list up into the following categories so you can find what is going to be relevant to you based on your trip:

  • City days (specifically Old San Juan)
  • Beach and pool days
  • Rainforest days
  • Bioluminescent bay nights
  • All the rest; things you shouldn’t forget

And also as a heads up, I may receive commission if you make a purchase from some of the links in this list. However I promise I would never recommend something to you that I didn’t personally love. So these items are all vetted through yours truly.

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City Days

  • Comfortable walking shoes
    • This may seem like a no brainer but truly, if you’re going to spend the day walking around Old San Juan for example, you don’t want to have to deal with blisters. I had an incredible comfortable pair of sandals I’d worn multiple times and somehow still gave me blisters. Highly recommend a cute pair of classic, white tennis shoes that can be paired with a dressy outfit or a casual one.
    • My go-to shoe for this is the classic Adidas Stan Smiths. I will always have at least one pair in my closet; they’re the perfect classic white sneaker.
  • A hat you can tighten/loosen
    • Particularly in Old San Juan, depending on where you’re walking it can get SUPER windy. If you’re going to wear a hat to protect your skin/hair or simply to add some extra cute vibes to your Instagram photos, having one you can tighten to your head is a mandatory.
    • I bought a random hat in Miami that was perfect, but this gorgeous beach hat would work perfectly as well.
  • Cute bag or backpack that can carry your essentials
    • Whether you travel with a bunch of camera equipment or not, you’ll still want a bag you can walk around with all day that won’t break your shoulders. When we went out to wander around the city for the day, we brought important stuff like my camera, water bottles, wallets, sunglasses, sunscreen, and more. A small, adorable backpack is perfect to make this feel easy vs. overwhelming.
    • My friend bought this brilliant anti-theft backpack that you’d never know was anything other than a cute bag. It ended up fitting so much stuff in it without being overwhelming, bulky, or ruining the cute looks we were rocking. Highly recommend!
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Beach and Pool Days

  • Turkish towel
    • If you have read any of my other packing lists, you know I’m obsessed with my Sand Cloud Turkish towels. I adore that they just don’t gather sand and they can also act as a blanket if needed, and take up SO much less space in your bags. Truly cannot recommend these enough.
  • Beach bag and accessories
    • You can, in fairness, use any bag you want to but a beach bag is always easiest. I recommend a waterproof bag later in this post for the bioluminescent bay anyway, so that would work just as well.
    • Don’t forget the goods like a book, sunglasses, flip flops, and sunscreen. Fan of podcasts or audiobooks? Absolutely pack your headphones.
  • Very secure Apple watch strap
    • If you don’t have an Apple watch obviously ignore this. ha.
    • Is this a weird item? Yes. Is it important if you have one? Yes. My friend went into the water one time and because the waves were relatively rough and the ocean is apparently a pickpocket, her Apple watch was snatched by the waves.
    • Get yourself some watch straps that are more difficult to get on and off so that thieving ocean doesn’t end up snagging the whole thing from you.
  • Your typical beachwear
    • Are you trying to take some cute photos at the beach? Make sure to pack multiple beach ~LeWkS~ consisting of different swim suits and cover-ups. I like to pack at least one bikini and another one piece, and usually two cover-ups. That way you can mix and match and ensure that you pop in those photos.
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Rainforest Days

  • Raincoat
    • You are in the rainforest and it is almost guaranteed that it will rain either while you’re visiting or within a few hours. A raincoat is an absolute must-bring item for any Puerto Rico packing list. I’ve raved about this Marmot coat before and it did its job as we hiked through a downpour in El Yunque.
  • Waterproof bag or fanny pack
    • If you’re going to be carrying ANYTHING with you while you hike you will need a truly waterproof bag.
    • However, if you’re only carrying your phone and small items, these fanny packs are perfect.
    • If you’re like me and brought your camera, lenses, and towel, you’ll want a bigger bag. I’d recommend this dry bag as it should carry everything you need.
  • Waterproof hiking sandals or shoes
    • You’ll likely be hiking, stepping in mud and probably through waterfalls, so your footwear needs to be prepared for this. I didn’t want to pack my full hiking boots and luckily, I didn’t need to. My Chacos were perfect; good grip to keep me safe while hiking and completely open and waterproof so I could wander through thousands of puddles without issue.
  • Swimsuit
    • Depending on where you go, you might have access to waterfalls and natural pools you can swim in! El Yunque specifically has lots of these, so be prepared with a swimsuit so you can enjoy some of nature’s wonders.
  • Water bottle and snacks
    • Pack yourself plenty of water and snacks for your hiking day. Again, depending on where you go, you might not have drinking water or food available for you at all while you’re exploring. So, be a safe and responsible hiker and bring your own sustenance.
Woman standing in front of waterfall wearing a raincoat and smiling in El Yunque
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Bioluminescent Bay Nights

  • Jacket or blanket
    • You’re going kayaking or swimming at night, and the boat ride back will get a little chilly so you’ll definitely want some layers to keep warm.
  • A camera capable of taking long exposure photo/video at night
    • I was not prepared for this, and it didn’t make my experience any worse by any means. But I wish I was able to truly capture the magic of a bioluminescent bay via photo or video. So if you’re a talented photographer or have some equipment, definitely bring it to this.
  • Things you should have already packed but will also need here:
    • Waterproof bag
    • Turkish towel
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All the Rest; Things You Shouldn’t Forget in Your Puerto Rico Packing List

  • Download Google Translate to your phone
    • Now, I am more proficient than the average traveler when it comes to the Spanish language. I studied abroad in Spain and took eight years of Spanish classes throughout school. However, I hadn’t had to speak Spanish in like, 10 years. So Google Translate was my best friend when I couldn’t figure out a word in a sentence, or what the food item was on the menu.
  • Download any hiking trails to your phone
    • If you know you’re going to do some hiking, make sure to download the trails and spots you want to go to on your phone. It’s unlikely you’ll have great service in the middle of the rainforest, so don’t plan on counting on LTE to review your hike details.
  • Packing cubes
    • I will put these in every packing list and I do not care. Packing cubes changed my life and I was able to pack like six swimsuits, 10 outfits, five pairs of shoes, all my camera equipment, and more thanks to packing cubes. I have these ones from Away but you can spend less on these ones from Amazon and accomplish the same thing.
  • Outfits for the ‘gram
    • If you’re a travel Instagrammer or just like looking cute in your pictures, definitely pack all your cute outfits. I actually love to look at the Instagram geotag of locations I know I’m going to and get inspiration for outfits there.
  • Small carabiners
    • Carabiners are an alarmingly helpful thing to have with you. Whether you need to hook a bunch of keys together (rental car plus your Airbnb or VRBO keys) or you need to hook things onto your backpack for hiking. They are such a helpful little item that I never travel without anymore.
  • Reusable water bottle
    • No matter where you travel, it’s important to be as eco-friendly as possible. Instead of buying water everywhere you go, save money and protect the planet by bringing your own bottle. You’ll need one for beaches, hikes, and long car rides anyway. If you forget to pack one, buy one in Puerto Rico and get yourself an awesome souvenir.
Pic of the palm trees running up to the beach in Puerto Rico from above

So there you have it, my ultimate Puerto Rico packing list with all of the unique things you shouldn’t forget for your trip. Want to take a look at my trip? Check out my Instagram story highlights for a sneak preview of this gorgeous little island territory. And if you have any questions, comments, or anything else, feel free to reach out as always! I’m always here and happy to help.

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