Read my original nature poems right here!

Read my original nature poems right here!

What to Pack for Puerto Rico: My Packing List for Paradise

When my wife and I were deciding what to pack for Puerto Rico, we didn’t look at any lists or guides, but it would have been helpful. Based on our experience in paradise, I put together this Puerto Rico packing list to cover all the activities we did, and more. When you’re flying somewhere to hang at the beach, snorkel, hike, and explore cities, you need versatile gear (or just a ton of luggage). Well, we don’t like hauling a ton of luggage, so we keep it slim and functional. When you have less stuff, you have more mental space for adventure and memories.

On this packing guide you’ll find tips and tricks under every item: our experiences, what works, and what doesn’t.

If you have any questions, leave a comment at the bottom and I’ll usually answer same day.

Have an amazing trip, and don’t get on your plane without checking through this guide!

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What to Pack for Puerto Rico

My Puerto Rico packing list covers all things outdoors, adventure, city, and leisure. We spent 2 weeks traveling around the island, seeing places like Vieques, El Yunque, Old San Juan, and Playa Buye. In other words, we saw a lot and did a lot. And the essentials I’ve listed below made it possible, comfortable, and memorable.

Without further ado, here’s everything you need to have great adventures in Puerto Rico…

Sun protection!

Sun protection is very important when vacationing in a tropical paradise like Puerto Rico. It gets crazy hot and you’ll be laying under the sun at the beach. Even walking around pretty towns and cities (like Old San Juan) you’ll feel the Caribbean sun.

Here are the items you need to pack for Puerto Rico for sun protection…☀️

  1. Sunglasses! Sunglasses are #1 on my Puerto Rico packing list. Of course! For sun protection, boating, and lounging, you want to bring a pair of quality, inexpensive sunglasses to Puerto Rico. Why inexpensive? Well, you might hike in the rainforest, climb around waterfalls, or take a boat to snorkel with sea turtles. With all those adventures, you won’t want to bring your best shades. I recommend Goodr sunglasses, a favorite brand for running and hiking.
  2. Eco-friendly sunscreen. I like fragrance free sunscreen, and Blue Lizard sells this one on Amazon that’s SPF 50+. Rather than protecting your skin with harmful chemicals, mineral sunscreen acts like thousands of tiny mirrors, reflecting the sun’s rays away from your skin. Good for your skin and the environment!
  3. A good sun hat. My favorite is a booney hat like this highly rated one from Columbia. My wife wears a hat with a wide brim, too! You want one that covers your ears, a bit of your neck, and shades your eyes. A booney hat does all of these and can get wet, fold up and fit in your pocket, and dries easily. A perfect travel and adventure hat.
  4. Lip balm. This organic lip balm from Cliganic will protect your lips from the sun and keep them moisturized after long days in the salty sea. Get the tropical flavors pack just for Puerto Rico.

Teva Sandals for the win exploring everything from cliffs to old Spanish forts! Check out more of my favorite Puerto Rico pictures, too!

5. Teva Original Sandals

If you take no other footwear to Puerto Rico, take Teva Sandals. My wife wore hers every single day, totally neglecting the couple other pairs of shoes she brought. In fact, her black Teva Original Sandals look great visiting cathedrals, dining in nice restaurants, hanging on the beach, and scrambling across rivers and waterfalls.

Teva Sandals are sleek, comfortable, durable, and great for lots of environments. I wore them as water shoes at Charco El Hippie (our favorite waterfall in Puerto Rico) and hiked in them all around El Yunque. I’ll never take a trip without my most versatile piece of footwear: Teva Original Sandals for men.

Leave the clunky hiking boots and walking shoes at home: save space with a pair of reliable, walkable sandals.

6. Beach towels

Bring a beach towel or two for each person in your party. I prefer oversized, cotton beach towels like these from Aston & Arden. We had a couple opportunities to do laundry, either stopping at laundromats or in our Airbnbs. Because of that, and how I like to travel pretty light, one or two towels is plenty for a couple weeks in Puerto Rico.

Now, if you’re like me and prefer traveling very light, you might get a quick dry towel suited for travel, adventure, and water activities. Oversized cotton towels are comfy on the beach, but they do hold more sand and don’t dry as quickly. If you want to keep your luggage as streamlined as possible and don’t care much about having a fluffy, cozy beach towel, try something like Eccosophy’s travel friendly, “sand proof” beach towels. They also sell much larger “sand proof” beach blankets.

A beach blanket would come in handy on the private, secluded beaches of Vieques, where you’ll want to spend all day lounging in paradise. ⛱️

7. A reusable water bottle

Most of Puerto Rico has perfectly safe drinking water. There are, however, areas of Puerto Rico where you shouldn’t drink tap water. Our Airbnb in Playa Buye did not have drinkable water, but provided a big cooler filled with drinking water. Even if where you’re staying has drinkable water, a water bottle comes in handy while hiking or at the beach (or enjoying a history tour). In short, you’ll want a bottle of water no matter where you go. And because plastic water bottles are stupid, pack a handy reusable bottle like this one from Brita. As a bonus, this bottle filters your water, too.

Stay hydrated in the Caribbean!

8. An action camera

Even though an action camera is very optional, I’m putting it high up on the list because I forgot to bring mine to Puerto Rico 😭 and, if you’ve got one, make sure you bring it! The best out right now (with solid reviews) is the GoPro Hero 11. It’s waterproof, which is important in Puerto Rico. You’re going to take it snorkeling, hiking (possibly in the rain), and waterfall exploring.

Plus, if you go ziplining or charter a boat, you can secure your phone and use the action camera to capture the fun.

Our iPhones 11 and 13 ProMax actually did very well snorkeling and waterfall exploring. They’re basically waterproof! I used my 13 Pro Max underwater to about 2 feet, letting it dry out after before charging (this might take 12+ hours just to warn you). Similarly, my wife took her iPhone 11 plunging into rapids beneath El Hippie and it dried out well with complete functionality intact.

But still, bring your action camera (or buy this one, if you want to get amazing footage)!

9. A day pack for activities

Our day packs for traveling are the GORUCK GR1. These indestructible, water resistant bags are also our go-to carry on bags for flying. When packing for Puerto Rico, make sure a reliable, splash/water resistant day pack is on your list. It’ll likely be your carry on bag, too.

This is the bag you’ll take to the beach, hiking in the rainforest, and on boating excursions. It should be something very versatile for lots of different activities: comfortable for hiking, roomy for beach and snorkel gear, and protective of what’s inside for hauling wallets, keys, phones, and cameras.

GORUCK bags (like the GR1 and larger GR2) are expensive bags, but they’re well-worth the investment if you spend a lot of time hiking, traveling, and adventuring. I’ve never used a bag as comfortable and durable.

If I’m traveling with a suitcase (I don’t like to…) I’ll bring my GR1. I prefer, though, to bring only my GR2, using it as a carry on and my primary bag holding everything I’ll need for my trip.

10. A fanny pack or sling bag

I’m a big fanny pack guy (as opposed to sling bags) because they can tuck under my shirt and aren’t as flashy, but either way you should have something to protect your valuables when you’re on the go. I use this small fanny pack from Patagonia. It’s easy to conceal, lightweight, and durable, serving me well in Mexico and Puerto Rico.

11. A portable charger

I use an Anker Portable Charger (check the price on Amazon) for all my adventures. Puerto Rico has some utilities issues persisting from Hurricane Maria and the following earthquakes, so it’s a good idea to have some form of external power. The Anker chargers are slim, so they don’t take up much space in a carry on bag or day pack while out and about.

The first time we stopped at a laundromat on our way from Old San Juan to El Yunque, the power went out as we walked in. “Welcome to Puerto Rico,” a local woman said. Everyone was in good spirits about it, letting us know it’s a common occurrence.

12. Earth Breeze Laundry Sheets

If you want to do laundry while you’re in Puerto Rico (we did), bring some Earth Breeze Laundry Sheets! You’ll order them for your house, too, after you use them. They’re eco-friendly, no-plastic concentrated laundry sheets that will fit easily in luggage and travel bags. Just keep them away from water until you’re ready to use them. 🧼

Thank me later.

13. Essential clothes for Puerto Rico

I’m keeping this section as simple as possible. Everyone is going to have their own clothing preferences, so use your best judgement for what you like. For 2 weeks in Puerto Rico, here are all the clothing items I’d take along. I pack on the lighter side, so don’t be concerned if you pack more.

Essentials: Socks & Underwear

  • Underwear: I like to bring two pairs of underwear per day in-between laundry stops. For example, if my longest stretch between laundry trips (at a laundromat or Airbnb) is 5 days, I like to bring 10 underwears. You know your undergarment habits, so plan accordingly. Remember, that Airbnb that promised a washer and dryer may disappoint you…
  • Socks: if you love your Teva sandals (mentioned above) as much as me, you’ll use less socks. Some people can go sockless their whole tropical trip! I brought a few pairs but lived in my Tevas throughout our vacation.
  • Tops

    • 4 casual, hot-weather shirts. I like organic cotton tees in warm environments for a breezy, breathable fit. These from Patagonia are pretty pricey, but hands-down my favorite: shop men’s | shop women’s
    • 4 sweat-friendly shirts with laser cut holes for breathability. Have you tried shirts with laser cut holes yet? My gosh they’re breezy. These shirts are not very sustainable (polyester production is pretty harmful to the environment), so buy a few and make sure you take care of them. Just walk into any local running store and browse their running shirts for guys or ladies. Running shops carry the breeziest shirts.
    • 2 “nicer” shirts for dinners and formal experiences (like touring cathedrals). Don’t make the mistake of bringing shirts you can’t also wear in the heat. My “nicer” shirts are performance material, short sleeve button downs like one of these. Just pick something loose and breezy, not fitted and sexy, okay?
    • A beach coverup for hiding from the sun when it gets too hot. For guys and gals, I recommend an oversized, lightweight cotton shirt. Long sleeve fishing shirts work great, too. Ladies have a lot more options in the beach coverup department, so shop around a bit.
    • Bikini tops for the ladies. My wife brought three bikini tops for a 2 week stay in Puerto Rico (and three bottoms, too). These were Target purchases, I believe.
    • A rain jacket. I’ll make my recommendation below at #15.
    • There you have it. I’d pack about 8-10 shirts for Puerto Rico, and stick to shirts that are versatile and cool. If you want to keep your shirt count way low, Smartwool shirts don’t carry an odor and are good for all weather. I’ve gone over a week without washing a Smartwool shirt and very little funk was coming off it. Shop Smartwool Men’s | Shop Smartwool Women’s

    Bottoms

    • I never travel without a pair of Ripstop Traveler Joggers from Vuori. They’re made with breezy, cool cotton for hot environments, and I wore them a couple different nights in humid Puerto Rico. These also work well for dinners and more formal occasions. Ladies might check out Athleta’s linen tops and bottoms for breezy, comfy, tropical pants.
    • Travel-friendly casual shorts are a must-have in Puerto Rico. Something breezy and cool. I always travel with these Patagonia lightweight cotton-hemp shorts (great women’s Patagonia shorts here) and a pair of Prana travel shorts (men’s | women’s). Two pairs of go-anywhere, do-anything shorts for me and I’m all set!
    • Two pairs of athletic shorts for hiking (though the above casual shorts are great for activity, too), walking, jogging, whatever. It’s nice to have some performance shorts for daytime Caribbean experiences. There’s much to do in Puerto Rico, and lots of them are sweaty.
    • Swimsuits! Of course. Guys, bring two pairs of swim trunks. Bearbottoms are the best I’ve ever used, and they can be worn casual or as athletic shorts as well. They’re affordable, too. Ladies, my wife brought three bikini bottoms for a 2 week trip. Target finds, I believe.

    Shoes

    My wife only wore her Teva sandals (check the price on Amazon: men’s | women’s) throughout our entire trip. She wore them to the beach, hiking in El Yunque, into art museums, to dinner at nice restaurants. They were her city shoes, beach shoes, and mountain shoes! While I spent a couple days in my hiking shoes, I almost exclusively wore my Tevas, too.

    They really are the the go-anywhere, do-anything shoes for travelers and adventurers. Not everyone is so adventurous as to trust just a single pair of sandals, but we love the minimalist approach to travel.

    So maybe in addition to sandals you bring some flipflops, hiking shoes, and dancing shoes…but really you don’t need to.

    Some of our sensible Puerto Rico outfits on display. Notice our floppy brim hats, my breezy running shirt, and my wife’s beach coverup and running shorts.

    Optional Items to Bring

    The following items are things we did not bring to Puerto Rico, but you may want to. Depending on how light you like to travel, what activities you’ll be doing, and other considerations, the following might find a place in your bag…

    14. Snorkeling gear

    Now, you may not need to bring snorkeling gear at all. We didn’t (because we don’t own snorkeling gear), and we did plenty of snorkeling on our own and with an amazing tour in Vieques. Both Airbnbs we stayed at that were on the water had snorkel gear available for use, free of charge. That was enough for us! We also spent time in Old San Juan and El Yunque, and it was nice to not have snorkel gear taking up space in our luggage.

    In short, we survived (and thrived) for 2 weeks in Puerto Rico without packing snorkeling gear, but we also spent time away from the water. Do you think you’ll snorkel every day? Does your lodging provide gear? Will you take a tour to see sea turtles (they’ll provide everything you need)?

    Depending on your answers to those questions, you may or may not pack snorkeling gear for Puerto Rico.

    15. A travel umbrella

    We don’t travel with umbrellas, but it does rain in Puerto Rico. Also, if you’re especially sensitive to the sun, an umbrella might come in handy. Can’t say we bring ours, but Repel’s shop on Amazon has highly rated umbrellas for travel.

    If you’re set on spending days and days just sitting on the beach (we did a bit more exploring than that), an umbrella could be a good investment. I had moments on the beaches of Vieques when I wanted one.

    16. Mosquito repellent

    We did not bring nor need mosquito repellent when we visited between May and June, but it’s a good idea to keep a small bottle with you, especially if you’ll venture into El Yunque, explore the central mountains, or hang out outside at night a lot. Use eco-friendly, non toxic bug spray like Murphy’s Naturals.

    17. A raincoat

    We admittedly did not bring raincoats to Puerto Rico on our 2 week trip, but we’re pretty happy to get caught in a rainstorm. It’s more refreshing than an inconvenience. HOWEVER, Puerto Rico does get a lot of rain, so I would probably bring one next time (did we forget ours or just not think we’d need it? I can’t remember…). However again, we never needed it! We had beautiful weather for most of our trip, only getting sprinkled on a few times.

    If you like “roughing it” and don’t mind getting rained on, you’ll be okay to forget a rain jacket. But go ahead and bring one. Am I confusing you? Bring a rain jacket! And don’t buy a cheap one that’ll get thrown away in a year. Get a quality rain jacket that you can adventure with for years to come. Remember, quality gear leads to less waste and consumption.

    This one from REI (men’s | women’s) has never let me or my wife down. I’ve had mine very happily for over 5 years.

    18. A travel journal

    As a poet and author, I’m always jotting things down. Sights, sounds, people, places, things…I want to remember what I learn, see, and feel when visiting new places. Maybe you’re a writer or just like to take notes on cool things you see and learn (lots of cool history in Puerto Rico!).

    No matter why you want to bring a journal, take one that can survive traveling to the Caribbean: Rite in the Rain journals are made to survive sweat, rain, salt water, mud, and coffee spills. Your notes, sketches, and ideas will be safe from the elements while you hang on the beach, hike to waterfalls, and explore historic sites.

    19. A first aid kit

    I think I’d only bring a first aid kit if I was packing for Puerto Rico with kids in mind. In other words, if I was taking young people hiking to waterfalls, snorkeling with sea turtles, and laying out in the sun, I would bring along a first aid kit. We don’t travel with one, but I’d choose this one on Amazon if I did. Rhino Rescue is a pretty serious supplier of all things first aid.

    20. A headlamp

    Again, we don’t travel with headlamps, but many people will bring one along on vacations when they’ll be participating in nighttime outdoor activities. Puerto Rico has some places you might like a headlamp: nighttime bio bay tours, poking into caves in the mountains of central Puerto Rico, or camping.

    Do you plan on some extended hikes, cave tours, or camping while visiting Puerto Rico? You might want to bring a headlamp. For bio bay tours, I wouldn’t bother to bring one. Tour companies will have everything you need to have a great time.

    If you’re traveling with a headlamp, Petzl makes lightweight, reliable headlamps.

    21. Gin Gins Ginger Gummies for Nausea

    If you get nauseas on boats or airplanes, Gin Gins are little gummy chews that are good for nausea (and they’re pretty delicious, too). I’m a big fan, though I’ve never used them for nausea. I recommend ordering a bag and trying them before your trip, but anyone who likes candied ginger won’t be disappointed. Check them out on Amazon.

    Tips for Packing for Puerto Rico

    If you read that whole packing list, you may have noticed that we prefer a streamlined, low luggage approach to travel. Even on a 2 week trip to the Caribbean, we didn’t need much more than our GORUCK bags (mine the GORUCK GR2 and my wife the GR1). We did bring a suitcase on this trip 😮 but we really didn’t need it. We had some towels and shoes in it, but when we return to Puerto Rico in the future, we won’t need a suitcase.

    If you are just using a backpack and no suitcase, make sure you follow flight guidelines for liquids and such.

    Packing light should be all the rage right now. When you carry less, you leave more space for adventure. Go ahead, get uncomfortable and slim your wardrobe down. Or try bringing a smaller suitcase.

    Packing cubes are all the rage right now, so if you bring a suitcase check them out (check the prices on Amazon right here). They make staying organized a breeze. I also always bring a tote bag to use as a laundry bag. No need to be mixing stinky clothes with your fresh, clean ones.

    Souvenirs We Brought Back

    Having a suitcase did allow us to bring some rum back for friends and family, and it freed up our carry-on bags from the other small items we brought. I think souvenirs are the best reason to bring a suitcase (not to cram more clothing and shoes for yourself). Here’s what we brought back from 2 weeks in Puerto Rico…

    1. 2 bottles of rum for the 2 people who watched our dog, Cowboy
    2. 8 small pieces of jewelry for family
    3. I bought a dozen old maps from a bookstore in Rincón

    I think that’s it! We never buy “crap” for friends and family. We make sure our gifts are memorable and useful (although rum could fall outside those categories…). Also don’t enter a trip with a list of people to buy for. Overconsumption prospers when you travel with such a list. If you see something a friend or family member might love, go ahead and buy it. But we didn’t shop for everyone in our families,’ and you shouldn’t either. You don’t owe anyone a souvenir!

    Our Trip Cost

    Our total cost for 2 weeks in Puerto Rico was $9427.25. Wow! That’s a lot. It was. You can read the breakdown here and what we could have done to save some money.

    Overall, though, it was an amazing trip and we’ll be back.

    Enjoy yours!

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George
Georgehttps://georgecallahan.com
George Callahan is the creator of Pine Tree Poet. He is an author of fantasy stories and an adventure poet. He prefers mountains and pine trees to most other things, and usually takes his dog Cowboy along for the ride.

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