The best time to visit Puerto Rico for festivals, beaches, pernil and more


There’s never a bad time to visit Puerto Rico.

The average temperature in any given season is 80°F (26°C), which can go up drastically in the summer months, or dip to 60°F (15°C) in the winter. While you can go to the beach at any time of the year, there’s a busy festival calendar and an equally busy hurricane season to be aware of before planning your trip. 

Depending on your vibe, you can hit the carnivals in December and January, a period that comes with a hefty price hike in accommodations. Looking for a quieter getaway? April and May are optimal months for milder temperatures and emptier tourist spots. 

Read on to find out what the best time to visit Puerto Rico is for you. 

Tropical Puerto Rico plays host to what locals call “the longest Christmas in the world” © Dora Ramirez / Shutterstock

December to January is best for experiencing traditional Puerto Rican culture

The changing of the seasons in Puerto Rico is like nowhere else in the United States. Hurricane season begins to wind down around November 1, all but eliminating the threat of storms and ushering in a cool breeze that tempers the high fall temperatures. 

This time of year isn’t a good time for beach trips, as winter usually brings heavy rainfalls that, while intermittent, affect the water quality and cause undercurrents, high tides and big waves in the Atlantic Ocean. 

But don’t despair: visitors traveling to the island during this slow season can enjoy the traditional music, culture, decorations and food that is Puerto Rican Christmas. 

Referred to as “the longest Christmas in the world,” the holidays on the island are the time when towns decorate their plazas, criollo restaurants serve up their best arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas), pernil (slow-roasted, marinated pork leg) and pasteles (mashed plantain and pork), and municipalities hold carnivals for their patron saints and feature trova (traditional poetic singing) competitions, plena groups showcasing this traditional genre of music and dance, and local pop acts. 

During the first two weeks of December is the Festival del Macabeo in Trujillo Alto. The show’s star is the town’s signature dish, the macabeo – a croquette-like fritter made with green plantain prepared two ways: boiled and mashed, and raw and grated. Filled with ground meat and seasoned with spices, this hard-to-find delicacy generates lines around the block. 

Revelers participate in the San Sebastián Festival, San Juan, Puerto Rico
The Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián take over Old San Juan every January © J Erick Brazzan / Shutterstock

In the northern part of the island, the town of Hatillo has celebrated Festival de las Máscaras since 1823, when settlers from the Canary Islands began the tradition of dressing up as old ladies and demons to prank their neighbors on December 28 – the Day of the Holy Innocents.

It’s a raucous party that townspeople take seriously, with floats, traditional vejigante masks (colorful papier-mâché masks depicting characters from African and European mythology) and tricks beginning around 6am and lasting throughout the day.

The mountain town of San Sebastián celebrates the Festival de la Novilla, a harvest celebration with singing competitions, food, performances of folkloric music and a parade with an artfully decorated heifer as its honoree. 

The crown jewel of Puerto Rico’s holiday festivities arrives after Three Kings Day on January 6.

After that date, the island enters Las Octavitas (“The Octaves”), a celebration that culminates in the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián in Old San Juan – a massive three-day carnival with big-name performers, artisans selling traditional woodwork saints and crafts, and lots of drinking. 

The island will be crowded during the entire holiday season, so be ready to arrive to festivities early in the morning to secure a parking spot or use the Uber app or a local taxi. 

Traditional dancers celebrate on the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico
The festivals continue in spring, with Carnaval and much more © J Erick Brazzan / Shutterstock

February to May is the best time for road-tripping across the island 

The spring brings with it sparse rain showers and excellent weather for beach days, breezy hikes in the Central Mountains, and humpback-whale watching around the northwest coast of Puerto Rico, with Isabela, Rincón and Aguadilla offering the best views. 

Both the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea are calm this time of year, so take advantage of the waning high-season crowds to lounge in the sun. 

If you’re up for an adventure, the Carnaval Ponceño in February is an excellent way to get acquainted with the city of Ponce.

The town can serve as a home base for traveling to the southwestern region’s favorites, like the fishing village of La Parguera in Lajas; Yaucromatic, the outdoor urban art project in Yauco; and the beautiful lighthouse Faro de los Morillos in Cabo Rojo. 

Visiting the mountain towns this time of year is breathtaking, as the winter rains leave the mountain range’s vegetation in an array of bright greens that glisten under the sun and barely hide in the nighttime fog. 

Drive through the mountains on Hwy 52 – or, better yet, take one of the exits near Cayey and experience the quaint town centers. Toward the eastern mountains, you’ll find El Yunque National Forest and its collection of fascinating hiking experiences for all levels. 

To the west of the island, the town of Las Marías holds its Festival de la China Dulce to celebrate the harvest of their sweet oranges with music, artisan wares and every food you can imagine made with (you guessed it) the sweet orange.

Pro tip: If you’re a salsa fan, the 2024 edition of the Día Nacional de la Zalsa festival – its 40th – will feature salsa stars from all over Latin America. Want to try some of Puerto Rico’s finest and newest rums? The Taste of Rum food and spirits festival will hold its 30th edition in March. 

A couple plays on the beach in Luquillo, Puerto Rico
The steamy summer months are when Puerto Ricans hit the beach © RandomHartz / Shutterstock

June to August is the best time for beach lounging

Summer is when Puerto Ricans thrive. Children are out of school in May and vacations, road trip plans and partying go into full swing – heat be damned. 

Beaches will be packed – but as long as you arrive early in the morning, you’re sure to find a good spot. Beach days are a whole-day affair, so come prepared with a small cooler, plenty of water, and other snacks and beverages. It’s legal to drink alcohol on the beach; just make sure to take any trash with you on the way out.

This season is also a great time to explore areas outside of mainland Puerto Rico, specifically the islands of Vieques and Culebra, or any of the smaller islands and cays like Palomino, Gilligan’s Island and Mata la Gata. 

June has two big celebrations to watch out for. The first one is the Fiestas de Santiago Apostol in Loíza, a vibrant homage to Puerto Rico’s African heritage through folk art (like the famous and ornate vejigante masks), traditional drum music like bomba and colorful processions honoring James the Great, the patron saint of Loíza and neighboring town Fajardo. 

Noche de San Juan is a pagan celebration tied to St John. Head to the beach at midnight to dunk yourself in the ocean seven or 12 times (depending on whom you ask!) for good luck. 

Three people walking on a path at El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico
Visit in early fall to avoid crowds at such popular Puerto Rican sites as El Yuque National Forest © Joel Carillet / Getty Images

August to October is the best season to avoid crowds

Aside from people returning to their daily lives, the drop in crowds has a particular reason: hurricane season. While it officially starts in June, the period from August to November tends to see the most activity. 

Get travel insurance in case a storm hits the island. The weather tends to be hotter and, with most Puerto Ricans back to school or work, you’re most likely to have the beach to yourself. 

There’s still fun to be had, and you can experience one of the biggest gatherings of plena and bomba musicians on the island at the Festival de Bomba y Plena in October. 



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