The Caribbean island of Puerto Rico has been a much-loved holiday destination for years, and it’s easy to see why. With miles and miles of pristine beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and an abundance of wildlife, it’s hard not to fall in love with the place.
But Puerto Rico isn’t just a holiday destination, and many people are deciding to pack up their bags and move there permanently. Especially given the low cost of living.
Some are driven by the prospect of bustling cities, thriving nightlife, job opportunities, and of course, some persuasive tax incentives.
Yet Puerto Rico is also a magnet for ocean enthusiasts looking to live a simple outdoor existence, and it’s home to some of the world’s best waves as well as some awesome diving spots. What’s more, there are also tonnes of laid-back areas that are great for people hoping to kick back and relax in the sunshine and enjoy their much-deserved retirements.
Clearly, Puerto Rico has something for everyone, but with s many options, how do you decide where best to make your new home? Read on for our list of the best places to live in Puerto Rico.
Best for: Chilled vibes and surfing, scuba, and snorkeling
Location: West coast
With a population of just over 1,000 Rincón, located on Puerto Rico’s west coast, is the place to be if you’re into watersports.
It’s home to some of the Caribbean’s finest waves, and surfers flock here from all around the globe. Maria’s, Domes, Tres, and Palmas are all popular surfing beaches, and skilled surfers will love the chance to catch a ride on the hollow barrels that form there, especially during the winter months when the waves are at their peak.
It’s a great place for intermediate surfers to up their game, but it’s not ideal for beginners, although it’s possible to learn in the calmer months with an experienced instructor from one of the many surf schools.
For those of you who prefer being under the water to on top of it, you’ll be pleased to know that Rincón is also an excellent diving spot. It’s famed for its impressive wall dives and excellent stress-free shore dives, which is great for anyone who doesn’t like spending a lot of time on a boat.
Snorkelers will love these spots too and will enjoy the freedom of being able to don a mask and head out into such awesome spots so close to shore.
For people wanting to explore further afield, there are tonnes of tour operators in the area, and we definitely recommend a trip to Desecheo Island. Located roughly 20 km off the coast, the reefs around this island are home to some excellent dive sites, and divers will get the chance to swim among turtles, sharks, and rays, as well as vibrant corals and colorful reef fish.
Even those of you that prefer dry land will find yourself falling head over heels for Rincons incredible beaches – sundowners anyone? The town itself isn’t huge, and has a tiny population of just over 1,000 people, giving it a very relaxed feel.
The laid-back surfer vibes attract lots of young creatives and, while jobs in the area aren’t exactly ample, art galleries and creative start-ups are starting to appear all over Rincón.
Granted, the nightlife is somewhat limited, but if you’re an ocean lover seeking a chilled way of life (most likely working remotely), then nowhere else in Puerto Rico will suit you better.
Best for: History and culture
Location: South coast
Ponce offers an excellent way of life for anyone looking to take things slow, breathe in that fresh ocean air, and immerse themselves in culture, arts, and history.
Located on the south coast of Puerto Rico, Ponce is often referred to as ‘La Perla del Sur’, which translates to the pearl of the south. This much-loved city is actually the second-largest in Puerto Rico, yet it lacks the flashy touristy feel that some of the other big cities have.
As you wander around the central streets, the grandeur of the buildings is hard to miss. In fact, Ponce Creole is a unique style of architecture that’s been heavily influenced by the French, Spanish, and Caribbean, is constructed from a mixture of stone and wood, and features hints of various styles, including neoclassical and even art deco.
There are also tonnes of cultural landmarks, museums, and art exhibitions to check out, and the city hosts a range of festivals throughout the year.
It’s also known for its excellent food, which ranges from high-end restaurants like El Negocio de Panchi to street vendors – oh, and make sure you don’t miss out on trying a cuarteta sandwich (with four types of meat in it!).
It might not be the cheapest place to live, but in return, you’ll get plenty of cultural entertainment as well as all the pros of living by the sea – oh, and the healthcare is excellent too.
Best for: Lively city life, job opportunities
Location: Northeastern coast
No list of the best places to live in Puerto Rico would be complete without a shoutout to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital.
Old San Juan is a fun place to live and full of opportunities. The nightlife is thriving, the jobs are flowing, and the transport system works surprisingly well for a capital city (and you’re close to the international airport).
As well as all the usual perks of living in a major city (great shopping, loads of food and drink options, plenty of entertainment), Old San Juan offers a break from the hustle and bustle and a chance to explore some history.
Granted, there is more crime here than elsewhere in Puerto Rico, but this is largely due to the higher population. Some people may also tire of the crowds and tourists here eventually, and it certainly isn’t the place for introverts to set up a base. However, if you love living in high-paced environments and having tonnes of entertainment on your doorstep, then Puerto Rico’s capital might just be the place for you.
Best for: Families, easy entertainment
Location: North coast
Next up on our list is Dorado, and no, we don’t mean the fish… Located on Puerto Rico’s north coast, just 15 km west of the countries thriving capital, Dorado offers a stress-free way of life with a hint of luxury.
It certainly isn’t the cheapest place to stay, but its golden beaches, swanky resorts, and high-end facilities (including three excellent gold courses) have made Dorado an extremely popular choice among highflyers looking for a stress-free spot to soak up the sun.
It also has a great range of English-speaking schools that made it popular for families relocating from afar and is considered a very safe town overall.
Sure, there might not be quite as much to do as in the busier towns, and the resort-style vibes won’t be to everyone’s taste, but San Juan isn’t far away if you find yourself in the seed of that big-city thrill now and again.
Best for: Cooler temperatures, outdoor scenery
Location: Southeast (inland)
Although the glorious weather is one of Puerto Rico’s main attractions for many people, not all of us are sunseekers at heart. Unlike the other options on our list, the town of Cayey is actually located inland, and Cayey sits 1,500 feet above sea level, which means it’s cooler than elsewhere in the country.
What’s more, the town is surrounded by Puerto Rico’s Central Mountain Range and plenty of greenery – in fact, the luscious landscapes mean that it’s often referred to, quite appropriately, as the Green City (or Ciudad Verde).
Cayey is a great spot for anyone that likes hiking and nature. There are tonnes of routes in and around the nearby hills, forests, lakes, and mountains, and for anyone craving a refreshing swim, the legendary Carco Azul is a blue hole located along with one of the hiking routes.
Cayey is also a great place for any keen climbers, and it offers some awesome multi-pitch climbs on basalt rock. The food scene is awesome too, with a great range of vegan and meaty options (the roast pork is particularly good).
While there aren’t many jobs to be found here, Cayey offers a range of outdoor activities that can’t be found across the whole of Puerto Rico. The nightlife isn’t what you’d find in the major cities, but there are plenty of happy residents up for a drink or a fiesta at the weekend – plus it’s only around an hour away from San Juan if you need a blast of big city life.
Best for: Idyllic island life, scuba divers
Location: 27 km off the east coast
If you are looking for one of the most peaceful places to live in Puerto Rico, then look no further than Culebra. Located 27 km off the east coast of Puerto Rico, this pristine island is lined with white-sanded beaches and surrounded by crystal clear waters.
Unsurprisingly, there are great diving opportunities here, and there are several outlets where you can rent scuba (or snorkel) gear or book on an organized tour – keep your eyes open for the many turtles, octopus, and rays swimming around the island.
The small population is made up largely of locals living a traditional Purto Rican lifestyle, and you’ll only get a handful of tourists visiting at the weekends. This, combined with the abundance of nature (the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge has done a great job of preserving fish and bird populations), makes for an incredibly peaceful way of life.
Island life isn’t for everyone though – your shopping, entertainment, and food and drink options will be massively restricted – but it does offer a very tranquil existence. Jobs here are hard to come by, and most people moving here on a permanent basis don’t expect to find local employment.
Best for: Retirees, nature
Location: East coast
The municipality of Humacao is located on the east coast of Puerto Rico and is home to a mixture of resorts and fantastic natural areas.
Palmas del Mar is a residential community that’s especially popular among retirees, and it’s easy to see why. It features its own golf course, baking, school, shops, and even a casino, and it covers almost 3,000 acres of land. Villas make up most of the accommodations in Palmas del Mar, and many have a beach view. Overall, it makes for pretty easy living in the sun if that’s what you’re after.
If nature is more you’re thing, both the Humacao Nature Reserve and Punta Santiago Reserve can be found in the area, and can be explored by foot or by other, more adventurous means (bikes, for instance). There are tonnes of beaches around, and places where you can rent kayaks or sign up for a scuba dive, so you’ll never be short of things to do.
Best for: Urban living combined with nature
Location: Northeast coast
For anyone that likes to be in the thick of things on Puerto Rico, but finds San Juan just that bit too much, life in Carolina might suit you perfectly. Located just 20 km from the country’s capital, Carolina has plenty going on but just isn’t as hectic as San Juan.
One of the things that make Carolina so special is that it offers all the perks of urban living (great food, plenty of shops, ample job opportunities), yet there are some incredible natural hangout spots around too.
These include some excellent beaches along the coast, plenty of parks in the town, and some lovely countryside further inland where you can become acquainted with horseriding.
Nothing sums up Carolina more than Playa Isla Verde – a gorgeous beach with a skyline of skyscrapers behind it. But if you’re after something a little less touristy than Isla Verde, you’ll love a visit to the nearby Island of Vieques. Home to the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world, a trip to this magical island is one that you’re unlikely to forget in a hurry.
The overall cost of living are lower than in San Juan, and the crime rates are lower too. What’s more, you can always hop over to the nearby capital if you need to.
So, there you have it – the best places to live in Puerto Rico. As we’ve seen, Puerto Rico really does have it all – thriving cities, sleepy towns, and idyllic islands… so we guess our final question is, which one are you going to chose?
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.