If you’re wondering what to wear in Puerto Rico for your trip, look no further. After spending time on the island (and sweating in jean shorts), I thought I would help you figure out what to pack for Puerto Rico so that you don’t make the same mistakes I did.
Whether you’re planning a purely beach-side vacation or you want to explore the island in full with hiking, swimming, and sightseeing in the city, this packing list will help you enjoy your trip without too much stress.
If you’re going to be going to the beach and exploring the cities, you’ll either want a backpack or a wheeled backpack for your luggage. I think being able to pick it up on those sandy beaches and haul it on your shoulders is SO much easier. If it’s just a normal suitcase, you may find that you are constantly picking it up to lift over bumpy sidewalks or getting it stuck on the sand. Just my personal preference, though! Pack using the bag that you love to travel with most.
Weather in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is a true tropical climate. This means that there are really only two seasons, wet and dry. The weather varies slightly depending on what time of year you visit and what area of the island you want to explore. The wet season is from April to October and the dry from November to March.
The hottest month of the year in Puerto Rico is June. If you are going to be along the coast during the summer months, you can expect temperatures to range from 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (26-29 C). If you are planning to head inland to the higher elevations, it will be very humid, but temperatures will be a few degrees cooler.
The coolest month of the year is January, but I wouldn’t really call it “cool,” since temperatures still hover around 75 degrees during the day. It does drop at night and there are lows recorded sometimes as low as 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 C).
The dry season tends to be the busier time to visit the island, but it’s also the cooler time. Keep this in mind and if you are coming in the cooler months, pack things that will keep you warm at night. No need to bring a coat or jeans, but a thin sweater or lightweight trousers are a good option for dinner.
What to Pack for Puerto Rico
What to Wear in Puerto Rico: For the Beach
If you’re headed to the beach here in Puerto Rico, you can pretty much pack exactly what you would pack for any beach vacation. If most of your trip will be spent in San Juan Puerto Rico, you’ll want to combine the city packing list with the beach packing list (obviously).
If most days are going to be spent at the beach during your trip to Puerto Rico, I highly recommend packing at least three bathing suits. It allows you to balance any strappy tan lines, but also with how humid Puerto Rico is, it means you give each one plenty of time to dry.
Usually in the evening, once I’ve come back from the beach I rinse the bathing suit that I’ve worn for the day. I’ll hang it to dry somewhere and while it’s usually dry the next day, sometimes it can take a bit longer to dry.
My current favorite bathing suits are actually from Amazon. I don’t love spending a ton of money on bathing suits since I get bored with them quickly and want to buy new ones constantly. The quality of these one-piece bathing suits that I’ve been loving from Amazon are actually really high and I LOVE the high waist and the amount of booty on show. I have it in black and just ordered it in navy blue.
I also recently purchased this high-waisted two-piece bathing suit from Amazon and have also loved it (strange tip: I wear the bottoms backward so that they’re higher waisted at the front and a little cheekier at the back). Similarly, it shows a lot of booty, but with the high waist and higher chest coverage, I don’t mind it for a good beach vacation.
My other favorite bathing suits are usually from Victoria Secret. At the end of every summer season, they have great sales on separates and that’s usually when I pick up a good deal on a bathing suit. It might seem strange, but I usually plan ahead with bathing suits because of how expensive they are full price and buy up a few bathing suits as soon as the summer season ends. Even if I’m not going to wear them for 6 months or more, at least I’ll have a new suit for my next trip that I got for a much better price.
Obviously, you should pack a sunscreen of your choice. There are plenty of Walgreens and Walmarts all over San Juan and other towns around Puerto Rico if you forget or you run out.
If you’re going to be swimming in the sea and especially if you plan to snorkel near coral or with sea life, consider using an all natural sunscreen. Using something like zinc or invisible zinc from Neutragena isn’t the best for tanning since it is a true block, but if you are going to be going into the ocean it will protect you and all of the wildlife in the water.
A few of my favorite natural sunscreens are this Badger sunscreen from Amazon and this sheer zinc from Neutrogena (you can pick it up at any Walgreens/CVS/supermarket in the US). As an added bonus these are better for your skin and better for kids because they block the sun and don’t have any chemicals in them.
I have dark brown hair (when I’m not dying it blond) and it can get very hot in the sun, so a hat is a must for me at the beach. You can pick them up at most of the shops around San Juan, but if you want something stylish that you can transition to city-wandering then bring your own.
I’m a huge fan of Rainbow Sandals. They are pretty much the only things I pack when I travel because they come in cute styles, they are outrageously comfortable to walk in, and they are still just flip flops so they’re great for the beach. Read my full review of Rainbows here and why I’ve been a loyal wearer of them for 10+ years.
If flip-flops aren’t your style, you might like Birkenstocks. A lot of my friends love these for the beach and then they can transition them easily to wearing for traveling through cities and even long walks. You can check out the latest styles of Birkenstocks here.
Cover-Ups and Dresses
When going to and from the beach, you want something that covers you a bit and is cute enough to wear to lunch. I usually just buy cute, flowy dresses (like these from Superdown, ROLLA’S and Acacia Swimwear) and wear those as cover-ups because then I can use them all day long and not feel under-dressed if I head off the beach for a coffee or lunch at a cute cafe.
If you’re staying at a resort where you’ll just be going from your room to the private pool or beach, you can be a little bit more fun and use cover-ups from Victoria’s Secret. I actually love wearing over-sized men’s dress shirts as cover-ups when I’m not traveling far from the beach.
What to Pack for Puerto Rico: For Hiking
If you plan to head inland, particularly if you want to do some hiking in El Yunque (which you should because it’s amazing), then these are a few things that I think you should pack for your trip to Puerto Rico.
Sturdy Walking Shoes
I hiked El Yunque in sneakers and it was no problem at all. I saw a few people in hiking boots, which I’m sure was great, but if you don’t have a pair or you don’t want to pack them, then don’t worry about it. Most of the paths in El Yunque are either flattened or have some form of paved or wooded pathway.
There are a few trails that haven’t re-opened since the hurricane a few years ago, but the ones that are open are easily done in sneakers. Just don’t wear flip flops or shoes that you don’t want to get dirty because there are some muddy patches (though no water crossings). Any sturdy pair of walking shoes will do just fine.
Of all the places on the island, I got the most mosquito bites in the jungles of El Yunque. There’s just so much moisture and humidity and I went home with bug bites all over my legs and arms. It concerned me slightly because there are still a few cases of Zika being reported around Puerto Rico, but I’m okay.
That being said, you should definitely be packing bug spray to avoid this and if you are pregnant you will either want to load up the spray or avoid this part of the island altogether.
My friend and fellow Puerto Rico travel partner packed a tiny little backpack that folded out into a full-sized bag and I’m so glad she brought it. We were able to put our water bottles, keys, wallets, and sunscreen in there to take with us for the whole day of hiking. I had my usual cross-body bag, but I regret very much bringing it because it got heavy and it was so hot that the bag just made me sweat so much.
Reusable Water Bottle
It’s 2019 people, you should definitely own a reusable water bottle. I’m addicted to my Hydro Cell because it’s as good as all those more expensive metal ones but it was half the price. It gets very hot and you’ll want to bring plenty of water because there isn’t anywhere to fill up your bottle. My friend and I kept a few larger gallon bottles of water in the trunk (in a cooler) so that when we got back to the car with empty bottles we could fill them up again without having to wait to reach civilization again.
Wick-away sports-style shorts are a must if you’re going to be hiking in the jungle. I wore jean shorts on our first day and even though most of the hikes are relatively easy, it’s just so humid that you don’t want any heavy fabrics touching your skin at all.
My favorite sports shorts are the Nike Dry Tempo running shorts, which I wear for pretty much any sporting activity because I think they’re fun and colorful and flattering on my leg shape. Any shorts of this style are what I recommend packing for Puerto Rico and hiking in El Yunque.
The same goes for what shirts to wear while hiking in El Yunque. You want something lightweight. You want something that if you start sweating (which you definitely will), then you will not be wringing it out when you get back to your car. I wore a lightweight, very light colored cotton t-shirt (like these great vintage tees from J.Crew) and it was mostly fine for my main day of hiking.
I would recommend something that isn’t tight fitting because of the humidity. I packed a few running tank-tops made of sweat-wicking material and I was actually glad I opted for a loose-fitting t-shirt instead because I could feel the breeze a lot more and when I started sweating it didn’t cling to me.
What to Wear in Puerto Rico: For the Cities
If you are going to be spending most of your time in Puerto Rico in San Juan just in towns and cities doing the exploring, pack like you would for any hot place. Think cute dresses, comfortable and stylish walking shoes, and lots of colors.
Stylish Comfortable Walking Shoes
This is where Birkenstocks win out for me. If you want shoes that you can walk in all day that still look cute with a dress for a nicer dinner, then Birkenstocks will make all the vacation transitions that you need them to. If you opt for a white or light neutral color, they’ll go with pretty much anything you pack.
Lightweight Dresses and Skirts
I already linked to a bunch of cute dresses above. I recommend doing some shopping while you’re in Puerto Rico. I especially loved the boutique stores in Boqueron and Old San Juan where you can find seriously gorgeous linen dresses in bright colors for very low prices (plus you support local small businesses!).
If you don’t plan on doing any shopping in Puerto Rico, then simply pack all the linen and lightweight cotton.
Light Colored Shirts
While I’m a big supporter of linen and other lightweight fabrics when you’re in hot places, something I only learned recently is the different light colors make when you are in very sunny places like Puerto Rico. Not only do they show less sweat, but they keep you cooler. I usually go for cream and white colors, but if I can find a light shade of pink or purple, I’ll go with that too.
The good thing about light neutrals like white and cream is that you can pair them with colorful shorts and skirts so that you don’t feel like your outfit is totally boring. Most of my days in San Juan were spent wearing linen shirts, jean shorts, and a very colorful bag.
My favorite type of shorts are old jeans that I’ve turned into shorts. I’ve been loving really loose-fitting jean shorts at the minute and they worked perfectly for enjoying my travels around San Juan.
For me, when it comes to a travel day-bag I think the bigger the better so that it fits all the things I want to bring out for the day and all the things I buy during the day. Not everyone agrees with this sentiment.
If you only want a small day-bag my favorite travel bags are cross-body slimline style bags like these Coach bags. I also love that backpacks are mostly back in fashion and I LOVE that bumbags/fanny packs are back in style. If you only want to take your phone and some cash out with you, definitely pick up a fun fanny pack to take with you on your Puerto Rico trip.
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