Puerto Rico vs Hawaii Vacation: Which Should You Visit in 2024?

Picture this… you’re standing in front of a waterfall, the water thundering as it cascades down. Lush vegetation surrounds you and you feel the warmth of the sun on your face. You spent the morning at the beach and are now seeking adventure in the rainforest. Now, where are you? Hawaii or Puerto Rico? Truth is, it could be either! But, as you’ll learn here, there are a lot of differences when comparing Puerto Rico vs Hawaii!

As a travel blogger, I’ve been able to visit Hawaii six times and have visited Puerto Rico twice, so I feel uniquely equipped to write a Hawaii vs Puerto Rico comparison post! Also, no one has paid me to write this article so I’m giving you my unbiased opinion!

So, let’s see what makes each of these destinations vacation-worthy and try to narrow down which is best for your next trip! Let’s get to it.

What is each famous for?

Puerto Rico and Hawaii are known for their tropical rainforests, diverse ecosystems, and rich cultural heritage. Yet history and location say they are worlds apart.

What is Puerto Rico famous for?

Juan Diego Falls in El Yunque National Forest

A lively nightlife, bioluminescent bays, and pristine beaches attract visitors to Puerto Rico from around the world.

As the world-leading rum producer, Puerto Rico is famous for its distilleries and exceptional liquor that is known to keep Puerto Rico nightlife alive.

Previously a Spanish colony, Puerto Rico now exists as an unincorporated territory of the United States with indigenous, Spanish, and western cultures, languages, and history combined. These factors make Puerto Rico a multi-cultural and diverse region.

And Puerto Rico wouldn’t be Puerto Rico without its world-famous festivals, including Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián and The Casals Festival.

What is Hawaii famous for?

The Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Oahu

Hawaii is famous for its rich history, tropical weather, and world-renowned beaches. It’s made up of 137 islands, the most popular being Oahu (home to Honolulu), Maui, Hawai’i (aka The Big Island), Kauai, Lanai, Molokai, and Niihau.

Its celebrated surf culture attracts athletes from around the world who yearly compete and fight against the epic waves, located on the North shore of the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

Outdoor activities such as fishing, hiking, scuba diving, and snorkeling are also popular. Hawaii’s landscape provides plenty of opportunities to escape into the mountains and the sea. Hawaii’s wildlife is also world famous, with dolphins, humpback whales, sea turtles, and Monk seals a common site along its shores.

And my personal favorite: Hawaii has epic volcanoes and mountains that make for majestic views!

Puerto Rico vs Hawaii: Types of Nature

A destination’s natural landscape, animal habitats, and native flora and fauna are common attractors of international visitors. So what is unique about Puerto Rico and Hawaii’s natural habitats?

What is nature like in Puerto Rico?

Condado Beach in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is famous for its three vibrant bioluminescent bays: Mosquito Bay, Laguna Grande, and La Parguera. Bioluminescent boat tours are popular, allowing visitors to swim with glowing dinoflagellates (single-cell plankton) under the night sky. However, timing matters if you want to see this natural phenomenon! You’ll need to time your trip as far from the full moon as possible, since light dilutes the bioluminescence’s vibrancy.

Of course, this island has many other natural wonders such as salt flats, rainforests, and mangrove islands, too!

Did you know that while there is the main island of Puerto Rico, you’ll actually find that it’s home to 147 small islands? That means that there are many beaches, coves, and rock formations to discover.

You can also find whales from January through March, dolphins, sea turtles, and manatees swimming nearby while the island’s only native species, the bat, can be found hiding in remote caves. Animals, such as cats, dogs, goats, sheep, and escaped exotic creatures have made Puerto Rico their home over centuries and live on the various islands.

What is nature like in Hawaii?

Haleakala National Park in Maui

137 individual islands make up the diverse terrain of the state of Hawaii. Fiery volcanoes, lush rainforests, and over 20,000 unique species are spread throughout the islands, inviting visitors to explore.

From the lush jungle surrounding Maui’s Road to Hana and the Big Island’s black volcanic rock to the towering cliffs of Kauai’s Na Pali Coast and Oahu’s Jurassic Park-esque Koʻolau Mountain Range, you’ve got a wide variety of nature to see in the Hawaiian islands.

Brimming with life and unique flora and fauna, on these islands you will find the popular Haleakalā Silversword Plant, the Ilima Flower, Naupaka Flower, Pua Kala flower, Hapu’u tree fern, and Kou perennial tree native to the islands.

Additionally, sharp ocean cliffs, bamboo forests, and even snow-capped mountain peaks are also in Hawaii, further pointing to Hawaii’s vast natural diversity.

Notable Destinations and Attractions

Perhaps you can narrow down which destination you want to visit by seeing the most notable locations to visit within each place. Depending on the style of vacation you are looking for, here are some of your choices.

What are Puerto Rico’s most notable destinations?

Sitting at Castillo San Felipe del Morro (aka “El Morro”) while looking out over the famous Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis graveyard.

Old San Juan

If you’re flying into Puerto Rico, chances are you’ll land in San Juan. And just a short drive away you’ll find my favorite part of Puerto Rico: Old San Juan. Old San Juan is the most notable destination in Puerto Rico due to its rich history and lively nightlife. In its downtown core, you will find over 400 colorfully restored colonial buildings lined up perfectly. While you’re here, explore El Morro and take a tour of the beautiful Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis graveyard. Check out more things to do in San Juan here!

El Yunque National Forest

For those looking for an outdoor adventure, El Yunque National Forest is one of the best destinations to visit. Set in the Rio Grande municipality, this lush rainforest with challenging hiking trails, ziplining, waterfalls, and fantastic views make it perfect for an outdoor excursion.

Vieques and Culebra

If you are only looking for a relaxing beach getaway, then either the isle of Vieques or Culebra might be right for you. Fine white sand, calm, clear blue waters, and a tranquil atmosphere make these small Puerto Rican islands excellent choices. You can reach them by ferry or by plane. Keep in mind that Vieques is home to Mosquito Bay, an incredible bioluminescent bay, so add that to your Puerto Rico itinerary if you go!

What are Hawaii’s most notable destinations?

Waimea Canyon State Park in Kauai

Each Island

The most notable destination to visit in Hawaii is one of its six main islands: Hawaii, Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Lanai, and Molokai. The Big Island of Hawaii, Oahu, Maui and Kauai are the most popular to visit, and each island has its own unique features. It’s quite difficult to list all of the notable destinations so I’ll give you a glimpse of what each island has to offer here! You also can check out this post to figure out which Hawaiian island would be best for you to visit.

Oahu: Diamond Head

Diamond Head is an extinct crater on the eastern edge of Waikiki with a lookout point that you can hike to. The hike to Diamond Head Lookout takes roughly 30-minute and brings you from the crater to a lookout point with incredible views over Honolulu. (If you want Honolulu views without a hike, visit Tantalus Lookout… you drive right up to the views! For more terrific views, check out my post on the most Instagrammable places in Oahu!) Other notable locations on Oahu include the North Shore (great food trucks and epic surfing) and Pearl Harbor.

Maui: Haleakala National Park

You can drive right up to the summit of Haleakala for an incredible view above the clouds. It’s surreal being at the top and looking out over a crazy Mars-like landscape! Other than Haleakala summit, Haleakala National Park is home to waterfalls and streams on the side accessible from the famous Road to Hana. For more incredible views, check out the most Instagrammable places on Maui here!

The Big Island: Volcanoes National Park

For those most interested in volcanic activity, then the Big Island of Hawaii is a must, especially if there is an active lava flow. The Big Island is home to five giant volcanoes: Mauna Loa, Kilauea, Mauna Kea, Kohala, and Hualalai, with the island’s current and most active volcano being Kilauea. In fact, Kilauea is the most active volcano in the world! Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park is home to the Kilauea and Mauna Loa summits. When you’re done photographing volcanoes, check out these other Instagrammable places on the Big Island.

Kauai: Waimea Canyon State Park

Waimea Canyon State Park is unlike anywhere else on Hawaii and is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. I think that nickname gives you a good idea of what you’ll find here! Hiking and driving through this park (and continuing on to Kokee State Park) will give you gorgeous views of red canyons and lush valleys. You’ll find these spots and more on my Kauai itinerary.

Puerto Rico vs Hawaii: Top Things to Do

Top Things to Do in Puerto Rico

La Coca Falls in Puerto Rico


From sandy beaches to historical sites, Puerto Rico has many fun activities to explore. For beach bums looking for a more remote getaway, try Cayo Icacos Island, famous for its white sand beach, clear turquoise waters, and for being a snorkeler’s paradise. This uninhabited island is only accessible by boat, making it a perfect escape from the bustling mainland.

You’ll find plenty of beaches around Puerto Rico. Our Uber driver proudly told us that Puerto Rico has the best beaches in the world. He may be biased, but Puerto Rico does have some stunning beaches.

I’d recommend getting off the beaten path if you want to see some of the best beaches- the touristy ones around Condado weren’t my favorite. Instead, try one of these: Flamenco Beach on the island of Culebra is famous for its pristine white sand while Playa Negra is a gorgeous black sand beach located on the island of Vieques. You might see manatees while at Playa Santa in Guanica and Rincón is a surfer’s paradise! And the beaches in Fajardo are a lot more chill than beaches in San Juan.

Culture & History

If you want to learn more about the country’s history, then a guided tour of Old San Juan or a visit to Museo de Arte de Ponce may be for you. Important historical sites such as the fortress of Castillo San Felipe del Morro, the statue of Paseo de la Princesa, and the San Juan National Historic Site can all be found within the city limits.


You can chase waterfalls, visit the pink salt flats at Cabo Rojo, go on a gastronomy tour down Guavate’s Ruta del Lechón (which means Pork Highway!), go ziplining, explore Condado and Old San Juan, drive around the island, and so much more.

I go way more in depth regarding things to do in Puerto Rico here, where we’ll take a look at each region of Puerto Rico!

Top Things to Do in Hawaii

Harrison and I did some stand-up paddleboarding and snorkeling when staying at the Grand Wailea resort on Maui.

Nature Adventures

Hawaii has countless fun and exciting outdoor activities to explore. From hiking volcanoes and scuba diving with sea turtles, to catching a whopping tuna fish and swimming in waterfalls, you won’t get bored in Hawaii. You can go ziplining, horseback riding, ATVing, visit lavender farms, do scenic drives, and so much more. While there are hikes you can do in Puerto Rico, Hawaii takes the cake!

Shopping and Dining

For those not interested in physical activities, shopping, historical sites, and beachfront restaurants are some fun alternatives. Waikiki would be a great place for you if this is your preferred vacation style. If you’re a foodie and are considering visiting Maui, then Mama’s Fish House is a MUST. It’s truly the best restaurant I’ve visited in my life, no joke. Book a reservation as soon as you book your trip because this place is that popular!

Animal Encounters

If you’re determined to see animals, other than exploring the lush greenery (with no snakes, might I mention??) on hike through the rainforest, you can visit Oahu’s Honolulu Zoo. Here you’ll get to see a variety of exotic and local animals.

But some of my favorite things to do on the Hawaiian islands are marine animal tours. If you’re on the Big Island, snorkeling with manta rays at night is an unforgettable experience! We did that one year and it is one of my favorite animal encounters I’ve done. It’s truly magical watching these gentle rays dancing and doing graceful somersaults underneath you! (But it might not be for those who get seasick easily… my poor husband is very prone to seasickness and had a very different experience than I did!)

If you’d rather stay on the boat, whale watching is in its prime from December to March. We went on a whale-watching tour in Maui and loved seeing these majestic giants swimming. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to see one breach!


For those looking to simply relax on a beach, there’s a reason why Hawaii is considered paradise. There are so many beaches to enjoy on each island! The most famous beach is classically Waikiki Beach on Oahu. It’s world-famous and features white sand, great waves for beginner surfers, and is steps away from so many excellent waterfront restaurants, shops, and bars. However, you won’t find us at Waikiki Beach. We much prefer less-touristy beaches that feel more like paradise!

On Oahu, instead of at Waikiki Beach, you’ll find us at Lanikai Beach with a view of the Mokes (two islands off of the coast that you can actually kayak to). When we’re on the Big Island, we love Kua Bay Beach. On Maui, our favorite is Makena Beach. But when it comes to my all time favorite beaches, Kauai’s Hanalei Bay and Tunnels Beach take the cake.

National and State Parks

There are two national parks in Hawaii: the Big Island’s Volcanoes National Park and Maui’s Haleakala National Park. But you’ll also love the state and regional parks on the islands, too! We love Waimea Canyon State Park and Kokee State Park in Kauai. And Oahu’s Kualoa Regional Park offers incredible views, as does Maui’s Iao Valley State Park.

Check out these posts for more things to do on each island:

Puerto Rico vs Hawaii: Costs & Lodging

Due to inflation, local and foreign goods have seen sharp price increases. As a result, many folks are looking for places to cut costs, and holidays are usually the first to hit the chopping block.

How much does it cost to visit Puerto Rico?

The courtyard at Hotel El Convento

Check out this data from Budget Your Trip to get an estimate of how much it might cost to visit Puerto Rico:

Puerto Rico Travel Costs

Even though Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island, it is very affordable. As the cost of the average 7-day Puerto Rico vacation ranges from around $1,000 to $2,500+ USD per person making a Puerto Rico holiday far more affordable than a Hawaiian getaway. On average, a meal will cost you anywhere between $10 to $20 USD but expect to leave a tip of at least 15 to 20%.


A hotel room will set you back $100 to $250+ USD per night, while a stay in a hostel could be as low as $20 USD per night.

If you’re looking for luxury stays, we stayed at the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel and absolutely loved it! The historic Hotel El Convento is also stunning and charming, located right in Old San Juan.

As you leave San Juan, you’ll find bigger beachfront resorts around the island, like the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort in Rio Grande and the Ritz-Carlton Dorado Beach in Dorado.

How much does it cost to visit Hawaii?

Relaxing at the pool at Timbers Kauai.
Hawaii Travel Costs

Of course, your comfort level will determine your expenses. But as you can see in the widget above, Hawaii is generally more expensive than Puerto Rico. If you want to save money on your food budget, try dining at food trucks, shopping centers, grocery stores, or even at gas stations. One fun thing about Hawaii is that their gas stations serve pre-made egg and rice dishes. So while it may not be the healthiest food since it’s from a gas station, it’s still probably healthier than the hot food options at gas stations in the continental US. Harrison and I actually loved these inexpensive gas station hot food meals! If you get the chance, try a spam musubi (trust me on this!).

Besides flights, accommodations, and food, excursions will likely be your next biggest expense. Surfboards, fishing equipment, and bike rentals all come at an additional cost. But free activities such as swimming, sunbathing, and hiking are also popular and great for those without additional room in their budget. Harrison and I always have a blast in Hawaii and we do very few paid excursions!


One big difference between Puerto Rico and Hawaii is the sheer number of hotel and resort options in Hawaii, for all types of budgets. And while Puerto Rico has plenty of nice hotels and luxury resorts, Hawaii takes luxury resorts to a whole new level.

Here are some of the best luxury resorts in Hawaii:

Puerto Rico vs Hawaii: Weather

Most people go on vacation to chase the sun, so a rain shower or tropical storm may ruin their trip. Choosing which season to travel is important, so let’s take a look.

What is Puerto Rico’s weather like in each season?

The cobblestone streets of San Juan

Unlike many tropical paradises, Puerto Rico’s weather is actually divided into three seasons, not two: dry, rainy, and hurricane. The rainy season occurs from April to November, the dry from December to March, and the hurricane season from June to November. Puerto Rico’s temperature averages about 75°F to 85°F year round, with weather variations mostly due to humidity and rainfall.

What is Hawaii’s weather like in each season?

The beautiful Makua Range in Oahu.

Hawaii has two seasons, dry and wet. The wet season occurs from November through March, while the dry season occurs from April through October. However, it’s worth mentioning that while it often rains in Hawaii, these rain showers are usually fleeting.

Hawaii’s hottest month is August, while January is its coolest, but don’t expect freezing temperatures. Hawaii’s average temperature only ranges between 65 F to 85 F.

Is there any time of year you shouldn’t visit?

Trying to decide when to visit? This can be almost as important as choosing the destination itself. The last thing anyone wants is to cancel their vacation due to a tropical storm.

Is there any time of year you shouldn’t visit Puerto Rico?

A rainbow comes out at the Condado Vanderbilt following rain showers in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Unless I were booking a last-minute trip and could check the forecast, I’d personally try to avoid visiting Puerto Rico during hurricane season. Tropical storms should not be underestimated!

Is there any time of year you shouldn’t visit Hawaii?

A rainbow peeks out after rain showers on Kapalua Beach in Maui.

No, Hawaii is a great destination to visit year-round. Although the wet season can bring more rainfall, the majority of the rain occurs at night and for short spurts. And if there is rain in one area, oftentimes you can find sunshine on another part of the island you’re on!

Puerto Rico vs Hawaii: Traveling With Kids & Safety

As a rule of thumb, I always lean towards shorter flight when traveling with kids. From that approach, Puerto Rico is way more doable than Hawaii, unless you live on the West Coast. (Now that we have a baby, I’m planning a return trip to Puerto Rico, and unfortunately probably won’t visit Hawaii for a couple of years! Well, I say that now, but Hawaii is my favorite state… so you may see me there sooner than I think!)

Anyway, if you’re not worried about having a squirmy toddler or fussy baby in tow, then either of these locations make for family-friendly destinations. (If you do have a baby, check out my recommendations for baby travel essentials!)

You don’t need a passport for either location if you’re coming from the US, so that saves you from the headache of getting a passport or the leaps that come with international travel.

There are certain pockets of Puerto Rico that see higher crime levels than others, but generally both island destinations are safe. You really just need to be smart about locking your rental car, not leaving valuables in plain sight, and being mindful of your surroundings (especially in urban areas).

In conclusion…

We love wandering the streets of Old San Juan in Puerto Rico!

When considering a vacation in Puerto Rico vs Hawaii, I hope this article has given you a good idea of which destination would be better for you!

In short, if you’re looking for a less expensive vacation, a shorter flight in most cases, or better nightlife than most of the Hawaiian islands except maybe Oahu, Puerto Rico is probably best for you.

However, if you want jaw-dropping natural beauty of all sorts, a more luxurious vacation, love hiking, or just want to experience the unique aloha spirit, Hawaii might be a better vacation choice for you.

Still having trouble deciding? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to help!

Safe travels,


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About the author
Picture of Jasmine Alley

Jasmine Alley

I'm a Dallas-based, full-time travel blogger with a serious case of wanderlust! Through my website and Instagram, I hope to help others plan picture-perfect trips to the most beautiful places in the world! When I travel, I like to emphasize nature, hidden gems, and unique places.
Picture of Jasmine Alley

Jasmine Alley

I'm a Dallas-based, full-time travel blogger with a serious case of wanderlust! Through my website and Instagram, I hope to help others plan picture-perfect trips to the most beautiful places in the world! When I travel, I like to emphasize nature, hidden gems, and unique places.
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