In Puerto Rico, winter blues look like sunny skies and a good time in paradise.

It is time to say goodbye another year, and Puerto Rico plans a fiesta! All it takes is for you to join the party and make the heart and soul of the Caribbean your dance floor for the upcoming year.

Yes, you may ask what Christmas is without the cold weather and the snowy mornings… well, the answer is a lot of fun in paradise! The days are sunny, the cocktails chilled and you can spend the Christmas season beachside making sandcastles. But you can still choose to join in the New Year's celebrations across the Island at your pace and time. After all, Puerto Rico has the longest holiday season globally, and even beyond it, there are plenty of parties and adventures to seek.

It doesn't matter if it is your first time on the Island or if you've been to Puerto Rico before, you can always find new tours to book, food to try, experiences to have, and Boricuas to meet. From world-renowned festivals to mesmerizing sights to discover, this is the year where all your sun-kissed bucket-listed items get that "complete" check. 

Note: Even if your getaway agenda is jammed packed, we suggest you take a look at our Product Tracker to discover all the newest hotels, attractions, experiences, and restaurants that have opened in the last month around the Island.

So, check out what best suits your desires and start planning a fantastic beginning for un año nuevo (a new year). It doesn't matter what you're leaving behind; it's all uphill from paradise! 

A couple kisses at a garita in El Morro

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Panoramic and pool view at the Royal Isabela.

New Year Planning Starter Kit

There are many places you can choose from to stay in Puerto Rico. Luxurious hotels like the Condado Vanderbilt and the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, family-friendly hotels like the Mayagüez Resort and Casino or the Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resortparador, a quaint bed & breakfast, or a unique vacation rental are some of the best options to build your itinerary around. 

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Puerto Rican gastronomy is so varied that whether you're looking for staple criollo food, elevated cuisine, vegan options, or international delicacies, you'll find something to entice your palate. 

Discover the best restaurant for you

And, if you want to improve your paradise experience and make the most of your resources while in Puerto Rico, be sure to get a great deal on your stay! 

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The Year Starts with Food!

There is no better way to kick off your year than with a culinary experience like no other at Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián. Also referred to as Las SanSe, the official closing of the Puerto Rican Christmas season started as a religious procession in the 19th century and evolved into an Island-wide street fair and party to declare “the year has started.” Celebrated on the third weekend of January, the SanSe transforms Old San Juan into a food and culture weekend, with restaurants, kiosks, and rum brands lining up to sponsor the events.

There, you can find and sample most of Puerto Rico’s staple dishes – from mofongo and other delicacies in restaurants to alcapurrias and bacalaítos sold on the street. In addition to the infectious joy and warmth of the locals, you’ll find music playing live across different stages set up within the walled city, special promotions by local beer brands, lots of crafts made by local artisans for sale, and people singing various chants to batucada and pleneros rhythms – the most popular one being “Voy subiendo, voy bajando…”  in reference to people walking up and down the streets partying.

Celebrate Old San Juan's 500th anniversary!

During the same month, you can plan to partake in the Maratón Cervecero in Naguabo. For one day, people from across the Island visit the eastern town for the biggest chinchorreo party; all centered on beer. For the past 25+ years, the Holidays in Puerto Rico have included the so-called beer marathon starting from one business and hopping to the next just to grab a beer and have a good time. But there are rules to this festival: since it is a walking festival, you can’t use your car to move around businesses (it is a marathon after all), you must buy at least one beer at each stop (so pace yourself), and you can’t obstruct the public roads. People also make t-shirts about the event and everything… it is the whole shebang!

A plate of food at a restaurant in Ciales

If you’re looking for a more upscale culinary and drinks event, then your planning should center around the Mojito Fest that takes place in February. Much like other festivals, parties, and celebrations on the Island, this festival highlights the variety and versatility of Puerto Rico’s chefs and mixologists, gathering over 40 restaurants and bartenders at the Puerto Rico Convention Center for a night of music, food, and a lot of sabor.  And much like the Mojito Fest, but at the beach, the Saborea is a world-class cooking weekend event. The ultimate beachside gastronomic experience takes place in April, and it gathers not only local chefs but globally acclaimed top chefs (in the past Anne Burell, Cat Cora, Jaques Torres, and others). It is all about food tasting, rum sipping, and beach-going.  Other events like these are the Taste of Rum Festival, Puerto Rico Restaurant Week, and the James Beard Foundation Taste of America – which will take place for the first time in the heart and soul of the Caribbean.

There are an abundance of other festivals taking place throughout the year around the Island like the Fiesta del Acabe del Café (Coffee Harvest Festival) in Maricao, the Sugar Harvest Festival and the Festival del Arroz con Dulce y Almojábanas in San Germán, the International Mojo Isleño Festival in Salinas, and many more. They each highlight a distinct harvest or culinary trend of Puerto Rico, so be on the lookout to plan around them.

And, if you want to add to your gastronomic experience in Puerto Rico, you can plan a trip to explore a coffee hacienda like Tres Picachos in Jayuya, take a tour of a rum distillery like Ron Pepón or brewery like FOK and Ocean Lab while in town, and even roam around farms like Frutos del Guacabo, and more. 

Find other festivals and events here

Surfing at Jobos in Isabela

Take part in a pro surfing competition in the Caribbean's surf haven. 

Start the Year Outdoors

And while most festivals take place outdoors and in open spaces, some events showcase Puerto Rico’s great outdoors. For example, during our warm sunny days of winter (from November to March), the ultimate surfing competition in the Caribbean takes place on the west coast of Puerto Rico. It is the Corona Pro Surf Circuit. For the past 35+ years, international pro surfers like Brian Toth have gathered around the beaches with the best surf breaks of Isabela, Aguadilla, and Rincón for the most important professional competition.

But, you don’t have to be a professional surfer to attend. While the competition is taking place, many stages, kiosks, and restaurants are ready to receive you and show you a good time, west coast style! Each year, the Corona Pro Surfing Circuit showcases concerts with local and international bands once the competition part has concluded for the day. In addition, the beaches on the west region of the Island turn into a hub of cultural events, from music representations to street fairs and everything in between. So, a sports event with some of the most mesmerizing sunsets you’ll ever see and a concert to close the night? Is that bucket-list-worthy or not?

Find an off-the-beaten-path beach to relax this year

Make a note to include in your agenda a visit to the Guajataca Tunnel during the weekend, an area that gets filled by local artisans, food kiosks, and crafts. A small train offers a short ride through the tunnel, recreating the route taken by the Puerto Rican railway in the early 20th century.

Watch: Sounds Like Puerto Rico Surfing Episode

And, if enjoying the great outdoors is what’s in store for you this upcoming year, then a visit to the central mountains of Puerto Rico through la Ruta Panorámica should be in your plans. Spend a day stopping here and there at various viewing points, landmarks, rest stops, and chinchorros, as you drive through the most mesmerizing views the Island has to offer. And, if you plan, you can visit the Galería San Juan Bautista in Orocovis, which celebrates 196 years of this mountainous town with beautiful art exhibitions commemorating this grand anniversary. Then continue through the scenic highway where you’ll see river streams, rivers, waterfalls, and lush vegetation. Through your trip, you can arrange to do some hiking at a state forest like Toro Negro or the Maricao State Forest, go ziplining, and even water rafting. The possibilities are endless, and they are all up to you!

And, if you want to make the longest Christmas season in the world a cold one (or as cold as it can be in the heart and soul of the Caribbean), you can plan to visit by February, as the town of Adjuntas prepares to celebrate its annual Festival del Frío (Festival of the Cold) at Parador Villas Sotomayor. There is lodging, carnival rides, a petting zoo, Zumba, and yoga classes, as well as live music and a whole lot of food. This festival is an homage to the coldest town in Puerto Rico – although the record belongs to the nearby town of Aibonito.  

Plan your trip around La Ruta Panorámica

If you’re visiting the east coast around March and April, be on the lookout for one of the most anticipated festivals of the region: the Festival del Tinglar. To protect and preserve the largest sea turtle globally (the leatherback turtle), the municipality of Luquillo throws a two-day festival and goes all out. In the town square, which just so happens to overlook the ocean, packed with artistic representations, activities, and crafts for kids, as well as live music, dancing, and – of course, tons of street food. The festival welcomes the turtle’s nesting season, and preservation talks and workshops are also given throughout the day. While in the east region of Puerto Rico, you can choose to visit the majestic El Yunque Rainforest, book a bioluminescent bay kayaking tour Laguna Grande, and do other fun stuff around the area like surfing lessons at La Pared beach or a scenic chinchorreo through Piñones. 

Revelers in traditional vejigante costumes at Carnaval Ponceño.

Vejigante characters at Carnaval Ponceño, one of the oldest festivals in the Western Hemisphere.

For History and Culture Buffs

As you may notice by now, Puerto Rico is not short on festivals that take place throughout the year and across the Island, and each of them elevates culture, history, and the overall essence of what it is to be a Boricua.

Perhaps the second largest festival on the Island is the Carnaval Ponceño, a cultural and vibrant party you don't want to miss. If you're in Puerto Rico in the week leading up to Ash Wednesday, then you should set your GPS for the south region's version of Mardi Gras. The festival dates to the 1800s and is an explosion of color, dance, and culture. The carnival originated as a masquerade dance that continued and turned into a town parade. The main attraction is the vejigantes, who are people in costume carrying blown cow bladders that make sound and hit people with. As you see, many people covering their faces with the horned paper maché masks (as it is traditionally from Ponce) hear and see a lot of bombaplena music, eat a lot of staple foods, and partake in cultural and artistic representations. The Carnaval ends with the "burial of the sardine," a mock funeral to mourn the end of the carnival.

Another festival you should be on the lookout for when planning your next trip to Puerto Rico is the Fiesta Nacional de la Danza, which occurs yearly around April and May. Also, in the town of Ponce, this homage to the origins of the Puerto Rican Danza (which also originated in Ponce) navigates the Island's traditional classical sounds. The festival is celebrated during the birthday week of Juan Morel Campos, a distinguished composer who is said to have elevated the Danza music genre to what it is today. During the festival, chamber orchestras perform under the stars at Plaza de las Delicias in their best clothing, as the Danza was the music of the high society in yesteryear. In addition, the concerts celebrate the music of string quartets of the 19th century, and competitions take place with demonstrations by couples and people around.

To complement your trip around the south, be sure to visit the Museo de Arte de Ponce and many other museums and architectural gems that tell the story of the earlier Puerto Ricans. 

Check out Ponce's Street Art tour