Hawaii vs Puerto Rico: Which Destination is Better?

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Who wouldn’t want to spend their summer vacation in paradise?

If you’re looking for the ultimate getaway where you can leave behind all your worries and just relax, Hawaii and Puerto Rico will tick those boxes, and so much more.

Both of these US destinations are island getaways that offer sandy beaches, tropical rainforests, and dynamic coastal landscapes.

The only question is…which one is better for you?

If you’re trying to decide between spending your hard-earned vacation days in Hawaii vs Puerto Rico, this article will help you make that decision easier.

We’ll discuss their differences and similarities, which one is cheaper and what exactly makes these two destinations ideal for travelers.

Let’s get started!

About the Islands

Hawaii and Puerto Rico put side by side can be a tough choice to make especially if you’re looking for a perfect tropical getaway.

The good news is, that it’s hard to go wrong with either of these two islands.

That said, Hawaii and Puerto Rico are widely different and offer different experiences.

Hawaii

Hawaii is world-famed for its bewitching beaches, majestic volcanoes, amiable people, and dozens of places to explore.

It’s important to note that Hawaii is an archipelago made up of several habitable islands which means you’ll find a lot of attractions in different areas and each islet has a different vibe to offer.

While Hawaii boasts a huge array of noteworthy attractions, they’re spread out on the four main islands, namely Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island.

Rojo Cabo Puerto Rico
Rojo Cabo Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

Conversely, Puerto Rico, dubbed the island of enchantment is the place to go for a good dose of the Caribbean aura.

It’s rich in culture and history but it’s also popular for being top on the list as one of the leading rum producers in the world.

Most attractions in Puerto Rico are spread out within the main island, which makes it easier to explore especially if you have limited time.

History & Culture

Hawaii

Hawaiian culture is a blend of Eastern and Western influences.

Now, while Hawaii enjoys a rich culture that is unrivaled by any other state in the U.S, major cities such as Honolulu on Oahu can be overrun with tourists.

With over 8 million visitors flocking the island each year, it’s no surprise why.

And for this reason, a lot of attractions and top sights in Hawaii can feel like tourist traps.

That said, with its royal past and Polynesian genesis that gives the local culture an interesting twist, there’s a lot of history to unearth on this island if you’re keen to explore.

One of the best places you can indulge in Hawaii’s culture is at the beautiful Polynesian Cultural Center.

Here, recreated Polynesian hamlets are authentically presented to paint a picture of how the locals lived in villages thousands of years ago.

This place is a must-visit if you want to experience the true essence of aloha culture and lifestyle. 

Hana Cultural Center in Maui is also a great place to visit for history and culture.

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Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico enjoys one of the most diverse cultures in the Caribbean – a beautiful mix of African, Spanish, and Taino backgrounds, not to mention the influence of immigrants from the slave trade between the mid-17th century and early 18th century.

This makes the island a melting pot of culture and tradition.

Although, the history of the island is littered with lots of invasions and conflict, ultimately, the interplay between the races and ethnicities resulted in an enchanting oneness.

With lots of historical sites, old forts, and colonial architecture spread across the island, especially in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico is an amazing place to visit if you’re a history buff.

It’s also pretty easy to get into the culture regardless of the part of the island you’re visiting.

Things to Do in Hawaii

Hawaii is a well-rounded destination for all types of travelers including outdoor enthusiasts.

Whether you prefer hiking or adventures through the diverse landscape you’ll find an activity to suit your taste.

Some famous attractions in Hawaii include Volcanoes National Park, Waikiki Beach, Haleakala National Park, Mauna Kea, and the beautiful Maui Ocean Center.

Diamond Head State Monument

This phenomenal volcanic cone overlooks the beautiful Honolulu and it’s visible from most parts of the city.

Towering at 762 feet above sea level, the Diamond Head offers stunning views of the surrounding area from its summit.

USS Arizona Memorial pearl harbor
USS Arizona Memorial

Pearl Harbor and USS Arizona Memorial

Pearl Harbor is among the most popular attractions in Hawaii because it tells a tale of one of the most pivotal moments in the history of the US.

It commemorates the 1941 fatal attack and a surprise military strike that left over 2000 people dead. This attack directly influenced the decision of the US to enter WWII.

This memorial is situated on top of the wreck and the sunken battleship, USS Arizona.

Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon, mostly described as the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’ is an enthralling destination, especially for nature and outdoor fanatics.

Spanning 10 miles and reaching at least 3500 feet in depth, this canyon offers some of the most enthralling activities in Hawaii.

There are lots of trails of different levels of difficulty but most of them will lead you to astounding overlooks such as the Kalalau or the renowned Waimea lookout.

Things to Do in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is equally awesome when it comes to outdoor activities.

For instance, just under an hour from San Juan, you’ll find El Yunque National Forest which is one of the most bio-diverse destinations for nature lovers and outdoor junkies.

Here you can enjoy hiking the mountainous terrain, the beautiful waterfalls, and hundreds of animal species as well as plants.

Other popular attractions in Puerto Rico include Catedral de San Juan Bautista and The Museum of Art.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Popularly known by the locals as El Morro, this citadel was built in the 16th century as part of a defense system against invasion and it was one of the most significant attractions in Puerto Rico’s history.

Set majestically on a rocky promontory overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this fort was believed to be the most formidable and unconquerable Spanish fortification.

Today, this fort is a tourist hub and a riveting step back in time.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro Calle Norzagaray San Juan Puerto Rico
Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Vieques and Bioluminescent Bay

Located on the southeast coast of Puerto Rico, Vieques is a beautiful island that gives you the perfect mix of relaxing Caribbean vibes and loads of outdoor adventure opportunities.

But, it’s mostly known as home to the brightest bioluminescent bay in the globe, Mosquito Bay.

You can take a canoe or kayak tour after dusk to the Bioluminescent Bay and experience this unique phenomenon.

The Cavernas del Río Camuy

Located just an hour and 20 minutes drive from San Juan, this natural attraction is part of one of the largest cave networks carved out by the third-largest underground river in the world, the Camuy River.

Among other mineral formations in these caves, you’ll marvel at the stalagmites and stalactites as well as the sound of the rushing waters beneath.

Beaches

With a respectable number of islands and islets, Hawaii is one of the most beloved destinations, especially for beach bums.

Boasting over 700 miles of unspoiled coastline defined by unreal natural beauty, it’s easy to find that awe-striking beach vacation that you’re looking for in Hawaii.

Some of the most famous beaches in Hawaii include Punalu’u, Lanikai, Kaanapali, and Kalapaki.

Puerto Rico also has some pretty nice beaches especially if you venture off the east coast of the island to Culebra.

Also, the waters on Puerto Rico’s beaches tend to be warmer making water activities such as snorkeling a delight.

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Cost & Budget

Hawaii tops the list of the most expensive states in the US.

Partly because it’s an island and most supplies have to be imported, but part of it is due to the fact that this paradise is a tourist hotspot so most things are overpriced.

You should expect to spend at least $200 per day with accommodation taking the biggest chunk off your budget.

It’s not out of the ordinary to see hotel rooms starting at $500 per night.

While Puerto Rico is less expensive compared to Hawaii, it’s by no means cheap. You can expect to spend between $150 and $180 per day.

Northern Beaches Hawaii
Beach in Hawaii

Safety

If you compare Hawaii and Puerto Rico, both of these destinations are relatively safe.

Hawaii

As long as you practice caution and avoid venturing into the less trodden paths, particularly at night, you should be safe in Hawaii.

You should also be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings at all times.

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Puerto Rico

Generally, Puerto Rico is a safe place to visit, in fact, it’s among the safest islands in the Caribbean with lower crime rates than lots of cities in the mainland US.

That said it’s important to take precautions, especially when visiting major cities to avoid pickpockets and handbag snatching.

The island is also plagued by natural disasters so it’s important to take note of the hurricane season before planning your trip.

Travelling during hurricane season? Check out this article for the best Caribbean Islands to visit in September.

Which Destination is Better?

If you want to have a plethora of activities or things to do especially when it comes to water activities and you don’t mind splurging a few extra hundred dollars then Hawaii is the perfect destination for you.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico is a great pick if you enjoy getting into the local culture and strolling through historical sites.

Why Should You Visit Hawaii?

Different islands. Hawaii is made up of several islands and each has its own draw. This means you can have a variety of experiences from this one destination.

It’s every shopper’s dream. From designer outlets to charming farmers’ markets Hawaii presents shopaholics with countless opportunities to quench their deep desires.

Aloha spirit. Aloha spirit stretches beyond friendly greetings and a vibrant atmosphere. The Hawaiians take it a notch higher by making every visitor feel welcomed and respected.

Aguadilla Puerto Rico
Aguadilla Puerto Rico

Why Should You Visit Puerto Rico?

The culture and history. The Spanish influence and the traces of its colonialism are plastered in every corner transporting you back in time.

The mixed culture is still felt on the streets and homesteads, working together in perfect harmony.

For the rum. Rum is the most versatile and popular spirit in the Caribbean. There’s no better place to taste and have a sneak peek into the rum’s craftsmanship than in Puerto Rico.

After all, approximately 80% of the rum consumed in the US is imported from the Island.