Puerto Rico, and if you’re considering heading off on a Caribbean getaway, you may not know which destination to choose.
Both these islands have a wealth of things to offer visitors, from the stunning beaches to rich history and culture, there’s a huge range of things to discover and explore when visiting either destination.
That said, there are a few things to take into consideration when deciding which destination is the right one for you.
US Virgin Islands vs. Puerto Rico: Our Quick Takes
- Best for Experiences: Puerto Rico has the upper edge on things to see and do.
- Best on a Budget: Puerto Rico is cheaper than the US Virgin Islands
- Best for a Luxury Getaway: The US Virgin Islands is better for a luxury trip.
US Virgin Islands vs. Puerto Rico: Location
Both the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are located in the North Atlantic Ocean, in the Caribbean Sea. They’re very close in proximity, being neighboring territories, however, it’s important to note that the US Virgin Islands is a territory consisting of three islands.
To reach any of these islands, it’s best to get there by flight. When flying to both the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, you are able to take a non-stop flight from many major international airports in the USA.
Depending on which city you’re flying from, you can expect to be in the air for around 3 – 4 hours, and flights will typically cost anywhere between $100 and $400, with flights to the US Virgin Islands typically being a little more expensive than flights to Puerto Rico.
That said, if you’re visiting one of the smaller US Virgin Islands, or simply want to go island hopping whilst you’re there, it’s easy to get from one island to another. As they are located quite close by, the US Virgin Islands are easily accessible from one another by ferry, which should take you around a 20-30 minute journey.
Best Time to Visit
Because of their close proximity to one another, both the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico experience very similar weather, and similar travel seasons, that said, the ideal times to visit each of them are slightly different.
If you’re planning on a trip to the US Virgin Islands, the best time to visit is between the months of March and June. This is just after the peak season for tourism, so you can anticipate fewer crowds, lower prices for hotels, and weather that is still simply gorgeous.
The window for visiting Puerto Rico is slightly smaller, with the optimum time to visit between April and June. Again, this is just outside of peak season, so hotel costs are cheaper, the destination is less crowded, and the sun is still shining.
When it comes to any kind of vacation, outside of flights, accommodation is typically one of the biggest costs, so you’ll want to make sure you get it right.
Of course, whether you’re traveling to Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands, you’re able to find a great range of beautiful hotels and resorts to suit your budget. That said, when it really comes down to it, hotels and resorts in the US Virgin Islands are typically more expensive than in Puerto Rico.
If you’re looking for a place to stay on a budget, you can find a comfortable spot in Puerto Rico for around $50 per night, whereas in the US Virgin Islands, you can expect to pay a little more, at around $70 per night. For a mid-range hotel, a stay in Puerto Rico will cost you a little over $100 per night, and around $150 in the US Virgin Islands.
Looking to stay in a stunning luxury villa or upmarket resort? Choose to visit Puerto Rico and you will be paying an average of just under $250 per night, and just under $350 in the US Virgin Islands.
Things To Do in Puerto Rico & The US Virgin Islands
Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands both offer a great range of activities to take part in during your dream Caribbean vacation.
Both destinations are famous for their outstanding snorkeling and scuba diving experiences, made popular due to the calm seas surrounding them (with the exception of a few beaches that are better for surfing). Here, you can discover bright and beautiful marine life in the gorgeous coral reefs, and if staying in the US Virgin Islands there is a wonderful self-guided underwater snorkeling trail you can follow if this sounds like your thing.
Looking for something a little more active? Both destinations offer a great range of activities, including kayaking, hiking, and powerboat sailing excursions.
Few key differences between the activities on offer, let’s take a closer look at what is available in each destination.
US Virgin Islands
Aside from the water-based activities, there is a great range of shopping and cultural activities to enjoy in the US Virgin Islands too, including a history and culture Heritage Trail in St. Criox, delicious local cuisine to discover, great shopping malls in St. Thomas, and pirate history at Blackbeard’s Castle.
If you’re looking for an active, culture-filled vacation in the US Virgin Islands, you will truly benefit from going island hopping here!
Looking for somewhere with less laid-back cultural discoveries and more action and adventure? Puerto Rico has you covered!
Here you can discover bioluminescent bays, where glow-in-the-dark algae lights up the seat at night, and for a truly unique experience, you can even hop in a kayak during these evenings down at Mosquito Bay.
There is also plenty to do at El Yinque Rainforest, where visitors can enjoy ziplining, hiking, swimming in natural pools, and ATV around the stunning green hills and waterfalls.
Looking for something a little more relaxed? Discover classic Puerto Rican culture at the historic town of Old San Juan, or visit the stunning San Jose church and San Juan Bautista Cathedral.
Which is Best for Culture?
Whilst both destinations are nothing short of amazing, for history and culture buffs there is a clear winner!
Surprisingly, Puerto Rico is extremely culturally rich, being home to the town of Old San Juan, a 500-year-old city, the second oldest in America, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This beautiful town is paved with old cobbled streets, and lined with gorgeous old Spanish colonial architecture, forts, and castles.
Of course, you can find great history and culture in the US Virgin Islands too, for example, with the Heritage Trail of St. Croix, but if you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience, Puerto Rico is the better choice.
Which Is Better on a Budget?
Whilst both islands have a gorgeous tropical charm to them, you may be surprised to learn that a stay in the US Virgin Islands can be between 50% and 70% more expensive than a trip to Puerto Rico.
In general, everything in the US Virgin Islands is more expensive, be it food, a hotel room, or transport. So if you’re looking for a budget getaway, Puerto Rico is typically the better choice.
That said, if you’re heading off on a honeymoon or special vacation, and feel like splashing out a little, the US Virgin Islands are a great choice.
US Virgin Islands vs. Puerto Rico: Which is Safer?
Whether you’re traveling on a family vacation, with friends, as a couple, or even as a solo traveler, you’ll be pleased to know that both the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are both very safe destinations.
That said, Puerto Rico is known to be a little safer, and is in fact one of the safest Caribbean islands, with each municipality having its own Municipal Police Force and private properties (such as bars and hotels) boasting their own security.
No matter which destination you choose though, you must remember to remain vigilant and protect yourself from petty crimes such as pickpocketing.
Which has Better Beaches?
When it comes to finding the dream beach vacation, you’re spoilt for choice in both the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. With gorgeous white sandy beaches and stunning azure waters.
Both destinations offer beautiful white sandy beaches and turquoise-blue waters along long stretches of coastline.
That said, Puerto Rico’s beaches are a little more popular when it comes to water-based activities such as surfing and scuba diving. So if you’re looking for a beach with plenty of action, Puerto Rico is the place to be. Wanting a beach to lie back in the sun and sip on a cocktail? The US Virgin Islands is the perfect destination for you.
Which is Best for Families?
Both the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico make for excellent family vacations, but again, it depends completely on what your family looks for in a trip.
If you want to spend your time relaxing in a laid-back atmosphere on a serene and beautiful beach, the US Virgin Islands are an excellent destination for you and your loved ones.
If your family is a little more active though, there are plenty of family-friendly activities in the fabulous Puerto Rico. You and the family can stay at a family-friendly resort, and spend your days at parks, museums, and on fun excursions. You can enjoy a great variety of activities together, including fishing, ziplining, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, and exploring breathtaking caves.
Which is Best for a Honeymoon?
Both destinations are great for honeymoons. With gorgeous weather, beautiful beaches, and tranquil seas, there’s little left to want from the perfect honeymoon destination.
That said, it really depends on what kind of honeymoon you’re looking for. If you’re the kind of couple who enjoys relaxing at a stunning resort, then the US Virgin Islands is the perfect place for you.
But if you’re looking to make some great memories with an adventure-filled celebration, Puerto Rico has a great range of things to see and do.
US Virgin Islands vs. Puerto Rico: The Verdict
In short, both destinations are amazing no matter what type of getaway you’re looking for. There are, however, some key differences that could sway your decision.
Puerto Rico offers more action and activities and is better for those who like getting out and about and experiencing new things while on vacation. It’s also the more cost-effective destination, so is a better choice if you’re traveling on a budget.
The US Virgin Islands on the other hand are a better choice for those looking to relax at a luxury resort and spend their time sipping cocktails in the sunshine on a bright white beach.
Still unsure which destination is the right one for you? Head on over to our travel planning page where you can get in touch with us and our trusted travel team to help you plan the perfect Caribbean getaway!
He is an expert travel advisor and enthusiast. He has traveled extensively in the USA, Central American, South America and Europe. He has visited every Sandals Resort and is one of a select few Diamond Elite members of the Sandals Chairman’s Royal Club.
Dan graduated from Johnson & Wales University with an associate degree in Culinary Arts. Later he graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies with a focus on people and culture.