Puerto Rico vs. Hawaii

Different as they are, Puerto Rico and Hawaii sit at the top of the roster of the best tropical destinations in the world. With draws and appeal that are easily embraced by the well-traveled and the aspiring travelers. Despite drawbacks and differences, you can never go wrong in deciding between Puerto Rico and Hawaii.
Puerto Rico vs. Hawaii

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Who doesn’t know about the household name that is Hawaii? It’s a destination that gets a ton of free advertising on the interweb and conventional media — a veritable favorite of anyone who wants to play safe when choosing a destination. It’s a guaranteed winner by any stretch of the imagination.

If you get the chance to take a trip, make no second-guesses. By doing so, you will be well-rewarded with a dreamy Pacific adventure, filled with photogenic beaches, imposing volcanoes, challenging surfs, and last but not least, a culture of sincere hospitality.

What Makes Hawaii Unique?


With a respectable number of over a hundred beaches, choosing where to inaugurate your visit can be a daunting task. All of them are teeming with their own twists and perks, be it visually or in terms of what activities you can do on it, around, and beyond.

You will be served with all manner of beaches — from small and secluded, with some tagged as “secret,” to panoramic stretches of coast with a likely throng of tourists. There are beach sands in classic white and gold. And there are the more niche colors in a volcanic setting — black and red. Take your pick.

If, for the life of you, can’t decide, then make your way to the first capital of the Hawaiian kingdom, Waikiki. There you will find the beach where would-be kings train in the ways of the realm. Waikiki Beach stands above the rest, at the very least in a cultural sense. There’s no safer bet than going the regal route.


When standing in the face of an unstoppable force that is the active volcano, you can only feel humbled by its presence. Hawaii is filled with such unstoppable forces wherefrom the fertile land came and its civilization arose. Perhaps without them, things would not be as dynamic as they are — an ever-changing landscape dancing alongside a strong thirst to experience life.

Without visiting these ancients of the earth, you cannot truly have experienced Hawaii. At a minimum, try to shoot one into your bucket list. You have, after all, six active ones to choose from.

How about going to Kīlauea? The sense of trepidation and uncertainty it can bring is what makes it so alluring. “Why?” you ask. It is the most active of Hawaii’s geological performers ever engaged in a dance of intertwined fire and rock.

I ever you are lucky enough to be at Kīlauea on the days that it is warmed up to give a good show, check out the splendor of its lava flows. And not just any viewing, go for the bird’s-eye view on a helicopter tour.

The Hula

This intricate art form is deeply rooted in Polynesian culture and tradition. It has more meaning and history than a simple display of hospitality to visitors. In fact, it was more along the lines of fealty and flattery to the chief of the village or visiting officials.

Moreover, Hula is more than the dance itself, rather, it is a combination of many aspects, such as chants or songs and traditional instruments. You could say that it is more than the sum of its parts — parts that include indigenously constructed drums, castanets, rattles, sticks, and even tooth anklets. Yes, you read that right.

Virtually everywhere in Hawaii gives you the opportunity to witness such spectacular displays of skill and talent. If you get into a luau supper, it is more likely than not that there will be a Hula performance — a modern Hula performance complete with musicians and singers that will serenade you while you enjoy your sumptuous dinner.

Surfing Scene

“You don’t need a surfboard to surf” … that’s what a native Hawaiian or even the primitive Polynesian would say. “All you need is a wooden plank and you’re good to go.” Such statements would be controversial in the modern era or even when surfing was reserved only for Hawaiian nobles. Nevertheless, the ‘sport of kings’ is truly an exhibition to behold.

There is truly nothing more exhilarating than the water sport of surfing. Experience reaching your hand out to touch the wave face while your feet are firmly planted feeling every vibration on the board in your attempt to glide through the precarious wave ready to wipe you out at a moment’s notice. Worry not, you who may be new to the surfing culture, Hawaii’s multitude of islands has surfing lessons to prime you in the fundamentals.

But if surfing is simply not your thing, watching the competitions are quite inherently satisfying. If you are near Oahu in November or December, its North Shore hosts a ton of the biggest surfing competitions, events like the Triple Crown of Surfing. Watch the elite-of-the-elite duke it out for the surfing crown and hopefully leave their mark in history at the same time.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is the beating heart of the Caribbean, and not in just the figurative sense. Now, how can you make such a statement, you ask. Realize that it is practically in the center of pretty much the other Caribbean destinations. It is and can be a staging point for an amazing Caribbean tour.

But don’t just think of Puerto Rico as an assembly area, but rather, go to it for its renowned beaches, fiesta-worthy food, intriguing history, and colorful culture. It’s a perfect place that can stand alone as a meaningful vacation for the weary soul. Its Latino heat will light up your subdued fire of life, turning it into a massive dancing flame.

What Makes Puerto Rico Unique?

Lovable Beaches

Isla del Encanto is what Puerto Rico is lovingly called. It is the Island of Enchantment, and for good reason. There is nothing more enchanting than peering into the depths through crystal clear waters and admiring the abundance of life. Or perhaps traipsing on superlative sands, bewildered to how expansive the coast can be.

Below is but an excerpt of what you can expect to appreciate in Puerto Rico.

La Monserrate

If you’ve never set foot on a Blue Flag beach before, look no further, La Monserrate is the experience you’ve been waiting for. But what is this Blue Flag, really? Experience a world-class environmentally managed beach: from certain cleanliness and sanitation to strict safety measures, the Blue Flag folks make sure of it.

It sounds all well and good with La Monserrate’s certifications, however, what’s in it for numero uno? You’d be surprised at how taken care of you will be on this beach. It’s not all about sunny skies overhead and silky golden sands shrouding your feet, they have amenities like showers and gazebos for those planning camping on the shore.


Vieques may not be part of mainland Puerto Rico but it sure is making its way up the beach resort ladder. Though it may be somewhat small, it has a complete set of creature comforts that makes it stand on its own — hotels, restaurants, and galleries are all within reach.

Vieques itself has its own set of beaches that add to the overall roster of Puerto Rico.

Check out Playita Negra for its black basalt sands that are further accentuated by the contrast of glistening golden cliffs.

Looking for a family-oriented beach in terms of its physical traits? Media Luna Beach provides shallow water perfect for a secure stroll while schools of fish thread your legs. The low tide extends all the way to 50 feet (~15 m) offshore!

Vibrant Culture

Diversity in Puerto Rico is arguably its most commanding feature — a melting pot of artistry, culture, and traditions from an assortment of origins. Taino, Spanish, American, and Afro-Caribbean, not to mention a whole slew of influences from immigrants from the now-defunct slave trade.

Rich History

Unfortunately, it seems like rich histories sprout from tough times in the era of colonization. It brings together cultures of differing opinions on the human experience. And from the ashes of conflict, ultimately, the interaction between the races has resulted in cooperation and an overall boost to the Puerto Rican people.

Travel through Puerto Rican times gone by in the abundant historical tours and museums throughout the country. Immerse yourself in the life and artifacts of the Taino people. Join the discovery of the land alongside Christopher Columbus with the feeling of the time immortalized by masterful strokes on oil on canvas and other relics.

San Juan Viejo

It was very common in the past for Spanish rule to grip territories for centuries before challengers appeared. At five hundred years old, Old San Juan is one of the remarkably longstanding outposts of the Spanish monarchy. That fact may sound like a total downer, but on the contrary, there are components of the Spanish occupation that has conferred some benefit.

The area of San Juan Viejo is a testament to the grandeur of 16th- and 17th-century colonial architecture, so much so that it has made it to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Such an accolade makes the protection and maintenance of a significant cultural site even more gainful for the locals.

Get lost among the 300- to 450-year-old dwellings and constructions while meandering the cobblestone streets on foot. Or perhaps take it easy and get the buzz from a sip of the celebrated local coffee while relaxing in the old-world ambiance.


Perfection over years, centuries even, of recipes make Puerto Rican gastronomy somewhat beyond the reach of even the most lauded Michelin-starred restaurants. And if there were a single term that condenses Puerto Rico’s food scene, it would be cuchifrito — fried food is quite the fixation for locals as evident in most of their specialties.

Nevertheless, Puerto Rico’s pride rests in its national dish, Arroz con Gandules. Firstly, it’s a combination of rice, peas, salt and pepper, and other associated herbs and spices. Next, stir in some sofrito — a staple recipe base made of herbs and spices, local sweet peppers, and roasted tomatoes — for that lovely hue and explosive flavor. And finally, don’t forget a topping of roughly chopped fried meats for that finishing touch a la cuchifrito.

Here is but a small slice of some of the foodstuffs that you need to tempt your tongue with and indulge:


Some gurus say too much garlic is bad for you … but what do they know. Give in to the garlic galore that is the Mofongo. Pamper yourself with fried plantains mashed with garlic, salt, olive oil, and the occasional deep-fried pork rinds — oh yeah! Salt and Spice and all things nice!

Serve this bad boy on the side with your choice of cuchifritos, nonfried meats, or — conceivably — soups and vegetables for your friends who are health-conscious and such.

Arroz con Habichuelas

Since the national food item of Puerto Rico has rice and beans in it, it is only natural that there would be a ton of other variations that branch off alongside it.

There really is not much difference to Arroz con Gandules, perhaps some ingredient swaps here and there per region like the use of pink beans and calabaza squash to really make the dish stand out — the kind that pops out visually, beckoning your taste buds to try. And then there’s the family recipe’s secret spice choice and whatnot.

Some cooking configurations call for separately serving the beans from the rice, others decide to mix them in entirely. Whichever way you go about it, it is always best to enjoy Arroz con Habichuelas as part of your family feast.

Officially Bilingual

Having been occupied by the Spanish and the US for a combined span of several centuries, Puerto Rico has turned that past colonial “frown” upside down. The advantages of a bilingual society are nothing trivial. It is debatably one of the driving forces of a strong economy, particularly within the tourism industry.

Try going to a country with non-English speakers — there is nothing more frustrating than trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B while trying to mime your words to make some semblance of communication with the locals. Puerto Rico, on the other hand, has English as the official language. This makes things so much easier and you can spend more time relishing the attractions.

Which Is Better – Hawaii or Puerto Rico?

If you’re up for a wide variety of activities, diverse islands, colorful island culture, and a plethora of thrills, Hawaii is the best option. With an array of islands each with its own characteristics, Hawaii is best for the no-rest-for-the-wicked types.

Puerto Rico is the best place to be in if you want to experience a rich post-colonial culture and a stunning beach scene. With its cheaper prices, interesting history, gastronomy, and its gifted people Puerto Rico can be a pretty well-rounded destination.

When it comes to island paradises, there’s nothing quite the tropics, and Hawaii and Puerto Rico are among the top contenders for the best there are. Confusion is a normal thing. However, their differences will settle how far their appeals would go. But whichever is better, it’s up to you to decide.


How Big Is Puerto Rico Compared to Hawaii?

Hawaii and all its islands have a total land area of 28,311 square kilometers, while Puerto Rico encompasses about 9,104 square kilometers. Puerto Rico is relatively smaller than Hawaii, especially as you have to include all of its islands.

Is Puerto Rico or Hawaii Farther South?

Hawaii is considered to be the farthest southern point from the US if you account for all the nation’s US states. Puerto Rico is also situated down south, possibly quite further south than Hawaii if you start from the continental US geographically. But the island isn’t a US state but rather an unincorporated territory.

Puerto Rico vs. Hawaii – Population

According to the latest census data, Puerto Rico despite having a smaller landmass holds a higher population count than Hawaii, with 3.1 million people, compared to the latter’s 1.4 million.

Living in Puerto Rico vs. Hawaii?

If you’re planning on living in any of these destinations, you have to take into account every aspect that constitutes a good quality of life. Hawaii, first off, is expensive, given that it is a touristy island, and supplies are harder to import so prices are usually high. But everything else is in tip-top shape, from safety, entertainment, diversity, and weather.

Puerto Rico is a great league cheaper than Hawaii, and it is closer to other continental nations and the mainland US. However, violent crime is high and is often politically unstable which ripples to the general public. But when it comes to entertainment and culture, you can never go wrong with this Latin favorite.

At the end of the day, whatever floats your boat is the best place to go. Both Hawaii and Puerto Rico are tropical paradises that can be dream destinations if you happen to know what you’re looking for.

Hawaii vs. Puerto Rico – Cost of Living

Hawaii undoubtedly has a higher cost of living because of how difficult it can be to import supplies and goods to the country. And on top of import costs, the entire Hawaiian islands are famous tourists spots so expect a spike in prices due to high demand.

Is Hawaii More Expensive Than Puerto Rico?

Hawaii is one of the most expensive places to visit in the tropics. Puerto Rico is easier to get to, easier to supply, and thus the lower prices.

Is It Cheaper to Go to Puerto Rico or Hawaii?

Puerto Rico is a great deal cheaper than Hawaii. You can get far with a smaller budget.

Weather in Puerto Rico vs. Hawaii

Both Hawaii and Puerto Rico see some pretty incredible weather year-round. However, Hawaii has far less extreme weather due to its coastal climate and location. Summers are around the high 80s, and winter temperatures barely change, with the temperature dipping to the low 80s. Hawaii has a definite wet and dry season throughout the year.

Puerto Rico has a year-round average temperature of 85 degrees F. In lower elevations where the weather is colder; an average temperature of 70 degrees F is normal. The one big challenge with Puerto Rico is that this tiny island can experience intense tropical storms and hurricanes rather frequently.

Hawaii vs. Puerto Rico Climate

When it comes to climate, both Hawaii and Puerto Rico are practically similar. Tropical, meaning sunny and warm all year round, with certain months seeing more rain than usual. The differences are that Puerto Rico can often experience extreme weather conditions, such as tropical storms and hurricanes, and often has a hotter average.

Puerto Rico vs. Hawaii for Honeymoon

It depends on what type of flow you’re up for on your honeymoon. If you have a larger budget and prefer diverse islands with plenty of activities, you can head to Hawaii and all its numerous diverse appeals. But if you’re up for more culture, cheaper costs, a beach, and amazing people, Puerto Rico is your best bet.

Hawaii vs. Puerto Rico Beaches

Both destinations have epic rosters world-class awe-inspiring beaches, as far as beauty and quality are concerned. However, when it comes to number and diversity, Hawaii, without a doubt, takes the higher spot with all of its islands each having its own flavor offering more experience and thrills to eager tourists.