Best things to do in san juan puerto rico: 10 Best Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

10 Best Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Home to beautiful beaches, romantic hotels, unique museums, gardens and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, San Juan offers plenty to see and do. Explore the three forts around the city that comprise San Juan National Historic Site, enjoy the cafes and restaurants in Old San Juan, and sunbathe on the mile-long Ocean Park Beach. Here are the best things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico.



We recommend that you call the attractions and restaurants ahead of your visit to confirm current opening times.
























1.San Juan National Historic Site, San Juan, Puerto Rico

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Puerto Rico and especially San Juan were crucial areas for Spanish defense efforts and Spanish control of the route to and from the Caribbean. To protect this valuable holding, they spent 250 years building three large, strong forts (Castillo San Cristobal, Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Fort San Juan de la Cruz) that guarded the entrance into San Juan Bay. Today, the three forts, most of the city fortifications, and the San Juan Gate comprise San Juan National Historic Site and have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The best way to learn about the site and the fascinating history of San Juan is with the help of one of the Rangers, who offer short presentations every hour. You can also take a peaceful stroll around old San Juan, climb the ancient walls, enjoy spectacular views of the city and the ocean, and get a feel of the spirit of old Puerto Rico.

501 Norzagaray Street, 787-729-6777



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2.

Old San Juan

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There are several excellent reasons to visit Old San Juan, and one of the most compelling is the thrilling history that every cobblestoned street, ancient gate, or imposing fortress exudes. The whole city is old, but so much of it has been wonderfully restored and preserved that visitors feel like they’ve stepped into the past. There are many fun ways to explore Old San Juan: you can take an organized tour through the Old San Juan Heritage Walking Tours company or rent a bike, boat, or even a hydroplane. If you are wondering what to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico today, this is a great place to start exploring. Depending on your interests, you might want to take a cultural tour, a tour of the countryside, or food tour, which are just a few options. Alternatively, you can just walk around and soak up the atmosphere, sample tasty street food, and listen to one of the many street musicians.



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3.

Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico: Ocean Park Beach

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Your trip to San Juan has to include at least one visit to Ocean Park Beach. This one-mile stretch of sugar fine sand is a favorite place among locals for morning strolls, making sand castles with the kids, enjoying a refreshing swim, or taking a nap under an umbrella. The beach is lined on one side with numerous condos, hotels, restaurants, and shops. On the beach side you can find a few shady spots under swaying palm trees. Most days, is not terribly crowded, making it perfect for relaxing. There are few entrances to Ocean Park Beach, but the most convenient one is located at the end of Condad through the Parque del Indio.

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4.

Things to Do Near Me: Castillo Tours

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For the last 30 years, Castillo Tours have been introducing tourists from all over the world to the authentic Puerto Rico. First, they take you on a tour of the Historical Old San Juan. After that, you get to choose which direction you want to go: Explore the Rainforest, see how they make rum at Bacardi Tour, hike through El Yunque Rainforest, or do some spelunking at Camuy and Window Caves.

If you would rather be on the water, you can try your hand at deep sea fishing for marlin, do some snorkeling on one of the many deserted islands, or take a romantic Sunset Cruise. Your itinerary depends on how much time you have, how much money you want to spend, and what you really like to do for fun. In and around San Juan, there is something for everyone.

101 Doncella St., Punta Las Marias, 787-791-6195

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5.

Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico: Walter Otero Contemporary Art

© Walter Otero Contemporary Art



Walter Otero Contemporary Art (WOCA) is a progressive and modern art gallery in San Juan. It is dedicated to supporting and promoting young Puerto Rican contemporary artists. The gallery, designed by Luis Luis Gutiérrez and Pedro Muñoz Marín, is located in the Old San Juan’s Historic District in Puerta de Tierra. It has more than five thousand square feet of gallery space spread out among three floors.

There is also a rooftop garden that serves as a venue for outdoor exhibits, parties, and other gatherings. The gallery represents a large number of Puerto Rican artists with international reputation. It is the brainchild of celebrated art dealer Walter Otero, and the gallery has acquired a reputation for being the most influential modern art gallery in Puerto Rico and one of the best things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

402 Ave. Constitución San Juan, P. R. 00906, 787-998-9622

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6.Things to Do Near Me: The University of Puerto Rico Botanical Garden

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The University of Puerto Rico Botanical Garden is a live laboratory featuring the country’s tropical plants and their ecosystems. The garden is spread out across 289 acres of land that includes magnificent lakes, waterfalls, sculptures, and 30,000 plant species, some endemic and some endangered.

The garden is not only a popular spot for locals and tourists to enjoy the lush greenery, but it is also a place where kids come to do their school assignments, experts hold seminars and workshops, and scientists determine the best ways to preserve these live treasures under pressure from human development for future generations. One of the most beautiful of the many thematic gardens is the re-creation of Monet’s water garden in Giverny. The entrance to the Botanical Garden is located on Guaracanal street. Phone: 787-758-9957

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7.Things to Do Near Me: Felisa Rincon de Gautier Museum, San Juan, Puerto Rico

© Felisa Rincon de Gautier Museum



Located just across from the historic San Juan Gate, there is a lovely 300-year-old house that was the home of Felisa Rincon de Gautier, one of the most prominent and influential Puerto Rican women of the 20th century. She was the first woman mayor of an American capital city, and she served as a mayor for 22 years.

The museum holds many of her personal effects, awards, and memorabilia. It is open to the public and offers a rare glimpse not only into the life of a remarkable woman, but into the way of life of an influential Puerto Rican family. The museum frequently holds conferences, seminars, and workshops. The Felisa Rincon de Gautier Foundation manages the museum.

Caleta de San Juan 51, 787-724-7239

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8.Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico: Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico

© Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico



If you get tired of eating and walking your way through San Juan, Puerto Rico, you should consider seeing the country from the point of view of some of its fine contemporary artists. The Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico, one of San Juan’s top attractions, is located in the historic Rafael M. Building, which used to be school, and it is part of the San Juan Sacred Heart University. Established in 1984, the Puerto Rican Museum of Contemporary Art not only displays the works of modern Puerto Rican and Caribbean artists, but it also introduces the general public to all forms of modern art expressions.

The galleries are located around an open courtyard on two floors. The art ranges from paintings and sculptures to sound, video, and multimedia installations. A small gallery in the museum’s basement displays art created during the museum’s various workshops.

Av. Juan Ponce de León, corner of Ave. Roberto H. Todd, Parada 18, 787-977-4030

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9.

Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico: Spoon Food Tours

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For foodies, every trip is an opportunity to sample the best foods each new place has to offer. Taking this journey with the help of knowledgeable insiders who are part of Spoon Food Tours makes the experience so much more enjoyable. Their guides will take you off the beaten path to visit places tourists normally do not have the chance to see. You will savor real authentic Puerto Rican dishes in restaurants and cantinas that are the favorite spots frequented by locals.

By experiencing the food, you will learn so much about the culture, history, and everyday life of the island. Morning people will particularly enjoy Old San Juan Walk & Taste Tour, which starts at breakfast. With the San Juan Drive Around Lunch Tour, you will explore San Juan’s lunch menu from the comfort of an air-conditioned car, while the Sip & Savor Drinking Tour will take you around San Juan’s most popular drinking establishments.

787-249-4488


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10 Best Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

  • San Juan National Historic Site, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto — Fotolia.com
  • Old San Juan, Photo: Courtesy of Cameron — Fotolia.com
  • Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico: Ocean Park Beach, Photo: Courtesy of demerzel21 — Fotolia.com
  • Things to Do Near Me: Castillo Tours, Photo: Courtesy of anakin13 — Fotolia.com
  • Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico: Walter Otero Contemporary Art, Photo: Walter Otero Contemporary Art
  • Things to Do Near Me: The University of Puerto Rico Botanical Garden, Photo: Courtesy of Oleksii Sergieiev — Fotolia. com
  • Things to Do Near Me: Felisa Rincon de Gautier Museum, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Photo: Felisa Rincon de Gautier Museum
  • Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico: Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico, Photo: Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico
  • Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico: Spoon Food Tours, Photo: Courtesy of Fanfo — Fotolia.com
  • Cover Photo: Courtesy of solraknauj — Fotolia.com

Attraction Spotlight: Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal

Located in San Juan, Puerto Rico, San Juan National Historic Site preserves the remains of Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal, two 16th-century fortresses formerly occupied by Spanish colonists. Spanish colonization of the Puerto Rico area dates back to the early 16th century, when settlers from Caparra arrived at what is now present-day San Juan.

History

Construction of defenses for the settlement was ordered by Spanish King Charles V in 1539 in order to protect the city’s harbor. A proto-fortress was initially constructed at the area to defend the settlement while the full design of Juan Bautista Antonelli and Juan de Tejada, based on existing military fortifications in Spain, was completed and erected. The fortress was named Castillo San Felipe del Morro, honoring Spain’s King Philip II. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, the fortress successfully withstood a number of attacks from British and French forces, including a 1595 attack by Sir Francis Drake and a Dutch attack by Captain Balduino Enrico which destroyed much of the city of San Juan. In 1630, construction began on a complete wall around the city of San Juan, which was completed in 1678.

Beginning in 1765, Field Marshal Alejandro O’Reilly and engineer Colonel Tomas O’Daly embarked on a campaign to transform the city’s fortress following the 1762 siege of Havana by British forces. Significant modifications were added to the El Morro complex and the 27-acre Castillo San Cristóbal was constructed, which was finished in 1783. At its peak, the fortress sealed entry to the city with a set of double gates and contained more than 450 cannons. In 1797, the fortress successfully defended the city from a legion of 13,000 British soldiers led by General Ralph Abercromby and Admiral Henry Harvey.

Following the end of the Spanish-American War and the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the fortress was used by the United States as a military installation during World War I and II. In 1961, care of the fortress was transferred to the National Park Service following the establishment of the San Juan National Historic Site. The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, and throughout the 1990s, significant restorations to the fortress returned the structures to their 18th-century appearance in honor of the quincentennial celebration of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the Americas.

Permanent Attractions

Today, the remains of Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal are operated as part of San Juan National Historic Site, which also preserves the former Fortín San Juan de la Cruz facility and remains of the city’s wall fortifications. As one of the island’s leading tourist destinations, the site attracts more than two million annual visitors. The fortress encompasses more than 70 acres within San Juan, featuring six levels that range in elevation from sea level to 145 feet above water. Dome-covered garita sentry boxes can be seen along the city wall fortifications, including the 1634 La Garita del Diablo vantage point, one of the oldest extant portions of the fort, which has become a cultural landmark in Puerto Rican culture. The site also preserves the open glacis killing grounds and cannon esplanade, along with a lighthouse replica reconstructed in 1908 to replace the former 1943 Lighthouse of the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, which was destroyed in 1898.

Visitors may explore the site’s Paseo del Morro Trail, which was designated as a National Recreation Trail in 2001 and traces the remains of masonry walls dating back to 1630. Historical exhibits are also offered at the park’s San Cristobal’s Visitor Center and within both fortress remain areas, and a 20-minute orientation film is shown periodically throughout the day, detailing the history of Spanish occupation of Puerto Rico. A variety of ranger-led talks are also offered on weekends throughout the site’s peak season, including informational talks at the fortress’ main plaza, Tunnel Tours of the outer defenses of Castillo San Cristóbal, and an Outworks Walk exploring the fortress’ “Defense in Depth” system.

Ongoing Programs and Education

More than 20,000 students attend San Juan National Historic Site’s educational programming annually, including curriculum-incorporated field trip opportunities for elementary and secondary students. Guided and self-guided field trips are offered for student groups of up to 40 students, with guided tours lasting approximately one hour. The facility may also be rented for private special events, including weddings, film shoots, and photoshoots with the reservation of a special use permit. All organizations obtaining special use permits must submit an application and deposit, with the exception of groups using the facility for First Amendment-protected assemblies.

501 Norzagaray Street, San Juan, PR 00901, Phone: 787-729-6777

More Things to Do in Puerto Rico

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Complete Guide to Explore San Juan and Beyond

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My first trip to Puerto Rico was packed full of sight seeing and Pina Coolada tasting. I had such an a blast, which is why I’m super excited to share with you my guide on all of the best things to do in Puerto Rico. This is pretty much everything you need to know to be able to explore San Juan and beyond!

Since I had been living in England for 6 years up until a year ago, I haven’t traveled around the Caribbean too much. Now, instead of being in Med in a few hours flight I can jet to the Caribbean in just a few hours! I’m so happy I had the chance to discover so much of what there is to do in Puerto Rico.

Where is Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico is a Caribbean archipelago consisting of three islands. Culebra, Vieques and the main island are situated between the Virgin Islands and Dominican Republic. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated U.S. island.

What you should know before traveling to Puerto Rico

  • Currency: American Dollars
  • Language: Spanish, but English is widely spoken
  • Best time to go: May, June
  • Electric: U.S.
  • Drive on the right side of the road
  • Tap water is safe to drink
  • No Passport required for U.S. citizens

Getting There

Start by flying into San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín Airport from NYC in just under 4 hours. The 5am flight was painful at the time, but ended up working out great. I felt like I squeezed a whole extra sun day in! Thankfully, the airport is a short 20 minute drive from old town San Juan and only 5 minutes from Condado. I was glad I chose to stay on Condado (close to a beautiful beach) and just grab the 5 minute uber into town when needed.  The taxi ride from the airport to Olive Boutique Hotel in Condado cost me $25.

You should make sure yo check with your hotel to see if they offer a shuttle service and if it costs extra.

Uber is now allowed to pick up at the airport!

Top Tip-there are beaches REALLY close to the airport so it’s a great move to head there a few hours before your flight your flight for max sun time.

How to Get Around

Car Rental

Realistically, renting a car in Puerto Rico is the most convenient option. Not having a car will definitely restrict you, unless you only plan on visiting San Juan, which in that case you shouldn’t worry.

San Juan is a very walkable city and even if you wanted to go ten minutes away the uber will be no more than $7. In terms of road safety,  I did a mini road trip from San Juan to Rincon to San Sebastian and back to San Juan and had no major issues. We drove in the day time and it felt like the roads were pretty empty.

Public Transportation

Unfortunately, the Public transportation in Puerto Rico is limited, unreliable and very timely, even in San Juan. However, it is the cheapest option. I have no personal experience using the bus, but here is some bus information.

Taxi/Uber

While in San Juan I used Uber constantly. It seemed widely available and wasn’t too expensive.  For an idea of taxi expenses here is a fixed rate table. If you don’t want to rent a car, I would recommend uber or taxis.

Where to Stay on the Island of Puerto Rico

Ideally, Puerto Rico has a variety of well known hotel brands, family run accommodation and quirky boho properties. You know I love my boutique hotels and Puerto Rico has some incredible ones! Here is my guide to the best Puerto Rican hotels.

Olive Boutique Hotel
The Dreamcatcher
OLV:55

Boutique and Unique Hotels in San Juan

OLV:55  + Olive Boutique Hotel  (Condado)

Sister Hotels in Condado. A five minute drive to Old San Juan and a walk to either the Condado Lagoon or Condado Beach. Whether you prefer modern and glamorous or globally inspired rustic chic they have got you covered. Stay in either and you are welcome to use the facilities in both hotels.

The Dreamcatcher  (Ocean Park)

A gorgeous Eco Hotel. The only vegetarian hotel is San Juan, it is known for it’s brunch. Boho chic decor with a treehouse feel. Located in the residential area of Ocean park.

Hotel El Convento  (Old San Juan)

This historic hotel was built in 1646, was the first Small Luxury Hotel of the World Member in Puerto Rico and is the oldest member of the Historic Hotels of America. This hotel some some amazing amenities including access to their Beach Club, fitness center, pool and a nightly complimentary wine and hors d’oeuvres reception.

La Concha Renaissance  (Condado)

La Concha Renaissance has a stunning beachfront location. You can choose to lounge by the pool or at one of their beach loungers. They host events on some evenings and have multiple dining options including a sushi bar and cafe.

Boutique and Luxury Hotels outside of San Juan

Villa Montana Beach Resort

 (Isabela)

Experience the ultimate private luxury at this lush boutique hotel. The property boasts secluded beaches, extensive gardens and two restaurants.

Tres Sirenas (Rincon)

On the beach hotel in Rincon, close to the best surfing beaches in Puerto Rico. All five of the accommodations at this hotel have an ocean view! The stay includes a gourmet breakfast spread.

Dorada Beach A Ritz Carlton Reserve (Dorado)

An incredible five star resort built in the 1950’s. It’s home to Spa Botanico, the island’s only Forbes verified five star spa.

St Regis Bahia Beach Resort (Rio Grande)

A small family friendly resort on the northwest coast.

Royal Isabela (Isabela)

Royal Isabela boasts a unique location on an old coconut plantation and a massive 483 acres with an ocean view.

Hostels in Puerto Rico

  • Nomada Urban Beach Hostel
  • Vieques Good Vibe House
  • Rincon Inn
  • Santurcia Hostel

Map of Things to do in Puerto Rico

 

Things to do in San Juan

Of course visiting San Juan is a must! Most people associate San Juan with it’s old town, but there is actually more to see than just that.

When deciding what to do in Puerto Rico, don’t forget to include other parts of San Juan on your itinerary.  Neighborhoods besides the old town include Condado, Ocean Park, Isla Verde and Santurce. In these greater San Juan areas you’ll find beaches, restaurants, galleries and more you can visit.

Take a Tour of Old San Juan

Tour Old San Juan yourself or join a guided one. There are food tours by Flavors of San Juan or the Spoon Experience and a walking tour where you get to pick the price!

Old San Juan has one of the most adorable old towns filled with colorful houses, bars, restaurants and even some cool Instagram spots!

Walk down the Umbrella Street

On La Fortaleza Street, leading up to the governor’s mansion, there are dozens of pretty umbrellas above you. (**Update – the umbrella have been switched over to flags)  It is known as the Umbrella project and is an art installation put in place after the hurricane to bring people back to San Juan. It’s become quite the instagrammable location!

Govenor’s Mansion
Dress by Moda Posa

Puerto Rican Flag painting in street
La Fortaleza

Visit the Govenor’s Mansion – La Fortaleza.

 At the end of Fortaleza street is the 16th century governor’s mansion. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. The mansion is a pretty pale blue and sits on the edge of the city walls. Guided tours are offered daily and the entrance is free.

Explore a Spanish Fort – Castillo San Felipe del Morro & Castillo de San Cristobal.

You can visit both Forts El Morro and San Cristóbal. These incredible structures that have protected the city of San Juan for centuries. A $7 entry fee gets you into both forts within a 24 hour period. Make sure to save your receipt to get into the second location!

El Morro

Have a beach or pool day in San Juan.

Visit one of the beaches in San Juan or head to a pretty hotel pool.

Condado Beach and Ocean Park beach are both easily accessible beaches. Condado Ocean Club (former Serafina Hotel) has a stunning infinity pool with an outdoor bar.   My family and I actually rented a cabana there for the day. We ordered prosecco,  rum, mixers and snacks at an affordable price (affordable for this type of thing).

Pamper yourself.

Multiple pampering options are available in San Juan including the Spa at Condado, Zen Spa, Spa Botanico, Well & Being Spa at El San Juan Hotel and Cloud Spa.

See La Perla in Old San Juan.

La Perla is a historical shanty town outside the city walls of Old San Juan. It’s recently been in the spotlight for being featured in a music video.

I’ve heard it can be a little unsafe, so I wouldn’t suggest going into the town at night. We chose to just look at it from above.

Check out a Food Park for some tasty eats.

San Juan has a couple different food parks with a variety of food and drink to try. You have the option of Miramar Food Truck Park or Lote 23. Lote 23 felt super trendy and I loved the set up. They even had some live music going on!

Party with the locals at La Placita.

When deciding what to do in Puerto Rico I highly recommend experiencing La Placita. This place is raging on Friday nights. It’s basically a plaza of bars and restaurants where the locals hang out — the atmosphere is absolutely awesome.

If you want, have a light bite and some starter drinks at Lote 23, then walk down to La Placita for the open air party. At La Placita, drink prices were the lowest I’d seen on the island!

Visit Casa Bacardi Rum Factory.

Casa Bacardi is actually the largest rum distillery in the world! It’s located across the bay from Old San Juan. To get there, you can take a ferry across from Pier 2 or drive around.

A the factory you’ll be able to see family heirlooms, take a mixology class, taste rums or bottle your own! Prices for the experiences vary.

Where to Eat, Drink and Party in San Juan, Puerto Rico

I just loved the food and constant supply of Pina cooladas in Puerto Rico. Here are some of my favorite spots to grab a bite or have a cocktail!

Restaurants + Cafes

La Cambija

Casual seafood restaurant in Rincon. I loved their fish tacos and watermelon juice! SO fresh and very affordable.

Numero Uno Beach House

A boutique hotel on the beach with a restaurant where your chair is literally in the sand!

Oceano

 A mansion on the beach offering views, cocktails and cuisine. Perfect date night or occasion spot.

Kioskis de Luquillo

It’s a strip of bars and restaurants lining the beach. From traditional Puerto Rican to pizza to take away empanadas and international cuisine, they’ve got it all. We ate at Terruño, which actually ended up being my favourite meal. Prices are reasonable, happy hour deals with an open air back patio.

Jibarito

Authentic, home made Puerto Rican food!

Cocina al Fondo

This restaurant has a cool location behind an art gallery.

La Bombonera

A cafe known for it’s traditional breakfast. Enjoy eggs, chorizo, pastries and coffee.

La Alcapurria Quemá

Come here for traditional and affordable Puerto Rican dishes.

La Casita Blanca

La Casita Blanca means ‘the little white house.’ This is another great spot for authentic Puerto Rican cooking.

Marmalade

When you want a change of pace and are in the mood for something healthier and innovative, Marmalade is in the place. This restaurant and wine bar has amazing food and is the only eleven time Wine Spectator Award Winner in Puerto Rico.

Bars + Nightlife

  • Barrachina – Famous for creating the Pina Coolada! They serve food and drinks and have an adorable courtyard.
  • Jungle Bird + La Factoria + Caneca– A trendy set of nightlife spots by Colectivo Icaro. All three are located within a 15 mile radius of San Juan.
  • Cuatro Sombras – A cafe with delicious coffee and light breakfast located on the edge of Old San Juan.
  • The Cannon Club –  Gorgeous rustic chic piano bar. There was a actually a parrot perched on the bar ‘drinking’ a beer!
  • Penulitma – A cocktail bar with outdoor space just down the street from Jungle Bird and La Placita.

Adventurous Things to Do in Puerto Rico

 Visit El Yunque Rainforest.

El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rain forest in the US Forest System. There are 16 different hiking trails. You will certainly come across plenty of waterfalls and wildlife. Choose whether to explore on your own or book a tour with an expert. Above all, this is my top things to do while in Puerto Rico!

Yokahu Tower is a popular destination in El Yunque and can be accessed by using Mount Britton Trail.

 Go chasing Waterfalls.

  • Visiting the San Sebastian Waterfalls was one of my other favorite things to do in Puerto Rico.  Park for just $5 and explore two huge falls. Use the rope swing or just people watch here. The falls are very close to the parking.  The lower falls are down a steep staircase and the other is via a flat cement path.
  • La Choca is a waterfall in El Yunque Rainforest.
  • Salto Curet Waterfall
  • La Mina Waterfall is in El Yunique Rainforest and can be accessed by the La Mina trail.
  • Doña Juana Waterfall
  • Juan Diego Waterfall
  • Las Cataratas Waterfall
Gozalandia Upper Falls
Gozalandia Lower Falls

Beaches in Puerto Rico

When deciding what to do on your Puerto Rican vacation, I’m sure enjoying the beaches is high on your list! This island is surrounded by gorgeous blue water and the beaches are plentiful, here are some of the best ones.

Beaches in or near San Juan:

Luquillo 

About an hours drive form San Juan this beach is popular with locals and tourists alike. $5 to park and stay all day! There are facilities including bathrooms, showers and snack bar. You can buy a pineapple filled with Pina colada for $12!! The El Yunque Rainforest in the distance makes for a lovely backdrop.

Beaches by the airport – Isla Verde and Balnaerio de Carolina

Both of these beaches have an ideal location right next to the airport! Since my flight home was at 9pm, after hotel checkout I drove here and sun bathed until the last second. I paid $5 to get into the beach.

Ocean Beach

Just a bit further down from Condado is Ocean Beach, a more residential area with it’s own beach.

Condado Beach 

Condado Beach is a ten minute drive from Old San and is where many of the high end hotels are located. I went to this beach a couple times because it was an easy walk from Olive Boutique Hotel and there are dining options all along the main road behind it.  It actually gives off somewhat of a Miami vibe!

Hanging out
Ocean Park Beach, Puerto Rico

Beaches outside of San Juan:

Playa Sucia

This is definitely one of the most beautiful beaches in Puerto Rico. Its secluded and rustic with turquoise waters.

Crash Beach

Crash Beach gets its’ name from the ship remnants left on one side of the beach. It has plenty of vegetation and lots of seashells.

Domes Beach

Domes Beach is located in Rincon and is possibly the best surfing beach in Puerto Rico. The reason for its’ name is that there is a Dome on the beach which actually used to be home to a nuclear power plant.

Flamenco Beach

Flamenco Beach is on island of Culebra and is frequently rated one of the top beaches in the world. You can catch a ferry to Culbera from Ceiba or take a day boat tour to get here.

Go Beyond San Juan and explore the other Puerto Rican towns 

Puerto Rico has cute towns dotted all along is coastline. If you have a spare few days I would highly recommend exploring one of the more off-the-beaten-path locations. I  did a mini road trip around Puerto Rico in just 5 days. The island is small enough to make it happen.

Rincon 

Rincon is a cute surfer town. It is home to the famous Domes Beach, a lighthouse and one of the cutest boutiques I’ve ever seen! Since Rincon is on the west side of Puerto Rico the sunsets are epic. I was very happy I decided to stop over here for on night.

Cabo Rojo

Home to salt flats, rustic beaches and a lighthouse. A scenic area do explore for a day in the Southwest part of Puerto Rico. Cabo Rojo is 2 and a half hours from San Juan.

Luquillo

Luquillo has a locals beach and a strip of bars and restaurants along the beach. I high recommend  including this spot in your Puerto Rico vacation if you want to authentic cuisine!

Arecibo

Arecibo is a town on the Northern coast of Puerto Rico. What puts Arecibo on the map is the Arecibo Observatory.

Fajardo

Fajardo is on the eastern most tip of Puerto Rico. Home to one of the three bio-bays in Puerto Rico, plenty of keys and inlets as well  as a lighthouse.

Isabela

The blue hole is located in Isabela and is and ideal snorkeling destination with 300m of reef.

Rincon Lighthouse
Boutique in Rincon
Rincon Lighthouse
Rincon Sunset

Things to do in Culebra 

Why not head to Culebra, the most peaceful of Puerto Rico’s islands.

How do you get to Culebra?

Take a boat day tour from Fajardo or take a boat ferry/taxi from Ceiba. There is also the option to fly.

Ferry Boat

A roundtrip ticket from Ceiba to Culebra is $5. Be sure to book your ferry in advance on PorFerry. Boats can fill up quickly and you don’t want to mss your chance if you wait until last minute. As a warning, the ferries are known for having issues so it’s probably best to arrive early to your booked time.

I found some helpful ferry tips from the Globetrotting teacher that are definitely worth looking over.

Day Tour or Charter Options

There are a range of day tours and charters trips and I’m sure you could find one to fit your budget. The more you have to spend the more intimate your boat trip can be. The cheaper tours will be on a bigger boats with plenty of other passengers. Keep in mind that some of the boat tours, won’t even dock. You’ll actually have to swim from the boat to the shores. That being said, you can only bring things ashore safely in a waterproof bag.

  • East Island Excursions
  • Pure Adventure PR
  • Caribe Bliss
Fly to Culebra

Take a puddle jumper flight from San Juan Airport.

Flamenco Beach

Culebra is known for Flamenco beach, which is said to be the best beach in the world! It is also home to a National Wildlife Refuge. Culebra is a serene place for basking in the sun and embracing paradise.

Flamenco Beach has a couple of different accommodation options if you wish to stay overnight. Villa Flamenco is literally right on the sand and has a few basic apartments and studios. Last time I was there, I also saw a sign that glamping would be coming soon!

Restrooms, and food vendors are available at Flamenco Beach. Grab an empanada or a pina coolada to sip on.

Staying on Culebra

  • Mamacita’s Guest House
  • Club Seabourne
  • Culebra Ocean Front Marbella
  • Villa Flamenco

Culebra Activities

There area number of wellness activities to do on Culebra.

  • Yoga
  • Biking
  • Snorkel and Scuba

Culebra National Wildlife Refuge

More than 20% of Culebra is part of the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge. Sea turtles, birds and secluded beaches are just some of the things you’ll find here.

 

Things to Do in Vieques

Vieques has the incredible natural phenomenon, (Mosquito Bay) bioluminescent bay and is more populated that Culebra. Water sports and horse back riding can keep you busy or choose to sun bathe on one of the handful of secluded beaches!

How do you get to Vieques?

Pretty much the same deal as Culebra.

Ferry Boat

A roundtrip ticket from Ceiba to Vieques is $4. Be sure to book your ferry in advance on PorFerry.

I found some helpful ferry tips from the Globetrotting teacher that are definitely worth looking over.

Day Tour or Charter Options
  • East Island Excursions
  • Pure Adventure
  • Caribe Bliss
  • Vieques Sailing Charters
Fly to Vieques

Take a puddle jumper flight from San Juan Airport.

Staying on Vieques

There are a surprising number of modern concept boutique hotels in Vieques.

  • El Blok
  • Malecon House
  • Hix Island House
  • Hacienda Tamarindo

Experience Bioluminescent Bays

There are only 5 bioluminescent bays in the world and surprisingly 3 of them are in Puerto Rico! Mosquito Bay, is located on the island of Vieques, Laguna Grande on the north side of the island in Fajardo and La Paguera on the far southwestern side. In the Bioluminescent bay micoorganisms in the water glow a blue green when they are disturbed, making for quite the light show!

Horseback Riding

Explore secluded beaches on horseback!

  • Esperanza Riding Company
  • Colon Horseback Riding
  • Jurutungo Farm

Playa Negra

Playa Negra is is a black sand beach on the south part of the island.

Grand Old Ceiba Tree

A glorious ancient tree off route 200. Said to have a striking majestic presence.

Where to Eat, Drink and Party outside of San Juan, Puerto Rico

Restaurants + Cafes

La Cambija

(Rincon)

Incredible, fresh seafood at affordable prices. I ordered watermelon juice here which was pretty cool. I loved this spot!

Lechonera Los Pinos (

Aguas Buenas)

La Estacion

(Las Croabas)

El Punto Sabroso (

Cataño)

Salitre Meson

(Arecibo)

La Ana de Cofresi

(Rincon)

La Copa Llena at The Black Eagle

(Rincon)

Uma’s

(Isabela)

Nutella Hot Chocolate
Cuatros Sombras

What to Pack for your Island Escape

Puerto Rico is a tropical destination, so you’ll want a wardrobe to match! Here are some tropical weather essentials and clothes you should bring with you for a trip to San Juan and beyond:

  • Casual beach clothes
  • A couple of nicer outfits
  • Sunglasses
  • Cute beach bag
  • Sandals
  • Hat
  • Light rain jacket
  • Day pack
  • Quick dry towel
  • Activewear – Clothes you can get dirty/muddy/wet in
  • Resort wear for lounging at the hotel pools and beaches
  • Comfortable walking shoes/sneakers
  • Bathing suits, 1 that is sporty and 1 to lounge in
  • Reef safe suncreen
  • Camera
  • Bugspray
  • Water shoes
  • Floating Dry Bag – Can be useful for a boat tour or jungle excursion

 

Are you looking for other island activities?

Some other cool things to do in Puerto Rico include:

  • Go horseback riding.
  • Go snorkeling over a coral reef.
  • Go surfing in Rincon.
  • Take a boat trip to another island.
  • Biking or hiking.
  • Take a cooking class to learn to make traditional Puerto Rican dishes.
  • Go on a food or architecture tour around San Juan.

 

Is Puerto Rico Worth Visiting?

Would I have went to Puerto Rico twice in one year if it wasn’t?! Honestly, the diversity of Puerto Rico is incredible and it has the history and culture to give so much depth to your travel experience . I highly recommend visiting, especially if you are a history buff an adventure seeker or a foodie!

 

Thanks for reading my guide on what to do in Puerto Rico! I really hope this helps you fully explore the island!

If you’d rather have your entire week in Puerto Rico planned out for you, check out my detailed 7 day Puerto Rico Itinerary.

Are you interested in finding the best places to take photos in Puerto Rico? Check out my Instagram Guide!

 

I’m Lauren, a NYC based photographer and travel blogger. I love sharing my travel tips from my home city and around the world.

I’m Lauren, a NYC based photographer and travel blogger. I recently moved back to New York with my British husband after living in England with him for 6 years. I haven’t lived in the states since 2012 so it still feels a little like we are visitors in this amazing city! I’ve been lucky to be able to rediscover my home in between exploring the world.

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▷ What to see San Juan de Puerto Rico in 3 days [2022]

Destinations

The capital of this amazing island is full of paradise beaches, gourmet food, Caribbean history and amazing places. It is also one of the points of the mysterious triangle of shorts, breaking out of their routine to enjoy the best Caribbean climate and environment.
In this 3 day guide to San Juan de Puerto Rico, you will discover the most incredible places that you cannot miss when visiting this city. Ready for 3 days in San Juan maximum intensity?

Traveling in this great city is easy despite its size, as most of the tourist attractions can be visited on foot.

But you have to take into account a very important and special thing about San Juan, because the public transport on this island is not widely used, since most of its inhabitants travel in their vehicles.

This does not cause you any inconvenience, because when it comes to the capital of the island, public transport runs throughout the city.

Although the island of Puerto Rico is a free territory, it is connected to the United States.

This means that travelers must follow the same rules for accessing the United States, so a visa is required to travel to San Juan.

The currency used in Puerto Rico is the US dollar , so I recommend that you change the money in your city before starting your trip to avoid high fees.

In any case, there is no need to travel with a lot of cash, since credit cards are widely used in the capital, capable of paying with them in most institutions.

Another thing to keep in mind is that due to the tropical climate it is full of mosquitoes, not used to it they can be a little annoying so it is important that you wear a good repellant.

San Juan Travel Guide: Day 1

FREETOUR Gift for San Juan: I recommend taking the free tour of San Juan on the first day, for the first contact with the city and for an in-depth study of its history and culture. Enjoy this wonderful city!
Book your FREE TOUR for San Juan here.

The first day in this beautiful city is to get to know the most emblematic sights of the capital of Puerto Rico, and you should not miss this place.

San Felipe del Morro Fort

Today, this imposing castle is San Juan’s main tourist attraction and welcomes all ships entering the bay.

This majestic stone fortress was built by Spanish settlers to resist sea attacks and is now a World Heritage Site, welcoming millions of tourists every year.

Opening hours 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, $5 admission fee for entry.

In addition, there is a lighthouse that guided the boats, the perfect brooch for this visit. Morro, sometimes it goes unnoticed for being so close to the city’s tourist gem, but it’s a must visit.

Located on the seafront and in the pastures preceding the fort, a place of great attraction.

Sculptures of angels where marble is the main character. Politicians, artists, prominent writers and artists find their rest here. Even some Spanish, Spanish poet of the generation of 27, Pedro Salinas, chose this place.

Paseo del Morro

This walk follows the beach area from Fortaleza del Morro to Old San Juan.

Ideal for exploring the coastline, you can also enjoy the city’s various monuments and landmarks.

For example, the Santa Elena Battery or the popular house with a striking pink façade known as the Santa Elena Bastion Guard Corps and eventually leading to the San Agustin Bastion with stunning views.

Old San Juan

This is the most popular place for both locals and tourists. This is one of the oldest cities in the New World, known as a walled city.

This is because it is surrounded by imposing walls and defenses, characterized by narrow streets full of blue cobblestones and striking 16th century colonial buildings. Great to start getting to know San Juan!

Plazas del Viejo San Juan

This area stands out for its streets and squares full of life, which you must definitely walk through to immerse yourself in the magical culture of this city.

First of all, you should visit its most popular squares, some of which are meeting places for the people of San Juan. The most popular of all stands out, known as Plaza de Armas, Plaza de San José or Plaza de Colon.

The entire area has been declared a World Heritage Site for its unparalleled beauty.

It’s great to end the day as you will find plenty of establishments.

San Juan Guide: Day 2

On the second day you will discover another part of this capital, the most touristic and emblematic places that the city has yet to visit.

Castillo de San Cristobal

This is the largest fortification built by the Spaniards in the New World, built in 1783.

Also, even after losing some of the outer defenses it had due to the demolition of some sections of the wall to give way to the growth of the city, San Cristobal is the largest European fortification in the Americas.,.

This large size is due to the desire to avoid the attack of pirates and corsairs.

The entrance to this fortress is part of the Fortaleza del Morro, since they have a joint entrance. A whole castle to open!

Peña Beach

You cannot leave San Juan without visiting one of its beaches, it is a natural beach with easy access and very close to the Castillo de San Cristobal.

As you descend the steps, you can enjoy the blue tones of its waters, which contrast with the reddish-brown color of the rocks that line the entire shore.

Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, where you will only hear the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks. A real gem!

La Perla de San Juan District

This area is one of the most modest in Old San Juan, with colorful streets.

Located on the border of the old city wall, its inhabitants fought for their right to keep their modest homes there, despite efforts to turn them into something much more touristy.

Despacito’s song, the video clip of the most played song of the time, was recorded here, because here the rhythm is carried in his veins.

Museum of America

Impressive museum that shows the history and customs of how people used to live.

A highly recommended place to learn about the culture and history of the city, a visit that is definitely a must.

Access to its interior is from Tuesday to Friday from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. and from 13:00. to 16:00 on Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 to 17:00. The entrance fee is 6 dollars.

San Juan White House

Built as the residence of Juan Ponce de León, the first governor and founder of the city, but he never lived in it, although he did. his family did.

La Fortaleza del Morro, replaced this place as the residence of this governor.,

,

The White House is currently used as a museum, containing typical objects from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

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San Juan Travel Guide: Day 3

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The last day is to make the most of it, visiting places you haven’t yet discovered and can’t miss on this great itinerary through the city.

El Yunque National Forest

It is located 40 minutes from the port of San Juan, without a doubt one of the most visited places on the island by tourists or locals.

This is the only rainforest in the United States National Forest System, known and popular as one of the rainiest places in the world.

With beautiful scenery surrounded by nature and fauna, the perfect place to get lost and enjoy this great atmosphere.

Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist

Built in 1521, it was destroyed by a storm and rebuilt in 1529 on Calle del Cristo.

This cathedral was named a minor basilica by Pope Paul VI.

It contains the remains of the conqueror Juan Ponce de León, numerous relics of jewelry and clothing used by Pope John Paul II when he visited Puerto Rico in 1984.

Entrance to its interior is free.

Capitol

This building represents the legislature and is one of the largest structures on the island.

This three-storey concrete and steel building, with marble facades, is an imposing and majestic building without a doubt.

Among its repositories, one can find allegorical mosaics of historical events in Puerto Rico, such as the discovery, colonization or abolition of slavery.

Chapel of Christ

Its name and location are associated with a peculiar story that began with an accident during the races held in honor of the Apostle James in 1753.

One of the riders couldn’t stop his horse and fell off a cliff, so to avoid this kind of accident in the area, this chapel was built in honor of Christ’s health.

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