Top 10 things to do in puerto rico san juan: 12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan’s 10 Can’t-Miss Attractions
Although you could walk the length of it in a morning, Old San Juan packs a punch when it comes to landmarks. So if you really want to indulge yourself in the city’s amazing history and culture, make sure to visit these 10 can’t-miss Old San Juan attractions.
Remember: If you want to see Puerto Rico like a local, get off the tourist path and have an actual San Juan local plan your trip. They’ll plan you an amazing itinerary based on your interests, budget, and travel style that’ll show you the best of Puerto Rico. Learn more here.
#1: Castillo San Felipe del Morro: Explore the iconic fort
El Morro | Doriann18/Wikimedia Commons
Dive into Puerto Rico’s fascinating history with a trip to “El Morro”. This iconic Spanish fort was used to protect the city of San Juan as early as 1595. El Morro is situated on a hill overlooking the water, giving you some of the best views in Puerto Rico. You know those famous pictures of guard towers on every Puerto Rico tourism catalog ever? Right here, baby.
Pro tip: El Morro is the perfect spot for families visiting Puerto Rico—its tunnels, ramparts, and antique cannons will keep kids busy exploring for hours.
#2: San Cristobal: Visit one of the biggest fortresses in the Americas
San Cristobal | ThomasFano/Flickr
San Cristobal isn’t just an important Puerto Rico attraction—it’s also one of the biggest fortresses in the Americas. El Morro’s sister fort, San Cristobal took over 150 years to build and was used to protect Puerto Rico from land attacks. If you’re looking for free things to do in Puerto Rico, you can tour San Cristobal (and El Morro!) free of charge during National Parks Week from April 21st–29th.
#3: Catedral San Juan Bautista: Admire San Juan’s cathedral
San Juan Bautista Catedral | Concord/Wikimedia Commons
History buffs and architecture lovers need to add San Juan Bautista Cathedral to their Puerto Rico itineraries. The cathedral may not look like much on the outside, but the inside is filled with breathtaking windows and artwork that you absolutely can’t miss while in Puerto Rico. Even cooler: legendary conquistador Ponce de Leon (who famously hunted for the fountain of youth in Florida) is buried inside.
#4: Plaza de Armas: San Juan’s charming main plaza
Plaza de Armas | Roger W/Flickr
Take a break from your excursions and relax in San Juan’s main square, Plaza de Armas. Surrounded by colonial government buildings, Plaza de Armas is one of Puerto Rico’s best places to visit if you want to immerse yourself in the island’s Spanish-Caribbean historical vibes. It’s also a great place to drink some coffee, admire sculptures, people watch, or chat with a local.
#5: La Perla: Experience San Juan’s colorful cliffside neighborhood
La Perla | Ogrebot/Wikimedia Commons
Everyone traveling to San Juan needs to visit the city’s iconic (and some would say infamous) cliffside neighborhood, La Perla. While it may not be the nicest place to stay, La Perla is rich in history and culture. For a unique Puerto Rico experience, attend one of the many weekly events and festivities that take place along Calle Norzagaray.
Pro tip: La Perla locals are proud of their culture and welcome travelers who want to embrace their history, but it’s important to know how to do so respectfully. You may want to talk with a local to learn more about Puerto Rican culture to avoid any unintentional problems along the way. Since they’re San Juan natives, they’ll let you know all the do’s and don’ts when it comes to local culture etiquette.
#6: Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery: Visit San Juan’s scenic antique cemetery
Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis | vxla/Flickr
Visiting San Juan’s seaside cemetery is another incredible thing to do in Puerto Rico if you’re interested in amazing views and history. Located just a short walk from El Morro, the beautiful cemetery gives you stunning views of the ocean, El Morro, and parts of San Juan. Plus, hailing from 1863, the cemetery itself is gorgeous. And though some tombs were damaged from the hurricane, locals have taken it upon themselves to clean up and restore them.
Pro tip: Puerto Rico has almost entirely recovered from Hurricane Maria. Check out this Puerto Rico tourism update for more info.
#7: Museum of Puerto Rican Art: Appreciate Caribbean art and culture
Museum of Puerto Rican Art | Moebiusuibeom-en/Wikimedia Commons
Diving into Puerto Rico’s art culture is one of the best things you can do in San Juan. The Museum of Puerto Rican Art is a great way to do so, as it displays artwork from the 16th-century to the present day. There’s also a sculpture garden which is perfect for the island’s year-round sunny weather (it’s true—there’s no bad time to visit Puerto Rico). The museum also hosts other popular weekend activities in San Juan like local concerts and festivals.
#8: Raices Fountain: Learn about San Juan’s multi-cultural heritage
Raices Fountain | Elidio Israel Margu ina Ordonez/Wikimedia Commons
Known as one of the most romantic places in Puerto Rico, Raices Fountain is composed of a charming collection of statues that honor the country’s mixed African, Spanish, and Taino heritage. The fountain is perfectly placed alongside the San Juan Bay and is absolutely beautiful during the late afternoon around sunset. A walk by the Raices Fountain is an absolute must for anyone visiting San Juan.
#9: La Fortaleza: Visit the oldest executive mansion in the New World
La Fortaleza | Jano Tazky/Wikimedia Commons
The oldest executive mansion in the New World, La Fortaleza is a 40-room mansion home to the current governor of Puerto Rico. A 30-minute tour is free, or you can find recs for a guided tour on Puerto Rico’s TripAdvisor page. La Fortaleza’s tour, which has become a very popular thing to do in Puerto Rico, allows visitors to explore the massive mansion, chapel, dungeon, and garden.
#10: Paseo de la Princesa: Walk the historical avenue along the sea
Paseo de la Princesa | prayitnophotography/Flickr
Paseo de la Princesa is a historical avenue that encircles the island and is lined with history, shops, local art, and food. A walk along the path is one of the best things to do in Puerto Rico if you really want to see the calmer and charming side of San Juan. We suggest taking this walk through San Juan at night when the path is pleasantly illuminated with multicolored spotlights.
While you should definitely stop by all these attractions, the full list of amazing things to do in San Juan is pretty much limitless. Don’t miss out on the best ones (aka that ones that don’t make it into those glossy tourist books)—have a San Juan local plan your trip. Any questions about how it works? Just send us a message! And for more tips, check out:
- Connect With a Local to Plan Your Trip
- 40 Incredible Things To Do in Puerto Rico 2023
- Puerto Rico Travel FAQ 2023
- Traveling To San Juan—The Ultimate Guide
- 10 Boutique Hotels in Puerto Rico You Need To Check Out
- Do I Need a Passport To Go To Puerto Rico 2023
- Contact Us
Top 10 Things To Do In Puerto Rico
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There are A LOT of things to like about Puerto Rico; I honestly do not know why we don’t hear about it more. Most people don’t realize how amazing the destination is and how easy it is to plan a trip there.
Flights there aren’t that expensive, and with it being an American territory there are a number of things that make it even more enjoyable if you are coming from the mainland.
Best Things to do in Puerto Rico
First off, if you are coming from the United States you do not need a passport to enter; it is a domestic flight. Also, most American cell phones still work there without extra charges.
On trips it can be nice to be disconnected from my technology, but let’s be real, on trips it is super nice to still be able to be connected. Also, the official currency is the US dollar so if you are American you don’t have to worry about exchanging currency.
Puerto Ricans speak Spanish but they are accustomed to English speaking tourists from the mainland. In most areas the locals have at least a rudimentary understanding of English.
The main island isn’t too big so it isn’t hard explore things on both sides. The Puerto Ricans I met were a perfect blend of laid back island style and playful hispanic.
Best places to stay in Puerto Rico:
Although I have only been to Puerto Rico once, my husband has been there multiple times and stayed in multiple hotels. When we went we stayed in the Hyatt Place San Juan City Center and loved it.
Our hotel was located in the Condado area of San Juan where almost all the attractions on this list will be close to you. I highly recommend staying in the Condado area of San Juan. It is super safe, right on the beach, and within walking distance to great restaurants, bars, clubs, etc. Definitely one of the best places to stay in Puerto Rico. Check current prices here.
You can search for the best hotels in San Juan below from booking. com
Top 10 Things to do in Puerto Rico
Here are my picks for the top things to see in Puerto Rico. What would you add to the list?
1. Fort San Felipe del Morro
Coastal view of El Morro Fortress, San Juan
This huge citadel was built in the 1500’s by the Spanish to protect the Puerto Rican harbor. Even today it is a huge and imposing edifice on the edge of the promontory. It is easy to imagine historic warships coming in and out when touring the Fort.
2. Things to do in Old San Juan
Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
It is not hard to find things to do in Old San Juan. This is the oldest settlement in Puerto Rico and it overflows with colonial charm. The thin cobblestone streets and colorful Spanish architecture make this quaint town perfect.
3. Bioluminescent Bays Puerto Rico
The water just off the coast of certain parts of Puerto Rico literally glows at night! The microscopic organisms responsible for the blue-green glow light up when there is movement in the water to create this incredible glowing water in Puerto Rico. I.e. when swimming in the water (perfectly safe) your arms and legs will cause swirls of blue-green glow.
The best bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico are near Fajardo, Lajas, and Vieques.
I HIGHLY recommend taking this boat tour to see the bio bays, but make sure to check the lunar cycle as they can’t be seen very well during a full moon!
The Parguera Bioluminescence Bay Boat Tour will pick you up in San Juan and drive you to the bay and back (about 2 hours each way). They will also take you out into the heart of the bay and give the adventurous an opportunity to swim in the glow. The experience is truly unique!
When is the best time to go?
While you can see them year round, the best time of the year to visit the bio bays is from December to mid-April, this is during the dry season. Too much rain can cause the waters to get cloudy making it much harder to see the glowing water.
Here are a few of the top rated and most popular tours Bioluminescent Bay :
- Top rated – La Parguera Glowing Bioluminescent Bay Boat Tour from San Juan
- Bio Bay Fajardo: Bioluminescent Lagoon Kayak or Full Moon Kayak Tour
- From San Juan: Bioluminescent Bay Boat & Hot Springs Tour (Free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance)
- Vieques Bio Bay Tour: Overnight Bio Bay Kayak Tour in Vieques Island
4. El Yunque National Forest
El Yunque rainforest in Puerto Rico
El Yunque is an explorers paradise. There are tons of the best hikes in Puerto Rico here through the rain forest. The foliage gets so dense that you can easily feel completely isolated, even if there are other hikers nearby.
Make sure you make it to a few waterfalls including Juan Diego Falls and La Mina. If you don’t want to navigate everything on your own I recommend this half-day tour to see the waterfalls and rainforest.
Here are the top rated El Yunque National Forest Tours:
- Book your tour: El Yunque Rainforest & Waterfalls Half-Day Tour
- Book your tour: *Top rated – El Yunque Rainforest Guided Hiking with Waterfall Tour
- Book your tour: From San Juan: El Yunque Rainforest and Waterslide Tour
- Book your tour: San Juan: El Yunque Rainforest and Bio Bay Combo Tour – This tour is super cool. You get to slide down natural waterfalls, swim in natural swimming pools, kayak through the Red Mangrove Forest, and you get to kayak through the Laguna Grande Bioluminescent Bay at night. What more could you ask for?
5. Cueva Ventana (Window Cave)
Exploring caves with exquisite views, yes please! Accessing these caves is an easy hike off the main road and they are located about half way between San Juan and Aguadilla. I bet you can guess why they call it the window cave.
6. Snorkeling in San Juan (& Scuba Diving)
Puerto Rico features numerous dive sites (there are also snorkeling sites, but these often aren’t at the same locations). There are coral reefs, underwater caves, and an array of sea life for divers of all levels. The snorkeling tours in Puerto Rico are amazing.
You can find a list of snorkeling tours (including price and reviews) here on GetYourGuide. I use GetYourGuide when I want to uncover new things to do in my favorite destinations. They’re easy to use and book with, and I’ve explored the best of my destination with their tours.
Make sure if you snorkel you have a waterproof phone case (I have this waterproof housing from amazon that works ridiculously well) and a good dry bag for your electronics. This is my favorite dry bag. I never travel without it.
If you want to be able to take over/under water pics you will need an additional dome housing. I have this one from amazon that connects perfectly to my axis go waterproof phone case and is expensive, but works amazing.
Best snorkeling tours in Puerto Rico:
- San Juan Guided Snorkel Tour – This is a top rated tour. Read the reviews here.
- Learn to Snorkel with Fish and Turtles – The perfect tour for beginners!
- Jet Snorkel-Snorkeling with Turtles! – I have always wanted to “Jet Snorkel”. If you don’t know what jet snorkeling is, imagine a hand held underwater jetpack (i.e. you can explore without having to use nearly as much effort). If you book this tour let me know what you thought of it.
7. Rain Forest Zip Lines
The rainforests in Puerto Rico are steamy and lush! One of the best ways to get a tour of them is the fly over the top and through on one of the numerous zip lines. There are many to choose from and certain tours like this one will even pick you up from your hotel.
El Yunque rainforest zipline is the best!
There are a variety of highly rated zip lining tours available, see our top picks below based on customer reviews:
- Book your tour: Yunque Rainforest Zip-Lining Adventure
- Book your tour: Rainforest Zipline in the El Yunque Foothills from San Juan
- Book your tour: Half Day Tour in Rainforest Zipline Park with Transportation
8. Relax on the Best Beach in Puerto Rico – Vieques
If you are looking for an undeveloped tropical island escape you should check out Vieques (but go quick because people are discovering it features some of the best beaches in Puerto Rico).
Vieques features endless beaches, but with the charm of homes that don’t feature addresses (just names) and horses, chickens and roosters running wild in the streets.
To be clear, Vieques is a separate smaller island than the “main” Puerto Rican island that skews higher end with its visitors.
Book your tour: Snorkeling Tour to Vieques Island – Half day tour that covers some of the best snorkeling spots on the island. *Includes snacks and beverages.
If you enjoy vacationing on the beach, you may enjoy our post on some of the craziest and most unique beaches in the world.
In my experience this is the busiest tourist district of San Juan. There are beautiful beaches, good restaurants to eat at, and most importantly one of the best places to shop in Puerto Rico. Also, this is where you can find the nightlife featuring bars, night clubs, and casinos.
10. Enjoy the Best Places to Eat in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rican beef and plantains Mofongo meat dish. Puerto Rico food culture. Mofongo is a typical meal with fried cooking bananas as its main ingredient. Plantains are picked, fried then mashed.
Puerto Rican food is not like Mexican food! I’ll admit it, I was the idiot that expected similarities. It is not spicy and is typically not wrapped in tortillas.
The biggest commonality I observed was rice and beans, but most of the best Puerto Rican dishes I sampled featured pork and plantains. Delicious! Discover the best food tours in San Juan here.
Book your foodie tour: Flavors of Old San Juan Food Tour
Puerto Rican Food & the Best Restaurants in Puerto Rico
- Estela Restaurant
- La Alcapurria Quemá
- La Casita Blanca
- Que PezCa’o
- La Cambija
- El Verde BBQ
What to Bring to the Beach
Travel towel – So much easier to pack these quick dry microfiber travel towels than go without or be forced to buy one once there. We always travel with at least two of them.
Dry Bag – There are some lessons you just don’t want to learn the hard way. Ruining your phone, camera, or other valuables at the beach is a very expensive lesson to learn. This dry bag is amazing and works for any and all water activities.
Reef-safe sunscreen – The sun here can be very strong. Make sure to wear a reef safe sunscreen or a rashguard.
Rash guard or long sleeve swim top – I wear the one from Skims and I love not having to worry about getting burned when I am out in the sun ALL DAY.
Free people also has some amazing rash guards you can shop here.
Backpack or waterbottle sling – I am obsessed with my Beis travel backpack. I never travel without it. It is seriously the perfect size. Not too big, not too small. If you don’t want to bring a full backpack this waterbottle sling is my absolute favorite. It fits a waterbottle, iPhone 14 pro max, plus some extra space for bars or snacks or your wallet.
Packable snacks – I always travel with these That’s it bars from Amazon. OMG, they are sooo good and only have a few minimal ingredients.
I hope this guide to the best things to do in Puerto Rico helps you plan your visit!
Have you been to Puerto Rico? What were your favorite things to do?
Please let me know if you have any questions or need help planning your visit in the comments below.
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San Juan Cruise Port
- Where is San Juan Cruise Port
- Getting to San Juan Cruise Port
- San Juan Shops and Cuisine
- Routes, excursions, transport in the port of San Juan
- What to see around San Juan
- Currency of San Juan
Where is the San Juan Cruise Port
The San Juan Cruise Port is the largest in the Caribbean and has 2 cruise terminals.
Transit liners moor at the Old San Juan Cruise Terminal, which is located in the city center and has 6 berths. Liners whose route starts from San Juan, except for Carnival Victory, use the Pan American Pier terminal. Its location is slightly worse, but it is closer to the airport. nine0005
How to get to the San Juan Cruise Port
There is a direct connection between the airport and the Old San Juan Cruise Terminal. At the airport, you need to take the T5 bus at stop number 1022. The bus fare is $0.75. Children under 2 years free. Entrance to the bus only through the front door, payment at the entrance, the driver does not give change. Travel time is 53 minutes, the bus leaves every half hour. Please note that this route does not operate on Sundays. It will be possible to get from the airport to the cruise port only by making 3 transfers, the travel time will take about 2 hours. On this day, we strongly recommend taking a taxi. The taxi ride from one area to another is fixed. Drivers turn on the meter only when traveling in one area. A taxi ride from the airport to the cruise port will cost around $30-35. nine0005
San Juan Shops and Cuisine
The main shopping streets in the old town are Christ Street, Fortaleza Street and San Francisco Street. Here you can buy souvenirs popular among tourists: wooden figurines of saints, coca frogs, carnival masks made of coconut and papier-mâché, lace, musical instruments and, of course, excellent Bacardi, Barrilito and Don Ku rum. Pay attention to the local coffee that has been supplied to the Vatican since the 19th century.
The modern and very large Plaza las Americas shopping center is located 15 minutes from the cruise terminal. This is one of the best malls in the entire Caribbean! A lot of different shops, a good assortment, constant promotions and discounts, and very polite staff. You can get there by taxi and bus with one transfer. nine0005
We advise you to try Lechon roast pig. Before frying on a spit, it is marinated for a day, due to which it acquires an absolutely delicious taste. Soups are the staple food in Puerto Rico. One of the most famous soups is black bean soup. Another classic soup is chicken and rice. It may vary slightly in taste depending on the restaurant. The third classic soup is fish soup, cooked with fish heads and tails.
Also try all kinds of fruits: mango, guava, papaya, avocado, acerola (Barbados cherry), carambola. Bananas are the most popular side dish served in any restaurant. And this is not just a fruit in its raw form, but fried green bananas. The national drink in Puerto Rico is of course rum. 80% of all rum consumed in the US comes from this island. nine0005
Routes, excursions, transport in the port of San Juan
A tourist train runs through the old city. Interestingly, you can ride it for free. Opening hours are Monday to Friday from 7 am to 7 pm and Saturday to Sunday from 9 am to 7 pm. The train has 3 different routes, all of them start from stop number 1, which is located across the street from the cruise terminal. The name of the route is placed on the front of the trolley under the glass.
What to see in the vicinity of San Juan
The world’s largest rum factory, Bacardi, is located 18 km from the capital. Here you can see the entire manufacturing process, visit the Bacardi Family Museum, as well as taste and buy your favorite rum. Opening hours Monday to Saturday from 09:30 to 16:30, Sunday from 10:00 to 16:00. Cost from $15 per person. You can get from the ferry pier number 4.
25 km east of the capital is the best nature reserve in the country, El Yunque — the Caribbean National Forest. nine0005
The best beaches near San Juan are located 6 km from the pier to the east — Cornado and Ocean Park. They can be reached by public transport. Cornado Beach is a little closer to the terminal, you can get there by buses T3 or T21 daily, except Sunday, the journey takes about 50 minutes. Ocean Park beach can be reached by buses T5, T21, D53 or T3 daily except Sunday.