Are you ready ? Bring a hat, water and sun screen! Let’s go.
Why even visit San Juan? Well pictures speak louder than words.
San Juan, one of the oldest cities in U.S. territory, is the capital of Puerto Rico. Also one of the famous city, as its joining point for Caribbean cruises.
Whenever we hear about old cities, we think of old 15th or 17th- century buildings, old landmarks, and some tourist shops that most people just enjoy looking at and don’t even bother buying. But you need to give San Juan a chance. It’s much more than the old historic city. It’s a burning hot pot of ever-evolving neighborhoods. From hipster bars to cosmopolitan Miami vives of Condado, from the street art of Santruce to busy Caribbean port.
Whether you are making a day stop from your cruise of staying for a week, here are the best things that you should see, eat, drink, and do to make the best of your time.
This post will give you an idea on answering any questions you have like things to do in San Juan at night, things to do in San Juan for couples, unique things to do in San Juan , etc.
All these tips were given to us by a really friendly local, born and raised in San Juan, that we met near our hotel restaurant while having a coffee. We had done our research, but this advice definitely helped us get the most out of the time we had.
Top sites in OLD San Juan are located together and can be explored on foot once you park your car. However, you can get an electric bike like Lime or Bird on the street.
1. Find parking:
Walking is the best way to navigate once you are in old San Juan. So find parking if you arrived in a car.
If you are going on the weekend, it will be hard to find parking in the main street. Try to stay out of smaller streets and move out a little bit following the shoreline. We found lots of parking near Paseo de la Princesa, with fees of less than 3$ for a whole day. They only take cash.
2. Visit UNESCO Listed World Heritage site: El Morro Fort with amazing sea view
Castillo San Felipe del Morro or El Morro, located at the northwestern-most tip of Old San Juan, is the most famous spot.
With covid, entry is currently closed. But we can still make small trails around the fort and get an amazing view. When opened, the fee is just 7$, and the same can be used to enter another famous port, Castillo San Cristobal. Just about 1 mile away from each other and walk in between is also a treat to an eye with cobbled stoned walkways and pastel colonial houses.
3. Pray for dead locals at the cemetery.
You might be thinking, why is this even on a list as must-try. You will understand once you see it. Located right next to El Morro but many tourists miss it as it is hidden from view. It is right outside the fort wall facing the sea.
4. Stroll around in cobblestone narrow streets and get lost
Stroll around in cobbled stone walkways and get lost in small streets.
5. AWE at Peigons
Parque de las Palomas, aka pigeon park, is right next to a small chapel, Capilla Del Christo, famous for its healing power. In the park, you will see 100s of pigeons just walking around on the street. No, they are not scared of humans. They are kinda cool. They will just walk around with you and won’t run away even if you try to scare them to fly for a good photo shot.
6. Get selfie-ready with amazing colonial Architecture:
- Colorful streets like Fortaleza street (Umbrella street)
Umbrella Street, in Old San Juan, is installed during summer and may not be available year-round. Instead, you might find just the Puerto Rico flag like we did. But it was still pretty. At the end of the street, you will see a blue building called Governor Mansion. If you are lucky, you may be able to catch some local dance right behind Mansion Gate.
- Calle San Justo: Streets filled with colorful buildings are truly a rainbow feast of historic architecture.
- La Puerta de la Bandera:
This popular selfie destination among tourists is nothing but a door painted with the Puerto Rican flag. This was painted black and white to mark as a symbol of protest and resistance during PR’s 2016 economic and social situations. This caused the image to go viral on social media.
7. Feeling Thirsty after all this walk? Let’s drink some Pina Coladas.
This tropical drink with coconut and rum was, in fact, invented in Puerto Rico. Well, the exact place is still in the debate between Barrachina Resturants and Caribe Hilton hotel. We tried at Barrachina restaurant. Honestly, it felt like regular Pina Colada, but the place had a good vibe and cute little outdoor sitting.
8. Let go off your diet rules and eat at all chocolate bar
Yes, all chocolate. Chocolate grilled cheese, choco burgers, chocolate shots, chocolate cocktails, famous hot chocolate with cheese. I was surprised when I first tried the hot chocolate with cheese. I thought that’s a weird combination, but it was perfect. Sweet and creamy with a slight hint of saltiness.
9. Lazy at beach:
- Condado Beach is often compared to give Miami vibes. Great for Caribbean beach experience with vibrant city life just steps away.
- Balneario El Escambron is a good family beach with lifeguards, showers, restrooms, places to eat, snorkeling.
- Ocean Park Beach gives a laid-back California vibe in Puerto Rico.
- Isla Verde Beach was recently voted as “Best Urban Beach” and is also a local favorite.
- The best surfing beaches are located in the northwest of Puerto Rico, but if you want to find something in San Juan, La Ocho, La Punta are best to catch a wave. For daily weather conditions and daily surfing and waves conditions, check out this Surfline website(https://www.surfline.com/).
10. Learn Mixology or Rum Tasting at Bacardi :
Taste premium rum or learn how to make rum cocktails at this tour. See the crafts of barrels and blending first hand from the guided factory tour.
11. Watch Sunset
Paseo de la Princesa, Fort Castillo San Cristóbal, Fort San Felipe del Morro are some famous spots to enjoy the sunset by the ocean. But for the best sunset view, you must get out of San Juan and head towards the western part of Puerto Rico like Cabo Rojo.
You can also do a Sunset Cruise.
12. Dance to the beat of “Despacito” in La Perla
La Perla is a small historic, colorful settlement, lying in the pacific ocean’s lap, standing tall facing the crashing waves. This is where the famous song “Despacito” was filmed. The song has helped break down the community’s stereotypes of being a dangerous seaside slum.
13. Experience one of the top 50 bar in the World, La FACTORIA
This is another place where the song Despacito was recorded. And it was recorded there for a reason. This pub is not a fancy regular pub. Its rugged, dimmed light, old walled. That’s what makes it unique. Drinks are amazing, and some local drinks can get you really drunk. We tried Puerto Rico’s famous shot Pittorro.
14. Have a next-level gastronomic experience at Lote 23:
I did not even know that gastronomic park was a thing, and if gastronomic food experience exited before I came to Puerto Rico. Located in Santurce, this area is filled with San Juan’s top-notch chefs and mixologists creating casual and contemporary cuisine. I call it the food park of San Juan.
15. Soak up the Miami vibes along Ashford Avenue:
Many hotels, casinos, bars, restaurants with outdoor sitting, a street filled with tourists walking on the street. Beach is just a few minutes’ walks away.
16. Dance at San Juan’s best street party: La Placita
This place is lit. 15 minutes walk away from Ashford Avenues is La Placita. Honestly, I found the nightlife in La Placita de Santurce to be way more fun than Ashford. This was my favorite part of San Juan. It is filled with tons of restaurants, outdoor seating, great lights, great affordable food, and drinks. There is a square, more like a center stage, where people just sit down on the floor, stairs, or benches and enjoy their drink, smoke, talk, dance, and flaunt their curves—hottest Nightlife in San Juan.
These are some of the top-rated activities based on tourists rating on Trip advisor, GetYourGuide, and google reviews. I personally enjoyed each of these activities. Some other activities that I did not get to try include led night kayaking, ride your own mini boat around the San Juan coast, eating tripleta (sandwich)from the food truck, bar hopping.
Sunset Cruise: Get your guide website