Nestled on the Atlantic Coast of Puerto Rico, San Juan is typically the first port-of-call when you arrive on the island. Being the largest city, it’s got centuries of history, vibrant neighbourhoods and a heap of the best things to do in San Juan dotted all across the city.
These all make it a firm-favourite to visit when in Puerto Rico. This all makes it a great place to start your adventure around the island or for a city break, too.
Honestly, the whole island of Puerto Rico is stunning, especially with all the gorgeous places to see. You won’t wanna miss it! That being said, if it’s a city vibe you’re after, then San Juan will be the place to be.
So, to hit the ground running, I wanted to share some epic places to visit in San Juan whilst you explore the city.
Take a look, below, at the best things to do in San Juan. Have an amazing trip!
1.) Old San Juan
For me, Old San Juan is the first place you have to visit once arriving in the city!
You see, here you can stroll through Old San Juan and soak up the culture and history (which is amazing) in one of the most historic neighbourhoods in Puerto Rico.
With centuries of history and colonial buildings dating back centuries, it’s the kind of place that’s perfect for history buffs or if you just fancy a chilled-out stroll.
As you potter around, you’ll be able to take in Garita del Diablo, the 16th Century Puerta de San Juan city gate and partner it up with a visit to Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
For a totally cool little bar, pop into El Batey Bar. It’s nothing fancy but one of the oldest watering holes in the city. Such a great experience.
If you’re getting hungry, pop into Café Manolín for their Mofongo stuffed with shrimp.
Again, it’s not the kind of place you go for a fancy meal but it’s got all the atmosphere and charm for a really authentic lunch in the Old Town.
2.) Castillo San Felipe del Morro Castillo San Cristobal
Talking of Old San Juan, don’t forget to visit some of the oldest forts in the Americas whilst in the city. Commonly referred to as El Morro, Castillo San Felipe del Morro took the Spanish decades to finish many centuries ago.
Packed with history and providing fantastic views, El Morro still remains one of the best things to do in San Juan if you’re into your history.
Yes, it’s probably one of the more popular (and sometimes busier) spots in San Juan – but rightly so! The history is incredible to see.
Oh, and don’t forget to pop over to Castillo San Cristobal, too. Still, to this day, it’s one of the largest fortifications that Spain ever constructed in the new world!
You might even spot some of the resident iguanas, too.
Perched within the beating heart of San Juan, Santurce is a neighbourhood you won’t want to miss whilst visiting the city.
It’s a thriving art scene, surrounded by colourful murals, foodie trucks, hip cafes and live music spots to boot!
Once in the area, make sure to explore the Museum of Art (MAPR) for their eighteen halls filled with thousands of works of art. If that’s not your thing, head to the streets around Calle Cerra where you’ll get to see heaps of street art and murals to see.
Plus, you’ll get to call into MUSA for a tasty lunch (and cocktails) – their blackened tuna is everything!
4.) La Perla
La Perla is a community nowadays, but that wasn’t always the case. For centuries, this was an area where enslaved people were forced to live (as they weren’t allowed within the city).
Nowadays, the community is a colourful mix of buildings and spots to visit especially for vantage points from the shoreline.
If hunger strikes, be sure to pop into La Garita that has some tasty mofongo and incredible views across the shore. Just be aware, you can wait a little while for the food to arrive!
As with all cities, use sensible precautions when exploring areas. Although safe in the daytime, I wouldn’t recommend walking around this area alone at night.
5.) La Fortaleza
Just a short ways away from El Morro, you can find La Fortaleza – a spot you can’t miss.
You see, this is the compound where the home and office of Puerto Rico’s Governor are located and is gorgeous to see. Painted a beautiful blue, the colonial building is a UNESCO National Historic Site and was constructed over the last few centuries.
With heaps of history, it’s the kind of place you’ll need to book a guided tour for. You see, you can’t just wander around La Fortaleza but you can hop inside on a guided weekday tour that lasts around 30-minutes or so.
Just be sure to take ID with you, you won’t get in otherwise!
Situated just shy of the Old Town of San Juan, Condado is a neighbourhood that’s perfect if you want some time at the beach.
Now, Condado Beach might get a little busy on weekends, but it’s still a great spot to chill out and go for a little dip! Just arrive earlier in the morning if you want to avoid most of the crowds. Plus, you can rent chairs and umbrellas right on the beachfront.
Not only that, it’s got a heap of hotels and little foodie spots the line the bays and shoreline too. It’s one of the best things to do in San Juan if you fancy a few days relaxing in the city.
Oh, and don’t forget lunch at Orozco’s Restaurant – a totally informal spot for one of the tastiest local dishes in Condado.
7.) El Capitolio
Probably one of the grandest buildings in all of Puerto Rico, El Capitolio is stunning to visit.
Once here, hop on one of the guided tours to see the incredible architecture inside. Though, it’s often hit or miss if you can actually get on one. Still, worth a gander and to ask once you arrive in the area.
Alternatively, if you do just see it from the outside, be sure to visit the Plaza de San Juan Bautista for the best views of El Capitolio.
Plus, there’s a lovely walking area around Playa del Capitolio, too.
Afterwards, head over to Waffle-era for a tasty brunch. Their ‘Bridget Special’ waffle with cream cheese and is so good.