Top Things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico
The beautiful city of San Juan in Puerto Rico is a perfect destination for your next travel adventure. While many people only go by what they hear on the news, take it from us that power is back up in much of the island, especially where the tourists are. And it is a great place to spend money to help boost their economy. This brief overview of the top things to do in San Juan will definitely help plan your next trip.
While there are many top things to do in San Juan, don’t forget to just stop and look around.
Getting to San Juan
With it being only a two-and-a-half hour flight from Miami, you could potentially go even for a long weekend. Flights can be anywhere from $200 – $500 round trip depending on what part of the States you are traveling from.
It’s easy to take a taxi from the airport; it will cost between $15-25 depending on how many are in your party and how many bags you have. They do have Uber in the San Juan area and while it will show that you can request an Uber from the airport, you cannot.
Where to Stay
San Juan is actually pretty big but if it’s your first time to the city, do yourself a favor and stay in Old San Juan. There’s a good amount of boutique hotels and a few chain hotels to choose from in many of the touristy areas. However, we prefer the Airbnb route because we like the feel of living like locals. There is an abundance of Airbnb apartments, so you can find them easily in Old San Juan and the neighboring areas, like Condado or Isla Verde for a range of prices, some even under $100 a night! We’ve stayed both in Condado and Old San Juan. Old San Juan is where you want to be to experience the culture, the architecture, historic landmarks as well as the local bars and restaurants. More people speak English in Old San Juan due to the high tourist count coming in for/from the cruises that port there. But Condado is a great place to be if you want to be lounging on the beach and out of the Old San Juan scene.
Condado is a wonderful place to stay if you are looking for a more relaxing vacation. Here, you can relax on the beautiful beaches and stay at a resort or a hotel. Many more locals live in this area.
Old San Juan
Truly a romantic city full of character and history! If you are looking for a true Old San Juan experience or maybe looking to save on cost, you will want to find a vacation rental. You can find some nice rentals starting under $100 all the way up to $250/night.
A very popular beach destination for tourists with lots of shopping and food experiences.
Our Recommendation: We recommend to stay in Old San Juan at least for a couple nights to really get a feel for the history and culture of Puerto Rico. It is about 3 miles to get to Condado where the beaches are. There is so much to do in Old San Juan and not quite as much in Condado or Isla verde for tourists.
Top things to do
If you look on Trip Advisor, you might get overwhelmed at the recommendations and options of things to do in San Juan. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered on some great choices:
The Forts of Old San Juan
During one of your days there, put your walking shoes on and spend a few hours walking around and throughout the forts that surround the city. Built in the 1500s, these forts were primarily used to keep out invading countries and pirates. Spend your first sunset walking the base at El Morro. The historic Spanish feel and the views are an unbeatable duo.
If you are with your family, it is also a popular place to fly kites.
Comunidad La Perla
If you’re into photography you cannot pass up the photo opportunities provided by Comunidad La Perla. Sitting beautifully just feet from the ocean and at the foot of El Morro (Fort), the creative spirit of the people that live there has really served as a treat for tourists and locals alike. La Perla is a gem regardless of it not being an upscale neighborhood.
It was put in the spotlight recently by the well-known music video for Despacito.
In case the name does not sell itself, let me tell you this is well worth a few hours of your day. Only a 5-10 minute ferry ride at $3 round trip, (plus a short taxi to the factory from the ferry port), you will find yourself entering the gates of Bacardi, which tastefully resembles the landscaping of a resort.
There are a few options of different tours to choose from. Each of them come with a welcome drink at the very least. You can go the less expensive route and just do the historic tour for $15, you can do a tasting tour for $50, or go all out and learn new bartending skills as you do a tasting tour for $60. All very worth the experience you choose.
It would be hard not to find yourself aimless walking around the streets of Old San Juan simply admiring the character of all the buildings. One street to make sure you get a look at is Calle Fortelaza. At the farthest west end of the street sits the Governors residence (or fortress as it is named). Right before the road ends is a net of kites that add even more unique personality to the already beautiful and historic scene.
This is a tucked away tourist hotspot. It is a perfect place for pictures! If you can get there at 7 am you will have it all to yourselves!
Road Trip Around the Island
There are more gorgeous places to see than one can count but they all take some traveling to get to; both driving and hiking. Renting a car was swift, easy, and inexpensive to do from the Hertz at The Sheraton. I think it was $30 for the day plus the cost of gas. I would recommend leaving no later than 7 or 8 am so you can see more stops along the way.
Regions to see (in no particular order):
- Isabela, San Sebastián, Aguadilla, Utuado, El Yunque National Forest
Food and Drink
Old San Juan has so many options to eat, drink, and be merry. Here are our top picks:
Breakfast and Brunch
La Madre Cute modern Mexican restaurant with lots of flavored Margaritas and tasty food!
Cafeteria Mallorca Very classic Puerto Rican experience. Similar to a diner in appearance with great tasting, real-deal Puerto Rican breakfast.
St. Germain Bistro & Cafe Relaxing cafe for a refreshing drink. They have a great basil-lemonade and amazing tapas and panini’s. The ambiance reminded me of being in Spain.
Barrachina Great Puerto Rican bites in a classy atmosphere! They’re popular so either book in advance or have a drink at the bar while you wait.
Punto de Vista Rooftop Views! This place has some of the best views that we’ve seen at a restaurant. They are located at the top of Hotel Milano and serve the best Mofongo. Get there early.
El Picoteo Perfect for a date night or day-time tapas. It’s mostly outside in a courtyard ambiance. A little pricier but definitely a treat.
The Mezzanine Located on the second floor, above St. Germain Bistro & Cafe, this bar serves small plates at a low price and $4- $5 cocktails during happy hour with views of the beautiful streets of Old San Juan.
Al Fresco Rooftop Wine Bar Located on the third/top floor above The Mezzanine, Al Fresco is a rooftop bar known for their views and great cocktails.
La Factoria This bar is unlike any we’ve seen. Very Speakeasy feel with 5 adjoining rooms and 4 bars. La Factoria is the third bar back where locals come to Salsa and listen to live music. This is also where the dancing scene in the Despacito music video was filmed. It looks different with the low lighting and the DJ setup but it is indeed a fun and famous local hotspot.
Barrachina A MUST for their Piña Colada. I like Piña Colada’s but they’re generally not my favorite drink. I kid you not, this is the best tropical drink I have ever had. It might have to do with the fact that it was invented there in the 1950’s by one of their bartenders. Do yourself a favor and stop for one, or two! At $7 a pop, you can’t beat it.
La Sombrilla Rosa A small late night locals bar that projects all genres of music videos. We LOVE this place. It resembles a garage and does not have much seating but who needs it when the cheap drinks are flowing and everyone is dancing to a great throwback? If you want to feel like a local in Old San Juan, go here.
What to pack
We’ve been there, so we know what you need. Here are a few of Plentiful Travels top travel products that you should pack if you will be exploring the top things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Check out our packing tips for ideas on packing for your next trip.
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