San Juan, the vibrant capital of Puerto Rico, is a treasure trove that offers a blend of rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and cultural delights. If you’re visiting the area, you may be thinking about what the best things to do are. Thankfully, Puerto Rico is ripe with activities and places to explore. From historical sites to picturesque neighborhoods, here are specific places you shouldn’t miss during your visit to San Juan.
Peek into Peurto Rico’s History at La Fortaleza and San Juan National Historic Site
Begin your journey at La Fortaleza, the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the beautifully preserved colonial architecture and learn about its historical significance. Adjacent to La Fortaleza is the San Juan National Historic Site, home to the iconic El Morro and San Cristobal fortresses. These imposing structures offer panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and a glimpse into Puerto Rico’s military past.
Spend a Day in Trendy Santurce
Venture into the trendy neighborhood of Santurce, known for its vibrant arts scene and lively ambiance. Visit La Placita de Santurce, a vibrant square surrounded by bars and restaurants. During the day, explore the local market to find fresh produce, flowers, and traditional snacks. As the sun sets, the square transforms into a lively social hub with live music, open-air bars, and restaurants. Join the locals for a night of dancing, socializing, and enjoying Puerto Rican cuisine.
Enjoy Ocean Views at Piñones
Escape to the coastal paradise of Piñones, located just east of San Juan. This beautiful stretch of beach offers a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. You can stroll along the boardwalk, known as the “Paseo de Piñones,” lined with food stalls offering delectable treats such as alcapurrias (fried fritters), bacalaitos (codfish fritters), and refreshing coconut water. Relax on the golden sands, soak up the sun, and enjoy the breathtaking ocean views.
Go Rum Tasting at Casa Bacardi
Embark on a rum-filled adventure at Casa Bacardi, the world-famous distillery across the bay from Old San Juan. Take a guided tour to discover the history and craftsmanship behind Bacardi rum, then explore the interactive exhibits, visit the aging barrel rooms, and indulge in a tasting session to savor the flavors of Puerto Rico’s most renowned spirit.
Take in City Views at Condado Lagoon
Head to the picturesque Condado Lagoon, nestled between Condado and Miramar neighborhoods. Rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore the calm waters, surrounded by lush greenery and stunning city views, or enjoy the serenity of the lagoon while immersing yourself in the natural beauty of the surroundings.
Explore Cave Formations at Cueva Ventana
Cueva Ventana is a natural wonder located outside of San Juan. Take a guided tour to explore the stunning cave formations and discover the breathtaking “window cave” that offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. This unique experience allows you to witness the beauty of Puerto Rico’s natural landscapes.
Discover Puerto Rican Art at Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
You can immerse yourself in the world of Puerto Rican art at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. Explore the impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and mixed-media artwork from the 17th century to contemporary pieces. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions, cultural events, and educational programs.
Got for a Swim at Escambrón Beach
Located near Old San Juan. This pristine beach offers calm waters, making it perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Enjoy the soft sands, palm trees, and stunning views of the historic cityscape. There are also facilities for picnicking and sunbathing.
Indulge in Coffee History at Hacienda Buena Vista
Step back in time with a visit to Hacienda Buena Vista, a restored 19th-century coffee plantation. Take a guided tour to learn about the history of coffee production in Puerto Rico and explore the plantation’s machinery, including the water-powered mill. The surrounding lush landscapes and scenic views make for a memorable experience.
Visit Plaza de Armas
Plaza de Armas is the main square of Old San Juan. This charming plaza is surrounded by historical buildings, including the San Juan City Hall and the San Juan Cathedral. Enjoy the shade of the trees, and people-watch, and soak up the lively atmosphere. The plaza often hosts cultural events and live performances.
Explore Art in Museo de las Américas
Delve into the diverse cultures of the Americas at the Museo de las Américas. This museum showcases the history, art, and traditions of Puerto Rico and other countries in the region. Explore the permanent exhibits and temporary displays that highlight the cultural heritage of the Americas.
Spend an Evening in Condado
Experience the cosmopolitan vibe of Condado, a stylish neighborhood known for its upscale hotels, restaurants, and shops. Take a leisurely stroll along Ashford Avenue, lined with trendy boutiques, art galleries, and international dining options. Enjoy the vibrant nightlife scene with rooftop bars, live music, and entertainment venues.
Get some Fresh Air at Parque de las Palomas
Discover Parque de las Palomas, a small park located near the San Juan Gate in Old San Juan. This charming spot is home to hundreds of pigeons and offers a serene atmosphere amidst the city’s bustling streets. Feed the pigeons, relax on the benches, and enjoy the view of the city walls and ocean.
Take a Guided Tour of Casa Blanca
Explore Casa Blanca, the former residence of the Ponce de León family and the oldest standing house in San Juan. This historic site offers guided tours that provide insight into the history and lifestyle of Puerto Rico’s colonial era. Admire the architectural details and the beautiful gardens surrounding the house.
San Juan, Puerto Rico, is brimming with unique and captivating places to explore. From art and history museums to scenic beaches and historic neighborhoods, the city offers a diverse range of experiences that cater to different interests. Whether you’re seeking cultural immersion, natural beauty, or historical treasures, San Juan has something for everyone to enjoy.