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Best things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico - Tourism Guide

We know how important your hard-earned vacation is for you, on this site, we take pride in offering objective and factual information. ¬†Many top-ranking travel sites, including the most popular reviews site, lists attractions that are NOT in San Juan. ¬†This page is dedicated to attractions and places to visit only¬†in¬†San Juan. ¬†Imagine getting here, to¬†find out you can’t make the trip to a specific attraction because it farther than you¬†thought, or didn’t make the necessary plans.¬†

Cruisers can visit the top of the attractions in Old San Juan.¬† We advise you to book a few days in San Juan before or after your cruise.¬† If you’re in San Juan for a longer stay, a wide array of unique magical attractions await to be explored. ¬†San Juan is also a great location to explore popular attractions and things to do in Puerto Rico.

San Juan is the hottest cruise destination in the Caribbean and consistently voted “Best Weekend Getaway Destination”. ¬† If you’re a cruiser your greatest frustration will be deciding what to see and do in one short day. ¬† If you’re planning a weekend getaway in San Juan, this city will exceed your expectations.¬†¬†

We divide the list of Best Things to Do & Places to Visit into the tourist districts of Old San Juan, Condado & Puerta del Tierra. 

Best Things to Do & Places to Visit in Old San Juan

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Old San Juan is the definite place to begin your exploration of the capital city of San Juan. ¬†You can visit a long list of world-class attractions including UNESCO World Heritage sites. ¬†The plazas (squares) are excellent places to experience the vibrant culture of Puerto Rico, there’s always an exciting event taking place in the historic district.

Should you see Old San Juan on your own or with a tour guide? 

On your own:¬† If you’re short on time, we encourage you to visit the forts first, then walk the streets of Old San Juan.¬†¬† You could take the free trolley to get a quick ride around the city and get acquainted.¬† There are many shops, relaxing cafes, and restaurants you may miss if you stick to a “must-visit list”. ¬†The best way to enjoy Old San Juan is to let go of schedules, drop the map and let your eyes lead you to great places and attractions that you may miss if you stick to a map and a list. ¬†You could get lost in the charm of the city for hours.¬† Following we have listed the most interesting places to visit in the historic district.¬†

Book a tour if you’re short on time or simply wish to get the most of your time in Old San Juan with a knowledgeable guide.¬† The most popular tours include sightseeing and food, we have listed them below.¬†

The Forts  РSan Juan National Historic Site

Castillo San Cristobal - Best things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Take a walk back into history by visiting the magnificent fortifications of Castillo San Cristobal & Castillo San Felipe del Morro, build over five centuries ago to defend the city.  The history is intriguing and the entire family will be engaged as they walk through tunnels, barracks, dungeons, and more.  The views from the forts are breathtaking with the Atlantic Ocean and San Juan as a background.  These historic landmarks are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, you leave Puerto Rico without visiting these sites.

Go on a Sunset Cruise

A romantic way of seeing Old San Juan is aboard a sailboat, especially during sunset.¬† As the sailboat turns around the San Juan Bay, you’ll get to see the most spectacular views of the walled city, and sights of the most impressive UNESCO landmarks that protected the city; La Fortaleza, and Castillo San Felipe del Morro.¬† Enjoy the experience with complimentary drinks.¬† The cruise is by East Island Excursions, one of the most reputable tour companies in Puerto Rico.

Sightseeing, Culture & Food Tour in Old San Juan

Old San Juan is the epicenter of culture in Puerto Rico.¬† If you’re short of time and wish to make the most of your time in Old San Juan, we highly recommend a guided tour with the perfect combination of sightseeing, food, and culture with a¬†knowledgeable and friendly guide.

Walk, Shop, Eat & Dance at Paseo de la Princesa 

A walking tour of Old San Juan ought to begin at Paseo de la Princesa, 19th-century walkways outside the city walls along the San Juan Bay. ¬†Walkthrough gardens, let your children play on the playground along the historic city walls, shop for unique authentic souvenirs sold by local artists, have a refreshing piragua or cup of Mavi, walk into the historic La Princesa building, take a picture on the elegant Raices fountain.¬† Typically during weekends and holidays, there is live music, so be sure to stop and dance. ¬†Paseo de la Princesa has been referred to as “One of the most scenic walkways in the world”, so hold hands with your loved one, pause for a kiss, and head towards the La Puerta de San Juan (San Juan Gate) to begin your walking tour of the Old City.

Cuartel de Ballaja & Museo Las Americas

Cuartel de Ballaja - Best Places to Visit in San Juan, Puerto Rico

After touring the magnificent Fortress of El Morro, walk across to Cuartel de Ballaja.  As soon as you walk into the courtyard, your eyes will wander admiring the elegant architecture.  Head to Cafe Don Ruiz for a great cup of Cafe con Leche or have lunch at one of the restaurants by the courtyard. Then head to the second floor to visit Museo de la Americas, where you can visit a number of exhibits showcasing aspects of the history of Puerto Rico and the Americas.  Works by renowned artists of Latin America, the United States, and Puerto Rico are featured throughout the year.  During crowded cruise days in Old San Juan, Cuartel de Ballaja tends to be quiet and relaxed.

Casa Blanca Museum

Casa Blanca Museum - Best places to visit in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Visit the first fortification in San Juan, built as the home of Juan Ponce de Leon, the first governor of Puerto Rico. ¬†Enjoy a self-guided tour of beautiful gardens, living spaces of the family’s mansion, and a small museum with exhibits of¬†16th and 17th-century artifacts.

Catedral de San Juan Bautista “San Juan Cathedral”

Catedral de San Juan Bautista - Best Places to Visit in San Juan, Puerto Rico

This Cathedral is one of the most important religious landmarks in Puerto Rico and under the US Flag. ¬†Catedral de San Juan Bautista is the seat of the¬†Archdiocese of Puerto Rico. ¬† This is the oldest church under the US Flag and the second oldest church in the Americas. ¬†Catedral San Juan Bautista dates back to 1521. ¬†The Spanish sailors walked into the city through the San Juan Gate and had the tradition of stopping at this church to thank God for a safe voyage. ¬†Famous celebrities choose the San Juan Cathedral to say “I do”. ¬†If you happen to be here at Christmas, be sure to get here early to enjoy one of the most beautiful Christmas services on the island. ¬†A tomb with the remains of Ponce de Leon and a mummified body of St. Pio are at the Cathedral. ¬†Cathedral is open daily from 8 am – 4 pm and Sundays from 8 am – 2 pm.

Location: Calle del Cristo, across from El Convento Hotel.  See the map below.

Plaza de Armas

A visit to Old San Juan is not complete until you visit one of the plazas.  Plazas are very important to Puerto Ricans.  They are places where friends meet, where life seems to slow down, where a cup of Cafe con Leche (coffee with boiled milk) and a delicious Quesito (crispy pastry stuffed with cream cheese), goes great with conversation.  Plazas are a cultural center where traditional events take place, locals dance to salsa on an open-air dance floor or relax to the sounds of jazz. Plaza de Armas is an elegant plaza surrounded by elegant historic buildings.  It is a great place to take a break from your walking tour and observe the everyday lives of Sanjuaneros (San Juan residents) enjoying their city.  At night, the plaza takes on a golden glow and turns into a romantic place to sit down and relax with your loved one.  Children will love feeding the playful pigeons during the day.

La Fortaleza

La Fortaleza - Top Attractions in San Juan, Puerto Rico

La Fortaleza was the first fortification in San Juan.  The fortress fell and it was insufficient to protect the city a fortress and turned into an executive mansion.  La Fortaleza is the oldest executive mansion in the New World, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of the San Juan National Historic Site. La Fortaleza is the current residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico.  Free Tours are available on weekdays.   Tours take you through the gardens, the dungeon, and a chapel.  For more information call: 787-721-7000 ext. 2211.

Cementerio San Maria Magdalena de Pazzis

Cementerio San Maria Magdalena de Pazzis - Best Landmarks to visit in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Not your typical attraction… but a very scenic spot with much history.¬† Puerto Ricans consider this cemetery the ultimate location as a final resting place… families paying top dollar for a spot where many famous Puerto Ricans have been buried.¬† Nestled between the city walls and facing the Atlantic Ocean. ¬†Walkthrough unique ornate marble thumbs, some depicting a story of love. ¬† Among notable Puerto Ricans buried here are:¬† Jose Celso Barbosa, Pedro Albizu Campos, Jose de Diego, and the infamous real pirate of the Caribbean Roberto Cofresi.¬† If you don’t have the time to visit, you can take a peek from the grounds of El Morro Fort.¬†

Bacardi Rum Factory – The world’s largest premium rum distillery

Casa Bacardi is the World’s Largest premium rum distillery.   This is one of the most popular tours in the San Juan / Metro Area.   Casa Bacardi offers a Historical Tour, Rum Tasting Tour & Mixology Tour, you can book directly on their official website, or book a tour with local operators which include transportation.  The gift shop is excellent.

Popular Tours from San Juan

Condado - Best Things to Do & Places of Interest

San Juan, Puerto Rico

The tourist district of Condado is the most popular beachfront destination in San Juan, offering a few resorts on the beach, shopping and dining along Ashford Avenue and very walkable. Condado is a good central location with convenient access to Old San Juan.  If you want to enjoy the best of Condado, it is best to stay in Ashford Avenue. 

As a starting point, we’ll take you to Ventana al Mar, located right at the center of Ashford Drive facing the Atlantic Ocean, centered between the iconic and luxurious Condado Vanderbilt Hotel and the trendy La Concha Renaissance Resort. ¬† The park offers access to Condado Beach, restaurants and shopping, there’s off street parking and various parking garages if you’re driving in.¬†¬†

Condado Beach

Condado Beach - San Juan, Puerto Rico

Condado Beach is the most popular beach in Condado, with excellent beachfront resort options. ¬†You can rent a lounge chair and umbrella at La Concha Resort, get the perfect tan, enjoy Pi√Īa Coladas on the beach and walk to relaxed cafes, romantic restaurants and splurge on the luxury shops across the street.

Playita del Condado Beach

This beach may be small, but it has some pretty awesome qualities.   We love Playita del Condado because of the access, the views of the fort and modern city, proximity to restaurants, and kid-friendly water.  Umbrella and lounge chairs are available.  La Playita del Condado is a great beach option for cruisers who want beach time nearby.

Laguna del Condado / Condado Lagoon

Take a walk along the Condado Lagoon, an oasis at the center of Condado with a scenic walking and bicycle path.  The calm waters of the Condado lagoon is a wonderful place to paddleboard and kayak, rentals are available at the entrance of the park. 

Puerta de Tierra - Best Things to Do & Places to Visit

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Paseo Puerta de Tierra

This is a good starting place to enjoy the sights and points of interest in Puerta de Tierra in San Juan.  Puerta de Tierra connects Condado and Old San Juan.   El Paseo (Translates to walkway), was built a few years ago, in order to connect the tourist district of Condado and Old San Juan, so visitors and residents can safely walk or bike and enjoy the sights and attractions without the need of a car.

El Escambron Beach & Bateria El Escambron

One of the top beaches in the San Juan / Metro area is Balneario El Escambron, the best public beach in San Juan managed by the municipality, the only beach with facilities.  Balneario Escambron was one of the only two beaches in Puerto Rico to receive the Blue Flag award in 2020.  There are two beaches inside Escambron, the first is the most popular, it is wide with a protected swimming area by a coral wall, great for snorkeling during the summer months.   The other beach has calmer water and is popular for scuba divers, you can take a little walk to the fortification of Bateria El Escambron, from where you can enjoy sweeping views of the city and Condado Beach.

Playa Pe√Īa Beach & The Ruins

When the tide is low, this is a great beach for those that prefer uncrowded beaches. ¬†This is a nice beach for walking, lounging to get the perfect tan, and refreshing on a hot day. ¬†Very few walk all the way to the right of the beach, there¬†you’ll find ruins of a fort forgotten and claimed by the sun, sky, and sea.

Map - Places to Visit & Best Things to Do in San Juan

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