Puerto RicoSan Juan Puerto RicoThings to Do in Puerto Rico ⏐ Best Things to Do in San Juan

Best Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Award Winning Tour in San Juan

San Juan, the capital city of Puerto Rico is one of the top places to visit and vacation in Puerto Rico, offering world-class attractions, attractive beaches, rich cultural experiences, and great tours to nearby attractions around the island.  Whether you’re having a romantic wedding, honeymoon, holding a business meeting or convention, or planning a great vacation with family and friends, Puerto Rico will surely satisfy your travel wishes.  This guide presents all the best things to do and attractions in San Juan with something for everyone in the family.

Please Note: To make your planning easier, we have listed the best things to do and attractions in San Juan and the neighboring towns of Carolina and Cataño.  This is especially important for cruisers and travelers spending just a few days in the city who don’t wish to spend much time traveling to places.  Please see our “Fantastic Day Trips from San Juan” article for great places and attractions to visit near San Juan and around the island. 

Walk the Streets of Old San Juan

San Juan Puerto Rico - Old San Juan

If you only have a day in Old San Juan, tour one of the forts and then simply walk the colorful streets of Old San Juan.  The simplicity of walking becomes an extraordinary experience in Old San Juan.  You want to look up constantly at the adorned wrought-iron balconies of colonial homes painted in bright or pastel colors.  The energy is vibrant, yet relaxed, like a tropical destination ought to be.  Old San Juan is like a giant museum with many attractions easily accessible by foot.  Drop the map and get lost around the 7 colorful blocks full of historical landmarks, museums, relaxed cafes, great shops, restaurants, and more…  The free trolley is a nice way to give your feet a break and get acquainted with the Old City.  You can explore Old San Juan on your own, if you’re short on time and wish to make the most of your time in Old San Juan, we recommend you book a walking tour.

Top Rated Walking Tours in Old San Juan

Relax & Play at San Juan Beaches

Best Beaches in San Juan Puerto Rico

You’re planning a Caribbean vacation, so of course, you want beaches. Grab a lounge chair, put on sunblock, and lay under the sun so you can return home with the perfect tan.  San Juan has a variety of beaches, from Miami-style to more laid-back natural settings.  We won’t tell you which beach to visit, visit our beach guide to choose which best suits your preference.  Whether you want to just sit on a lounge chair and relax or be actively doing water sports, San Juan has a beach for you.  Stay at a beachfront hotel so you can simply walk to the beach and have easy access to great restaurants and beachside entertainment.

Top Rated Beach Activities in San Juan

Visit San Juan National Historic Site 

El Morro - Attractions in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Step back five centuries by visiting San Juan National Historic Site, made up of La Fortaleza, the forts of Castillo San Felipe del Morro, & Castillo San Cristobal, San Juan de La Cruz, and the City Walls.  Navigate these magnificent fortifications and explore their tunnels, dungeons, ramps, and barracks.  Bring your camera for gorgeous photo ops, with San Juan Bay as the perfect background.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Castillo San Felipe del Morro - Best places and attractions to visit in San Juan Puerto Rico

Castillo San Felipe del Morro best known as El Morro, is the most famous landmark in San Juan and on the island of Puerto Rico.  From history buffs to romantics to families with children, this is an amazing place for everyone.  Make sure to bring your camera, you’ll take some fantastic photos with sweeping views of San Juan Bay as the background.  The grounds of El Morro are one of the most beloved places by families where great memories are made.  Be sure to purchase a kite or bring your own… and not just for the kids, let your inner child free… run, roll down the grass, laugh, and feel the breeze.

Walking Tours w/ Guided Fort Visit

Castillo San Cristobal – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

San Juan Puerto Rico - Best places to visit and attractions - Castillo San Cristobal

San Cristóbal is three times bigger than Castillo San Felipe del Morro.  Covering 27 acres, this is the largest Spanish fort in the New World, an architectural masterpiece, that allows you to travel back five centuries for a deep insight into the history of the New World.  Group tours with friendly park rangers are available, or you may walk on your own.  If you have mobility challenges, choose to explore Castillo San Cristobal, it is easier to navigate than Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

San Juan National Historic Site also includes the forts of San Juan de la Cruz (El Cañuelo) and the city walls.

Tour a Rum Distillery

Rum Distillery Tours - San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is known as the “Capital of Rum”, producing most of the rum consumed in the United States.  While in San Juan, you have the opportunity to tour a couple of rum distilleries.  If you enjoy quality spirits, a tour will give you a deeper appreciation for quality rum and knowledge of the manufacturing process.  A short distance from San Juan you can book a tour of Casa Bacardi Distillery, the world’s largest rum distillery, making premium rum since 1862.  Another distillery you may enjoy is Ron de Barrilito at Hacienda Santa Ana, makers of the oldest rum in Puerto Rico.  Tours are paired with a tasting of the most delectable rums.  This is a great experience for couples and groups.   See top-rated tours below, and learn more about all distillery tours here.

Top Rated Rum Distillery Tours near San Juan

Take a Sunset Cruise on The Historic San Juan Bay

Sailing at Sunset - Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

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.

Return home with travel bragging rights for experiencing a sunset sailing tour by SailPR, which proudly earned a spot on the coveted Traveler's Choice Best of the Best by TripAdvisor for Best Sailing in the World for the past two years, #20 in 2022 & #7 in 2021

Top Rated Sailing Charters - San Juan Bay

Have Fun Off-Road, Horseback Riding & Ziplining at Hacienda Campo Rico

Campo Rico Trai Rides - Best Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

We know is hard to get away from the blue coastline, but the green side of the island is also enchanting offering a fun, educational, and cultural experience the whole family will enjoy.  If you’re in San Juan for just a few days and don’t wish to spend much time traveling away from the city, Hacienda Campo Rico is a great place to enjoy a variety of fun activities; Ziplining, ATV Trail Rides, Horseback Riding on elegant Paso Fino horses.  See tours below at Hacienda Campo Rico and see additional ATV / Offroad Adventures in Puerto Rico.

Fun Tours at Hacienda Campo Rico - 30 minutes from San Juan

Escambron Beach - Best beaches in San Juan Puerto Rico - Go snorkeling with sea turtles.

If your beach time in San Juan is limited, be sure not to miss Balneario El Escambron.  While there are many beautiful beaches on the north coast of Puerto Rico, overall this is the best public beach offering the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the city, safe swimming waters, easy access, and facilities.

+ What makes this beach so special?

  • Although Escambron Beach faces the Atlantic Ocean, the water was perfectly landscaped by nature with a natural coral wall creating a pool with clear water and rocky spots where beach lovers and tropical fish come together to swim and play.
  • There’s another small beach inside the park, which at first sight does not look like anything too special… but once you get in the water and look underneath the surface, you’re in a pretty cool aquarium that comes as a surprise in popular city beach.
  • Book a popular tour or bring your own snorkel gear to swim with sea turtles and a colorful variety of fish.  Boulders were added to the beach to keep the strong surf from coming in, making it a safe place to swim (under normal weather conditions).
  • If you never snorkeled or scuba-dived, Escambron Beach is a popular spot for learning, even for children.
  • There’s also a historic site inside the park and a trail for a romantic scenic walk.  See our Escambron Beach guide for a photo tour… we can assure you it is much better in person.

Get to Know the Vibrant Culture & Flavors of Puerto Rico

Cultural Experiences - Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Old San Juan is the most beloved place on the island for residents of Puerto Rico, the epicenter of culture, music, food, and traditions.  In San Juan, there’s always a reason to celebrate, dance, and gather with family and friends.  Locals from towns across the island come to San Juan to enjoy the year-round cultural events, great entertainment, excellent food, and dance to the sounds of salsa played at the elegant squares and restaurants around the city.

Top Rated Cultural Tours in San Juan Puerto Rico

Go Kayaking, Paddleboarding alongside Manatees in Laguna del Condado

Condado Lagoon - Best Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

One of the best ways to get to know a place is to speak to the locals; if you did, residents who love nature and long for quiet will tell you about Laguna del Condado (Condado Lagoon), one of the most beloved places in San Juan.  Condado Lagoon, located in the district of Condado within walking distance of the tourist district, is an estuary reserve for Caribbean Manatees where mammals and humans perfectly share the waters of the lagoon.  At Laguna del Condado, you’ll see sights of romantic couples enjoying a floating picnic on the water, families paddleboarding and kayaking, and solo residents practicing the art of yoga on paddleboards.  When the skies turn dark, residents and visitors alike enjoy the quiet of the waters that glisten with the city lights.  Manatees are gentle creatures, so don’t be scared when you see a manatee swim by as you kayak or paddleboard. 

We recommend you book a tour with a friendly guide for the best experience, highly rated tours are available such as kayaking, paddle boarding, and fun water bikes.  One of the most booked and top-reviewed tours in San Juan is night kayaking with LED lights, resembling the magical bioluminescent bays of Puerto Rico. 

Top Rated Tours in Laguna del Condado

Visit Ponce de Leon’s Mansion – Casa Blanca Museum

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

Visit the first fortification in San Juan, built to be the home of Juan Ponce de Leon, the first governor of Puerto Rico.  Casa Blanca is located on the corner of Calle Beneficiencia & San Sebastian.  Enjoy a self-guided tour of gardens, living spaces of the family’s mansion, and a small museum with exhibits of 16th and 17th-century artifacts.  Casa Blanca is an easy stop after touring El Morro.

Learn How to Scuba Dive in San Juan

Take the challenge and take scuba diving lessons to fully enjoy the pleasures of the Caribbean.  The Escambron Marine Park is a popular scuba diving site for beginners and tourists offering colorful marine life with easy access from Escambron Beach in San Juan.  This is a great activity for couples and families wishing to have an out-of-the-ordinary vacation experience sure to ignite a passion for exploring the wonders underneath the water of Puerto Rico and other destinations you may visit in the future.

Top Rated Scuba Diving Lessons in San Juan

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

Paseo de la Princesa - Best things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

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”.  We recommend visitors begin their walking tour of Old San Juan at Paseo de la Princesa, 19th-century walkways outside the city walls along the San Juan Bay.  Paseo de La Princesa is a cultural hub on weekends, holidays, and especially during Christmas time.  When cruise ships are scheduled to arrive in Old San Juan, artisans, musicians, and food line up at Paseo de La Princesa to welcome visitors.

Things to Do at Princesa:  Take home a special hand-crafted souvenir, taste traditional treats such as Piragua and Mavi drink, and foods, and if there’s music playing join locals and dance.  Walk through gardens, let your children laugh and play out on the playground, walk into the historic La Princesa building, and take a picture of the elegant Raices fountain.  Couples… hold hands, take in the views of the San Juan bay, watch the sunset, and admire the historic city walls that were built to protect the city.  

Go Shopping in San Juan

Shopping - Things to do in San Juan Puerto Rico

San Juan offers a great variety of shops ranging from local art galleries, unique souvenir shops, boutiques, and luxury stores.  Head to Ashford Avenue in Condado, for boutiques and a few high-end stores.  Head to Plaza Las Américas, the biggest mall in the Caribbean with a great variety of stores.  The Mall of San Juan, the city’s newest mall is a smaller mall with high-end stores and a really nice food court.   In Old San Juan, you’ll find many typical souvenir shops, but if you look more closely as you walk the city, you’ll find some of the most unique and interesting shops with exquisite jewelry, clothing, artisans, art galleries, and the popular authentic Panama hats.

See Art & Learn About the History of the Americas at Museo de las Américas

Top attractions / museums in San Juan Puerto Rico - Museo de Las Americas

Museo de Las Americas (Museum of the Americas), located on the second floor of Cuartel de Ballaja in Old San Juan.  This museum is one of the most interesting, family-friendly, and educational places to visit.  The museum features permanent exhibitions about the history and culture of Puerto Rico and the Americas as well as art exhibitions.

Relax at a Plaza

Hang out at a Plaza - Best things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

We invite you to take a pause as you explore the streets of Old San Juan, and enjoy one of the Puerto Rican traditions of relaxing at the plaza.  Life seems to slow down at a plaza, where a cup of Cafe con Leche (coffee with warm milk) and a delicious Quesito (crispy pastry stuffed with cream cheese), goes great with conversation as you admire the architecture of this colorful European-inspired place in the Caribbean.  Plazas are common in Europe, when the Spanish colonized the island, they brought this wonderful urban design and tradition to the island.  You can find a plaza in each of the municipalities around the island at the historic city centers.  For Puerto Ricans plazas are like open living spaces where residents gather and most cultural activities are celebrated.  During holidays, the best Puerto Rican musical bands and local talents come to sing to the rhythms of salsa, bomba, and plena, turning the plaza into a dance floor.  There’s always something fun and exciting happening at the plazas, Puerto Ricans are always seeking a reason to celebrate life.

+ Main Plazas to Visit in San Juan, Puerto Rico

The Capital of San Juan has five main squares:

  • Plaza de Colon
  • Plaza de Armas de San Juan
  • Plaza de La Catedral
  • Plaza San Jose
  • Plaza Barrandilla

Plaza de Armas is one of the most visited plazas, surrounded by elegant historic buildings, statues, restaurants, and cafes.  Children will love feeding the playful pigeons during the day.  Throughout the city, you’ll find smaller courtyards, some offering the most scenic vistas where you can appreciate the San Juan Bay and watch the sunset.

Admire the Architecture of Cuartel de Ballajá (The Ballajá Barracks)

Cuartel de Ballaja - Best places to visit in Old San Juan Puerto Rico

After touring the magnificent Fortress of El Morro, walk across to Cuartel de Ballaja, one of the most impressive buildings in Old San Juan.  On the second floor, you can visit Museo de Las Americas, and on the first floor, you can go dining and visit a coffee shop. 

Visit Iglesia San Jose – The Second Oldest Church in the Americas

Iglesia San Jose - Historical Attractions / Landmark in San Juan Puerto Rico

“The Church of San José in San Juan was built in 1532 and is the second oldest church in the Americas; one of the few surviving examples of 16th-century Spanish Gothic architecture in the Western Hemisphere.” 

Take a Walk Down Paseo del Morro

Paseo del Morro - Best places to visit in San Juan Puerto Rico

Visit Catedral San Juan Bautista (Cathedral San Juan Bautista)

Puerto Rico best historic places to visit - Cathedral of San Juan Bautista

This Cathedral is one of the most important religious landmarks in Puerto Rico.  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, dating 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.

Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery – Old San Juan

Old San Juan Cemetery - Top Sights in Old San Juan Puerto Rico

The cemetery sits outside the 20-foot walls of fort El Morro – overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  Puerto Ricans consider this cemetery the ultimate location as a final resting place.  Notable Puerto Ricans are buried here such as Jose Celso Barbosa, Pedro Albizu Campos, Jose de Diego, Rafael Hernandez, and the infamous real pirate of the Caribbean Roberto Cofresi, among others.  You can admire the cemetery from the grounds of El Morro.   If you wish to enter, you may ask a taxi driver to take you and negotiate a rate to wait as you have a quick look and give you a ride back.  , when open you’re welcome to enter to admire the ornate tombs.

Visit Museo de San Juan

Museo de Arte e Historia de San Juan- Puerto Rico

The Museum of San Juan is housed in an elegant mid-19th-century building.  The mission of Museo de San Juan is to “enrich, preserve and disseminate the history, artistic riches and cultural heritage of the Capital City of San Juan”.  The Museum includes a permanent exhibit about the history of San Juan, temporary exhibits & an amphitheater. This place used to be a popular meeting place where goods were sold and cafes where locals met.  Currently, various events are held in the center courtyard.  If you happen to be here on a Saturday, be sure to stop, a farmer’s market is held every week.

Visitor Information

  • Hours: Tuesday – Friday: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. & Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
  • Tel: 787-480-3555
  • Address: 150 Norzagaray St., San Juan PR 00901

La Fortaleza / The Governor’s Mansion

La Fortaleza - Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

La Fortaleza / Palacio Santa Catalina and Casa Blanca were the first fortifications built in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Today, Palacio Santa Catalina is the official residence of Puerto Rico’s governor.  Guided tours are available.

See Fortín de San Gerónimo de Boqueron

Fortin de San Geronimo de Boqueron - Condado - Points of Interest

If you’re taking a walk or enjoying a bike ride around Condado, Fortín de San Gerónimo del Boquerón is certainly worth a stop.  You’ll take some beautiful photos of where the Old and New City come together on the sea.

You can observe Fortín de San Gerónimo del Boquerón from La Playita del Condado, and Dos Hermanos Bridge.   For a closer look, Fortin is located inside the Caribe Hilton, it is an easy walk through the seaside walkway behind the hotel (just ask a staff member for directions).  Entry to the fort is not allowed, because it is not safe.  If there is no guard, please do not attempt to enter for your own safety.

El Capitolio / The Capitol Building

El Capitolio / Capitol Building - San Juan, Puerto Rico - Attractions

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building is the meeting place for the Legislative Assembly.  El Capitolio is located in Puerta de Tierra district just outside the Old City Walls.  The constitution of Puerto Rico is exhibited on the first floor.

El Capitolio Hours:  Open to visitors Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm.

Visit Plazuela La Rogativa, One of The Most Scenic Spots in San Juan

La Rogativa - Landmark - Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

One of the most beautiful and meaningful statues in Old San Juan is centered at one of the top 5 most scenic spots of San Juan.  The statue celebrates a beautiful moment of history representing faith, hope, and unity.  Be sure to stop on your walking tour for great photos and inspiration.

Take a Walk Down Bahia Urbana

Bahia Urbana - Promenade by the San Juan Bay - San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan Wildlife Museum

Museo de Vida Silvestre / Wildlife Museum - San Juan, Puerto Rico

Permanently Closed – San Juan Wildlife Museum is an excellent educational museum for both adults and children, with exhibits of about 200 mammals with insight into their habitat.   Biomes include Tropical Rainforest, Mountains, Temperate Forest, Taiga, Polar, Life of Antarctica, Tundra, Grasslands & Tropical Savannah.

More Places to Visit in San Juan, Puerto Rico

See Guides to more Fun & Interesting Things to Do in San Juan & Around the Island of Puerto Rico

Map - Best Things to Do & Attractions in San Juan

Capital City of Puerto Rico

Paseo de La Princesa - Places to Visit in San Juan Puerto Rico

Escambron Beach - Best attractions and places to visit in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Cuartel de Ballaja - The Ballajá Barracks - San Juan, Puerto Rico

Paseo La Princesa - Points of Interest / Attractions in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Castillo San Felipe del Morro - San Juan, Puerto Rico

Castillo San Cristobal - Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto RicoSan Juan Puerto RicoThings to Do in Puerto Rico ⏐ Best Things to Do in San Juan