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
#1 San Juan Tour - Save a Spot

San Juan, the capital city of Puerto Rico, is one of the top places to vacation in Puerto Rico, offering world-class attractions, beautiful beaches, rich cultural experiences, and natural wonders just a short drive away.  Whether you’re planning a romantic vacation, holding a business meeting or convention, or planning a fabulous vacation with family and friends, Puerto Rico will surely satisfy your travel wishes with extraordinary experiences.  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 & Fall in Love with Old San Juan

Old San Juan Historic District - Best Things to do in San Juan Puerto Rico

The simplicity of walking becomes an extraordinary experience in Old San Juan.  Drop the map and get lost around 7 colorful blocks, each step leading to hidden gems, vibrant plazas, and colorful buildings that transport you to another era, revealing a story from the past.  Let the blue cobblestone streets guide you to enchanting shops, local artisanal crafts, delicious dining options, and interesting museums.  Walking in Old San Juan will immerse you in a rich vibrant culture, where you can dance, laugh, play, and relax at a square or the grounds of El Morro watching mesmerizing sunsets.   The architecture is captivating, your eyes will wander at the adorned wrought-iron balconies of colonial homes painted in candy colors.  Old San Juan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site enchants visitors as they explore a perfect blend of European and Caribbean influences.  Whether you’re traveling with kids or enjoying a romantic vacation, Old San Juan will create unforgettable memories.

You can explore on your own, if you’re short on time and wish to make the most of your time in Old San Juan, there are many tours available to suit your travel wishes.

Top Rated Walking Tours in Old San Juan

Swim & Snorkel with Sea Turtles at Escambron Marine Park

Go swimming with sea turtles - Best Things to do in San Juan Puerto Rico

Right in the city of San Juan, the whole family can enjoy one of the most magical activities in tropical waters… swimming with gorgeous sea turtles and colorful schools of tropical fish.   Just minutes from Condado and Old San Juan, you can have the magical experience of swimming alongside gorgeous sea turtles at Escambron Marine Park located inside Balneario Escambron Beach.   Sea turtles gracefully swim across turquoise waters, you can observe them being playful on the grassy bottom,  as schools of tropical fish around them make it evident they’ve become friends…

One of the best parts of this experience is that the water on the beach cove is calm (under normal weather) making it a family-friendly activity and great for snorkeling beginners.  This beach is also popular among scuba divers, a perfect spot for learning.

Top Rated Snorkeling Tours - Escambron Beach - San Juan

Tour 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, locally known as “El Morro” is the most beloved landmark by locals and the most iconic and visited attraction on the island of Puerto Rico.  Step into the fort and take a five-hundred-year journey back into history, an experience the entire family will enjoy.  After exploring the fort, unleash your inner child, embrace laughter, and create memories with your loved ones… we invite you to buy a kite and let your imagination fly under the blue Puerto Rican sky.

Walking Tours w/ Guided Fort Visit

Relax & Play at San Juan Beaches

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

San Juan, a vibrant city, boasts a gorgeous coastline where you can swim with sea turtles, chill as you sip on the best Piña Coladas in the world, enjoy a variety of watersports as well as take romantic walks on intimate beaches.  Just a short drive from San Juan, you can spend a full day beach hopping on more pristine beaches… the type you dream of on a cold winter or stressful day.

Read our guide for the best beaches in San Juan, which includes fun beach activities, a map to help you plan, and the best beachfront resorts in the capital city.

Fun Tours at San Juan Bay

Tour a Rum Distillery

Bacardi Distillery - San Juan Puerto Rico - Things to Do

Puerto Rico is known as the “Capital of Rum”, producing most of the rum consumed in the United States.  Not far from San Juan you can enjoy tours to various rum distilleries, for an opportunity to learn the rich history and taste the exquisite flavors of Puerto Rico’s world-renowned rums. Delve into the art of rum-making, gaining a deeper appreciation for the craftsmanship and tradition behind each bottle.  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.  Ron de Barrilito at Hacienda Santa Ana is the maker of the oldest rum in Puerto Rico.

Whether you’re a connoisseur or simply curious, these tours offer an unforgettable experience for couples and groups alike.  Choose a tasting tour to try the most delectable rums.  

Top Rated Rum Distillery Tours near San Juan

Take a Sunset Cruise on The Historic San Juan Bay

Sailing the San Juan Bay - Best Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

The constant trade winds carry the sail through the historic San Juan Bay, passing the stunning city walls and captivating architecture of Castillo San Felipe del Morro, the way conquistadors sailed into the city five centuries ago before entering the city gates.  Other sights you’ll see are Casa Bacardi Distillery, the colorful city line and San Juan de la Cruz Fort on the west side point of the bay at Isla de Cabras Island.

For a special sailing experience, book a sunset sailing tour when the setting sun lights up the city with a golden glow.

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 ... #20 in 2022 & #7 in 2021

Top Rated Sailing Charters - San Juan Bay

If you like Piña Colada... 🎶

… you’ll LOVE San Juan, after all, it was born right here, in the capital city of Puerto Rico.  In 1978, the Piña Colada was declared the official drink of Puerto Rico.  Two places still argue about where it was invented… but residents and visitors surely agree there’s no better place in the world to enjoy them.  Learn more about the birth of Piña Colada, where to have an authentic one and recipe.

Have an Adventure at Hacienda Campo Rico

Hacienda Campo Rico - Fun Places / Things to Do - San Juan, Puerto Rico

Located next door in the town of Carolina, just 35 minutes from tourist districts in San Juan, families, groups and solo travelers can head to the elegant Hacienda Campo Rico offering unforgettable activities for the adventurous spirit.  Soar through the treetops on a zipline, laugh your way through rugged terrain on an off-road ride, or ride the lush trails on the back of graceful Paso Fino horses.  

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

Tour Castillo San Cristobal

A UNESCO World Heritage Site

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

Discover the captivating history and architectural marvels of Castillo San Cristobal, part of the San Juan National Historic Site.  As the largest Spanish fort in the New World, encompassing 27 acres, this remarkable fortress offers a window into the past, allowing you to delve into the rich heritage of the New World.   Take advantage of guided tours led by friendly park rangers or explore at your own pace. For those with mobility challenges, Castillo San Cristobal presents a more accessible option compared to Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Go Kayaking, Paddleboarding alongside Manatees at Laguna del Condado

Laguna del Condado - Best activities 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.  The Condado Lagoon is located in the district of Condado within walking distance of the Condado tourist district.  The lagoon is an estuary reserve for Caribbean Manatees where mammals and humans perfectly share the waters of the lagoon.  Manatees are gentle creatures, so don’t be scared when you see a manatee swim by as you kayak or paddleboard.  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.

We recommend you book a tour with a friendly guide for the best experience and safety.  Tours are available such as kayaking, paddle boarding, fun water bikes, and romantic floating picnics.  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

Get Immersed in the Vibrant Culture of Puerto Rico

Cultural Experiences in San Juan Puerto Rico

For residents of Puerto Rico, San Juan is the epicenter of culture, music, food, and traditions, there’s always a reason to celebrate, dance, and gather with family and friends.   Although San Juan is a popular tourist destination, you’ll be visiting a real pulsing community, not a touristy cookie-cutter Caribbean destination.   We invite visitors to get immersed in San Juan’s vibrant cultural tapestry of rhythms,  flavors, history, and heritage.  Attend cultural festivals, learn to the dance to sounds of salsa, bomba, and plena, sample traditional dishes, wander through colorful streets, visit local markets, tour rum distilleries, visit art museums, and more.

Top Rated Cultural Tours in San Juan Puerto Rico

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.

Photography Lovers...

If you enjoy taking photographs to share with friends and family, you’ll find plenty of colorful and scenic spots around Old San Juan sure to get much attention on social media.  The most scenic spots are the grounds and Garitas of Castillo San Felipe del Morro, Parque de Las Palomas, the narrowest house in the Americas, the flag at Calle Imperial, the umbrellas / hanging artwork at Fortaleza Street, the views from Castillo San Cristobal at the corner of Calle Norgazaray and the scenic Paseo de La Princesa.

Have a Relaxed Tour of Old San Juan with Professional Photos – One suggestion we have made in our guides is to put away your phone, and go “old school” by allowing photographers to follow you naturally or take you to great spots to take professional photos.  Imagine not worrying about taking the perfect photo, so you can focus all your energy on simply enjoying the moment with your loved ones.  For photo lovers, a walking photography tour of Old San Juan may be the perfect experience, see below for top rated tours.

Old San Juan & Photography Session Tours

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

San Juan Puerto Rico Shopping Guide for Cruisers

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.

Shopping Tours in San Juan & Nearby

Go Windsurfing in San Juan

Windsurfing in Puerto Rico - Things to Do in San Juan Puerto Rico

Learn to Windsurf in San Juan

Get ready to ride the waves to the warm trade winds under the sunny Puerto Rican skies.  Head to Las Marias, the best windsurfing spot in San Juan where you can glide across the turquoise waters.  If you’ve never windsurfed, you’ll be happy to learn that San Juan has some amazing instructors ready to give you an unforgettable experience.  After you get on that board, we are pretty confident you’ll want to come back to Puerto Rico to repeat the adventure and perhaps try other windsurfing spots around the island. 

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

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

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

Old 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

Old San Juan

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

Puerta del Tierra

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.

Visit El Capitolio / The Capitol Building

Puerta del Tierra

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

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

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

El Morro - Attractions in San Juan, Puerto Rico

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

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

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

San Juan Puerto Rico - Old San Juan

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