Stepping foot onto the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan is like walking into a living museum with a long list of treasures to explore. If you’re a cruiser just spending a few hours in Old San Juan, there are some excellent tours that cover the top attractions packed with historical information and stories. If you’re staying longer, we invite you to see the following list and guide for best things to do in San Juan Puerto Rico.
Castillo San Felipe del Morro – A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Castillo San Felipe del Morro also simply called 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.
Top Rated Old San Juan Tours with Fort Visit
Castillo San Cristobal – A UNESCO World Heritage Site
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.
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.
Top Rated Snorkeling Tours - Escambron Beach - San Juan
Casa Blanca Museum
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.
Paseo de la Princesa – San Juan National Historic Site
Paseo de La Princesa (The Princess Walkway) is the most scenic and historic walkway in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. This walkway makes it to the top of our list for setting the mood for a romantic walking tour of Old San Juan. Paseo de La Princesa is a cultural hub on weekends, special holidays, and especially during Christmas time. When cruise ships are scheduled to arrive in Old San Juan, artisans, musicians, and food vendors line up at Paseo de La Princesa to welcome visitors. This is a great spot to take home a special souvenir, taste traditional treats, and foods, and if there’s music playing join locals and dance.
Paseo La Princesa is a must for romantics, a place to 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.
Top Rated Old San Juan Sunset Tours
Catedral San Juan Bautista (Cathedral 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.
Cuartel de Ballajá (The Ballajá Barracks)
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.
Museo de las Américas
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.
Iglesia San Jose
Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery – Old San Juan
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.
El Capitolio / The Capitol Building
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.
Museo de San Juan
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 / 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.
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.
Fortín de San Gerónimo de Boqueron
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.
San Juan Wildlife Museum
+ More Places of Interest in San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Casa Blanca
- Cuartel de Ballajá
- Fort San Felipe del Morro
- Fort San Gerónimo
- Fort San Cristóbal
- Galería Nacional
- Coliseo Jose Miguel Agrelot – the biggest indoor arena in Puerto Rico
- Iglesia San Jose
- Luis Muñoz Rivera Park
- Mall de San Juan
- Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
- Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico
- Plaza Colón
- Plaza Las Américas – Shopping Mall
- Puerto Rico Convention Center