San Juan Guide: Best of Puerto Rico’s Vibrant Capital

Castillo San Cristóbal View – Photo: Naveen Naidu | Unsplash

Ready to embark on an incredible journey to San Juan, the vibrant capital city and ultimate travel destination of Puerto Rico? Look no further than this all-inclusive guide, meticulously crafted to assist you in planning an unforgettable adventure filled with excitement and mesmerizing encounters. Get ready to set off on an extraordinary expedition!

Flights to San Juan

Get ready to take off to San Juan, the heart of Puerto Rico! With daily flights from major cities all across the United States, getting here has never been easier.

Touch down at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, the gateway to this tropical paradise, just a quick 20-minute drive from the enchanting Old San Juan.

Transportation in San Juan

Take a stroll through the charming streets of Old San Juan, the perfect place to wander around and explore at your own pace. If you’re looking for a quicker way to get around, hop on one of the free golf carts (known as Garita Carts) – the most stylish way to travel in town.

For a hassle-free ride, grab an Uber instead of dealing with taxis. Reliable and affordable, Uber is the go-to choice for savvy travelers looking for a smooth ride.

Things to Do in San Juan

Get ready for a whirlwind adventure in San Juan, the ultimate playground for thrill-seekers and history buffs alike. Here are just a few of the must-see attractions that will leave you breathless:

Stroll down the scenic Paseo del Morro, a paved trail that winds along the stunning San Juan Bay. Just 0.75 miles out and back, this walkway leads you straight to the iconic El Morro National Monument, where you’ll uncover centuries of fascinating history.

Experience the power and beauty of El Morro, a fortress that has stood strong as a military outpost throughout history. From Spanish soldiers to American troops, this mighty fortress has seen it all and is a testament to the resilience of this amazing city.

Step inside the Catedral de San Juan Bautista, the oldest cathedral in the United States and a true marvel of architectural beauty. Built centuries ago, this iconic cathedral is a must-visit for anyone who appreciates the power of history and spirituality.

Discover the magic of El Convento, a breathtakingly beautiful building that dates back to 1646. Originally a Carmelite Convent, it has since been transformed into a luxurious hotel that exudes old-world charm and sophistication.

Paseo de la Princesa is a magical promenade nestled alongside the shimmering waters of San Juan Bay. Stroll down the path and be captivated by the vibrant energy that surrounds you. From savory street food to handcrafted trinkets, local vendors line the street with treasures to discover at every turn.

Next, make your way to the majestic Puerta de San Juan, the grand entrance to Old San Juan. Feel the weight of history as you step through the gates that once guarded the city during colonial times. Soak in the impressive architecture and marvel at the intricate details that have stood the test of time.

Looking for a vista that will take your breath away? Look no further than Parque de las Palomas – the perfect spot to soak in a stunning view of San Juan Bay. And while you’re here, be sure to say hello to the friendly feathered residents who call this park home.

If you’re looking to dive deeper into the rich history of San Juan, Cuartel de Ballajá is the place to be. Step inside this iconic cultural center and transport yourself to a time when the building served as Spanish barracks. Marvel at the grand architecture and immerse yourself in the vibrant art and culture that is on display.

Looking to explore the heart of San Juan? Look no further than Calle de La Fortaleza – the bustling street that runs right in front of the governor’s house. Take a stroll down this lively avenue and soak in the sights and sounds of one of the most iconic neighborhoods in Puerto Rico.

Next up, we have the historic Plaza de Armas – the beating heart of San Juan during colonial times. Take a step back in time and imagine the hustle and bustle of the town square, filled with locals going about their day and traders hawking their wares. Today, the plaza is a hub of activity once again, with vibrant events and festivals taking place year-round.

And of course, no trip to San Juan is complete without a visit to the colorful and eclectic neighborhood of La Perla. You may recognize it from the music video for “Despacito,” but there’s so much more to explore in this vibrant and dynamic community.

La Perla – Photo: Neftali Martinez | Unsplash

Food and Rum Tours

If you want to enjoy delicious food and one-of-a-kind rum, San Juan has got you covered with these tour options:

Flavors of Old San Juan Food Tour: This tour introduces you to authentic Puerto Rican food. You’ll visit several local eateries and sample tasty staple dishes like sofrito.

The Bacardi Factory offers mixology classes and rum-tasting tours. You can also take a rum-tasting tour at Scryer Rum Barrelhouse & Rooftop.

Beaches of San Juan

It wouldn’t be a trip to San Juan without a visit to the beach. Here are some of the most popular beaches in the city:

Playa Peña: Playa Peña is a short walk from Old San Juan and sits across from El Capitolio (the Capital Building).

Ocean Park: Ocean Park is a laid-back beach that is popular among locals.

Condado Beach: Condado Beach is a large, public beach located east of Old San Juan.

Isla Verde: Isla Verde is a tropical beach located in the heart of San Juan. It’s close to the airport and popular among tourists.

Explore the Rainforest

Hey, adventure seekers! Did you know that Puerto Rico is home to an incredible rainforest? It’s true! Just a short drive from San Juan, you’ll find El Yunque – a lush, green paradise just waiting to be explored.

El Yunque, Río Grande, Puerto Rico – Photo: Angel Rivera | Unsplash

If you love hiking, swimming, or just being surrounded by nature, El Yunque is the perfect destination for you. You’ll discover stunning waterfalls, hidden swimming holes, and breathtaking views around every turn.

And if you’re a wildlife lover, you’re in for a real treat. El Yunque is home to an incredible range of plants and animals, from colorful parrots to tiny tree frogs.

Dining in San Juan

Whether you’re looking for an afternoon pick-me-up or a delicious brunch, you’ll find all kinds of restaurants and cafes throughout San Juan.


If you need some caffeine, check out one of these cafes:

Cafe Cuatro Sombras: This cafe offers delicious coffee. However, it’s also known for its cordito and croissant sandwiches with guava butter, ham, and cheese.

Finca Cialitos: Fina Cialitos is an artisan coffee shop serving freshly roasted coffee harvested from Puerto Rican coffee farms.

Don Ruiz: This coffee shop is located inside the 1800s army barracks known as Museo de las Américas.


If you’re looking for a fresh pastry (savory or sweet), head to Mallorca.

Breakfast and Lunch

For breakfast and lunch, these casual dining spots are all excellent choices:

Chocobar Cortes: Almost every dish features some kind of chocolate, and brunch is served all day. It’s home to a free art gallery, too.

Kaffe Haus: Kaffe Haus is a quaint coffee shop serving breakfast and lunch.

Maví: Maví sells coffee and smoothies, as well as empanadas, wraps, and salads.

St. Germain Bistro & Cafe: St. Germain is the perfect place for vegetarians and vegans looking for tasty brunch and delectable coffee.

Stuffed Avocado: Stuffed Avocado is a healthy casual lunch spot featuring fresh salads and bowls (the spicy salmon bowl and mango tuna bowl are very popular).

Lunch and Dinner

If you’re looking for lunch or dinner in a sit-down venue, these are all great restaurants:

Cafe El Punto: Cafe el Punto serves various traditional Puerto Rican dishes, including ceviche (one of the most popular options on the menu!).

Casa Luna Restaurant: Casa Luna boasts the best Caribbean Creole food. One of its most popular dishes is the mofongo with chicken, rice, and beans.

La Taberna Lúpulo: La Taberna Lupulo is a beer hall featuring a variety of beers on tap, as well as wings, tacos, and sandwiches.

The Mezzanine: The Mezzanine is a cocktail and tapas restaurant known for its fun, trendy vibe.

Pio Pio: For champagne, wine, and small bites, head to Pio Pio.

Tropical Taste Restaurant: For traditional Puerto Rican food in a casual environment, visit Tropical Taste Restaurant.


If you need something sweet to end the night, head to Señor Paleta for a passionfruit popsicle! If you prefer something creamy like gelato, visit Anita La Mamma del Gelato instead.

San Juan Nightlife

Here are some of the best places to visit when the sun goes down:

La Factoría: Located at 148 Calle San Sebastian in Old San Juan, La Factoría is renowned as one of the world’s best bars. This exceptional establishment is distinguished by its six bars, each featuring a unique theme and menu. From 11 AM to 4 AM, La Factoría warmly welcomes guests to indulge in its extraordinary offerings and experience the vibrant ambiance that sets it apart.

Antiguo 26: Antiguo 26 in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a unique establishment located on Calle de Tetuán within the historic Polo Norte Soda Factory. With on-tap and bottled cocktails served in a vintage soda fountain setting, it offers an authentic gastronomic experience and aims to revive classic sodas and carbonated beverages.

Casa de Montecristo: Casa de Montecristo caters to cigar enthusiasts with its premium cigars, fine spirits, and expertly crafted cocktails. The venue’s historic interior, spanning over 400 years, blends contemporary vibes with Old San Juan’s rich history. It’s a remarkable destination for a tranquil and indulgent smoking experience.

FAQs About San Juan

Do you have any lingering questions about traveling to San Juan? Find the answers below:

What Time Zone Is Puerto Rico In?

Puerto Rico is in the Atlantic Standard Time Zone (AST) all year round. So make sure to set your watch accordingly and get ready to soak up every moment of your adventure.

Should I Rent a Car?

While the San Juan metro area is very walkable and you can easily explore on foot, if you’re looking to venture further afield, renting a car might be a smart move. With a rental car, you can hit the open road and discover all the hidden gems that Puerto Rico has to offer. Not feeling up to driving? No problem – you can always take an Uber or taxi to get around.

Do I Need a Passport to Travel to Puerto Rico?

A passport is not required if you are a US citizen or permanent resident. Travelers from other countries must abide by the same visa and passport guidelines for visiting the mainland U.S.

What Should I Do in an Emergency?

For a real emergency (fire, medical emergency, etc.), dial 911.

Contact the police department in Old San Juan, Cuartel Casa Alcaldia, at 787-480-2520, 787-480-2657, or 787-480-2658.

Visit the Ashford Hospital (or call 1-787-721-2160) for emergency medical services.

What Should I Pack?

First and foremost, comfortable walking shoes are a must. You’ll be exploring the colorful streets of Old San Juan, and the cobblestone can be tricky to navigate. Trust us, your feet will thank you!

Next up, protect yourself from the bright tropical sun with sunscreen, a sun hat, and sunglasses. And don’t forget the insect repellant – pesky bugs can put a damper on even the best vacation.

If you’re a light sleeper, pack some earplugs – things can get a little noisy in Old San Juan at night. And finally, bring a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated in the hot and humid climate.

Speaking of the weather, make sure to pack light clothing that will keep you cool and comfortable. You don’t want to miss a moment of the fun because you’re too hot and sticky!

Start Planning a Trip to San Juan Today

So don’t wait any longer – start planning your dream vacation to San Juan today! And with the knowledge you’ve gained, you’ll be sure to have an incredible trip that you’ll never forget.