San Juan Travel Guide: Top Things To Do

travel guide san juan

San Juan is one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in the Caribbean. If you’re looking for things to do, you won’t be disappointed! From historical landmarks to stunning beaches, San Juan has something for everyone. In this travel guide for San Juan, we’ll explore some of the top attractions in San Juan and some hidden gems that we really enjoyed checking out. So put on your sunscreen and get ready to explore!

As the capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan is a bustling city with a rich history and culture. Founded in 1521, San Juan is one of the oldest cities in the Americas. It’s also one of the largest cities in the Caribbean, with a population of over two million people. San Juan is a popular tourist destination, and it’s easy to see why. The city has something for everyone, from stunning beaches to historical landmarks.

When to Visit San Juan

San Juan is a great place to visit year-round. However, the best time to travel is from December to April when the weather is cooler and drier. Traveling during this time will also help you avoid the crowds, as San Juan is a popular destination for spring breakers and summer travelers.

How to Get to San Juan

San Juan is relatively easy to get to, as there are many direct flights from major U.S. cities. Once you’re in San Juan, getting around is also a breeze. The city is very walkable, and there is also an extensive public transportation system. San Juan is also a major port for most cruise ships. The fact that San Juan is walkable is an advantage for the cruising tourists.

travel guide san juan
We feel comfortable walking most places in San Juan during daylight. In the evening, like in most cities when traveling, we wouldn’t recommend traveling by foot. The locals recommended that we use taxis/cabs beginning at dusk. We recommend you do the same.

Budgeting for Your Trip to San Juan

As for cost, San Juan is a relatively affordable destination. However, prices can vary depending on the time of year and the type of accommodation you’re looking for. If you’re on a budget, San Juan is still a great place to visit. There are plenty of free things to do, including visiting historical landmarks and strolling along the beach. You can also find affordable accommodation if you book in advance and look for deals.

Things to Do on Your Visit to San Juan

We’ve visited San Juan a few times which is why we felt that it was time to create a travel guide for San Juan. If you are limited on time, you can check out some of these top things to do, then on your next visit, spend more time exploring the city and the culture. After all, that is what traveling is all about.

travel guide san juan
Old San Juan is our favorite part of the city!
Old San Juan

One of the first things you’ll notice about San Juan is its colorful buildings. The city is full of colonial architecture and Spanish influences, which makes it really unique. Take a stroll through the streets of Old San Juan and admire the beautiful buildings and villages that are over 500 years old. If you’re interested in history, San Juan is also home to some incredible museums. The San Juan National Historic Site is a great place to learn about the city’s past.

Buxeda Cemetery in Rio Piedras

This might sound like an odd choice for a top attraction, but hear us out. The Buxeda Cemetery in Rio Piedras is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places we visited during our time in San Juan. The actor, Raul Julia is laid to rest here, along with many other notable Puerto Rican respected artists and famous people. The cemetery is full of colorful flowers and stunning sculptures, and it’s a great place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. If you’re looking for a place to relax and clear your head, this is definitely it.

travel guide san juan
Buxeda Cemetary is in Old San Juan and has a majestic feel when you visit. It is worth the trip.
Condado Vanderbilt Hotel

This hidden gem won’t be on your typical San Juan guide. We actually heard of it from a local (who happens to be friends with Anderson Cooper!). The Condado Vanderbilt Hotel is a beautiful, luxury hotel that’s right on the beach. It’s the perfect place to stay if you’re looking for a little R&R, but it’s pretty pricey. The hotel has an incredible infinity pool, and the rooms are absolutely stunning. We already had our accommodations laid out, so we just went to check out some of the history of the hotel, and got a great drink at the bar.

The Beaches

San Juan is surrounded by gorgeous beaches, so it’s the perfect place to relax and soak up some sun. One of our favorite beaches that we got to visit was Condado beach, which is located just a few minutes from Old San Juan. The water was crystal clear and the sand was really soft. We also loved that there were plenty of restaurants and bars nearby, so we could grab a bite to eat or a refreshing drink in between swims. Some of the other popular beaches in San Juan include Isla Verde and Ocean Park.

travel guide san juan
San Juan’s beaches are beautiful and very popular amongst tourists. You can see why!
El Morro Castle

El Morro Castle is a must-see for anyone visiting San Juan. The castle is located on a small island just off the coast of the city, and it offers stunning views of the ocean. We really enjoyed exploring the castle and learning about its history. If you’re interested in San Juan’s military past, this is a great place to immerse yourself in some Puerto Rican culture.

Paseo de Los Presidentes (Walkway of the Presidents)

This is a San Juan hidden gem that we absolutely loved. Paseo de Los Presidentes is a beautiful tree-lined path that runs along the coast of the city. It’s the perfect place to go for a walk or a jog, and it offers stunning views of the ocean. The walkway celebrates the US Presidents who have visited Puerto Rico since the end of the Spanish-American war in 1898. We highly recommend checking it out if you’re looking for a place to get some fresh air or to enjoy a sandwich or picnic lunch on one of the benches nearby the statues. It’s also fun to people watch as they take photos with the Presidential statues. 

travel guide san juan
Well, obviously we had to visit President Obama at the Paseo de Los Presidentes.
El Yunque National Forest

We didn’t have enough time to visit this rainforest, but we’ve heard great things about it. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the national forest system, and it’s a great place to hike and explore. You can also go on zip-lining and canopy tours, or take a dip in one of the many waterfalls. Be sure to pack a reusable water bottle. We’d be remiss if we didn’t include a note about being an eco-friendly traveler here. The next time we come to San Juan, we definitely want to check it out.

Bioluminescent Bay

This is definitely one of the coolest things to do in San Juan. Also known as Mosquito Bay, Bioluminescent Bay is home to millions of tiny microorganisms called dinoflagellates. When these organisms are disturbed, they emit a bright blue light. There are tons of kayaking tours around the area, and it sounds like such an incredible experience. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to do it on this trip, but we recommend adding it to your itinerary, as it will be on ours next time.

If you have more time in San Juan here are some more fun ideas for you to consider:
  • Check out the Castillo de San Cristobal- a massive stone fort that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Visit some of the famous cathedrals and chapels like the San Juan Cathedral, Calle de La Fortaleza, and Catedral Basilica Menor de San Jean Bautista
  • Check out some of the local art galleries or the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, Museo de Las Americas, or the Poet’s Passage
  • Watch the sunset from one of the many rooftop bars
  • Go shopping at the Plaza Las Americas or the Mall of San Juan if you’re into that
  • Visit some friendly stray cats at the Save-A-Gato Cat Sanctuary- we saw plenty of stray cats, like this one hanging out at Buxeda Cemetary
travel guide san juan
This stray cat seemed right at home hanging out, overlooking Buxeda Cemetary.

San Juan is an incredible city with so much to see and do. We hope this travel guide to San Juan helps you plan your trip and gives you some ideas of things to do on your visit.

If you have any questions about our San Juan travel guide, or if you have any recommendations of your own, please feel free to leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you! We’d also love it if you would tag us on your travel photos to San Juan!

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