Known as El Morro, this fortress was designed to protect the city from attacks by sea. In 1983, the United Nations declared the imposing fort a World Heritage Site. Today, it is an interesting museum that offers great views, and it is open for visitors to enjoy and explore.
This magnificent mansion is the home and office of the governor of Puerto Rico and the governor's family. It has been in continuous use since it was built in 1540. The structure is also known as the Palacio de Santa Catalina (Saint Catalina’s Palace) as it integrates a chapel in keeping with the highly Catholic culture.
This small chapel is the embodiment of a centuries-old urban legend. It is said that the cliff-side abbey was built after an unknown horse rider galloped up the Old San Juan street and fell off the edge. It has been restored several times but still proudly shows signs of its age.
This small square is home to one of the most emblematic sites in Old San Juan. It is a "must-see" landmark located just a couple blocks from the Cathedral, and the site of the famous bronze statue La Rogativa, made by Lindsay Daen. The statue represents a bishop and his companions who helped frighten away the British troops during the 1797 attack on the city by carrying torches and chanting.
The Puerto Rico Museum of Art, which boasts more than ten exhibit halls, includes permanent collections and a compilation of Puerto Rican art from the 17th century to the present. There is also a lovely garden with a pond where you can relax and engage in some people-watching.
Parque de las Palomas is a courtyard on top of the city wall, with great views of Bahía de San Juan and the criss-crossing water traffic that includes Brobdingnagian cruise ships. The park gets its name ("Park of the Pigeons") from the hundreds of pigeons that call the park home.
Playa Isla Verde is known as the Copacabana of Puerto Rico. Tanned bodies and beach bums flexing their muscles around the volleyball net can be spotted all over the place. The lovely sandy beach also has numerous restaurants, bars and shops to keep you fed, busy and happy.
The Arecibo Observatory was the world's largest radar radio telescope for over 60 years, until in 2016 a larger one was constructed in China. It was operated by the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center of Cornell University for many years, and today makes for a great visit for science enthusiasts.
One of Old San Juan's remarkable cemeteries, Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis provides a peaceful respite from the bustle of the city and it has a beautiful location overlooking the ocean. There are amazing sculptures and architecture to explore, and many famous people are buried here.
Carolina Beach is the perfect beach for a family vacation, where both tourists and locals can spend a marvellous day. In the summer months it is especially popular among locals. Restrooms and shower facilities are provided here. Also a small water park can be found off the 2nd parking lot.
This mansion, built in 1521, was designed to protect governor Ponce de León, who, ironically, never lived there. The Spanish militia seized the house in 1779. Almost 100 years later, the U.S. military took it over and kept it until 1966, after which it was transformed into a museum.
For an authentic dining and cultural experience, this is probably the best place to go in San Juan. The menu features local delicacies, such as mofongo, tostones and the traditional rice with green beans, among many others. The restaurant has an indoor dining room as well as a sidewalk eating area.
Known as the birthplace of the tropical piña colada drink in 1963, Barrachina offers a varied menu of genuine Puerto Rican food, from appetizers to entrées. It also happens to be a perfect place for events and celebrations, such as weddings, rehearsal dinners and many more.
Located just off the beaten path, this family-owned and operated restaurant is a favorite among island artists, politicians and tourists. Its Puerto Rican fare – including the native plantain treat “mofongo” – is well worth the trip. And don’t forget to ask for the house drink, called “chichaíto.”
If you’re in the mood for a big, juicy burger, stay away from the fast-food restaurants, and hit this place instead. El Hamburger offers fast service, a great open-air atmosphere and even better prices. Try different types of cheese on your paddy, including Swiss, American or blue, and be sure to add bacon.
This eatery was established in 1848, which makes it the oldest still-functioning restaurant in “the New World”. The house specialty is the “asopao,” a thick, savory, rice-based Puerto Rican soup that is cooked either with chicken or seafood. A must try for those who would like to experience something new.
The menus are handwritten and the tables wobble, but sanjuaneros have favored this casual, no-frills, family-run restaurant – tucked away on a quiet cobbled street – for years. The bistec encebollado, goat fricassee, and shredded beef stew are among the specialties on the menu of typical Puerto Rican comida criolla dishes. The tiny back porch is filled with plants, and the dining room is filled with fanciful depictions of life on the street outside.
El Picoteo is a well-known tapas restaurant among both locals and tourists. Stop by and enjoy your time on the balcony of the Hotel El Convento. Visiting the bar inside or eating in the dining room that overlooks a beautiful courtyard are both great ways to spend an evening in San Juan.
Carli's Fine Bistro & Piano is a place with an atmosphere built around music. The bistro is owned by Carli, a musician who makes sure that whether you spend your time indoors or outdoors, your dining experience will be high-quality. From the menu you can find tasty dishes like Caribbean tapas, pasta dishes, fish and steak.
Café Manolín is a 60-year-old institution in the district of Old San Juan. The cafe offers a complete menu of moderately-priced breakfast staples and lunch specialties. Ordering dessert and freshly brewed coffee in typical Puerto Rican fashion is an absolute must.
Cafe Cuatro Sobras has excellent coffee, there’s no doubt about that. The coffee beans they use are 100% arabica, straight from the mountains of Yauco. Apart from the great coffee, the service is also friendly and efficient so stop by and have a great time while sipping on your favorite coffee.
Pelayo's is famous for one thing (but loved for a lot more), and that is breakfast. They do not only serve omelettes, banana pancakes, and eggs Benedict, but also french toast, superb espresso and a lot more. There is an informal and friendly atmosphere and the prices are reasonable.
This popular hangout in the heart of Old San Juan is the place to go for nightly shows and a lot of atmosphere. The bar offers two shows per night, and one of them always features an Afro-Caribbean, jazz or salsa band. The crowd is usually a mix of 30-something yuppies, rowdy college students, painters, artists and salsa music lovers.
The "La Factoría" describes itself as a Craft Cocktail Bar with great music in Old San Juan. You will find DJs, acoustic guitar players, sing-a-long sets, amazing cocktails and tapas for when you need a bite to eat to keep you going. It is one of the city's premier local music performance venues.
One of the most popular clubs in San Juan, Club Kronos has a lot to offer. Are you planning on going out this weekend? On Fridays and Saturdays, this place awaits you with different themed nights. Salsa, hip hop, reggaeton and even electronic music are all among their repertoire.
Excellent shopping and great deals can be found in any one of the 300 stores inside Plaza Las Américas, the Caribbean’s largest mall. The sprawling 2.1 million-square-foot shopping center will definitely take more than one day to explore. Aéropostale, Gap, A/X Armani Exchange, Chico’s, Tous and Tommy Hilfiger are some of the shops that more than 26 million visitors hit every year.
Plaza Carolina houses American standards such as JC Penney, Best Buy, Forever 21 and Sears among its 240 shops. Plaza Carolina is the second biggest shopping center in Puerto Rico, so will be sure to find what you are looking for. There are many dining options to choose from, as well.
This state-of-the-art, two-level mall features shops like Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue. Besides shopping, there are exquisite dining and entertainment options as well as a children's play area. Other stores you will find here include: Victoria's Secret, Tory Burch, Versace, H&M, lululemon athletica, Louis Vuitton, LUSH, Jimmy Choo, Pandora, Zara, Pottery Barn, and more.
San Juan is mainly served by the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, which is located about three miles (five kilometers) southeast of San Juan. Upon arriving, visitors are offered several ways of getting to the city: Shuttles are provided by most large hotels, as well as by private companies, and taxis and car rental companies can be found at all terminals. The local AMA buses run from the airport to the city, departing from the departures level at terminals A and D.
Getting around in San Juan is an adventure, especially since drivers can be quite aggressive and tend to drive fast. Distance is measured both in miles and kilometers. For the most part, getting around San Juan is rather easy, provided that the traffic is light. There are peak times, especially in the morning and early afternoon when traffic jams are the norm. Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses: There is a public bus system in place, which is quite affordable. The bus system operates 30 routes along the San Juan area and several other municipalities. Unfortunately, the buses are not always on time so you need to have plenty of time to use them. Buses run from 4:30am to 10pm, Monday to Friday and from 5:30am to 10pm on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
At the airport, visitors are greeted by a fleet of white tourist cabs, which offer fixed fares on specific routes. There are metered taxis available outside the established zones, with standard fees that vary according to distance, number of passengers, number of pieces of luggage and the duration of the trip. Puerto Rico Tourist Taxi +1 787 969 3260 www.cabspr.com Astro Taxi +1 787 727 8888 AA American Taxi, Inc. +1 787 982 3466 Cooperativa de Servicio Capetillo Taxi +1 787 758 7000 / +1 787 758 7004 Cooperativa Rochdale Radio Taxi +1 787 721 1900
Puerto Rico uses the U.S. Postal Service, which operates numerous branches throughout the San Juan area. Stamps are available at pharmacies and retailers in the tourist district. Post Office business hours are normally Monday through Friday from 8am to 4pm and – depending on the location – on Saturdays from 8am to 12pm.
The good thing about being in the San Juan area is that there will always be a pharmacy that is open 24 hours, and normally very conveniently-located. Drugstores such as Walgreens sell over-the-counter medication and will usually dispatch prescription drugs rather quickly. Urgent medical and dental care are also available at several area hospitals and clinics, including the Ashford Presbyterian Hospital in the Condado area, and smaller neighborhood treatment facilities.