Bask in the soul of the vibrant Caribbean in Puerto Rico’s spirited capital. The culture here in San Juan is as diverse as the sights, and the welcome is always warm.
There are enough things to do in San Juan to keep you busy for weeks, with everything from snorkeling to salsa up for grabs.
Spend your days delving into history or exploring a rainforest, and your evenings sipping rum cocktails as the sun sinks into the ocean.
1 – Wander through Old San Juan
Stroll back in time along the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan. The colonial influence in Puerto Rico’s capital still dazzles, with colorful housing and the charming Plaza de Armas tempting the camera out.
Enter the walled city through the striking red San Juan Gate, then head to Museo Casa Blanca – the oldest house in town. Don’t miss San Jose Church with its iconic white walls or the ancient Chapel of Christ the Savior.
2 – Discover San Juan National Historic Site
Love historical buildings? Then head to the San Juan National Historic Site and fill your boots!
The imposing twin castles of San Felipe del Morro and San Cristóbal stand guard at opposite ends of the peninsula.
They’ve defended the island against famous sea attackers like Sir Francis Drake, and today are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can visit the museum, check out the canons, and see San Juan’s oldest lighthouse.
3 – Admire San Juan Bautista Cathedral
Enjoy a few contemplative moments as you stroll around the majestic San Juan Bautista Cathedral – easily the most striking religious building in Puerto Rico.
Dating back to 1521 this is the oldest church on US soil. Head inside to check out the Gothic architecture, vibrant stained-glass windows, and ornate ceilings.
The cathedral has survived robberies, pillaging, and even hurricanes, which is a testament to the stoicism of San Juan’s most revered attraction.
4 – Explore beneath the waves on a snorkel tour
Pull on your mask and dive into the tropical Caribbean Sea to explore the magical underwater world.
The ocean here is teeming with marine life, so take a waterproof camera if you have one. You’ll be swimming with shoals of colorful fish, and maybe a sea turtle or two if you’re lucky.
Keep watch for miniature seahorses sheltering beside the reef too, they’re not something you see every day!
5 – Visit the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
Get your art fix at the Museo de Arte, which has a whopping 24 exhibition galleries to explore. You can take a guided tour or wander around on your own.
This museum celebrates the work of local Puerto Rican artists, who have used their island heritage as inspiration.
There are over 1,000 pieces, some dating back to the 17th-century, so plan to spend at least a couple of hours here.
6 – Savor the flavors of Puerto Rico
Taking a food tour is one of the tastiest things to do in San Juan. History and food go hand in hand and there’s no better way to get to know a place than by feasting on local delicacies.
Wander through the cobblestone streets, stopping to taste artisan coffee, traditional pastries, and the iconic plantain mofongo at off-the-beaten-track local restaurants.
Then wash it all down with a delicious rum cocktail.
7 – Walk down the Paseo de la Princesa
Breathe in the sea air and admire the sights as you enjoy a leisurely stroll along Paseo de la Princesa. This 19th-century promenade winds through Old San Juan, giving prized views of the charming surroundings.
Start your wander at the historic Puerta de San Juan, and take in fountains, street stalls, and city walls along the way. The views of the sparkling bay are some of the best in town.
8 – Relax on Condado Beach
The stunning white sand of Condado Beach stretches for miles along the coast from San Juan. It has a bit of a Miami vibe thanks to the surrounding luxury high-rise resorts.
Condado is a popular seaside spot for locals and visitors alike, who come here for the warm sea and easy access.
When you’ve had your fill of sunbathing and swimming, there are plenty of restaurants and bars to keep you fed and watered.
9 – Take a day trip to El Yunque Rainforest
It’s not often you can explore a rainforest on a city day tour, but San Juan is full of surprises. El Yunque is a biodiverse paradise, packed with mountain peaks and endemic wildlife.
Walk along the tropical forest trails, watching out for red-tailed hawks circling high above. You can reward your efforts with a swim in the waterfall plunge pool. Courageous souls can even jump off the top if they dare!
10 – Enjoy a history lesson at Museo de las Américas
Learn about the heritage and culture of Puerto Rico through exhibitions and interactive activities at the Museo de las Américas. Visiting this avant-garde institution in San Juan is a must for history enthusiasts.
There are four galleries to explore, including one on indigenous America and another dedicated to the conquest and colonization of the island. Time it right and you can take part in creative workshops and enjoy musical presentations.
11 – Build sandcastles at Balneario del Escambrón
If you’re looking for a family-friendly beach just outside San Juan, then Balneario del Escambrón is a good choice. The sand is clean, the water is calm, and there’s even a coral reef a short way from the beach.
It’s rarely crowded, and with great views of the distant fort, the beach is one of the best on the island. There are lifeguards and restrooms so you can make a day of it.
12 – Set sail on a scenic boat tour
One of the most fun things to do in San Juan is to embark on a sailing adventure. Climb onboard a historic schooner or sleek yacht and embrace life on the ocean wave.
Tropical islands and historical city sights are all on the cards as you cruise along the coast. Watch the sunset as it floods the Caribbean Sea with blazing orange, then jump in to swim in bioluminescent bays.
13 – Discover Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery
There’s something eerily beautiful about cemeteries, and seeing the celebration of life in different parts of the world is a real privilege. The Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery is one of the most ornate memorial parks on earth.
These hallowed grounds are home to several prominent figures in Puerto Rican society. Tiptoe through the park, wondering about the lives of those who have been honored with domed tombs and elaborate crosses.
14 – Visit the Puerto Rico Museum of Contemporary Art
Established by the Puerto Rican artistic community in 1984, the Museum of Contemporary Art makes a thought-provoking afternoon out. Here you’ll discover the inspirational Caribbean and Latin American works dating back to the mid-20th century.
This building itself is quite something, with arched galleries and Georgian pillars to admire. A former public school, the museum today is a tranquil haven providing an escape from the heat and bustle of town.
15 – Spin through the streets on a Segway tour
Find your balance as you wheel around Old San Juan on a thrilling Segway tour. You’ll soon have it nailed as you zoom along atmospheric streets admiring the ornate architecture.
You’ll be visiting some of San Juan’s top attractions, with Darsenas Square, the cathedral, and the city wall all on the agenda. It’s a fun way to learn about the history of the city by seeing it unfold before your eyes.
16 – Stroll around the Botanical Garden
At the San Juan Botanical Garden you’ll be immersed in a tropical world filled with fragrant blooms and exotic trees. Wander along leafy pathways through ornamental herb gardens and orchid meadows. Keep your eyes peeled for the 60 species of bird that call the gardens home.
There’s a mini Monet garden and even a bamboo chapel to discover, as well as 125 species of palm trees from around the world. Don’t forget your camera!
17 – Explore La Fortaleza
Visiting La Fortaleza is one of the top things to do in San Juan, thanks to its UNESCO World Heritage status. Built in 1540 to defend the island from attack, today it’s more governor’s mansion than fort.
You can take a tour of this baby-blue building when the government is not in session. From the grounds, you can enjoy views of San Juan Bay and the La Rogativa sculpture, which commemorates an 18th-century female religious procession.
18 – Photograph Calle de la Fortaleza
A colorful ceiling of umbrellas hanging above Calle de la Fortaleza makes this one of the most photographed places in San Juan. Appearing to float in the sky, the umbrellas add artistic effect to an already charming street.
Peel your eyes from above and while away an afternoon in the boutiques and restaurants that line the cobbles. It’s easy to combine this with a visit to the fort, which is just around the corner!
19 – Chill out at Playa Ocean Park
Stretching languidly along the sun-drenched coast of Condado, Playa Ocean Park has some of the best sand on the island.
The water is clear, and decent-sized waves attract surfers looking to perfect their turns and rotations.
This is a lively yet relaxing spot and is often less crowded than its fellow beaches along the coast. There are lots of entry points too so it’s easy to bag your own secluded slice of sand.
20 – Go deep-sea fishing
Ever wanted to land a blue marlin or haul in a wahoo? The deep-sea sport fishing in the waters off San Juan is some of the best in the Caribbean. Learn how to spot a tuna and bait a sailfish on an exhilarating ocean adventure.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a curious amateur, a session with these monsters of the deep is sure to get your heart pumping.
21 – Play games at Eco’s Sports Park
This eco-friendly park is a one-stop shop for sports and entertainment in San Juan. Show off your moves on the beach volleyball court or practice some passes over on the soccer field.
An outdoor refreshment lounge keeps energy levels topped up, with a mouth-watering array of international comfort food. There’s a video games room for a different sort of fast-paced action, as well as beer pong and table soccer to keep you amused.
22 – Visit Puerto Rico’s Capitol building
History buffs will love taking a guided tour of the Capitol building in San Juan. Inaugurated in 1929, the Capitol is a designated Historic Landmark and is still used today by the Legislative Assembly.
After your tour, check out the Walkway of the Presidents in nearby Constitution Avenue, and see if you can spot J.F.K. and Barak Obama.
Pay your respects at the Holocaust Memorial Monument just across the street before leaving.
23 – Sip artisan rum cocktails
If there’s one thing that San Juan knows how to do, it’s mixing the perfect rum cocktail.
You’ll find this fiery local liquor in most city watering holes, where flamboyant mixologists and enthusiastic locals make for a great night out.
The island is known as the rum capital of the world, so it’s no wonder why sampling cocktails here is one of the best things to do in San Juan.
24 – Have fun at La Placita de Santurce
This two-tiered market square has been around for over a century. Once a bustling hub of fruit and vegetables, today La Placita de Santurce also has open restaurants where you can sample the fresh, organic fare.
It really comes alive at night when food stalls vie for your attention with fried street food like empanadillas and alcapurrias. This is the place to rub shoulders with locals and enjoy a few drinks.
25 – Visit the up and coming La Perla district
Much like the favelas in Rio de Janeiro, the disadvantaged barrio of La Perla on the outskirts of San Juan has become a major tourist attraction. Why? Mainly because this is where the music video “Despacito” was shot. You too can see the colorful filming locations on a guided tour.
Explore the plaza, the shoreline, and the labyrinthine streets and chat to the residents about the area’s turbulent past.
26 – Go island hopping in your own mini boat
Mini in size but mighty in experience, these easy-to-operate vessels are your ticket to adventure. After a short briefing session, you’ll drive one of these popular boats along the coast of Puerto Rico, past hidden bays and white sand cays.
You’ll be following a guide so don’t worry about getting lost! Stops at nature reserves in this Caribbean archipelago for sublime snorkeling steal the show.
27 – See a show at José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum
The largest indoor arena in San Juan is all about top-notch entertainment and rousing sports fixtures. Affectionally known on the island as the “Choli”, José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum is named after a popular local comedian.
Have a look at the schedule and see what’s on during your stay for a special night out. You could find yourself at a pop concert, a musical, or even a basketball tournament.
28 – Shake those hips at a salsa class
Let your hair down and throw your inhibitions to the wind as you get your wiggle on at a Puerto Rican salsa class. It’s one of the most iconic things to do in San Juan and it doesn’t matter if you’re a complete beginner.
You’ll learn about the history of salsa, letting the rhythm seep into your soul as you take to the dance floor to show off your new moves.
29 – Hang out at Calle Loíza
This hip street in the happening Santurce district is overflowing with life and culture. Come to Calle Loíza for lazy coffee shop afternoons in the sun and browse arty boutiques for trendy fashion accessories.
Tuck into sizzling lobster empanadillas in outdoor restaurants or traditional Puerto Rican sweets at the vintage bakery. Then it’s time for tapas and live jazz in a secret speakeasy to finish your evening on a high note.
30 – Play your cards right at the casino
Practice your poker face and try your luck at blackjack in San Juan’s buzzing casinos. There are several venues in the city suitable for all experience levels, with Casino del Mar at La Concha Resort and Casino Metro at the Sheraton being popular choices.
If you don’t fancy playing the tables, there are plenty of slot machines to try and beat. Who knows, this might be the place you make your fortune!
So, now you know all about the fun things to do in San Juan in Puerto Rico. The tough decision that lies before you is deciding which ones will make it onto your hit list.
To ensure your Caribbean vacation runs like a dream, we recommend that you book your San Juan hotels before you arrive. There are lots of accommodation options to choose from to suit all budgets and tastes.
It’s also a good idea to arrange airport transfers so that as soon as you touch down, you can be whisked off in style to start your Puerto Rico adventure.
Visiting other places in Puerto Rico? Check out our full selection of fun things to do in Puerto Rico.
Do not hesitate to comment below if you wish to recommend other places to visit in Puerto Rico.
As always, happy travels!