San Juan, Puerto Rico
Super useful & totally free travel guides, written by locals who love San Juan, Puerto Rico
Why We Love San Juan: San Juan is a clash between history and modernity. You will find areas like Old San Juan, where you can walk between colorful colonial houses and historical forts that date back to the Spanish colonial era in Puerto Rico. But, San Juan also sports modern Miami-style neighborhoods like Condado and Ocean Park, with luxury hotels, fine dining restaurants, and nightclubs. And if that isn’t enough, you can always find a beach close to you. All these landscapes get mixed with a friendly and lively local culture that will make you want to stay on the island forever!
Best of San Juan
San Juan sports a heritage site, museums, restaurants, and beaches, for every type of traveler, so you will always find something to do. Some of the top attractions are:
- El Morro – A fort with more than 400 years of history, built to protect San Juan Bay from invaders.
- Castillo San Cristobal – The biggest fort built by the Spaniards in the New World, with a great view of the city.
- Calle Fortaleza – The most famous street in Old San Juan, sports dozens of shops and restaurants to enjoy.
- Condado Lagoon – Great lagoon to kayak, or paddleboard side by side with manatees while soaking in the sun.
- La Placita – Local reunion spot with live music and restaurants, where locals spend the night dancing and eating.
👉 Explore all things to do in San Juan.
If you’re traveling to San Juan, these are some of the best areas and neighborhoods you can stay at:
- Old San Juan – Great place to stay to visit important San Juan landmarks and enjoy local culture within walking distance.
- Condado – Neighborhood with luxury hotels, fancy restaurants, and bars all between a beach and a lagoon.
- Ocean Park – Best area to find a cheap stay while staying close to the beach and all main attractions.
👉 Read the complete guide to where to stay in San Juan
🛎️ Best Hotels
San Juan sports all kinds of hotels for every type of traveler. Here are some of the best you should try:
- Sheraton Old San Juan – This hotel sports the best location for visitors to explore Old San Juan on foot.
- La Concha Renaissance Resort – La Concha sports restaurants, salons, bars, and prime location on the beachfront.
- Condado Vanderbilt – A 4-star luxury hotel with a spa, fine dining restaurant, and infinity pool facing the Condado Beach.
You don’t have to go out of the capital city to enjoy one of Puerto Rico’s beaches. Here are the best beaches in San Juan :
- Escambron – Find clear waters for snorkeling, diving, or swimming on this beach right at the entrance of the city.
- Condado Beach – Enjoy a family day on this beach with golden sand and blue waters right by your hotel.
- Playa Peña – Just minutes away from El Morro, Playa Peña is a getaway from the crowds with scenic views.
- Ocean Park – Perfect beach to do beach bumming or do watersports without the crowds of Condado.
- Isla Verde – This urban beach is ideal for a relaxing beach day while staying close to the airport.
👉 Read all the best beaches in San Juan.
What to eat will be the least of your problems, since San Juan sports a variety of restaurants with local and international cuisine. Make sure to visit:
- Café Manolin – Old-style restaurant with traditional Puerto Rican food within a budget.
- Café Cuatro Sombras – Great local San Juan coffee shop with fresh brewed Puerto Rican coffee to warm your mornings.
- Lote 23 – If you’re hungry late at night, head over to this food truck park with great Puerto Rican snacks.
- Princesa Gastrobar– Enjoy Puerto Rican cuisine right on one of the most important landmarks, Paseo de la Princesa.
- Casita Miramar – This restaurant picks ingredients from its yard and offers a meal in an Instagram-worthy location.
👉 Read full list of best restaurants in San Juan.
- El Yunque National Rainforest – The only rainforest in the USA, El Yunque is home to beautiful waterfalls and scenic views.
- Culebra – Culebra is home to pristine beaches like Flamenco Beach, and it’s perfect for a Caribbean escape.
- Vieques – Vieques sports a bioluminescent bay, breathtaking beaches, wild horses, and wonderful hiking routes.
- Bacardi Rum Factory – A short ride away from San Juan, you can take a tour of an internationally known rum distillery.
- Ponce – A historical city with the oldest fire station, an art museum, and a castle, worth visiting.
👉 Read full list of best day trips from San Juan.
- Old San Juan – Best neighborhood for sightseeing, with a historical site, museums, bars, and restaurants.
- Condado – Top hotels, restaurants, and bars along the coast with amazing views and family fun.
- Ocean Park – Chill neighborhood centrally located, close to bars, restaurants, and the beach, but away from crowds.
- Santurce – A great area with bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, great to enjoy nightlife and local culture.
- Miramar – A perfect area for business travelers looking for a central location without the rush of tourist sites.
- El Techo Rooftop – This rooftop bar in the famous La Placita sports a casual and lively ambiance.
- ARYA Rooftop– You can enjoy a drink while looking at Condado’s skyline from the top of Olive Boutique Hotel.
- La Factoria – One of the world’s top 50 bars, this LGBTQ-friendly bar is great to enjoy a cocktail at night.
- La Taberna Lúpulo – If you’re looking for a craft beer, head over to this bar in Calle San Sebastián to refresh yourself.
- The Mezzanine – Enjoy a drink in one of the balconies of this cocktail bar while looking at Old San Juan’s streets.
- Museo Las Americas – This impressive structure across El Morro is a museum with collections about the history of America.
- Museum of Contemporary Art – Because not everything is about the past, this museum hosts contemporary art exhibitions.
- Museum of Art of Puerto Rico – Located in the heart of Santurce, this museum’s collection starts from the outside of the museum.
- Casa Blanca Museum – Juan Ponce de León’s last house, now hosts an impressive 16th and 17th century collection.
- History, Anthropology and Art Museum– Museum that hosts the famous Puerto Rican painting El Velorio.
🏛️ See the full list of best San Juan museums.
📜 Historical Sites
- El Morro – Historical fort built during the 16th century to protect the capital city from incoming sea attacks.
- Castillo San Cristobal – The biggest fort built by the Spaniards, it protected the capital city from multiple land attacks.
- La Fortaleza – Dating back to 1540, this palace continues to house the governors of Puerto Rico up to today.
- Capilla del Cristo – This small chapel on a dead-end street sports a few urban legends plus a unique altar.
- San Juan’s Cathedral – The Cathedral sports centuries of history plus a breathtaking interior.
San Juan Travel Advice
🗓️ Best Time to Visit
Puerto Rico is home to great beaches and warm weather all year round, so the best time to visit is up to the type of vacation you’re looking for:
- 🌼 Spring – The spring is part of the dry season and temperatures and tides are great to enjoy the beaches.
- ❄️ Winter – Perfect season to find lower and fresh temperatures on the island, without the constant rain.
- 🌞 Summer – The rainy season starts, but it’s also the time with the warmest temperatures and the best tides.
- 🍂 Fall – Best season to avoid the crowds, and get cheap prices but it’s also Puerto Rico’s hurricane season.
🚌 Getting Around
If you don’t want to rent a car, San Juan sports multiple transportation options, so you don’t have to stick to your hotel:
- 🚶♀️ Walking – Old San Juan and Condado are walkable areas, so you don’t need a car to explore.
- 🚗 Driving – You can rent a car to maximize your time and comfort while moving around. Read our full guide to driving in Puerto Rico.
- 🚇 Public Transit – Public transportation runs frequently, it’s a cheap option, but it isn’t reliable.
- 📲 Ride Share – If cars and taxis are too expensive, you can use Uber to get cheaper rides.
- 🚴♀️ Biking – Bikes are a cheap and safe option to move around Old San Juan, Condado, and Ocean Park.
- 🛴 Scooters – If bikes are too tiring, you can rent a scooter with the Skootel app.
- 💰 San Juan is expensive – San Juan isn’t a cheap destination, but you can get cheaper prices by traveling between May and June, or during the fall.
- 🌧️ There’s a hurricane season – The risk of storms and hurricane impacts is higher from late June to November, but the island isn’t always affected.
- 🏘️ Avoid caserios – Caserios are public housing buildings, and they aren’t safe for tourists, so you shouldn’t stay nor visit them.
- 🌊 Beaches can be dangerous – San Juan beaches are beautiful, but they can be dangerous with the wrong weather, so always watch out for riptides.
- 👨 Basic Spanish helps – Not everyone speaks English, so visitors should learn basic Spanish phrases that help them get along.
👉 Read more Puerto Rico travel tips.
- 🦟 Mosquito Repellent – Mosquitoes in Puerto Rico can transmit dengue and other diseases, so use repellent, especially on the beach.
- ☀️ Sunscreen – The weather is hot, and even when it’s cloudy you’ll get tanned, so you need to protect your skin.
- 🥾 Sneakers or Hiking Boots – Besides flip flops, you’ll need comfortable sneakers to discover different nature attractions like El Yunque.
- 👙 More than swimwear – You will need both swimwear and normal clothes, since locals don’t visit restaurants and shoppings with beach clothes.
- 💊 Medications – The air quality changes frequently, so people with asthma and respiratory problems should pack their medications.
👉 Read full Puerto Rico packing list.
🤓 Facts & Info
- Census Population (2020) – 355,181 (city), 973,230 (metro area)
- Time Zone – AST (UTC/GMT -4 hours all year) No daylight saving time.
- Area Codes – 787
- Airports – Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU)
- Nickname – La Ciudad Amurallada (The Walled City)
- Demonym – Sanjuaneros
- Territory – Puerto Rico
- Country – United States of America
💵 Costs & Budgeting
- 3 Star Hotel Room – $150-350/night
- 1 Bedroom Apartment Rental – $50-$300/night
- Rental Car – $40-$150/day
- Public Transit Ticket – ~$1.50 ($1.50 to airport from center)
- Ride Share from Downtown to Airport – $12-18 depending on different variables
- Take Out Meal for Two – $10-40
- Sit Down Dinner for Two – $30-$200
- Draft Beer – $3-10
FAQs About Visiting San Juan
Is San Juan safe for tourists?
San Juan is one of the safest cities in Puerto Rico. Visitors can walk around comfortably and most people understand English. As with every trip, travelers should take basic safety precautions and avoid wandering alone at night. Read our full guide to safety in San Juan for more information.
Is San Juan expensive?
San Juan can be more expensive than other cities in Puerto Rico for being the capital city, but visitors can save money by traveling off-season, eating where the locals eat and exploring the city on foot.
Does travel to Puerto Rico require a passport?
Visitors from the United States do not need a passport to visit Puerto Rico since the island is an unincorporated territory of the United States, but international travelers will need the same entry requirements they need to enter the USA.
What you should avoid in San Juan?
In San Juan, visitors should avoid walking out alone in dark places at night, swimming on the beach when the tide is high, leaving their belongings unattended, and visiting public housing buildings.
Can you use US dollars in Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico uses the US dollar as currency. Visitors from the United States can bring their cash and international travelers can make the currency exchange at the airport. Travelers can also use their credit cards to pay at stores, restaurants, and for tours.
📰 San Juan Travel Guides
If you’re planning a trip to San Juan, check out all of my guides about San Juan, with all my local’s insight so you don’t miss out on anything in this Caribbean paradise:
- 15 Day Trips from San Juan for 2023 (By a Local)
- San Juan to Cabo Rojo in 2023 (5 Best Ways to Go, By a Local)
- 21 Best Weekend Getaways from San Juan (By a Local)
- 35 Best Things to Do in San Juan, PR (By a Local)
- San Juan to Culebra (4 Best Ways to Go, By a Local)
- Is San Juan Safe for Travel? (Honest Local Advice for 2023)
- 11 Best Beaches in San Juan (By a Local)
- San Juan vs Ponce Compared (By a Puerto Rico Local)
- 13 Best San Juan Museums in 2023 (By a Local)
- 11 Best San Juan Excursions for 2023 (By a Local)
- La Fortaleza (A Local’s Guide to Visiting)
- 23 San Juan Landmarks & Historical Sites (A Local’s Picks)
- Where to Stay in San Juan, By an Area Local (2023)
- 18 Best San Juan Restaurants (Where to Eat, By a Local)
- San Juan to Fajardo (4 Best Ways to Go in 2023, By a Local)
Meet Our San Juan Travel Expert
Vanessa Ramos is a travel and lifestyle writer from Puerto Rico. Vanessa has traveled for international work exchange, backpacking, and solo traveling around three continents. When she’s not writing about the best things to do, places to visit, or where to stay on the island of Puerto Rico, she’s hunting airplane tickets for her next trip abroad. Vanessa also writes her own lifestyle blog, Existence as I Know It.