Experience San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital and center of history and culture.
What was once the crown jewel of the Spanish Empire is now the island's historic and cultural center, as well as the most popular launching point for Puerto Rico vacations. Founded in 1521, San Juan is the second oldest European-founded city in the Americas, but is home to much more than just history.
Only 15 minutes from SJU airport, San Juan blends elements of the Old World (cobblestone streets and colonial architecture) with all the amenities of modern urban life (craft cocktails, contemporary dining, amazing shopping, and vibrant nightlife). Immerse yourself in the culture and explore the wealth of art, food, adventure, and beauty that is waiting to be discovered.
Things to Do
The Old World comes alive at fortresses like El Morro and San Cristóbal. These impressive citadels are part of the San Juan National Historic Site, and are two of the largest fortifications built by the Spaniards in the Caribbean during the 16th century.
Other important landmarks include Museo Casa Blanca (the one-time residence of the family of Juan Ponce de León, built in 1521), the San Juan Cathedral, the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery, and the Museo de las Américas.
Many local designers and artists have shops and boutiques in Condado, where you can browse stores like Mademoiselle (featuring European brands), Nono Maldonado (one of Puerto Rico’s premier designers), and 1054 Ashford Avenue (featuring some of the world’s most luxurious brands).
You’ll also find some of the biggest shopping centers in the Caribbean, including malls and outlets carrying big name brands from around the world.
Old San Juan’s vibrant nightlife is waiting at spots like La Factoría (one of the top 50 bars in the world), La Taberna Lúpulo (pioneers in Puerto Rican micro-brewing), or Los Tres Cuernos (where you can take a chichaíto shot in many flavors). Puerto Rico is the home of the piña colada and since there are competing claims whether it was invented at Barrachina or the Caribe Hilton, you should try both.
In Santurce, Calle Loíza is a street known for its great bar-hopping. Make sure to stop at Piso Viejo (check out their live bands and salsa classes) and El Tap (try their 15 local beers on tap). Also, don’t miss La Placita de Santurce, the area’s famous market known for its live music and great dancing, where you join the party in the bars or on the street.
The gastronomical options in San Juan are endless — from pescatarian places like Verde Mesa to traditional locations like Hecho en Casa and Princesa Gastrobar (try the mofongo) to more eclectic restaurants like Casa Cortés ChocoBar (with unexpected ways to mix chocolate into every dish). Throughout the city you’ll find exceptional chef-driven dining experiences, humble-but-delicious local spots specializing in traditional Puerto Rican dishes, and adventurous eateries fusing Caribbean and international flavors in exciting ways.
Where to Stay
San Juan’s hotels and resorts offer a variety of experiences and price points to satisfy the needs of every traveler. The Hotel El Convento is a beautiful historic building (originally a 17th century convent) that’s been converted into a modern luxury hotel. The Decanter is a pet-friendly hotel that blends contemporary architecture with a whimsical twist. Other places like CasaBlanca Hotel, the Gallery Inn, and Sheraton Old San Juan also provide plenty of comfort and charm.
If you’re looking for lavish beachfront accommodations, Condado is the place for you. In the heart of this district sits the Condado Vanderbilt, a full-service resort that boasts the only hammam spa in the Caribbean. It was named #3 hotel in the Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Award for 2018, and recognized as one of the Best Historic Hotels in the USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.
Another grand hotel in Condado is La Concha Renaissance San Juan Resort, an AAA Four Diamond lifestyle resort and nightlife destination. Additional brands like the AC Hotel feature a rooftop pool and bar overlooking the beach and surrounding city.
Beyond the numerous hotel options throughout the city, you'll also find alternative lodging such as vacation rentals hosted by providers like Airbnb and HomeAway, among others.