Is there a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico in your future? If so, and this is the first time that you've visited the city, there are so many great things to see and o do that you might wonder where to begin. Here are some of our suggestions for anyone that is seeing the city for the first time. These are the most popular attractions, along with a few hidden gems that not everyone is aware of that will help you to make the most of your time there. Here are the 20 best things to do in San Juan for first-timers.
20. Take a walking tour of Old San Juan
Old San Juan is a neighborhood that has a great deal of significant value to the region. This is a place where there are several popular attractions to see. If you enjoy walking the tour which is led by a professional and knowledgeable guide will give you some great insights into the culture of Puerto Rico. There are quite a few different tours to choose from with a variety of duration from short walks to long walks. This is one of the first things to do when you first arrive.
19. Go Snorkeling and take a picnic Cruise
There are several tour agencies that you can book for a catamaran tour of the islands complete with snorkeling and a picnic. You can sign up for a crash course in snorkeling from the guide if this is your first time doing the activity. After fun in the crystal clear waters, enjoy cruising around the island while enjoying lunch, cocktails and end up with a drop off at your hotel or shuttle pick up.
18. Take a Night Kayak of Condado Lagoon
One of the most amazing things you can do in San Juan is to take a night paddle in a clear bottom kayak around Condado Lagoon. The water is lit up with LEDs which makes this one of the most breathtaking experiences. In addition to that, you get to see the city lights as the excursion takes you under one of San Juan's most historic bridges with a fully guided tour of the area. You'll also see a variety of exotic aquatic life on display during the trip. The tour guides also provide guests with glow sticks adn glow paint.
17. Take Salsa Dance lessons
San Juan offers a host of opportunities to sign up for one hour beginner salsa dance classes. Learn a new skill while you're in the city to come back and share with all of your friends. There are outdoor classes and this gives you more adventures and fun in the sun of the tropical island. You can opt for learning with a partner or going solo. The class only lasts for an hour so if you're having fun, do it a few times.
16. Take a guided tour of the Island
San Juan offers a variety of island tours that can help you to see more of the best attractions in one sunny day. Booking a tour with a professional guide can help you to understand the significance of many of the landmarks and it can give you a crash course on the history and culture of San Juan as well as the country of Puerto Rico.
15. Visit the El Yunque National Forest
There are tours available for half-day tours of the El Yunque National Forest. This trip takes you deep into the interior portions of the island. Discover the diverse plant life in the forest with a hiking excursion that leads you through the rain forest. While you're there, take in the views from La Coca Falls and the even more spectacular ones from Yokahu Observation Tower.
14. Take a sunset sail of Old San Juan
The sunsets in Old San Juan are nothing short of glorious. One of the best ways to fully experience the fullness of the event is to take an evening cruise aboard a 19th-century type of schooner and sail across the bay at dusk. Most of the available cruises provide guests with wine, cheese, and other snacks to make the trip an unforgettable experience. You'll also see the attractions that are lit up along with the beautiful lights of the city from the perspective of the water. This is the ideal tour for couples because of the romantic setting.
13. Go to El Morro
El Morro/El Castillo San Felipe del Morro is a strip that protrudes from San Juan harbor and it is the site of an ancient fortress that was begun in the year 1530. This is a massive fortress that stands as one of the most significant tourist attractions in San Juan. Take a guided tour to learn more about the history of the fort. There are multiple exhibitions so a self-guided tour can be nearly as satisfying.
12. Enjoy an afternoon at Flamenco Beach
It's absolutely free to spend a day at Flamenco Beach. It's located on the island of Culebra, adn we recommend that you take the excursion during the middle of the week to avoid the extreme crowds at this popular beach. When you arrive, you'll discover that almost anything you could want or need is offered for sale from the various vendors. You'll find everything from chairs adn umbrellas to some amazing food and beverages.
11. Visit Sun Bay
Sun Bay is also known as Vieques. This is one of the most popular beaches in Puerto Rico, but if you go during the weekdays it's not nearly as crowded and you may find that you actually do have a bit of privacy. This is a great place to kick back and relax in the white sand and glorious sun.
10. Visit the Castillo San Cristobal fortification
If you thought that El Morro was cool, you'll love Castillo San Cristobal. This fortification was built to ensure the safety of Old San Juan. It's a 27-acre site that is a historically significant landmark. The shoreline is beautiful and the complex is massive so it will likely take you several hours to see everything. Don't be surprised if you run into an occasional iguana because quite a few of them live in this area. This site was created to spot attacks that were launched against the locals from the land.
9. Shop at Calle del Cristo
No trip to San Juan is complete without great shopping experience. This is a neighborhood that is full of vendors, art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. There are tons of artisan and local craft shops so if you're looking for a really great souvenir, this is the area to look. You might also appreciate the cobblestone streets.
8. Tour the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
The Puerto Rico Museum of Art is another worthwhile attraction. It's located in San Juan's Santurce neighborhood. There are over a thousand works of art displayed by Puerto Rican artists with 24 exhibition galleries. There are two wings in the museum and there is so much to see that you should plan on spending several hours. There are drawings, paintings, sculptures, photographs, and much more. Many of the pieces date back to the 1600s through the present. The building itself was created in the 1920s with neoclassical design.
7. Spend a day at Carolina Beach
In San Juan, the beach is called Balneario de Carolina. This is another free activity that is ideal for couples or families with kids. Carolina Beach is situated in the Isla Verde resort area adn it is a long beach that is covered with sparkling white sand and the water temperature is warm. This beach maintains a lifeguard along with paramedics on-site that are available in the event of an emergency. There is also a lovely playground that is available for the children, water sports equipment rentals, places to get a bite to eat and a volleyball court.
6. Visit Crash Boat Beach
Don't let the name of the beach scare you away. It's actually a lovely beach that has some of the clearest waters, teeming with fish. It's the ideal locale for fishermen, sunbathers, scuba divers, and even volleyball players. There are also restaurants nearby which make this one of the most ideal places for spending the day enjoying some fun in the sun, then catching a bite to eat before retiring for the day. This is a lively and popular beach so expect to run into some crowds while you're there.
5. Go to the Observatorio de Arecibo to view the stars
The Observatorio de Arecibo is another popular tourist attraction for visitors staying in San Juan. This observatory is the home of a massive telescope. It has been in operation since the 1960s. It's one of the best places for satisfying your curiosity about the planets. There are educational exhibits along with an observation deck as well as a gift shop that is located at the observatory. If you're into astronomy this will be the thrill of a lifetime. You can also check ahead of time and find out if you'll be in town when the facility is hosting one of its many lectures or informational movies.
4. Visit Cueva Ventana
Are you thrilled with natural wonders? If so, you won't want to miss out on going to Cueva Ventana, also known as the "window cave." You can hike to the site that is accessible by going through a cave that is made of limestone. You can check out the pre-Columbian petroglyphs and stone engravings along with way, but the cave is the real drawing card. If you decide to take a guided tour of the site, plan on spending an hour and you'll be educated by trained biologists who will inform you about the Taino Indians along with the flora and fauna in the region.
3. Spend a day at the Carabali Rainforest Park
Carabali Rainforest Park is one of the most popular things to do when inSan Juan. This is the perfect outing whether you're there with a special person or with the entire family. Here you will find all kinds of recreation including Parks, Gardens, Amusement Parks, and all of the fun things to do that come with an amusement park. This is an excursion that is great for people of all ages both young and old. If you go, you should plan on spending at least a few hours if not the entire day.
2. Tour a Coffee Farm
If you're a coffee enthusiast then you should tour a coffee farm while you're in San Juan. There are several in the area that allows for visitor tours so you can see the unique process of growing coffee beans, harvesting them, roasting, and grinding them to make the perfect cup of coffee.
1. Take the Fountain of Youth Tour in Old San Juan
The number one tour in San Juan is the trip to experience the Fountain of Youth tour. This attraction is located in Old San Juan. While on the tour, you will hear the stories that tell about the history of the city and the people during the time of Ponce de Leon. You'll hear of the revolutions and riots that besieged the area and learn about the founders of Puerto Rico. This is a cultural experience that takes you through the local streets on a walking tour that will acquaint you with the traditions, culture, and history of the region.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn