North America > Caribbean > Puerto Rico > Northern Coast (Puerto Rico) > San Juan
- For other places with the same name, see San Juan (disambiguation).
San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico, and, at about 318,000 (2019), its largest city. It has one of the best harbors in the Caribbean. The city celebrated its 5th century in 2008 from the founding of Caparra. (In 2021, it will be 500 years since the Caparra settlement was moved to Puerto Rico isle (Old San Juan.)
- Old San Juan - The historic part of the city, home to most historic attractions, galleries and museums. Although this eight by ten block district is part of San Juan, it is quite geographically and culturally distinct from the rest of the city. It occupies the western half of the islet of San Juan, which it shares with Puerta de Tierra. As this is a tourist destination, English is relatively common, but not universally spoken.
- Puerta de Tierra - in the middle of Old San Juan and Condado, this largely residential area is home to a few hotels and attractions. Puerta de Tierra itself is a middle-class to lower-class residential neighborhood, dotted with some businesses, municipal buildings, and empty museums. However, the Puerta de Tierra beachfront has two hotels, a nice beach, and a decent park that provides a welcome urban respite for locals and hotel tourists.
- While Puerta de Tierra is not a slum nor a generally rough neighborhood, it is not a tourist destination. If you stay alert when traveling through the area, you should have no problems and will have a much better look at life as lived by San Juan locals, and may see many things most tourists never see while visiting the city.
- El Condado - this upscale residential neighborhood is also the beach resort part of the city and has many hotels and restaurants along its main drag, Ashford Ave. Most people come for the beach and the nightlife.
- Isla Verde - this area of San Juan, more in the city of Carolina than of San Juan, is closest to the international airport and has nice beaches and parks.
- International Convention Center District - includes a fountain that plays traditional Puerto Rican music and Occidental classical music and in the near future will also include a hotel, restaurants and shopping centers.
- Hato Rey - the business center, hosting the main banks, Hiram Bithorn Stadium, Roberto Clemente Coliseum, Coliseo de Puerto Rico José Miguel Agrelot and Plaza las Americas the largest shopping center in the Caribbean featuring many American chains including the world's largest Sears and JC Penny's department stores.
- Rio Piedras - home of the main campus of the University of Puerto Rico. It is a former municipality and is now part of the city of San Juan. It is a ways off of the beaten path, but features a large shopping district used by many locals.
- Santurce - a historical part of Puerto Rico and the cultural capital, having two art museums and a performing arts center
- Miramar - near El Condado, known for expensive and historical houses
San Juan is the oldest city under the United States dominion. San Juan is in the north-east of Puerto Rico, and features distinctly century-old architecture, such as Spanish military forts built from the 1540s to 1800s, an active harbor, and a very active economic area in the Hato Rey district. San Juan has magnificent beaches, hotels, plazas, historic sites, museums, etc.
San Juan has a land area of about 76 sq mi (200 km2). The city's population is approximately 395,000.
San Juan is a tropical city with winter temperatures typically ranging in the low 80s°F (21-24°C) during the day, and low 70s°F at night. Summer temperatures are generally in the high 80s°F (29-32°C) during the day, and high 70s (25-28°C) at night. Summer does include high humidity. The city has a tendency to receive rain and thunderstorms from April to November in the afternoon. San Juan and the rest of Puerto Rico can be hit by hurricanes or tropical storms from July to November.
San Juan is a Latin American city with Spanish-based culture, mixed with African traditions and Taíno culture. Museums of modern art exist abroad. The citizens of San Juan are very festive, as on the rest of the island. San Juan has bars and discotheques all-around the city, from Old San Juan to the southern part of the city that stay open until 3 or 4AM. San Juan has become very modernized as of late, with its first Metro line (called Tren Urbano) and buses. Like most large cities, however, there is a small population of vagrants and beggars lining the streets.
San Juan is the financial capital of Puerto Rico. There are facilities for petroleum and sugar refining, and pharmaceuticals.
Old San Juan
Founded in 1509, San Juan became a walled city protected by multiple forts. It guarded an important entrance into the Spanish Main, and withstood multiple attacks by the British and Dutch (some partially successful). It was considered the Gibraltar of the West Indies. Due to its military significance, the government kept the growing population within the city walls until 1897, when a few bastions were demolished. The forts were bombarded from US naval ships during the Spanish–American War (1898). Much of the district is intact architecturally, including the impressive fortifications.
Many tourists are caught unaware by the sun exposure received from walking around the sites of this tropical city. Sunblock is available at many stores in town. Wear good walking shoes to deal with the hills and cobblestone streets. Around the perimeter of the district the trade winds make it surprisingly comfortable, but along the interior streets it get much hotter, with closely spaced, multi-story buildings cutting off any breeze. Brief showers are quite common, so watch your step, the cobblestones can get quite slippery.
Old San Juan is a common stop for cruise ships, yet it is definitely not a beach resort. It is a real town within a city, where people work and live. Men typically wear collared shirts and long pants, and businessmen wear suits. Women tend to wear skirts or dresses and often high heeled shoes. Although visitors are expected to dress more casually; a collared shirt, shorts with pockets and belt, and shoes are minimally appropriate for adults at most attractions.
Today the port of San Juan annually accommodates nearly 1.4 million passengers in cruise ship travel alone, making it the third busiest cruise port in the world, according to the Cruise Industry Statistical Review published in 2000. The busiest docks are on the south side of the area near a large city bus station. Another pier adjacent to the old Pan American airport handles mostly Royal Caribbean cruise ships for beginning or ending their cruises; it must be reached by car or taxi. Otherwise, all cruise ships dock at Old San Juan.
You may arrive at San Juan/Luis Muñoz Marín Airport, then take a $20 cab ride to your pier. If cruising, you should reach San Juan at least a day before the cruise ship embarks to ensure you make it despite any airline troubles. This also provides time for sightseeing in Old San Juan, near your hotel, etc.
There is also ferry service from across the harbor. Although one can easily drive to Old San Juan, it is not easy to drive or park within the district due to the narrow streets.
For those staying at major hotels outside Old San Juan, day tours can usually be arranged with the concierge. During busy times, drivers may refuse those with significant luggage. For just getting around, you might also consider the city bus to and from Old San Juan (see same subject for "San Juan".)
Ferries del Caribe operates an international passenger and vehicle service from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The overnight journey requires Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative documentation and there are strict rules regarding vehicle transportation. Fares payable in USD.
San Juan is served by 1 Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU IATA). A large international hub airport about 14 km away. Airlines that fly here include Air Canada, American, Avianca, Condor, Copa, Delta, Frontier, Iberia, InterCaribbean, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, United and domestic airline Vieques Air Link.
Most travelers opt to rent a car here or take a taxi (fixed fares of $15-25 to most points in the city, plus an extra $1 per luggage item). If you have more time than money, you can take public bus B-40 to Rio Piedras and connect onward to your destination in the city with another local bus or elsewhere on the island with a público (best only attempted in the morning). Correct change is necessary. No dollar bills accepted.
2 Fernando Luis Ribas Dominicci Airport (SIG IATA Isla Grande Airport). This secondary airport only sees transport within the territory of Puerto Rico. It's also known as the Isla Grande Airport. This airport also gets flights from the Dominican Republic and some eastern Caribbean islands.
Private air charter
Charter flights are available at both Luis Muñoz Marín International and Luis Ribas Dominicci. Air charter companies such as Puerto Rico Jet Charter offer private flights on aircraft ranging from single & twin-engine propellor planes to luxury Gulfstreams and business jets. The majority of these flights originate from the South Florida area, where aircraft rentals are plentiful and economical.
For those staying in Old San Juan, organized bus/van day-trips to other sights in Puerto Rico can be arranged through most hotels.
Some cabs wait at the end of the El Morro esplanade footpath. There are usually many, many cabs standing at the southwest corner of Plaza Colón.
Getting around various parts of the city, the rest of the island, and to and from the airport, will be much more convenient with a car. Though some road signs may be in Spanish, on the plus side driving is almost a universal language, and with this being an American territory, the road sign shapes are going to be as familiar to you - if you are used to American road signs. And after all, when you see the word norte sitting above a numbered-road sign enough times, it won't take you long to realize that means north. However, a car could entail parking fees as you travel around to your destinations so you will need to budget for that, and if you go to Old San Juan, parking will be quite difficult.
If you think you can handle San Juan drivers and have a good road map in hand, you may want to rent a car to drive to the attractions in the city. Keep in mind that in Old San Juan and in the hotels especially, parking is rarely free. There is free parking at the Puerta de Tierra beach, however, and most of Puerta de Tierra's attractions are either on the beach or within walking distance. If you decide to drive anywhere in San Juan, however, read the main San Juan article on driving around the city and brace yourself for some very close encounters on the road!
Old San Juan is primarily made up of one-way cobblestone roads, and parking is practically non-existent. If you must drive, try to drive and park along Calle de Norzagaray or any other streets on the northern side, and park there if you can. It is near the main attractions and the trolley system which can take you into Old San Juan and out back to your car when you are done.
By public transportation
While the bus system is disorganized and unpredictable, it's affordable, and bus drivers are by and large helpful at getting tourists to their destination. In Puerta de Tierra, stations for nearly all the bus lines are within walking distance from the hotels and are marked clearly with the word "Parada" on the sign. Going to Old San Juan is easy, and the last stop in Old San Juan is actually outside of the bus station roughly at the corner of Calle Juan Antonio Coretejas and Paseo Covadonga (PR38).
Leaving Old San Juan, make sure to board either of the Metrobuses or the Sagrado Corazón a San Juan M3 (the first line inside the bus station) line to be dropped off by the hotels, right before the bridge. Do not take the "ME" line as that is the express line that bypasses the local stops by hotels such as the Hilton Caribe. If you are worried you might miss your stop, tell the driver where you are going and he will let you know when you arrive at your stop that you should get off.
If you are going to Condado, you will need to board the B-21 going out over the bridge. It will take you right to Ashford Ave. To go to Isla Verde from the Puerta de Tierra hotels, you will need to walk to the other side of the large white residential building that has aqua blue accents. On the other side there is a bus stop going outbound that is served by the A5 bus. This bus will take you along Condado and the several residential areas after it to Isla Verde.
The A5 and B8 lines go through the Southern part of Puerta de Tierra, which can appear slummish in some areas. If you have accidentally gotten on one of these buses while trying to go back to your hotel, stay on the bus instead of getting off in a potentially rough area. Tell the driver where you want to go and he will drop you off at the closest stop. You should see the white building with aqua blue windows and patio fences, and on the other side of that is the other set of bus stops and the sidewalk that leads back the hotel.
The buses stop running at about 9PM. There is no designated time at which the bus will arrive at a certain stop. The information at the main bus stations will tell you that the Metrobuses come every 10 minutes, the A routes come every 15, B every 20, C every 30, but this is a very rough estimate. Bus fare is 75 cents, with reduced or free fare during holiday times.
Buses do not go into Old San Juan, and one walk across the cobblestone roads will show you why. However, they do serve a major bus station on the harbor side of the area, near one of the major cruise ship piers. There is a free, often-running trolley that takes people around the forts, museums, and the center of Old San Juan. Trolley stops are marked with yellow banners that show an illustration of a trolley and a number that indicates which stop it is. You can get on or off at any designated stop, and the trolley driver will help you find your stop if you aren't sure. If you're feeling a bit warm in the midday heat, hop on a white trolley which is open on the sides to catch a nice breeze while speeding to your destination. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, when cruise ships bring in hundreds of tourists, the trolley is often completely full and does not pick up new passengers. Try to go early.
If you're planning on staying in and around a general area of San Juan and have plenty of time, you may be able to get by on public buses. The system is inexpensive at only $0.75 a ride (Apr 2017), and will eventually take you near to where you want to go. To ride the bus, first find a stop for the correct routes (see below for some ones useful to tourists). The bus stops are marked "PARADA". When you see your bus coming, be sure to wave/flag it down otherwise it may just pass you by! When the door opens, toss your $0.75 into the fare box near the driver. Only coins are accepted on board so stock up on those quarters! ($0.05 and $0.10 coins are also accepted.) Then, pull the cord to get off at your destination.
Be patient. Although some bus schedules (even ones posted at the bus stops themselves) say that buses arrive every 15 minutes, service can be infrequent and very unpredictable; you may wait anywhere from 10 to 90 minutes for a bus to arrive. You may find that bus routes directly to and from places of interest around San Juan do not exist, and that a transfer with additional waiting times are involved. Rush hour buses may be very full. Further, buses generally may stop running around 8PM, and may not be extremely safe after dark.
There is not any direct bus route from the airport to Condado or Old San Juan. Also, keep in mind, if you are planning to get back to the airport by bus, some bus drivers may not let you board the bus with carry-on baggage. You may want to plan in advance to take a taxi back to the airport if your hotel has no shuttle. Carrying baggage on the city bus tends to be less of an issue when you head from the airport.
In Old San Juan, there is a large bus terminal near the harbor front that serves as the terminus of many buses. If you take public transit, you will probably end your day waiting here. To get around Old San Juan, there is a free trolley bus - look out for the numbered signs. Traffic in and around Old San Juan gets very heavy: you are not guaranteed a quick trip.
- Useful routes
- B-21 connects Condado, the convention center, Old San Juan, and the Sagrado Corazon Tren Urbano station. Most buses on this route are fairly new.
- A-5 connects Isla Verde to Old San Juan via Mirimar.
Check with Urbano AMA [dead link] (Spanish only) to inquire about routes and times. There is also a large, on-the-wall bus map at the ferry terminal in Old San Juan.
- Outside of San Juan
There are no public buses connecting San Juan to the rest of the island. There are vans that are like group taxis with specific routes called guaguas. You can inquire about trips outside of San Juan at the guagua terminal in Rio Piedras. But keep in mind, guaguas may make multiple stops to maximize revenue, and it could take ages to get you to where you are going on the island.
The Cataño Ferry (La Lancha de Cataño) is a public ferry serving Old San Juan and Cataño. It crosses San Juan Bay every 15-30 minutes.
Taxis can be found hanging around hotels and the east end of Calle de la Fortaleza in Old San Juan.
Set rates have been established for travel between San Juan's major tourist zones. As of January 2015, rates are as follows:
|1||Airport LMM to hotels in Isla Verde||$10|
|2||Airport LMM to hotels in Condado/Ocean Park/Miramar/Convention Center||$15|
|3||Airport LMM to hotels and piers in Old San Juan||$19|
|4||Piers in Old San Juan to hotels in Old San Juan area||$7|
|5||Piers in Old San Juan to hotels in Puerta de Tierra||$7|
|6||Piers in Old San Juan to hotels in Condado/Ocean Park/Miramar/Convention Center||$12|
|7||Piers in Old San Juan to Airport LMM (and possibly Isla Verde hotels)||$19|
|None||Piers (Old San Juan) to Plaza Las Americas||$14|
|None||Piers (Old San Juan) to Plaza Carolina shopping center||$24|
|None||Airport LMM to Plaza Las Americas||$18|
|None||Airport LMM to Plaza Carolina||$14|
The cabbie should use the meter when not using one of the fixed rates. The meter an initial charge of $1.75, a charge of $0.10 per 1/19 mile and $0.10 for every 25 seconds of waiting.
You may also incur some other charges (perhaps even on set rates):
|Charge per piece of luggage||$1|
|Charge per call||$1|
|Charge for rental per hour||$36|
|Night Charge (10PM-6AM)||$1|
|Minimal Charge per trip||$3|
|Charge for 5 passengers or more (only in vans)||$2|
Tolls are paid by the passenger. A 10-15% tip is expected but not required. For any issues with cabs, contact the Tourist Transportation Department at +1 787-999-2100 ext. 4502 M-F 7:30AM-4:30PM.
Around Puerta de Tierra, it is only necessary to hail a cab if you are going to Old San Juan or Condado. The taxis are at their most useful at night, as the buses stop running at around 9PM. Puerto Rico does have a set fare for taxi rides between districts, and going from Puerta de Tierra to either Condado or Old San Juan is almost always $12. Tipping cab drivers is customary, but do not tip if they charge more than $12, which is illegal! Taxis are also the best way to get to the airport, and from Puerta de Tierra it is about a $20-25 ride, depending on how many bags you have or where you want to be let off.
It is always a good idea to first ask your hotel front desk about the price of a taxi ride, then confirm that price with the actual driver before getting inside the cab, although cab drivers mostly follow the rules, and you are much more likely to be overcharged coming out of the outlying areas than going in.
It is $20 to go within Old San Juan by taxi, and this option may be best if you are not practically dressed or not in comfortable walking shoes, or traveling as someone or with someone who cannot walk long distances easily.
San Juan is served by a rapid transit rail line called "Tren Urbano" (Urban Train). The train starts about a mile south of Condado in southern Santurce with the station of Sagrado Corazón. It then continues south through Hato Rey, Rio Piedras before leaving San Juan proper to the west for the suburbs of Guaynabo and Bayamón. While its 10.7 mi (17.2 km) of track do not connect popular tourist locations like Old San Juan, El Condado or the airport, it is a useful way to see more of the city.
The stations are very large, new, and seem to have English speaking attendants. They have fare-purchase machines like New York City (in both English and Spanish) that give you a fare card. Save your fare card because you need to swipe it to exit! Rides were $1.50 each way regardless of distance. There are discounted fares for students, children and elderly people on both the buses and the train, though your US mainland ID showing you are either old or a student does not seem to work to get you a discounted ticket.
A normal visitor can access the system from tourist areas by:
- Taking the Acua Expreso ferry (temporarily discontinued) from Old San Juan to the financial district, where you'll find the "Hato Rey" station right next to the ferry dock, or
- Taking the B-21 bus to the station Sagrado Corazon, or
- Walking from Condado to the station Sagrado Corazon (not recommended at night)
If you are not afraid of a 3 mi (4.8 km) walk, you may be inclined to walk between various points of interest in San Juan. This can be a good way to see the cityscape and the places that tourists do not always go. Watch for traffic. Tourist areas in San Juan are interspersed with areas that are a bit rough. Be alert and you should be fine, but before planning any long walk, you might want to search for information about areas in San Juan to avoid as a tourist.
There is not much to see in Puerta de Tierra and many residential areas of Puerta de Tierra are becoming more and more run-down, so it is probably not a good idea to do any intensive exploring on foot. Still, alongside the beach, the Avenida Munoz Rivera is a road with a sidewalk that gives active tourists a 25-minute straight walk into Old San Juan. Even more active tourists who know very well the lay of the land can walk to Condado, but the streets are very busy and it is easy to get lost, so this method is not recommended for most people.
Walking along the beach in Puerta de Tierra is safe, and will lead you straight into Old San Juan. The views are nice, of both the water and the two forts you will see once you reach the center of town. Also safe is walking through the Luis Munoz Rivera Park, which has many wide concrete walkways and provides a nice alternative for joggers to the hotel fitness rooms.
The attractions of Old San Juan are within walking distance of each other, although the climate and topography can make this impractical to walk between them. Even if the locals wear nice shoes or sandals, you should wear comfortable walking shoes, as you will scale a few hills and a lot of cobblestone while getting around. Mid-late afternoon temperatures may make walking a bit oppressive, with tall, crowded buildings blocking the breeze. Alternatives to avoid the humidity and tropical sun include going early as stores open (typically 10AM on weekdays) or catching the free trolley winding throughout the area, with opportunities to get off at marked stops wherever desired. The trolley tends to stay very full on afternoons when cruise ships are in.
Even within the pedestrian metropolis that is Old San Juan, cars will speed through intersections, so use the same amount of caution as you do in other parts of San Juan and wait for cars to stop for you. Do not try to stop traffic unless it is urgent that you cross the street, and if you must then make sure you have made eye contact with the driver and there is no possibility that the car behind it can bypass him from the side and proceed across the intersection. Sidewalks are very narrow and sometimes may have grooves or tripping hazards, so be careful.
While definitely part of Old San Juan's charm, the identical-looking architecture of Old San Juan's buildings can be a nuisance to tourists trying to use landmarks or memory to find something. Don't wait to get to Old San Juan to get a map, get one beforehand and study it so you know what streets take you to your destination and what streets don't. Don't try to use landmarks until you are used to navigating the city, especially since the heat and tiredness from walking can wear you out more quickly than you think. If you get lost or confused, find a bench and pull out your map, which should be readily available to you. Locals will also try to respond to simple requests for help. Don't try to walk yourself back into familiar territory. If you are trying to find a specific museum or restaurant that is not one of the major ones, memorize the address and street. If you know exactly where you are and where you are going, you should find navigating Old San Juan on foot very easy and enjoyable.
La Perla, the tiny oceanside neighborhood over the North Wall and Norzagaray Street, is best experienced from the El Morro Fort Lawn/Cemetery tunnel entrance. This sleepy neighborhood coexists quietly in the bustling shadow of Old San Juan, and is home to surfers, artists and tourism workers. Breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and true community pride are the accolades of this fascinating area that seems to be frozen in time.
It is considered in the Caribbean to be quite rude to take someone's picture without permission. Privacy is precious in a small community. Ask first, and receive a wonderful smile to warm up your photo memories!
- See also: Spanish phrasebook
Spanish is the dominant language in San Juan and throughout Puerto Rico. English is also very widely spoken and understood (approximately one-third of the population speaks English "very well" or better according to the 2000 U.S. Census). Most businesses within the tourist areas of the city are fully fluent in English and those businesses tend to hire employees who are bilingual, thus speaking English very well. In addition, English is widely taught in high schools, with most students understanding some basic English. As a visitor, be prepared to use some high school level Spanish to drivers to communicate about luggage, restaurants, or anything not a normal tourist spot.
- 1 El Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro). 9AM-6PM. A sixteenth-century citadel that lies on the northwestern-most point of the islet of San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is part of San Juan National Historic Site and was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1983. $5 incl entrance to San Cristóbal, America The Beautiful pass includes up to 3 visitors.
- El Castillo de San Cristóbal, ☏ . 9AM-6PM. A fort built by the Spaniards to protect against land based attacks on the city of San Juan. It is part of San Juan National Historic Site. It covers 27 acres of land and is 150 ft (46 m) tall. $5 incl entrance to El Morro, America The Beautiful pass includes up to 3 visitors.
- Palacio de Santa Catalina "La Fortaleza" (or The Fortress in English) is the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico, who is Puerto Rico's head of Government. It was built between 1533 and 1540 to defend the harbor of San Juan. The structure is also known as El Palacio de Santa Catalina (or Palace of Santa Catalina). It is the oldest executive mansion in the New World. La Fortaleza was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
- La Catedral de San Juan Bautista: contains the tomb of the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León. It was built in the 1520s, was soon wrecked by a hurricane, and then rebuilt in 1540. After being rebuilt, it was robbed in the late 1500s, and then, in 1615, it was damaged by a hurricane. In 1917, a lot of changes were made to restore the building. Tours are given daily from 8:30AM-4PM.
- Castillo de San Jerónimo is a small fort in the entrance to what is known today as Condado, Puerto Rico lagoon in San Juan. The fort defended San Juan from attacks by Sir Francis Drake in 1595, Sir George Clifford "Earl of Cumberland" in 1598 and Sir Ralph Abercromby.
- Iglesia de San Jose dates back to 1523 when it was called the Church and Monastery of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Before Ponce de Leon was moved to the San Juan Catedral, his body was buried here for 300 years.
- Ayuntamiento or Alcaldia or City Hall.
- The municipal cemetery of Santa María Madgalena de Pazzis, just outside the city walls.
- Fuerte San Geronimo is a fort that was built to tighten defense within the city. There is a small museum inside.
- Centro de Bellas Artes is the largest fine arts center in the Caribbean. Concerts, plays, and operas are hosted here.
- Bacardi Rum Factory, ☏ . M-Sa 9AM-4:30PM, Sunday from 10AM-3:30PM. Also called the "Cathedral of Rum" and covers 127 acres. Free tour, including a trolley ride around the premises.
- 2 Caparra Ruins and Museum (Museo y Parque Historico Ruinas de Caparra) (bus t2 from Sagrado Corazon). M-F 8-11:45AM, 12:30-3:45PM. Caparra was the first Spanish settlement in Puerto Rico. It was put several miles inland to keep it protected from pirates. The site is the ruins of the house/fort of Puerto Rico's first governor, Juan Ponce de León. A small museum displays some of the excavated artifacts. The displays are all in Spanish, though they do have a summary page in English upon request. Free.
Puerta de Tierra
There is not much to see in Puerta de Tierra, but there are a few things of interest for the traveler looking around this area. Old San Juan is a 25-minute beachfront walk away; walk along Avenida Munoz Rivera until you reach San Cristobal fort, then turn towards the waterfront on Calle de Norzagaray.
- Casa de Espana, Avenida Juan Ponce de León. Walking distance from Old San Juan, this house is literally something to see, as the average tourist cannot go in unless they are involved with one of the many events hosted there. Still, the building, which gets its name from its original purpose as a community center for local Spanish citizens, is worth a look for its architectural accents and 'old world' look. It is closer to Old San Juan than the hotels of Puerta de Tierra, but it is on the bus line. Coming into Covadonga bus station, look to your right when the bus is on Paseo de Covadonga. It will be on the next street over, but you can see it from the bus window. There is a sign out front that marks the building.
Old San Juan
- Alcadia. San Juan's City hall, built in 1602.
- The Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.
- Casa Blanca, western end of Calle San Sebastián, ☏ . Ancestral home of the Ponce de Leon family, now a museum.
- 3 La Fortaleza, western end of Calle Fortaleza, ☏ . Oldest governor's mansion in continuous use in the New World.
- 4 San Jose Church. Built in 1532, it is the second oldest church in continuous use in the New World and the oldest in the United States.
- San Juan Cathedral, 153 Calle Cristo. Built in 1540, it is the burial site of Ponce de Leon.
- 5 San Juan Gate. Traditional entrance to San Juan.
- Ballaja Barracks. Museum of Americas highlights colorful folk art.
- La Casa del Libro. Tu-Sa 11AM-4:30PM. Museum of the art and history books through five centuries. A museum holding nearly 5,000 early works of manuscripts and books, some as from as old as the 15th century. This museum is most known for having two royal mandates signed by Ferdinand and Isabella concerning arranging Columbus' fleet for his second voyage.
- San Juan National Historic Site, 501 Norzagaray St, ☏ . 9AM-6PM. The park consists of multiple sites. Castillo San Cristóbal is one of the largest Spanish fortresses in the new world, and has a National Park Service visitor center off of Avenida Luis Muñoz Rivera. The center offers English and Spanish versions of an introductory film to the Historic Site, exhibits, and a bookshop. Castillo San Felipe del Morro (or el Morro) is a citadel with a commanding view of the entrance to San Juan Harbor, at the end of Calle Norzagaray. The extensive esplanade between the citadel and the town is popular for kite flying. A single entrance fee to both forts is $5/week. Allow at least an hour to explore each fort. The park also includes most of the historic city walls, and tiny Fortín San Juan de la Cruz (or el Cañuelo) across the harbor on Isla de Cabras. $5/adult, children under 15 free, national park passes includes up to 3 visitors.
Check out the beaches in Condado and Isla Verde.
A popular point of interest is Old San Juan, a 7-block area that has become popular for tourists and residents. The narrow streets of old San Juan are packed with people so it is recommended to experience Old San Juan by foot in order to avoid too much traffic. You can take a taxi for less than $20 from most hotels but for $0.75 you can also take the B21 bus which picks up from many locations near the hotels and is very easy to use.
Check out the parks in San Juan.
- Central Park is the park to visit if you're looking for traditional activities such as jogging, tennis, baseball, etc.
- La Marquesa Canopy Tour - About 30 minutes outside of San Juan in Guaynabo you can tour the La Marquesa Forest Reserve via zip line. It is a low impact experience suitable for people of all ages. Those who are up for extreme adventure travel may find this a little too easy.
- Garfield, 7558 calle del cristo (go far west), ☏ .
- Munoz Rivera Park, Av. Ponce de León. Tu-Su 9AM-5PM. By the ocean, it has beautiful trees and landscaping. A great place to tour by foot.
- Parque de las Palomas overlooks La Princesa Jail. From this park you are able to see a great view of the mountains, harbor and the city.
- The Casino of Puerto Rico is a large building with a 12 ft (3.7 m) chandelier and an open ballroom, built before World War I.
- The Teatro Tapia, +1 787 721-0169 or +1 787 721-0180. Built in 1832, this is one of the oldest theaters in the Western Hemisphere. This building, which was named after Alejandro Tapia y Rivera, has been remodeled twice, once in 1949 and once in 1987. Plays, ballets, and other concerts and events are held here.
There are a few things to do in Puerta de Tierra that don't have anything to do with what is in your hotel. There is a large park, a nice beach, and several smaller walkways to take short walks on.
- Parque Luis Munoz Rivera
- Parque del Tercer Milenio. Encompassing most of the beach and park area of Puerta de Tierra, this park also holds an athletic club with a track and plenty of field area for outdoor napping or picnics on the beach. The Balneario el Escambrón is the most accessible area of the beach to hotel guests, being a 5 minute leisurely walk from the hotels themselves. Once on the beach, there are great distant views of not only the San Cristobal fort, but El Morro as well, if there is no fog. Closer in and right next to the Kiosko Escambrón, a snack bar often playing loud salsa and serving up drinks to locals, is a lookout point that faces the water, where romantic couples often go to privately make out and gaze off into the ocean.
- San Sebastian Festival, annually in January, the weekend before the Martin Luther King holiday, it is one of the most popular festivals in the Caribbean, full of activities, parades, food and live music. It began as a neighborhood event for Saint Sebastian; now it's the Festival de la Calle San Sebastian - celebrating the street, rather than the Saint. It is pleasant, if insanely crowded early in the afternoon, with artisans and families, but after dark the artisans flee and it's jam packed with drunken teenagers. Remarkably crime free, except for rocking cars, and the predictable outcome of 10,000 people drinking for 8 hours in a 6-block narrow street with no facilities.
- Segway Tours, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 9AM-5PM, according to demand. Explore Old San Juan on a segway. 45-minute and 2-hour tours include riding lesson, individual segway and audio guide. $35-70. Off season in September.
- Ateneo de Puerto Rico (museum) Founded in 1876, it is the largest cultural institution in Puerto Rico. Art contests and classes are held here as well. Hours are M-F 9AM to 4:30PM. (787) 722-4839.
- Casa del Libro, (787) 723-0354. Tu-Sa 11AM-4:30PM. A museum holding nearly 5,000 early works of manuscripts and books, some as from as old as the 15th century. This museum is most known for having two royal mandates signed by Ferdinand and Isabella concerning arranging Columbus' fleet for his second voyage.
- Cuartel de Ballaja, (787) 724-5052. M-F 10AM-4PM, Sa,Su 11AM-5PM. Guided tours M-F 10:30AM, 11:30AM, 12:30PM and 2PM. Completed in 1863, and in 1881 a chapel was added. This building housed military personnel and is now a museum containing Caribbean and European American arts and artifacts. Free admission.
- Felisa Rincón de Gautier Museum : At Calle Clara Lair. Open M-F 9AM-4PM. Felisa Rincón served as the mayor of the city of San Juan for 22 years, between 1946 and 1968. The museum that commemorates her memory is in a 300-year-old building. Free.
- La Princesa (former municipal jail, now a history museum) Overlooks San Juan Bay. La Princesa was built in 1837. A beautiful structure that has beautiful landscaping. It is surrounded by a wall and contains many trees, a fountain and a sculpture. Open M-F from 9AM to 4PM. (787) 721-2400.
- Museo del Niño (Children's Museum) at Calle del Cristo 150. Open: Tu-Th 9AM-3:30PM; F 9AM-5PM; Sa-Su 12:30PM-5PM. Through interactive exhibits, children learn simple lessons, such as the benefits of brushing teeth or recycling aluminum cans, or the value of caring properly for pets. Admission $5; $4 children 14 and younger.
- Museo Nuestras Raíces Africanas (Our African Roots Museum), Plaza San José, Calle San Sebastián. Open Tu-Sa 8:30AM-8:30PM. This museum documents the African contribution to the sociology of Puerto Rico. Admission is $2 for adults; $1 for seniors, children, and students; free for ages 10 and under.
- Museo de Arte (Museum of Art), 299 Av. José de Diego, Santurce. Open Tu and Th-Sa 10AM-5PM; W 10AM-8PM; Su 11AM-6PM. Puerto Rico's most important gallery, which opened in 2000 and was constructed at a cost of $55 million, is a state-of-the-art showcase for the island nation's rich cultural heritage. Admission is $6 for adults, $2.50 for seniors, $3 for children under age 12.
- The Pablo Casals Museum, Calle San Sebastián 101, (787) 723-9185. Tu-Sa 9:30AM-5:30PM. Casals came to Puerto Rico in the 1950s and was the conductor for the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra. The museum contains footage of his concerts, pictures and manuscripts.
- Spanish barracks (now museum de Ballaja)
Employment opportunities in Puerto Rico are to be found in the varying sectors of the territory's economy; key among these are education, financial services, government (municipal, territorial & federal), pharmaceutical and tourism. Proficiency in both Spanish and English are among the key skills required by local employers.
Employers in Puerto Rico are required to verify the eligibility of prospective workers to accept employment in the United States.
- The Butterfly People, 257 Calle de la Cruz, Old San Juan, ☏ . Real butterflies encased in acrylic. Stunning. Go to see it, even if you don't buy.
- Plaza las Américas, "The Center of it All", biggest mall in the Caribbean, containing more than 300 stores anchored by the world's largest JC Penney, plus Macy's, Lacoste, American Eagle, A|X and Sears. It has a movie theater and restaurants such as Chili's, Macaroni Grill, Margarita's and Tierra del Fuego. If you need or want to visit a good example of a modern, enclosed mall from the U.S. mainland, this won't disappoint.
- Old San Juan, Shopping in Old San Juan is diverse, with retailers scattered among many narrow streets. Stores include many fine jewelers, arts, crafts and mercantil shops, at least one drug store, and a few branded "outlets". You'll also find numerous cafes and a few fine restaurants. For walkers, the humidity and tropical sun may make the mid-late afternoon temperatures a bit oppressive. Alternatives include going early as stores open (typically 10AM on weekdays) or catching a free trolley winding throughout the area, with opportunities to get off at marked stops wherever desired. The trolley tends to stay very full on afternoons when cruise ships are in.
- There are several bookstores near the University of Puerto Rico along the Avenue Ponce de Lyon.
- There is a pedestrian-only shopping street near the Rio Piedras station of the Tren Urbano. Just get off, and you should see shopping that no tourist has ever seen before! (look on Google Maps for "Calle José de Diego, Río Piedras, San Juan, Puerto Rico").
Several tourist and fine stores line the main street of the area. Puebla is a block off of the main street and facing the airport. It offers everything you'd expect of a modern supermarket.
Puerta de Tierra
Make sure you do all of your souvenir and clothes shopping in other parts of town before coming to Puerta de Tierra. If you are buying groceries, your options are slim as well. Try to do grocery shopping in other parts of town if you want any food beyond snacks. There are two options near the hotel for snacks, toiletries, and practicalities. In the Hilton, there is Caribe Sundries, which by far has the best selection of toiletries and painkillers. There is also another convenience store called Mini Mercado, which is open 24 hours and has a decent selection of food and exactly one variety of shampoo and conditioner each, for those of you who can't make it to the Hilton. It is easy to find at night; the windows are lined with green neon lights. When buying in Puerta de Tierra, (or anywhere in San Juan), look for locally made snacks and products to save a little money.
If you are desperate to shop and have a little bit of extra money, there are stores in the Hilton, although they are expensive and mainly sell jewelry and designer clothes.
Old San Juan
Shopping in Old San Juan is diverse, with retailers scattered among many narrow streets. Stores include many fine jewelers, arts, crafts and mercantile shops, two drug stores, and a few branded "outlets", e.g., Coach, genuine with good prices, but discontinued styles. You'll also find numerous cafes and a few fine restaurants. You'll find a well-stocked Walgreens (pharmacy services pending) at the corner of a large square in the central area, and a large CVS (with pharmacy services) opposite the cross-bay ferry terminal.
Puerto Rican rums, other hard liquor, beer and wine are sold at good prices at the grocery store just down the street from Walgreens.
- Al Dente, Calle Recinto Sur 309, Old San Juan, ☏ . M-F 12PM-3PM; M-Sa 6PM-11PM; Sun 12:30PM-4PM and 6PM-10PM. The oldest continuously operated Italian restaurant in Puerto Rico.
- Café Puerto Rico, Calle O'Donnell 208, ☏ . 11:30AM-11PM. Creole cuisine. On the Plaza de Colón, enjoy the view along with a great meal. Great spot to stop for a drink, snack & conversation too. Live music weekends & some weekdays. Best meal: stuffed snapper (fillet & lobster, crab, shellfish in a flavorful broth), rice & beans, and sweet plantains. $9-21 main course but order side dishes too.
- El Alcázar, 1013 Ave. Roosevelt. New Spanish restaurant which serves a variety of tapas, seafood and several meats. Also has a variety of Wines. The ambience is romantic and live music is offered several times a month.
- El Asador, The Grill Old San Juan, 350 San Francisco St (Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00902), ☏ . 10AM - 4AM 7 Days a Week. Puerto Rican cuisine at the entrance of Old San Juan, the heart of nightlife in the Old City. It is a two-level restaurant with an exterior patio.
- La Bombonera, ☏ . Calle San Francisco, west of Tanca. 7:30AM-8PM. Authentic local cuisine in an unassuming landmark atmosphere unchanged for decades. Serves lunch and dinner. Fresh pastries. Superlative coffee. Inexpensive.
- Luigi's Restaurant, 104 Diez de Andino, Condado, +1 787-722-2672. M-Sa 11:30AM-3PM and 6PM-10PM; Su noon-5PM. Serves Italian and Genovese cuisine.
- Margarita's, Several locations including 3rd level at Plaza las Américas and 1013 Ave. Roosevelt, +1 787-792-0283. A traditional Mexican food restaurants.
- Milagros y Sean's, Isla Verde. Delicious traditional home cooked Spanish food and half-edible Irish cuisine if you're not in the mood for good tasting things. Bartender makes great cocktails and pours a terrible Guinness. Lounge area with 1990s hip-hop, R&B classics, and semi-tolerable fiddle.
- Ostra Cosa, Calle del Cristo 154, Old San Juan, +1 787-722-2672. Daily noon-10PM. Reservations recommended. The ambience here is one of the most sensual and romantic in Old San Juan.
- Pamela's restaurant, +1 787 726-5010, Calle Santa Ana 1. Traditional Caribbean and Puerto Rican dishes are prepared by a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. You have the choice of eating inside or outside on the beach. Lunch runs around $15 while dinner is a little more ($20-25).
- Parrot Club, Calle Fortaleza 363, Old San Juan, +1 787-725-7370. Daily noon-3PM; 6PM-11PM. Live music, either Brazilian, salsa, or Latino jazz, is offered nightly and during the popular Sunday brunches.
- Ramiro's, Av. Magdalena 1106, Condado, +1 787-721-9049. M-Sa noon-3PM & 6PM-11PM; Su noon-3PM & 6PM-10PM. Creole" style cooking pioneered by owner and chef Jesús Ramiro.
- San Juan Hard Rock Café, Old San Juan.
- Tantra, 356 Calle Fortaleza, serves international cuisine. Great creative and nightlife atmosphere. A warm, candlelit environment with great food and great martinis. Moderately priced, entrees run from around $13-17. +1 787 977-8141.
- Tierra del Fuego, 3rd Level at Plaza las Américas, +1 787-294-7019. One of the best Argentinean restaurants where you will be able to savor a tender, juicy cut of meat prepared by chefs and cooks who work together with a warm staff of waiters and hostesses.
- UVVA Restaurant, +1 787 727-3302, 1 Calle Tapia, Ocean Park. International creative cuisine by Chef Jose Vicente is served from 8AM-11PM. The ambiance is elegant and casual.
- BUNS Burger Shop, 1214 Ashford Ave. (In front of Marriott Hotel). 11:30AM-4AM. Great burgers with high quality beef. Over 40 beers, some on tap.
Several major hotels have their own restaurants serving most if not all meals; if breakfast is not included in the room rate, prices can be substantial.
On the south side of the "Avenida", small malls and parking areas variably hold small restaurants offering traditional Puerto Rican food, and several branded fast food outlets. This includes the Espana Bakery...on the south side of the highway (west end of Isla Verde). It has been in existence for over 30 years easily the best place to get "pastelitos" of many types, Spanish style soup (Fabada Austriana or Caldo Gallego - both versions of hearty bean and ham or sausage soups), sandwiches and "cafecito" the local coffee drink offered any time of the day or night.
Mi Casita is a similar family restaurant for Puerto Rican dining. At Plazoneta De Isla Verde (phone (787) 791-1777, toward the East end of the "Avenida"), it serves tasty breakfasts, lunches and dinners at attractive prices, with many items substituted across generous entrees. The plazonetta (strip mall) also offers Church's Fried Chicken, Burger King and other franchises for easy recognition from the "Avenida". If you are driving, charges for secure parking can be offset by receipts from businesses within.
- Super Max, Calle Julian Blanco (near the Doubletree hotel). 24x7. A normal grocery store.
- Freshmart, 1310 Avenida Ashford (Near the Marriott). A natural foods-centric grocery store where, as you leave, you are wished to "have a healthy day!"
Puerta de Tierra
In Puerta de Tierra, there are little to no options for eating out. If you are visiting another part of San Juan, try to eat in that area before coming back to the hotel. If your room has a mini bar, try stocking it with some bottled drinks and snacks from a mini-mart, in case you get hungry while still in the area. For breakfast, your best bet is either to eat in your hotel or to eat at your destination for the day. Along the beach, there are kiosks in small, green buildings that sell a few bottled drinks and occasionally some food, but I wouldn't depend on it.
- El Hamburger, 402 Avenida Munoz Rivera. This loud burger pit is packed at dinnertime with local families and beach-goers sipping beers and munching on freshly grilled burgers. The hamburgers come with a slice of Swiss or American cheese and a separate plate of toppings so you can decorate your burger to your liking. There is counter service and table service, but little English is spoken so order at the counter where you can point to your choice if you would like to order something other than "el hamburger." $3-7 per person.
- Subway, Across the street from the Caribe Hilton sign, taxi parking, and Normandie Hotel. Sandwiches, wraps, salads, and cheap breakfasts with better coffee than the locations in the United States. $4-7 per person.
- R.E.D, inside the Normandie Hotel. This red-lit place bills itself as a tapas restaurant, but instead it is just a restaurant that encourages patrons to share the dishes among the table. The menu is a mix of Puerto Rican, Mediterranean, and other international fare. Dress is business casual. $15-25 per plate.
- Rotisserie II Giardino, in the Hilton Hotel. Italian food with a good wine selection.
- Madrid-San Juan, in the Hilton Hotel. Tapas.
- Lemongrass Pan Asian Latino, in the Hilton Hotel. An upscale restaurant that provides a good alternative to Morton's Steakhouse. Dress is not exactly formal, but leave your t-shirt and beach jeans at home.
Old San Juan
Unlike in most U.S. States, Puerto Rican laws make it easy for restaurants to sell alcohol. Even modest lunch counters will offer beer, wine, and some mixed drinks. Tipping is customary. There are restaurants which cater to tourists, particularly tapas bars and Latin "fusion" restaurants, but look at the menu before going in to make sure prices are in a comfortable range.
- Al Dente, Calle Recinto Sur 309, Old San Juan, ☏ . M-F noon-3PM; M-Sa 6PM-11PM; Sun 12:30PM-4PM and 6PM-10PM. The oldest continuously operated Italian restaurant in Puerto Rico.
- La Bombonera, Calle San Francisco, west of Tanca, ☏ . 7:30AM-8PM. Authentic local cuisine in an unassuming landmark atmosphere unchanged for decades. Serves lunch and dinner. Fresh pastries. Superlative coffee. Inexpensive.
- La Mallorca, Calle San Francisco 300 (east of Tanca). Called "the Platonic ideal of a diner" by the New York Times, this local cafe is operated by the owners of La Bombonera and has the same time-warp atmosphere. Serves breakfast and lunch. The Mallorca pastry and the sandwiches are recommended. Superlative coffee. Sandwiches around $5, mains under $10.
- Dragonfly, Calle Fortaleza. By far one of the best places to eat if you want a Cuban Asian Fusion. Great food right across from Aquaviva in Old San Juan. No shorts or sandals allowed.
- El Meson Sandwiches at the intersection of C. San Francisco and C. San Jose, has a large selection (including many vegetarian items) at very reasonable prices.
- Mojito's, Calle Recinto Sur 323. Despite the Cubanesque name and its location on the cruise ship trail, this restaurant serves up big portions of no-nonsense pork, rice and beans local fare at reasonable prices. Try the chuletas (pork chops). Mains from $10.
- Ostra Cosa, Calle del Cristo 154, ☏ . Daily noon-10PM. Reservations recommended. The ambience here is one of the most sensual and romantic in Old San Juan.
- Parrot Club, Calle Fortaleza 363, ☏ . Daily noon-3PM; 6PM-11PM. One of the better Latin fusion restaurants: it's expensive, but at least the food is good, the decor bright and the service friendly. Live music, either Brazilian, salsa, or Latino jazz, is offered nightly as well as during the popular Sunday brunches.
- Siglo XX, Calle O'Donell (just south of Plaza Colón). Local cuisine. Good Cuban sandwiches and beans and rice. Serves lunch and dinner. Inexpensive.
- Countryside Tours, Condo Bahia A Suite # 1101 (1048 Las Palams Ave San Juan), ☏ . 9AM to 9PM. For all kinds of tours
- [dead link] El Jibarito, 280 Sol Street, Old San Juan, ☏ . This is a moderately-priced restaurant serving authentic criolla food. $10.
- Diana Font Artworks, 205 San Francisco & 204 Luna Streets (Ground floor Cochera Parking Building), ☏ . Diana Font, a nominee to the National Design Awards sponsored by the Cooper- Hewitt National Design Museum. designs and manufactures unique world quality furniture. The ship around the world and the prices extremely attractive to theknowledgeable.
- Pieria Restaurant & Lounge, 310 Fortaleza St (SOFO Culinary District), ☏ . Pieria offers a combination of local dishes like their Paella Artesanal and Stuffed Mofongo, as well as international tapas, such as Yakitori, Chorizos al Vino. Their sangria is excellent.
There is a public ordinance which bans drinking alcoholic beverages on the street. Although this is rarely enforced, it is recommended to consume all alcoholic beverages inside the establishments. This local ordinance is relaxed during the San Sebastian Festival, when drinking in public areas is allowed within the cordoned area of the festival if using plastic containers: no cans or bottles.
- Brava, At Wyndham El San Juan Hotel & Casino, Isla Verde. Cover $15, free for residents of El San Juan Hotel. Open Th-Sa from 10PM-4AM.
- 1 Club Brava (In the El San Juan Hotel), ☏ . Large and popular nightclub.
- Cigar Bar, At Wyndham El San Juan Hotel & Casino, Isla Verde. Daily 6PM-3AM.
- Club Laser, Calle del Cruz 251, near the corner of Calle Fortaleza. Cover $8-12 (free cover for women before midnight on Sat) The club is usually open Th-Su from 10PM-4AM.
- Dákiti, Calle San Sebastián, Pub with two floors. Idilic for the San Sebastián Festivities.
- Dragonfly, Restaurant and bar on Forteleza Street in Old San Juan.
- El Patio de Sam, Calle San Sebastián, Old San Juan. One of the most popular late-night joints with a good selection of beers. Live entertainment is presented here M-Sa.nOpen daily noon to 1AM.
- Logan's Irish Pub, Calle Bori 496, Río Piedras. Daily 11:30AM-1AM (closes at 2:30AM F-Sa). A sports bar with TV monitors and high-energy rock 'n' roll.
- Rumba, Calle San Sebastián 152. The site for the filming of many of the crowd scenes within Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. Cover $15.
- Shannon's Irish Pub, Marginal Martínez Nadal, Guaynabo. Daily 11:30AM-1AM (closes at 2:30AM F-Sa). A sports bar with TV monitors and high-energy rock 'n' roll.
- Nuyorican Cafe, ☏ . Calle San Francisco #312. Good live music venue in Old San Juan. Salsa, Latin jazz, folkloric music.
- [dead link] Ristorante Pinoli, 404 De Diego Ave. Puerto Nuevo (Just off Roosevelt Ave. on the right), ☏ . Daily noon-3PM, 6PM-10PM. This is one of the finest Italian restaurants in Puerto Rico. The menu is very creative with new dishes added based on the fresh ingredients available on any given day. This is a cloth napkin establishment. $30.
- BUNS Burger Shop, 1214 Ashford Ave. (In front of Marriott Hotel). 11:30AM-4AM. Great burger place with over 40 beers. High quality beef is their priority. $8-12.
Puerta de Tierra
In Puerta de Tierra, you are pretty much restricted to the lounges in your hotel for drinking options, as there are no other bars in this part of town, and even if there were, it is not safe to wander around the southern end at night.
Old San Juan
- 2 Barrachina, 104 Calle Fortaleza (on Calle Fortaleza between Calle del Cristo and Calle San José), ☏ . Su-Tu Th 10AM-10PM; W 10AM-6PM; F Sa 10AM-11PM. Home of the original Piña Colada, a stone marker on the outside wall marks the location. Some bloggers report most "Coladas" have compromised flavor because they are held in and served from automatic machines. $$.
- Punto de Vista Restaurant, Plaza Covadonga (across from cruise pier 3/4), ☏ . 11a to late. Excellent Puerto Rican Food. Traditional Mofongo, Arroz y Habichuela (Rice & Beans), Churrasquitos (steak tacos). The staff is bilingual & friendly. Mojitos are made by hand with fresh mint. Great prices on drinks & featuring Medalla the local beer fo $1.50 all day every day. The owner is originally from New Jersey. $.
- 3 [formerly dead link] La Taberna Lúpulo, 151 Calle San Sebastian (just south of the Museo de Arte e Historia de San Juan in Old San Juan), ☏ . M-F 6PM-2AM; Sa Su 1PM-2AM. Probably the best place in San Juan to grab a beer that's not Medalla or Coors Light. 50 taps and 150 bottles of the finest Belgian, English, German, and American Craft Beers and great pub food! On historic Calle San Sebastian in an open air colonial setting. $$.
San Juan has a wide range of accommodation, but few budget options of any kind. European-style youth hostels do not exist in the city. Colonial-style city hotels are clustered in Old San Juan, while the big beachfront resorts are mostly out in El Condado and Isla Verde. These hotels are listed in the district articles.
You'll be looking at $100/night for even a basic hotel room, and well north of $300 for a five-star resort. However, discounts are available in summer (low) season. Costs to stay at resorts or near beaches may include "resort fees"; those fees are often substantial and not mentioned until late in the booking process...on-line or by agent.
Although Old San Juan is almost entirely surrounded by water, no hotels have beach access. There are a few modern chain hotels near the cruise ship docks, some with casinos. Hotels within the city walls tend to be more colorful.
There are a number of vacation apartments which are walking distance to the beach, comfortable with fully equipped kitchen for saving money meals. You can find these individually-owned apartments in either condos in front of the beach in Isla verde or in areas in Ocean Park and Condado walking distance to beach.
You might not have the daily housekeeping service but this option is good to receive a more authentic stay rather than in the sterile unchanging hotel. These accommodations can vary from $50-80
- [dead link] The Palace Hostel, Miramar district, ☏ . 15 minutes from Condado beach and Central Park. In the area there are restaurants, bars, graffiti, a Muy Thai gym, and access to a bus stop that can take you directly to Old San Juan. Dorms $16.50-19.50; double/twin $29.50.
- San Juan International Hostel, 1452 Calle América. Santurce (San Juan Arts District; downtown area), not a traditional tourist hub like Condado, Old San Juan or Isla Verde (short ride to them). One the 5 best hostels of the Caribbean according to USA Today. On the other side of the highway from Condado. Free Broadband Internet and one computer terminal; various communal areas and rooms equipped with 24/7 high-speed air fans, electric sockets by bedsides, mosquito screens and repellent. Complementary fresh linens and towel (bath and beach). Not a party but a good sleeping hostel. Two full washrooms with toiletry and hot water at showers 24/7. No charge for local coffee; pancake mix, syrup and tea. Outdoor terrace, full kitchen with stove, refrigerator and freezer, microwave, toaster, pots and utensil, extra large lockers, free (outgoing only) calls to Puerto Rico and to mainland USA. Dorms $23/$19, double $46/$42 with/without AC.
- [dead link] Posada San Francisco. with private room guest house, and traditional hostel dorms Dorms $17-25 per person; private rooms with shared bath: single/double/triple $35/52/66.
- Castro Guest House, ☏ . 205 Calle de Tanca. Small guest house with rooms from $20-40 per night. Shared bathrooms, can be a little grotty. No air-con, and cheapest rooms have no windows, but balcony rooms are breezy. Between Calle de la San Francisco and Calle de la Forteleza on the Eastern side of the street. Transportation from the airport is $19.50 plus $.50 per piece of luggage.
- 1 Posada San Francisco, 405 San Francisco St. Directly in front of Plaza Colon. Due to its cleanness and location, it's one of the best budget options in the Old Town. Has a variety for all types of budget options but all having Air-conditioning and kitchen facilities. One floor dedicated to hostel dorm-style accommodations for $23 per person. On a different floor, a guest house section with all private rooms $45 or with satellite TV, $60. The easiest way to book is through Hostelworld.com and you have immediate access to availability.
- Doubletree by Hilton San Juan, ☏ . 105 De Diego, near the airport, the beach, and Old San Juan. Free Wi-fi and a warm chocolate chip cookie upon arrival.
- Hyatt House San Juan, 615 Ave Fernandez Juncos, ☏ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Studio, one- and two-bedroom suites offering views of the Atlantic Ocean and San Juan Bay.
- Hosteria del Mar, 1 Calle Tapia, (Ocean Park), +1 787 727-3302 or +1 800-742-4276.
- San Miguel Plaza Hotel. Lodging accommodations include free continental breakfast, parking, Internet, business center and gym, all for a low rate per room and the lowest tax rate, with no additional or hidden charges.
- Tu Casa Boutique Hotel, 2071 Calle Cacique, (Ocean Park), +1 787 727-5100.
- Posada Colonial apartments: Ocean Park/Condado area, minutes from the beach ($70 night complete and private apartment)
- 2 Howard Johnson Plaza de Armas, 202 Calle San Jose (South of Calle San Francisco), ☏ . Not your typical HoJo, this is in the middle of old town in a restored colonial house. Rooms are squeaky clean but tiny, often windowless, and equipped with noisy old air-con. Free breakfast in the downright stylish lounge, free wifi. Temperamental elevator, no parking. All in all, it's OK if you just need a place to crash, but not much more. $95-150.
- 3 Hotel Milano, 307 Fortaleza St, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: noon. Small but nice rooms (the $80 room). Rooftop restaurant with nice view and lots of great places to eat & drink nearby. Casino nearby. Public parking deck 2 blocks away. Outstanding staff that is truly helpful & friendly. $80/90 to $145/175 for low/high season.
- San Juan Inbox, 6 Cruz St, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: noon, check-out: 4PM. Full furnished units. Lots of great places to eat & drink nearby. Casino nearby. Public parking deck 2 blocks away. Outstanding staff that is truly helpful & friendly. Online Reservations.
- Normandie Hotel, 499 Munoz Rivera Ave, ☏ , toll-free: . Old San Juan.
- SJ Suites, ☏ . 253 Fortazela.
- La Concha a Renaissance Resort, 1077 Ashford Ave, ☏ . A modern chic luxury resort in the Condado area of San Juan. Amazing views, restaurants, casino, and nightlife.
- Condado Palm Inn & Suites, 55 Condado Ave (San Juan 00908, Puerto Rico), ☏ .
- Doubletree by Hilton San Juan, 105 De Diego Avenue (San Juan 00911, Puerto Rico), ☏ .
- Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, 1055 Ave Dr Ashford (San Juan 00907, Puerto Rico), ☏ .
- Acacia Seaside Inn, 8 Taft Street, ☏ .
- El Canario by the Sea, Ave Condado, 722-8640, ☏ .
- Casa del Caribe, 57 Caribe St, ☏ .
- Casa Castellana, 1218 Calle Luchetti, ☏ , . Refurbished Spanish mansion with complete hot breakfast.
- Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza, 999 Ashford (San Juan 00907, Puerto Rico), ☏ . The only property overlooking both the Atlantic Ocean and Condado Lagoon. Five minutes to historic Old San Juan.
- Le Consulat Ascend Collection Hotel, 1149 Magdalena Ave, ☏ . Condado. Small hotel, part of the Choice Hotels/Clarion chain.
- Condado Plaza Hotel & Casino, 999 Ashford, ☏ . The only luxury property overlooking both the Atlantic Ocean and Condado Lagoon.
- San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, 1309 Ave Ashford, 787-722, ☏ , toll-free: . Upscale resort. Free wifi, 36” HD flat screen LCD tvs, with laptop connectivity. $264-634.
- At Wind Chimes Inn, 1750 McLeary Ave, ☏ .
- Coral Princess Hotel, 1159 Magdalena Ave, ☏ . Condado. Boutique hotel.
- Caribe Hilton, 1 San Geronimo Street, ☏ . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: noon. Set on a secluded peninsula with 17 acres of lush foliage, this resort is situated between historic Old San Juan and the culturally rich Condado area of San Juan. Secluded beach, pools, tennis courts, spa & hammock garden. 9 restaurants and bars, including Caribar, Italian & Asian cuisine. Kids' playground, fountain pool and game room. Adjacent to Paseo Caribe with dining, shopping and entertainment. $219-587.
- 4 Hotel El Convento, 100 Calle del Cristo, ☏ . This small luxury hotel was a convent until the late nineteenth century. A four story courtyard connects the rooms, and the entire hotel has free wireless internet as well as free afternoon wine and cheese. The deck around the rooftop plunge pool has a world-class view overlooking the town. The courtyard features restaurants and a bar. All of the hotel is accessible by elevator. From $225.
- 5 Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel, 100 Brumbaugh St, ☏ . The Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel is a delightfully captivating upscale hotel in the heart of picturesque Old San Juan, a city as rich in history as it is in culture. A completely unique location highlights spectacular views of the bay and puts you mere cobblestone away from 16th century Spanish fortresses, fascinating museums, art galleries, restaurants and world-class shopping. From its uniquely Spanish-colonial architecture to its comforting in-room amenities, the Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel & Casino offers guests the perfect blend of Old World charm and New World elegance. $225 and up.
- The Gallery Inn, 204 Norzagaray Street, ☏ . The only hotel in Old San Juan with Atlantic Ocean views. Spectacular, 300-year-old boutique hotel, art gallery and museum in one. 26 unique accommodations, owned by artist/sculptor Jan D'Esopo. Fascinating Old World charm. 18 gardens, rooftop deck with panoramic views from the highest point in Old San Juan; seasonal classical concerts; private Cannon Club dining.
- El San Juan Hotel & Casino, 6063 Isla Verde Avenue, ☏ . Beachfront location in the Isla Verde district of San Juan and 15 minutes from the shopping, entertainment, and history of charming Old San Juan.
The area holds many excellent hotels and condominiums; some of the latter offer units for rent. Hotels on the beach often charge higher rates than others. Hotels near the airport usually insulate rooms effectively against the noise of aircraft landing and taking off. Nearly all are within walking distance of the above range of restaurants, from fast food to island specialties. These properties are in a high-demand tourist area. As with many similar areas around the world, some properties here may charge resort fees which can be substantial.
- 6 El San Juan Hotel & Casino, 6063 Isla Verde Avenue, toll-free: . Carolina. 15 minutes from the shopping, entertainment, and history of charming Old San Juan.
- InterContinental San Juan Resort & Casino, 5961 Isla Verde Avenue, ☏ , toll-free: . Featuring a superb beachfront location on trendy Isla Verde, steeped in dining and nightlife options.
- 7 Courtyard Isla Verde Beach Resort, 7012 Boca de Cangrejos Ave, ☏ , toll-free: . A beautiful hotel on the gorgeous beach of Isla Verde minutes from the international airport in San Juan, with several restaurants and a casino.
- Embassy Suites San Juan Hotel & Casino, Calle Tartak, 791-0505, toll-free: .
- Hampton Inn & Suites San Juan Resort, 6530 Isla Verde Ave, ☏ , toll-free: . Clean and friendly, business-oriented inn.
- Howard Johnson Hotel, 4820 Isla Verde Ave, ☏ .
- 8 Ritz-Carlton San Juan Hotel, Spa & Casino, 6961 Los Gobernadores Ave, ☏ , toll-free: .
- 9 San Juan Water & Beach Club Hotel, 2 Calle Tartak, ☏ , toll-free: . Pet-friendly luxury boutique hotel on the beach. If you can get a good price on a room, take it as you are on the beach and close to pretty much everything. They offer free beach, towel and umbrella service with your stay, which adds up if you are a beach goer.
- Holiday Inn. reasonably priced, a couple places to eat on site, short walk to the main drag. Free internet & WiFi (ask at front desk for a login). $110.
- Palm View Realty, 5970 Isla Verde Avenue, toll-free: , fax: . Palm View Realty Specializes in short term rentals, and condo, apartment and house sales in Puerto Rico. Affordable rentals are beachfront and fully furnished.
Puerta de Tierra
There are two hotels in the area. One is more of a resort while the other is just a hotel, but both are convenient to waiting taxis out front and a minute walk from buses going to both Old San Juan and out towards Condado.
- The Normandie Hotel, Avenida Munoz Rivera, 787-729. 499 -2929. This hotel is a bit cheaper than the Hilton and is next to the Hilton, so guests can venture over to the other resort for the shops and restaurants. Shaped somewhat in resemblance to a ship, the interior is decorated in cool-colored art deco fixtures and paintings. The Atrium on the first floor does have a wine and champagne bar, but the N Lounge on the second floor is an actual bar by itself. Both play ambient electronic music most of the time. On Friday nights there is salsa on the 6th floor with a $15 cover charge; dress in formal wear. The Normandie does have a small beach area, but the larger and more spacious public Puerta de Tierra beach is about a minute's walk. Use the beach exit in the back parking lot, and walk past the small beach area to the kiosk and lookout point ahead to the left. When you reach the lookout, instead of turning right to walk up, turn left and follow the little path for a half a minute to reach the larger beach. Breakfast at the Normandie is a continental buffet, with an occasional menu to order from as well. $150-270 (Book ahead through a travel agent or by calling the hotel for the best prices.)
- Caribe Hilton, 1 San Geronimo Street, toll-free: . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: noon. This resort is a great place to stay if you are coming to San Juan to just shop and lounge at the beach, although swarms of taxis await to take you to other parts of San Juan as well. The Hilton actually has its own private beach for guests with beach chairs and other amenities; snorkeling gear can be rented from the hotel. A Starbucks, several expensive restaurants, and luxury shops line the ground level, along with a shop for practicalities such as bath products and painkillers. Guests get one free breakfast for two the first night in either the breakfast and brunch restaurant or your room along with a few other vouchers for on-resort services. This resort is particularly family-friendly, with many amenities for children. The talking parrots in front of check-in should entertain them at the first moment. $180-$250 (Book ahead through a travel agent or an online reservation for the best prices).
- [dead link] CyberNet Cafe, 1128 Ashford Avenue (Condado district), ☏ . M-Sa 9AM-11PM; Su 10AM-11PM. $3 for 20 minutes, $5 for 35 minutes, $7 for 50 minutes, $9 for 65 minutes.
Use common sense when going around. The tourist areas, like the Old City, Condado, and Isla Verde tend to be very safe. There is a wonderfully visible, 24-hour police presence in the Old City.
Use caution when riding a bicycle around the city as roads are often crowded and some are unpaved. Be sure to pay attention to the roadway on which you are riding and the traffic.
Pedestrians need to use similar caution in Old San Juan. While traffic usually is slower, the streets are narrow, and sidewalks very narrow, sometimes crowded, with occasional trip hazards.
Ave. Fernandez Juncos is a major road running across the southern waterfront of Puerta de Tierra. Many buses, including a metrobus line, run through this part of the city before entering the bridge to Condado and beyond. While it is safe to ride through this part of town in the day time, it is not at any time of day safe to explore, as this is a run-down area where poverty and drug trafficking can be easily found. At night, it is probably best to take the B-21 bus back to the hotel from Old San Juan which does not go on this street.
Many of the roads that tourists use in Puerta de Tierra are high traffic roads, and the problems that pedestrians face during the daytime while sharing roads with vehicles are magnified at night. Use common sense, and if you feel like you may come to a place where you are not easily seen or there is no sidewalk, walk on lit paths that will show your presence to drivers.
Old San Juan is quite safe. However, it is not advisable to go out alone late at night, unless you have a friend or guide to escort you. If you are traveling by bus, understand that buses that service stations in many of the outlying hotel areas stop running at around 9 or 10PM, and the exact time of the last bus is never sure. If you plan on being out at night in Old San Juan and you are taking the bus in, bring enough money for a taxi in case you stay out too late. Make sure you confirm with your hotel the price you should pay to get back, as cab drivers in Old San Juan are probably the most likely to add a dollar or so to the set fare. Many of the major resort hotels in the area have casinos, lounges, and discos with live music and restaurants which are mostly open until 3-4AM, along with taxis lining the entrance to take people back to their rooms when you're done.
- Arecibo - You can go see the Arecibo observatory and Cavernas del Rio Camuy (Camuy River Caverns) in the same day. Arecibo is about one hour west of San Juan.
- Loiza - On the north coast of Loiza you will find Piñones, a great place to go to the beach and eat some of the best Puerto Rican fried food. Just minutes away from El Condado and Old San Juan.
- Fajardo - In eastern Puerto Rico a nice trip to make is Las Cabezas de San Juan, a natural reserve, you will have a tour around the place where they will show you the different types of plants in the reserve and then the lighthouse which now serves as a small museum, the place has a spectacular view. Reservation is required.
- Rio Grande - The Caribbean National Rain Forest or El Yunque is here, a great place to spend the day with nature, enjoying an awesome view and walking between trees and small rivers. There are many different trails, the La Mina trail affords hikers to swim in a waterfall towards the middle of the trail.