Old San Juan is a destination full of history, cool sights, fun nightlife and amazing food. There’s no shortage of things to do in Old San Juan, and this guide covers 28 activities you’ll love.
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This vibrant city is full of character. It’s filled with Spanish colonial architecture, perfectly balanced with fun plazas and historical sights. After all, Christopher Columbus claimed Puerto Rico for Spain back in 1493, so you know there’s a ton of history to see!
The most popular attractions is the San Juan Fort, Castillo San Felipe del Morro, which brings in over 2 million visitors a year. But there’s so much more to do in Old San Juan!
Pro tip: plan to spend at least 2 days and nights in Old San Juan, before heading to another area like Fajardo, Ponce or Culebra, Puerto Rico.
Map of the best things to do in Old San Juan PR
This list covers a lot in a small area. Here’s a map to help you plan your time in this colorful city.
Things to do in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
It might just be your new favorite spot in the Caribbean! Old San Juan has so much to offer visitors, let’s dive into the list of the best activities in the area.
1. Visit El Morro
It’s a must-see for any visitor, ‘El Morro’ as it’s called for short, is one of the top things to do in Old San Juan. Dating back to 1533, Castillo San Felipe del Morro is a 6-level fortress built to defend San Juan’s harbor from its attackers.
It was designed and built by the Spaniards until the United States overcame Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War in 1898.
Why it’s modern-day cool: you can walk around the perimeter of the fort along the ocean and bay. You’ll see what opponents saw while the soldiers inside sat defending the place.
Inside, see the main plaza, where important events took place in the 1700’s and 1800’s. Check out the dry moat from the exterior or walk through the gun deck, where you can imagine cannons firing at enemy ships.
You’ll also be able to walk in the old kitchens, church and living quarters. It’s a really cool experience!
To see Castillo San Felipe del Morro from the inside, there’s a $10 fee per person to get in, although if you have the America the Beautiful Pass, it’s free.
By the way, I highly recommend the pass if you travel because it saves quite a bit! I’ve used it to see places like Glacier National Park in Montana, Mount Rainier National Park in Washington, Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial in Put-in-Bay, Ohio and a bunch of other planned and random stops while traveling.
Anyways, visiting this fortress is an incredible experience. Whether you’re into history, architecture or just want to see more of the island’s past, you’ll definitely want to add this to your Puerto Rico bucket list!
Pro tip: bring water and wear comfortable shoes – it’s a big fort!
Location: 501 Bulevar del Valle, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
2. Taste Old San Juan on a food tour
In this amazing city, one thing is for sure: the food is fantastic!
As my husband and I ate our way through the town of Old San Juan, we determined it’s in our top 5 for culinary experiences while traveling. Others are a variety of fish tacos on a budget trip to Maui, exploring restaurants in Old Town San Diego and the amazing Mexican food in Phoenix, just to name a few.
Anyway, on this Old San Juan food tour, you’ll taste the unique flavors that make San Juan’s food scene superb! From African and Spanish influences to traditional indigenous foods, there’s a little bit of everything on this food tour.
If you love trying new foods, this fun adventure is for you!
Book it now: Old San Juan food tour
Location: various restaurants in the city
3. Walk the cobblestone streets
With a city 5 centuries old, it’s no wonder the streets are magnificent! With tiny roads barely wide enough for one vehicle at times, these streets are really cool to experience.
I particularly loved the blue cobblestone streets! Most city streets have some type of stone in the oldest part of the city.
As you walk you can imagine yourself in a horse and buggy, or perhaps old time bicycle heading to the market in the streets of Old San Juan. Wow!
Location: all over the city
4. Visit Old San Juan beaches
Fun fact: Old San Juan beaches are hard to come by. Most of the city was built right up to the water’s entrance, at least in the historic part of the city.
However, there’s a couple beaches on the north side of Old San Juan as you head east towards Condado. And the nice thing about these beaches is that they’re less busy than the ones in Condado!
Note: for the most gorgeous beach in the area, be sure to check out Flamenco Beach, Puerto Rico!😍
Best Old San Juan beaches:
- Playa Puerto De Tierra, navigate to Playa Puerto De Tierra San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico (my personal favorite)
- Balneario El Escambrón, C. San Agustín, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
- Escambron Beach, navigate to Escambron Beach San Juan, 00910, Puerto Rico
Pro tip: if you’re planning to enjoy the beach in Puerto Rico, be sure to download this beach packing list!
5. Enjoy the perfect Pina Colada at it’s birthplace
Sitting on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, like Flamenco Beach, Puerto Rico, the gorgeous beaches of Aruba and white-sand beaches in Turks and Caicos, I had no idea until I visited Puerto Rico that the Pina Colada was first invented here!
One of the must-do activities in Old San Juan is visit the spot where the Pina Colada was created. Back in 1963, Ramón Portas Mignot put together the wonderfully sweet cocktail at the famous Barrachina restaurant.
To pay tribute to the origin of the fruity drink, you can sit at the very place it was created! Oh, and the bar has several machines of perfectly mixed Pina Coladas, so it’s always ready to pour.
Pro tip: go late morning or early afternoon to avoid waiting hours for a seat! If there’s a long wait, consider sitting at the bar and ordering just drinks. After all, you’re there for a Pina Colada. 😉
Location: 104 C. de la Fortaleza, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
6. Take an Old San Juan helicopter tour (one of the most unique things to do in Old San Juan)
Experience the beauty and history of Old San Juan with a birds eye view! I personally love taking helicopter tours like this because you get a unique perspective that hardly anyone else gets to see – the amazing city from above!
The helicopter tour of Old San Juan is short but worth it. I’d recommend to take a walking tour of the city (see #17 below) before this tour so you’re somewhat familiar with the sights before hand.
Book it now: helicopter tour of Old San Juan
Location: Helipuerto de Bahía Urbana, FV7V+7R6 San Juan, Puerto Rico (departure point)
7. Marvel at the old architecture
It’s no surprise that the architecture in Old San Juan is fabulous. 🤩 Staring at the architecture is one of the top things to do in San Juan, and it can be done for dayyyyys!
The Spanish Colonial style feels exciting with every turn. The vivid colors of the buildings are captivating as you walk the city. As you reach each plaza, business or micro neighborhood, each street is just as interesting as the last..
Take some time to explore the city on foot, marveling at the old architecture. You can only imagine how it was built 300, 400 and 500 years ago!
You’ll see some buildings in various levels of repair, while others are so well taken care of, they seem brand new! From romantic balconies to wispy flowers and greenery, the wonderfully decorated city is like eye candy for any traveler.
Note: keep in mind many of these properties are people’s homes, so respect their space accordingly.
Location: literally everywhere in Old San Juan🤣
8. Popsicles at Señor Paleta
Just gotta say it: no beach vacation is complete without ice cream. And in Puerto Rico, it’s really the popsicles that will win you over!
With incredible, full flavors and toppings (say whaaaaat?), you’ll love the popsicles at Señor Paleta. Whether you like fruit popsicles or decadent flavors, you’ll find something here to enjoy.
Try incredible flavors like Dulce De Leche, Strawberry Cheesecake (pictured above) Tembleque, Mango Nutella and Oreo (also pictured above). Don’t forget the toppings!
Pro tip: expect the line to be long – this place is delicious!
Location: 153 C. de Tetuán, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
More things to do Old San Juan
Seriously such a fun city, right? And this list is only 1/3 of the way done! More fun and unique Old San Juan attractions ahead…
9. Check out Umbrella Street (one of the most touristy things to do in Old San Juan)
One of the most popular attractions in Old San Juan is Umbrella Street. It’s a great spot for taking photos, too!
The umbrellas are positioned to create a canopy over the street leading up to La Fortaleza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which also happens to be the Governor’s mansion.
Over the years the umbrellas have changed from multi-colored to all pink, all white, etc. They’re swapped out to generate awareness to various causes. When I visited Puerto Rico, the umbrellas were white to shine a light on Diabetes.
Because of it’s popularity and proximity to the governor’s residence, you can no longer walk down Umbrella Street. However, the barricade makes it easy for anyone to grab a photo of it.
Location: C. de la Fortaleza, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
10. See the Capilla del Cristo
The tiny Chapel, built in 1753 has a truly amazing story to tell. Back then horse racing through the streets was common during fiestas.
One particular day a rider lost control of his horse, who fell off the steep city wall to his death, but the rider was spared. The Chapel was built in the place the horse went over the wall, with a painting of Christ of Good Health above the altar.
Despite storms and looting across various parts of history, the Chapel is in near original condition, including the silver and gold leaf altar.
Fun fact: this religious museum is ran by volunteers and is free to visit. A donation is appreciated to keep it well maintained!
Location: 1 C. del Cristo, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
11. Visit the 2nd oldest Cathedral in the Americas
Dating back to 1521, the Catedral Basilica Menor de San Juan Bautista is the oldest church on US soil!
Located in the heart of Old San Juan, the church is open and holds services almost daily. Inside, you can find the final resting place of Juan Ponce de León, a Spanish explorer who was instrumental in establishing Puerto Rico.
The beautiful facade and stained glass windows are noteworthy architectural elements that make this church extra special. This is by far one o the best places to visit in Old San Juan for it’s history and beauty.
Location: 151 C. del Cristo, San Juan, 00902, Puerto Rico
12. Hang out on the plaza
There are so many public spaces in Old San Juan to enjoy. From people watching to food trucks and festivals, it’s a great spot to take a break and rest or sit out and enjoy the weather.
San Juan Plazas:
- Plaza de Armas, FV8M+48H, San Juan, 00969, Puerto Rico (one of the largest, hosting concerts and festivals)
- Plaza de San José, FV8J+WMF, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
- Plaza de la Barandilla, FV8P+G78, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
- Plaza Colón, C. de la Fortaleza, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico (especially fun at Christmastime)
- Plaza de la Marina, FV7P+84G, San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Plaza de la Catedral, 74 Caleta de San Juan, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
13. Get your chocolate fix at Chocobar
Imagine this: a restaurant menu with every dish made of chocolate. At Chocobar Corte, every item on the menu has a bit of chocolate flavor.
From delightful cocktails, including the Bloody Choco-Mary or Choco Martini to delicious eats like Avocado Toast or a Chocoburger, you’ll find something on the menu to devour.
Oh, and don’t forget the desserts! Favorites include Chocolate Chip Madeleines, Lava Cake and Chocolate Baklava. Yum!
Pro tip: expect a long wait. It’s worth it though!
Location: 210 C. de San Francisco, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
14. Fly a kite (one of the most unique things to do in Old San Juan)
If you’re young at heart or traveling with kids, one of the most popular things to do in San Juan is fly a kite at Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
The exterior grounds of El Morro are spacious and a great spot to enjoy the ocean breeze, have a picnic or hang out for the day. It’s also a perfect spot for kite flying!
There’s a kite vendor that sits close to the main entrance of the fort where you can pick out the perfect kite. The breeze coming off the Caribbean Sea is perfect for launching and flying a kite!
Note: take your kite home as a souvenir or be sure to dispose of it properly. While walking the outside walls of El Morro, we saw plenty of kite strings and reminants littering the walls. It’s also dangerous for sea life, so just be responsible with it. 😊
Location: 501 Bulevar del Valle, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico (entrance to El Morro)
15. Visit La Perla
A San Juan neighborhood with a troubled past, La Perla is now a destination in itself. Nestled along the coast, positioned between Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristóbal, this colorful neighborhood has a lot to offer visitors.
Take a walk through La Perla to witness the brightly colored homes and business, colorful street art and fantastic views of the water.
See El Bowl, the skate park turned community pool (depending on the day!), the basketball court donated by Carmelo Anthony and a handful of shops and restaurants.
Note: this is a neighborhood so please be respectful of the locals’ property.
Location: navigate to La Perla, San Juan, Puerto Rico
16. Adventure on a day trip to El Yunque
Okay, so this is obviously a post of the best things to do in Old San Juan. But no Puerto Rico travel guide is complete without mentioning El Yunque National Forest!
It’s a tropical escape from a busy city, El Yunque offers sightseeing with historic lookout towers, waterfalls with natural pools and great hiking.
If you’re staying in Old San Juan, you likely won’t have (or need) a rental car. So to get to El Yunque, you can rent a car for the day. I find the best rates using Discover Cars, typically saving 20-30%.
Otherwise, you can take a day tour of El Yunque from San Juan. Either way you visit, there’s a ton of things to see and do in El Yunque!
Note: it’s normally free and easy to enter El Yunque. But the NPS is monitoring traffic to many protected lands, so a reservation may be required. Make reservations for El Yunque here.
Location: PR-191, Río Grande, 00745, Puerto Rico (address of Visitor Center)
17. Take a walking tour of Old San Juan
See the city’s amazing architecture and historical sites in Old San Juan through the eyes of a knowledgeable guide.
On a walking tour of Old San Juan, you’ll visit cathedrals, plazas within the city, historic government buildings and the famous Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
Opt for a sunset walking tour so you’re beating the heat of the day, while watching the sun dip into the Caribbean Sea from the beautiful streets.
Pro tip: wear comfortable shoes and bring water.
Book it now: walking tour of Old San Juan
Location: all over the city!
18. Visit the Rincón de Gautier mural (one of the most fun things to do in Old San Juan)
Felisa Rincon de Gautier was a force of nature! She was the first woman mayor of San Juan, and any US city, for that matter. Felisa established the first preschool in San Juan, which later became a model for preschool programs across the USA.
She was instrumental in the suffrage movement in Puerto Rico and also was one of the first female voters on the island. Rincon de Gautier also served as Goodwill Ambassador for 4 US presidents!
Although her death was over 2 decades ago, she’s still remembered as a power house for the political and humanitarian movements in Puerto Rico.
This incredible, 5,000 square feet of mosaic tile over concrete is just one of the many tributes to her around the city. If you’re looking for Old San Juan things to do, this is one of the most picturesque and important spots in the city.
Learn more about the mosaic here.
Location: at the intersection of Av. Luis Munoz Rivera and C. San Agustin
19. Immerse yourself in the culture
Old San Juan Puerto Rico is full of culture! While in the area, be sure to check out a street festival, live music, street parties or cultural traditions.
From the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian in January to the Festival de Teatro Puertorriqueno e International in summer to Nochebuena in December, there’s always something to look forward to in this fun city!
Check out the Old San Juan events calendar here.
Or, as you walk along the streets, keep an eye out for street performers and ears open for live music, especially on the weekends!
Location: various around Old San Juan
20. See the beaches of Isla Verde
I know, I know, this isn’t directly in Old San Juan. But can you really go to Puerto Rico without exploring the beaches?
Isla Verde is an area close to Old San Juan along the northern side of mainland Puerto Rico. With palm trees lining the beaches and soft sand, it makes for a pretty great day. Swap out the busy city noise for the rolling waves of the ocean!
I visited quite a few beaches while in Puerto Rico. These were my favorite in the area…
Best Isla Verde beaches
- Carolina Public Beach. It’s large, clean and has quite a few amenities really close. You can even rent beach umbrellas, beach chairs, etc.
- Isla Verde Beach. Great for boogie boarding, these waves are a little more intense (especially in winter months), but really fun to ride or watch from the sand. Clean beach with excellent amenities, too!
- Pine Grove Surfing Beach. As the name suggests, this beach is perfect for riding the waves! They’re especially strong in winter months. If you’re up for adventure, visit Pine Grove!
San Juan Puerto Rico things to do – continued
With all that has already been covered, can you believe there’s still 1/3 of the list left?! Let’s keep going…
21. Visit Castillo San Cristóbal
Built to defend San Juan from the eastern side of the island, Castillo San Cristóbal is a fortress that’s worth visiting. It’s much smaller in size compared to El Morro, but is impressive in its own way. In fact, it’s one of the most underrated but top things to see in Old San Juan!
Built in the 1600’s and named after Saint Christopher, it’s a fortress that saw many attackers. Visitors can explore the fort and imagine what life was like in the bombproof rooms.
One of the coolest features of this fort is the tunnels that soldiers would use to retreat from enemies and attack before being seen.
The fee to enter Castillo San Cristóbal is $10 per person, or else covered with the America the Beautiful Pass.
Location: navigate to Castillo San Cristóbal main entrance (official address is the same as El Morro)
22. Cool off with gelato (one of my favorite things to do in Old San Juan)
It’s hot in Puerto Rico. And unless you’re by the coast, the breeze can be sparse. So one of the best things to do in Old San Juan PR is to grab some gelato from Anita Gelato.
You know the gelato is top notch when they also have restaurants in Barcelona, Spain, Syndey, Australia, Limassol, Cyprus and Tel Aviv, Israel!
With flavors like Milk Chocolate Pretzels, Rocher Cream, Crunch Raspberry, White Chocolate & Pistachio Cream and Strawberry, you know it’s going to be good!
Check out their Facebook page for local info.
Pro tip: it’s going to be busy, so expect to wait. Each time we went the line wrapped through the restaurant and out the door, down the street.
Location: 65 Calle de la Fortaleza 00901 San Juan, Puerto Rico
23. Go shopping in Old San Juan
Whether you’re into jewelry or art, cigars or clothing, you’ll find something to love in Old San Juan. There’s plenty of places to look for souvenirs in the city.
Unique, hand-crafted items are a specialty in Old San Juan. You won’t find chain retail stores, either. As you walk the streets of this charming city, you’ll see opportunities to find the perfect collectible to remember your time in Puerto Rico.
Location: find shops all thought out the city
24. Old San Juan sunset cruise (one of the most underrated but excellent Old San Juan attractions)
One of the most unique things to do in Old San Juan is take a sunset cruise. Step aboard a spacious catamaran complete with cocktails as you watch the sun setting on the horizon.
Sail along the coast, getting a unique perspective of the city from the bay. See the Old San Juan Fort while also enjoying the views as the sun sets on the historic city.
The whole experience will make you think you’re living in a time long ago!
Book it now: Old San Juan sunset cruise
Location: 482 Av. Manuel Fernández Juncos, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico (departure point)
25. Visit the museum
The Museo de San Juan is a colorful building with a historic past. In centuries past, it was a marketplace where goods were sold and people would socialize and dine.
Today, the museum includes historical and modern exhibits. And bonus – on weekends you can still find a farmer’s market there!
It’s free to tour the Museum de San Juan, but donations are welcome.
Location: 150 Norzagaray St., San Juan PR 00901
26. Hang out at the Old San Juan Port (Dársenas Square)
The San Juan Port is the modern entrance of San Juan by sea, one that typically draws millions of visitors each year. Situated on the San Juan Bay, this is where you’ll arrive on the island if traveling via cruise ship.
At the entrance of the city, you’ll find the Dársenas Square. It’s a public space with views of the bay and there are a handful of restaurants to visit.
There’s also carnival-style food trucks, vendors selling artisan crafts and street performers in this area, too. It’s a fun place to walk around when vin Old San Juan.
Pro tip: grab a cocktail and some empanadas at La Casita de Rones – delicious!
Location: Cll San Agustin, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
27. Tour the capitol building (El Capitol de Puerto Rico)
If you love history, architecture or politics, you’ll want to see El Capitol de Puerto Rico. The 20+ year construction started in 1907 and was finished in 1929.
Despite many significant storms to the area, the Capitol Building is in impeccable shape. The marble facade is stunning to see in person!
Visitors can take tours of the inside, including seeing the incredible rotunda and dome. Also inside are the chambers for the Senate and House of Representatives.
Location: navigate to El Capitol de Puerto Rico, San Juan, 00902, Puerto Rico
28. See the Quincentennial Plaza
This plaza is one of the most impressive in all of Old San Juan. Built 500 years after Christopher Columbus discovered Puerto Rico, this plaza commemorates that discovery.
Water fountains and several statues reside in the Plaza del Quinto Centenario. However, the most noteworthy is the El Totem Telurico. It’s a 40 foot tall totem pole, created from ceramic, with carvings representing the Taino, or natives of Puerto Rico.
It’s close to the entrance of El Morro, and is a good spot for kids (and adults) to cool down on a hot day.
Location: C. del Cristo, San Juan, 00926, Puerto Rico
Best things to do in Old San Juan – a recap
What a list! Whether you’re in the city for the culture, food, history or beaches, this list of things to do in Old San Juan has something for everyone.
From walking the cobblestone streets on various tours to exploring historic sights or seeing the city from the air, this colorful city has so much going for it!
Let’s recap that list again, in a more succinct fashion…
San Juan Puerto Rico things to do
- Visit El Morro
- Taste Old San Juan on a food tour
- Walk the cobblestone streets
- Visit Old San Juan beaches
- Enjoy the perfect Pina Colada at it’s birthplace
- Take an Old San Juan helicopter tour
- Marvel at the old architecture
- Popsicles at Señor Paleta
- Check out Umbrella Street
- See the Capilla del Cristo
- Visit the 2nd oldest Cathedral in the Americas
- Hang out on the plaza
- Get your chocolate fix at Chocobar
- Fly a kite
- Visit La Perla
- Adventure on a day trip to El Yunque
- Take a walking tour of Old San Juan
- Visit the Rincón de Gautier mural
- Immerse yourself in the culture
- See the beaches of Isla Verde
- Visit Castillo San Cristóbal
- Cool off with gelato
- Go shopping in Old San Juan
- Old San Juan sunset cruise
- Visit the museum
- Hang out at the Old San Juan Port
- Tour the capitol building
- See the Quincentennial Plaza
Related content you’ll love:
Ultimate Guide to the Gorgeous Culebra, Puerto Rico
Everything You Need to Know About Flamenco Beach, Puerto Rico
30 Incredible Warm Winter Vacations in the USA
100 Most Romantic Vacations in the United States
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Monday 15th of August 2022
Did you have a link of recommended places to stay?
Saturday 8th of January 2022
I’ve been to San Juan but after reading your blog lost, I’d love to walk the cobblestone streets, take a food tour, and relax on the beach!
Monday 10th of January 2022
Ah so cool Michelle! It's a wonderful destination, right?!
Erin from Pina Travels
Saturday 8th of January 2022
My partner and I have been thinking about visiting Puerto Rico in the spring, and we want to spend two weeks in San Juan - so glad I came across this guide because it's packed with so much useful info. I'll definitely be trying to do all 28 of these things!
Saturday 8th of January 2022
Oh yay Erin! There's so much to do in Puerto Rico. Old San Juan is fantastic. Have the best time!!
Saturday 8th of January 2022
Thanks for sharing Nikki, the map was really helpful. I'll be adding the colourful streets of the old town and the food tour to my bucket list when New Zealand borders finally open and I can visit!
Saturday 8th of January 2022
Ahhh Ashleigh you'll love this destination! Gosh I hope you can travel soon!
Saturday 8th of January 2022
WOW! This post makes me miss San Juan! I was able to do most of these items in my trip a few years ago, but the remaining things still need to be checked off my bucket list! I really loved the La Perla area!
Saturday 8th of January 2022
Glad you were able to reminisce with this post. It's such a fun city!