Wandering down colorful streets, strawberry popsicle in hand and the sun warming my face … It was in this moment that I knew I was in love with Old San Juan. A city so rich in history and so full of vibrancy, this neighborhood makes for a perfect stop on any Puerto Rico trip.
These are my favorite things to do in Old San Juan:
VISIT EL MORRO
Castillo San Felipe del Morro was built in the 16th century to defend the city of San Juan. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983 and now sees over two million visitors a year. During your visit, you can learn more about the history on a guided tour or tour the area yourself like I did.
WANDER THE COLORFUL STREETS
The colors of Old San Juan are undoubtably a major part of what gives this town its charm. If you’ve seen photos of Old San Juan and wondered if EVERY area of this town is “THAT colorful”, I am here to tell you that yes, it is. If a box of Crayola colors exploded in the most beautiful way, it would be Old San Juan.
Spend the better part of a day wandering through the streets and let the bright colors make you fall in love with this place.
EAT DELICIOUS FOOD
Stuffing your face with Puerto Rican food is an obvious must-do while in Old San Juan! I recommend the ceviche & mofongo (mashed fried plantains with garlic & pork rinds) at Punta de Vista, and the fresh fruit popsicles at Señor Paleta.
And of course, you can’t leave Puerto Rico without drinking your fair share of mojitos. 😉 St. Germain Bistro and Cafe is known for them, so be sure to stop by!
Here I am at La Cueva del Mar about to enjoy ceviche served in the BIGGEST avocado I’ve ever laid eyes on …
ENJOY LOCAL MUSIC & DANCING
Salsa dancing and music are a huge part of Puerto Rican culture. Walk down Paseo de la Princesa (the road closest to the water in Old San Juan) on any weekend or holiday. The streets are lined with vendors, singers and performers.
And while I didn’t get the opportunity to test out Old San Juan’s nightlife, I have heard from many that Nuyorican Café is one of the best spots in the city for late night salsa dancing and live music. Let me know how it is if you go!
TAKE A DAY TRIP TO VIEQUES
I know, I know. Technically this isn’t IN Old San Juan, but I would be remiss to not include Vieques Island in a post about San Juan because it is the perfect day trip! You can get to Vieques from San Juan by either taking a 20-minute flight ( starting at $75 each way ) or riding the 75-minute ferry ( starting at $2 each way ). If you want to stay overnight, I recommend El Blok Hotel, a luxury design hotel on the island.
While there, rent a Jeep to explore the stunning secluded beaches and go horseback riding on the coastline. Vieques is also known for having the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world, so be sure to take a tour. Kayaking across glowing waters underneath a thick bed of stars is a truly indescribable experience and while it’s unfortunately almost impossible to capture the bioluminescence with a camera or GoPro, treasuring the experience with yourself is great too 🙂
Have you been to Old San Juan? If you’re visiting soon, what about the city are you most looking forward to?
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