Things To Do In San Juan Puerto Rico

san juan

A lot of people who come to Puerto Rico for a visit or even a permanent move don’t see beyond the obvious. The capital city of San Juan is one big tourist trap. There are no street signs, and it’s almost impossible to find an address without knowing the precise location beforehand. In most American cities you look up an address on your phone or call a taxi. In San Juan they’ll still ask for directions even if you’re standing right in front of it (and I don’t mean standing like half-a-feet away like someone would do in New York).
These are the things that make Puerto Rico unique; these are what distinguish us from other Caribbean islands; these are our roots; this our way of life…
The following list is my attempt to share with you just a glimpse of what this fascinating island has to offer.

San Juan

Our capital city is the best place to start any Puerto Rican adventure. It’s home to many historic sites, million-dollar views and most importantly some of the country’s finest beaches (which you must visit).
Our colonial past: When Christopher Columbus arrived in 1493, he claimed the island for Spain and named it San Juan Bautista, named after John the Baptist in the bible. A lot changed over the centuries but we still hold true our Spanish heritage. In Old San Juan you will find some very important historical sites such as forts, museums and old buildings. The “city center” consists of a few blocks lined with shops and restaurants, the majority serving local food.


Puerto Rican cuisine is a mixture of Spanish, African and Taíno influences along with other Caribbean flavors. We have a huge variety of fruit that we use in our cooking such as plantains, bananas and avocados just to name a few. In Old San Juan it is common to find kiosks/food stands which sell everything from empanadillas (a fried pastry filled with meat or cheese) to alcapurrias (similar to an empanadilla but instead filled with mashed yautía – a root vegetable similar to taro). Most of these eateries are inexpensive and can be found on Calle San Sebastián and Calle de Cristo in the “La Marina” area.
San Juan is home to some of finest beaches in the Caribbean; The most popular beach for tourists is Isla Verde which has an extensive hotel strip, casinos and other services such as scuba diving centers. We have a lot of other amazing beaches so do not limit yourself to just one visit.

The Towns

Puerto Rican towns are a whole different ballgame from the big city! They retain much of their original Taíno culture with buildings made from wood and hand-painted tiles along narrow streets called “callejuelas”. In these towns you’ll find food that cannot compare anywhere else in the world.
Here are some towns you should visit:
-Arecibo: This town’s main attraction is the world’s largest single-dish radio telescope! Other than that there are some great views along with a mausoleum which holds the remains of Ponce de León.
-Cabo Rojo: This coastal town has some of the most beautiful sunsets in Puerto Rico, not to mention Taino petroglyphs (prehistoric rock carvings), coves and an interesting history. You can take a ferry from here to go diving on some amazing underwater rock formations called “Los Organos”.
-Flores/Las Marias: These two neighboring towns have probably the best combination of local food and beautiful views. The cuisine on this side of the island is a lot different from the San Juan/Ponce side along with having some of the best local fruit desserts. You’ll want to visit these towns if you have a sweet tooth!
-Loiza: This town has been called Puerto Rico’s “Black Town” by some locals. People come from all over to experience authentic Afro-Caribbean culture including live music, drum circles and street food sold out of carts (which may be your only options depending on when you decide to show up).
-Luquillo: Luquillo is known as the “Surf Capital of Puerto Rico” and it’s easy to see why. If you like surfing or even watching you’ll definitely want to visit this town. You can even take lessons! After basking in the sun you should check out La Pared, a rocky cove with great views and an abundance of restaurants and bars overlooking the beautiful blue ocean.
-Mona: This island off of Puerto Rico’s east coast is actually a nature preserve filled with amazing wildlife (such as wild horses and the Mona Iguana). Unfortunately it is not open for tourism but there are boats that go from Mayagüez daily which will let you experience this unique place up close.
Rincón:-Rincón has been labeled “the Hawaii of Puerto Rico”, known mostly for its surfing (which is considered among the best in the world) but also for its food and many unique festivals.
-San Germán: This town is full of history along with a quaint main square that hosts events throughout the year. You can visit the oldest cathedral still in use on US soil as well as some Spanish ruins from the 1500’s.
-Yauco: This town may be known as the “Coffee Capital” but it also has a proud Taíno heritage which you’ll see reflected in its buildings and street names! Yauco claims to have the biggest Carnival celebration outside of Rio de Janeiro, so if you’re planning on going to Mardi Gras make sure this tropical town is part of your itinerary.
Besides these towns there are countless other hidden gems all over Puerto Rico that you’ll have to discover during your trip…

For more information visit the Puerto Rico Tourism Company website:
Other things to consider when planning your trip are events going on at the time of year you decide to go, some towns have copy-cat celebrations on either side of town! For example Yauco celebrates Carnival both in February and June along with Luquillo doing it twice in one month during August. To get more details about each event check out this site’s calendar of events :
I hope this article helps you plan a great Puerto Rican adventure! If you’ve been here before feel free to give your own suggestions in the comments. Anybody planning a trip soon should also post their questions here :).

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