Skydiving – 20 Best Things to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Nestled along the picturesque coastline of Puerto Rico, San Juan offers a wonderful mix of history, culture, and pure tropical bliss. Whether you’re a history buff eager to explore the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, a foodie ready to indulge in mouthwatering mofongo, or a beach bum seeking the perfect spot to soak up the sun, this bustling city has something for everyone. From the iconic Castillo San Felipe del Morro to the colorful street art of Santurce, we’re going to share our pick for the best things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico so that you’re prepared for every adventure this Caribbean city has to offer. 

San Juan's colorful colonial architecture in historic city center.
Photo: eskystudio | Depositphotos

Take a Walking Tour of Old San Juan 

While we are advocates of wandering and exploring cities on your own, it’s always nice to know what you’re looking at, and there is no better way to get a crash course in all things Old San Juan than by signing up for a walking tour! If you want to explore the landmarks of the area and learn about San Juan’s ties to the United States, West Africa, Spain, and more then sign up for this two-hour history-themed guided walking tour of Old San Juan. On the tour, you’ll walk the old cobblestone streets while exploring the city’s old defensive system and walls before moving on to see the outside of La Casa Estrecha, one of the Northern Hemisphere’s narrowest houses. Your guide will then take you into La Catedral de San Juan Bautista, one of Puerto Rico’s most important religious sites. 

For those interested in a little less history and a little more culture and urban stories, then check out this fantastic two-hour guided sunset walking tour. Let the magic of golden hour illuminate your way as you stroll through Old San Juan while stopping at notable landmarks like the UNESCO World Heritage Site of La Fortaleza, Plaza de la Barandilla, La Catedral de San Juan Bautista, Antiguo Palacio de la Intendencia, Catedral Basilica Menor, Cuartel de Ballajá, and more!

For those who prefer to walk the old city at their own pace, consider downloading this self-guided audio tour of Old San Juan. This way, you’ll still get briefed on the incredible buildings and landmarks you pass but can pop into attractions as you see fit.  

Panoramic landscape of Castillo San Felipe del Morro along the coastline, San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Photo: NAPA74 | Depositphotos

Explore the Ramparts of Castillo San Felipe del Morro

One must-see highlight of any visit to San Juan is the magnificent Castillo San Felipe del Morro, also known as El Morro. This 16th-century fortress stands atop a rocky peninsula overlooking the entrance to San Juan Bay. Its impressive stone walls and sprawling grounds tell the story of Puerto Rico’s rich history, from its days as a Spanish colony to its role in protecting the island from foreign invaders. Even more impressive is this fort, in all its history, has only ever had one successful attack on it when the Earl of Cumberland invaded the city in 1598 and pillaged the churches and towns. You and your crew can explore the fortress’s maze-like corridors, climb to the top of its iconic sentry towers for panoramic views of the coastline, and even wander along the scenic Paseo del Morro, a beautiful promenade that winds its way around the perimeter of the fortress on a 1.5-mile out-and-back path leading to San Juan Gate (free to walk). The massive grounds also allow for plenty of grassy spots to enjoy a packed lunch and watch the kites fly.

Tickets are available at the gate upon arrival or you can try to visit on a free entrance day, which lands on public holidays like Martin Luther Jr. King Day, Juneteenth, Veterans Day, and more.  You can also opt to sign up for this 2.5-hour guided walking tour of Old San Juan and El Morro, which includes a guided tour of the famous fort along with stops at notable sites like La Catedral de San Juan Bautista, San Juan Gate, and La Fortaleza.

Castillo San Cristobal in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Photo: sepavone | Depositphotos

See the Devil’s Sentry Box at Castillo San Cristóbal

Castillo San Cristóbal, located in the heart of Old San Juan, is undoubtedly a must-see in San Juan. This impressive fortress built in the 18th century is the largest Spanish fortress built in the Americas. As visitors explore the stone walls and courtyards, they’ll be transported back in time to an era of naval battles, pirate attacks, and conquests. The castle offers stunning panoramic views of the city and the Atlantic Ocean, making it ideal for photography fanatics. 

Inside the fortress, tourists can explore a labyrinth of tunnels, barracks, and cannons, along with the Garita del Diablo. The Garita del Diablo, also known as Devil’s Sentry Box, is a legendary spot where soldiers once stood guard overlooking the ocean. Many myths surround this guard spot, but it is said a soldier named Sanchez eerily disappeared from this post, leaving nothing but his rifle and uniform behind. Some say it was a hoax for him to run away with his love but others claim the devil took him. 

Take a Foodie Tour

Wondering what to do in San Juan when hunger strikes? Well, tantalize your taste buds by signing up for this three-hour guided foodie tour in San Juan. Puerto Rico is known for several incredible dishes and cocktails, and you’ll get to sample 10 different bites on this tour as well as help prepare one of Puerto Rico’s signature dishes, mofongo. Between restaurant stops, your guide will share historical and cultural information on the surrounding landmarks of Old San Juan, then you’ll finish the day with a classic rum cocktail. This is a perfect tour for tourists with an interest in history but a true hunger for the taste of the city! 

Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Photo: NAPA74 | Depositphotos

Wander the Tombstones at Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis

Perched on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this historic cemetery is not only a resting place for many prominent Puerto Ricans, including governors, artists, military leaders, and famed Puerto Rican poet Julia de Burgos, but also a stunning architectural and cultural landmark. Visitors to Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis will be awe-struck by the picturesque views of the ocean and the intricate tombstones dating back to the 19th century that are adorned with ornate sculptures and carvings. This cemetery offers tourists a unique and unforgettable glimpse into the soul of the city, making it one of the best free things to do in San Juan. 

Visit the Music Hall of Fame at Distrito T-Mobile

Distrito T-Mobile is easily one of the city’s most exciting and unique attractions. This state-of-the-art entertainment complex, sponsored by T-Mobile, offers visitors an immersive experience combining technology, music, and entertainment. As soon as you step inside, you’re greeted by a vibrant atmosphere buzzing with energy with restaurants and attractions all around. One of the main highlights of Distrito T-Mobile is its Caribbean Cinemas VIP theater, where visitors can enjoy mesmerizing audiovisual shows complete with lasers, a bar, and oversized loungers. Visitors can also explore the Music Hall of Fame, which celebrates the island’s legendary musicians, the Toro Verde Urban Park, which boasts ziplines and two Guinness World Records, and Coca-Cola Hall, an ultramodern venue for live shows. From virtual reality experiences to interactive exhibits, there’s no shortage of excitement at Distrito T-Mobile.

Enjoy a Morning Stroll in the Botanical Garden

Looking for a spot to enjoy a cool morning stroll? The head to the Jardín Botánico de la Universidad de Puerto Rico (English: Botanical Garden of the University of Puerto Rico). Spanning over 250 acres, this botanical oasis is home to an impressive collection of over 600 species of plants (30,000 in total), including rare and endangered varieties native to Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands. As visitors stroll along its winding pathways, they’ll encounter towering palms, vibrant orchids, waterfalls, and fragrant tropical flowers. Highlights of the garden include the Bamboo Garden, showcasing tall lush bamboo-arched paths and plenty of shade, and the Herbarium, which explores over 36,000 unique specimens of plants.  

Cathedral of San Juan Bautista is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Photo: jiawangkun | Depositphotos

Marvel at the Catedral de San Juan Bautista

Amidst the colorful colonial buildings and lively plazas of Old San Juan stands the majestic Catedral de San Juan Bautista; the Western Hemisphere’s second-oldest church and the oldest church built on U.S. soil. As you step inside this gothic 16th-century cathedral, you’ll be greeted by soaring ceilings adorned with intricate carvings, stunning stained glass windows, religious artifacts, and a sense of peace and tranquility. Highlights include the impressive marble tomb of Spanish explorer and the island’s first governor, Juan Ponce de León, and the wax-coated mummy of Christian martyr Saint Pius (San Pio). Take a moment to admire the intricate details of the cathedral’s Gothic facade, a stunning example of Spanish colonial architecture, before making it up to the rooftop for panoramic views of the city and the Atlantic Ocean. 

La Fortaleza is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. This building is the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico.
Photo: jiawangkun | Depositphotos

Take a Tour of La Fortaleza

La Fortaleza, also known as Palacio de Santa Catalina, is a great place to visit in San Juan for history and architecture lovers alike. This historic gem is like a time machine, whisking you back to the 16th century with its stunning colonial architecture and lush, manicured gardens. Originally built as part of the defensive structures of the city, La Fortaleza has seen it all, from pirate attacks to English and Dutch invaders, and it didn’t hold up so well. It was then converted into the governor’s house and is now the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere. 

Tourists can only visit the mansion with a guide and 30-minute guided tours are available Monday through Friday from 8:15 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Once inside, visitors can marvel at the opulent furnishings and priceless artwork that adorn the halls, as knowledgeable guides amuse you with tales of past governors and political intrigue. Don’t forget to snap a selfie in front of the iconic blue façade, a must-have souvenir for your Instagram feed!

After exploring the historic walls of La Fortaleza, continue your journey along Calle de la Fortaleza, a charming cobblestone street lined with colorful colonial buildings and quaint cafes. Indulge in a refreshing piña colada at Barrachina, the birthplace of this iconic cocktail, or sample delectable local cuisine at one of the many family-owned eateries dotting the street. 

Casa BACARDI in San Juan, Puerto Rico
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Taste the Spirits of the Island at Casa BACARDÍ 

Calling all rum enthusiasts! Find the spirits of the island (quite literally) at Casa BACARDÍ’s fascinating world of rum, a can’t-miss activity in San Juan. Step inside the vibrant large campus, located across the bay from Old San Juan, where you’ll be greeted by friendly guides eager to share the secrets behind BACARDÍ’s legendary rum-making process. From the distillation techniques passed down through generations to the innovative cocktail recipes that have made BACARDÍ a household name, there’s no shortage of fascinating tidbits to uncover. Visitors have a few different tour options to choose from depending on what they’re looking to get out of the experience, but all tours include a free drink, a trolley ride, and information on the distilling process. After learning all about the art of rum production, be sure to head outside and explore the lush grounds of Casa BACARDÍ as there are plenty of Instagram-worthy spots to snap a pic.

Glass of pinacolada cocktail standing by the swimming pool
Photo: mandritoiu | Depositphotos

Indulge in a Pina Colada at the Birthplace of the Cocktail

For a taste of tropical paradise in a glass, tourists in San Juan should indulge in a refreshing Pina Colada at either Barrachina restaurant or the Caribe Hilton. These two iconic establishments both proudly claim to be the birthplace of this beloved cocktail, making them essential stops for any traveler seeking a sip of history. Barrachina, nestled in the heart of Old San Juan, boasts a charming ambiance and a rich culinary heritage dating back to 1963, where they claim to have crafted the first Piña Colada. Meanwhile, the Caribe Hilton, a luxurious beachfront resort, also stakes its claim to Piña Colada fame, crediting one of its bartenders with inventing the cocktail in 1954. Whichever venue you choose, you’ll be treated to a delectable blend of rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice, perfectly chilled and garnished with a slice of pineapple and a maraschino cherry. For those who don’t drink alcohol or are traveling with minors, you can still sample a Pina Colada sans rum. 

Dive into San Juan’s Museum Scene

Get ready to embark on a captivating journey through the vibrant world of Puerto Rican history and contemporary art as you spend a day or two exploring San Juan’s incredible collection of museums. First stop: the Museo de las Américas, a San Juan attraction located within the historic walls of the former Spanish military barracks in Old San Juan. Here, tourists will discover a fascinating collection of artifacts and exhibits that showcase the diverse cultures and traditions of the Americas, from indigenous Taino artifacts to colonial-era artifacts.

Next on the itinerary is the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico, a great tourist attraction in San Juan that is dedicated to showcasing the cutting-edge creations of Puerto Rican and international contemporary artists. Located in the trendy Santurce neighborhood, this avant-garde museum boasts a rotating roster of thought-provoking exhibitions, immersive installations, and interactive experiences.

Last but certainly not least, tourists won’t want to miss the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, which boasts a treasure trove of Puerto Rican art spanning from the 17th century to the present day. Housed within an impressive neoclassical building surrounded by lush gardens in the heart of Santurce, this art museum features an extensive collection of paintings and sculptures that offer a glimpse into the island’s history and artistic legacy.

People on Isla Verde resort beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Photo: Maridav | Depositphotos

Soak Up the Sun at the Beach

Looking for fun things to do in San Juan? Well, don’t forget to spend time on the pristine sands of Balneario el Escambrón. Not only does this popular beach offer a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city, but it also boasts incredible clear turquoise waters and blossoming coral reefs that make it ideal for snorkeling. You can even book a snorkeling tour to swim with turtles! Balneario el Escambrón is easily the best beach in San Juan as it features other amenities like public washrooms, showers, food vendors, and plenty of palms for shade. Plus, it has a great surf scene. 

Another great option is Condado Beach. Here, you’ll find plenty of sun loungers for rent, along with white sands and great waters for swimming or floating your worries away. While the beach is a bit smaller, it is still a great spot to enjoy some sunshine for a few hours. You can purchase food and drinks from the kiosk and vendor, or opt to pack your own lunch. 

Ocean Park Beach stands out as one of the best beaches to visit in San Juan for its natural beauty and vibrant local atmosphere. Unlike some of the more touristy beaches in the area, Ocean Park Beach offers a more laid-back and authentic experience, drawing in a diverse crowd of locals and travelers alike. With its soft golden sands, clear turquoise waters, and lush palm trees swaying in the breeze, this picturesque stretch of Caribbean coastline is the perfect spot for sunbathing, swimming, and catching waves. Plus, the nearby Ocean Park neighborhood boasts a lively mix of beach bars, restaurants, and shops, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the vibrant local culture while enjoying all the amenities they need for a day of fun in the sun.

Public market place in Santurce neighborhood in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Photo: Klodien | Depositphotos

Tantalize Your Senses at La Placita de Santurce 

La Placita de Santurce is a must-see for those sightseeing in San Juan, especially if you’re a foodie or looking to dance with locals. This lively outdoor plaza offers a daytime two-tiered farmers market where you can stroll past vendors while taking in the aromas of fresh arroz mamposteao and arepas. This bustling marketplace, nestled in the heart of the Santurce neighborhood, has been a beloved gathering place for locals and tourists alike since the early 1900s. Originally a humble fruit and vegetable market, La Placita has evolved into an entertainment hub, boasting an eclectic mix of food stalls, bars, and live music venues. From sampling mouthwatering Puerto Rican delicacies to sipping on ice-cold cocktails under the stars, there’s no shortage of ways to indulge in the senses at La Placita. While daytime in the market is incredible, the nightlife in this area offers a party scene that is off the charts. As the sun sets, the streets come alive with the sounds of salsa music and laughter, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the lively island life party scene and dance the night away under the Caribbean moonlight!

See the Street Art in Santurce

Tourists in San Juan should definitely make time to explore the vibrant street art scene in the eclectic neighborhood of Santurce. Known as the artistic heart of the city, Santurce boasts an impressive array of colorful murals, graffiti, and urban art installations that line its streets and alleys. This outdoor gallery showcases the creative talents of local and international artists, who use the neighborhood’s walls to express their unique perspectives on culture, politics, and society both in Puerto Rico and abroad. From larger-than-life murals that celebrate Puerto Rican heritage to thought-provoking pieces, the street art in Santurce offers a fascinating glimpse into the soul of the city and its people.

Striking street art isn’t the only thing this boho neighborhood offers. The area is also home to a thriving arts and cultural scene, with hip cafes, galleries, and live performances. Visitors can spend hours wandering the colorful streets, popping into galleries to admire contemporary artworks, or sipping on artisanal coffee while soaking in the bohemian atmosphere.

Try the Famous Cocktails at La Factoría 

In 2017, native Puerto Rican musician Louis Fonzi released his hit song ‘Despacito’, which took the world by storm and had people swaying their hips and singing inaccurate Spanish lyrics from China to Brazil. In the music video, Fonzi pays homage to his home country by showcasing local establishments, one being the iconic cocktail bar La Factoría. However, long before Fonzi came on the scene, this establishment has been revered as one of the best 50 cocktail bars in the world for several years. It has earned its well-deserved reputation for its innovative cocktails, lively ambiance, and eclectic mix of patrons. Located in the heart of Old San Juan, La Factoría boasts a labyrinth-like layout with six bars spread across multiple floors, each offering its own unique atmosphere and cocktail menu. From the cozy speakeasy-style interior of the main bar to the hip-shaking music of the salsa bar, there’s no shortage of spaces to sip on mindblowing crafted drinks and enjoy a memorable night.

An aerial view of the Mountain landscapes of Adjuntas, Puerto Rico
Photo: Wirestock | Depositphotos

Book a Helicopter Tour

Soar high above the Caribbean and admire the turquoise waters, mountains, and tropical forests that surround San Juan. As the helicopter takes off, passengers will have the opportunity to see the city’s historic forts, vibrant neighborhoods, and bustling harbors from a whole new angle, capturing stunning photos and memories that will last a lifetime. For those who want to explore the city from above, check out this guided helicopter tour of San Juan. Not only will you get to see the city’s bridges, rivers, and landmarks from above, but you’ll also get to ask questions and get more information on what you’re seeing from your pilot. Tourists can choose between two packages that last upwards of 25 minutes. Visitors with more interest in the lush natural rainforests on the island can also opt to book this 45-minute private guided helicopter tour, which will take you over beaches and hidden waterfalls, including Puerto Rico’s tallest waterfall La Neibla. Afterward, the pilot flies through Canon San Cristobal, the deepest canyon in the Caribbean.

Tour Hacienda Campo Rico on ATV or Horseback

Looking for an adventure straight out of a cowboy movie? Look no further than Hacienda Campo Rico. This sprawling 2,000-acre estate offers visitors a taste of Puerto Rico’s history and stunning natural beauty. Originally a sugar plantation dating back to the 19th century, Campo Rico has been transformed into an outdoor playground for thrill-seekers and nature lovers alike. Strap on your cowboy boots and saddle up for an unforgettable horseback riding tour through lush forests and winding trails, or rev up your engines for an exhilarating ATV adventure tour through rugged terrain and rolling hills. With options for both novice riders and experienced equestrians, as well as guided tours for ATV enthusiasts of all levels, there’s no shortage of excitement at Campo Rico!

In addition to horseback riding and ATV tours, visitors to Hacienda Campo Rico can also explore its fascinating history and diverse ecosystems. Tourists can wander through the ruins of old sugar mills and learn about the plantation’s interesting past, or play a round of archery tag with friends. Whether you’re zipping through the trees on Campo Rico’s zipline, sampling cocktails at the on-site Mojito Bar, or simply soaking in the breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside, Hacienda Campo Rico offers a truly unforgettable experience for adventurers of all ages.

View of the promontory where the historic Castillo San Felipe del Morro is located in Old San Juan, as jet ski riders approach that direction.
Photo: debbieannpowell | Depositphotos

Embark on a Scenic Boat Tour

Seeing as you’re on a beautiful Caribbean island, why not head out on the ocean on a boat tour to explore the wildlife and excellent coastline of Puerto Rico? Now, there are several boat tours to choose from, each with its own draw. For those seeking a thrill, check out this 90-minute guided jet ski tour that takes you from San Jose Lagoon to the pristine beach of Isla Verde. For a more relaxed tour, consider booking a chillboat tour. These pedal-powered crafts offer a comfortable ride and you’ll get to cruise around El Morro and Old San Juan Bay with a guide. If you want to explore the coastline and waters at your own pace, then rent a mini boat and be your own captain! The mini boats fit up to three persons (including the driver) and you’ll have 90 minutes to cruise at your own leisure. Another great option for couples or fans of Golden Hour is this 90-minute sunset cruise. The tour gently cruises through Old San Juan Bay while the last light of the day illuminates El Morro and includes snacks, beers, and hotel pick-up and drop-off. 

Group of people learning how to dance salsa in Puerto Rico
Photo: Zyabich | Depositphotos

Take a Salsa Dancing Lesson

If you’re gonna party in Puerto Rico, you better know how to move those hips! This beginner salsa dancing class is perfect for the rhythm-impaired as you’ll join a small group of no more than eight participants with professional salsa instructors. The class is intended for couples, however, if you reach out to Giovanni, she can sometimes make accommodations for singles. You will get a full hour of dance lessons, and before you know it, you’ll be bringing your new skills to a dance floor on the island! 

Discover the best things to do in San Juan as you immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Puerto Rico. As they say, “Puerto Rico es la isla del encanto,” and indeed, this charming island has cast its spell on travelers for centuries. So whether you’re sipping pina coladas on the beach, exploring centuries-old forts, or dancing the night away to salsa rhythms, we know San Juan will provide lasting memories.

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