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Top 10 Things To Do In Old San Juan Puerto Rico

The top 10 things to do in Old San Juan Puerto Rico that you don’t want to miss!

things to do in old san juan puerto rico - streets with colorful buildings

Old San Juan is the colorful historic section of Puerto Rico’s capital city. 

There is a lot to see and do here, from exploring cobblestone streets to visiting historic sites and museums.

In this post, I’ll share the best things to do in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico that you can’t miss on your trip!

Explore the Historic Forts

el morro things to do in old san juan

Old San Juan is home to two historic forts, Castillo San Felipe del Morro (which locals call “El Morro“) and Castillo San Cristobal.

These forts were built by the Spanish in the 16th century to protect the city from attacks by pirates and other enemies.

girl in historic fort old san juan

Today, they are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites and are open to the public.

You can explore the forts’ ramparts, tunnels, and dungeons, and enjoy stunning views of the city and the ocean from their walls.

el morro admission cost and hours

The forts are run by the US National Park System. Admission is free with a National Parks Pass or $10 for adults and kids are free. 

You also get admission to the other fort in San Juan if you visit within 24 hours. 

Eat Your Way Through Old San Juan

paleta in san juan puerto rico

We love to snack our way through Old San Juan, sampling all of the delicious Puerto Rican treats such as the paleta seen above from Senor Paleta.

san juan frappe

Some other frequent stops are San Juan Frappe for a delicious smoothie and Cortes Chocobar for a sample of local chocolates. 

puerto rican food

Some traditional Puerto Rican food

Old San Juan is home to some excellent restaurants that serve traditional Puerto Rican cuisine.

I recommend mofongo, a dish made from mashed plantains and pork, or arroz con gandules, a rice dish with pigeon peas and pork.

san juan cafe

There are also plenty of cafes and bakeries where visitors can enjoy a cup of coffee and a pastry while taking in the sights and sounds of the city.

Don’t be afraid to step into a cafe that has no other tourists! Everyone is very welcoming and will bear with you if your Spanish isn’t great.

Things to do in Old San Juan: Visit Calle de la Fortaleza 

puerto rican flag above street

Calle de la Fortaleza is one of the oldest streets in San Juan. 

It leads down to the official residence of the president but is more famous for its overhead decorations!

It has had various items dangling overhead including the Puerto Rico flag and colorful umbrellas. 

girl standing on brick street with long Puerto Rico flag hanging above

What’s hanging overhead is constantly changing so its a nice surprise to see what’s there during your visit. 

Click here to find the street on Google Maps and save it to find during your visit.

For more ideas, check out my Ultimate Guide to a Puerto Rico Family Vacation here. 

Things to Do In Old San Juan: Visit the Museums

art museum things to do in old san juan puerto rico

Old San Juan is home to several museums that are worth spending a few hours in

On a recent trip, we visited the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, which features a collection of Puerto Rican art from the 17th century to the present day.

museo de arte de puerto rico

We learned so much about the rich culture and history of Puerto Rico through the art here. 

art museum puerto rico

There were even some interactive exhibits that kids could touch, so bring your kids along!

Admission is $12 for adults and $5 for kids six and up (kids 5 and under are free). 

Other museums in the city include the Museo del Nino, which is a children’s museum, and the Museo de las Americas, which showcases the art and artifacts of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

And if you are visiting with little ones, be sure to check out my recommended things to do in Puerto Rico with kids!

Wander the Streets of Old San Juan

colorful buildings old san juan

I find so much enjoyment in just wandering around the streets of Old San Juan. 

Every time I visit I find more beautiful buildings and charming side streets.

blue cobblestones

The cobblestones that form some streets have a bluish color because they contain residue from the furnaces of old Spanish ships. It’s like walking on history which is very cool. 

steps in old san juan

We always visit the steps and kitties on Callejón Hospital as part of our wanders. 

fountain near paseo de la princesa

Also check out Paseo de la Princesa, a beautiful promenade that runs along the waterfront in Old San Juan. It is lined with trees, benches, and statues, and offers stunning views of the ocean and the city. 

Take a Walking Tour

Along the same lines, you may want to take an organized walking tour in Old San Juan

Tours cover a variety of topics, from the city’s history and architecture to its food and culture. Some tours also include visits to historic sites and museums, as well as stops at local restaurants and shops.

Relax on the Beach

luquillo beach

Old San Juan is located on the coast of Puerto Rico, and there are several beautiful beaches nearby where visitors can relax and enjoy the sun and surf.

My preferred beach close to Old San Juan is Balneario del Escambrón. It’s $5 to park here and it won’t be overrun with tourists. 

Balneario del Escambrón - things to do in old san juan puerto rico

There is even good snorkeling nearby! You can rent gear from Scuba Dogs and explore the Escambron Marine Park. Or bring your own gear like we did. 

We saw a few sea turtles and lots of fish on our last visit. 

Some of the other popular beaches in the area include Condado Beach and Isla Verde Beach, which is located a little further away but is known for its soft white sand and clear blue water.

Take a Day Trip

waterfall in el yunque

Old San Juan is a great base for exploring other parts of Puerto Rico.

I suggest a day trip to the El Yunque National Forest, which is located about an hour’s drive from the city and is home to a variety of hiking trails and waterfalls.

Click here for my detailed post for El Yunque things to do.

flamenco beach pin

If you have more time, you can also take a trip to the nearby islands of Vieques and Culebra, which are known for their beautiful beaches and crystal-clear waters.

Check out my post on how to get to Flamenco Beach Culebra here.

And if you don’t want to rent a car and drive yourself, you can book a day tour on Viator here

Attend a Festival or Event

fireworks in old san juan

Old San Juan is home to a number of festivals and events throughout the year that celebrate the city’s culture and heritage.

These events include the San Sebastian Street Festival, which takes place in January and features live music, food, and dancing, and the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest, which takes place in March and features performances by local and international jazz musicians.

Other events in the city include the Puerto Rico Salsa Congress, which takes place in July, and the Puerto Rico International Film Festival, which takes place in November.

Also check out my 4 day Puerto Rico itinerary for even more fun things to do around the island.

Enjoy the Nightlife

red white and blue cocktail - things to do in old san juan

Old San Juan is also home to a number of bars, clubs, and live music venues where visitors can enjoy a night out on the town.

Some of the most popular nightlife spots in the city include La Factoria, which is a popular bar and club that features live music and DJs, and Nuyorican Cafe, which is a live music venue that showcases local and international acts.

In conclusion, if you’re planning a trip to Puerto Rico, be sure to include Old San Juan on your itinerary! Whether you’re interested in history, culture, food, or nightlife, Old San Juan has something to offer.

Any questions about these top things to do in Old San Juan Puerto Rico? Please leave a comment below. 


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Wednesday 1st of May 2024

Hello Thank you for this detailed information I’ve bookmarked it all

I’m planning on traveling alone with my 2teens and 10 yr Summer breaks soon s thinking for 5 days like you did with your family

When is it not humid overly so in the summer do you know please You did March which is cooler I do think the forest looks amazing ( no wild animals though correct) sorry to be weird

I think a hotel better than a condo bc I’m trying to not be stressed w/ 3 sons

Leah Crocker Althiser

Thursday 2nd of May 2024

Hi Sofia! I've never been in the summer so unfortunately can't speak to the humidity. We didn't see any wild animals in the rainforest, you are definitely safe!

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