The Caribbean Is Calling: What to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

POPSUGAR Photography | Macy Daniela Martin
POPSUGAR Photography | Macy Daniela Martin

If it's a Caribbean getaway you seek this Summer, look no further than sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico. Featuring a breathtaking mix of Colonial history (and the majestic buildings that came with it), tropical weather, and a melting pot of cultural influences, Puerto Rico's capital city is a must see.

Whether you plan to spend your days soaking up the sun on the beach or exploring the sites, we've compiled a comprehensive list of places you should totally keep on your radar. Read on to discover them all, and then — if you're feeling super adventurous — check out our guide to nearby Caguas.

What to See

What to See

  • Castillo San Felipe del Morro: Designed in 1539 to protect Old San Juan from foreign invaders, "El Morro" sits atop a picturesque hill overlooking San Juan Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The views don't get any better than this!
  • El Paseo de la Princesa: History buffs will love exploring Old San Juan's historic promenade, El Paseo de la Princesa, which was created in 1853.
  • Museo de San Juan: Dive deep into the city's evolution and culture with a visit to the Museo de San Juan, where you can expect lots of bold and colorful exhibits.
  • Casa Bacardi Tour: Cocktail enthusiasts will appreciate a tour of Casa Bacardi. Not only do you get a drink upon arrival (score!), but you also get to explore exactly where the large majority of Puerto Rico's rum is produced.

  • Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico: The Museum of Puerto Rican Art features art from as far back as the 17th century, making it a must see for anyone yearning to appreciate Puerto Rico's rich history.
  • Museo del Deporte de Puerto Rico: Sports fans interested in the deep-rooted role of sports like baseball, boxing, and volleyball on the island must visit the Museo del Deporte de Puerto Rico in Guaynabo City.
  • La Estrella del Norte: This gigantic and beautiful sculpture — crafted by Pablo Rubio — is unlike anything you've ever seen.
  • El Yunque National Forest: Experience the US's only tropical rainforest by making a trip out to El Yunque. Here, you'll find gorgeous waterfalls and easy-to-follow hiking trails. However, be advised that camping is not allowed without a permit.
Where to Shop

Where to Shop

  • Puerto Rican Arts & Crafts: Located in Old San Juan (in a restored Colonial-era building, no less), Puerto Rican Arts & Crafts offers a mix of original art pieces and local gourmet foods.
  • Eclectika: Also in Old San Juan, Eclectika, just like its name, is filled with handcrafted items, from jewelry to souvenirs to decor.
  • Plaza Las Américas: Boasting more than 300 stores, a movie theater, and more than 40 restaurants, Plaza Las Américas (located in San Juan's downtown area, Hato Rey) is the largest shopping center in the Caribbean.
  • Ashford Avenue: Shopaholics can't skip a stroll down Condado's Ashford Avenue. It's San Juan's equivalent to Fifth Avenue, so expect a luxurious experience, featuring high-end retailers and local boutiques.
Where to Hit the Beach

Where to Hit the Beach

  • Isla Verde Beach: One of the most popular beaches in Puerto Rico, Isla Verde Beach is perfect for all kinds of outdoor activities.
  • Balneario Beach: Made up of three government-run beaches, the Balnearios are chock-full of scenic views and prime picnic spots, so be sure to pack your favorite blanket.
  • Pine Grove Surfing Beach: If you surf, don't skip an opportunity to shred the waves at Pine Grove Surfing Beach.
Where  to Eat

Where to Eat

  • Barrachina: Prepare your taste buds for a delicious blend of Spanish and Puerto Rican cuisine at Barrachina, which has been around for over 40 years. It's also where the piña colada was created (seriously).
  • Budatai: Chef Roberto Treviño beautifully fuses Latin American and Asian cuisines at his hot spot restaurant, Budatai. You can't leave San Juan without trying the pork dumplings!
  • Cafetería Mallorca: Stop at Cafetería Mallorca for a scrumptious (and traditional) breakfast or lunch.
  • José Enrique: Award-winning Chef José Enrique serves up seasonal local foods at his aptly named restaurant, José Enrique, so you can expect to find everything from seafood to cured meats and mouthwatering produce.
  • Laurel Kitchen | Art Bar: Specializing in new-Caribbean cuisine, Chef Mario Pagán is an expert at crafting the island's native foods in new and innovative ways at his restaurant, Laurel Kitchen | Art Bar.
  • Océano: With panoramic beach views, expect a dinner to remember at Océano. Chef Eric Gonzales will wow you just as much as the breathtaking scenery with his take on Caribbean cuisine.
Where to Party

Where to Party

  • Club Brava: If it's Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night, Club Brava is the place to be. Expect DJs spinning high-energy hits and all the standard club options, including table and bottle service.
  • Eternal Lobby Lounge: Located in the Condado Plaza Hilton, Eternal Lobby Lounge offers a fun nightlife scene, featuring three different bars, live DJs, and — most importantly — views of the beach.
  • La Factoría: One of 2015's top 50 bars in the world, La Factoría gets it. Here, you'll find three classic blended options: a bar scene, a wine room, and the "Tropicaleo" — where you can dance to little salsa and merengue music.
  • La Taberna Lúpulo: Known as one of the best craft beer bars in Puerto Rico, La Taberna Lúpulo offers a huge selection of brews and delicious bar bites.