Best Beaches & Things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Advisor - Nicole Canal
Curated By

Nicole Canal

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  • Domestic Travel

  • International Travel

  • Puerto Rico

  • Beaches

  • Local Culture

  • Foodie

  • Island

Street with colorful umbrellas hanging overhead during daytime
Curator’s statement

My grandmother was born and raised in Puerto Rico, so in 2017 I finally convinced my immediate family to visit. We spent an amazing week bonding as a family and exploring this beautiful island. While there, I met my now fiancé who was on a family vacation as well. This place (I am currently here on the beach writing this guide) means so much to me, and we have been back several times since our fateful meeting. With great beaches and endless things to do, this island is perfect for anyone looking for an adventure or a laid-back vacation. I love to share Puerto Rico with anyone willing to listen!

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Where to stay in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Hotel El Convento

Long-time favorite in Old San Juan, with a traditional look and access to a sister beach club.

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  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Condado Vanderbilt Hotel

Art Deco beauty with a mix of heritage and modern rooms, most with Atlantic Ocean views.

Fora Perks
  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Fairmont El San Juan Hotel

Set on idyllic Isla Verde Beach, the Fairmont El San Juan boasts modern rooms and resort amenities including a casino, nine restaurants, multiple bars and a nightclub.

Fora Perks
  • $100 hotel / resort credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

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Things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Houses on a green hillside next to body of water with blue skies during daytime

Beaches in San Juan

Carolina Public Beach: For a more local feel with public restrooms.

Ocean Park Beach: For renting or taking kite surfing lessons for those looking for adventure.

Isla Verde Beach: Large stretch of beach great for swimming and close to the airport.

Condado Beach: Beach with plenty of resorts and resort amenities. Watersport rentals can be accessed at the hotels.

Sightseeing in San Juan

El Morro: This citadel in Old San Juan was designated by NPS as a landmark and museum in 1961. You can explore the grounds for free or dive in deeper by touring the inside for a small fee. The $10 entrance fee also grants you access to Castillo San Cristóbal, the other fort in San Juan.

Calle de la Fortaleza: Iconic street with umbrellas or other art installations hanging above the end of the blocked off street for a great photo op. This is a beautiful and colorful street that has plenty of bars and restaurants after you get the perfect shot.

Nightlife in San Juan

Stellaris Casino at the Marriott: Play Texas Hold 'Em and maybe actually go home with your winnings!

La Placita: Meet the love of your life there like I did, or just go for the wild nightlife packing the streets. This market by day transforms at night from Thursday to Sunday to be a vibrant scene loved by many where you will surely dance the night away!

Adventure in San Juan

Bioluminescent Bay Kayak Tour: In 2019 we did this and it was magical! Rent a car and drive down to Fajardo for this night tour to see the microscopic plankton light up in the water with your touch. Tip: Plan this activity around the lunar cycle, as it should be a new moon (or nearly there), since you can only see the glow when it's really dark out.

Water Bike Tour: This was so fun to do, it's a great way to see some sites like the Governor's Mansion by water while also getting a gentle exercise in. We had a blast and the tour guides are great!

Day Trips from San Juan

El Yunque National Forest: If you're feeling adventurous, El Yunque is a great place to see wildlife and nature only 40 minutes from San Juan. You can either rent a car and go on your own or schedule a tour that will pick you up from San Juan. If you go on your own, you will have to make reservations on the website a few weeks to a month ahead of time. There is so much to explore here that I would give yourself a full day. Prepare to hike and experience some rain as it is a tropical rainforest. There are also swimming opportunities at the waterfalls. It is a truly beautiful spot not to be missed!

Tip: There are reservation slots that they release 24 hours before if you didn't have a chance to reserve ahead of time, but be ready because they do go quickly!

Places to eat & drink in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Two drinks on colorful plate on pink table next to green plant

Places to eat & drink in Old San Juan

Bien Papayas for fresh smoothies with the option to add protein or even alcohol if it's Sunday Funday ;)

La Carreta for all day weekend brunch. This is my personal favorite spot. The croque madame is to die for if you love pesto (who doesn't?!) Tip: Go early because this place gets crowded in the afternoons!

Carli's Fine Bistro & Piano for a classy dinner with cocktails, tapas, delicious pastas, live music and vibes for days- this place has it all for date night! 

Places to eat & drink in Condado

Waiter's for traditional Puerto Rican dishes. I recommend the caribbean ceviche with the tostones (fried plantains) *chef's kiss*.

Burrito Social for a casual lunch of tacos and burritos.

Serafina for Italian food with great vibes and great service to go with it.

Places to eat & drink in Parque

La Coffeetera for breakfast whether you like it savory or sweet. This is a friendly neighborhood place to get your coffee on the go or enjoy a mimosa with a stack of pancakes.

Bocca Osteria Romana for a cozy Italian hidden gem (can you tell I like pasta?)

Numero Uno Beach Hotel & Restaurant for beers or mimosas on the beach.

BONUS: Visit the Bacardi Rum Factory and take the Mixology class where they teach you how to make cocktails using Bacardi Rum. Of course you get to enjoy these cocktails afterwards. There is even a graduation ceremony and certificate to prove to all your friends that you are in fact the best bartender among you.

Advisor - Nicole Canal

Travel Advisor

Nicole Canal

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