San Juan offers all the beauty and relaxation of a Caribbean destination, along with the history and character of a European city. It’s packed with stunning beaches, colorful buildings, and is just a quick flight from the coast of Florida (and many East Coast cities) If you haven’t already, it’s definitely time to plan a trip.
Here, 10 things to do, places to go while, and unforgettable sights to ’Gram you’re there.
Walk the Beaches
San Juan is home to several gorgeous tropical beaches, from the popular sweeping Isla Verde (pictured above) and trendy Condado Beach to hidden gem Playa Peña and more. It’s tempting to leave your phone behind while you stroll along the sand, but then you’d miss the opp to ’Gram these crazy views.
Explore Old San Juan
Home to a host of cafés, restaurants, and boutiques to pop into, the city’s historic district is a must-see stop on your trip. The colorful storefronts and cobblestone streets will brighten up your IG feed.
Order a Cocktail at Hotel El Convento
Located in a restored monastery in the heart of Old San Juan, the Hotel El Convento offers boutique digs with luxe details like rich mahogany beams, Andalusian floor tiles, and marble bathrooms. If you opt not to stay here (rates start at $235), at least stop in and order a cocktail at El Picoteo, one of three high-end restaurants in the hotel, which specializes in Spanish tapas and overlooks the lush open-air courtyard.
Tour El Yunque National Rainforest
Take a guided tour (or drive yourself in a rental car) to explore Puerto Rico’s mountainous El Yunque Rainforest, a 29,000-acre national reserve located in the northeast part of the territory. Complete with rare trees and tropical birds, camping, hiking trails, and waterfalls, the views—and photo opps—are to die for.
Have an Authentic Local Meal
Ask just about anyone—locals and tourists alike—where to go for a well-priced, excellently prepared local meal, and they’ll point you to Metropol. Just moments from the San Juan airport, in the Isla Verde neighborhood, Metropol offers no-frills Puerto Rican and Cuban dishes such as pork roast, chicken and rice, plantains, and black beans. The meals might not be served on anything fancy, but you’ll get serious #streetcred for posting something so authentic to your Insta.
Visit Historic Forts
Don’t leave San Juan without visiting its two historic, beautiful forts—Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo de San Cristóbal, both located in Old San Juan. Built in the 16th and 18th centuries, respectively, expect panoramic views of the Atlantic, fascinating captions explaining the history of various sites within the forts, and the chance to capture some epic Instagram material.
Stay, Drink, and Play at the El San Juan
The El San Juan Resort & Casino offers a prime beachside location in Isla Verde, with three pristine pools, seven different restaurants (plus a Starbucks), and—most importantly—a surplus of super-comfy poolside and beachfront lounge chairs, umbrellas, and hammocks. While the hotel itself buzzes with all kinds of activity from gamblers to weddings, it’s the outdoor amenities and lounge-ready outdoor areas worth coming for. After a morning of sunning and swimming, mosey up to the pool bar and order one of the (expensive, but worth it) frozen cocktails. Snap before sipping! Rates from $161 per night.
Make a Pit Stop at the Cigar House
Located in Old San Juan, The Cigar House features the largest selection of cigars in the Caribbean. It’s worth stopping in and surveying the wares and the locals who linger there. If you aren’t up for smoking a stogie yourself, pick up a box of Cubans or Puerto Rican–rolled ones as an authentic souvenir for your dad or best guy friend.
Grab a Beachfront Cocktail and Snack
When you’re hungry but don’t want to leave the beautiful beach, hit up El Alambique in Isla Verde. A step above a beachfront shack, this ultra-casual restaurant is tucked away enough that it’s not usually swarmed with tourists, and offers delicious fried seafood, plantains, beers, and mojitos. ’Gram a pic of your meal with the ocean in the background.
Kayak the Bioluminescent Bay
A little over an hour’s bus, car, or cab ride from San Juan, you’ll find Isla de Vieques, as well as Vieques Bioluminescent Bay, one of three bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico. The water literally glows as you kayak by, because of activity from a rare type of ocean plankton called dinoflagellates. Snap a few good pictures, then put your camera away and enjoy the magical setting. (IG will keep till later.)