There are endless possibilities to spend your free time in Puerto Rico: consider kayaking the bioluminescent bays, enjoying a local rum tasting, hiking to see waterfalls, or viewing contemporary art in a museum that is its own architectural masterpiece. The hardest part will be to choose from so many options, but you can hang out on one of the Island’s beautiful beaches until you decide.
San Juan is the beating heart of history and culture in Puerto Rico. A place where the Old World meets the new in fascinating ways, San Juan is also a hub of more modern pursuits, including shopping, dining, and nightlife.
Whether you’re into tropical beaches, historic sites, art museums, salsa music, or something else entirely, you’ll find it in San Juan.
Stroll through Old San Juan
Spanning 500 years of history, Old San Juan is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic and treasured places in Puerto Rico. Wander the cobblestone streets to soak up the unique architecture and colorful buildings. You’ll find fun local shops and lively restaurants and bars scattered throughout the old city. Charming pastel buildings blend harmoniously with cultural landmarks and striking monuments that tell the story of Puerto Rico.
You can also take guided tours to learn more about the history of the many 500-year-old buildings, local cuisine, and even visit the place where one of the most popular drinks was born, the world-famous piña colada.
For added context and local color, consider taking a walking tour of the city with a knowledgeable local guide.
Hike or Zipline in El Yunque Rainforest
Located in Río Grande, on the east side of the Island, El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest that is part of the U.S. National Forest System. Home to more than 240 types of trees, unique birds, native species like the coquí frog, and beautiful scenery, the forest spans 28,000 acres of land that includes 25 waterfalls, several rivers, and ancient petroglyphs of Taíno deities.
Only a one hour drive from San Juan, you can either navigate it on your own or take a guided tour to get to the most popular locations. Choose between hiking, ziplining, or horseback riding, and fall in love with the astonishing view from the top of the forest overlooking the region’s lush valleys.
Relax at the Beach
Puerto Rico’s beaches are ready to welcome you at any time of the year, thanks to the Island’s warm tropical climate. Beaches are never off-limits, and each one has something unique to offer, depending on the type of experience you want to have during your visit.
From picture-perfect views to sailing adventures, Puerto Rico’s stunning beaches include sandy stretches perfect for lounging in the shade, catching a wave, paddling a kayak, or exploring underwater on a scuba diving or snorkeling adventure.
Come find out why the Island’s beaches are consistently named among the best in the world!
Scuba Diving: Novice to Advanced
Puerto Rico has hundreds of miles of shoreline and dozens of islets and cays, making it an exciting destination for scuba diving in the Caribbean.
Whether you’re a first-timer or a dive master, you can’t miss the chance to scuba dive in Puerto Rico’s gorgeous turquoise waters. Many of the best sites are outside the San Juan area and are a great excuse to go out and explore the rest of the island. Dive shops with friendly and professional staff will assist you with booking boat trips, classes, gear, and tank rentals. For the veteran divers, seek out adventures like Desecheo, Mona Island, or The Wall near La Parguera.
If you’ve never tried diving before, take the plunge with an easy shore dive in Vieques' Mosquito Pier or Culebra.
For more information about scuba in San Juan and Puerto Rico in general, click here.
Just minutes from San Juan, you can find the Afro-Caribbean coastal neighborhood of Piñones. Full of delicious authentic street food, made in the traditional fogón, the many little chinchorros (small dining stands) offer fritters made from plantain, fresh fish, oysters, and a lot sazón. You can buy coconut water and drink it from the coconut itself, or try the crabmeat alcapurrias and bacalaítos (codfish fritters). If you want to relax before you eat, be sure to bring your swimsuit and dive in at a nearby beach (wait 45 minutes after eating before you swim).
You can also visit the Piñones State Forest, a mangrove forest that spans most of the Loíza coast. You can bike, walk, or run the 11 kilometers of trail and boardwalk from Punta Cangrejo (where Piñones starts at the Loíza city limit) all the way to Vacía Talega beach.
COPI, a cultural and ecotourism center in Piñones, has bikes and kayaks for rent, and they also offer bomba classes and cultural workshops.
Explore the Forts of San Juan
Standing guard over the Old City, two major landmarks make up the San Juan National Historic Site — a great place to get your footing in the city’s captivating history.
The Castillo San Felipe del Morro (more commonly known as El Morro) and Castillo San Cristóbal are two important citadels built by the Spanish to protect the city, both by sea and land. Discover the city walls, tunnels, and dungeons, explore the garitas (sentry boxes) and marvel at the original cannons that these forts still hold. A single ticket will get you into both, where you can learn the story of the Conquistadors and the many legends that have graced Puerto Rico for nearly five centuries.
Visit a Museum
Whether you’re interested in art, literature, music, sports, or folk crafts, you will find a museum dedicated to it in San Juan.
Discover relics of Puerto Rican history on display at museums like Casa Blanca, a home built for Spanish explorer Ponce de León. Museo de las Américas, situated in one of San Juan’s old military barracks, explores the art and cultural history of Puerto Rico and the Americas. Institutions like the Puerto Rico Museum of Contemporary Art and the Sports Museum of Puerto Rico give you an immersive journey into the Island’s past and present.
For more information about all of San Juan's museums, click here.