For American citizens, Puerto Rico is a hassle-free Caribbean island to visit. First, you don’t need to bring your passport. Second, there are no immigration papers to fill out.
Puerto Rico is a U.S. Territory where English is widely spoken and the local currency is the U.S. dollar. San Juan, the capital city, is the most accessible in the Caribbean. It is served by over 20 airlines from around the world. Major US airlines like Delta, American, Jet Blue and United offer daily flights and many direct flights to the island.
Though a U.S. Territory, Puerto Rico has many unique features. There is so much to do, see, eat and drink in San Juan. Here are Travelmath’s 5 things to do in San Juan Puerto Rico:
1. Walking food tour in Old San Juan
Try Puerto Rican food and learn about the history and culture of Old San Juan with Flavors of San Juan. Flavors of San Juan offers a three-hour walking food tour in the Old San Juan neighborhood. We went hungry and ended the tour with food leftover.
The tour starts with breakfast or afternoon coffee (depending on the time of the day that you join) at a coffee shop where you can sample the local café con leche with Mallorca (sweet and savory sandwich). Then, you get a series of snacks including alcapurria and a chance to try the local hot sauce – pique.
Along the way, learn about Old San Juan’s architecture and hear stories of the past. The tour also includes a segment on how to prepare mofongo, an iconic Puerto Rican dish. Each participant will be given a pilon (wooden mortar and pestle) to mash the fried plantain for the mofongo. You will have time to hang out with other tour group members to try out the local piña colada made with special Puerto Rican rum. To finish the tour off, participants will be treated with a Puerto Rican dessert.
It’s best to take a walking food tour on the first day of your trip in San Juan. You’ll get insightful information on where to eat and visit in Old San Juan from the experts.
Information: Walking food tour
2. Visit the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, “El Morro” and Castillo San Cristobal
The El Morro was built to protect San Juan Bay from pirates and invaders. This massive fort was built because Puerto Rico in the 16th century was a strategic outpost for the Spaniards. It took them 250 years to build the six-level fortress and 140 foot walls.
Today travelers can walk in the main plaza, climb up to the sentries for views of the bay and sea and only on Saturday and Sunday join the lighthouse talk.
Combine your tour of El Morro with Castillo San Cristobal. Visitors can take an hour long tunnel tour at Castillo San Cristobal on Saturday and Sunday.
El Morro and Castillo San Cristobal are part of the San Juan National Historic Site under the United States National Park Service.
More information: El Morro and Castillo San Cristobal
3. Sunset at Paseo de la Princesa
This pedestrian-only walkway was built in honor of a Spanish princess. The path will take you along the fortified walls to the Raices Fountain and a tree-lined walkway by the shore. The walkway is the best place to catch the Old San Juan sunset.
Then, walk through the historic San Juan Gate, the only gate left in Old San Juan, to the San Juan Cathedral and the historic Hotel El Convento. During the Spanish rule, this gate was one of the main entrances to the city.
4. Enjoy the beaches in San Juan
Along Condado and Isla Verde are some of the top beach resorts in Puerto Rico. For a quieter and calmer beach, head over to Isla Verde. If you’re looking for something closer to Old San Juan, Condado beach is a great choice, although small and can be rough with strong rip currents. It is a great beach to build sandcastles with kids and enjoy the sun, and not the greatest for swimming or water sports. Other beaches include Ocean Park and Balneario Escambron.
5. Day trip to the El Yunque National Forest
El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rain forest managed by the USDA Forest Service. This 29,000-acre forest is filled with a diverse range of animal and plant species. The forest’s major attractions include the exhibits in El Portal Visitor Center, La Mina Falls, La Coca Falls and Yokahu Observation Tower.
Hikers can take the La Coca Trail, Big Tree Trail, Mt Britton Trail, El Yunque Trail or the La Mina Trail.
Travelmath’s tools to use for planning your trip to Puerto Rico:
- Hotels. We recommend Hotel El Convento if you want to be in Old San Juan. And La Concha or Condado Vanderbilt in Condado and the Ritz Carlton in Isla Verde.
- Airlines flying to San Juan and Ponce Puerto Rico.
- Rental Car.
Have you been to Puerto Rico? Leave a comment below.