Counting with stunning beaches, a colonial old town, historic fortresses, a vivid nightlife, and tantalizing food, the city of San Juan has so much to offer that spending just 24 hours there might seem too short to truly appreciate it.
Unfortunately, not every visitor coming to Puerto Rico has the time to explore it all. But, even if you’re in transit to another Caribbean destination or are just visiting for a few hours or a day as part of your cruise stop, you can still enjoy the highlights of San Juan.
This is how your day could look like when you want to experience the most out of San Juan
Morning: Stepping into Nature
Spending the morning on the beach is a great way to start the day. Go to Pine Grove Beach in Isla Verde, Ocean Park Beach in Punta Las Marias, or Condado Beach in Condado.
Whether it’s laying on the sand while getting a tropical sun-tan or adventuring with water sports, these are some of the best and most active beaches you will find close to San Juan.
If the beach is not for you, then you can have the option to go to El Yunque National Rainforest.
It is located approximately one hour outside of San Juan, but it is easily accessible and there are tours running every day. Due to its steady rainfall, El Yunque has a collection of about 150 types of ferns and 240 kinds of trees thriving in its soil.
The forest also has some rare animals like pygmy anole and coqui tree frog which cannot be found elsewhere on earth. With numerous hiking trails to choose from, you can get up close to nature and treat yourself to a dip under La Mina waterfall.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also hike to the highest point of the mountain.
Mid Day: Time for Some Puerto Rican Cuisine
All that morning activity will definitely have you craving for good food.
If you’re looking to have some authentic Puerto Rican cuisine, head over to Piñones –right next to Isla Verde beaches– where you will find a huge selection of local street-side restaurants that serve the local flavors at a modest price.
You can also head to Ajili Mojili in Condado, where you can find the same good food but slightly more expensive since it’s located on the “chic” tourist area of Condado.
Afternoon: Exploring Old San Juan
Have a relaxing afternoon in Old San Juan. Walk the narrow cobbled streets lined with 18th century Spanish Colonial architecture.
Old San Juan streets are filled with interesting sights, a huge variety of shops and restaurants, and several interesting museums, plazas, and parks; making this a well-rounded destination.
While making your way around the city, take your time to enjoy the impressive views of the old city, the bays, the beaches, and the fortress walls that used to protect the city from foreign attacks.
Head to the northwest part of Old San Juan to visit El Morro Fort. This 16th-century fortress was designed to guard the entrance to the San Juan Bay, and defend the city of Old San Juan from seaborne enemies.
Now a World Heritage Site, it attracts visitors that want to explore the windswept ramparts, passageways, and cells. Close to El Morro is Castillo San Cristobal, which is like the “younger brother” of this imposing structure.
After El Morro or San Cristobal, head over to Paseo de la Princesa and stroll this urban promenade located outside the city walls.
Take your time, buy a “piragua” (flavored crushed ice cone) and watch the sunset from the waterfront. You will see how the life of the promenade changes from a family-oriented place by day to an urban social spot by night.
Check out this post with 25 of the best things you can do in Old San Juan.
The Night: The Vibrant Nightlife
While in Old San Juan, head over to Fortaleza Street or Recinto Sur Street to have a Latin or International flavored dinner.
These two streets count with a wide variety of cafes, bars, restaurants, and lounges. A recommended restaurant with a good vibe is Dragonfly, where you can taste Latin-inspired Asian dishes.
Once you’re done with dinner, you’re just a couple steps away from the prime spots for nightlife in San Juan.
Most streets in Old San Juan have a variety of indoor/outdoor nightlife. Thanks to the tropical weather, it’s easy to find some nightlife on the streets, in courtyards, and even in public parks.
Feel free to hop between Old San Juan, Condado, Isla Verde, Santurce –four small counties in the San Juan area that offer similar but somewhat different nightlife styles.
Whether it’s a bar, casinos, salsa dance floors, nightclubs, a beer at the beach, or whatever turns you on… just have fun and enjoy the night in your own way.
Of course, there is much more to do in San Juan and the Metro area. This post has a few additional activities you could consider for your night in San Juan.
Since Puerto Rico is a tropical island, no matter what time of the year you go you’ll find good sunny warm weather.
But probably, the optimum “beach time” ranges between February and August – just after the algae “renew” season is over and before the hurricane season hits its peak.
Ready to experience the best of San Juan in a day?
Like what you just read? Share it!
LET ME HELP YOU TRAVEL MORE BY GETTING ADDITIONAL TIPS AND INSPIRATION VIA THE MONTHLY NEWSLETTER.
Plus, receive a short e-book with 15 Beginner Tips and Tricks to Start Travel Hacking!