Everything to Know For a Trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico

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Colorful buildings, beautiful beaches, and lush rainforests- who wouldn’t want to visit Puerto Rico? The capital is visited by many travelers, especially those cruising. Here some of the most popular things to do for a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Where is San Juan?

San Juan is the capital of the island of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is part of the US, but actually lies in the Eastern Caribbean near the US Virgin Island St. Thomas. The city of San Juan is situated in the north eastern part of the island.

Where is San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan is the capital of the island of Puerto Rico.

How to Get to San Juan, Puerto Rico

As the capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan is the major hub of the island. The airport is located just outside the center of the city, and a 20 minute drive from the Old Town.

Who Flies to San Juan, Puerto Rico?

San Juan has both domestic and international flights. Some US cities that have direct service to Puerto Rico include Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Dallas, Ft Lauderdale, Hartford, Houston, Jacksonville, Louisville, Memphis, Miami, New York, Newark, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Tampa, Washington, and Wilmington. 

Other Caribbean destinations that fly direct to Puerto Rico include Anguilla, Antigua, Beef Island, Manaus, Pointe-e-Pitre, Port of Spain, Punta Cana, Saint Croix, St. Maarten. St. Thomas, and Santo Domingo.

Finally, Ontario flies direct to San Juan, and there are inter Puerto Rican destinations that fly into the capital cities such as Vieques, Culebra, and Mayaguez.

Sailing to San Juan

Another popular way to visit San Juan is by Cruise. Many Eastern Caribbean itineraries stop in the Puerto Rican capital for the day. Almost every day San Juan has cruise ships visiting, making it very easy to come get a taste of Puerto Rico by cruise vacation.


Cruising is one of the most popular ways to visit San Juan, Puerto.

Entry Requirements for a Trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico

When traveling somewhere new, there are some different requirements at times, even if it is within your country! Here we're going to outline the different things to keep in mind for entering Puerto Rico.

Visa Requirements for Puerto Rico

The same visa requirements go for Puerto Rico that go for the US. So if you are from the states, you can simply bring your license, as there isn't any need for a passport. If you are not from the United States and need a visa to enter the US, then make sure you do so before arriving in Puerto Rico.

Covid Entry Requirements for Puerto Rico

Unlike the rest of the USPuerto Rico has been a lot stricter with their Covid requirements. Good news is that you now no longer need to prove you are vaccinated nor have a negative Covid test to enter the island.

They do have some other protocols due to Covid, which include wearing a mask on public transportation, including the ferries to Vieques and Culebra.

Local Adjustments

Whenever traveling there are things that you may forget about, which may be different from where you are coming from. Here are a few of the local adjustments to keep in mind while traveling to San Juan, Puerto Rico.


The official language in Puerto Rico and the islands that belong to it is Spanish. The Spanish is Puerto Rico can be very difficult to understand as they speak extremely fast, and tend to slur their words together.

If you do speak Spanish, it will surely help and be appreciated by the locals. If you don't speak the language, then not to worry- most locals do speak English as well.


The currency used in Puerto Rico is the same as the rest of the US, which is the USD. Credit card is able to be used almost anywhere, but we do suggest having some cash for the taxis or for tipping.


Puerto Rico uses the sam outlets as the rest of the US, which support plug types A and B. The standard voltage in Puerto Rico is 120 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz.

Water Potability

The tap water on the main island of Puerto Rico is completely safe to drink. We suggest bringing a refillable and insulated water bottle, as it gets very hot on this Caribbean island.

Tipping Culture

The tipping culture in Puerto Rico is pretty much the same as the rest of the US. It is standard for 15-20% for tipping in restaurants. Some restaurants do include gratuity, so make sure to check on your bill to ensure you're not tipping twice, or are tipping enough.

The Perfect Trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico: Things to Do

There are tons of fun things to do on a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Here are some of the best places to explore inside the capital, and nearby.

1. Explore Old San Juan

The first ting to do on a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico should be to visit Old San Juan. Here is where you will find the best shops, restaurants, bars, and hotels. As well, this is where most of the fun happens! Old San Juan is definitely the most touristy area of San Juan, as this is where you can find most historical landmarks.

This area is right where most ships dock, so everything is right there. Roam the colorful streets, buy handmade souvenirs, and walk along the coast. The old town is full of charm, and is great to just wander around on foot. There are plenty of great places to check out in Old San Juan, without having to go far.

trip to San Juan Puerto Rico

Old San Juan is full of beautiful places to explore.

Want to take a tour around Old San Juan? Here are a few options that you can choose from:

2.  Watch the Sunset at El Morro

This fortress hangs over the seaside and is one of the best things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Spend some time roaming around and learning about the history. Admire the views of the sea, or take a seat on the grass at the best place to enjoy the sunset.

El Morro, trip to San Juan Puerto Rico

El Morro is the best place to watch the sunset in San Juan.

3. Explore the Historical Site of Old San Juan

Located just by the fortress, you will find another beautiful historical spot. Here is a great point to explore more of the ruins of the fort area. Also, it hangs right over the cemetery. It may sound creepy, but it is actually a stunning view!

Historical site of Old San Juan, trip to San Juan Puerto Rico

The view from the historical site of Old San Juan shows an impressive cemetery, with the fort in the background.

4. Visit the Castillo de San Cristobal

The castle of San Cristobal is the largest Spanish fort of the new world, and is just a short walk from the port area. After the fort, this is definitely one of the best things to explore during a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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5. Take an Instagrammable Photo at the Umbrella Street

Calle de la Fortaleza is a street located right in the heart of Old San Juan. It is covered with colorful umbrellas, making it the perfect place to escape the heat, or take a fun photo.

Please Note: The art installations change from time to time, and due to COVID-19, this street has been blocked off for some time.

umbrella street in San Juan

Fortaleza Street is known for its colorful displays. Originally with umbrellas, it now has an Puerto Rican flag.

Update: Once full of umbrellas, the street now has a large Puerto Rican flag display.

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Suggested Read: The 20 Most Instagrammable Spots in Puerto Rico

6. Relax at Playa Escambron

Although Old San Juan isn't particularly popular for beaches, there is still one close to the port! Cooling off from the heat is one of the best things to do in San Juan, and this spot is the most accessible.

This is the closest beach to Old San Juan, being just a 25 minute walk from the center. Lined with palm trees, this is the perfect place to relax in the shade, or take a dip in the Caribbean waters.

Playa Escambron, trip to San Juan Puerto Rico

Playa Escambron is the closest beach to Old San Juan.

7. Check out the Bacardi Factory

Being the birthplace of Bacardi, it is no wonder that the Bacardi factory is a good place to check out. Located just 15-20 minutes from Old San Juan, you can learn about the process of production, have some rum tasting, and get yourself a drink or two.

8. Have a Beach Day in Condado

Although it isn't walking distance like Playa Escambron, Condado is the perfect place for a day at the beach. This long stretch of sand is where all of the large resorts sit, and is located a short taxi or Uber ride away from Old San Juan.

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Trip to San Juan Puerto Rico Pin
Trip to San Juan Puerto Rico Pin

9. Take a Ride to El Yunque

No trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico is complete without heading to the island's claim to fame. El Yunque is the only rainforest in the US, and is a must visit.

After the last devastating hurricane, the rainforest got a big hit. Although some spots are still closed off, there are plenty of beautiful things to see in El Yunque. Rent a car and follow the road to different stops. You'll be welcomed with gorgeous waterfalls, lush greenery, and breathtaking viewpoints, 

El Yunque, Puerto Rico is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest Service, and one of the most popular rainforests in the world. No trip to Puerto Rico is complete without a visit to this beautiful place.With an average rainfall of 120 inches a year, there is a very

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Want to take a tour to El Yunque? Here are a few options:

10. Admire the Views from  Window Cave

One of favorite ways to enjoy a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico is to get out and explore! There are so many great day trips from San Juan. Located just about an hour from Old San Juan is a cave that is shaped like a window with great views of this beautiful island.

The entrance is $20 which includes a guided tour through the cave, leading to the picturesque opening at the end. We suggest renting a car to get here, as it will be cheaper, and there are a few interesting places nearby.

Window Cave,trip to trip to San Juan Puerto Rico

Window Cave offers some of the best views in Puerto Rico.

11. Take a Dip in Cascada La Planta Arecibo

Located just 10 minutes from the window cave (on your way back to Old San Juan) is a true hidden gem. Put this waterfall in your google maps and it will take you down a road that seems like it leads to nowhere, however once the road can’t go any further you will see a beautiful waterfall next to a river.

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But there’s more! go down the river a little further (5-10 minutes walking) and you will find an even bigger and more beautiful waterfall. Both times going here we were the only people. Before leaving San Juan, stop at a supermarket because this is the perfect place for a picnic and a nice swim.

Arecibo, Puerto Rico, trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico
La Planta Arecibo, best places in Puerto Rico to Visit
Arecibo Waterfall, trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico

La Planta de Arecibo is one of our favorite set of waterfalls in Puerto Rico.

One of the most popular activities in San Juan, Puerto Rico for cruisers is kayaking at Bioluminescent Bay. This bay located about an hour and a half from San Juan, is truly magical. The microorganisms that are in the water glow at night, lighting up the water and creating the most beautiful experience. 

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Bioluminescent Bay has restrictions on how many people can go per day, and it is extremely popular, so it is no surprise that this is something you need to book way in advance.

If you want to experience a bioluminescence in Puerto Rico, there are three destinations you may want to consider.  There's one on the west side of the island, another one on the east side (Fajardo), and a third one on the neighbor island of Vieques. Today we will tell you

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13. Go Ziplining Through the Jungle

Located about an hour and 15 minutes from the capital, is an exhilarating zip line course that takes on an adventure through bridges and zip lines right through the lush jungle. Zip lining is an experience that is open all day, and even at night, for a unique experience.

Want to sign up for zip lining in advance? Here are a few options:

The easiest way to book this experience is through your cruise line (if you are cruising), or you can go inquire online with Toro Verde.

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The Perfect Trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico: Food & Drink

One of our favorite things while traveling is trying the local food. Although Puerto Rico is part of the US, they have their own unique cuisine! Here are a few things that you should try on your trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico.


This is a typical dish of Puerto Rico and it is really delicious. Not as visually appealing as one may think, but it’s the taste that counts right? This dish consists of smashed and fried plantains, stuffed with chicken, shrimp, or other protein based staples.

Mofongo at Raices, San Juan

Head to the restaurant Raices for the best mofongo in San Juan, Puerto Rico!


A sweet, flaky pastry topped with powdered sugar, this is a great start to your day. Get an egg sandwich on one and you have the perfect breakfast.


These are mashed and fried plantains. Need we say more? Tostones are the perfect snack or side dish for your meal.

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These fritters are usually made from plantains or yucca. The fried snack is usually plain, but can also be found stuffed with meat. You can get these usually as a quick to go snack, as street food, or in restaurants as a starter.


This is Puerto Rico's version of Lasagna! Layers of sliced plantains, smothered in ground beef and cheese. Sounds intriguing right?

Piña Colada

This beverage is the official drink of Puerto Rico, and definitely can't be missed out on! One of our favorites we had was at Raices Restaurant.

Pina colada at raices, best places to eat and drink in San Juan

The piña colada is the official drink of Puerto Rico.

Want a food tour around San Juan? Here are a few fun ones:

The Perfect Trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico: Best Places to Eat and Drink

A trip to San Juan Puerto Rico should definitely include visiting the city's best bars and restaurants. There are so many great food choices! But now where are the best places to eat and drink in San Juan?

Well don't worry- because we have a lot of great options for you! That's why we've dedicated a full article (see below) to our favorite spots throughout San Juan.

The Perfect Trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico: Getting Around

If you are looking to stay in the old town, no need to worry because everything is walkable. If you are looking to head to other areas of the city there are plenty of cheap local buses. Looking to reach some of the other hidden gems? Then renting a car is definitely your best bet.

They’re super cheap, and if you’re a US citizen you don’t need to worry about purchasing additional insurance (as your insurance would cover you since you are still in the US).

The roads are easy to navigate as well. Just make sure you save yourself a little extra time coming back to old San Juan, as that’s where the majority of the traffic can lie. Click Here for everything you need to know when renting a car in Puerto Rico.

Where to Stay in San Juan

Our personal favorite area to stay in San Juan is in Old San Juan. This is the area with most of the best things to do in San Juan, and is full of great restaurants, bars, and shops. We stayed at the Gallery Inn and it was an absolutely incredible experience. The hotel has a piano bar, parrots, and patio, and is inside an entire art gallery. 

Want to check out some other places to stay in Old San Juan? Simply refer to the map below:


Is San Juan, Puerto Rico Safe?

There are a lot of mixed reviews for safety in Puerto Rico, especially from the Raggaeton songs about "La Perla". Old San Juan is very safe, and has plenty of police. However, La Perla is part of San Juan, and should only be visited during the day with a guide or in a group. This is where there is a lot of crime and where the bad reputation comes from.

During the night if you stay within the old town of San Juan, you'll be completely fine. If you decide to venture out into other areas as well you should be fine, but just double check with a local for each and every neighborhood.

Other Things to Know About Visiting San Juan, Puerto Rico

Now that you know all of the basics for your trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico, we have a few other things to share with you to help make your travels go smoothly.

The Best Time to Visit San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is located in the Caribbean, so our favorite time is definitely to visit in the winter time, when temperatures are a bit more mild. Try to avoid visiting from August to October, as this is hurricane season, and Puerto Rico is very susceptible to these storms.

Weather & Packing for a Trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan is super hot year round, and the Caribbean sun is strong. Make sure to pack plenty of sunscreen, as well as aloe. Puerto Rico is full of adventure, so we definitely suggest bringing a pair of sneakers, comfortable clothes, a bathing suit, and towel. 

Masks are required for public transportation and ferries. They won't even let you to the ticket counter unless you have one, so make sure to have one on you while moving around the island.

Mar Chiquita, trip to San Juan Puerto Rico
trip to San Juan Puerto Rico
trip to San Juan Puerto Rico

There are a variety of landscapes, so pack for adventure!

As the capital of Puerto Rico and a popular cruise port, San Juan is a great place to visit. With its vibrant culture, delicious food, and variety of activities, this city has so much to offer!

Now that you're ready for your trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico, you can see some of our other recommendations! Click here for more great Caribbean destinations.

Need help planning your trip? Or maybe you just want to save on your flights and accommodation? Well, with Scratch Your Mapa Travel Planning you can worry less and explore more. Want to learn just how it works? Simply click here to get started.

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