The best things to do in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico curated by local guides.
This is a list of curated experiences, activities and tours in Old San Juan. Old San Juan is Puerto Rico's historic district. The old-world-looking cobble stone streets, 16th century Spanish architecture, historic Spanish forts and several open air plazas/venues create an amazing environment with abundant things to do in Old San Juan. Tour the Spanish fort El Morro, catch some live music, hit a farmers market, shop local artisans and designer brands.... Old San Juan delivers very memorable experiences for tourists and locals alike.
The Old San Juan Things To Do & Activities Guide Map
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Things to do, Activities & Excursions in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
The first Spanish fortification constructed in Old San Juan was La Fortaleza built in 1533 some 12 years after the first Spanish settlers occupied the region in 1521. Castillo San Felipe del Morro (generally referred to as El Morro) began construction in 1539 and was completed in 1790. In 1898 when the United States took possession of Puerto Rico, due to the Spanish American War, El Morro was designated part of Fort Brooke and used as a military in stallion during WWI and WWII. El Morro and Old San Juan were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Click above to check out these amazing tours.
Tour La Puerta de San Juan / The San Juan Gate
The San Juan Gate ( La Puerta de San Juan) is the only original gate into the walled city of Old San Juan and it is definitely worth a visit. Take a stroll down the beautiful Paseo La Princesa and follow it up to the gate. The gate is beautiful and ornate with a the Latin inscription “Benedictus Oui Venit In Nomine Domini” (Welcome Those Who Come in the Name of God) above. There is a great place to hang out and enjoy the scenery just outside the gate complete with small pier that extends out into the ocean.
Snorkeling at Escambron Beach / Playa El Escambron
Enjoy the beautiful Caribbean waters, swim with the sea turtles, visit a sunken bridge, check out some amazing sunken underwater statues.... snorkeling in Old San Juan is great excursion/activity and highly recommended. There are a couple places right on the beach that provide great snorkeling experiences..... check out Turtle Island Snorkel Co. & Try Scuba Diving - Old San Juan for an amazing underwater experience in Old San Juan.
Visit the Capilla del Cristo
Follow the pedestrian path Calle del Cristo to get the chapel and enjoy one of the most iconic sites in all of Puerto Rico. Check out the amazing paintings by Jose Campeche and Jorge Sen and take in the gorgeous and ornate chapel alter of gold and silver. The belfry at Capilla del Cristo is also beautiful. All-in-all this is one of the most beautiful historic sites in Old San Juan and all of Puerto Rico..... you will likely regret it if you miss it.
Casa Blanca Museum
Casa Blanca was originally built to be the home of the first governor of Puerto Rico, Ponce de Leon. Ponce de Leon died before he was able to occupy the residence and it now operates as a museum showcasing 16th and 17th century artifacts. The incredible ornate woodwork and paintings alone are worth the visit.
Catedral Metropolitana Basílica de San Juan Bautista
The Catedral Metropolitana Basílica de San Juan Bautista is one of the oldest buildings in Old San Juan, the oldest cathedral in the United States and the second oldest cathedral in the Americas. The original cathedral was constructed of wood in 1521 and was later destroyed by a hurricane. The current building was constructed in 1540 and remodeling/renovation done in 1917. Possibly most importantly the cathedral houses the tomb of Ponce de Leon, Puerto Rico's founder and first governor.
Seminario Conciliar de San Ildefonso
The Seminario Conciliar de San Ildefonso was constructed in 1852 by the first Puerto Rican bishop, Fray Juan Alejo de Arizmendi. The entire structure is beautiful but the dome is certainly the main attraction (although the wood alter is also beautiful).
Teatro Tapia is one of the oldest operating theaters in the United States. It has seating for 640 patrons and it's gorgeous elliptical interior design takes you back to the old world. Check the schedules here and try to take in a show if you can.... it's such a unique experience.
Old San Juan Farmers Market
The San Juan Farmer's Market in Old San Juan is loved by all and a regular stop for locals and tourists alike. Unlike many "farmers markets" this one is full of local produce and goods made fresh by the amazing people Puerto Rico. You will find amazing fresh bakery goods, vegan options, vegetarian options, chocolates made from local Caocao grown in the rain forest mountains.... there is literally way to much to list. There are also many options for fresh made lunches here. Visit the San Juan Farmers Market and support the local economy, participate in sustainable agriculture, do some social good.... and of course get some amazing food. The San Juan Farmer's market operates from 8AM - 1PM on Saturdays ONLY so don't miss it.
Plaza de Colon Artisans Market & Street Vendors
Plaza de Colon is a large plaza and one of the first things you will cone across as you enter historic Old San Juan. This marketplace is not really "official" as in it has no website or real information available. It's just a great place for local vendors to setup and sell their wares.... largely because of it's location that is easily accessible tourists disembarking the cruise ships in San Juan Harbor.... that being said there are more vendors here on the weekends and when the cruise ships dock. You will find artisanal soaps, lotions, oils, handmade local jewelry and art, and much more at this street vendor location.
Beach Day in Old San Juan
There are only a few beaches in Old San Juan but Playa del Escambron & Escambron Beach provide the full spectrum of fun-in-the-sun. These two "sister beaches" are very close together and between the two you can generally find a great spot with easily accessible bathrooms and amenities (vendors, parking, etc.). The water at both beaches is calm enough for easy swimming, there is food and drink close by, and snorkeling is a major attraction here due to the calm waters and underwater scenery (a sunken bridge, underwater statues, sea turtles, etc.). It's also super accessible if you are staying in Old San Juan and you don't want to mess with with getting in and out of the historic district. You can learn more about the beaches in Old San Juan here.