San Juan, Puerto Rico

Discover amazing food, drinks and shops while exploring the urban side of Puerto Rico, where history and culture intersect with bustling city life.

The metropolitan area refers to seven towns that make up the urban “downtown” of Puerto Rico, including the capital, San Juan, a city with over 500 years of history, and Carolina.

What was once the crown jewel of the Spanish Empire is now the Island's historic and cultural center, as well as the most popular launching point for Puerto Rico vacations. Founded in 1521, San Juan is the oldest European-founded city in the Americas but is home to much more than just history.

Only 15 minutes from SJU airport, San Juan blends elements of the Old World (cobblestone streets and colonial architecture) with all the amenities of modern urban life (craft cocktails, contemporary dining, amazing shopping, and vibrant nightlife). Immerse yourself in the culture and explore the wealth of art, food, adventure, and beauty that is waiting to be discovered.


Historical Landmarks

The Old World comes alive at fortresses like El Morro and San Cristóbal. These impressive citadels are part of the San Juan National Historic Site and are two of the largest fortifications built by the Spaniards in the Caribbean during the 16th century. Other important landmarks include Museo Casa Blanca (the one-time residence of the family of Juan Ponce de León that was built in 1521), the San Juan Cathedral, the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery, and the Museo de las Américas.


Many local designers and artists have shops and boutiques in Condado, where you can browse stores like Mademoiselle, featuring European brands; Nono Maldonado, one of Puerto Rico's premier designers; and 1054 Ashford Avenue, featuring some of the world's top luxury brands. You’ll also find some of the biggest shopping malls and outlets in the Caribbean, carrying big name brands from around the world.


There are two beaches perfect for relaxing in Carolina: Isla Verde beach and the Balneario de Carolina. Both beaches are located within walking distance of hotels, shops, and restaurants, and you can even stroll the golden sands from Isla Verde all the way to Condado beach in San Juan. The beaches are ideal for kitesurfing, windsurfing, swimming, or relaxing under a palm tree. You can also rent banana boats, wave-runners, and even catch a small catamaran for a scenic sail.


Carolina is home to many incredible museums. The Galería de los Gigantes aims to educate visitors on the many important local heroes and offers numerous activities for kids. The Museo de Arte e Historia will expand your understanding of the evolution of Latin America, and the Museo del Niño (Kids Museum) houses fun interactive exhibitions where children can take the lead in learning.

For a truly unique dining experience, head to the area known as Piñones — which runs from the town of Loíza to Carolina — to enjoy ocean views and a uniquely Puerto Rican dining tradition. Here you can practice the art of chinchorreo, which means hopping from food kiosk to food kiosk to grab a variety of finger foods and drinks (each place has its own specialty). This area is best known for crispy, delicious bacalaítos (a simple batter of flour and water with chunks of salted cod and parsley, deep-fried into what look like giant corn flakes), and alcapurrias (a fritter shaped like a torpedo, made from shredded root vegetables like yuca and yautía, stuffed with your choice of meat). Enjoy both of these with an ice-cold beer.


Nightlife in Puerto Rico ranges from buzzing hotel nightclubs to low-key beach bars to roadside chinchorros (food stands) that transform into lively dance parties after dark. If you like salsa dancing until the sun comes up, San Juan has several trendy nightlife districts with clubs, lounges, and rooftop bars that stay open late, including CondadoCalle Loíza, and La Placita de Santurce — a traditional farmers market by day that becomes San Juan's hottest street party by night, complete with booming live music, great restaurants, and late-night bars. For a concert and drinks, check out Distrito T-Mobile.