• Tue. Nov 29th, 2022

San Juan Travel Guide – Best Places to Visit and Eat

ByKeith M. Jones

Jul 9, 2022

No passport? No problem. For many in Upper Manhattan, the coastal city of San Juan, the capital and largest city of Puerto Rico, is a must-see getaway – a vibrant Caribbean experience rich in Spanish, African and Taino culture, with a genuine abundance of food traditional and lively nightlife. scene to start. Crack a fresh coconut and explore miles of beaches before tasting one of the best rums in the world. Cue the salsa.

Flamenco Beach

panorama of flamenco beach in culebra island, puerto rico

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Not all beaches are created equal. At least that’s the case on Culebra, a small island off the coast of San Juan accessible only by plane or boat. With pristine turquoise waters and white sand, it’s the perfect place to snorkel and immerse yourself in marine life – the island is a nesting site for giant sea turtles and brown pelicans endangered. Pro tip: book your tickets for a day trip by catamaran.

El Yunque National Forest

mina falls in el yunque national forest in puerto rico

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Ready for an outdoor excursion? Look no further than El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the United States. A favorite of Lin-Manuel Miranda, this must-see site features miles of hiking, ziplining and waterfalls in one of the most diverse ecosystems on the island. Be prepared, as it rains (unsurprisingly) here quite often. (It’s not called the rainforest for nothing.) El Yunque is located just a 35-minute drive from the airport, and many hotels offer day trips and tours. Find the rope swing, it’s a must.

San Felipe del Morro Castle

old san juan, san felipe del morro

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As a New Yorker who likes to walk everywhere, I quickly fell in love with all the colorful cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, lined with pastel painted buildings and bustling shops, perfect for capturing this outfit du jour. Be sure to stop at Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a six-tiered fortress overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at the far end of town. The views here are second to none – the 500-year-old Spanish castle sits on a hill surrounded by acres of meticulously manicured grounds. How do they mow all that grass? Sip a piña colada and contemplate.

she escapes from san juan


cana, san juan, fairmont

Courtesy of Fairmont El San Juan Hotel

At Caña, having an amazing meal won’t be a problem; the hard part is knowing what to order. Whether you prefer street food stalls or oceanside dining with great views, chef Juliana Gonzalez has crafted a menu using her culinary background of Spanish influences to serve up a modern take on classic Puerto Rican dishes (think: rice with blue crab and grilled shrimp). The restaurant lives inside the Fairmont El San Juan hotel, facing the shores of Isla Verde Beach, the perfect view for an awe-inspiring sunset.

José Enrique

table full of food from jose enrique restaurant

Courtesy of Maria del Mar Ney-Martinez / @disfrutapr

It is necessary, I repeat, to have to, take the fish of the day. Named after Puerto Rico’s most decorated chef, famed José Enrique is housed in a low-key building, but make no mistake: inside, the appeal lives on the table. From bites of mofongo and pork belly to the beloved bacalaitos (crispy fish flatbread), you’ll quickly realize just how much attention Enrique has garnered so much attention for blending local ingredients into a plate of deliciousness.


santaella, san juan, puerto rico

Courtesy of Santaella

Classic and contemporary flavors come together at Santaella in the best possible way. The menu features high traditional dishes with a distinctly tropical vibe. Taste staples like rice of the day and empanadillas (fried Puerto Rican turnovers), and don’t dare stop without trying the alcapurrias (doughnuts) – Jimmy Fallon approved during his last visit to the island.

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Club Brava

club brava, san juan, fairmont el san juan hotel

Courtesy of Fairmont El San Juan Hotel

The atmosphere at Club Brava is simply unmatched. Formerly known as Club Babylon, the high-energy lounge is a celebrity hotspot, as well as being one of the island’s most vibrant hangout spots. Conveniently located inside the Fairmont El San Juan hotel, Club Brava is a great choice for a girls night out. We recommend dressing specifically for the flashing neon lights to draw attention to the dance floor. If you’re a hotel guest, you’re in luck, because admission is free.

La Factoria

factory, san juan

Courtesy of La Factoria

Voted one of the 50 best bars in North America for five consecutive years, La Factoría specializes in craft cocktails and has a really, really good time. His signature drink, the Lavender Mule, is a particularly good choice for listening to salsa. When you feel like dancing, hit the dance floor in the back room and bring a buddy.


food, asuzena, puerto rico

Courtesy of Asuzena

Pair each Criollo-inspired dish with a handcrafted cocktail made by San Juan’s top mixologists at this popular Caribbean eatery. The personalized pairing experience will quickly make this your favorite upscale dining option on the island, not to mention the ultimate setting to celebrate your next birthday.

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Fairmont El San Juan Hotel

san juan, fairmont el san juan hotel, beach

Courtesy of Fairmont El San Juan Hotel

You’ll feel like the main character in your own movie at the epicenter of culture and entertainment in San Juan. The newly renovated Fairmont El San Juan hotel features 11 restaurants, lounges, a casino and fitness center. Translation: You could spend an entire day checking out the amenities. Get your spa session before attending the live cabaret band at Chico Cabaret, followed by a luxury casino experience. Try booking the recently opened Banyan Villas, with a private terrace and direct access to one of the property’s four pools, and just steps from the beach. There’s never a dull moment here, which makes it very hard to leave, but if you feel like exploring, the Fairmont is just 15 minutes from Old San Juan.

Hotel El Convento

hotel san juan el convento

Courtesy of Hotel El Convento

Since 1962, Hotel El Convento has enjoyed a solid reputation as Old San Juan’s first boutique hotel. A former convent in the heart of Cathedral Square, the 16th-century El Convento sits next to some of the area’s best shopping and nightclubs. After spending your day at the beach club, take a three-minute stroll to La Factoría or simply enjoy a coffee on the terrace while soaking up the old-world charm.

provincial palace

hotel palacio provincial san juan

Courtesy of the Provincial Palace

Once Puerto Rico’s first post office, the Palacio Provincial has since undergone a charming contemporary renovation. Mainly, beautiful courtyards with alfresco dining, rooms with wood-beamed ceilings, polished tile floors, 12-foot windows and Juliet balconies, and the highlight: a rooftop infinity pool with a bird’s eye view of San Juan Bay.

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