Want to explore Puerto Rico like a true local? Follow along our Puerto Rico travel series as we show you all the must go gems on the island. In this first installation of the series, I will be sharing some of my favorites in central San Juan area.
My husband grew up in Puerto Rico and ever since I set my sight in all the beauty and fun of the island, I fell in love. We actually got married there also!
Between our wedding, friend’s weddings and visiting family, I have been there at least seven times in the past three years. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory so traveling there means no passport required. There’s a non-stop flight from Houston via United and it’s only 4 and half hours long!
Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan)
Viejo San Juan is full of history, the streets are lined in cobblestones and colorful houses surround the area. Definitely take your time walking around the streets, take in the energy of the bustle streets and pop in the stores!You have to stop by Ole Curiosidades to get a panama hat made! While you are waiting, stop by next door (Cafe El Punto) and get a fresh fruit smoothie or a stuffed avocado. So good!
They say Puerto Rico is the birth place of THE Piña Colada! Stop by Barrachina for their famous Piña.
Most people visit Viejo San Juan for Castillo San Felipe del Morro. It’s a sight to see! I would skip the group tours and just explore on your own. Walk through the corridors and enjoy the ocean breeze.For eating, try Marmalade, if you are looking for something fancy, their tiny white bean soup is delicious! Visit La Cuevita Del Mar for casual eats. The fish & shrimp tacos are to die for, I also like their seafood stew. We come here every time, everything on their menu is a stand out.
Also be on the look out for piragua carts – it’s Puerto Rican version of shaved ice but covered with fresh fruit juice. My favorite is the passion fruit one!
One of the best bars in Old San Juan is La Factoría. It was voted top 50 bars in the World.
Condado is 15 minutes from the airport and where most visitors stay. Filled with lots of hotel options, from chains to boutiques. My favorites are La Concha Resort (chain), O:live (boutique), and The Dreamcatcher (bed & breakfast).
Because of the many hotel and resorts, the beach is easily accessible. Gambling is legal in Puerto Rico as well, so in between lounging on the beach and drinking Mojitos and Piña Colada, gamble away!
My absolute favorite breakfast spot in Condado is Pinky’s, there’s this special bread in PR called Mallorca, it’s sweet, soft and fluffy. Paired with ham, egg, and cheese – it’s the ultimate breakfast sandwich. They also have outstanding fruit smoothies as well.
I would describe Santurce as the “hip” neighborhood of San Juan, keeping the culture alive with booming art murals and plenty of live music venus, and dive bars
For a fun night out of dancing and hanging out, definitely head to La Placita. It’s a plaza are filled with different bars, spend the time bar hopping all night. Literally. Bars in Puerto Rico don’t close until the last person leaves.
There’s also tons of great restaurants in La Placita. If it’s the only thing you eat in San Juan, go to Jose Enrique. It’s a humble restaurant with authentic Puerto Rican flavor and flare. Their menu changes daily and they don’t take reservation so plan on being in line for a bit. Order the fried whole snapper with yautia (taro) mash. mmm!
My favorite bar is La Coctelera, great craft drinks, it has a organic/mysteries ambiance and bartender are super friendly.
For a night of dancing, stop by Funky Buddha. It gets packed around 1 a.m, it’s a lot of fun and so. much. dancing.
San Juan is the best of both worlds, the historic charm, the intoxicating energy, and some of the best people I have met. You will have the best time every corner you turn. Stay tuned for upcoming Travel Series: Puerto Rico II – featuring east side of the island.