San Juan tourist attractions and best things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico
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San Juan is a beautiful capital city with soft sand beaches and it has all kind of attractions to keep you busy. San Juan is not like many Caribbean cities where visitors just fly in and then go and find smaller tourist areas to have fun. There are many things to do in San Juan and the city’s main attractions are Fuerte San Felipe del Morro and Castillo de San Cristobal.
Top 15 Things to do in San Juan
Explore the Old San Juan
If you want to know more about the compelling history of San Juan, this is one of the first things that you should do while in San Juan. The whole city is old but much of it was wonderfully restored and preserved to make the tourist feel like you travel to the past. There are many fun ways to explore Old San Juan as you can go on an organized tour, rent a bike, boat or even a hydroplane.
Go sightseeing at Fuerte San Felipe del Morro
It is commonly called El Morro and it protects the entrance of San Juan Bay. The fort is among the largest Spanish forts in the Caribbean and it was built in 1539, ongoing construction for 250 years. The fort is a designated National Historic Site and UNESCO World Heritage Site and the fort today is a maze of ramps, barracks, tunnels, outposts, and dungeons that are dotted with small, circular sentry boxes that are known as “garitas.” You can have a mind-blowing view from every side of the open lawn which is an area that approaches the fort.
Have fun at Ocean Park Beach
This is one of the top things to do in San Juan as your trip won’t be complete without a visit to the Ocean Park Beach. There is a one-mile stretch of sugar fine sand which is a favorite place among the locals for morning strolls, enjoying a refreshing swim, taking a nap under an umbrella, and making sand castles with the kids. A beach is a perfect place for relaxing and there are many hotels, condos, restaurants, and shops on one side of the beach.
Go sightseeing at Castillo de San Cristobal
Fort San Cristobal is one of the places that you must visit while you are in San Juan, this is also fascinating and well worth a visit like the El Morro. The fort is bigger than El Morro and it is also the largest fort that the Spanish ever built in the New World. the fort was built between 1634 and 1790 to guard the eastern gate and covers over 27 acres of land and it features five independent units that are connected by moat and tunnel and they are designed to be self-sufficient if others fall. The fort was designed to protect against a land attack.
Visit the University of Puerto Rico Botanical Garden
The garden is a live laboratory that features the country’s tropical plants and their ecosystems. The garden covers 289 acres of land which includes magnificent lakes, sculptures, waterfalls, and it homes 30,000 plant species and some of them are endemic while some are endangered. This is among the things to do in San Juan and the garden is not only a hotspot for both locals and tourist, it is also kid friendly as there is a place where kids can do their school assignment and other kids’ stuff.
Explore San Juan Cemetery
This is set along the coast adjacent to El Morro and the cemetery is known for its elaborate tombstones, statues. The highlight of the cemetery is the circular, red domed Neoclassical chapel which is dedicated to Mary Magdalene. You will get a lovely view out to the ocean and towards El Morro and the chapel in the cemetery dates to the 19th century with many of Puerto Rico’s earliest colonists that are buried here. You will also get a scenic view of the cemetery in the distance from EL Morro.
Visit San Juan Cathedral
The cathedral began in 1540 and it is popular as being among the oldest cathedrals in the Americas and also among the oldest buildings in San Juan. You will like the interior with its black and white checkered tile floor and yellow décor. You can also see the marble tomb where the body of the great Spanish explorer, Ponce de Leon was laid since 1913. You can go on a tour of the cathedral and they still hold regular services.
Go on Spoon Food Tours
This is one of the best things you can try out in San Juan if you love food as you will get the opportunity to sample the best foods. You will go on this journey with the help of knowledgeable insiders which will make the experience more enjoyable. The highlight of this tour is that you will get to visit places that tourists normally do not have the chance to see and you will also get to try out real authentic Puerto Rican dishes in restaurants and Cantinas which are frequented by the locals.
Go sightseeing at Museo de las Americas
This is located in Old San Juan and it explores the history of Puerto Rico with a focus on the art, colonization of the country, and the ethnic groups. You will get a solid overview of the country’s history with the permanent exhibit while the temporary exhibits around the experience out where you will get a lot of interesting themes which may include anything from traditional practices to contemporary art.
Go diving at the Akuazone dive center
After you have explored San Juan on land, you can also try and explore the underwater world. Akuazone dive center is the oldest and popular San Jose dive shop and you can take one of their many courses. They have numerous highly qualified and experienced instructors to teach you. If you are a certified diver, you can visit the stunning reefs that are around Puerto Rico with the use of high tech dive equipment and in the company of one of their dive guides. You will be amazed by the diverse sea life in the warm tropical waters.
Go sightseeing at La Fortaleza
This was completed in 1540 as a defense against the Carib Indians and other foreign invaders. After the Fortaleza lost its military value, it became the residence of Puerto Rican governors. The Fortaleza is the oldest governor’s mansion and it is still used in the Western Hemisphere as such and over 150 governors have lived here. You will learn about history more about history from your visit here.
Go to the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico
This is a prominent player in the Caribbean cultural scene and it is among the highlights of San Juan. The museum was opened in 2000 and it was built around a 1920’s hospital building. The first thing you will see as you enter is the older part of the building which displays the museum’s permanent collection. The newer part is a five-story building which contains a multi-story atrium, a sculpture garden, a theater with seating for up to 400 people, and a popular restaurant. The museum has more than 130,000 feet of space that are used to display an excellent permanent collection and many temporary exhibitions.
Visit San Jose Church
This is one of the earliest examples of Spanish Gothic architecture in the Americas and it was built by the Dominican friars in 1532. The vaulted interior gives it an airy feel and the church is small in comparison with San Juan Cathedral. The body of the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon was buried here for 300 years until he was moved to the San Juan Cathedral in 1913.
Explore Plaza las Americas
When you are tired of beaches, culture and the heat of San Jose, you can try out the Plaza las Americas. This is a modern indoor shopping plaza where you can go shopping for things you forgot at home. This is a place with a large mall with US chain stores, American restaurants, latest fashions, and some unique stores.
Go sightseeing at Puerto Rico Museum of Contemporary Art
The museum was founded in 1984 and it is the place where you will see the work of Puerto Rico’s finest modern day artists. This is located inside Sacred Heart University in the Barat building and it may take you some time to get here. The changing exhibits showcase the museum’s collection of a modern island made prints, posters, paintings, and sculptures. You should try to contact the museum or visit their website to know more about the most current exhibits due to the changing of the exhibits.
San Juan is home to romantic hotels, beautiful beaches, gardens, unique museums, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you will have many places to visit and explore in this city.
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