What To Do In San Juan This Summer, aka, You Can Have A Tropical Vacation Without A Passport
If you’re looking for a summer destination that requires little more than a short flight, plus a sense of adventure, try traveling to San Juan. The Puerto Rican capital is appealing for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s a domestic trip, so you don’t need a passport, you don’t need to change your currency, and you don’t need to bother with all of that international customs nonsense. Second of all, it’s gorgeous. The beaches and rainforests are worth the (modest) price of your plane ticket, and tourist-friendly Old San Juan, with its cobblestone streets and Spanish colonial architecture, doesn’t disappoint. Thirdly, the food is delicious, whether you’re indulging in pinchos from a street vendor or trying out new-school grub in hip Santurce. Lastly -- and this is a small thing, though near and dear to my heart -- they have really, really good coffee.
If you’re not already convinced, we’ve partnered with Crocs to bring you the best that San Juan has to offer this summer. There’s so much to explore by foot, from natural rainforests to the city streets, so I can’t promise I’ll be comprehensive. But I dare you not to book a round-trip ticket immediately.
Best Places To Dine Outdoors
If you’re just passing by, Jose Enrique looks like a rather unassuming restaurant. With that said, it’s always packed -- with good reason. Stick around for a meal on the patio, and you’ll be able to experience the nightlife of nearby La Placita, an outdoor market with live music and bars. Seafood is a standout here. Try the fish fritters!
La Placita Santurce (La Plaza Mercado)
Speaking of La Placita: this market is definitely a must if you really want to soak up the local flavor of Santurce. Come during the day and you'll experience a relatively sedate farmers market; come on a Friday or Saturday night, and you'll find live music, packed bars, and dancing in the streets.
Best Outdoor Performance Venues
Anfiteatro Tito Puente
Anfiteatro Tito Puente is a massive amphitheater that holds concerts, events, and festivals. Bring a beach chair and hang out on the lawn for some good music against a tropical backdrop. It's perhaps most famous for its yearly jazz festival, but you'll likely catch big names no matter when you go this summer.
Best Place To Have Fun By Foot
Paseo de La Princesa
Located in historic Old San Juan, Paseo de la Princesa is an outdoor promenade that's filled with enough activity to keep you occupied for hours. You'll see tourists and locals alike soaking up art installations, historic sites like San Juan Church, and beautiful ocean views. Given that the office of the San Juan Tourism Company is located on this walk, this is a great jumping-off point for other activities.
While you'll find plenty of revelry at the aforementioned La Plaza Mercado, La Factoria (formerly Hijos de Borinquen) gets high marks for cocktail wizardry, a trendy crowd, and live acoustic music. Technically, it's open until 2 a.m., but rumor has it that the festivities continue well into the night. You'll be having so much fun that you won't even notice that the sun's coming up.
Best Outdoor Festivals:
Old San Juan Farmers Market
The Old San Juan Farmers Market (Mercado Agrícola Natural Viejo) is open on Saturdays, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and it's located in the courtyard of the Museo de Arte e Historia. There, you'll find super-fresh local food from small producers, from mangos and coconuts to more exotic produce like star fruit and yucca.
DIY Art Crawl
Want a little culture? You can explore more than 20 art galleries within Old San Juan and spend very little money -- and do all of it on foot. Of particular note: Galeria Botello, which is located in a 350-year-old Spanish colonial building, and Obra Galeria, which is particularly committed to showcasing work from local Puerto Rican artists.
Best Places To Cool Off
La Mina Waterfall at El Yunque National Forest
How often can you take a domestic flight and end up in the midst of a lush wonderland? Take advantage of Puerto Rico's El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. national forest system. Hike down to La Mina Falls and go for a swim to cool off in style. Pro tip: Consider renting a car. It's much easier to get around that way.
Located just minutes away from El Yunque, Luquillo Beach is a beautiful and clean public beach. It's pretty popular, but you'll find it to be a bit less crowded than tourist-favorite Condado Beach. Go for a dip in the crystal-blue water, or enjoy affordable snacks and beverages while lounging on the sand.
Bioluminescent Bay (or Bio Bay, colloquially) requires an hour-long drive away from San Juan to Fajardo, but it's completely worth it. Visitors can enjoy kayaking in this bay and experience the beauty of the natural landscape while seeing one of nature's coolest phenomena.
This post is sponsored by Crocs.