The platter is cut in the shape of Puerto Rico! – Picture of Deaverdura, San Juan

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What to Do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

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A view over San Juan Puerto Rico

Hotel El Convento

San Juan is one of those cities that no matter how hard you try, you just can’t help but feel alive when you’re there. The capital of Puerto Rico, there’s an energy that permeates the air here, and from the moment you set foot until the moment you have to leave, you come away feeling a sense of renewal and an itching to come back for more. That’s how I feel every time I’ve visited over the years. It’s been a great setting-off point for cruising to neighboring Caribbean islands, and now, with the emergence of new luxury hotels, it has fostered an incredible foodie scene and sizzling salsa nightlife, San Juan has emerged as a year-round destination worth exploring. Here’s where to go, what to eat, and what you need to know on your next visit to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Explore Old San Juan

The culture, monuments, and history that line the colorful streets of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

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Easily the city’s most charming barrio, Old San Juan spans a roughly seven-square-block radius and is full of some of the city’s most beautiful 16th-century Spanish colonial architecture, boutique hotels (including the Gallery Inn), restaurants and local shops. This area was hit heavily by the 2017 hurricane that rocked Puerto Rico. Today, it’s back in business and an absolute must-visit if you want to experience a piece of San Juan’s past. Meander the cobblestone streets and if you’re looking to pick up something totally authentic, head to Ole where you can get a customizable Panama hat from one of the city’s oldest and most beloved family-owned milliners.

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Hit the Playa

La Concha, A Renaissance Resort

La Concha, A Renaissance Resort

Condado is considered to have some of the best beaches and hotels in all of Puerto Rico. Set directly on one of the nicest beaches in San Juan, La Concha, A Renaissance Resort, located in Condado, is not only considered the hot spot in San Juan, but the ideal Instagram backdrop to boot. From a showcase of local artists and DJs to fashion designers, La Concha prides itself in celebrating the community. With a picturesque pool and a variety of dining options including local delicacies at Delicias and newly minted The Loft Beach Front, La Concha is a tropical hot spot for summer travelers.

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Taste the Local Cuisine

Cafe Mallorca in San Juan

Michelle Gross

One of the city’s most venerable diners, Cafeteria Mallorca is one of San Juan’s best (albeit no-frills) breakfast locales. Be sure to get here early or around the time they open to avoid the queue. With a number of delicious options to choose from here, not to be missed are the ham-and-cheese Mallorca sandwich, which comes covered in powdered sugar. It’s the absolute most delicious way to start your day. Another local favorite serving up authentic fare is Santaella, whose malanga fritters and morcilla blood sausage curlers are some of the best in town. Whatever you do, don’t miss the watermelon mojito. For something on the sweet side, Waffle-era Tea Room offers an array of gourmet sweet and savory waffles, coffee and tea in a charming setting.

Visit the Birthplace of the Piña Colada

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According to local folklore, Barrachina Restaurant in Old San Juan is believed to be the birthplace of the piña colada. There’s even a plaque outside of the restaurant to commemorate this fact. Whether that’s true or not—the Caribe Hilton in San Juan makes the same claim—the drinks are strong, the atmosphere is fun and the restaurant which also offers flamenco and live music is a great place to post up on a hot afternoon in the old city.

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Have a Lavish Meal

1919 Restaurant in San Juan

Condado Vanderbilt Hotel

There’s no shortage of excellent restaurants to choose from in San Juan, but if you’re truly looking for something special, head directly over to Fortaleza Street where Marmalade Restaurant & Wine Bar consistently serves up some of the city’s best French fusion fare. Over at the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, Michelin-starred executive chef Juan José Cuevas’ 1919 Restaurant is an upscale new American fusion spot serving up local ingredients like sea urchin with foie gras, organic polenta with squid and some of the best lobster risotto in town.

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Kayak in a Bioluminescent Bay

Group of people are canoeing at sunset at Condado Lagoon in San Juan, Puerto Rico

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There are only a handful of bioluminescent bodies of water in the world and Puerto Rico happens to be home to three of them. It’s an especially popular activity for travelers to join a kayak tour and typically requires at least four to five hours (including travel time) to Mosquito Bay, Laguna Grande or La Parguera. One of the best companies is Kayaking Puerto Rico, which offers two tours nightly Monday-Saturday through a mangrove to channel on the way to Fajardo Bio Bay.

Take a Salsa Class

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From Héctor Lavoe to El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, salsa is must-do for dance lovers which is why a Salsa dance workshop is becoming increasingly popular activity amongst travelers visiting San Juan. The world-champion dance instructors at Across Caribe, teaches travelers basic footwork in no time in a one-hour small-group class that’s tailored for beginners looking to have a swinging good time. (Dance classes start at $20.) If taking a class on vacation isn’t exactly your jam, head over to La Placita where the majority of San Juan’s clubs, bars and nightlife are always the life of the party and dancing in the street is more than socially acceptable. Hotels in the La Placita area include Casa Los Cummins and The Wave Hotel at Condado.

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Sleep In A Former Convent

Hotel El Convento in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Hotel El Convento

Located in the heart of Old San Juan, Hotel El Convento is the perfect place to embrace the history and magic of Puerto Rico’s past. A former convent turned luxury boutique hotel, El Convento is an architectural gem with more than 500 years of history. Next to the hotel, San Juan Bautista Cathedral was built in 1540 and is one of the oldest Catholic churches in the western hemisphere. Close to some of the best boutiques and restaurants in town, El Convento is perfect for those looking to embrace all that beautiful San Juan has to offer.

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