Enjoy yourself in Old San Juan

Old San Juan is a beautiful place to visit.  Just make sure you have a few hours to spare in order to absorb the culture, architecture and atmosphere.  The city itself is a little hilly, so I would recommend starting out close to the ‘Paseo de la Princesa’.  Here you will find a car park and roadside carts serving local ices (piraguas) and food.  From here you can either jump on one of the local trolley buses (they are free) and take a ride through the streets up to El Morro (the fort) or if you are feeling energetic take a walk through the streets and head up to El Morro.  If you do decide on the trolley bus, you can jump off at any time.

Old San Juan is full of narrow streets, so it might be wise to get yourself a map or at least download one from google maps or mapquest.    

El Morro itself is definitely worth a visit, not just for the history aspects but for the views that you will see.  If you go on a weekend you will most likely see locals flying kites in the grounds in front of the fort.

From El Morro head back into town and check out the Old Cathedral on Calle Del Santa Cristo (calle means street).  Close to the Cathedral is the hotel El Convento which is a restored convent that is a good place to hang for drinks or even tapas. Another good place for breakfast or brunch is La Bombonera on Calle San Francisco.  This is one of the oldest café/restaurants, its pretty basic but well worth a visit.

While wandering around the streets, check out; Plazuela de la Rogativa, Plaza de Armas and Plaza de San José where you will be able to grab a drink or a snack at one of the local café’s.

If you still have energy, then head to the Old San Juan Gate.  The gate is close to La Fortaleza, the current official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico. Head through the gate to see views of the bay and then take a stroll (left) along the Paseo de la Princesa.  The promenade skirts the bay underneath the old stone walls of the city.  This is an exteremely nice walk on a sunny afternoon or early evening.  The promenade will take you back to your starting point, passing statues and fountains. If you are lucky you will also see groups playing dominoes or hear local musicians playing.

There are many café’s and bars throughout Old San Juan, so you will not be stuck for a place to eat or drink.  Restaurants that have good reviews (from what I have read) are:

The Parrot Club on Calle Fortaleza 363

Dragonfly Calle Fortaleza 364

Amadeus Calle San Sebastián 106

Tantra on Calle Fortaleza, if you like Indian Cuisine.

There is way more to do in Old San Juan than what I have covered here, so head there and have fun, just remember to wear comfortable shoes.


  1. VeraS says

    wondering, how easy is it to get from the Port in san Juan (cuise ships) to OSJ?

    Should we walk it? is it easily marked, close? or a taxi? are they generally easy to flag down, pay, etc?

  2. Coqui says

    There are two areas where cruise shipos dock and so it depends which one.

    If its the Pan Am pier you will need to take a taxi.

    If it’s the OSJ piers (and if this is just a port of call, it will probably be here), you can easily walk into to Old San Juan.

  3. Lisa says

    Our cruise ship does not arrive until 5pm in mid July. What will be open? Are the stores open for shopping in San Juan? I heard that the town closes down at 6PM. I don’t see why a ship would get there so late if nothing is open. Please let me know what there will be to do in San Juan…

    • Coqui says

      Hi Lisa

      Thanks for checking out my site and for leaving a comment

      If you dock on a Tuesday, you could check out the local music and dance show at the San Cristobel fort (it starts at 6pm and costs $3)

      As for shops not 100% certain of closing times when a ship is in port at that time, but would imagine some will stay open (makes sense to be open when 1000’s of cruise passengers hit town).

      Other ideas:
      You could just wander around Old San Juan (even at night it’s really a nice place to visit – most of the major sites are well illuminated)

      Do a Segway tour of Old San Juan

      Hit a casino (there is one at the Sheraton close to the piers or bigger ones in Condado / Isla Verde area)

      Take in a local restaurant and enjoy the great food here

      Your ship time is not the best, but you should still be able to have fun


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