San Juan is a city full of culture, cuisine, history, and beaches. The capital is located on the main island of Puerto Rico and is a city that needs to be added to the top of your bucket list. San Juan truly offers something for everyone and is a wonderful destination for family vacations, honeymoons, and partying backpackers. The hardest part about your vacation will be deciding where to stay in San Juan.
There are so many great neighborhoods to choose from. Keep reading to find out about what the capital of Puerto Rico has to offer.
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Where is the best place to stay in San Juan?
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Where to Stay in San Juan
In a city that has something for everyone, we have broken down the three best places to stay in San Juan. It's not every single neighborhood in the city but it covers the primary ones that you should consider.
The Main San Juan Neighborhoods
1 – Old San Juan – The hub to Puerto Rican history and stunning architecture.
2 – Isla Verde – Has everything from quiet beaches and exquisite nature to an amazing nightlife.
3 – Condado – Luxurious feel on the oceanfront with some great shopping.
San Juan Quick Tips
How to Get Around
The best way to see and explore San Juan is undoubtedly by foot. With streets lined with street art, funky cafes, and history on every corner, you don’t want to miss a thing. Many of the neighborhoods are designed so you can easily see them on foot, so make sure you pack a great pair of walking shoes.
When visiting Old San Juan, you will be able to take advantage of the free trolley service that operates daily. While it is not a guided tour, it will take you to the main attractions of this neighborhood. When choosing where to stay in San Juan, Old San Juan is our number one due to the ease of getting around.
Rent a Car
If you are staying in San Juan for a few days, then consider renting a car. There are so many beautiful beaches and things to see that you don’t always want to rely on doing tours. The roads are easy to navigate, and it is certainly a cheap way to see San Juan at your own pace. There may be additional costs for parking, as free parking is limited. However, the parking garages around the towns offer hourly rates, and higher-end hotels may also have parking spaces available for guests.
Make sure you're getting the best deals on your car rentals and know about these car rental coupon codes.
For those who would rather be driven around, taxis are easy to get from hotels and major attractions. It is convenient and quick if you are still navigating the roads yourself.
Yes, Uber does operate in Puerto Rico! They have more than 4,000 drivers on the island.
If you're on tight budget, the public bus network is for you.
The San Juan metro area has 30 bus routes that cover Toa Baja, Cataño, Bayamón, Guaynabo, San Juan, and Carolina. This is run by the Department of Transportation and Public Works and is under the name Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses.
There's also a light rail line (Tren Urbano) that connects San Juan, Guaynabo, and Bayamón.
Bus fare is only 75¢, while one Tren Urbano trip costs $1.50
While it is the option that takes the longest to get you from point A to point B, it is certainly the cheapest as well as it being easy to navigate the timetable. The tourism centers can assist you with current timetables or check out Tren Urbano or Autoridad Metropolitana de Autobuses Twitter account as their website doesn't seem to be working (or exist) right now.
If you prefer more on an active holiday, then consider hiring a bike. Bikes are for hire at many locations around San Juan. There are also many designated cycling lanes making it a safe and fun experience for the whole family.
Ferries are also a huge part of getting around Puerto Rico. Take a ferry to check out islands like Vieques or even venture further to another Caribbean island.
Even with only a couple of days in Puerto Rico, you can see it all. So it is easy to check out the neighborhoods in San Juan in a short time. In addition, you will be able to check out where to stay for next time!
Plan Your Trip
One of the benefits of traveling to Puerto Rico from the US is that you don't need much additional planning beyond deciding where to stay in San Juan. Check out my top tips for your upcoming vacation to Puerto Rico.
Currency – Everywhere in Puerto Rico accepts US dollars. In San Juan, credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are readily available. It is recommended to always carry cash on you though, for entry fees, tips, and market stalls.
Language – The main language of San Juan is Spanish. A great travel tip is to always have a little of the language up your sleeve to impress the locals. However, if you are not one with languages, English is widely known in Puerto Rico.
Appliances – Traveling to Puerto Rico is easy, as all your power adapters from the US can be used here. If you are visiting from outside of the US, then make sure you bring a travel adapter suitable for US sockets.
What to Pack – Puerto Rico is an easy destination to pack for. Check out our handy What to Wear in Puerto Rico (coming soon!) article.
Tourist Guides – There are many visitor tourism offices located around San Juan. You can pick up detailed maps, and the staff is more than happy to help.
BEFORE YOU CONTINUE
Find out how you can plan the perfect 5 day Puerto Rico itinerary with our popular article to help plan your upcoming trip!
#1 Old San Juan
What’s There And Why To Visit
Old San Juan is one of the most remarkable cities in Puerto Rico. It is a stunning city that you can easily walk around and admire the architecture and history. The cobblestone streets add charm to modern facilities.
Streets lined with brightly colored buildings and eateries are nestled among some of the best places to stay in San Juan. Tourists come here for the lively culture that fills the air with happiness. It is a great neighborhood to try some salsa dancing in the street, and live music in bars.
Suggested Hotels Near Old San Juan
One of the highest-rated hostels in Old San Juan with its own restaurant, this hostel is good for couples who want to have a quiet place to stay. A recent guest said, “The place is very clean, everything's working, great location!”
With stunning views of San Juan Bay, this hotel is steps from ancient fortresses, museums, galleries, and more. The hotel also features a rooftop swimming pool, a fitness centre, and several restaurants. The location doesn't get better than this.
This is a unique downtown boutique hotel that features apartments with a full kitchen.and each has private bedrooms, living rooms, and 2 bathrooms. They are decorated in 19th-century Colonial style and has a roof-top terrace that overlooks San Juan Bay.
Things To See Near Old San Juan
Castillo de San Cristóbal (St. Christopher’s Castle) – This castle is an architectural marvel and played an important part in protecting the city over the years. Now operated by the National Park Service, you can book a guided tour to learn about the history and significant battles.
Catedral Basilica Menor de San Juan Bautista – This iconic and grand religious landmark is a must-see in Old San Juan. Rich in history, visitors can attend mass as well as see the tomb of Ponce de Leon. Entry is free, however, a donation is appreciated.
Old San Juan at night – Grab some local cuisine on Fortaleza street or check out places like La Factoria for salsa dancing and live music.
Getting to Old San Juan – So you have chosen where to stay in San Juan, and from there you can get anywhere! The neighborhood of Old San Juan is only a three-minute drive from the capital of San Juan or a 15-minute walk. Once you are in Old San Juan, take advantage of the free trolley that drops visitors for free at all major landmarks.
Suggested Activities In Old San Juan
Flavors of Old San Juan Food Tour – Wander the cobblestoned streets in search of culinary delights. Your guide will not only fill your belly with impeccable cuisine but will also tell you about the history of the town.
Old San Juan Harbor Sailing Tour – See the town from a different perspective aboard this hour-and-a-half-long tour. Learn about the history of Old San Juan from a topsail schooner and enjoy complimentary snacks and drinks.
Sunset Walking Tour in the Historic Old San Juan – Watch stunning architecture change colors as you admire the town at sunset. Learn about the culture and city highlights from a local while enjoying the best part of the day.
#2 Isla Verde
What’s There And Why Visit
A gateway to some of the most spectacular sites in Puerto Rico, Isla Verde should certainly be considered when deciding where to stay. Isla Verde is a great destination when traveling with friends or for those seeking adventure. The area is also bustling with nightlife.
A popular choice for water lovers, visitors will love the many options of water sports, both on and under the water. There are some great tours available for experienced divers, and you can also rent kayaks up and down the coast. Isla Verde is also the location of the best beaches in Puerto Rico.
Suggested hotels near Isla Verde
Private apartment in Isla Verde that has a garden, terrace, and air-conditioned studio with balcony, kitchenette, washing machine, free wifi. Recent guest said “”The host was very accessible and responsive. The place was great and very romantic. Great location and facilities. Great experience. Will return!”
You can often find this property for under $150/night which is a great deal in this neighborhood. The property has a pool, spacious rooms, and overall great 3-star hotel. The beach is also right across the street.
HOTEL & CASINO
Not only is this hotel 6 minutes from the beach, it's a casino and as an Embassy Suites, it comes with a made-to-order-breakfast, and outdoor pool with waterfall. They also have a daily complimentary evening reception.
This is an amazing 5-star beachfront resort that features 4 outdoor pools, swim-up bar, luxury cabanas, water activities, nightlife, and shops. This is Isla Verde's finest.
Things To See Near Isla Verde
Carolina Beach – Known for its gorgeous white sand, Carolina Beach is often not visited by tourists. Palm trees line the shore, and while not a popular spot, it has all the facilities.
The Ritz-Carlton San Juan Casino – Open 24 hours, this is one place to go if you want live entertainment and a night atmosphere.
Pine Grove Beach – This is the spot to get your taste for water adventure. Not only is Pine Beach a great place to have surfing lessons, but visitors can also try parasailing, rent jet skis, or head out on a boat tour from here.
Getting to Isla Verde – Getting from San Juan to Isla Verde doesn’t take long at all. Only a 15 minute drive away, it pays to take a taxi if you are planning a full beach day there. If you choose to drive, go early as parking is limited near the beach.
Suggested Activities In Isla Verde
Isla Verde, Puerto Rico: Jet Ski Tour – Get in touch with your wild side and book on this 90-minute tour which lets you see the coast by jet ski
Rainforest Nature Walk from San Juan to Puerto Rico – With convenient hotel pickups within San Juan, this nature walk is a great way to see Puerto Rico.
What’s There And Why Visit
Make sure the luxury area of Condado is on your shortlist when choosing where to stay in San Juan. With a location that has access to all the highlights of Puerto Rico, the neighborhood of Condado has something for everyone. Boutique shopping meets funky cafes in tree-lined streets.
Condado is the perfect neighborhood if you like a chilled-out vibe, paddleboarding, and beach yoga, but the nightlife doesn't disappoint with clubs going until the early morning. Food lovers will love the eclectic mix of cuisines on offer. This neighborhood is even the host of the Michelin star restaurant, 1919 which is in the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel recommended below.
Suggested Hotels Near Condado
There aren't super budget hotels in Condado but you can find some gems like this. It's located right in the heart of Condado and 150m from Ocean Park Beach. This is an entire one-bedroom apartment and perfect for 2 travellers.
This is an affordable and extremely well-reviewed bed & breakfast located in Condado. A guest recently said “We loved the breakfast, accommodations, and the host was spectacular. On top of all of this, location next to the beach and restaurants/bars was ideal!”
This is part of the “Small Luxury Hotel of the World” collection and is uniquely styled with Mediterranean decor. The property has a rooftop terrace with infinity pool, highly rated Sage Steak Loft, and L'Occitane toiletries.
This might be the cream of the crop in terms of hotels in San Juan. This oceanfront hotel has a gorgeous outdoor pool and world-class spa and wellness center. Guests also love the location, being right by La Ventana al Mar Park, beach, and lagoon.
Things To See Near Condado
Ashford Avenue – The place to go for high-end shopping featuring stores like Cartier, and Gucci, and many local designers.
Condado Lagoon – The smooth waters of the Condado Lagoon is the perfect place for paddle boarding and kayaking. Don’t have your own? Then check out the many tours and hire places in the area.
As mentioned above, Condado is located within the perfect distance from everywhere and anywhere. It is only an eight-minute drive from San Juan or just under an hour's walk.
Suggested Activities In Condado
LED Night Kayak – Condado Lagoon – Night Excursion – Checking out the lagoon at night is like nothing else you will ever do. Using LED lights on your clear bottomed kayak, you will see starfish, lobster, and other wonderful lagoon-dwelling creatures.
Private Water Bike Adventure in Condado Lagoon – Fun and unique, water bikes are a great alternative to kayaks and paddleboards when exploring the lagoon. This guided tour will teach you all about the lagoon ecosystem. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for manta rays and turtles.
When looking for places to stay in San Juan, you can't go wrong with either Old San Juan, Isla Verde, or Condado. That said, each neighbourhood is distinct and has something different to offer depending on your group and travel style.
If it's your first time to Puerto Rico and looking for the best place to stay in San Juan, we still believe that Old San Juan is the best overall just because everything is within walking distance, and all of the main sights are located here.
You'll have an amazing time here and as you continue planning your trip, make sure to read our other articles!
Frequently Asked Questions
The best overall hotel is the Sheraton Old San Juan.
The best neighbourhoods in San Juan are Old San Juan, Isla Verde, and Condado.
Yes, absolutely, there are many apartment rentals, affordable hotels, and hostels in San Juan.
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