The Caribbean is a fantastic travel destination, bursting with beauty in every corner. From breathtaking beaches to heaven-like mountains, every place has its own special beauty to offer. How on earth does one choose where they’ll invest their time and money to visit? Well, we can’t make you go anywhere, but we can strongly insist that you plan your next trip to Old San Juan, AKA el Viejo San Juan.

This history-rich town is unlike any other Caribbean location you’ve been to. If you want a new unique travel destination, this is the place to go. You won’t find beaches upon beaches or luxe resorts here, but that’s what makes it so unique. With its colonial-style architecture dipped in vibrant tropical colors, this little Island is full of personality and much to see and do. So, here are the best things to do in Old San Juan Puerto Rico.

1. Go salsa dancing with the locals.

old san juan - salsa
Courtesy of La Factoría

Old San Juan is certainly teeming with tourists year-round, but it’s still very much residential area as well. One thing that the people of Old San Juan love to do is to salsa, and you should join them—no questions asked. As you now know, it’s a small island, so there aren’t a whole lot of options when it comes to deciding where to go. Even still, we’ll make it easy on you by suggesting Nuyorican Café or La Factoría. Both are bars in Old San Juan where people go to enjoy quality drinks, lively music, and get their salsa on. You’ll find both tourists like yourself and locals having a good time together in these popular nightlife locations. And a bonus? They’re most likely a short walk or trolley ride from wherever you’re staying, so you won’t hate your late-night walk home.

2. Go on a self-guided walking tour.

old san juan - walking tour
Old San Juan / Credit: Kristi Weaver

If there ever was a city that was meant to serve as eye candy and a history lesson, it’s Old San Juan. Despite the small size of this island, it can still be overwhelming to figure out which way you want to go and what you want to see. Make it easy on yourself by doing some research beforehand and writing down everything that you’re most eager to see while you’re there. Once you arrive, head to the Tourist office to grab some maps and find mark all that you wanted to see in Old San Juan. This way you won’t miss a thing that was on your list, and we guarantee you’ll discover even more along the way. There is no shortage of beauty to behold on this Island, but a self-guided walking tour will keep you from missing your must-sees!

Pro tip: make sure to wear some supportive (but fashionable, of course) shoes. You’ll be walking up and down hills on the centuries-old cobblestone streets of Old San Juan Puerto Rico. Your feet will surely thank you later.

3. Plan a romantic dinner date.

If you’re going on vacation with your loved one, then a romantic dinner date in Old San Juan is an absolute necessity. What better setting for a special evening with your spouse or significant other than in tropical weather and an indulgent, Caribbean meal? Let’s be honest; you won’t taste much on this Island that you won’t like. Even still, one of the most popular restaurants for a romantic setting is Ostra Cosa. Here you’ll enjoy a magical dining experience as you can dine outdoors with live music and café lights strung delicately around the area. The food is rich and authentic, featuring local ingredients from Old San Juan and refreshing drinks you won’t find anywhere else. And if that’s not enough to motivate you to visit Ostra Cosa, this restaurant has also received TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence in 2016.

4. Take a stroll along Paseo del Morro.

old san juan - Paseo del Morro
Paseo del Morro

If you want a jaw-dropping view and a little peace and quiet, Paseo del Morro should definitely be on your itinerary. This beautiful, winding path hugs the massive stone city walls of Old San Juan and goes in the direction of Castillo San Felipe del Morro. If you love architecture, you’ll love the up-close view of El Morro Fort this path offers as it towers above you on the right. Additionally, you get a serene picture of the vast waters of San Juan Bay. Fair warning, though—they are still working on an opening at the end of this path. Until then you’ll have to walk the same way you came to get back to everything else. We’re not mad about it—and we bet you won’t be either—because Paseo del Morro is certainly worth tripling.

5. Enjoy a cup o’ joe and some macaroons at Don Ruiz.

old san juan - Don Ruiz
Courtesy of Cafe Don Ruiz

Don Ruiz takes their coffee—and their pastries—seriously, making this spot perfect for all coffee and dessert lovers. Whether you want a delicious latte, a creamy shot of espresso, or a scrumptious muffin, you’ll find something here you’ll love. The favorite of the pastries here seem to be the macaroons, so make sure you don’t leave without ordering multiple of their creative flavors. And of course—the coffee. All their beverages are incredible, but we suggest getting one of their lattes for a sweet, energetic start to your day. Don’t pass up a stop at Don Ruiz when you visit Old San Juan!

There is so much to discover in the Caribbean, but the island of Old San Juan has a charm that is unlike any other.

Of course, there’s much more to do in this town; to cover it all would take an entire book since it’s rich with historical attractions and delectable food. But if you’re not sure what to do in Old San Juan first, just refer to this handy list as a starting point. Hopefully, this is enough to convince you that you should put it on your list of travel destinations. We wouldn’t want you to miss out!

Related Article: Top 8 Puerto Rico All Inclusive Resorts & Hotels

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