Before you decide on where to stay, make a list of the things you want to do during your visit. It is important to identify the type of trip you are planning. Would you rather spend more time relaxing by the beach? Are you the adventurous type? Or maybe you’re more interested in exploring the history of the city. Puerto Rico, although small, is very diverse in what it has to offer.
If it is your first time visiting I recommend staying in the San Juan area to be close to the popular historical landmarks. There are several hotel districts in San Juan so I’ve outlined what landmarks and activities are close to each to help make your decision slighly easier :).
El Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan)
During our last visit to Puerto Rico we stayed in Old San Juan. I find this part of the city so romantic. Although the hotels in this area don’t have direct beach access, there’s plenty of other things to see in this beautiful historic district. One of my favorite hotels to stay in is Hotel Villa Herencia which is right in front of the San Juan Cathedral, and walking distance to the famous Old San Juan Gate. On this same street you will find the luxurious Hotel El Convento which is one of the best places to stay in Old San Juan! Both are beautiful historic hotels. Pro tip: Old San Juan streets are cobblestone, so leave your stilettos in the suitcase :). Keep in mind Old San Juan is an extension of the island so during traffic hours it can be difficult to get in and out, but there is plenty to do without crossing the bridge!
Things to do:
El Morro & Castillo de San Cristobal – If you’re into historical landmarks like I am, wear comfortable shoes on your visit to this beautiful fort. We did a complete self-guided tour and spent nearly five hours on our first visit there (we stopped to take lots of picture but still)!
El Paseo de la Princesa – On the day we visited there was an exhibition of local artisans where you can shop for souvenirs! Bring your sweetheart for a romantic walk through the shops and treat them to a Piragua (sno cone) when you’re finished.
Calle Fortuna – Umbrella exhibit. They’re all over the world now, and Puerto Rico is not the exemption. Take a picture with the beautiful Pink umbrellas and grab a coffee from one of the cute restaurants on that street.
La Factoria – Famous for their cocktails and good times, stop in for a salsa dance and a drink… or two!
We stayed in the Condado area during our visit this time around and loved it. This area is modern and home to the cutest boutique hotels and top resorts on the island. Most hotels in this area are going to either have direct beach access or be walking distance to it. This is also adjacent to La Placita de Santurce, famous for its lively streets where you’ll find a Mercado, live music, street dancing and a hard to beat night life! We always have a great time in Placita, but it does have some sketchy areas so I would reccomend staying in Condado and taking an Uber over. Some of my favorite places to stay in Condado include La Concha Resort which has direct beach access and an onsite casino, The O:LV Fifty Five Hotel is another one of my favorites. Here you will feel like modern royalty with stunning views from it’s rooftop bar and pool. For a more budget friendly but just as comfortable stay with rooftop views and walking distance to Santurce is The Wave at Condado Hotel which includes breakfast on their rooftop patio.
Things to do:
Ashford street – Also known as the “Strip” of Puerto Rico. Home to fine dining restaurants, casinos, hookah lounges, and much more, this is one of my favorite areas to spend a night out on the town in!
La Placita de Santurce – I have included this in Condado, because like I mentioned earlier, it is close enough if you stay in the Condado area. There is another beautiful Umbrella exhibition here so stop by during daylight for some great pictures. For a fun night out and the full Puerto Rican music experience, go bar hopping along La Placita and experience everything from Salsa and Merengue to Reggaeton and even some hip-hop!
Condado Beach – This probably goes without saying, but go to the beach! The Condado beach is beautiful, although due to amount of hotels at seaside, it is one of the more touristy beaches. I recommend waking up early to beat the crowds.
Close enough to San Juan, but with plenty of activities to do without leaving the area! Most hotels in this area also have direct beach access although it seemed less crowded than the Condado beach which was nice. This area is also home to most of the luxury resorts in the island, but you can also find affordable stays. The major pro to this area is that it is right next to the airport, so if you’re on a short visit it is super convenient! We spent a few days here on our recent visit and stayed in El San Juan Hotel. By far, one of my favorite places to stay in PR! If you’re looking for a relaxing stay with all of the amenities in one place, this is your place. Not only does it have direct private beach access, but it also has multiple resort style pools, gym, spa, and more. Another great perk is that it is home to Club Brava, the most exclusive Club in PR. We loved that we could grab a drink in the pool bar, lay out on the sandy beach, listen to the live salsa band in one of the bars and then go out to the Club all without leaving our hotel! The Victorian elegant decor also provides for great pictures :). This is definitely on pricier side, but totally worth it!
Things to do:
Because our hotel kept us pretty entertained, we didn’t explore this area as much, but they do have many aquatic activities like diving! There is also plenty of restaurants to choose from. You can find everything from the traditional Puerto Rican food to even your chain restaurants like Chili’s and Denny’s. We really enjoyed breakfast at Las Canarias which was recommended to us by our Uber driver.
Regardless of where you stay, Puerto Rico has so much to offer. Although you can still see hurricane Maria scars on some parts of the island, the tourist areas are all up and running smoothly so you can travel with confidence. Their nickname “La isla del encanto” is so fitting. Although we keep returning to visit family, we also keep discovering new enchantments. I will continue to share my discoveries and tips as I continue to explore this beautiful island! I hope you find these tips helpful when planning your next vacation to Puerto Rico.
Until next time,