Welcome to San Juan, Puerto Rico! This island paradise is teeming with activities and adventures, but it can also be quite expensive. If you are on a budget and looking for some free fun, here is a list of the best free things to do in San Juan. From exploring Old San Juan to lounging on the beach, there is something for everyone in this vibrant city. So without further ado, let’s get started!
What makes San Juan a great destination?
San Juan is a great destination to visit because it has a unique blend of old-world charm and modern amenities that make it an enjoyable experience for everyone. The city has stunning beaches, vibrant streets, and plenty of must-see attractions such as five-century-old forts, fine dining, and an upbeat atmosphere.
Old San Juan is the most popular tourist destination in Puerto Rico and is home to many must-see attractions like Capilla del Cristo chapel and Casa Blanca (the oldest residence in Old San Juan). You can explore this district by walking around or taking guided tours with local experts.
Going to Puerto Rico, make sure to check out my list of Things to pack.
The 21 best free things to do in San Juan
1. Admire street art in Santurce
You can find street art in Santurce in public spaces such as streets, walls, and bridges. It can be made with any medium, such as paint, mosaic tiles, sandblasting, or collage. Street artists use their works to express themselves and communicate messages to the public.
Santurce es Ley is an annual festival that brings dozens of international muralists to San Juan each year to create artwork on the sides of buildings throughout the neighborhood. This free attraction provides locals and visitors with an opportunity to appreciate art in its many forms while exploring one of Puerto Rico’s most vibrant neighborhoods. Visitors have the chance to view stunning murals while also enjoying delicious local cuisine at some of Santurce’s popular restaurants like El Patio de Sole, which serves up traditional Puerto Rican dishes like mofongo con camarones (plantain mash with shrimp).
2. Paseo de la Princesa
Paseo de la Princesa is a scenic promenade that spans from the cruise port to El Morro fort in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It’s flat and accessible, making it perfect for a leisurely walk or jog. Along the way, you’ll spot the governor’s mansion and pass by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company headquarters, where you can pick up free brochures and maps.
There are also plenty of attractions and activities along Paseo de la Princesa:
- Live music: Enjoy some local flair with live music performances from local musicians every weekend.
- Delicious food: Sample some of Puerto Rico’s favorite dishes from popular food vendors along the promenade.
- Souvenirs: Pick up souvenirs such as jewelry, artwork, sculptures, clothing items etc., from the street vendors who line Paseo de la Princesa every weekend.
3. Catedral Basilica Menor de San Juan Bautista
The Basilica Menor de San Juan Bautista is a church located in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico that dates back to 1521. It is the second oldest cathedral in the Western Hemisphere and the resting place of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León. The church also holds the mummified remains of St. Pio, a first-century martyr.
The Basilica Menor de San Juan Bautista is a free attraction and offers visitors the opportunity to experience history firsthand through its beautiful architecture and historical connections. Additionally, visitors can enjoy attending mass on weekends or attending a special midnight mass on December 24th (known as Noche Buena).
4. Visit the world's first NFT Gallery
The Lighthouse NFT Gallery is the world’s first physical NFT art gallery. It is located in San Juan and offers free exhibitions, bimonthly NFT Tuesdays with educational talks, private event spaces, and an on-site cafe that is in the works.
Visiting this gallery offers a unique opportunity to explore a variety of artworks made with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which are becoming increasingly popular due to their ability to track ownership of digital assets.
By visiting this gallery, you can gain insight into how artists are using blockchain technology in their work while also exploring Puerto Rican heritage through local artists’ pieces from centuries ago up until today.
5. Plaza Las Americas
Plaza Las Americas is located on Calle San Jose in the heart of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The plaza itself is surrounded by bars and clubs that are popular for their weekend nightlife scene.
Some of the best free things to do in Plaza Las Americas include:
- Salsa dancing in the streets with live music playing reggaeton beats.
- Exploring the historic building that houses El Museo Las Americas, which offers exhibits about American history and culture.
6. Calle de la Fortaleza
Calle de la Fortaleza is named after La Fortaleza, a National Historic Landmark and UNESCO Heritage Site (also the Governor’s Mansion). The enormous mansion was built between 1533 and 1540 to protect San Juan and sits along the street of the same name today.
La Fortaleza is strategically positioned on Calle de la Fortaleza, which offers stunning views of the palace’s vibrant blue and white exterior. The cobblestones along this street also add to its charm, as do the colorful houses that line it. Visitors can take advantage of this picturesque setting by taking Instagram-worthy photos here while exploring this historic area or visiting La Fortaleza during one of their scheduled tours.
7. Fly a kite at El Morro
Flying a kite at El Morro is a unique experience that is sure to bring joy to both young and old. The exterior grounds of the fort are spacious, allowing visitors to have plenty of room to enjoy the ocean breeze, have a picnic or hang out for the day. Some curbside vendors sell kites, so you can easily get one for yourself or your kids.
The breeze coming off the Caribbean Sea makes it ideal for launching and flying kites – it can get quite windy up there! Even just watching other people fly their kites as they soar through the air is an enjoyable activity that will surely bring smiles to everyone’s faces. You’ll even find some locals who come here regularly to fly their own homemade creations!
8. The Poet's Passage
Poet’s Passage is a 19th-century promenade that winds through Old San Juan, giving visitors prized views of the charming surroundings. The walk starts at the historic Puerta de San Juan (San Juan Gate) and features fountains, street stalls, and city walls along the way.
It is a great way to experience the history of San Juan while taking in some breathtaking scenery. The walk also provides an insight into local culture as it passes by many unique sights only found in Puerto Rico, such as street vendors selling traditional food items or artwork painted on buildings’ facades. Furthermore, it is free to explore, so anyone can enjoy it without having to spend any money!
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9. Playa Ocean Park
Ocean Park Beach in San Juan is located along the sun-drenched coast of Condado and has some of the best sand on the island. The water is clear, and decent-sized waves attract surfers looking to perfect their turns and rotations. Tall palm trees provide shade from the hot sun, and vendors with carts stocked with cool ice creams roam throughout the day.
10. La Rogativa
The Rogativa is a religious procession held in Puerto Rico to commemorate the Virgin of Los Dominicos. It was established in 1510 by Charles V, who offered protection to women and children during invasions in the Caribbean. The Rogativa still continues today and offers an opportunity for people to experience the culture of Puerto Rico through music, dance, costumes, crafts, food vendors, and more.
Visitors can enjoy various free activities during the Rogativa, including observing traditional dancing performances; watching craftsmanship demonstrations; sampling local cuisine; shopping for souvenirs; listening to live music played by local musicians; exploring cultural exhibits related to religious iconography or traditions associated with this holiday. My favorite things to do were: interact with the locals and take photos of all the colorful costumes.
11. Enjoy the Sunset
Walking around San Juan during sunset is an ideal way to experience its amazing beaches, historic city, or cobblestone streets in a new light. By taking advantage of this special time of day, you can capture beautiful photos that will forever remind you of your trip to Puerto Rico. Any outdoor activity during golden hour is guaranteed to generate hundreds of Instagram likes and the envy of all your friends.
12. Laguna del Condado
Laguna del Condado is an estuary reserve for Caribbean manatees located in the district of Condado in San Juan. The lagoon is an ideal spot for humans and mammals to peacefully coexist, as both can enjoy the waters together. Visitors can enjoy activities such as kayaking and paddle boarding while admiring the city lights at night.
Laguna del Condado is a popular free thing to do in San Juan because it provides a unique experience where visitors can connect with nature while enjoying all the modern amenities of a big city like San Juan. Furthermore, it’s conveniently located within walking distance of the tourist district, so visitors don’t have to worry about transportation costs either!
13. La Muralla
La Muralla is the name given to the city walls of Old San Juan, built between 1533 and 1540 by Spanish colonists to protect the city from attacks. Today, they remain as one of the best-preserved examples of 16th-century military architecture.
La Muralla is a popular free thing to do in San Juan because it offers visitors an opportunity to explore history through its iconic doors, towers, and structures. Visitors can also enjoy scenic views of San Juan from atop the walls while taking in their beauty and charm. Furthermore, visiting La Muralla provides an insight into how life was back then for residents who lived behind its protective walls.
14. Save-A-Gato Cat Sanctuary
The Save-A-Gato Cat Sanctuary is a non-profit organization that rescues stray cats from Puerto Rico and transports them to new homes in the United States. The sanctuary pays for all transport expenses, so all you have to do is sign up through their website and add a local shelter animal to your boarding pass.
The Save-A-Gato Cat Sanctuary is a great free thing to do in San Juan because it allows visitors to help save the lives of animals and, if you want to, get a friend to bring back home. Additionally, volunteers can also get involved by walking dogs at one of their shelters while on the island.
15. Condado Beach
Condado Beach is one of the best free things to do in San Juan because it offers stunning views, warm waters, and easy access. It is surrounded by high-rise hotels and resort complexes, providing visitors with plenty of dining options. The white sand stretches for miles along the coast from San Juan, making it a perfect spot for sunbathing or swimming.
Condado Beach can be found along the coast of San Juan near Ponce de Leon Bay. It is open to the public every day from dawn to dusk. Swimming here is not recommended unless you are a professional due to the strong tides.
16. The Capitol of Puerto Rico
The Capitol of Puerto Rico is a government building located in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was constructed between 1907 and 1929 and is known for its stunning marble facade and impressive architecture. The building serves as the seat of government for the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, housing both the Senate and House of Representatives in its chambers.
Visiting El Capitol de Puerto Rico is a great way to learn about local history and politics while also admiring the beautiful architecture. Tours are available for visitors who wish to explore the building, including tours led by former senators who have knowledge about its history and significance in modern-day politics. Additionally, admission is free so that everyone can enjoy it!
17. Calle del Cristo
Calle del Cristo is the main shopping district in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is located between Fort San Felipe del Morro and Plaza de Armas and spans approximately one mile long. The street is lined with brightly colored buildings, churches, restaurants, and artisan shops.
Some of the attractions on Calle del Cristo include:
- The San Juan Bautista Cathedral, which is usually open from 9 am to 5:30 pm
- The Capilla de Cristo, which is only open on select days
- Pigeons Park, for those who want to watch or feed the pigeons
- Art galleries such as Galería de la Pradera, which showcases local artwork from painters such as José Campeche
- Boutique stores such as El Patio Quinquela Martín, a store that sells traditional handmade quinquela martin hats made out of palm fronds
- Coffee shops like Cafe Parisienne, which serve up delicious pastries and drinks to refuel and carry on.
18. Balneario El Escambrón
El Escambrón Beach is a great free attraction in San Juan because of its clean sand and calm water, making it ideal for families and swimmers of all ages. It has views of the nearby Fort San Felipe del Morro, making it an interesting place to explore and take pictures, and there are lifeguards on duty, as well as restrooms available for convenience.
The beach is located just outside San Juan in Puerto Rico and is easy to access by car or public transportation from any part of the city. There are plenty of parking spaces available near the beach itself, so visitors can easily find a spot without any trouble.
19. La Fortaleza - Palacio de Santa Catalina
La Fortaleza is an ornate palace that was built as a protective fortress in 1540. It currently serves as the governor’s residence and has housed 170 governors since its remodeling in 1846. The palace is known for its 40-room mansion, gilded banquet halls, and period pieces that can be seen on free guided tours of the gardens, dungeon, and chapel during weekdays on the hour.
La Fortaleza offers visitors a glimpse into Puerto Rico’s rich history through its architecture and artifacts from centuries past. Additionally, tourists can explore the historic mansion grounds at no cost, which makes it a great attraction in San Juan for those looking to save money while still experiencing local culture.
20. Attend an annual festival
The most famous festival in San Juan is Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, also called “San Se”, which is a four-day festival with local artists, music, dancing, and food that party lovers cannot miss. Other annual festivals in San Juan include Ponce Carnival, which is an all-out party held annually in Ponce, and Patron Saint Festivals, which occur every week across Puerto Rico.
21. Castillo San Felipe del Morro
Castillo San Felipe del Morro, also known as El Morro, is a 16th-century citadel with six levels of tunnels and barracks. It is a National Historic site with 74 acres, which offers some of the best views of San Juan Bay. The fortification was built to protect the colonized city from an attack by land or water invasion. El Morro is a popular free attraction in San Juan due to its historical significance and stunning views of the bay.
What are the best free things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico?
The best free things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico include taking a sunset stroll along Paseo de la Princesa, visiting the free garden at Museo Casa Blanca, and seeing La Rogativa, a famous statue in Plazuela de la Rogativa.
Other free activities include:
- Exploring Old San Juan’s Spanish colonial district and its 400 rebuilt structures from the 16th and 17th centuries
- Admiring the quaint beauty of this European-esque area as you take in its history
- Strolling along Paseo de la Princesa for some scenic views of the cityscape
- Visiting museums like Museo de Artes Plasticas (Museum of Plastic Arts) or Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (Contemporary Art Museum)
What attractions are there in San Juan, Puerto Rico?
The most popular attractions in San Juan, Puerto Rico are visiting Old San Juan, exploring Castillo San Felipe del Morro, Paseo de la Princesa, and Catedral Basilica Menor de San Juan Bautista
Other attractions in San Juan include:
- Cultural sites like Cementerio Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery or La Fortaleza (the Governor’s Mansion)
- Enjoying local food & drink such as Mofongo (fried plantain dish) and Pina Coladas
- Outdoor activities like surfing at Isla Verde Beach or exploring Condado Lagoon
- Walking around Old San Juan or taking in a street performance at Plaza Las Americas Mall.
You will also like this article on the Top Puerto Rico Travel Tips.
What is the most popular plaza in San Juan, Puerto Rico?
The most popular plaza in San Juan, Puerto Rico is Plaza de Armas. It was built 500 years after Christopher Columbus discovered Puerto Rico and commemorates this discovery with water fountains, statues, and the El Totem Telurico totem pole made from ceramic.
The Plaza de Armas is located in Old San Juan near the entrance of El Morro.
What are three things that Puerto Rico is known for?
The most popular three things that Puerto Rico is known for are:
- Natural Wonders: Puerto Rico is known for its natural wonders, such as the bioluminescent glowing rivers in Fajardo, which provide a fantastic experience for visitors.
- Cultural Heritage: The Island of Enchantment is also home to historical sights like the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico and the Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Center, which offer an insight into its rich cultural heritage.
- Delicious Food: With its refreshing seafood dishes at beachside restaurants and delicious chocolate creations, Puerto Rico has earned itself a reputation as a food capital that tempts taste buds all over with its delicious offerings.
What is the best way to island hop in San Juan, Puerto Rico?
The best way to island hop in San Juan, Puerto Rico is using a historic schooner or sleek yacht to charter. Be prepared for lots of fun activities on board, such as snorkeling and swimming in warm, calm bays. It’s sure to be an exciting day full of adventure!
How many tourist attractions are there in San Juan, Puerto Rico?
There are many tourist attractions in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Some of the most popular attractions include:
- The Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristobal forts
- Casa Blanca (the oldest residence in Old San Juan)
- The Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery
- La Princesa prison museum
- El Morro Lighthouse Museum and Interpretive Center
- Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (Museum of Art of Puerto Rico)
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What is the best beach destination near San Juan, Puerto Rico?
The best beach destination near San Juan, Puerto Rico is Isla Verde. It is a bit farther away from San Juan, but it offers some of the best beaches in Puerto Rico. Other great options include Balneario del Escambron and Playa Peña, which are both located right next to El Capitolio. Additionally, the beaches in San Juan are mostly urban beaches and can get crowded during high season.
What festivals are held in San Juan, Puerto Rico?
The San Sebastian Street Festival takes place in mid-January and is the most famous festival in Puerto Rico. It signals the end of the island’s extended holiday season and celebrates with music, dancing, and food vendors.
The Piña Colada Festival takes place in July and is an ode to the famous drink that originated in San Juan. There are also free events for various holidays, music festivals that vary year to year, and a market every Saturday in Old San Juan.
Every year on June 24th, the entire island of Puerto Rico celebrates its most important fiesta patronales: the Festival de San Juan Bautista. With midnight swimming traditions, vejigante dancing with masks made from papier-mâché , and live bomba y plena bands playing traditional music.
For more details on the best time to visit the island read this.
What is the best way to get around San Juan, Puerto Rico?
- If you’re staying solely within San Juan, use an airport transportation service such as a bus, taxi or Uber, the main international airport is located within 15-20 minutes from Old San Juan and other popular tourist areas like Isla Verde and Condado.
- For independent trips to Ceiba for the Culebra ferry terminal, hiking in El Yunque, or road-tripping to Ponce and the west coast, you’ll need a rental car.
- If you’d like some local guidance around some of the must-see city sights, book a free walking tour with a local guide, who can give you tips on how to best enjoy your time in San Juan and answer any questions you may have about making your trip more memorable.
What is the best way to experience nightlife in San Juan, Puerto Rico?
- Start bar-hopping in Calle San Sebastian, which is located in Old San Juan. Here you will find different themed bars to enjoy.
- If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, book a cocktail walk tour in San Juan with someone for an exciting night out full of drinks and laughs with good company.
- Salsa dancing is another must-do activity when visiting Puerto Rico, so head over to the Oceano Lounge off of trendy Avenida Ashford in the Condado neighborhood around 9 PM when the salsa bands start playing music or take advantage of their free salsa lessons offered every Tuesday evening.
- Don’t forget to explore other areas outside of Puerto Rico’s main tourist attractions for more authentic nightlife experiences, just remember to stay safe.
What type of souvenirs can you find in San Juan, Puerto Rico?
San Juan, Puerto Rico offers a wide variety of souvenirs for visitors to take home. You can find locally crafted jewelry, ceramics, paintings, and cigars in many shops around the city. For authentic souvenirs, try The Artisan Corner or The Poet’s Passage. Other souvenirs include t-shirts, magnets, and painted shot glasses.
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Free things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Whether you’re looking for a place to relax or explore, Puerto Rico has something for everyone. I hope you enjoyed my story of the best free things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and that you find it helpful on your next trip to the island. And now it’s your turn!
- When do you plan to go to Puerto Rico?
- Is this your first time on the island?
- Are there any special activities you are interested in trying?
- Let me know in the comments below!