Bright colours and traditional cobblestones in vibrant Old San Juan
Worlds collide in San Juan, Puerto Rico’s vibrant capital. This simmering melting pot of indigenous, European, American, and Afro-Caribbean cultures can trace its roots back to 1521, when it was founded by the Spanish. Almost four centuries of colonial rule followed, before the island became a US territory in 1898.
In Old San Juan, time stands still. Candy-coloured colonial houses line the cobbled lanes that criss-cross from Plaza de Colón Square to the 17th-century San Juan Gate – once the main entrance to the walled city. All along the water’s edge, fortresses stand watch from towering cliffs, their cannons still aiming out over the sea. Just outside the old town, the rocky shoreline gives way to the soft sand of El Escambrón Beach, a sheltered snorkelling and swimming spot.
Tropical palms line the beachfront in San Juan's trendy Condado district
San Juan’s cultural fusion is never more evident than in its food. In the city centre, upscale European restaurants sit alongside street stalls and fast food joints, while home-grown chefs like José Enrique elevate traditional cooking to fine-dining heights. The stand-out local dish is ‘mofongo’ – fried and mashed plantain stuffed with crispy bacon, chicken, or prawns.
No matter the time, one thing’s for sure – the smell of freshly roasted Puerto Rican coffee is never far away. You’ll find it served milky at breakfast, or as an afternoon pick-me-up paired with pastries in Spanish-style cafés.
A waterfront view of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
When to go?
San Juan’s tropical climate makes for warm, humid weather all year round, with average temperatures rarely dipping below 25 degrees celsius. Bargain accommodation prices can often be found in September and October – but bear in mind that these months are the tail end of the Caribbean hurricane season.
The outdoor pool at the Best Western Plus
Where to stay?
Best Western Plus Condado Palm Inn & Suites – San Juan, Puerto Rico
This modern hotel is just a block from the waterfront, in the upscale Condado neighbourhood. Its beach club and outdoor pool score highly with Booking.com guests, who also sing the praises of the friendly staff. The bright rooms and suites – some with sea views and fully equipped kitchens – are another big plus.
The restored Villa Herencia Hotel
Villa Herencia Hotel – San Juan, Puerto Rico
This restored villa in Old San Juan is full of colonial charm. Booking.com guests rave about Villa Herencia’s eclectic design, which blends historic features and antique furniture with bold modern artwork. They also love the tropical feel of the roof terrace – complete with exotic flowers, sun loungers, and even roll-top baths!
Wonderful views from La Terraza's rooftop pool
La Terraza de San Juan – San Juan, Puerto Rico
A roof terrace with a plunge pool and breathtaking sea views makes this boutique hotel a favourite with Booking.com guests. Set in a colonial house in Old San Juan, La Terraza de San Juan also wins rave reviews for its mix of traditional and modern design.