San Juan is an adventurous city with unlimited things to do. Whether you like food tours or sight-seeing, there's always going to be something for you to do. I only got a day and a half to explore this beautiful Caribbean city, but that was the perfect amount of time for me. San Juan was also the first place I've explored solo as a female, and I couldn't have felt more safe! With this being said, you should still be aware of your surroundings at all times and stay in well-populated areas. It also wouldn't hurt to learn a few words or phrases in Spanish, however most of them speak english. I would recommend this destination to anyone wanting to give solo travel a shot!
Wake Up Early & Sight-See! (Below are my top 3 must-see spots)
Calle de la Fortaleza
This street is one of the most iconic places to visit in Old San Juan. Not only is there a beautiful art installation, but the Governor's Mansion is also located at the end of this road. This street is referred to as "Umbrella Street" and usually has colorful umbrellas hanging, but when I went to visit they had cute butterfly wings instead. There are also a variety of restaurants to eat at around this street, so you can really soak in the culture and views.
2. Catedral de San Juan Bautista
Built in 1521, this cathedral is known as the oldest church on U.S. soil. Here, you'll get to see the beautiful stained-glass windows, decorated ceilings, and the resting place of both Juan Ponce de Leon and St. Pius. This is still a fully functioning church with masses every week, along with weddings! There is no admission price, so this is perfect for those of you who are looking to do free activities.
3. Casa Blanca
Casa Blanca was easily my favorite sight to see because of the views and the greenery on the property! The history of this property stretches back to 1521, the same year the cathedral was built. This was originally built for Juan Ponce de Leon, Puerto Rico's first governor, but he passed away before he was able to live in it. Instead, his descendants occupied it until the mid 18th century. After this, Spanish military took over the property.
Post Spanish American war it became occupied by U.S. military and, in 1967, it became the government of Puerto Rico's. From here, it was declared a historical monument. This house is now a museum to 16th and 17th century artifacts. All around, you'll find walk ways to fountains and different sitting areas, which makes it great for people of all ages. Admission to Casa Blanca is $3 if you're a student, and $5 if you are not. It's CASH ONLY.
Explore the restaurants & bars
I decided to skip breakfast since I got into town around 10:30am, and opted for lunch at La Danza instead. This restaurant is located right next to Calle de la Fortaleza & I can't explain how good their chicken empanadillas were! Puerto Rico is home to the famous Pina Colada, so you already know I had to try one for myself. Happy to say it did not disappoint.
Also located right next to Calle de la Fortaleza is this incredible Gelato spot. There's about 30 different gelato flavors to choose from & it's a must-have when walking around in the sun all day.
I stumbled upon this cute cocktail bar when sight-seeing and I got to try a delicious new drink called a Mojito Piragua. A Piragua is Puerto Rico's version of a snow cone, but this restaurant decided to make alcoholic versions of them here! Overall it was super yummy and refreshing.
This was hands-down my favorite restaurant I went to. It's considered Latin Asian and has the best service and the best food. From the spicy edamame, to their specialty cocktails, you can't go wrong. The picture above is their main dining area, but they also have other options like private dining and bar seating. The space is intimate and has cool neon signs in the bar area and private dining areas, which sets a nice mood for the place.
I got the Old San Juan roll which was creamy & savory. It doesn't have any seafood in it, so it's great for any non-seafood lovers or those with a shellfish allergy. Here's a close up of this amazing roll:
Catch the Sunset: The Final Stop
While walking around, I found that a restaurant called La Casita had the best patio views for the sunset. I decided to get a cocktail and relax here while I finished out the day. You have to have a reservation to get the good tables, so I just sat at the bar. It still had good views and I got to know some cool people who were sitting next to me.
You can easily Make Old San Juan a 1 day trip so you can go explore the other wonderful parts of Puerto Rico like I did, but it's also worth staying a few extra days if you have the time. There are so many historical sites to visit along with stores everywhere you turn. If you want to fully embrace the culture and lifestyle, make arrangements for another day or two!