After visiting all 50 states, one of the next logical trips would, of course, be to spend time in our “51st state” Puerto. We fit it into one of our tighter travel times, but it ended up being a perfect trip spending just 5 Nights in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It’s a place we want to return to explore more, and there is a lot more to do, but if you are looking for a quicker trip, this is perfect for you!
We took our trip during June of 2019, and many people asked if it was fine after the hurricanes. Yes! Go down; tourism helps the economy. Of course, there is still some damage, and after the earthquakes, other parts of the island have damage now as well, but it’s fine to go down!
5 Nights in San Juan, Puerto Rico Travel Guide
If you know us, you know might guess we flew our go-to Southwest Airlines well you are correct. We are still holding onto our record of only paying for two flights so far: Europe & Canada. We spent 23,478 miles from our Southwest account and paid the $22.40 tax. It’s in the US, so there are no international taxes. If you don’t have a Southwest Credit Card yet and like to travel, I’d highly encourage you to get one. We fly almost exclusively with them. If you use this link you can earn 40,000 to 65,000 for a personal card or 60,000 to 80,000 for a business card: https://www.referyourchasecard.com/226f/HV290GUGZX (the range depends on the special offers at the time, click the link to see) You can sign up for both cards, which we have both for our business travels as well. If you sign up for the personal card, this is plenty to get you to San Juan for free!
The plane, of course, got delayed, but at least they gave us a free margarita so that I couldn’t complain too much!
We decided against renting a car this trip for two reasons: 1. To keep the cost of the trip down as this was one of our quicker & cheaper getaways. 2. It’s a drinking and party city, so we knew we would Uber most of the time anyway. We think that was still the best option for this trip to just San Juan. If we go back, we might rent a car for a few days. We did miss the El Yunque National Forest, the Bioluminescent Bay, and Culebra and Vieques because we didn’t have a car. To get to any of these without a car was much above our preferred budget. They all sound unbelievable, but we knew we planned to go back one day.
Ubers were readily available, we were never waiting at any time, and they were very reasonable. For where we stayed, it was approximately $6/trip to go into San Juan. We also lucked out and got 50% off rides for the week from an Uber coupon, so it ended up being much less than renting a car. One quick tip: You can NOT Uber from the airport in San Juan, you will have to get a taxi. However, you can Uber to the airport. It’s about $20 to $30 on average, so not that bad. You will have to head to the taxi stand to sign up & they will put you in a shared taxi. It’s a little confusing but not too hard to find once you exit. Follow everyone else; they are probably doing the same thing. We were supposed to get in at 11:15 pm, but with delays were late, and there were plenty of taxis still.
Airbnb is usually our go-to when traveling unless we can’t find one of the hotels are a lot cheaper. They immerse you in the culture, are often more convenient, and we enjoy them. If you haven’t signed up for Airbnb, you can sign up here and get $55 off your first stay: https://www.airbnb.com/c/heatherb745?currency=USD We stayed in just one AirBnB this trip and loved it. We debated for a while for where to stay: downtown, in Condado, in Ocean Park, in Isla Verde. There are SO many options! We decided on Ocean Park in the end. It was far enough away to have beautiful beaches but close enough to Uber. Also, don’t forget to check that the AirBnB allows self-check-in if you are arriving late. We didn’t get to the Airbnb until after 1 am so we needed this.
The link to our Airbnb is here: https://airbnb.com/rooms/22482834?adults=1&ref_device_id=75ee0c08ea38ce9e20b6983f52d414d243ca6fbf&user_id=57158493&s=42 We paid $397.44 total for the five nights we stayed here, it would have been $449.63, but we had an Airbnb gift card for part of it. It was a little apartment in a group of studios and had a gate to the patio. Other guests shared the patio, but we rarely saw anyone. They had it stocked with beach chairs, sunscreen, towels, an outdoor shower to rinse off, and you know even some leftover alcohol bottles if you dared (we did not haha!).
The reason we picked this specific AirBnB was it’s proximity to the beach. There was a public beach right at the end of the street and was a quick, less than a block walk there. It also was in a great location; there were food spots & a grocery store all within a mile. It’s very safe and comfortable to walk in Puerto Rico.
Night 1 in San Juan Puerto Rico
We got the cheaper mile flights in San Juan, so that meant a late arrival. Especially after the delays it was, 2 am before we got in bed. We just went straight to bed!
Day 2 in San Juan Puerto Rico
We headed out to check out the beach at the end of the street when we woke up, and it was perfect. Gorgeous large beach, with a large shaded palm tree area near the road to stay out of the sun. Plus, there was some strange house at the end that we guess got destroyed in the hurricane? It was interesting.
We headed next to the grocery store that was about a mile from the AirBnB we walked there to grab lunch on the way and then took an Uber back, so we didn’t have to carry everything that far. We got to see a lot of the city on the way, and it was a nice walk.
Old San Juan
After the grocery trip, we finally headed into old San Juan. Of course, our first stop was Calle Fortaleza to see the ever famous umbrellas! These change with the season sometimes, and the Governor and First Lady installed them.
This street leads to the Governors Mansion right at the end of it, and no cars can drive on it, so it’s pretty easy to snag a photo in it (or a lot of photos!).
Right around the corner from Calle Fortaleza is Pigeon Park, which was a unique experience. You buy a bag of bird feed from the vendors at the entrance for about $1. Be prepared, the second you get food out, you will get swarmed. It’s an extraordinary and strange experience, but I would still recommend it. However, take plenty of hand sanitizer with you!
We wandered around the streets for a little after this. You will quickly realize this town has so much to see, every alley and street is gorgeous. You can wander forever. However, be warned to wear comfy shoes! So much walking!
We had held off getting a beer because we wanted to keep exploring. The bartender asked us if it was for here or to go. You could carry beer around with you as long as it’s not in a glass! So we rested our feet for a second and then wandered off with our first of many Medalla Light. It’s a delicious and refreshing beer!
So many gorgeous streets
There are so many to see in this city, you will not get bored and will never see it all. While wandering around with our newly discovered to-go beer, we found La Casa Donde Nacio, which created the famous Pina Colada in 1963. If you love these, head on in and get one yourself.
We headed down to Darsenas Square to grab some lunch; there are food trucks all around this area. If you follow our blog much, we aren’t big foodies, so funny enough we got drawn into Subway because they make fresh pasta at the ones in Puerto Rico. It was surprisingly amazing.
Paseo de la Princesa
As you leave Darsenas Square, you will be right at Paseo de la Princesa. This area was one of the most beautiful areas we found in San Juan. The original wall runs down this street, and there are gorgeous gardens and tree-lined streets. There are public bathrooms at the Visitor Center here as well in case you need them. (Heather always seems to haha!)
The walk around the original wall is gorgeous and gives this island a medieval feel. If you keep going, you end up at the original San Juan Gate that leads you back up into the city.
There are still remnants of the hurricane everywhere; they have rebuilt most things already, though. Some of the pieces are now beautiful art as reminders.
San Juan Bautista Cathedral
We headed back into the central area of town to the San Juan Bautista Cathedral. This beautiful cathedral opened in 1540 and is the resting place of Ponce de Leon.
Ponce de Leon’s grave was not the most fascinating in this church, though. St. Pius is along the wall in the church and is mummified inside a quite terrifying covering. If you look into the teeth, you can tell it’s human.
Casa Blanca is just around the corner and was Ponce de Leon’s house. Unfortunately, it was closed on Mondays. However, we could see in through the gates.
No matter how much we say to take it slow, we don’t excel in this area. We ended up at Santa Maria Magdalena De Pazzis Cemetery. If you are paying attention to a map, this is now clear across the island. Our feet are tired, so we sit on the big grassy area nearby and watch everyone flying kites for a bit.
The cemetery is genuinely gorgeous and ancient. There were dozens of groundskeepers working to keep in beautiful. It’s a magnificent spot to wander for a moment.
We kept on our exploring and saw some more of the walled city. The fact that this was an entirely walled city at one point is genuinely a gorgeous architectural masterpiece. Take in as much of this beautiful wall as you can.
The Balleja Barracks is a neat spot to take in as well if you are exploring that area. They are now an art museum if you choose to go in as well.
If you are a fan of Despacito, you have seen La Perla featured in the music video. La Perla is one of the more impoverished areas of town and was a shantytown outside the walls of the original city. It used to be considered the slums, but tourism from Despacito is bringing a lot of people into the area. Head in if you want, but remember to pay attention as it still can have some crime. It was neat to walk through, though and had some beautiful street art. We had planned to look for cheaper drinks, but a lot of the bars weren’t open.
We headed back up the wall and stumbled upon our favorite bar the whole trip. We stopped here a few times a day, anytime we wanted a drink. Why? The beers were 90 cents. Yes, you heard me correctly, 90 cent beer. It was Silver Key Light, and it was quite tasty. I mean for 90 cents, isn’t anything delicious? It’s called El Callejon de la Tanca. It has a cute little outdoor seating area and was never very crowded.
The area near this bar is gorgeous as well, so we made it our Uber drop off for town most of the time we came back.
Puerto Rico Capitol Building
If you love visiting capitals or are fans of gorgeous architecture, head out to the capital building. The capitol is quite a bit further and a little out of old San Juan, so take an Uber there at this point. Our feet were aching anyways, so we needed a break anyway. It’s a stunning building and quite similar to many US capitol buildings.
Night 2 in San Juan Puerto Rico
As we said, we aren’t big foodies, and we needed this to be a cheaper trip. So we headed to Chili’s for dinner because we had a gift card to cover our dinner. They also had $2 Margaritas!! We explored the Condado area a bit while eating; we walked down the beach to get there. It is very similar to Miami in its feel and the more affluent area. It wasn’t our thing, so we started exploring more.
We started just walking to explore and saw lots of the town. We love walking and exploring to immerse ourselves in the city. There was still some hurricane damage in random areas here and there. It’s still crazy how much of a toll this hurricane took. One of our Uber drivers is from further inland and said it’s still terrible there.
We ended up in the Santurce area, which is a very vibrant artsy area. We love murals, so anywhere with murals is right up our alley.
The Plaza Mercado area is a don’t miss for sure. It’s the market area but also a thriving food and bar scene. During Hurricane Maria, the large TV in the square was where most people got their news while the power was out.
Don’t be fooled that the places look fancy here; the beers were still only $3 here! We stopped for some more Medalla Light and enjoyed the atmosphere, but we were winding down after a very long day, so we headed back to catch the sunset on the beach.
All of the beaches allow alcohol as long as it’s not in glass. We found these premixed drinks at the grocery store called Gasolina. They were very popular and very yummy, basically adult Capri Sun. If you like Rum Punch, grab some, it was only $1 for each of them.
It was a PACKED first day, but we love getting to explore, you might decide to take extra days or spread some things out if it’s too much to handle. We decided to take the next two days slower.
Day 3 in San Juan Puerto Rico
The morning and afternoon we spent at the beach to relax after a busy day exploring the first day. The beach at the end of our street was perfect. There was shade to sit in at the back once the sun got too much. (No sun cancer for us!) The waves were nonexistent, and the water was perfectly aqua.
The day was perfectly bringing a small cooler out with some Medalla Light and Rum Punch. Hello, exactly why we Ubered everywhere; we were on vacation! Our Airbnb had a kitchen, so we made lunch in the kitchen, which was perfect.
Night 3 in San Juan Puerto Rico
We did find a very taco spot right around the corner from our Airbnb for dinner. It was called Fillie’s, and the tacos were excellent. We just stumbled on it, walking to the grocery store the first day.
Old San Juan at Night
We headed into Old San Juan for the night to explore this beautiful city at night. We explored the streets some more and found so many more gorgeous alleys and streets. This city is perfect for lovers of color.
One neat spot we found was the Puerto Rican Flag House. When painted originally, it was in the colors of the flag. The artist changed it the black to protest many of the issues going on, on the island. It’s officially called La Puerta de la Bandera. It’s beautiful and truly spoke to me as we were in the middle of a protest of a much smaller scale in our own city. Art truly is the most beautiful of protests.
We hopped around to some different bars to explore. They were all unique from toilets for seats to dollar bills for wallpaper to La Factoria (another Despacito filming location). This bar is unique because it has three parts, but the others don’t open until after 10 pm, so come later. San Juan is a party city, so it’s best to relax during the afternoon and come out later.
We ended up in the end at our favorite 90 cent beer bar, because we got tired of paying the tourist prices of $3 to $4 down near the cruise terminal. If you like tourist spots there is a Senor Frogs and more tourist bars in that area.
Day 4 in San Juan Puerto Rico
Exploring the Forts
There are two significant forts in Old San Juan Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo de San Cristobal. It’s $7/each person to visit and well worth the money. These are huge, and there is so much to explore.
We started at San Cristobal as it was the closest. There are multiple stories, explore them all. There are old pirate drawings and a perfect birds-eye view of the city. We explored for about an hour and loved it.
We walked to the San Felipe del Morro next. It’s a little bit of a walk, but we wanted to explore some more. We stopped to see the cemetery from above and got another glimpse of La Perla on the way. You can Uber, but it’s so much fun to walk this beautiful city.
San Felipe del Morro is even more beautiful than San Cristobal. It has gorgeous architecture from bell towers to a lighthouse. Though it does have much less to see, explore it, and enjoy the magnificent teal water all around.
Casa de Bacardi
We ate lunch and then headed down to the ferry terminal. The ferry terminal is right where the cruise ships let off too, so it’s hard to miss. It’s at Pier 2. The ferry is 50 cents per person, and then you have to hop a cab over to the factory. The taxi is only $3 per person, and they are waiting when you hop off. We ended up deciding to Uber back as it was easier for us at that point.
We did the Historical Tour, which was $14/person. It included the guided tour, a souvenir cup, and one cocktail before the tour starts.
Enjoy your cocktail and explore around. There are some neat photo ops, and it’s relaxing. When you are ready, you can hop on the next tram for the tours.
The tour is very informative and takes you through the whole history. It’s very well done; it felt like a Disney tour.
When you are done, you end up in the gift shop and can buy anything extra you want, including some rum only sold here.
After the tour, we headed back to the beach for a bit. It was our little paradise. If we do it again, we would spend a few more beach days.
Night 4 in San Juan Puerto Rico
We ventured out to dinner a bit more this night to a place we had found online. It was in the middle of town, near Santurce, so we Ubered there. It’s called Lote23, and it’s a sandy area cleared out with permanent food trucks. We wandered around a bit to decide on what we wanted and agreed on hand-cut fries from one truck with fun dipping sauces and hand-breaded chicken tenders from another, plus some Medalla Light from the bar truck.
OH, MY WORD! This might have been some of the best chicken tenders and fries we have ever had. (And if you know that we eat like 5-year-olds, we know our chicken tenders and fries!) If you are a more adventurous eater, they had all kinds of food from tacos to poke bowls to pizza and more. There was something for everyone. It’s a gorgeous area as well, and there is live music some nights.
We headed back to see Plaza Mercado at night when things start going. It’s rumored they have the best Mojito in Puerto Rico. We haven’t had all of those, but it was a delicious one. It was the most expensive drink we got at a whole $9 but worth it. It randomly started pouring while we were sitting at the market, so we had to run into a nearby bar. They had karaoke, live music and lots of dancing going on. It was lots of fun, and we would recommend a late night out there.
Afterward, we headed to Calle Loiza, which was near our Airbnb, thanks to a recommendation from one of our Uber drivers. If you like nightlife, this is the spot to hit. It was crowded with live DJs and lots going on. We bar hopped for a bit and hit Murphy’s Law Irish Pub for a chill drink and some more live music, Rumors Bistro, and Bar, which was a cute spot, and finally El Barrio for dancing and a DJ. We even ran into a couple from North Carolina, which was random! Unfortunately, we forgot to snap many pics from here, so you have to trust us.
Day 5 in San Juan Puerto Rico
Old San Juan
After a late-night, we slept in a bit and headed back to town to explore a bit on the last day. We headed back to Paseo de la Princesa again to explore again since it was so pretty.
Then we headed back into town to see some corners we hadn’t seen still. El Convento is a gorgeous hotel to take a peek in, and there is a magnificent colorful alleyway right beside it for photos.
We wanted to explore another beach to see if it was worth swimming, so we headed over to Playita del Condado. It was beautiful and a cove so calm, clear water, however, it was very crowded so after a bit exploring we headed back to our beach.
We soaked up the last day we had at our gorgeous teal water beach in Ocean Park. It was such a relaxing and magnificent spot. We would highly recommend Ocean Park to stay; it was a beautiful and perfect spot.
As much as we loved Medalla Light, our craft beer-loving hearts had to see at least one brewery while we were in Puerto Rico, so we headed down to Isla Verde to Ocean Lab Brewing Company. The brewery is in a day resort, so it’s quite relaxing and beautiful to see. The beers were all delicious, light, and refreshing, so perfect for the hot days in Puerto Rico.
Night 5 in San Juan Puerto Rico
We headed to Lote23 for dinner again since it was so good the night before. From there, we walked from there to Plaza Mercado and stumbled upon a gorgeous old school and some pretty murals. Jungle Bird was there and a bar we wanted to explore, we heard it was a unique bar, and it had been closed on other days. Unfortunately, we weren’t impressed, so we decided to head back into Old San Juan.
Old San Juan
We waited until it finally got late enough for La Factoria to open fully, and it’s very worth it to go when all three rooms are open. It’s an excellent experience and just like the Despacito music video. We had a 6:15 am flight, but hey, we can sleep when we are dead, right? So we stayed out well past midnight, but it was worth it. We headed home to sleep for a nap and catch an Uber bright and early in the morning. It was the cheapest mileage flight and worked perfectly for our short & budget trip.
Want to take your own budget five nights in San Juan Puerto Rico trip?
Here is the breakdown of this shorter & budget trip. Most people are, but we aren’t big foodies, so we didn’t spend a lot of money on food.
Trip Cost Total Breakdown:
Airbnb: $397.44 ($449.63 before gift card)
Flights: $22.40 plus mileage
Uber total: $89.54 plus about $30 for Airport Taxi to total $119.54
Fee for Forts: $14 for two people to both forts
Fee for Bacardi: $28 for two tours and drinks
Transportation to Bacardi: $7 for ferry and taxi
Total Expenses: $588.38 ($730.11 if you didn’t have any Airbnb or Uber discounts) plus food & drinks (Which if you stick to the 90 cent beer, doesn’t add on much!)
All photos on this blog were taken on the Samsung Galaxy S10 and edited with Lightroom Mobile
See more budget trips:
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