Join me for quick tropical getaway … we’re spending 48 hours in San Juan, Puerto Rico!
Since I wrote this post, Puerto Rico has been devastated by Hurricane Maria, leaving millions of American citizens without food, water, electric, medicine, and other basic necessities. If you’d like to help, you can donate to the Red Cross here or to another disaster recovery fund here.
I’ve mentioned a few times that my husband travels for work. He’s usually gone four days a week, and it’s pretty much all domestic travel.
Every once in a while I get to tag along with him to places like Oklahoma City or New Orleans, which is always fun. Well, a couple weeks ago, he booked a last minute trip to Puerto Rico, and guess who went with him? Lucky me, that’s who!
While my husband was working (don’t feel too bad, he has a fun job!), I was making the most of my 48 hours in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I absolutely fell in love with San Juan and know that you will, too!
48 Hours in San Juan, Puerto Rico
I found so many things to do in San Juan … definitely more than I had time for. San Juan is a vibrant, beautiful city filled with friendly people. There are delicious food and colorful sights around seemingly every corner.
If you’re visiting San Juan, Puerto Rico anytime soon, or even just dreaming of a visit, this travel guide is for you! It’s filled with fun Puerto Rico vacation ideas that are perfect for couples, groups of friends, or even single travelers.
I’m breaking my 48 hours in San Juan, Puerto Rico trip into four posts … mostly because I took a million pictures! Today is all about the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, the hip Santurce neighborhood, and a fun foodie destination, Lote 23.
Let’s get started!
Day 1: Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, Santurce, and Lote 23
I think I got about three hours of sleep the night before we flew into San Juan! Our flight left very early in the morning and I had a bunch of loose ends work-wise that needed wrapping up the night before.
It was a long trip … about 8.5 hours from Dallas with a 2 hour stop in Orlando. Although I napped a bit on the plane, I was super tired when we arrived in Puerto Rico. I was seriously considering just hanging out at the hotel pool and calling it a day.
Thankfully, I was able to rally myself … I had just shy of 48 hours in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and I wanted to make the most of it. Of course, that gorgeous view above as we flew in helped get me exited, too!
My plan for the first day was to visit the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico and then get dinner nearby.
Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
My husband dropped me off across from the museum on his way to work.
I took a quick walk around the plaza across the street from the museum. It’s filled with art, and I believe that’s the Gubernamental Roberto Sanchez Vilella building in the background.
Then, it was time to head into the beautiful Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico.
The Museo is Puerto Rico’s contemporary art museum. It’s housed in the restored San Juan Municipal Hospital.
I arrived around 5 pm. And although I knew the museum was open late on Wednesdays, I didn’t realize that admission was free Wednesday evenings (it’s normally $6.00 for adults). My trip was already off to a good start!
The museum has two wings (one holding the permanent collection, and the other showcasing changing exhibits) with a gorgeous, multi-story Grand Hall in the middle. Isn’t that stained glass stunning?
I started on the top floor and worked my way down.
There was a wide range of exhibits from older pieces to more recent works. I especially enjoyed the Víctor Vázquez. Flea Market exhibit and the many gorgeous fine art prints on display.
I studied printmaking in college, so I’m always in awe of the work and talent that goes into creating a beautiful print.
I didn’t take a lot of pictures in the museum, but a few pieces caught my eye.
“Turistas”, a silkscreen by Lorenzo Homar, made me laugh!
The art below is a woodcut by José Alicea called “Paisaje antibelico #3” (“Anti-war landscape #3”).
It’s hard to tell from my photo, but it was huge! I’m guessing about 4 to 5 feet wide.
After checking out all the exhibits, I headed outside to the Sculpture Botanical Garden, a 2.5 acre space that can best be described as a tropical oasis … with art!
I was mostly by myself in the garden, and it was absolutely gorgeous and relaxing.
The Mueso de Arte de Puerto Rico’s Sculpture Botanical Garden is home to close to 365 trees and over 106,000 plants, including bushes, vines, flowers, and creeping plants. It’s so lush and beautiful.
A walkway runs through the garden, connecting the natural environment with 13 sculpture.
I didn’t even realize that the museum had an outdoor garden before arriving, so this was a wonderful surprise, to say the least!
I took my time meandering along.
There was a new piece of art nestled in the tropical garden around every turn of the path.
The flowers were as beautiful as the art!
Don’t be like me … wearing pants in Puerto Rico in summer is clearly not a good idea!
In my defense, I had just gotten off the plane, and I knew I’d freeze in the museum’s air conditioning. However, I definitely should have changed into shorts or a dress at the hotel first.
It was hot!
Can you spot J. Lo below? There’s a freeway on the other side of that wall, and it seemed like everywhere we went, there was J. Lo, too!
As I made my way around the garden, it was starting to get dark.
My plan was to walk to dinner from the museum. Since I was by myself and unfamiliar with the neighborhood, it was time to pick up the pace.
I found out I was going on this trip about three days before I left, so I didn’t have a lot of planning time. Because I was only going to be there for 48 hours, and because I’d mostly be by myself, I was looking for things to do in San Juan that were must see sights in safe neighborhoods. The highlights, if you will.
Of course, I made some fun and unexpected discoveries along the way. One of which was the San Juan’s Santurce district.
Santurce is the biggest and most populated district in the capital. It’s also cool and artsy with lots of shops and restaurants.
I was really only able to explore Santurce around the museum and on my way to dinner (my husband saw a bit more as he was driving around), but I loved the little bit I did see. The small area I walked around was filled with public art, busy cafes and restaurants, and stores that I wish I had time to check out.
It’s on my list to explore further next time, that’s for sure!
Dinner at Lote 23
When I travel, I’m all about finding great, but affordable restaurants. There were a number of delicious sounding places around the Museo.
I decided that Lote 23 would be my best bet, since it was only a few blocks from the museum, and it ended up being a great choice!
Lote 23 is basically an permanent, open air food truck court. You’ll find everything from Puerto Rican food to fried chicken, burgers, frites, bao, wine, pizza, and more.
I ended up eating at Wok It!, a noodle stand, which was delicious. And by this point I was totally schvitzing (those dang pants!), so I was happy to sit down, cool off, and do a little people watching while I ate.
I’d definitely head back on a future visit to try some of the other options. Lote 23 would be the perfect place to bring a group, and in fact, most of the people I saw were families, groups of friends, and couples. Not a lot of tourists, which is usually a good sign, in my opinion.
Tip: Lote 23’s website is in Spanish, but you can get find info about the different food trucks/stands in English on Yelp.
After dinner at Lote 23, I took an Uber back to the hotel to meet with my husband and rest up for day two!
San Juan, Puerto Rico Travel Tips
Are you planning a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico soon? Here are some general travel tips you might find useful:
- San Juan is warm year round. Puerto Rico has a very consistent climate and average temperatures range from 75° to 85°F (24°-29°C) year round. The rainy season stretches from April through November, however the weather is wettest and hottest in summer, especially August. It rained every day I was there, but the storms passed quickly. You probably don’t need an umbrella if you’ll be somewhere you can duck under an overhanging for a few minutes.
- Dress in breathable clothing. Summer weather in San Juan can best be described as hot and humid … it’s a tropical climate. Pack a hat and pile on the sunscreen. Wear clothing made from natural fabrics, like loose tops and shorts or dresses. The good news is that you can wear sandals year round!
- Drink plenty of water and take some breaks from touristing. Have I mentioned that it’s hot and humid in San Juan? 😉 I’m not going to lie, I was uncomfortably hot and sweaty while I was there. However, once I stopped to drink water and cool off, I was ready to keep going. Be realistic and add some cooling off time into your schedule!
- Learn a few Spanish phrases. In my experience, most Puerto Ricans I talked to spoke English, especially when confronted with my Spanish (ha!). However, if you want to be a courteous traveler, you shouldn’t expect people to speak English to you. Learning a few simple words and phrases, such as hola, gracias, buenas días / tardes / noches, etc. will go a long way.
- Puerto Rico is part of the United States. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the US … the politics of which I will avoid discussing. (But if you’re Puerto Rican, I’d love to hear your thoughts.) Anyway, that means that US visitors do not need a passport to visit. And the currency is US dollars, which makes it easy to travel there from the US.
- You can use your US cellphone in Puerto Rico. Definitely double check with your carrier, but in general, you should be able to use your US cellphone in Puerto Rico without paying extra fees.
- Traffic is comparable to the US. Don’t feel intimidated driving in San Juan. It’s similar to driving in a busy US city, although be aware that they do use the metric system. My husband also mentioned that many of the major roads outside of the city are toll roads, but your rental car will probably come equipped with an AutoExpreso box to automatically pay the tolls.
Did you enjoy reading about my first day in San Juan, Puerto Rico?
Please share this post, then make sure to check out all of the highlights from my trip to Puerto Rico!
- Part 1: 48 Hours in San Juan Puerto Rico … you’re here!
- Part 2: Isla Verde Beach … all about beautiful Isla Verde Beach in Carolina, Puerto Rico + the best places to stay in San Juan.
- Part 3: San Juan National Historic Site … this amazing U.S. National Park and World Heritage Site is a must see when visiting San Juan!
- Part 4: 10 Things to Do in Old San Juan … explore this historic, walled city!
Have you ever visited San Juan?
P.S. Check out all of my travel stories for more vacation inspiration!