Take a break from the beach and Old San Juan to spend an afternoon at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico!
This amazing art museum is the perfect place to learn about Puerto Rican arts and culture. It's a must stop on any visit to San Juan!
What activities top your San Juan bucket list?
Maybe its spending a day in Old San Juan, relaxing on the beach, doing a rum tasting, or visiting the historic forts. Those are all certainly fun things to do in Puerto Rico's capital city ... I know I'd recommend them.
But there is so much more to see in San Juan!
I love visiting museums on any vacation. A great museum can add context to a city's culture and history, and San Juan's Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico is no exception.
About the Museum
San Juan's Museum of Puerto Rican art is one of the top museums in Puerto Rico, and it's easy to see why.
First of all, the museum itself is beautiful. It's located in artsy Santurce (my fave San Juan neighborhood that's also worth exploring), and it's housed in the former San Juan Municipal Hospital. The museum has two wings with a gorgeous, multi-story Grand Hall in the middle.
And if you think the exterior of the building is stunning, then just wait until you see the verdant, sculpture-filled gardens in the back!
Although its education center was flooded and its garden lost many trees, the museum was not significantly damaged during Hurricane Maria. In fact, the museum was able to help preserve and store over 220 artworks and artifacts from other institutions around the island. You can read more about how Hurricane Maria affected Puerto Rico's museums here.
The museum, which opened in 2000, is home to a large collection of art by Puerto Rican artists that will enhance your understanding of the island and its people.
During your visit, you'll see artwork from Puerto Rican master artists, as well as contemporary artists. Its art collection represents works from the 17th century to the present.
Many of the works touch on Puerto Rico's history and culture, including its colonization by Spain and the U.S and the lasting effects on the Puerto Rican people.
The wide range of art presented at the museum is impressive. From classical painting to striking prints and thought-provoking installations, there is something for every art lover.
The Grand Hall
At the center of the museum, is the beautiful Grand Hall, and it's impossible to miss.
Isn't the stained glass wall stunning? It's hard to capture this colorful, multi-story piece in a photo. So rest assured, it's even more breathtaking in person!
This intricate work was created by Eric Tabales and is called "Sol Naciente Taíno" (Rising Taíno Sun). The Taíno were a group of indigenous people who were wiped out by Spanish colonizers.
It's a little difficult to make out from the photo, but according to a museum guide, the half circle in the middle is the sun. Above it are the mountains of Puerto Rico. The blue sections represent traditional Taíno markings.
The museum's collection is home to more than 1,000 works of art, including prints, paintings, drawings, sculpture, photographs, new media, and more. Its 24 galleries display the permanent collection, as well as temporary exhibits.
I've loved printmaking ever since I studied it in college, and the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico has a wonderful collection.
The works on display range from fine art prints to colorful posters.
I didn't take a lot of pictures in the museum. These are just a few of the prints caught my eye.
"Turistas", a silkscreen by Lorenzo Homar, made me laugh!
The woodcut print below by José Alicea called "Paisaje antibelico #3" ("Anti-war landscape #3").
It's hard to tell from my photo, but it's huge. I'm guessing about 4 to 5 feet wide.
The black parts of the work were printed, and the colorful areas were hand painted. I love how the print is displayed next to the block used to create it.
Sculpture Botanical Garden
After checking out all the exhibits, make sure to head outside to explore the Sculpture Botanical Garden. This stunning 2.5 acre space that can best be described as a tropical oasis ... with art!
The Mueso de Arte de Puerto Rico's sculpture 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, and as you walk through the garden, you'll pass through a forest of native trees, a rain forest, a bamboo forest, and a prairie.
Although the museum's building wasn't severely damaged by Hurricane Maria, the Sculpture Botanical Garden lost 12 trees. It's still beautiful and vibrant, but you may notice a difference if you've visited the museum in the past.
A walkway runs through the garden, connecting the natural environment with 13 sculptures by Puerto Rican artists. And there's a beautiful pond in the center which is home to a wide variety of tropical fish.
You may even spot a coquí, a small frog that gets its name from the sound it makes. You'll see images of this beloved frog all over Puerto Rico.
I've been on a mission to see a coquí since my first visit to Puerto Rico ... with no luck. After searching high and low for the elusive coquí (in El Yunque rainforest and beyond), I finally saw one at this San Juan museum!
The man who gave me the museum tour told me that tiny frogs hang out in the plants in front of the museum, as well as on the rocks near the pond. And what do you know? I spotted a couple of them hopping around near the pond.
They were minuscsule (no bigger than a pinky nail), so keep your eyes peeled, and you may spot one, too!
Take your time meandering along the garden's path, enjoying in the calming blend of art and nature.
The lush, tropical garden has lots of nooks and crannies. A unique piece of art can be found around every turn of the path.
These photos are from my two trips to the museum. So if some look brighter and sunnier than the other, that's way.
A word of advice ... don't be like me! I would not recommend wearing pants if you plan on spending any length of time outside.
San Juan's weather is hot and humid ... some might say steamy. Shorts, a dress, or a skirt will be much more comfortable!
The garden is especially lovely in the afternoon light. And you'll probably get to enjoy a little shade, too, which is always nice in Puerto Rico's hot climate.
No matter when you visit the museum and its gardens, it's sure to be a trip to remember though!
Tours of the Museum
I've visited the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico a few times now. On my first visit, I explored the museum on my own (as I usually do at museums). On my second visit though, I was offered an impromptu personal tour, and it added so much to my experience!
You can learn a lot about the museum's exhibits simply by reading the captions (which are presented in Spanish and English), of course. But a guide can bring a much deeper understanding to the art.
My guide pointed out aspects of the art I never would have noticed, the meaning behind the works and connections between the pieces, and even the interesting techniques used to created the works. He even told me where to spot the iconic Puerto Rican coquí in the sculpture garden!
I'd highly recommend arranging a tour of the museum ... it's sure to be the highlight of your visit. Tours are available in Spanish or English, and can be scheduled ahead of time. There are also regularly scheduled tours on Saturdays and Sundays.
Tips for Planning Your Visit
I hope you enjoyed learning about this wonderful museum! Keep reading for everything you need to plan your visit.
The museum is located in San Juan's vibrant Santurce neighborhood (299 Avenida de Diego, Santurce, Puerto Rico 00909). Parking is available nearby at the San Juan Health Centre, Plaza de Diego Building, Centro de Bellas Artes Luis A. Ferrer, and Ciudadela.
Currently, visiting hours are Friday through Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 PM. Double check before your visit to confirm.
The fee for the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico is $6 for adults or $3 for children, students, people with disabilities, and seniors (plus tax).
How Much Time to Allot
The museum is fairly small, and if you don't dawdle, you could speed through the exhibits in an hour. I would recommend spending at least a two to three hours though. That will give you plenty of time to enjoy the exhibits and garden without rushing.
Complementary guided tours are available (in English and Spanish) on Saturdays and Sundays for a more in depth exploration of the museum's exhibits. Tours at other times may also be arranged in advance, and I would highly recommend setting one up.
More Things to Do in Puerto Rico
There is so much to see and do in Puerto Rico! Here are some ideas to keep you busy after your visit to the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico:
- Get artsy! A visit to Santurce, Puerto Rico is a must on any trip to San Juan, especially if you're visiting the Museo de Arte. You'll love the street art, museums, and good food you find here.
- Check out everything else there is to see in San Juan. My comprehensive guide covers the 20 best Things to Do in San Juan, and you'll want to see them all!
- Explore colorful, historic Old San Juan. Here are 10 Things to Do in Old San Juan that you don't want to miss.
- Learn about Puerto Rico's colonial history. A visit to the forts at the San Juan National Historic Site will give you peek into the island's past.
- Visit El Yunque Rainforest. A visit to El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest System, is a must on any Puerto Rico bucket list.
- Hit the Beach. You can't go to Puerto Rico without spending a day (or ten) at the beach. Two of my faves are Isla Verde Beach in Carolina (the perfect place to stay when visiting San Juan, by the way) and Luquillo, Puerto Rico which has multiple beaches to choose from.
Have you ever been to this Puerto Rican museum? What was your favorite part?