Visiting San Juan? Step off the beaten track and check out vibrant Santurce, San Juan's coolest neighborhood!
There are so many things to do in Santurce, Puerto Rico ... from art to restaurants to nightlife and more!
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So you've seen Old San Juan, shopped your way through Condado, and worked on your tan at the beach. What else is there to do in San Juan?
Explore Santurce, that's what! If you enjoy arts and culture, then you are going to adore San Juan's lively arts district.
I fell in love with colorful, artsy Santurce from the moment I first stepped foot in it. The street art initially drew me in ... it felt like there was amazing mural around every corner (and there is!). But the museums, restaurants, and nightlife have kept me coming back.
Santurce isn't a perfectly preserved neighborhood like Old San Juan. It's a little gritty, and you may even see it compared to Brooklyn. Which is somewhat apt, if you're thinking pre-gentrification Bushwick more than bougie Williamsburg. But there's really no need to compare this fun neighborhood to someplace else, when it's a totally unique place in its own right.
Are you ready to start exploring this neighborhood for yourself? Then keep reading to learn about all of my favorite things to do in Santurce, Puerto Rico!
About Santurce, Puerto Rico
Santurce is San Juan's biggest and most densely populated barrio with over 94,000 residents. The vast neighborhood is comprised of many sub-districts (including the popular Condado) and is located on the northeast coast of Puerto Rico, sitting between Old San Juan to the east and Isla Verde to the west.
The area has attracted artists and other creative types for decades, including a number of notable residents, like Benicio del Toro and José Ferrer. As a result, you'll see art everywhere you turn here, from murals to museums and more.
Santurce has had its ups and downs through the years, and it definitely feels a little rough around the edges in some areas. Don't let that deter you from visiting though, because there are so many fun things to see and do here!
Is Santurce safe?
San Juan is like any other city ... some areas are safer than others. Santurce can feel a bit dilapidated in spots, but you should feel comfortable exploring the neighborhood during the day (especially if you stick to the areas outlined below). I've done it on my own many times!
At night, I'd recommend getting an Uber or taxi if you plan to walk more than a few blocks. There just won't be many other people walking around, and of course, there's safety in numbers. Again though, my husband and I have walked around the busier areas (like between La Placita, La Penúltima, and Lote 23) at night with no issues. Use your common sense, and you should be fine.
10 Things to Do in Santurce
So what exactly is there to do in Santurce, Puerto Rico? Lots!
Most of the ideas you'll find below are located on or around Calle Loiza, Avenida José de Diego, Avenida Juan Ponce de León, and Calle Cerra. Although Condado is part of Santurce, it's worthy of its own guide, and I'm going to save it for another day.
You can walk between all these places during the day (or pick one area to focus on). If you do walk, make sure to take lots of breaks along the way to combat Puerto Rico's hot, humid weather. Uber is a great option, too, especially at night.
Santurce Map --->> To make planning your visit easier, check out my Google map of Santurce. Open it on your phone as you explore the neighborhood ... everything I cover about below is marked on the map.
1. Visit a Museum
The first thing I ever did in Santurce (or San Juan, for that matter) was visit the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. That should probably be an indication how much I love art ... ha ha!
I've been back a couple times, and you should visit at least once, too. This wonderful museum (which is set in a former hospital) is the perfect place to learn about Puerto Rican art, culture, and history. You'll find a range of exciting exhibits here, ranging from contemporary works to those of historical importance ... and if you're lucky, you may even get a private tour like I did on my last visit.
Don't miss the beautiful sculpture botanical garden ... it's especially lovely in the evening as the sun sets. The garden is the first and only place I've seen Puerto Rico's iconic coquí frog. Keep your eyes peeled around the pond, and you just might spot one, too (it was tiny).
The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico is another museum worth visiting in Santurce. As you can probably guess, the focus here is on contemporary art. I've wanted to visit this museum for a while, but my timing has always been off ... next time!
Love the performing arts? Then head to the Centro de Bellas Arts Luis A. Ferre instead.
2. Check Out the Amazing Street Art
The other kind of art you'll want to see in Santurce is the street art!
You'll find murals practically everywhere you turn in Santurce ... you don't have to look hard at all. For the biggest concentration of outdoor art though, walk along Calle Loiza, Avenida Juan Ponce de León, and Calle Cerra.
San Juan also has an annual street art festival festival called Santurce es Ley (Santurce is law). I'd love to visit during that time to see the murals going up!
Note: the area around Calle Cerra and Avenida Juan Ponce de León (between Avenida José de Diego and Calle Cerra) can feel a little gritty. There are a lot of rundown, empty buildings. I walked around both of these areas alone during the day and had no problems. But depending on your comfort zone, you may feel more secure with a partner.
3. Get Your Toes Wet at Ocean Park Beach
Can you even say you visited Puerto Rico without hitting the beach? Probably not!
Ocean Park Beach in Santurce is a little more laid-back than the beaches you'll find in Condado or Isla Verde, but no less beautiful.
The area around Ocean Park Beach is lined with condos, so accessing it can be a little tricky. But here are three good spots to do so:
- Parque del Indio (right by Condado)
- The end of Calle Santa Ana
- Parque Barbosa / El Ultimo Trolley (this entrance has parking)
Make sure to check out my map to pinpoint these entrances to Ocean Park Beach.
4. Explore Calle Loiza
If you want to explore the Main Street of Santurce, Calle Loiza is it!
Calle Loiza is a fun place to spend a relaxed morning or afternoon (or stay late for drinks). Start by grabbing a bite to eat ... I loved Pinky's (their goat cheese scramble was delish). But there are lots of other popular spots, like Kamoli, Café Tresbé, and Acapulco Taquería Mexicana, too.
After you're finished eating, wander around exploring the shops and street art.
5. Grab a Bite at a Food Truck
Speaking of food, one of my favorite places to eat in San Juan is Lote 23.
Lote 23 is basically a permanent food truck court. Wander between the various trucks to choose from Puerto Rican food, pizza, croquetas, noodles, frites, and more. They also have carts serving beer and cocktails, as well as events like yoga and movies.
I've been to Lote 23 a bunch of times, and everything I've tried has been super tasty. Beyond the food though, the atmosphere is lively, and it's a fun place to chat with locals. On my last visit, we sat with a group who gave us lots of travel tips and regaled us with tales of their drag queen brunch earlier in the day.
If you like food trucks, another great option is the Miramar Food Truck Park, which is located right by Calle Cerra. It would be the perfect break on your street art tour!
6. Enjoy the Beautiful Architecture
I love the mixture of architecture that you'll find in Santurce.
You'll find a wide range of buildings here, from low-rise businesses and single family homes to high rise condos, and even government buildings. Architecture styles range from Spanish-influenced to Art Deco to modern.
A couple buildings of note are the beautiful Parroquia Sagrado Corazón de Jesús (which you'll pass by if you walk along Avenida Juan Ponce de León toward Miramar) and historic La Placita (more on that below).
Santurce has been through a number of economic ups and downs, so you will probably see a few abandoned buildings. It's sad to see these beautiful buildings sit empty, but it definitely feels like the area is on the upswing again.
7. Dance the Night Away at La Placita
Want a taste of authentic Puerto Rican nightlife? Head to La Placita!
Plaza del Mercado, or La Placita as it's more commonly known, is a traditional market during the day. It truly comes to life in the evening though, as the streets fill with people enjoying the many bars and restaurants that surround it.
Visit La Placita in the evening (Thursday through Saturday are the busiest nights), and you'll be treated to live music and dancing in the streets. Grab a bite to eat or a drink, then join in the fun ... the festive atmosphere is contageous!
The streets really come alive Thursday through Saturday, but don't worry if you can't make it then. We visited on a Sunday, and the party was still going. I also went back during the day and checked out the market. It was filled with fresh produce, but instead of veggies, I enjoyed delicious batido (smoothie) ... the perfect treat for cooling off under that hot Puerto Rican sun.
8. Relax Over Cocktails at La Penúltima
There are many (many) places to enjoy a drink in San Juan, but La Penúltima is a favorite.
Come here for delicious craft cocktails and beer ... the Beehive is perfection, as far as I'm concerned. La Penúltima also serves food, and it's delicious ... perfect for curing those late night cravings!
Beyond the drinks, you'll love the chill atmosphere, friendly bartenders, and great music. And the colorful backyard is the ideal place to wile away an evening.
9. Get Inspired at Santurce's Art Galleries
Don't let your love of arts stop at the museums or in the streets!
Santurce is also home to a number of art galleries. These spaces are the perfect place to enjoy the work of local artists and perhaps take a piece home with you.
You may need an appointment to visit the galleries, so inquire ahead of time.
10. Visit Historic Miramar
Miramar is lovely, upscale area of Santurce that's definitely worth a visit.
The neighborhood features pretty tree-lined streets and beautiful old homes and buildings. In fact, the whole area has been designated as a historical district.
There isn't a whole lot to do here per se, but Miramar is worth a trip if you're exploring nearby Calle Cerra or if you love vintage architecture. While you are there, make sure to walk around the verdant streets and to check out the neo-Gothic Nuestra Señora de Lourdes Chapel.
Miramar has a number of good restaurants, too. The delicious lemonade at Pure & Natural, a restaurant and juice bar, saved me on a hot day. And for a fun evening out, I can't recommend Casita Miramar enough! We had a wonderful dinner there ... both the food and atmosphere were amazing.
Things to Know Before Visiting
I hope you enjoyed reading about this awesome neighborhood! It's definitely worth visiting on your next vacation in San Juan.
Here are a few tips to help plan your trip:
One Day Itinerary for Santurce, Puerto Rico
Only have a day to spend? Santurce is known for its vibrant art scene (murals and museums), night life, authentic Puerto Rican food, and urban vibe ... this one day itinerary will help you experience it all!
- Start with breakfast or brunch on Calle Loiza, then take your time exploring the murals and shops.
- Next head to the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. Don't forget to visit the gorgeous sculpture botanical garden before leaving.
- From there, walk over to Lote 23 and grab lunch at one of the food trucks.
- Walk off your lunch by exploring the street art along Avenida Juan Ponce de León and Calle Cerra. Stop by the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico if you have time.
- From Calle Cerra, head over to Miramar via Avenida Juan Ponce de León. Check out Nuestra Señora de Lourdes Chapel, then enjoy dinner at Casita Miramar.
- Join the crowds at La Placita for drinks and dancing in the streets, then finish the night with a cocktail at nearby La Penúltima.
Where to Stay
We usually stay at the Intercontinental in Isla Verde, which is located right on the beach and just a quick drive or Uber away from Santurce, or at the Holiday Inn Express in Condado, which is a great budget-friendly option in an excellent location.
If you want to stay in Santurce, your best best would be a hotel in Condado ... there's tons going on in that area, and it's very centrally located. Another option would be an Airbnb near Calle Loiza or a hotel in Miramar (both the Hotel Miramar and the Courtyard San Juan Miramar get good reviews).
Santurce is very walkable (especially along Calle Loiza), although it's spread out. You may need to stop for a few cool drinks or cocktails along the way. At night, I'd recommend taking an Uber if you'll be walking more than a few blocks. And parking can be really tight in Santurce, so leave your car behind or park it in a garage.
Other Things to Do in San Juan (and Beyond)
There is so much to see and do in Puerto Rico! These ideas will keep you busy long after your visit to Santurce:
- Visit all the must see sites in San Juan. There is so much to do in this fun city! Make sure to read my guide to the 20 best Things to Do in San Juan before your trip.
- 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.
- Hit the Beach. You can’t go to Puerto Rico without spending a day (or ten) at the beach. Check out nearby Isla Verde Beach or head to Luquillo, Puerto Rico which has some of the best beaches on the island.
- 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.
Have you been to San Juan? What is your favorite neighborhood?