1 Perfect San Juan in One Day Itinerary

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Greetings Internet Stranger, and welcome to a perfect San Juan in one day itinerary. Now, we’re going to start this itinerary with a trip to the famous Bacardi distillery.

A more pretentious blogger would begin this San Juan in one day itinerary by peering snootily over an imaginary pair of bifocals and telling you that most Puerto Ricans do not choose Bacardi Rum. Generally speaking, Don Q is the most popular local rum brand. Also, Bacardi is originally from Cuba, not Puerto Rico.

All of these things are true, Internet Stranger. And yet the Bacardi tour still manages to be one of the most popular attractions in San Juan!

So that’s where I’m taking you on this San Juan in one day itinerary (among other fun places in San Juan. Leave the pretentiousness for others! As for myself, I choose good times and rum. (Bacardi, I bequeath to you that slogan free of charge.)

san juan in one day itinerary

San Juan in One Day Itinerary

Where to Stay?

There are so many wonderful places you can choose to stay for your San Juan in one day itinerary. But my two favorite neighborhoods are the Old Town and the Ocean Park beachy area, so that’s what I’m going to share with you. (And yes, I visit Puerto Rico often enough that I’ve stayed in all these hotels myself.)

san juan in one day itinerary

Let’s say you prefer to take things slowly and you want to spend most of your day near the beach. Then the Ocean Park neighborhood is for you! One of the best places to stay there is the beautiful Andalucia House. The owner is very attentive, and the rooms are comfortable and convenient.

Or you could try the Dream Inn PR, which has an equally friendly staff, an equally convenient location, and provides breakfast at the Kasalta Bakery every morning. You can just relax in a hammock and take life easy here.

san juan in one day itinerary

I also have a couple of choices for you if you prefer the hustle and bustle of Old San Juan. Maybe you’ll want to stay at the Decanter Hotel which has a terrific location in the heart of Old Town at a very affordable price.

san juan in one day itinerary

What if money is not an object, and you prefer a more glam hotel? Then stay at El Convento, which is perhaps the most famous, and famously haunted, luxury hotel in the city. You can cozy up to the pet cat, enjoy the complimentary wine and cheese evenings, and snuggle up in that fabulous bed.

If The Decanter sounds right up your alley, you can book it if you click here. And if you just don’t trust anything I have to say and want to explore great deals on other hotels in San Juan, you can do that if you click here.

San Juan in One Day Itinerary

What to Pack?

  • A cell charger so that you can keep taking pictures of the bats of Bacardi all the live-long day.
  • My favorite guidebook to Puerto Rico
  • I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age, and you don’t want to get stranded in a foreign country without help. You never know when extreme weather will strike or some other emergency. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by deranged sentient coconuts on your San Juan in one day itinerary.
san juan in one day itinerary

San Juan in One Day Itinerary

Morning: Bacardi Tour

You read that headline correctly. I am definitely recommending that you start your San Juan in one day itinerary right with a rum tour. In my particular case, I had no choice in the matter. I was taking this tour as a shore excursion on my Royal Caribbean cruise. But the tour of the Bacardi distillery is provided by Bacardi, not by Royal Caribbean, which mostly provides the transportation to the distillery.

So you can easily take a taxi or Uber to and from the Bacardi Distillery and the main part of San Juan. (For what I hope are obvious reasons, I don’t recommend driving to and from the Bacardi Distillery yourself.)

If you want to do things the hard way, just book a tour in advance yourself on Bacardi’s website, and then book a taxi or an Uber there and back.

If you want to do things the easy way, book a trip with a tour company that will take you to and from the distillery. I used this one the last time I was in San Juan, and it was affordable and very convenient. Plus a charming driving tour of Old San Juan was included. You can book this tour easily yourself here.

Once you arrive at the Bacardi Distillery, your guide will greet you and take you on a lovely stroll around the premises. He will find that perfect balance between being enthusiastic about the rum without being creepily enthusiastic. Because of my guide’s rum wisdom, I am able to share with you…

Three fun facts: bacardi tour

one day in san juan itinerary
1) What is its mascot?

The mascot of the Bacardi distillery is the mighty bat. Bacardi rum was founded in Cuba by Don Facundo Bacardi Masso. He and his wife soon discovered that their tiny distillery had a family of bats living inside. Instead of evicting the bats and tying them to railroad tracks while twirling their mustaches and saying MWAHAHAHA, the Bacardis let the bats stay.

Soon the bats were pulling their fair share, eating the bugs that were attracted to the sugarcane used to make rum. In gratitude, the Bacardi family made bats their symbol. And that is why Bacardi is every vampire’s favorite rum brand.

san juan in one day itinerary
2) Where is bacardi from?

I mentioned earlier that Bacardi is originally from Cuba, yet they don’t manufacture it in Cuba anymore! As you can probably guess, the Bacardi family ran into some problems during the Cuban Revolution. The Bacardi Rum company had become quite successful, so they were less than thrilled with Castro’s government confiscating their assets.

However, Bacardi had begun expanding to other areas long before the Cuban Revolution. They first started operating in Puerto Rico in the 1930s. So they were fairly easily able to relocate. Now the Bacardi distillery in Puerto Rico is known as the Cathedral of Rum. I’m pretty sure the Bacardi company started that nickname themselves, but now other people call it that too! It’s always so nice when fetch finally happens.

san juan in one day itinerary
3) What about the drinking?

My favorite part of the tour was getting to see the different kinds of cocktails made with Bacardi rum. The three classics were the Cuba Libre, the Daiquiri, and the Mojito. A Cuba Libre is lime, rum, and Coke. You make it with 1 part rum for every two parts Coke. The Daiquiri is rum, lime juice, and sugar.

The guide at the Bacardi Distillery said the trick was to mix the sugar and lime juice first, then add the rum. I think adding the rum must be the real trick because no one wants to drink a virgin Daiquiri. Finally the mojito is the most complicated because you need lime, mint, water, bat wings, etc. I think the mojitos here are also considerably stronger than the mojito I had in Morocco.

san juan in one day itinerary
24 hour treat: daiquiri

The best part of the Bacardi Distillery tour is getting a giant free cocktail all to yourself. Spoiler alert! You also get to keep the cup. Unfortunately, the mojito is not included with the price of the tour, but you can get a daiquiri or a Cuba Libre.

I chose the Daiquiri because I feel like even I could handle mixing a rum and Coke together on my own. It was super refreshing, especially since the bartender used fresh lime in it. And now that we’re pleasantly buzzed before noon, it’s time to go exploring!

el jibarito san juan
24 Hour Treat: Lunch at El Jibarito

After you get back to Old San Juan, preferably by taxi or Uber, you’ll want to soak up all that rum with some lunch. My favorite casual restaurant in San Juan is El Jibarito. It’s famous for comida criolla, aka home-style cooking. Get some chicken with mofongo, a local beer, and prepare for a belly full of love.

san juan in one day itinerary

 The presentation at El Jibarito isn’t exactly gorgeous. After all, my tres leches cake was served in a little tin foil cup. But who cares about presentation when the food is this cozy in your tummy?

san juan in one day itinerary

San Juan in One Day Itinerary

Afternoon: Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico

The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico is arguably the best museum in San Juan. They have art from the very beginning of Puerto Rico’s history through the present day. Don’t have time to take a Puerto Rican history course? (And really, you should.) Just come to this museum because it’s just as informative and fascinating. This is definitely a can’t-miss stop on your San Juan in one day itinerary.

I don’t have time to show you everything in the museum, but I will try to get your attention with…

Approximately Top 5: Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico

one day in san juan itinerary
1) Jose Campeche

Mr. Campeche is one of the earliest artists in the museum because he dates back to the 18th century. In fact, he is apparently considered one of the finest Latin American artists of this century. Reading facts like this always makes me feel so inadequate because I don’t think I’m considered the finest anything of this century, unless it’s the finest eater of cheese plates.

Even though Campeche knew artists from the Spanish court, he wasn’t formally trained himself. But you can see that his work still looks European, and more specifically rococo. You can always tell when something is rococo if there’s a lot of gold and pink and it looks like a Very Fancy Lady would want it in her parlor.

san juan in one day itinerary
2) No Crying in the Barbershop

And here we have my favorite work of contemporary art in the museum, “No Crying in the Barbershop” by Pepon Osorio. This is an installation that actually looks like a real barbershop, only you can’t go inside or do anything in it or really get your hair cut, so if it were an actual barbershop, it would be a very bad one. But as a work of art, it is most intriguing.

I think the title “No Crying in the Barbershop” is a commentary on the oppressiveness of masculine stereotypes, but then I think every work of contemporary art is a commentary on the oppressiveness of masculine stereotypes. Also, I like how this installation makes you think of the ordinary beauty you can find in your average barbershop. Love really is all around us!

one day in san juan itinerary
3) Denise Quinones’s Crown

Not every object in the museum was intended to be a work of art. They have some artifacts with historical value as well. This crown and sash above belonged to the Puerto Rican beauty queen Denise Quinones who was eventually declared Miss Universe.

I was so excited to see this crown because I actually met Denise a couple of times when she dated a friend of mine! He was a totally ordinary looking guy, and when people asked him how he landed an actual literal Miss Universe, he just said he wasn’t too intimidated to approach her. That’s good life advice, Internet Stranger!

1 Perfect San Juan in One Day Itinerary 2
4) Veijigante Masks

Veijigante masks are a Puerto Rican religious tradition, and you can find them for sale in art galleries all over San Juan. They are meant to be worn at festival times, like at St. James Day or during Carnival. They’re supposed to look scary, but I think they’re so fabulous and interesting to look art, it’s hard to imagine being frightened by them. I mean, unless someone wearing one of these masks jumped you in a dark alley. That probably would be pretty scary.

1 Perfect San Juan in One Day Itinerary 3
5) Sculpture Garden

Unless it’s totally pouring rain, don’t miss the chance to wander around the beautiful sculpture garden. You can admire the contemporary art placed around the garden…

san juan in one day itinerary

Or you can just enjoy the beautiful plants and not think about the art at all.

san juan in one day itinerary

Or you can just go on a hunt for the museum’s pet cat! That’s a perfect hiding spot, Little Kitty! I bet no one can see you there!

san juan in one day itinerary

San Juan in One Day Itinerary

Evening: Dinner at Jose Enrique

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time in San Juan, it’s that Condado is one of the best neighborhoods to go for dinner on your San Juan in one day itinerary. And no restaurant is more chic or popular than Jose Enrique in the Condado neighborhood. They wouldn’t take a reservation for one, but I just strolled in kind of early and was able to get a seat at the bar.

The best thing about Jose Enrique is their creative use of local ingredients, so start with something using Puerto Rican produce like this rich pumpkin and peanut salad.

one day in san juan itinerary

For the main course, get one of their signature dishes, which is fried fish. Mine was served with avocado, root vegetables, and lime. I have had avocado and lime together before, but I would never have thought to add root vegetables. This is what I mean my a creative use of produce.

one day in san juan itinerary

Of course, not every dish needs to be zazzled up and reconstructed. Sometimes you just want a simple, flawless piece of chocolate cake, so that’s how we’re going to end our meal!

San Juan in One Day Itinerary

How To Get There

Now, I wish I knew where you lived, Internet Stranger, because I could send you a box of the finest rum. But sadly, I do not, and so I can’t tell you exactly how to get from your home to the Caribbean.

But I can tell you that I used a lovely airplane to get from my hometown NYC to London, and then I took a shorter flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico. I recommend Expedia for the best way to find the cheapest flight to the Caribbean at the best time of day.

You can even use Expedia to rent a car so you’ll be all set when you arrive at your destination. (I can’t drive, but if you can, this must be helpful.)

Just click here to start looking for the best possible deals on your flight, so you can head out on your San Juan in one day itinerary ASAP.

That’s a Perfect San Juan in One Day Itinerary!

What would you do on a San Juan in one day itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in San Juan right now? And what is a vampire’s favorite brand of whiskey? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY enjoy a San Juan in one day itinerary. If you want another San Juan in one day itinerary, add this itinerary.

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