Safe and Dangerous Places in San Juan
According to most statistics, there are approximately 250 violent crimes a year in San Juan. However, most of these crimes are related to drug trafficking, and for the most part, tourists tend not to be targeted as victims. Very few crimes are committed in highly populated tourist areas. Overall, San Juan is a beautiful, safe place, but just as in Philadelphia or even Oklahoma City, there are a few places visitors would be better off to avoid.
Areas to Avoid in San Juan
1. La Perla
Tourists are advised to avoid the area known as "La Perla," one of San Juan's most dangerous places. "The Pearl" district in Old San Juan is a slum area where a lot of drug trafficking takes place. Despite recent law enforcement crackdowns, it remains one of the most dangerous places in Puerto Rico. It isn't difficult to spot, as it is decrepit and quite run-down.
Low-cost housing projects in San Juan are called "caserios." These are run-down, cement structures situated close to one another that have balconies similar to low-end American apartment buildings. According to police reports, the majority of violent crimes are committed in these areas. One of the scary places in San Juan that even wise locals avoid is the Louis Lloren Torres caserio. Violent crime rates and drug arrests are particularly high in this caserio. Fortunately, this project is not located near any frequently visited tourist areas.
3. El Castillo San Felipe del Morro
While some local San Juan residents will disagree, the tourist board of San Juan recommends avoiding El Castillo San Felipe del Morro, which most Puerto Ricans refer to as "El Morro." The locals claim that El Morro itself is fine, but has gained its unfortunate reputation because of its close proximity to La Perla. Visitors should use common sense and proceed with caution.
4. Public Transportation at Night
Riding a bus through San Juan during the day is much the same as in any city. It is considered to be relatively safe. When the stars come out, however, it is best to avoid taking the bus anywhere in the city other than around the main tourist locations. After dark, shady characters and other undesirables have been known to occupy the local buses, making them one of the foremost areas to avoid. In San Juan, police reports indicate a number of knifings and shootings aboard buses during late night rides to the outskirts of the city.
5. Puerto de Tierra
The neighborhood of Puerto de Tierra is part of Old San Juan, located near La Perla. This is reported by the tourist bureau of San Juan to be a high crime area that has a lot of drug trafficking. To be safe, it is best to avoid this area altogether, along with the previously listed dangerous places.
San Juan, like most other metro areas, has both desirable and undesirable areas. Here are five safe areas in San Juan that every tourist should visit.
Safe Places in San Juan
1. El Yunque
El Yunque is a safe place near San Juan and a great departure from the typical urban tourist spots. It ranks number one for its natural beauty in the form of foliage, animals and flowers and has little or no crime reported each year. Replete with hiking trails and breadfruit trees, visitors can count on spending a day in one of San Juan's natural safe areas without worrying about crime.
2. Old San Juan
The plazas of Old San Juan are a heavily visited tourist destination spanning seven square blocks. Cobblestoned roads surround several plazas that feature 17th-century buildings. There are usually live musicians playing there in the evenings. It is quite festive and the security is excellent. Since this is one of San Juan's truly safe areas, this is a great place to visit with the kids. Feel free to wander about the area freely without worrying about the dangers.
3. Casa Blanca
This is a popular tourist destination that is quite safe. Although Ponce de Leon never lived in this stately mansion, his family did for nearly 250 years. It has been turned into a history museum that every visitor to Puerto Rico should see just to get a feel for how San Juan evolved into the fabulous place it is today. Casa Blanca is not only lovely to behold, it is also one of the oldest monuments currently existing in San Juan today. This is a great place to spend an entire afternoon. The kids can play around on the lawn or stroll the grounds with their parents.
4. Parque de las Palomas
While there are certainly some areas to avoid in San Juan, this park is quite the opposite; this is a location not to be missed. This is the perfect place to go if you have kids. Right across the street from Fortaleza is a green area called "Park of the Doves." You will find the very best street food here, excellent local coffee and very little, if any, crime. Kids always love buying little bags of feed because as soon as the bag is opened birds cover them from head to toe. There are street photographers around to take pictures.
5. Spanish Panaderas
No visit to San Juan should end without having eaten at one of the Spanish "panaderas" (bakeries). These are very safe places for families and can be found scattered about all the major tourist areas. These specialized bakeries are not ordinary bakeries! They are signature San Juan institutions where locals take their own families. These are the places to taste authentic Puerto Rican dishes such as "caldo gallego" or delicious local juices, freshly squeezed to order. The baked goods are fabulous, the deli sandwiches unbelievably huge and all are very reasonably priced. Panaderas are highly recommended eateries and totally safe places in San Juan where one can kick back, enjoy the food and not have to worry about a thing.