Adventure Activities in San Juan - Try if You Dare
1. In San Juan, ocean vistas are plentiful and your trip will likely afford many breathtaking seaside sunsets and dreamy moonlit walks. This first adventure activity in San Juan affords a glimpse of a particularly mesmerizing aquatic phenomenon.
Just a half-hour flight or a short ferry ride from San Juan Bay is the island municipality of Vieques. Well-known internationally for beautiful beaches like Playa Flamingo, Vieques is also the perfect place to view the bioluminescent bay at Puerto Mosquito. There are a number of kayaking and canoe tour companies operating in the area, but you can just as easily go for a swim among the dinoflagellates, protozoans that create the water's ethereal blue glow.
We dare you to spend two dollars to ride the ferry and camp overnight on Vieques. You can arrange a tour online, or brave the mangroves on your own. The friendly locals are usually willing to draw maps and give directions.
Insider Tip: Most hotels can arrange for ferry transportation. This is often the easier route and is recommended. Also, remember to arrive 45 minutes early for the ferry to ensure that you have a seat. The ferry does not take reservations for passengers (cars only).
Vieques Island Ferry Information; 800-981-2005; Departure times vary depending on port; Passengers $2, Cars $15-$19 (one way, reservations required)
2. Continue your San Juan adventures with a picnic at the end of Paseo la Princesa. A scenic walkway overrun with cats, Paseo de la Princesa is a popular spot for afternoon jaunts. Most people tend to stay near the beginning, where the path winds through trees and a few small parks. Continue all the way to the end of the walkway, however, and you're in for a surprise.
The end of the Paseo backs up to and underneath El Morro, the 16th-century castle Puerto Rico is famous for. If you carry your lunch in a backpack and wear appropriate shoes, you can climb the breakers (large rocks) at the end of the Paseo. Here you'll find a small, private area that is part of the cordoned off section of El Morro. From the Paseo it appears to be little more than a bunch of trees randomly growing from the side of the cliff, but if you approach from below you will find two ways to access this spot. There is a hard to reach staircase, almost invisible from below, and a very steep run off canal. It is easier to run up the canal than find the stairs, but you need to be fast and agile to dare the climb. Once at the top you will find a small park, complete with finely manicured grass, a walkway and a beautiful ocean view. It's protected completely from sight by the trees.
Insider Tip: Use extreme caution when attempting this adventure activity in San Juan. Never try this if the tide is high or rain is likely; you can drown or be seriously injured if you fall while climbing the rocks.
El Morro, (787) 729-6777, 9AM-6PM daily, Adults $3, Children under 15 free
3. What's one of the most fun activities in San Juan? Dancing! Puerto Ricans are famous for their dance moves, but you aren't going to see them if you hang out in places like Shannan's or Senior Frog's. Old San Juan is the place to be if you enjoy music, drinking, and dancing. San Sebastian Street has some great bars frequented by locals, including Nono's bar. The street also plays host to a massive block party, known as Las Fiestas De la Calle San Sebastian, during the third week of January. The Nuyorican Café, located down a sketchy looking alley otherwise known as San Francisco Street, features local bands, live performance art, and poetry. El Batey, Rumba, and Don Pablo are all on Calle Cristo and are perennial favorites among party-all-night-and-wake-up-drunk revelers who enjoy their music as much as their drinks.
Nono's, 100 Calle San Sebastian, San Juan, PR 00901; 787-725-7819; 11AM-4AM daily
Nuyorican Café, 312 Calle San Francisco, San Juan, PR 00901; 787-977-1276, 787-366-5074
El Batey, 101 Calle Del Cristo, San Juan, PR 00901; 787-725-1787
Rumba, 152 Calle San Sebastian, San Juan, PR 00901; 787-725-4407
Don Pablo, 103 Calle Del Cristo, San Juan, PR
4. A quick ride on the M or A5 buses to a neighborhood called Santurce (the 19th stop) will leave you in front of the Metropolitan Art Museum, facing a street with a small art supply shop on your right. You should be a block away from the Parada 18 movie theater. Walk northeast along the street for three blocks and you'll find the next stop on your San Juan adventures, Plaza del Mercado. The place to be for the gastronomically inclined, this lively attraction boasts countless booths, restaurants, and stands vending everything from greasy, delicious bacalaitos to the ever loved piña colada with Puerto Rican rum. During the day you will find a farmers market featuring all organic and locally grown produce, but by nightfall the Mercado is transformed into a huge party with live music, singing, dancing, and other kinds of drunken revelry.
Calle Capitol at Calle Dos Hermanos, San Juan, PR; 787-723-8022
5. If you're feeling especially daring and think you might be able to pass as a local, check out the graffiti in La Perla, a unique and colorful neighborhood easily seen from El Morro. One of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Puerto Rico, La Perla serves as the major entry port for many of the drugs that enter the US via Puerto Rico.
This area has laws all its own, so unless you want to get robbed, don't wander down to La Perla with your tour boat sticker, sensible shoes, and khaki shorts. Likewise, avoid talking on your phone and avoid speaking English in general. Leave your camera behind, as the local gangs do not permit photography and do not, under any circumstances, buy drugs. If the risk of being slipped bad drugs or being robbed isn't enough, know that police vigilantly watch the area. While they may not arrest you in La Perla, they will as soon as you leave. Most importantly, never venture into this area at night.
If you go during daylight hours, respect the local law, and keep your inner tourist in check, you'll find that a stroll past La Perla's spectacular murals and interesting fishing village-style buildings is one of many unexpected fun activities in San Juan.