With an amazing history, infectious music and brilliantly colorful buildings, San Juan is one of the crown jewels of the Caribbean. Yet, for most families visiting Puerto Rico, San Juan is just a launching point for another adventure – either a family cruise in the Caribbean or for a week in Vieques with kids.
But, if your Puerto Rico family vacation has enough time to spare, we highly recommend you spend a day in San Juan with kids.
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Family Travel Advice You Can Trust
Did you know many ‘travel blogs’ are written by AI bots or people who have never actually been to the destination? At Family Can Travel, we are a real family who travels to real places. We then write about our family travels in hopes of inspiring other real families to travel with their kids too! We hope you enjoy reading about our real life visit to San Juan with kids!
Our Itinerary for One Day in San Juan with Kids
It’s not just a beautiful city full of culture, there are a lot of kid-friendly attractions in San Juan as well. To give you a sense for what’s possible on your family trip to Puerto Rico, here is how we spent our full day in San Juan with kids before flying off to Vieques for a week of fun on the beaches.
Walkway of the Presidents
Our San Juan vacation rental was about 0.6 miles (1 km) outside of Old San Juan, so we began our day of sightseeing with a walk through the Puerta de Tierra historic district. As we were walking along the Avenida de la Constitución, we were admiring the beautiful Capitol of Puerto Rico building, when we noticed a series of sculptures in front.
These series of sculptures in front of the Capitol of Puerto Rico is the Walkway of Presidents. This collection of sculptures of American Presidents celebrates the presidents which have contributed to the history of Puerto Rico. There are many former US presidents here including Barack Obama, Gerald Ford, John F. Kennedy, Theodore Roosevelt and many more.
Based on the steady stream of tour buses stopped in front, this is a popular stop for Americans to get their picture taken with one of their favorite presidents!
San Juan Fort: Castillo San Cristobal
The two most kid-friendly things to do in San Juan are to visit the historical forts which have protected this strategic Caribbean city for centuries. The closest San Juan fort to our vacation rental was the Castillo San Cristobal fort, on the north-east corner of Old San Juan.
The largest fortress ever built by the Spanish in their colonies, this massive fort was built to protect San Juan from land based attacks. Dating back to the 1600’s, Castillo San Cristobal helped the Spanish repel the very large army of Sir Ralph Abercromby in the late 1700’s.
The historic significance of this top old San Juan attraction is reflected in the fact it is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a San Juan National Historic Site. Although it is not a US national park, it is run by the National Park Service (NPS).
A fort can have the most amazing history in the world, but in truth, most kids won’t care at all. But what they will care about is the giant playground they see in front of them. We’ve visited forts with our kids the world over, and they never fail to have a good time.
The Castillo San Cristobal fort in Old San Juan is no exception. Our kids love climbing on the walls, looking into the mouths of cannons, admiring the big piles of cannonballs, etc. The Castillo San Cristobal fort will spark your kids imaginations and their love of adventure. Our kids loved visiting this historic Old San Juan fort.
We began our visit with a walk through an interpretive museum about San Juan and its strategic importance. We learned a lot about why San Juan was so strategically important to the Spanish, and then to the Americans. A fascinating opportunity to learn about the history of this beautiful city.
The upper level of Castillo San Cristobal was one of our favorite spots in the whole fort. From this strategic vantage point, you’ll soak in amazing Caribbean Sea views as well as equally nice views of Old San Juan. In addition to the cannons, see if your kids can find any iguanas. Once we noticed our first iguana, we kept noticing them all over the place. Iguanas everywhere!
On the main level of Castillo San Cristobal, our favorite spot was the dungeons. To visit, you walk through a long, dimly lit tunnel which gives a spooky atmosphere your kids will enjoy. If you see a side tunnel, be sure to go down it to see the prisoner graffiti on the wall. They suspect the drawings of the ships are from a captive captain of a ship awaiting trial for mutiny.
A note for families visiting San Juan with kids: You admission ticket to Castillo San Cristobal is also good for the other fort (Castillo San Felipe del Morro). In addition, kids under 15 are free, making this a very affordable thing to do in San Juan with kids.
Kid-Friendly San Juan Restaurant: Don Tako
We worked up quite the appetite visiting Castillo San Cristobal with kids, so we wanted to find a kid-friendly restaurant in the area. A few blocks away (just past the I LOVE SAN JUAN sign) we found Don Tako, a nice Mexican restaurant with shaded tables in a courtyard. We got a nice shaded table with a cool breeze, allowing us to watch the vibrant street life around us.
For lunch we got an appetiser of guacamole and chips – it was so good it didn’t last very long. We each got an order of three tacos. The adults got Tacos al Pastor (which we learned to love at our favorite kid-friendly restaurant in Playa del Carmen), while the kids enjoyed their Carnitas tacos (a slow cooked, seasoned pork)
Exploring Old San Juan with Kids
With such colorful buildings, high-energy salsa music piping from the many souvenir shops, it’s a ton of fun randomly walking in Old San Juan with kids. We recommend that you use Google Map to get a general sense of which direction you want to go, then put away your phone and simply randomly walk towards that direction. Every street in Juan is beautiful and you’ll have so much fun making new discoveries around every corner.
If you’d like your family to learn more about this beautiful city’s history, why not sign up for a guided walking tour of Old San Juan?
Museo de las Américas
To be honest, although we love traveling around the world with our kids, we’re not big on museums. But whenever we see something special that we think our kids would enjoy, we make an effort to visit to give them a broader appreciation for the culture of the place we are visiting.
When we were researching kid-friendly things to do in Old San Juan, we stumbled across the Museo de las Américas. Located in the heart of Old San Juan, not far from the Plazas des Armas, this museum had lots of colorful statues and artwork, which we’ve learned will capture our kids attention more than ceramic bowls and stuffy paintings of old people.
There were five exhibits on display during our visit to the Museo de las Américas. The first was a very colorful display of artwork by Gavin Sierra which we quite enjoyed, while the second was a pretty boring collection of paintings we ripped through pretty quickly.
The remaining exhibits at the Museo de las Américas were much more interesting for the family. We enjoyed seeing art and artifacts from the colorful cultures from Africa, Central America and the Caribbean. Given our family’s affinity for Mexico, we really enjoyed the displays of Mexican culture.
San Juan Fort: Castillo San Felipe del Morro
We were lucky to have our one day in San Juan with kids on a Sunday. We find it’s always fun to visit places on Sunday’s as that’s when the locals are out with their families. San Juan was no exception. When we arrived at Castillo San Felipe del Morro mid-afternoon, the massive front lawn was filled with many Puerto Rican families, many who were flying colorful kites in the brisk breeze off the Caribbean Sea.
Castillo San Felipe del Morro (also known as El Morro) is an equally impressive fort as Castillo San Cristobal. In fact, El is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Puerto Rico National Historic site too. There are six levels to El Morro, making it super fun for your family to explore and make fun discoveries as you try to get lost in the massive fort.
El Morro has all the same elements of Castillo San Cristobal which makes it super fun to visit with kids – things to climb on, cannons, cannonballs, etc. No matter which order you visit the two San Juan forts in, be prepared for your kids to be less excited about the second one. Although adults will appreciate the nuances of each fort, kids will find the two national historic sites pretty much the same and will be generally less excited about the second one.
Parque de Los Gatos
Our daughter loves animals, so when we noticed that San Juan has a park for cats, we knew we had to visit. Not far from El Morro, the Parque de Los Gatos is a small, scenic park along the Caribbean Sea.
The actual park itself didn’t have many kitties, but the Save a Gato animal rescue shelter has a small operation adjacent to the park. It’s here you’ll find plenty of cats milling around, resting on top of cars, benches, etc.
Although most of the cats around the park seemed to be street cats who didn’t much care for humans, our daughter loved the chance to be around so many cute cats all at once. If you’re already visiting the El Morro fort, it’s worth a visit to Parque de Los Gatos if one of your kids love cats.
Kid-Friendly San Juan Restaurant: Stuffed Avocado
Earlier in the day while we were randomly exploring the beautiful streets of Old San Juan with our kids, we took note of the Stuffed Avocado restaurant. It looked so good, that we made our way back for our dinner.
As you might imagine, the Stuffed Avocado serves large avocado bowls, stuffed full of yummy, nutritious food. We enjoyed our pulled pork avocado bowls, while our kids shared a salmon avocado bowl. It was like sushi in a bowl – they loved it!
Additional Ideas for Visiting San Juan with Kids
One day in San Juan with kids is not enough time to see everything. We loved our day of family sightseeing throughout Old San Juan, but if you are looking for other kid-friendly activities, check out these additional ideas:
Isla Verde Beach
Isla Verde public beach in San Juan is an excellent activity for families seeking some fun on a Caribbean beach. With crystal-clear waters and a wide stretch of powdery, golden sand, Isla Verde beach is perfect for younger kids who like to play in the sand. The beach has a gentle slope, making it safe for children to play and splash around in the water.
With many family-friendly resorts, shops and restaurants nearby, Isla Verde beach is a great base for your family. We stayed at an affordable kid-friendly Isla Verde hotel a few minutes away from the beach on our final night in Puerto Rico, but after a week of beach time in Vieques, the kids wanted to go souvenir shopping instead.
Paseo de la Princesa
Paseo de la Princesa is a scenic and enjoyable stroll for families visiting Old San Juan. The beautifully landscaped walkway is situated along the picturesque San Juan Bay, offering stunning views of the water and historic architecture.
Families can enjoy a leisurely walk while exploring the charming boutiques, cafes, and art galleries lining the promenade. Kids can enjoy the live music and street performances that often take place in the area.
We had planned to walk Paseo de la Princesa after visiting the nearby Castillo San Felipe del Morro. As it happened, we spent too much time at Parque de los Gatos (the cat park), and we needed to go for dinner. We saw the beautiful oceanfront walk on our way to the cat park and it looked amazing!
Parque de las Palmas
Parque de las Palomas is a kid-friendly park in San Juan home to hundreds of friendly pigeons that visitors can feed by hand. The park’s lush greenery, water fountains, and sculptures create a tranquil and serene atmosphere, providing a perfect escape from the bustling city.
We had to cut Parque de las Palomas from our one day San Juan itinerary due to insufficient time. It’s probably a good thing though as our kids have been chasing pigeons around the world for years. The pigeons of Parque de las Palomas caught a break that our kids didn’t come!
More Puerto Rico with Kids
For us, our day in San Juan with kids was a launching point for additional adventures in Puerto Rico with kids. After our full day in San Juan, we flew to Vieques with kids for a full week of fun in the Caribbean sun. With free-roaming wild horses, and countless kid-friendly beaches in Vieques, this is a perfect destination for your family vacation to Puerto Rico!
Caribbean Family Vacation Ideas
Dan Brewer is an intrepid family travel blogger with a passion for exploring the world's most captivating destinations. With 58 countries under his belt and a sense of wanderlust that knows no bounds, he has made it his life's mission to share his travel experiences and insights with fellow families who love to travel.
When Dan isn't traveling with his wife and kids, he's either out enjoying the Canadian Rockies he calls home or working on one of his three travel sites (Family Can Travel, Travel Banff Canada and Ultimate Sports Road Trip).