A surge in investment has given San Juan newfound sophistication.
The revamped 319-room Condado Vanderbilt Hotel—a 1919 Spanish Revival landmark where Charles Lindbergh, FDR, and Bob Hope stayed—adds some glamour to the beach strip with 108 roomy suites, butler service, a farm-to-table restaurant, and the island’s only hammam.
Around the corner, O:live Boutique Hotel has 15 small but stylish rooms with sleigh beds and Moroccan throws, as well as a rooftop terrace with a bar, plunge pool, and views over the Condado Lagoon.
Eight years after opening his namesake restaurant in the Santurce neighborhood, José Enrique still draws lively crowds with his ever-changing, contemporary tropical menu, which includes dishes like sous vide veal cheeks with greenbanana escabeche.
Nearby Santaella serves novel twists on local favorites—yuca fritters topped with blue-crab salad—in an Edison-bulblit dining room.
At La Jaquita Baya (787/993-5359), in Miramar, chef Xavier I. Pacheco adds Mediterranean and Asian touches to carefully sourced ingredients: his seared tuna comes with ponzu sauce, avocado, pineapple, and housemade longaniza sausage.
San Juan’s art scene is small but dynamic, with such established artists as Arnaldo Roche and Allora & Calzadilla paving the way for Angel Otero, Gamaliel Rodriguez, and other up-and-coming talents. Walter Otero Contemporary Art is the nucleus, anchoring the Puerta de Tierra neighborhood of galleries and design shops near Old San Juan.
For a grittier but no less engrossing experience, stroll Calle Cerra and the surrounding blocks, where the street-art collective Santurce Es Ley has commissioned a series of murals as part of an effort to revitalize the community.