Local’s Guide to Keeping Fit in San Juan: Q&A Carlos Jimenez
Interacting with the landscape and exploring a new city by foot or bike is a must for fitness enthusiasts. But, let’s face it, we’ve all traveled to a new city with the best intentions and swiftly found our fitness routines fly out the window.
In San Juan, tropical weather and calm waters offer ideal conditions for paddleboarding and kayaking, while stunning scenery provide a harmonious backdrop for an outdoor workout. From boot camps and calisthenics to sunrise yoga and beach tennis, the pandemic-driven passion for al fresco fitness continues to reign.
Carlos Jimenez, a marketing director based in San Juan, shares his insight on the best spots for making fitness a priority in San Juan. These fun and accessible activities, on land and sea, will amp up your pulse while immersing you in Puerto Rico’s tropical scenery and local culture.
What are your favorite running routes in San Juan?
In San Juan, runners can log some miles along scenic oceanfront promenades, tranquil lagoons and oceanfront parks. A 4-mile, partly paved boardwalk skirts the oceanfront from Isla Verde to Piñones and has all the attributes for a terrific run—incredible views, light traffic and a tasty lunch at the finish line. Piñones is famous for its kiosks which serve traditional Puerto Rican street food—try bacalaítos (codfish fritters) or alcapurrias (fried plantains stuffed with beef or crab). After lunch, go barefoot in the ocean at La Pocita Beach, pick up a coco frío to stay hydrated and then Uber home. Other scenic runs include loops around the Laguna del Condado—and long-distance runners can venture all the way to Condado and Old San Juan to enjoy some of Puerto Rico’s most picturesque neighborhoods.
What is the most popular beach activity in San Juan?
There’s a lot to be said about a game that combines fitness with surf and sand. Similar to volleyball—but played with a racquet and a tennis ball—beach tennis has exploded in popularity in San Juan. At Ocean Park in Condado, you’ll find as many as 20 games going on at any one time on the weekends—weekday mornings are another popular time for lessons. To join a game or take a lesson, travelers can connect with beach tennis groups through Facebook and Instagram and at @bebeachtennis.
Where do you head for strength training?
San Juan has a robust schedule of outdoor fitness classes hosted by personal trainers. Calisthenics PR offers informal, drop-in strength and conditioning classes several times a week; for more info: @calisthenicspuertorico. For a more improvised workout, there are pull-up bars at Ocean Park (at the end of Calle Taft) and at workout stations around Laguna de Condado. In Hato Rey, HCOA Fitness offers free passes, 3-day trial memberships and drop in day rates ($12). Boxing has gained in popularity over recent years. In Ocean Park, Black Dog Boxing hosts cardio boxing group classes as well as one-on-one training and fight nights; you’ll need to bring your own gear or purchase from the front desk.
How about gyms and facilities for racket sports?
The 27-acre Parque Luís Muñoz Marín is a park, botanical garden and arboretum rolled into one. You can stroll or bike the pathways woven through the park or play tennis, volleyball, basketball and dodgeball at Eco Sports Park, a sports enthusiast’s dream. At this massive $25 million lifestyle complex you can play every sport imaginable, and there’s a rock climbing space, a recording studio, four bars, a mini-golf course, a rooftop bar, gaming room and an outdoor movie theater. Long-term travelers can sign up for one of eight leagues that play weekly games as part of a 14-week semester. There are theme nights and events as well as several dining options—dishes at Vegandillas are 100 percent plant based and classified by owner/entrepreneur Victor González as “vegan junk food.” Paseo Lineal is another popular park, just outside of the immediate San Juan area.
Has the wellness phenomenon reached Puerto Rico?
Opportunities for mind-body fitness abound in the Metro area. Travelers can join small-group classes or arrange a private session. Santosa Yoga, based in Condado, offers yoga and meditation workshops/retreats that take a more philosophical approach to the practice. Sessions take place in Ocean Park on Tuesday mornings at 9am, and Thursdays at 6pm in Escambron ($10). You can also arrange private lessons at the location of your choice and join online classes. Spaces are limited, so text ahead to reserve a spot: 310-227-9451.
Where is the best place to paddleboard and kayak?
As San Juan’s tourist epicenter, Condado is known for its glitzy high-rise hotels and Miami vibe. The neighborhood’s centerpiece lagoon is a haven for outdoor recreation. With calm, warm waters year round, locals and visitors flock here at the weekend to kayak and paddleboard—conditions are perfect for beginners. Surrounded by mangroves, the lagoon is part of the San Juan Estuary and a protected nature reserve. It’s not unusual to spot manatees, dolphins, turtles, sting rays, starfish and turtles. At Velauno Paddle Board you can rent paddle boards for $20, sign up for a 90-minute lesson ($75) or a 3-hour cruise tour ($99).