Casa Blanca Museum and Garden (Juan Ponce de Leon's family residence).

Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

Casa Blanca

San Juan

First constructed in 1521 as a residence for Puerto Rico’s pioneering governor, Juan Ponce de León (who died before he could move in), Casa Blanca is the oldest continuously occupied house in the western hemisphere. Today it's a historic monument containing a sparse museum and an Andalusian-style garden. The interior rooms are furnished with antiques and paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries; the views of the bay from the 2nd floor are among the best in Old San Juan.

For the first 250 years after its construction, this simple colonial-era building served as the ancestral home for the de León family. In 1783 Casa Blanca was taken over by the Spanish military, then with the change of Puerto Rico’s political status in 1898, it provided a base for US military commanders until 1966.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby San Juan attractions

1. Casa Rosa

0.06 MILES

Built in 1812, this tropical pink villa first served as barracks for Spanish troops. In 1881, it was converted into officers’ quarters. The building has…

2. Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña

0.06 MILES

Constructed in the mid-19th century as a shelter for the poor, this bright-yellow building houses the executive offices of this institute that organizes a…

3. Plazuela de la Rogativa

0.07 MILES

This diminutive gem of a square with lovely views over the bay is home to an interesting, stylized bronze sculpture of a former bishop of San Juan and…

4. Museo de las Américas

0.09 MILES

This museum presents an impressive overview of cultural development in the Americas, including indigenous, African and European influences. Four permanent…

5. Puerta de San Juan

0.09 MILES

One of the three remaining gates into the old city, the lofty red portal known as the Puerta de San Juan is a popular photo stop. Spanish ships once…

6. Casa Museo Felisa Rincón de Gautier

0.09 MILES

This museum, an attractive neoclassical townhouse, was the longtime home of San Juan’s beloved mayor, Doña Felisa. She presided over the growth of the…

7. Cuartel de Ballajá


Built in 1854 as a military barracks, the cuartel is an impressive three-story edifice with large gates on two ends, a series of arches and a large…

8. Plaza del Quinto Centenario

0.13 MILES

This modern square is shoehorned in among several architectural landmarks and offers great views over El Morro and the ocean beyond. Built in 1992 to…