As the capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and attractive tourist destinations in the Caribbean. Often referred to as “The Walled City”, the modern day San Juan is the oldest settlement in the Americas and still preserves the Old San Juan – the historic part of the city with 15 ft thick walls. The combination of historical authenticity with the more contemporary and evolving parts of the capital make San Juan a definite hot spot for vacationing. Whether you want to experience some cultural tourism, lay on the beautiful beaches or hit the local restaurants and nightclubs – San Juan has it all.
Oh, Old San Juan!
The marvelous historical site is almost 500 years old, first being conceived as a military stronghold. Today it has turned into a lovely residential and commercial district. Don’t let the name fool you! Yes, there are many historic sites in this particular neighborhood, but it is also very famous for its nightlife. No matter your reason for visiting, there are some places in the old city that are a definite must. The Forts! El Morro and La Fortaleza are two of the most visited attractions in the city and with good reason – they capture the history of the city in the most incredible way. Take a sunset walk along Paseo la Princesa – a broad promenade stretching from the docks and leading to a beautiful fountain – and then dine at Fortaleza Street – it has a name for hosting some of the best restaurants in town.
Did you know that Ponce de León was the first Governor of Puerto Rico?
Well, either way you should definitely head to La Casa Blanca – one of the earliest structures in the old city, and the home of Ponce de León (at least till he decided to chase his immortality). The house is a truly great trip back through time and definitely worth visiting. While still in the old city, the San Jose Church and the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, the latter containing the tomb of Ponce de Leon, are also worthy visiting spots in the old town.
We are not here without beaches!
If you don’t want to explore and search for that perfect beach, you could just head to El Escambrón or Isla Verde, San Juan’s public beaches. Don’t be alarmed with the word public; both of the beaches are very nice and accommodating, with lovely restaurants, many activities like diving and snorkeling, picnic areas and BBQs. But if you do want some excitement, Ocean Park Beach, with its mile of gold sand, is one of the most popular beaches on the island because it is not the typical “large hotel experience” but is more like a “we are young, we are wild” kind of thing. Isla Verde is the longest and widest beach in San Juan and also very popular because of the calm and clear waters that perfect for watersports.
A meeting with Mother Nature!
The El Yunque rainforest is a marvelous halfday option for those who are up for a little hiking. Stunning views, beautiful waterfalls, amazing nature trails and the subtropical rainforest habitat of the island’s endangered wildlife are just some of the things you will discover. Don’t forget to bring your camera – there are sure to be some stunning vistas. Or if you are not up for this but would still like some nature in your day, head to one of the city’s parks – Central Park and Munoz Rivera Park are two of the most beautiful parks in the city.
No matter what you decide to do, you will certainly not be bored. Take some time and explore the city at its most – take in a bit of history and sightseeing, even just a walk through the beautiful streets showing the incredible Spanish colonial architecture; take the night off in one of the numerous bars and discos; spend some time lounging on one of the city’s picturesque beaches.
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