My life goes by pretty fast some days and I don’t always get everything done I had hoped to. Especially the weeks that I go straight from a business trip to a trip for fun. I have been meaning to write about my adventures in San Juan, Puerto Rico and now I’m finally getting around to it. It was such an awesome trip I really wanted to share it and some ideas for planning my next trip.
One of the things I really loved about the trip was getting to enjoy another culture while still technically in the U.S. I don’t know about you, but I’m not really interested in going overseas to any country that is having lots of political and cultural unrest. I’m more interested in my safety. But it is nice occasionally to experience another culture and still feel perfectly safe. As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico was the perfect place to get away.
We flew into San Juan and after a 15 minute cab ride we were checking into our hotel, the Caribe Hilton. The resort had several restaurants, pool areas, hot tubs and its own beach, so we were able to start relaxing immediately. The hotel is situated close enough to Old San Juan that we were able to walk and enjoy the sites of the island along the way. Old San Juan is a 7-square block area that was once completely surrounded by a wall to protect it. The beautiful architecture and blue-glazed cobblestone streets make the area very picturesque and I took advantage of it by taking lots of pictures (even when I wasn’t quite sure what I was taking a picture of). Some photo opts were easy to identify, such as the Avenue of Presidents, where there is a statute of every American president who has visited since Puerto Rico became a U.S. possession in 1898. The people of Puerto Rico became U.S. citizens in 1917 and Puerto Rico became a commonwealth in 1952.
Puerto Rico was originally settled by the Spanish in 1508. English and Spanish are both official languages, so we had no issues being understood as we explored. We spent one whole day exploring the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, called “el Morro” by the locals. The fort is an enormous place with 6 levels of ramps, barracks, dungeons, turrets, towers and tunnels. It was built in 1539 to protect the island from enemy attacks and continued to be used as a fort through World War II. The walls and towers rise 140 above the rocky shore and provided some great views of the city, including the 200 year old Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery right next door. The fort is on the route of the free trolley that runs through Old San Juan and you can hop on or off at any of its stops, which makes checking out the area even easier.
Exploring an old fort was interesting, but after a few hours we were ready to take a break. Luckily we discovered a restaurant called the Barrachina in Old San Juan, which claims to be the birthplace of the pina colada. I’m not sure if that’s true, but our drinks and food were excellent!
Part of another day was spent exploring a second fort . . . the Castillo San Cristobal. We got caught in a brief rain storm while there and had to hang out in the gift store, but found some great hot sauce to take home to a friend. And the view of the city as the rain came in was cool to see!
Our adventures in San Juan were a mix of exploring the city and relaxing on the beach. Even being there 7 days didn’t give us a chance to see everything, but it did give us a feel for the city and a good overview. I’ve done some research since our trip and next time we will probably include a few other places:
- The Sala de Exhibiciones Rafael Carrion Pachecos a museum that houses exhibits about the island as well as a 38-foot scale model of the old city.
- The Casa Bacardi Distillery Tour showcases the rum plant where 85% of Bacardi Rum is produced. (Puerto Rico, by the way, produces more than 70% of the rum sold in the U.S.)
- The El Yunque Rain Forest is located approximately an hour from San Juan and is the only rain forest on U.S. soil. This is a chance to swim at the base of a waterfall!!!
I’m really looking forward to my next trip! Let me know if you’ve ever been to San Juan and if I am missing something on my to-do list.