"San Juan, Puerto Rico" Top 5 Page for this destination San Juan by starship

San Juan Travel Guide: 755 reviews and 2,581 photos

Historic "El Viejo San Juan"

Our most recent visit to San Juan in October, 2015, gave us a chance to further explore the always interesting Old San Juan portion of the city, but also go slightly farther afield for a new site. This visit also led to my San Juan page being totally revamped and updated as of Januaury, 2016.

It is possible to see a large part of Old San Juan on foot -- some sites are quite famous while others are not so famous but very interesting nonetheless. Sites we saw during this visit included Castillo San Cristóbal which is part of the larger San Juan National Historic Site; Plaza Colon; the Casa Blanca Hotel; La Capilla Franciscana; the Cigar House; Old San Juan's Antiguo Casino (exterior only); monuments along Constitution Avenue;and a glimpse of the Casa de España. Of course, it's always wonderful to see the famous blue brick (adoquines) streets, and lacy wrought-iron balconies of the Fortaleza neighborhood and shopping district.

Though we visited in October, it was still hot and humid with a fierce sun and our first venture out ended quickly but served as a reorientation. Most of our walking therefore was in the late afternoon. Old San Juan does not seem to have changed very much since we last visited 11 years ago, though buildings and streets looked to be in good condition and it is a colorful as ever. However, the news lately is that Puerto Rico as a whole is suffering some very serious economic problems at present (2015/2016).

Past Visits

We first visited San Juan in the later 1980's when we sailed from Old San Juan twice on the old Cunard Countess. Although a somewhat "strange new land," San Juan failed to leave a lasting image on my memory except for the sight of El Morro rising above San Juan Bay. I vaguely remembered "El Yunque Rainforest" and Loquillo Beach."

When another cruise we were taking was also scheduled to port in San Juan, my husband and I thought it would be good to concentrate, this time with our children in tow, on a self-guided, walking tour of Old San Juan! One thing I definitely remember from that visit was the sight of Christmas decorations in the public plazas in November under the blazing sun and an 89F degree temperature!

Since we wanted to see more on this visit, we decided that rather than rent a car, we would take an excursion for places further afield, but we also included, as previously mentioned, quite a bit of exploring on foot in the narrow little lanes of Old San Juan.

My first tip is just about that very thing, taking a self-guided walking tour of Old San Juan.

A Brief History

The Taino Indians ruled the island when Christopher Columbus "discovered" and claimed the island for Spain in 1493, and named it San Juan Bautista in honor of St. John the Baptist. At one point in history, the name San Juan came to be regarded as the name of the town only while the name "Puerto Rico "(rich port) settled on that of the island as a whole. Today, Old San Juan is considered to be that which lies in the castle walls from Fort San Cristobal on the east to the turrets of El Morro on the west.

During the 400 year domination of the island, the Spanish left their imprint on the language, architecture and religion of the people here. The Spanish built fortresses, churches, roadways and cultivated the island. When the Spanish imported slaves from Africa to work in the fields, Puerto Rico became a point at which the confluence of the 3 cultures (Spanish, Indian and African) blended together to give Puerto Rico the character it enjoys today.

Puerto Rico has been part and parcel of the United States since 1898 and inhabitants were given U.S. citizenry in 1917. Puerto Rico became a self-governing U.S. Commonwealth in 1952.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Spanish flavor in architecture & food! Beaches & Rainforest!
  • Cons:Watch out for careless drivers, Safety Concerns!
  • Last visit to San Juan: Oct 2015
  • Intro Updated Jan 27, 2016
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Reviews (21)

Comments (25)

  • hopang's Profile Photo
    Apr 14, 2016 at 11:29 AM

    Wonderful and excellent travel pages on San Juan! We especially love the Bacardi factory, all those lovely squares and of course the popular Castillo San Cristobal. Thanks for your virtual tour with beautiful photographs. ~ho & pang

    • starship's Profile Photo
      Apr 14, 2016 at 12:54 PM

      Thanks for your visit, ho & pang! It was nice to revisit San Juan and see more of the town. It was a beautiful sunny day but incredibly hot!!

  • Galaxy31's Profile Photo
    Jan 20, 2016 at 10:29 PM

    Interesting page

  • Donna_in_India's Profile Photo
    Jan 5, 2016 at 6:03 PM

    I LOVE Old San Juan! And it's such a gorgeous port to sail from.... We're doing a Disney cruise from NYC that ends in San Juan in November. Trying to decide whether or not to spend a night there. Probably will. :-)

    • starship's Profile Photo
      Jan 6, 2016 at 5:35 AM

      Hearing about your cruise is exciting! What ports other ports do you sail to? We have sailed from San Juan twice many years ago. When we were in San Juan this time around, I found a pretty cool looking hotel (we didn't stay there 'cause we were on the ship) called the "Casa Blanca." Very electic but right in the heart of Old Town!

    • Donna_in_India's Profile Photo
      Jan 6, 2016 at 8:29 AM

      Leaves NYC - 3 sea days, then St. Maarten, Tortola, and we end up in SJ. I think this will be our last Disney cruise - Kasha prefers roller coasters to princesses. :-) But she loves the beach and swimming. This will be our 3rd time in Tortola. I think we'll finally go to The Baths! I do love the food in SJ!!

  • MalenaN's Profile Photo
    Nov 30, 2013 at 3:36 AM

    To stroll around in the old part of San Juan sounds to be nice!

    • starship's Profile Photo
      Nov 30, 2013 at 9:50 AM

      Malena, thanks so much for visiting my San Juan page. It is in need of some serious updates. Still Old San Juan is an attractive place to visit!

  • XenoHumph's Profile Photo
    Feb 25, 2011 at 10:49 AM

    Isn't the old San Juan lovely?! Great page! I also got my postcards at the Walgreens!

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Mar 29, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    I never knew El Yunque was the rainiest of all the National Forests -- I would have guessed it was someplace up in the Pacific Northwest. But with proper raingear El Yunque sounds like a fascinating place to visit and go hiking.

  • lynnehamman's Profile Photo
    Dec 15, 2009 at 10:23 PM

    Nice page, Sylvia. The El Yunque forest looks great. Birdlife would be good. I also like those blue cobbled streets. San Juan- another dream destination

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Nov 10, 2009 at 4:46 PM

    Your experiences with cruises is so valuable for the rest of us! Your pages are never boring because of your enthusiasm, honesty, brilliant photographs, and helpful, information. A pure pleasure to read and reread.

  • calcaf38's Profile Photo
    Oct 2, 2009 at 5:47 PM

    Very good page about San Juan. I'd like to visit there some time. Thank you for visiting my Honduras page, and for the kind comments.

  • scottishvisitor's Profile Photo
    Dec 13, 2007 at 1:13 PM

    Nice look at San Juan :) enjoyed my virtual tour!!


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