"San Juan, Puerto Rico" Top 5 Page for this destination San Juan by starship
San Juan Travel Guide: 755 reviews and 2,581 photos
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).
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:Spanish flavor in architecture & food! Beaches & Rainforest!
- Cons:Watch out for careless drivers, Safety Concerns!
It seems that people who really enjoy cigars also really enjoy cigar shops -- at least ones that have some kind of real... more travel advice
It was late afternoon when we finally were able to visit Castillo San Cristóbal or Fort San Cristóbal which is part of... more travel advice
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