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El Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico
El Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico

The village of Old San Juan in San Juan, Puerto Rico makes for one of the best stops in the Caribbean islands.  Columbus claimed Puerto Rico for Spain on his second voyage to the Americas in 1493 and it was inhabited at that time by the Tainos.  It is officially known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.  In Spanish it is known as Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico - the free state of Puerto Rico.  Puerto Rico is one of the larger islands in the Caribbean, but one of the smaller islands in the Greater Antilles.  It is 110 miles east/west and 40 miles north/south.  The Dominican Republic is to its west and the Virgin Islands are to the east.  The two forts in Old San Juan were built by the Spanish and succesfully held out the British and Netherlands.  In 1898 Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States as part of the treaty after the Spanish-American war.  The capital and cruise port is San Juan, which has year round summer weather.  Puerto Rico has a permanent population of about 3.8 million.


Taxis in San Juan have standardized pricing from Luis Munoz Marin International Airport to the cruise ship terminal and vans are commonly used.  From the airport to the cruise ship terminal in 2011 it was $20.50 for the van and $1 per bag.  Share with others and it's very inexpensive.  The cruise ship was charging $28 for two, so it was less expensive and faster to use local transportation between the ship and the airport.

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Old San Juan

Attractions in Puerto Rico:

Things to see and do:

  • Old San Juan - see below for details on things to see by walking about in Old San Juan.

  • The Capitol Building – a walk of about 5 blocks east from San Cristobal, but leaving Old San Juan behind. The mosaics on the rotunda depict the 500 year history including the original Taino inhabitants and the arrival of Columbus on the island in 1493. The detail and the 24k gold are impressive.

  • Modern San Juan – shopping, the Condado resort area, Bacardi Rum distillery

  • El Yunque Rainforest – the only rainforest in the US National Park system; Las Coca waterfall

  • Bio Bay Adventures – take a night time kayaking trip and view the bioluminescent plankton in the waters of Fajardo

  • Rainforest Zipline – located at Guaynabo

  • Visit the Puerto Rican islands of Culebra and Vieques – white sand beaches and water activities; accessible by ferry or by tour

  •  Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park – one of the longest ziplines in the world; located in Orocovis

San Juan harbor, Puerto Rico

San Juan harbor

San Juan Tours:

Hotels in San Juan:

Three Star Accommodation Recommendations:

Four Star Accommodation Recommendations:

Five Star Accommodation Recommendation:

Other Accommodation:

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Old San Juan

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Old San Juan

Things to see and do in Old San Juan:

Old San Juan is located on a point at the entrance to San Juan Harbor. We paid $5 each for six of us to take a cab from the cruise ship pier to Old San Juan. Taxi rates are standardized by zone in San Juan. Carnival docks in Old San Juan, so no need for a taxi for their passengers.  There are many things you can do on your own walking tour of Old San Juan:

  • Ride the free trolley between El Morro, San Cristobal and Old San Juan

  • Visit the fort of El Morro – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, officially known as Castillo San Felipe del Morro. It was established in 1539 to protect San Juan harbor. Sir Francis Drake attacked El Morro in 1595, but was unsuccessful in his bid to take it. In 1898 the US took over the fort and the island as part of the Spanish-American War. The lighthouse still guides ships into the harbor today.

El Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico

El Morro, San Juan, Puerto Rico

  • Visit the fort at San Cristobal – another fort established in 1634 to further support domination of the port by protecting El Morro and the city.

  • Casa Blanca – take a tour of the home of Ponce de Leon, who came to the island in 1508. Not clearly advertised and no fee is charged so we had the place to ourselves.

  • Cathedral San Juan Bautista – the main church in Old San Juan. We chose to listen to the Spanish sermon that Sunday while scores of tourists paraded through the alcoves. It seemed sacrilegious for them to tour the church while services were on.

  • Wander the quaint streets and plazas of Old San Juan - Plaza de Colon with a statue of Columbus, Plaza de San Jose with a statue of Ponce de Leon.

  • La Forteleza – the Governor’s residence, only open to the public Monday to Friday; it was the first fort established in San Juan in 1533.

Classic car, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Old San Juan

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