The island of Enchantment, I always wondered how exactly islands are given these nicknames but after you’ve spent some time in Puerto Rico, you know exactly why. There is a vibrant energy on the island that is hard to describe with words. In San Juan, at any given corner you’re greeted with salsa music, beautifully painted buildings and smiles that radiate pure happiness.
We all know that Puerto Rico suffered greatly during the fall of last year and is still recovering from all the damage left from the hurricane, however Puerto Rico, like its citizens, is resilient. The faith and love that this island and its people run on could never be broken by a hurricane or by living through months and months without electricity. Most cities are up and running and welcoming travelers with open arms. The best thing we can do to support Puerto Rico is to travel there, indulge in this vivacious flavorful culture and help its economy grow once again.
San Juan is the island’s capital and arguably one of the most instagrammable cities in the Caribbean! There are endless colorful buidlings, a historic fort called El Morro that runs along a gorgeous coastline, street art everywhere and brick paved roads.
There is a lot to do in San Juan and most can be done on foot; some of my favorite things to do are;
Some of you may not be history buffs but it is truly remarkable walking through the old Spanish Fort that was used during the war, aside from that the top of El Morro offers some killer views of San Juan and the coast, with countless photo ops along the way.
Shopping in Old San Juan is a lot of fun. You can find a dollar souvenir store next to a high-end boutique next to a fresh coconut stand. There’s something for everyone and you often come across random streets and corners that you’ll most likely stop for at for pictures or sit and enjoy watching the different agendas going on around you.
El Yunque rainforest is just 20 minutes from San Juan and such a beautiful experience. You can park near the bottom or higher up and hike your way up to the top, stop on the way up for a traditional Puerto Rican meal and/ or snack and then cool off in the natural pool all the way up after enjoying some gorgeous panoramic rainforest views. The rainforest is open to anyone and everyone and is about 1 ½ miles hike total. So worth it.
Although the Ocean is not far the most untouched beaches are. There are so many beaches on the island, 248 to be exact and some argue that there are hundreds more. My favorite beaches are just a short 20 minute drive from San Juan and so worth the trip, here they are:
This beach is so beautiful, well kept and very calm, you’ll find mostly locals here and you might not ever want to leave. There is a small walk up restaurant/ bar with fresh fruit, some authentic Puerto rican goods and big ol drinks inside of pineapples. I told you, you might not ever want to leave. The palm trees compliment the crisp sand very well and will give you the best photo ops.
There is a small somewhat hidden beach in Manati, Puerto Rico called La mar Chiquita, the small where there is a natural round border made up of rocks surrounding the beach and outlining its perimeter. This beach is also a short 30 minute drive from San Juan and you’ll be met by locals and the peaceful sound of a quiet beach. If you go at the right time, you’ll practically have the beach to yourself.
There aren’t any small stands nearby so make a stop on the way for snacks and water.
This beach is even closer to San Juan and just a 15 minute drive from the main airport, San Martin airport. It is well kept as pretty much all of the beaches on the Island are and a perfect way to get a beach day in without traveling to far and taking up a whole day of your itinerary.
Taxis are reasonably priced but you can save a whole lot by renting a car straight from the airport. You’ll end up paying more by taking taxis and paying for longer trips to further beaches. However, the parking in Old San Juan is strict, you can plan ahead and/ or make sure your accommodation offers parking or make deal with a local parking lot to allow you to park there for the remainder of your time for a lower rate. Puerto Ricans are always willing to help you just have to ask.
I used Charlie Car Rental and was given great service, the staff is very helpful and the rental price per day was very reasonable! I will definitely use them again. You can find the link to their site below:
There are so many beautiful places to stay in San Juan. Most major hotel chains can be found in the capital like; The Hilton, Sheraton, Courtyard Marriott but we wanted more of a local experience so we stayed at an Air BNB right in the heart of Old San Juan and we were not disappointed. The location was perfect and the rate was much cheaper than most of the hotels at the time. This is another way to be in a great location where everything would be within walking distance.
Just to reiterate, be sure to plan accordingly if you’re renting a car, Old San Juan is strict and I mean strict with parking. It may even be better not to rent a car for the days you will be in Old San Juan and rent once you’re exploring outside of the city. The majority of San Juan has these enforced parking rules.
Be sure to check out my next post; a full San Juan restaurant guide.