Archive for February, 2011

Old San Juan Puerto Rico, Old World Charm

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

San Juan Travel Deals

Old San Juan is located in the northern coastal region of Puerto Rico and is the oldest city under the U.S flag.  Not only does San Juan have fine beaches and beautiful tropical climate, but this town displays some of the best Spanish-colonial architecture and historic old world charm.  Locally known as “La Ciudad Amurallada” (the walled city), in 1508 Juan Ponce de León founded the original Spanish settlement and in 1521 San Juan was founded.  The city walls are made of solid blocks that are 40 feet high in places, and 15 to 45 feet thick at the base.  There is one of the original six red city gates (massive wooden doors) that remain today.  Some of the wall has been torn down as the city expanded. Today, Old San Juan is a real town within a city.

Old San Juan is a beautifully preserved eight by ten block district of San Juan consisting of around 400 restored buildings from the 16th- and 17th-century Spanish colonial period.  Old San Juan lies on the western half of the islet of San Juan and is protected by multiple Spanish forts.  Much of the district is intact architecturally, including the impressive forts and walls.  The Northern part of Old San Juan overlooks the ocean, and it is here where you will find two of the three forts, El Morro and San Cristóbal. Castillo San Cristóbal is one of the largest Spanish fortresses in the new world.  The Castillo San Felipe del Morro (or el Morro) is a citadel with a commanding view of the entrance to San Juan Harbor.  The Southern part of the city faces the beautiful San Juan’s Bay and it is especially enjoyable at sunset.  When the sun sets on the Bay, you can enjoy scenic walks along the bay side.  The third fort, Fuerte San Gerónimo (San Gerónimo Fort) was built on the opposite end of San Juan to strengthen the city’s defenses.  

Old San Juan has a fabulous historic walking area.  The attractions of Old San Juan are technically within walking distance of each other.  You’ll experience a few hills and a lot of cobblestone streets to challenge you while getting around town.  Walking the narrow streets of the old city past the colorful houses, stone streets, plazas, statues, forts and cathedral make you feel you’ve gone back in time to the 16th century.  The Old San Juan’s City hall was built in 1602 and the governor’s mansion is the oldest in continuous use in the New World.  The town also features the second oldest church in continuous use in the New World, the burial site of Ponce de Leon, and a Museum of the art and history books through five centuries.

There is plenty to see and do around San Juan.  Old San Juan has great shopping, nightlife, dancing, dining.  The Puerto Rican culture is rich in history and tradition and it’s reflected in their people and the friendly atmosphere of the local shops, restaurants.  You’ll find terrific local retailers scattered among many narrow streets as well as small gambling casinos, several plazas, parks, museums, and social gathering spots. Stores include many fine jewelers, art galleries, crafts, and great food, particularly tapas bars and Latin “fusion” restaurants.  If you love Puerto Rican and Caribbean food, Old San Juan has the best and most authentic around.  Visitors often tour the nearby El Yunque Rainforest, which is an amazing natural wonder.  You can also visit the San Juan Bacardi Factory and enjoy a fun tour with some tasting of Caribbean Rums, or enjoy a kayaking trip in the bioluminescent bay of Farjardo.

The Old San Juan attracts many tourists.  Old San Juan is a common departure point and stop for cruise ships.  The port of San Juan annually accommodates nearly 1.4 million passengers in cruise ship travel alone, making it the third busiest cruise port in the world.  Most cruise passengers arrive to the island at San Juan/Luis Muñoz Marín Airport, and then take a cab ride to the cruise pier near Old San Juan.  Old San Juan is quite safe. On the southern waterfront by the piers where cruise ships dock, local police line the area, keeping it safe for tourists, even at night. Along this waterfront and in front of the Sheraton hotel is the best place to catch a taxi at night.  

If you are looking for a great hotel with the best location for getting around Old Town and embarking on a cruise, the Sheraton Old San Juan is a delightfully captivating upscale hotel in the heart of picturesque Old San Juan near the cruise ships.  This hotel has the best location in Old San Juan.  The completely unique location highlights spectacular views of the bay.  It you are looking to stay at a nearly beach resort, south by the airport is Isle Verde where you will find a string of beach resorts, including the Ritz Carlton.  Condado is the next big beach hotel area just west of Isle Verde. The beaches and resorts in Carolina on the other side of town are also very nice.  Find out more about easy online travel booking and travel reservations to San Juan.