One of the most used departure ports for cruise ships in the Caribbean is San Juan in Puerto Rico. We decided to arrive a day early to San Juan in order to see some sights before our cruise ship departure. San Juan, known as ‘La Ciudad Amurallada’ (the walled city), was founded in 1521 and is the oldest city under the US flag. During the 16th century, the Spanish used it as a point of departure for expeditions to the New World. Fortifications in the Old San Juan section of the city repulsed numerous attacks from the English and the Dutch during those years. Today, Old San Juan is a charming seven square block commercial and residential area with cobblestone streets.
The cruise ship terminal is actually located near the south side of Old San Juan so instead of booking a hotel in the beach resort area of San Juan, we decided to book one right in the old section for close proximity to the terminal as well as the local sights. The $17 US taxi ride from San Juan’s airport to Old San Juan was about half an hour. During the ride, I was impressed by how developed the city was compared to many other cities I’ve visited in the Caribbean. The beach high-rise hotels along the north side of San Juan were visible from the highway. Our stay for the night was at the Hotel Milano which is right on Calle Fortaleza, which is one of the major commercial streets in Old San Juan. The hotel was clean and comfortable but not luxurious which was okay with us as the price was very affordable. Its quality was probably comparable to a Travelodge or Days Inn. A very pleasant surprise was the free continental breakfast at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant. It gave a nice view of the neighborhood from the top.
We spent the day and evening walking the many cobblestone streets and alleys in the area. There are over 400 restored colonial buildings from the 16th and 17th century here. There were also several plaza squares and parks. One of the nicest services offered in Old San Juan is a free shuttle bus which covers two different routes through the district. There was a bus stop about 1/2 block away from our hotel which was very convenient. Riding on the shuttle buses through both routes gave us a good overview of Old San Juan. We were able to stop off at several points of interest including the huge El Morro fort. After our visits to each attraction, we just had to
wait for the next bus to come by to continue our tour. In the evening, we did get lost while walking since many of the streets look very similar. But with our map, we eventually found our way back to the street where the Hotel Milano was. We decided to dine at one of the nearby restaurants for authentic Puerto Rican cuisine and were not disappointed. My lady especially adored the two different plantains we ordered.
When it was time to go to the cruise ship terminal, we just took a short five minute ride from our hotel. Our short stay in Old San Juan was definitely worthwhile and hassle free. A stay in Old San Juan is highly recommended for those who will be taking a Caribbean cruise with San Juan as the departure point. The only disappointment I had with San Juan was that I was hoping to do some scuba diving in the area but from the reports I read, the waters off the city are quite murky with limited marine life to see. This is likely the result of San Juan being such a busy port. The decent scuba diving sites are about 2 hours east of San Juan. So perhaps in a return trip to Puerto Rico, I will plan to make a trip to the east part of the island.
A Parador in Puerto Rico is a small country inn participating in a government program. This program certifies the quality and hospitality of the inn. The inns in this program that also have restaurants serve traditional Puerto Rican food. These Paradores are usually located close to historic areas or popular attractions.
Next time you are visiting the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, instead of just concentrating your trip around the metro area and it’s surrounding historical places, take a trip around Puerto Rico’s country side and discover it’s beauty and culture. You can start by staying at a Parador.
Some of the most popular paradores include:
In the hearth of downtown Mayaguez, the town with the only zoo on the island, The main place of the west side of the island and home to one of the biggest universities in Puerto Rico.
In between a coffee and a sugar plantation on the south east coast of the island, at the start of a panoramic road with some of the most interesting views on the island.
At the shore, just minutes away from the Bioluminescence Bay, with tours and local attractions, one of the most attractive Paradores in the island.
These are some of the locations of The Paradores in Puerto Rico, explore your options for an unforgettable adventure, sightseeing beautiful places in the tropical island of Puerto Rico.
San Juan Map & Hotels:
Hotel Deals in San Juan:
5 Nice Places to Visit in Puerto Rico:
There are a lot of places to visit in Puerto Rico on your trip. Most people concentrate on the main attractions on the metropolitan area of the island, here we feature 5 nice places to visit out of the way, they are worth the driving and the experience, enjoy.
Las Cuevas de Camuy National Park
This national Park features on of the largest cave systems in the world. visitors will walk into parts of the caves and explore a small part of the system. The surrounding areas feature some nature settings that make for very good views.
La Parguera, Bioluminescence Bay
Another very unique place to visit on the island. this bay has micro organisms on the water that when disturbed they “light up” and produce a beautiful display on the water. this phenomenon happens on various places around the world, but in Puerto Rico is the only place that is guaranteed for it to happen every night.
Arecibo radar observatory
In the north par of Puerto Rico you can visit the famous radio telescope, the largest of this kind of the world. Its large receptor plate it’s larger than 12 football fields, used to spot signals from planets and in the SETI research for extraterestrial life. Inside the Observatory there are science related exibitions of different subjects to watch.
Mayaguez is home to the only public zoo in the island. The zoo 2 main animal selections are the African Forest and the African Savannah. Also it features a Beautiful bird sanctuary.
Ponce Art Museum
The Ponce Art Museum has the largest art collection of the Caribbean between pictures and sculptures. Its collection have many European works such as works by Velasquez, Rubens and Rodin, and others.
Flight Deals to San Juan
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