For those of you who haven’t heard, Dave and I had an amazing time in Puerto Rico. Even though we stayed mostly in the San Juan area, I learned so much about the island and how diverse it actually is. For real, four days is no where near enough time to explore.
Old San Juan is the historical and most popular area to visit in Puerto Rico. With the airport being no more than 20 minutes away, it’s also very easy to get to. For your reading pleasure, I’ve gathered my favorite sites, sounds, and tastes from the city.
- Castillo San Felipe del Morro & de San Cristobal: These are the two forts that together run along the entire north side of the city. David and I explored both of these for about 2 hours each, and probably could have used even more time there. The 360 views of the city and the Atlantic Ocean were stunning. Do not miss!
- The Architecture: It’s hard to go anywhere in Old San Juan and not see jaw-dropping, beautiful buildings. Every color of the rainbow was accounted for. I left with major curb appeal inspiration and just a touch of jealousy.
- Casa Bacardi: Just on the other side of the harbor is the famous Casa Bacardi. Take the quick, 50 cent ferry ride across and an even shorter cab ride to get yourself to another slice of paradise. The whole thing seems like a mini Disney World-like production, with a tram ride, an outdoor pavilion (featuring complimentary drinks), and a yummy restaurant. We started with the historical tour and switched on over to the rum tasting as David’s birthday treat. I do recommend ordering your tickets in advance online because you may find yourself disappointed if you get all the way there and they are sold out. They also offer a Mixology course where you learn to make four of their signature drinks. Let me tell you, those peeps from that tour looked like they had a lot of fun afterwards.
- El Jibarito: This is where David and I ate our first day after many recommendations from the locals. Not a disappointment. The feel was extremely low-key, but the food was off the charts. It was also our first experience with Mofongo, a dream plate of mashed, fried plantains. How did I go this long without Mofongo in my life?! Beyond delicious.
- Verde Mesa: This vegetarian-friendly restaurant also came extremely highly recommended from the locals. The food is farm to table fresh and a healthy change from Mofongo. I was surprised by how vegetarian-friendly the entire city was. Totally something to keep in mind if you have a special diet.
- Senor Paleta: Almost any time of the year in San Juan is hot. It’s important to stay hydrated and indulge yourself in a little cool, popsicle treat. If you can think of it, they probably have it as a flavor. My favorite will always be Strawberry Basil, but they all looked and sounded mouth-wateringly good.
- La Taberna Lupulo: You better believe that my boyfriend found the only craft-beer bar in town. La Taberna just felt like home with many great American craft beers. Because of the high cost to brew beer on the island, you won’t find many local small breweries, but the two beers that we tried from Puerto Rico were fantastic!
- El Batey: This little ‘hole-in-the-wall’ place is the oldest bar in the city and is a great spot to wind down after a long day of wandering through the city.
- Barrachina: This restaurant is the home to great food and the first Pina Colada! Do I really need to say more? At first it gives off a touristy vibe, but once we were sitting in the courtyard eating lunch, it totally melted away.
- Concalma: This shop has a lot of really cute merchandise from local vendors. I bought two tote bags there from a company called Cabo Cabo that have the cutest map designs of the island and the city of San Juan. Keep an eye out for pictures in an up-coming post.
- Ole Curiosidades: Let me just start by saying, I wore my straw fedora everywhere! It was my ultimate fashion accessory for the trip. So, when I came across this little hat shop, I just knew that I had to go in. The hat is pretty much customized just for you. You pick the style, they fit it to you, and you pick the band. It’s the perfect (and practical) souvenir from San Juan.
- Uber: Uber is alive and well in the San Juan area, but there is a trick to catching them. The biggest thing we took away was that you should not call one anywhere near a taxi cab. There have been a lot of issues with cab drivers harassing Uber drivers and patrons. Nothing dangerous, but I’m so non-confrontational I decided to just steer clear. If you’re waiting around a known taxi hangout, your Uber drive may call you and ask to meet the next block over. Just be flexible.
- Timing: To say David and are morning people would be an understatement. Waking up at 7:30 on the weekends is sleeping in for us. With that said, we were in for quite a surprise when we realized that not much was open in Old San Juan before 11. A lot of the city’s visitors come from the cruise ships that dock in the harbor and, when they arrive, that’s when you can expect those narrow streets to get crowded.
- Language: Almost everyone does speak English in the OSJ area, but it may not be their first language. Just be patient if the language barrier seems like more than usual. Remember, this is their home, not yours. Also, everyone was extremely friendly that we came across. Most of my recommendations come from me just talking and asking locals what their favorites were.
I hope this was helpful guide for Old San Juan. Trust me, I’m only scratching the surface here. David and I have a to-do list almost a mile long for the next time we visit. Have any question? Be sure to comment or e-mail.
Peace and Love from Florida,
Katie, The Coastal Stylist