Established in 1521, San Juan is the second – oldest European-founded city in Americas and the capital of Puerto Rico. San Juan is called the jewel of the Caribbean for a good reason: It has done an amazing job of preserving its unique Caribbean culture and combined it with modern large shopping malls, restaurants, bars and resorts.
The city became a commonwealth of the United States during the Spanish-American war in 1898, however, up until then was an important strategic military location for the Spanish.
Today Old San Juan is the Caribbean’s main cruise port and a home to many different cruise lines which bring millions of tourists to the city each year.
The Island has a lot to offer and we will give you five reasons to visit it, among many more! Vamos!
#1 Enjoy the history and culture
The whole city is old and so much of it has been amazingly restored and preserved that you feel like you’ve stepped into the past. You can explore the entire 465-year-old city foot and it’s really great that the forts San Felipe Del Morro and Castillo and Castillo de San Cristóbal are always open to tourists. Spanish culture goes very strong in Puerto Rico. You can hear the salsa tunes played in all the bars and try the Latin dishes in every restaurant. You don’t really need a plan to explore San Juan: just walk around, soak up the atmosphere, try the tasty street food and listen to one of the many street musicians.
#2 The food tastes amazing
Puerto Rican cooking has some resemblance with Spanish, Cuban and Mexican cuisine but it is as well a unique tasty combination of Spanish, African, Taíno, and American influences. It has such homegrown seasonings and ingredients as coriander, papaya, cacao, plantains, and yampee. Locals call their cuisine “Cocina Criolla” or Créole cooking. Every Puerto Rican chef will tell you that you have to try Mofongo, the classic Puerto Rican dish made from fried green plantains, mashed together with a variety of spices and filled with your choice of meat or vegetables. You will absolutely love the taste!
#3 Go on an adventure
Puerto Rican outdoor adventures, activities and landscapes are so diverse. You can choose between caving, sailing, snorkeling, hiking or kayaking, however, most tourists who are looking for an adventure will try out the breathtaking zip lining at Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park. Not only are the zip lines epic and adrenaline-inducing, but Toro Verde also has some of the best zip lining views. It is a 4,745ft long zip line which is about 900 ft. above the forest floor at its highest point. And the best part is you can reach all these different features in about an hour from San Juan.
#4 Or maybe you prefer relaxing on the beach?
There are numerous beaches in San Juan and within a short ride of the San Juan metropolitan area. They have a golden brown sand to die for. One of the most-visited beaches is the Bioluminescent Bay in Fajardo, where at night you can see glowing planktons in the water. Or you can try out the beaches on the nearby islands, Culebra and Vieques, both reachable by boat or a short flight from the main island. Catamaran trips are also an option. Also, the Flamenco Beach that often appears on lists of the best beaches in the world, with the white sand and turquoise warm water, definitely belongs to the list of most visited beaches of Puerto Rico.
#5 And finally dance away
The spine of Puerto Rican nightlife is salsa and merengue. Salsa has roots in other Latin cultures, but Puerto Ricans made it their own. You can also find bars and clubs featuring the Caribbean dance style. Wander around until you hear the thumping beat and join in the fun. Even if you can’t dance, it’s something everyone should see in person at least once. Besides, there will surely be some locals there to give you a hand. They love taking novices for a spin on the dance floor.It’s great that in San Juan, locals and tourists mix into a fashionable crowd, with the classy atmosphere of cafes and Latin night clubs everywhere.
Keen to get there as soon as possible?
San Juan is very accessible thanks to the city’s Luis Munoz Marin airport (SJU) considered being the gateway to the Caribbean, with regular direct flights from all over the United States and Europe. It is also a jumping-off point for trips deeper into the Caribbean.
A fun fact to leave you with: Did you know that the iconic cocktail Pina Colada was invented in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1963? At least that’s what they will tell you at Old San Juan bar and restaurant Barrachina, which claims to be the originator of the famous rum, coconut, and pineapple cocktail!
Manigo Team, March 2017