Ultimate Guide to Enjoy San Juan — in just a Weekend
Puerto Rico is a beautiful island full of gorgeous beaches, cobblestone streets, and vibrant people. The beautiful ocean waters were enough to draw me in & they begged me to stay. I was able to spend a few days exploring & would love to share with you some highlights and recommendations.
Snapshot of Puerto Rico
Just because a little bit of background can be significant: Puerto Rico is a US Territory, located in the Caribbean south of Florida. It consists of a small group of islands called archipelagos. The population contains approximately 3.4 million people, the majority speaking Spanish and some English. The capital, San Juan, is located on the main island and where I spent my time on my short trip.
The Intercontinental San Juan
During my brief stay, I was able to reside in this beautiful hotel. You can walk out the back of the hotel for gorgeous pools, and a step further brings you to a gorgeous strip of sand along Isla Verde beach. I snuck out here one early morning and snagged a beautiful spot on the shoreline for some sun-bathing & highly recommend it. The hotel provides beach loungers and towels for your convenience.
Insider Tip: While I highly recommend the beaches for sweeping views of gorgeous waters, here’s a tip: if you go to the beach in the morning, wear bug spray. Hotels will rake the beach in the early morning hours which can stir up little sand fleas. If you prefer not to walk away from the beach with little bites peppering your body just pack some bug spray and you’re set.
While there is a bar located conveniently outside and they offer both an Asian Fusion & Italian Restaurant, I chose to take advantage of the room service. Now, I know in Puerto Rico you’re supposed to take advantage of local cuisine—such as Mofongo—but I ordered my weakness. Pizza. Let me tell you, the hotel has amazing, mouth-watering, to-die-for, pizza.
City Sightseeing San Juan
I wanted to pack in as much as I could while I was here, so I checked with the concierge. One affordable option for a quick tour of San Juan was the City Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour. The stop was a block outside of the entrance of the hotel. I grabbed a friend and we hopped on!
Insider Tip: On the tour, if you sit on the top deck—make sure to wear a hat, sunblock, and be prepared to duck! You may be going through some low-hanging tree branches.
The tour was so much fun, and I highly recommend it for a quick view of some of the notable parts of San Juan. You get beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean and the shoreline, are able to see the Capital Building & stunning views of historical places such as the San Cristobal Fort. We stayed on the bus until we reached Old San Juan. Then we disembarked on the walking part of our journey.
Old San Juan
I have to be completely honest—I was beyond excited to get to spend some time exploring Old San Juan! I had heard it was home to a restaurant that claimed to have created the Pina Colada & I had to try it. Some bloggers I follow had been there previously and their photos convinced me. It was a small trek up a steep street, but we made it to 104 Calle Forteleza in record time (perhaps partially because of how hungry we were). We were quickly seated at a quaint table & were serenaded by a singing guitarist while we waited for our drinks and food. The Pina Colada AND the food were worth the walk, and I highly recommend eating at Barrachina if you have time.
We weaved in and out of local shops buying souvenirs and admiring the local artistry. It was breath-taking and I could easily have spent many more hours there. However, I had heard that the forts were a must-see, & I could just barely make it to see them if I headed that direction quickly.
Fort San Cristobal
This fort was completed in 1783, covering 27 acres of land. Its walls encompassed nearly all of San Juan—the largest built in the Americas by Spain. I’m by no means a history buff, but the fort was both fascinating and awe-inspiring. As you walk through the tunnels & see the barracks where soldiers slept you’re left speechless. The view of the ocean from the casemates is beyond description. The fort also provides an extensive view of the city. I highly recommend exploring when you visit San Juan.
More to See
I wish I could highlight soo much more in this post. But, I was working with limited time and only got so far. Is there anything you would recommend next time I’m there? Scroll down to see some of my favorite photos!