Puerto Rico suffered a devastating blow when hurricane Maria ripped through the island in 2017. While still trying to rebuild and repair their infrastructure, Puerto Rican residents and businesses are optimistic and eager to return San Juan to the top of the list of Caribbean destinations. I was excited to bring my family on a recent visit to the beautiful island.
We spent a couple of days visiting Old San Juan and without a set itinerary, we roamed the historic district and toured the nearby castles. Our trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico was brief but left us with a longing to return.
Getting to Old San Juan
Getting to Old San Juan from the San Juan Luis Muñoz Marin Airport (SJU) Airport is easy. No need to rent a car, non resident street parking is not allowed in Old San Juan. The taxi ride cost us $25 and included the $1 fee for each bag. Uber is not allowed to pickup at the airport but we use Uber to take us back. We paid $14 using Uber for the 20 min ride from Old San Juan to the SJU Airport. Uber prices vary during peak periods.
Where to Stay in Old San Juan
Selecting a hotel in Old San Juan can be a little tricky. Most of the hotels in this area are boutique hotels. There are lots of reviews on line and the best ones can cost a lot more. I was able to find us a last minute booking at La Terraza in Old San Juan for $240, not including the taxes and fees.
La Terraza is situated in the heart of Old San Juan and located in one of the many Spanish architecture buildings. We had an intimate sized room with two queen beds. The beds were comfortable and the room was very clean. There is a terrace on the rooftop that features a plunge infinity pool. There is also seating for breakfast and lunch on the rooftop.
Another one of my favorite places to stay in Old San Juan is Hotel El Convento. El Convento is a small luxury boutique hotel located in a historical site located in what was once a convent and is beautiful inside and out. The woodwork, tile, and art are all Spanish Colonial restored to its original glory.
What to do in Old San Juan
One of the most popular sites in San Juan, Puerto Rico are the forts. Castillo San Cristóbal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro are part of the US National Parks. They are strategically located along the Old San Juan’s border and walking distance from most anywhere in Old San Juan. The entry for adults is $5 and free for kids.
We arrived to Castillo San Cristóbal around 10am and it took us about one and half hours to explore. Tours are offered but was not available on the day we went. I suggest checking the site or calling for the tour schedule.
There’re lots to see at both the sites and if you enjoy photography as much as I do, be prepared to take plenty of photos. Castillo del Morro has the largest outdoor grounds and is a great place to fly kites, picnic, or mingle with locals.
The kids enjoyed both the sites and even without a tour guide offering historic information, they learned so much. Signage with full descriptions are strategical located throughout the parks.
The forts are about a mile or more away from each other. There’s complimentary shuttle service for visitors to travel between San Cristóbal and Del Morro, but was not available during our visit. There is a free public bus that also travels between the two forts but the schedule is sporadic. You can also walk the route and be stunned by the magnificent views of the oceanside.
Where to Dine in Old San Juan
Dining in Old San Juan can be hit or miss especially if you on a budget and want a good meal. We found a great pizzeria called La Formagio in Old San Juan that we found on Yelp. We ordered the small pizza pie with ground beef and fresh pineapple toppings. The small pie was more than enough for the 3 of us and cost about $15.
There are lots of other small eateries in Old San Juan offering local cuisine and I recommend dropping into, but be prepared to spend a little more. Water is almost always bottle unless you request tap. Tipping, as with any US destination, is customary.
Though Puerto Rico is actively rebuilding and at the time of publishing this post just 55% of the island has power, there is so much to see and do within this majestic town. The people in Puerto Rico are welcoming, friendly, and always delighted to have you as guest.