Caribbean Cruising '23: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Suzanna Pinder on 04 March 2023
Capital of Puerto Rico, the old town of San Juan is a fabulous maze of cobbled streets, vibrant coloured buildings and brimming with old style elegance, interesting historic charm and a wonderfully sassy feel!

Having left our boat on the east coast of Puerto Rico for a couple of days, we booked an apartment in a lovely old colonial style building, with large interior courtyard and huge shuttered doors opening onto balconies overlooking the bustling street below. Everywhere is within walking distance in the old town and to orientate ourselves, we first went on a walking tour.

Meeting our guide Juan ‘JC’ Carlos, we spent a great morning stomping the cobbles around town. We learnt about everything from the cobbles themselves, having been brought from England in the 18th century, about the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the late 1400’s, the history of the city fortifications and why she is called ‘The Gateway To The America’s’. JC showed us prominent landmarks and quirky sights, including the narrowest house in the north western hemisphere at only 5ft wide, the oldest cathedral in the US, monuments to historical moments and figures and the very colourful Calle Fortaleza, otherwise known at Umbrella Street, leading to the Governor’s residence. A really interesting and worthwhile morning.

In addition to the fabulous architecture and building colours, with space at a premium many houses have beautiful balconies and roof gardens bursting with flowers and plants lazily tumbling down. Some have even managed to grow large trees and palms from tiny pavement cracks outside front doors. A fabulous city for simply wondering.

San Juan is also full of many excellent bars and restaurants and great fun as the sun goes down, with the music turned up and dancing in the streets until dawn. Seafood is prominent on the menu and we enjoyed fine feasts of ceviche, fish tacos, snapper and fríjoles. Craft beer and cocktails are also popular in San Juan, with some great bars, including Barrachina, the bar where the Pina Colada was invented!

Not really knowing what to expect from San Juan, we were pleasantly surprised how much we enjoyed the city. Often a cruise embarkation/disembarkation port or flight transit, but not often a destination. Puerto Rico is one of the largest islands in the Caribbean chain and offers so much, with cities, beaches, mountainous rainforest, culture and scenery, making it a wonderful island for a multi centre holiday.

This article was published as part of a series ‘Caribbean Cruising 2023’.

Next article ‘Saba’.