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San Juan Information
San Juan Overview
San Juan is a mix of ancient history and modern luxury, catering equally to history buffs, adventure-lovers and shopaholics. Old San Juan’s forts and colonial architecture give this part of the city a distinct European flair. The narrow streets and city squares peppered with museums and statues are also home to excellent cafes and boutiques. The modern side of San Juan is trendy and chic, offering fine dining, casinos and shopping. Stay at a stylish resort near downtown, then check out the red-hot nightclubs and bars. For those who want a more laid-back experience, San Juan offers several public beaches that are carefully managed by the local government. That means you’ll always be able to find a clean, great stretch of sand. Rich with history and full of culture, San Juan promises a vacation you can’t quite get anywhere else.
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Mapping Out Puerto Rico
With a lively night life, an array of cuisines, public beaches, and cultural offerings, San Juan offers all the strappings of a metropolitan center with the distinctly Puerto Rican flair and flavor. Chic, urban hotels make this an ideal destination for the bohemians. On the other hand, old San Juan displays the city’s long European history with castles and museums. Explore narrow streets, plazas and buildings, built in the colonial style and home to top notch cafes and boutiques. The east side of the island, dominated by El Yunque National Forest, is great for eco-lovers. There are also the out islands of Vieques and Culebra. Culebra offers the famous Playa Flamenco, considered one of the best beaches in the world. In the south, the museums and architecture showcase a more distinctly Puerto Rican design, such as the fire station museum in Ponce. Finally, turn west for bodacious surfing at Rincon. Whether you want chic and trendy, calm and relaxing or pure and natural, you’ll find something to love in Puerto Rico.
Shop Well. Shop Often.
Mall mavens: Look no further than Plaza Las Americas, the largest mall in the Caribbean with more than 300 stores. Here you’ll find leading U.S brands, from Ann Taylor to Zara, all within a 15-minute cab ride from your San Juan hotel.
But if you’re looking for something unique to the destination (we love to shop local – and often!), head for Old San Juan’s Fortaleza Street and the small boutique, Ole. That’s where milliner Guillermo Jeffs will custom-fit one of his genuine Panama hats to your head and embellish it with the colored ribbon of your choice for a truly unique souvenir. A few doors down, drop into Concalma, where the inexpensive and brightly patterned fabric tote bags will take you from the city to the sand and back again in San Juan style.
And if you’re ready to splurge, stroll the boutiques along Condado’s Ashford Avenue, where designer baubles and clothing await.
The Past is Just the Beginning
History buff or not, you’ll enjoy touring Old San Juan’s signature historic forts, El Morro and San Cristobal, centuries-old relics of the days when the walled city was the jewel of the Spanish colonial empire. Afterward, take to the famous blue cobblestone streets of Old San Juan for shopping, lunch and people-watching. Just beyond the historic ramparts, the sugary beaches at Condado, El Escambron, Ocean Park and Isla Verde beckon, so be sure to pack your swimsuit and sunscreen.
Across the bay in Catano, the Bacardi Rum distillery runs a 45-minute tour that tells the story of the famous brand and gives visitors a chance to see how the legendary liquor is made. Best of all, the tour is free and includes complimentary cocktails; score!
If you have the time, consider a day trip to El Yunque, the Caribbean rainforest. But make sure to reserve some energy for the evening because once the sun goes down, the city really heats up. You’ll have your pick of bars, restaurants and clubs in Old San Juan and Condado, but OSJ’s Nuyorican Café is a must for live jazz, rock and salsa.
Sure Bets for Beach Lovers
Las Vegas, Atlantic City…and San Juan. Puerto Rico is the casino destination for beach lovers. And the island’s capital, San Juan, hosts several awesome resorts that pair casino fun with golden beaches and metropolitan excitement.
Sashay to the timeless Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel & Casino. With a classy appearance and an enviable location, a day at the Sheraton Old San Juan includes lounging at the roof-top pool, easy access to boutique shopping, world class restaurants and – of course – courting Lady Luck at the casino.
If you’d prefer a little more nature in between hands of Texas Hold ‘em, Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa is located about an hour and a half east of San Juan, near El Yunque rainforest and on a gorgeous stretch of golden beach. This more remote resort removes you from the metropolitan rush that others prefer and gives you access to Puerto Rico’s natural splendor.
So when you want to go all in, forget the mainland. Puerto Rico is the place to be.
Pack an Appetite
Better pack those elastic-waist pants too, because San Juan is a foodie’s paradise.
Start your gastronomic odyssey by trying the fare of the city’s star chefs, Wilo Benet and Roberto Trevino. We adore the cuisine at Trevino’s Condado eatery, Budatai, where Asian and Puerto Rican flavors meet. And Chef Benet’s fusion cuisine at nearby Pikayo (in the Conrad Condado Plaza) makes us instantly forget our diets.
It’s a much more casual affair on the beach at Pinones, where you can sample from the string of snack shacks that serve up pinchos (skewers of meat, fish and seafood) and all manner of deep-fried deliciousness.
In Old San Juan, we can’t think of a more romantic place for a drink than the bar at El Convento. The intimate candlelit spot overlooks the convent-turned-hotel’s courtyard dining room, where a sprawling tree strung with fairy lights casts a magical glow.
A Lush Bar Scene
San Juan’s nightlife is often compared to Miami’s, and rightfully so. Club and bar options abound in Puerto Rico's capital. The Nuyorican Café pulses with heart-thumping salsa music and dancing. Nestled into Old San Juan, locals and visitors shake and spin late into the night, while professional dancers and great musicians keep the beat hot. Nuyorican also offers more eclectic features such as plays, poetry readings and talent shows. This hip establishment attracts a diverse, energetic and creative crowd.
The local hotels host some of San Juan's favorite clubs. For a posh bar scene, head to the roof of San Juan Water & Beach Club Hotel, where Mist offers excellent ocean views, leather couches and a DJ on the weekends. Or if you seek a hotspot to dance, boogie down to Club Brava at El San Juan Resort & Casino. This two-story dancing mecca bumps Top 40 hits and house music all night and attracts locals and tourists alike. The club enforces an upscale dress code, so everyone is dressed to impress. If you're not staying at El San Juan Resort, you'll pay a cover, but for a guaranteed night of throw-off-your-shoes dancing, Brava's got you covered.
San Juan Quick Facts
Spanish and English (primarily Spanish)
110 V, like American outlets
All U.S. citizens must have a valid passport when traveling to and from San Juan.
Water is safe to drink
Eastern Standard Time (UTC/GMT -4 hours)
mid-December – mid-April