Old San Juan: Things To Do
Ever since one of my life goals became to travel more often, my head would fill with colorful and vibrant images of Old San Juan at the thought of Puerto Rico. Just as I had hoped, the cobble streets and the pastel-colored Spanish colonial architecture offers a look into the beauty of the island’s past and luckily for us, its present.
This vacation was our first time using Airbnb and just as in Rincón, in Old San Juan we made a beautiful find. Three floor apartment building with the center of each floor looking down into the middle of a little yard. The railroad 2-bedroom apartment was well-preserved in what seemed its original built and design. The master bedroom’s focal point being the tall wooden doors exiting to the balcony, directly in front of the ocean and right between El Morro and El Castillo San Cristobal.
El Castillo San Felipe del Morro (El Morro Fort) which sits majestically on the northeast coast of Puerto Rico is the destination in Old San Juan most tourists are looking forward to visiting. Surrounded by lush grass fields it’s easy, especially with kids, to spend a couple hours lounging around on the grass soaking in the view and taking in the sun. El Morro itself is stunning, not only in architecture and history but also for the stunning views it offers of the city.
PASEO DE LAS SOMBRILLAS
On Fortaleza Street, colorful umbrellas engraved with #PuertoRico have been placed across the entire strip giving the street a festive air. Oh, and a picture perfect backdrop! We captured a few fun shots but check out the beautiful couple I captured (picture below). They win, hands down, for best picture!
VIEJO SAN JUAN
My favorite part of the trip was just walking around the town. The beautiful cobble streets and vibrant homes. Discovering little plaza’s, interesting streets, cool artwork -some with deep messages. Just strolling around, taking in the day to day in such a mesmerizing little city.
CASTILLO SAN CRISTOBAL
Rising almost 150 feet above sea level, the Castillo de San Cristobal (Fort San Cristobal) is a massive castle where each piece of its structure has its own history. You can even step into a Garita, or sentry box, for a breathtaking look into the ocean.
PASEO DE LA PRINCESA
Take a walk down el Paseo de la Princesa and, if you’re with kids, make a quick stop at the park. Fun balancing games will make it entertaining for the little ones who make the challenge seem much easier than it really is.
Continue walking and your eyes will be drawn toward the beauty of Fuente Raices (Roots Fountain). The fountain represents exactly that - the roots of Puerto Rican culture which is made up of Tainos, Spaniards and Africans.
If you’re into long walks, continue walking down the sidewalk right on the border of the ocean that will lead you directly to the gate of the city (La Puerta de San Juan). We decided to do this walk at 5pm after we had been walking all day, with two toddlers, so to say we were tired is an understatement but the amazing views made it all worth it for us. The kids, on the other hand, had the stroller so they were feeling brand new and were happily running wild.
A town still referred to by many as one of the most dangerous barrios (hoods) and which outsiders were afraid to venture into before, has slowly become more tourist-friendly. Since Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s mega hit, Despacito, many tourist make their way down to the barrio clinging to a steep hillside between Old San Juan and the sea.
In the last two years, over 400 houses have been repaired and painted in bright colors making it much more inviting. I hadn’t read up on the positive changes prior to visiting the barrio and since we were with the babies we decided to just walk down the main street before heading back out.
EL JIBARITO & RAICES
We headed out to the charming city and walked a few blocks until we stumbled upon El Jibarito Restaurant. If you’re looking for authentic Puerto Rican food at reasonable prices, this is the place. The fogongo (of course I had the mofongo) was delicious and I also savored every last drop of the best Piña Colada I had ever had in my life. Shouldn’t have been surprising since Piña Colada is Puerto Rico’s signature drink but I couldn’t believe how “natural” it tasted. The atmosphere is cheerful with the main wall decorated to resemble the colorful little houses and balcony’s that Old San Juan is loved for.
We opted for dinner at Raices Restaurant on our last night at Old San Juan and it was insanely delicious on top of being a fun place to go and enjoy a traditional experience. From the decor to the outfits and way of serving the food, it’s all part of the overall experience. As appetizers, we had the alcapurrias -fried green plantain stuffed with plantain. They were perfectly crunchy and yummy. Served in a traditional jarro (tin cup) the Piña Colada was once again, delicious. To finish it off, I had the paella and oh my goodness, it was THE BEST paella I have had! Ever!