Five Fun Things to Do in San Juan
Nowhere is Puerto Rico’s unique cultural complexity (a blend of African, Spanish and other European influences reflected in its history, food, arts and culture) more apparent than in its cosmopolitan capital of San Juan. And since there’s no passport required for United States citizens, and San Juan’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport has frequent non-stop flights from all over the United States, getting here is easy and relatively inexpensive. If San Juan is on your travel agenda (and it should be!) here are five fun things to do while you’re there. CJ Travel Editor Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon has the scoop.
Sip A Pina Colada Where It Was Born
The pina colada is Puerto Rico’s national drink, and there’s no better place to sample it than at Barrachina, the Old San Juan bar where it was invented in 1963. Head for the historic Fortaleza Street bar and restaurant and get a taste of the potent original, made with Ron Del Barrio’s 86% proof, three-year old amber rum. They serve as many as 2,300 pina coladas in a single day here, so you’ll be in good company.
See The Murals at Santurce Es Ley
There’s no better place to see street art than in San Juan, where the gritty quarter of Santurce has become a canvas for striking large-scale work by local and international artists. Mounted as part of the arts festival Santurce Es Ley (Santurce is law), the contemporary art installation got its start six years ago, and now a trove of murals has transformed the once-neglected neighborhood. Strolling along Calle Cerra, where most of the paintings are found, is like being in an outdoor gallery, where vibrant art surrounds you and there’s a selfie opportunity on every corner.
Stroll The Streets of Old San Juan
At just seven-square-blocks, the city’s historic district is easily explored on foot. Follow the narrow blue cobblestone streets to the forts of El Morro and San Cristobal, which combine history and sweeping ocean views as they tell the story of an era when the walled city was the jewel of the Spanish colonial empire. You’ll also find several restaurants (try Café El Punto for the best mofongo in town); trendy bars (we like La Factoria and Polo Norte); and charming boutique hotels such as Casablanca, El Convento and Casa Herencia. Several placitas are perfect spots for people-watching over a cafecito, and indy boutiques such as Ole, Concalma and Luca sell locally crafted items that make unique island souvenirs.
Tour The Bacardi Rum Factory
Across San Juan Bay in Catano (hop the 10-min/50-cent ferry from the pier in Old San Juan) the Bacardi Rum distillery, Casa Bacardi, runs a 45-minute tour that tells the story of the famous liquor, which was born in Cuba in 1862 and has been made in Puerto Rico since the 1930. You’ll get a chance to see how the legendary liquor is made on the free tour of the world’s largest rum distillery, and best of all, enjoy complimentary cocktails – including, of course, the Cuba Libre (Bacardi rum and Coca-Cola).
Shop ‘Til You Drop in Condado
About 10 minutes’ drive from Old San Juan, Condado is a recently revitalized San Juan neighborhood that has become one of San Juan’s most fashionable districts. Its main drag, oceanfront Ashford Avenue, is lined with high-rise beach and casino resorts and chic restaurants, but it’s also a mecca for shoppers with a taste for the finer things. If you’re in search of a bauble from Cartier; a handbag from Louis Vuitton; or the latest Gucci loafer, look no further. The designer “shopportunities” here are limited only by your budget.