San Juan: An Urban, Tropical Capital
Rarely does such an exciting mix of great beaches, historic districts, nightlife, shopping, dining and resorts come together in such close proximity all while surrounded by friendly, genuinely happy people.
In San Juan you can go from a beach day, to a history day, a shopping day, a culture day and a sports day. Then your nights can be used to explore the culinary/bar/music scene.
San Juan was founded in the early 1500’s and the city was mainly confined to the island of San Juan (Old San Juan and Puerta de Tierra area) for the first 400 or so years when Puerto Rico had a mainly agrarian economy. In the last 150 years San Juan has expanded to its present dimensions.
As a Metro area, San Juan is a true playground. Very few cities offer such easy access to great beaches and most main attractions are a short 20 minute or so drive away. Public transportation isn’t as robust or as efficient as it should be so renting a car is a smart way to get around.
San Juan Urban Beaches
Condado and Isla Verde are the major beach front hotel districts. Two public beaches – Escambrón, located at the west of Condado, and Balneario de Carolina, close to the airport – are Blue Flag Beaches. Isla Verde beach is a condominium and hotel lined beach perfect for walking or hanging out. Ocean Park Beach area is the place to be seen and even to practice or learn kite surfing.
Close to Ocean Park is Loíza Street, home to specialized restaurants and bars. Ventana al Mar on Ashford Avenue, Condado is a lovely oceanfront park and popular gathering spot. If you’re into paddleboarding go to the Laguna del Condado to rent a board.
‘Los Barrios de Santurce’
The Santurce neighborhood has a local hipster area around Calle Cerra, with amazing murals on many of the buildings and chic, quirky restaurants. There also the “Placita” a nighttime gathering area and at the farthest western end of Ponce de León Avenue, you’ll find a nice mix of restaurants.
There are also a three museums in Santurce, Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, and Museo de Arte y Diseño de Miramar a must visit for art enthusiasts wanting to see the best Puerto Rican artists.
For shopping head to Old San Juan, Plaza las Américas (the largest in the Caribbean) or The Mall of San Juan. Loíza Street and Santurce also offer smaller funky boutiques. For history, Old San Juan with its large forts and Spanish architecture is your destination of choice.