Country: Puerto Rico
Currency: Dollar (USD)
Peak Season: November-April
Shoulder Season: May, October
Median Temperature: 25.60 C / 78.08 F
Main Languages: Spanish, English
Primary Modes of Transportation: Bus, metro, taxi, car rental
Recommended Duration of Stay: 4 days
Recommended Pocket Money: $100.00/day
Tourist Passes: n/a
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San Juan, now territory of the United States, was once a beautified coastal settlement that was furiously fought for by the then-colonizing Spanish from their anticipated invaders since the early 16th century. Over the course of four centuries, the city has become a beacon of the Catholic faith and Spanish dominion over the Caribbean seas. Its eclectic location on the northeastern coast of the country has made it vulnerable to invasions from British and French armies, most notably in the Battle of Puerto Rico and French Revolutionary Wars, respectively. Still, Spain fought furiously for its beloved colony, and the luster of the colonially-galvanized old districts Puerto Rico remains in pristine condition to this day; its parallel pace with the modern landscape is evident in its then and now booming export economy, while its historic section, “Old San Juan,” keeps intact all the walls and fortifications that stood vigorously during its colonial stint.

Once billed as the “Happiest Place on Earth” by the World Values Survey, Puerto Ricans are known to evoke a sincere zest for living, are great cooks, and resonate a deep respect for various walks of life. Deeply inclined with their faith and culture, one will notice how Puerto Ricans are closely-knit to familial values and adherent with the doctrines of the Catholic faith. They are friendly—there’s no mistaking that, and they’re some of the most hospitable people that truly acknowledge the historical worth of their motherland. A smooth blend of the United States’ installations and Spain’s supremacy—there’s no better place to begin your visit to Puerto Rico than in besieged-but-beautiful San Juan.

Packing List

  • An extra duffel bag or suitcase for souvenir purchases; San Juan is quite popular for its Christian sculptures, eclectic colorful house fixtures, ceramic ware, vases and the all-popular vejigante masks
  • Cool, cottony clothes for the hot and humid weather; a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and sunscreen and a bottle of insect repellant will get you by the forests, beaches and nearby towns around San Juan
  • A pair of walking shoes, umbrella, hiking gear, beachwear and a map of all the best places to visit in San Juan; the city is usually only part of a set of Puerto Rican itineraries, so bring an extra of everything
  • Essential medication (aspirin) and toiletries—most US goods and drugs are sold conveniently in Best Buy and Rite Aid outlets, respectively; also, a lot of US store chains have branches deployed all over San Juan
  • Essential medication (aspirin) and toiletries—most US goods and drugs are sold conveniently in Best Buy and Rite Aid outlets, respectively; also, a lot of US store chains have branches deployed all over San Juan

Things to Do

  • Visiting Fort San Felipe del Morro, commissioned in the 16th century to act as a stronghold against would-be invaders; the fort withstood attacks from Englishmen and the soon-victors, the Americans
  • Walking around romantic Paseo la Princesa, built in the 19th century; the promenade is gracefully dotted with street vendors and nearby al fresco cafes that host live jazz performances from Friday to Sunday
  • Recollecting inside the very old Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, commissioned during the reign of King Philip II in 1521; the church holds daily masses and is suited for celebrations, weddings and baptisms
  • Exploring Fort San Cristobal, the largest citadel built by the Spaniards in the Western Hemisphere; it served various military functions in the past half century, until its recognition by the UN in 1983
  • Hitting the people-packed shores of Condado Beach; the beach is famous for its fine white sands and crashing waves, which is perfect for surfers, although we have to warn you that some hotels are traps

DON'T

  • Dress fabulously, or you’ll end up getting sneered at by Puerto Rican men; clothing here is similar to the US—casual and upbeat— but remember that some restaurants only admit smartly-dressed patrons
  • Stay too long within shady neighborhoods—the usual culprits will try to snag your purse or wallet; caserios (or public housing sectors) house impoverished locals that have the volition to resort to crime
  • Hesitate to rent a car, since it’s much cheaper and a lot more convenient than public transport; some buses do not cross the outskirts of the city, much less the outlying towns, so getting a car is really helpful
  • Profess your homosexuality in Puerto Rico—it is generally frowned upon because of the predominant Catholic faith; instead of talking about racial or political topics, try to play chess or checkers with locals
  • Limit yourself to just San Juan—there are many smaller towns and cities like Guaynabo, Dorado, Aguas Buenas, and Vega Alta; neighboring regions are just as good (or even better) in terms of relaxation