San Juan, Puerto Rico's buzzing capital, preserves the island's Spanish heritage in its colonial neighborhoods. The cobblestone streets of Old San Juan teem with restaurants and shops and a large concentration of art galleries and museums. New San Juan has its charms as well, particularly in its more storied residential architecture in Santurce and Miramar. Golden sand fronts the coastal areas of Ocean Park and Isla Verde, where peaceful sunsets rub shoulders with a nightlife that rocks until the early morning.
Things to Do
Escape the high-rises and highways of central San Juan for the cobbled streets in the walled city of Old San Juan, lined with Spanish townhouses decorated with wrought-iron balconies. Castillo de San Felipe del Morro, perched on a rocky promontory, provides a view of the entire city. San Juaneros head to the golden sands of Isla Verde Beach to swim and snorkel in the calm, clear waters. Hop on a ferry and tour the nearby Bacardi Distillery. At nearby Luquillo Beach, families swim in the calm waters.
Expect to find bargains galore in Puerto Rico, from luxury goods to local crafts. Browse the couture emporiums on Avenida Ashford in Condado, or look for trendy clothes and electronics at Plaza Las Americas, the biggest mall in the Caribbean. A stroll down the narrow side streets of Old San Juan reveals shops filled with vejigantes (painted Carnival masks), unique souvenirs, books and jewelry.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Nightlife starts late, with high-rollers rolling the dice in San Juan's casinos and Latin beats pouring out from funky beach bars on Isla Verde. In Old San Juan, head uphill to Calle San Sebastián and Calle Cristo for a lively mix of bars and restaurants. To get into the clubs and discos, be sure to dress to impress. On Sunday nights, sip rum cocktails and watch the sun set over Old San Juan in the evocative Paseo de la Princesa.
Restaurants and Dining
San Juan holds many global culinary surprises including splash-worthy steakhouses and sushi emporiums in Isla Verde, or casual Italian and Mexican eateries in Condado. Sample the island's rustic criolla cuisine, a blend of Spanish and African influences, in rustic spots in Old San Juan. Fresh catches of red snapper (chillo) and dolphinfish (dorado) are two widely available local favorites. Street-food aficionados will delight in codfish fritters or deep-fried cheese. Wash it down with black coffee, Cuba Libre rum cocktails, or cold beer.