The Spanish began to settle in the area now known as Old San Juan around 1521. At the outset, the city was called Puerto Rico ("Rich Port"), and the whole island was known as San Juan.
The streets are narrow and teeming with traffic, but a walk through Old San Juan -- in Spanish, El Viejo San Juan -- makes for a good stroll. Some visitors have likened it to a "Disney park with an Old World theme." Even fast food restaurants and junk stores are housed in historic buildings. It's the biggest and best collection of historic buildings, stretching back 5 centuries, in all the Caribbean. You can do it in less than a day. In this historic 7-square-block area of the western side of the city, you can see many of Puerto Rico's chief sightseeing attractions and do some shopping along the way.
On the other hand, you might want to plop down on the sand with a drink or get outside and play. "Active Pursuits,"in this section, describes the beaches and sports in the San Juan area.
Joggers' Trail or Romantic Walk -- El Morro Trail, a jogger's paradise, provides the Old City's most scenic views along San Juan Bay. The first part of the trail extends to the San Juan Gate. The walk then goes by El Morro and eventually reaches a scenic area known as Bastion de Santa Barbara. The walk passes El Morro's well-preserved walls, and the trail ends at the entrance to the fortress. The walkway is designed to follow the undulating movement of the ocean, and sea grapes and tropical vegetation surround benches. The trail is romantic at night, when the walls of the fortress are illuminated. Stop at the tourist office for a map, and then set off on the adventure.
The Cathedral of Rum
Called "the Cathedral of Rum," the Bacardi Distillery at Rte. 888, Km 2.6, at Cataño (tel. 787/788-1500), is the largest of its kind in the world. Reached by taking a 20-minute ferry ride across San Juan Bay ($1 each way), the distillery produces 100,000 gallons of rum daily. At the site, you can go to the Casa Bacardi Visitor Center, Carretera 165, Cataño (tel. 787/788-8400), for free 90-minute tours Monday to Saturday from 9am to 4:30pm, Sunday 10am to 3:30pm. You are taken on a visit of seven historical displays, including the Bat Theatre, and the Golden Age of the Cocktail Art Deco bar.
Upon entering the first floor, you'll get a glimpse of what rum production was like a century ago, including oak barrels used in the aging process and an old sugar-cane wagon. On the fifth floor, you'll enter the Hall of Rum, with a collection of beverages made by the corporation over a period of years. You'll then witness "the birth of rum" -- the fermentation processes of molasses (it takes 100 gal. of molasses to produce one barrel of rum).
You'll visit the Bacardi Family Museum, documenting the family's history, and you can watch a short video about the bottling process. At the end of the tour you're taken on a trolley ride to the Hospitality Pavilion, where you can sample the produce in a variety of different drinks.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.