Are you looking for a sunny destination, far from the cold and snow? Accessible in a few hours by plane? With a culture of its own? Behold, Puerto Rico! Here are some ideas for your next trip!
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Jean-Maximilien and myself needed to take a breather at the end of January. Between work, children, appointments, the flu or the weather, we jumped at the chance and thought of a destination to go away for a week to rest.
After analyzing the different options (Costa Rica, Panama, Cuba etc…), we finally decided on Puerto Rico where:
- the weather was perfect,
- at an acceptable distance with 2 children
- and a new culture for us.
Puerto Rico is a very beautiful Caribbean island, belonging to the American territory, with a soul and a history of its own. Colonized by the Spaniards, the island erected fortifications and forts to counter European invasions during the discovery of the New World.
The island abounds in natural and cultural resources. Beautiful forests, beautiful beaches, activities for all, delicious food and above all very friendly and endearing people.
Before our stay at The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resortwe discovered the city of San Juan. Here’s a preview!
This little jewel, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-see. I recommend staying a good 2 days if you want to take full advantage of the atmosphere and discover all the facets of the city!
After a short pool break at our hotel, the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino, which was too tempting for Alexandra, we went to the old town.
San Juan sees thousands of tourists a day, many of whom are landed by cruise ships. And the city has enough to keep them happy during their stopover.
We had a great time walking around there with the kids. The town is small and can be easily reached on foot. The streets are narrow but accessible with a stroller for example.
We went there in Uber by 2 times but free trolleys are running around the city constantly otherwise buses or taxis are available.
If you plan to visit the rest of the island, however, I suggest you take a rental car, easier to move around and be independent.
➡ Tip: begin the visit at the highest point of the city if you are dropped off at the San Juan National Historic Site, the walk will be easier!
Top 10 activities in San Juan
1- The esplanade of the National Historic Site of San Juan
Visit Fort San Felipe Del Morro, at sunset over the fortifications. The esplanade of the National Historic Site of San Juan is a beautiful playground for children! Many people fly their kites and our children loved it; sometimes a butterfly, sometimes a fish etc… stars in your eyes.
2- The Paseo de El Morro walk
Take the beautiful walk Paseo de El Morro along the sea. Five gates allowed you to cross the city wall. There’s only one left, “La puerta de San Juan“.
photo credits: Tomás Fano
3- The Paseo de la Princesa promenade
Then continue towards the promenade of the Paseo de la Princesa in order to reach the beautiful fountain installed to commemorate the arrival of Christopher Columbus 500 years ago in America.
4- The old town of San Juan
Wander through the narrow streets of the old town, observe the colonial architecture of its restored houses with their bright colours combined with silvery blue cobblestones, and stroll through the craft shops or take advantage of the outlets.
5 – The murals of San Juan
Admire the street art, murals and historical landmarks throughout the city.
6- Cocktails near the Placeita de Santurce!
Have a glass of Piña Colada at happy hour and don’t miss out on the delicious local specialities, the atmosphere is festive as soon as night falls!
For our part, we loved the kitchen and the terrace of the Tapas Tetuan Old San Juan bar, right next to the smallest house in town, with its live music.
PS: American Express American Express cards are accepted everywhere in San Juan (restaurants, grocery stores…).
La Carte Cobaltᵐᶜ American Express delivers well 5 points per dollar in restaurants, bars and grocery stores in Puerto Rico.
One more reason to have this card for purchases, even in foreign currency! More explanations on this card in this article.
Another place to visit to celebrate is the Placita of Santurce!
7- Fort San Cristobal
Visit the Fort San Cristobal, built after the fortress of San Felipe Del Morro. It’s smaller but no less interesting.
You will be able to capture beautiful panoramic views of the city!
8- The gothic cathedral San Juan Bautista
Enter the Gothic Cathedral San Juan Bautista, the 2nd oldest church in America. Here you will find the tomb of Juan Ponce de Leon, Spanish explorer and first governor of Puerto Rico. The church faces the oldest square.
9- The Museum of the Americas and the Casa Blanca Museum
If you love history and want to know more about the birth and development of Puerto Rico, or if time is not on your side, I suggest you visit the Museum of the Americas or the Casa Blanca Museum.
10- Escambron and Del Condado beaches
Go to Escambron beach or Playita del Condado beach if you want to bask in the sun after all that walking! You’ve earned it.
As for us, we waited until we got to our hotel, The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort to relax!
Outside San Juan
I will not detail the other cities of Puerto Rico however quickly, there is no shortage of places or activities!
- Treks in the National Forest of El Yunque, a tropical rainforest. Don’t forget your good walking shoes!
- Swimming in the waters of a waterfall.
- Take a night tour in the bio-luminescent waters by kayak at Laguna Grande.
- Tyrolean traverse in the mountains of Orocovis
- Take a ferry to swim in the clear waters of Gilligan’s Island and snorkel in the middle of a mangrove forest.
- Surf in the waves on the beach of Punta del Mar in Rincon and enjoy a sunset at the Punta Higuero Lighthouse.
- Go to the Crash Boat beach and snorkel the fish in Borinquen.
It has a tropical climate, which means that hurricanes can occur. Generally, the risk period is between June and December. The last one, Hurricane Maria, was in September 2017 and caused a lot of damage, both material and human.
While talking with one of our Uber drivers, he told us the details of this terrible storm, the damage caused by flooding and destruction of infrastructure, as well as what had become his daily life after the passage of the hurricane. Several months without electricity, running water, medicines or means of transport…
By the time we get there, the tracks of this storm are almost gone where we’re going. However, we are well aware that the territory is marked and still bears the scars. Make sure you check the places you’re going. Some places are still closed.
We were charmed by San Juan and liked the atmosphere, the locals and the landscapes so much that we wish to go back there to discover the other attractions of this island when the children will be a little older. Locals put a lot of their heart into rebuilding their towns and homes, attracting tourists, which also makes it a good reason to help them make tourism work!