The Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda

San Juan, Puerto Rico

written by | Posted on January 25th, 2012

This article originally appeared in Delta Air Lines’ 2012 Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America Travel Guide. It has been extracted from its original format. To read the full travel guide, visit the digital edition.

Puerto Rico’s capital city ranks among the Caribbean’s most modern and cosmopolitan metropolises. In the Condado neighborhood, for example, high-end resorts rub elbows with designer boutiques and upscale restaurants. The Hilton Caribe has been a presence here for decades, anchoring the tourist scene that also includes uniquely designed resorts like La Concha Resort and Condado Plaza Hotel and Casino. Isla Verde, a district near the airport, has a similarly luxe ambiance, with iconic properties like The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan and the El San Juan Resort & Casino adding a stately, storied vibe to the shore. But there’s plenty of history here too, particularly in Old San Juan, the seaside city center that was walled off in colonial times to protect it from attack. Those barricades still stand today, along with several historic and restored forts where visitors can get a sense of life as a solider and take in the picturesque views from their lookout points. The San Juan Gate, dating to the 1630s, served as the original entrance to the city for anyone arriving by boat in centuries past. Today, you step through it and onto the broad, seaside walking path for an enjoyable stroll along the walled city. San Juan is a complex, exciting combination of history and modern culture, but it also serves as a gateway to the rest of Puerto Rico’s treasures.

Less than an hour from the city, the El Yunque Rainforest is an eco-adventurer’s dream, with hiking trails leading to waterfalls and a wealth of exotic animals, all packed into a dense, lush tropical forest. The western end of the island is known as Porto del Sol, where a collection of breezy beach towns and boutique resorts attracting surfers, offers a laid-back vacation experience. The offshore islands of Culebra and Vieques also entice visitors with their spectacular snorkeling and diving.

Facts

  • Best time to go:
    November to May
  • Fun fact:
    The chirping you hear here isn’t crickets— it’s the coqui, a tiny frog that thrives in Puerto Rico’s tropical climate
  • Getting there:
    Delta flies from Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, and New York (JFK) to San Juan
  • Entry documents:
    Government ID for U.S. visitors; valid passport for Canadians
  • Currency:
    U.S. dollar
  • Must-try local food:
    Mofongo, made of mashed plantains and spices and served in a savory sauce
  • Best buys:
    Designer goods at outlet malls; local crafts; Don Q rum
  • Information please:
    Puerto Rico Tourism Company—seepuertorico.com