It’s been 18 months since Hurricane Maria devastated the beautiful Caribbean island of Puerto Rico, and while there are people and places that are still recovering, the port city of San Juan has rebounded. It’s the starting and ending point for many cruises of the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, and a fantastic place for a pre- or post-cruise stay.
One of the best things to do in San Juan is see the Old San Juan neighborhood, the oldest settlement in Puerto Rico. It rests on its own narrow island, linked to the city by bridges. There’s a lot of well-preserved Spanish Colonial architecture here, including the Catedral Metropolitana Basilica de San Juan Bautista; one of the oldest cathedrals in the Americas, it contains the tomb of Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon. In the park outside, are whimsical animal sculptures, including a charming cat with the neck of a giraffe.
Another imposing sight is the Castillo de san Cristobal, where the first shot of the Spanish-American War was fired in 1898. There’s also La Fortaleza, which began life as a fortress and has now housed more than 170 governors of Puerto Rico.
By day, the La Placita market in San Juan’s Santurce neighborhood is a traditional open-air market filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, and other produce, and surrounded by delightful restaurants and bars. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the market becomes the center of a lively block party, with music and dancing into the night. Be sure to fortify yourself with classic Puerto Rican dishes like mofongo (seasoned mashed plantains) and arroz con dulce (sticky rice cooked with spices, coconut milk, raisins, and rum). Santurce is also a center of the arts in San Juan, so there are lots of galleries to browse.
San Juan may be your starting point for a cruise to the beaches of the Caribbean, but some of the best are right in San Juan – made of soft white sand, lapped by turquoise water, and lined with palm trees. Some popular beaches are Escambron Beach, Condado Beach, and Ocean Park Beach.
There’s also a lot to see within an hour’s drive of San Juan, including El Yunque National Forest and the bioluminescent bay at Laguna Grande.
Ask your professional travel advisor about a great cruise from San Juan and where to stay for a few days to enjoy this historical and lovely city.
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