Friday, March 4, 2022

Destination Inspiration: San Juan, Puerto Rico

 Worlds collide in San Juan, Puerto Rico’s vibrant capital, a simmering melting pot of indigenous, European, American, and Afro-Caribbean cultures with endless attractions to delight all types of travelers.

In Old San Juan, time stands still. Candy-colored colonial houses line the cobbled lanes that criss-cross from Plaza Colón to the 17th-century San Juan Gate – once the main entrance to the walled city. All along the water’s edge, fortresses stand watch from towering cliffs, their cannons still aiming out over the sea. Just outside the old town, the rocky shoreline gives way to the soft sand of El Escambrón Beach, a sheltered snorkeling and swimming spot.

El Morro Fortress, Puerto Rico

San Juan’s cultural fusion is never more evident than in its food. In the city center, upscale European restaurants sit alongside street stalls and fast food joints, while home-grown chefs like José Enrique take traditional cooking to fine-dining heights. The stand-out local dish is “mofongo” – fried and mashed plantain stuffed with crispy bacon, chicken, or prawns.

No matter the time, one thing’s for sure – the smell of freshly roasted Puerto Rican coffee is never far away. You’ll find it served milky at breakfast, or as an afternoon pick-me-up paired with pastries in Spanish-style cafés.

When to go?

A waterfront view of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

A waterfront view of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan’s tropical climate makes for warm, humid weather all year round, with average temperatures rarely dipping below 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Bargain accommodation prices can often be found in September and October – but bear in mind that these months are the tail end of the Caribbean hurricane season.

Where to stay?

Best Western Plus Condado Palm Inn & Suites – San Juan, Puerto Rico

The outdoor pool at the Best Western Plus

The outdoor pool at the Best Western Plus

This modern hotel is just a short distance from the waterfront, in the upscale Condado neighborhood. Its beach club and outdoor pool score highly with guests, who also sing the praises of the friendly staff. The bright rooms and suites – some with sea views and fully equipped kitchens – are another big plus.

Villa Herencia Hotel – San Juan, Puerto Rico

The restored Villa Herencia Hotel

The restored Villa Herencia Hotel

This restored villa in Old San Juan is full of old-world charm. guests rave about Villa Herencia’s eclectic design, which blends historic features and antique furniture with bold modern artwork. They also love the tropical feel of the roof terrace – complete with exotic flowers, sun loungers, and even roll-top baths!

La Terraza de San Juan – San Juan, Puerto Rico

Wonderful views from La Terraza's rooftop pool

Wonderful views from La Terraza's rooftop pool

A roof terrace with a plunge pool and breathtaking sea views makes this boutique hotel a favorite with guests. Set in a colonial house in Old San Juan, La Terraza de San Juan also wins rave reviews for its mix of traditional and modern design.

How to get there?

The easiest way to get to San Juan is to fly there. There are direct flights every day from the US and Canada, with most of the traffic coming through Miami and New York. Getting to San Juan from further will usually involve at least one layover. There are daily flights from Amsterdam and London with only one layover, whereas a trip from Sydney will involve two layovers. If you’re planning a trip from within the Caribbean and prefer a more scenic route, there’s a weekly ferry from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, which takes around 13 hours.

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