Fun things to do in San Juan

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Most Viewed Things to Do in San Juan

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    Blue Cobblestone Streets!

    by starship Updated Nov 30, 2013

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    While walking around the old streets and neighborhoods of San Juan, you'll undoubtedly notice the blue cobblestone streets in many places. These blue or bluish-gray cobblestones are known as "aquinos" and actually were brought to Puerto Rico as ballast for ships sailing from Spain. It almost appears as if they were glazed but I could not discover what they derive their blue color from --- whether a particular stone or what. In any case, they certainly are unique and add another hue to the already very colorful streets of Old San Juan !

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    Controversial "Discoverer" Columbus Statue

    by jumpingnorman Updated Apr 4, 2013

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    Our 5-year old twins had fun chasing the pigeons in this small Plaza Colon, also known before as St James Square or Plaza Santiago.

    If you walk along San Juan, you notice some of the other Plazas undergoing some reconstruction. Plaza Colon seems to be the most visited as it is so well-located at the main entrance to Old San Juan – and the statue here honors Columbus who has been the attack of controversy as to who really “discovered” this part of the world.

    We had been walking a lot through the humidity (coming from the Capitolio!), and so it was very nice to sit down in the shady grasses under the trees in this plaza.

    UPDATE! UPDATE! UPDATE!

    I made a video of our short trip to Puerto Rico!
    Hope you like this:

    JUMPING FAMILY IN SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO!

    Plaza de Colon, San Juan, Puerto Rico Plaza de Colon, San Juan, Puerto Rico
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    Teatro Tapia and conveniently lined taxis

    by jumpingnorman Updated Apr 4, 2013

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    This is a historical building in Old San Juan – built about 1832 but still with fresh yellow paint.

    It was in 1976 when restoration was made for this theater which stands so close to the Plaza de Colon. It is named Tapia because Puerto Rico does have a famous playwright named Alejandro Tapia y Rivera (1862-82).

    So, maybe you can grab a show here for one of their dramas, dances, musicals and so forth….

    But for us, the main advantage of the Tapia is that this is the place where you can grab a taxi easily! There is a nice line and we had a great taxi driver who brought us back to our hotel and even gave us a Puerto Rico US quarter (25 cents)!

    UPDATE! UPDATE! UPDATE!

    I made a video of our short trip to Puerto Rico!
    Hope you like this:

    JUMPING FAMILY IN SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO!

    Taxis by the Teatro Tapia, San Juan, Puerto Rico Teatro Tapia, San Juan, Puerto Rico Teatro Tapia, San Juan, Puerto Rico Teatro Tapia, San Juan, Puerto Rico
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    Museo de las Americas

    by Tom_Fields Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Inside the old Spanish Army barracks, known as La Ballaja, in Old San Juan, is the Museum of the Americas. This contains some fine examples of Puerto Rican art, including works by the master himself--Francisco Oller. Of course, the building itself is quite interesting as well.

    La Ballaja
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  • The Tropical Rainforest

    by fellman01 Updated Apr 4, 2011

    When visiting Puerto Rico pull yourself away from the beach to visit the tropical rain forests. Tours range from full day trips to multi-day adventure tours. The forest is an important part of the tropics - don't miss them. Check with your hotel, they can recommend a tour.

    Just a taste of what is waiting for you
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    Daytrip to El Yunque

    by Dabs Updated Feb 7, 2011

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    El Yunque, the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System, is an easy hour drive from San Juan and very simple to do without having to go on an organized tour. If you enjoy hiking and fresh air, you should put El Yunque on the top of your list. We rented a car from Charlie's and drove out on the Sunday our cruise was leaving, we got a later start than we had planned and got there around 10:30 or 11am. We stopped by the visitor's center, which I thought didn't really add any value to our trip, and then drove to the Big Tree trail, hiked to La Mina falls, walked back up the La Mina trail and then drove a bit further up and hiked the Mt. Britton trail.

    With the exception of the visitors center which had a $4 admission fee, visiting El Yunque is free. You don't have to stop at the visitors center, the map they gave us was the same map I printed from their website and the ranger manning the information desk wasn't all that helpful.

    Try to get an earlier start from San Juan, the tours from the cruise ship and from town make it very crowded, especially on the popular Big Tree/La Mina trail. It also appeared that a lot of locals also like to visit on the weekend.

    For more information on visiting, see my El Yunque page.

    La Mina

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    From Columbus to Jesús T. Piñero

    by grandmaR Updated Apr 8, 2010

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    We saw a number of memorial statues on our tour. The first picture is the statue of Eugenio María de Hostos (The Citizen of the Americas), by José Buscaglia, commerates this famous Puerto Rican educator, philosopher, intellectual, lawyer, sociologist and independence advocate. I guess all the kids dancing on him is because he was a teacher. It is located in the plaza near Casa Blanca

    The next two are of a man and woman in the San Juan suburbs, but I don't know anything else about them.

    The statue of Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus) is located in Plaza Colon, right by the Fort San Cristobal. Erected in 1893 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the his arrival in Puerto Rico (1493), the base depicts Columbus’ life

    The last one is of Jesús T. Piñeron who was the first native Puerto Rican who served as governor. He was appointed by Harry S. Truman. He served as governor until 1949 when Puerto Rico celebrated its first election and Luis Muñoz Marín was elected governor. His hometown, Carolina had this monument sculpted by Jose Buscaglia Guillermety, in his likeness which is located in the entrance of the town

    Eugenio Maria de Hostos Woman Man Statue of Columbus in Plaza de Colon Jesus Pinero - first governor of Puerto Rico
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    Centro de Estudios Avanzados

    by Jefie Updated Mar 13, 2010

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    I guess the Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y El Caribe isn't really a tourist attraction, but if you happen to walk by this post-graduate college as you are exploring the streets of Old San Juan, I'd recommend taking a quick look inside. The Centro de Estudios Avanzados offers some Master's and Doctoral programs specialized in Puerto Rican and Caribbean arts, literature and philosophy. When we walked into the beautiful main courtyard, a lady informed us that we were in fact in a university and she invited us to tour around the building on our own. We visited its library, chapel and some of its classroom, and it definitely made me wish I could have studied in such an amazing setting! The college itself dates back to 1832, and many prominent citizens have been educated there throughout the years, including the poet and playwright Alejandro Tapia y Rivera, also known as the father of Puerto Rican literature.

    Centro de Estudios Avanzados in Old San Juan I fell in love with this library! Centro de Estudios Avanzados Inside the college's chapel
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    La Princesa (the old prison)

    by Jefie Updated Feb 20, 2010

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    La Princesa is San Juan's old penitentiary. It was built in 1837 and at one point there were a little over 200 prisoners held within its walls. The building has now been beautifully restored and it houses the headquarters of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company. Inside you'll find some small exhibits, and it's also possible to see three cells at the back of the building that were kept in their original condition when the rest of La Princesa was restored. The inmates now tend to be pigeons - we even had to liberate one that had somehow managed to trap itself into one of the cells!

    La Princesa is open to visitors free of charge from Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

    La Princesa, San Juan's old prison The inmates are not what they used to be! Original prison cells at La Princesa
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    El Puerto de San Juan

    by Jefie Updated Feb 20, 2010

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    Over the years, San Juan has turned into the top Caribbean destination for cruiseships. As you make your way down to the port and get a first glimpse of the gigantic white ships, you can't help but think that there couldn't be a more suitable name than "Puerto Rico" for this country! Of course, the area surrounding the port is very touristic - I couldn't help but laugh when I realized that the first thing most passengers see when they get off their ship to explore the city is a huge Señor Frog's restaurant! However, I thought it was worth walking around the port area just to take a look at the very impressive cruiseships and soak in the vibrant atmosphere along the piers. It's also where you'll find "La Casita", a cute yellow building originally built in 1937 for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. It has now been restored and converted into a tourist information center.

    Sylvain in front of one of the cruiseships The Port of San Juan seen from across the bay La Casita in Old San Juan
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    El Museo del Ron Don Q

    by Jefie Updated Feb 20, 2010

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    If you order a drink with rum anywhere in San Juan, chances are you'll be served some Don Q Cristal or Don Q Gold. At the same time the Bacardi family was setting up its distillery in Cuba, the Seralles family started making rum at their sugar cane plantation located in the Puerto Rican city of Ponce. Even though Bacardi eventually moved its operations to Puerto Rico, it is still considered as somewhat of an outsider and a bit of a rival.

    The Museo del Ron Don Q is located across the street from Pier #1, next to the tourist information center (closed on Thursdays). To be honest, I was a bit disappointed by what they had to offer. Admission is free, and visitors are invited to go on a self-guided tour to find out more about the history of Don Q rum by looking at a few interpretive pannels. Since the rum was named after Don Quijote, there is an eclectic collection of items related to the famous Spanish character, including an early edition of Cervantes's masterpiece.

    At least the visit ended on a good note, with a free drink at the bar. Not that I know that much about rum, but I must say that Don Q is the best one I've ever tasted! It's got a nice flavour but no aftertaste, perfect for mixing with sodas or fruit juices, or you can even drink it on the rocks! So to sum it up, the museum was a bit of a disappointement, but not the rum :o)

    Have a Don Q! A small tribute to Don Quijote and Sancho Panza

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    San Juan Gate

    by Jefie Written Feb 18, 2010

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    As I was walking around Old San Juan, I couldn't help but think about the streets of my very own Vieux Quebec. Even though the architecture is quite different, the small, narrow streets, the walls around the city and the fort overlooking the bay, which could almost be compared to the Citadelle overlooking the St. Lawrence River, do make it seem like a Caribbean version of my hometown. So I had to smile when I came upon the only one of the original six gates of the city that still remains today. It is known as San Juan Gate, which of course translates as "Porte Saint-Jean" in French, which happens to be one of Quebec City's best known features. The other gates in San Juan disappeared when part of the fortifications were modified to make it possible for the city to expand beyond the walls, but la Puerta de San Juan still makes it possible to access the old city from the Paseo de la Princesa. The fortifications, along with El Morro and Castillo San Cristobal, are all part of the San Juan National Historic Site, one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.

    San Juan Gate as seen from El Paseo de la Princesa La Puerta de San Juan The door of the gate, dating back to 1749
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    Kayaking in the bioluminescent bay of Fajardo

    by Jefie Updated Feb 17, 2010

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    During our first couple days in San Juan, everyone we met recommended two things: a trip to the El Yunque rainforest, and another to the bioluminescent bay of Fajardo, one of the six "bio bays" left in the world. We therefore booked a trip to Fajardo through our hotel's concierge with Las Tortugas Adventures. They picked us up at 4:15 pm, and it took roughly 1h30 to get to Fajardo because of the heavy traffic. Once we got there, we were greeted by our guide (I believe his name was Andres) who handed us life jackets and explained how the tour was going to work.

    We got into a double kayak and followed the group (there were about 15 of us) down a mangrove river. It got so dark that you could only see the glowsticks at the front and rear ends of the other kayaks, and everybody got really quiet! The kayak ride down the mangrove river at night definitely was an experience in itself. When we got to the bioluminescent bay, our guide explained how the phenomenon works (basically, dinoflagellates are micro-organisms that glow when the water is disturbed) and got us to put our hands in the water to see it glow. The effect is really neat! We had about 20 minutes to paddle around the bay and play with the water until it was time to head back down the mangrove river. By that time it was pitch-black and we heard quite a few kayaks smash into mangrove trees! But as there is only about 3 feet of water, it's all very safe.

    Our trip to the bioluminescent bay was such a unique experience, it remains my fondest memory of our trip to Puerto Rico!

    Kayaks on the bay at sunset Las Tortugas Adventures A group getting ready for their adventure
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    Take a 5 minute walk into town

    by 807Wheaton Updated May 13, 2009

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    The crews of Christopher Columbus' ships first sighted the island in 1493, over 500 years ago. At that time it was known as Borinquen by the native Taino Indians. Permanent settlement of the island began in 1508, when Juan Ponce de Leon arrived with 50 men.
    There really is very little stress involved in a visit to Old San Juan - it was so pleasant to be in a warm, sunny and breezy climate. We encountered a little mist toward the end of our walk, and all it did was ensure another "bad hair day" for me. But, not even that bothered me.
    The statue of Christopher Columbus is at Plasa Colon, which is on the east side of Old San Juan, on the way to San Cristobal Fortress.

    Statue of Cristobol Colon
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    Second Oldest

    by grandmaR Updated Apr 10, 2009

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    As we drove through the city, Marian told us about the various places that we were passing. Some of the buildings were churches.

    Dominican friars built the Iglesia de San José in 1532. For 300 years Spanish explorer Ponce de León was buried here. José Campeche, a Puerto Rican artist, is buried at San José Church as well.

    Hours Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
    Open 8:30 8:30 8:30 8:30 8:30 8:30 8:30
    Closed 16:00 16:00 16:00 16:00 16:00 16:00 16:00

    Cost
    FREE

    Tips
    Sun mass at 12:00 p.m

    The second picture was taken on the way to El Yunque and the third one while we were picking up the other people for the tour

    Iglesia de San Jos��
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