San Juan Tourist Information and Tourism

(San Juan, Puerto Rico)

San Juan, the capital city of Puerto Rico, is a huge and diverse city, containing almost half the population of the island. Unique and fascinating, its 500 years of history have bequeathed architectural treasures and a Latin American way of life combining the cultures of Spain, Africa and the indigenous Taino people.

The city's massive port, one of the busiest in the world, is home to a plethora of cruise companies, with the tourism industry seeing the arrival of almost five million tourists every single year. Set at the entrance to beautiful San Juan Bay, the city has been a Mecca for tourists for at least 50 years, with picturesque walled Old San Juan its main draw.

The streets of the Old City are cobbled with local blue stone, being lined with colonial buildings and brightly painted 18th-century terraced homes, winding their way gently down to the coast. Culturally, San Juan is richly endowed with artists and musicians, as well as numerous museums and art galleries, and its many landscaped green spaces give stunning views across the city and the ocean. Tourist information for this magical city is provided by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC), with outlets in the La Casita area of the Old City and at the nearby Luis Munoz Marin International Airport. Of note, local tourist information is usually available in both English and Spanish.

San Juan Tourist Information and Tourism: Top Sights

Whilst San Juan may well have quite a history to shout about, many of those arriving here on holiday are simply coming for the tropical sandy beaches. The northerly seaside resort of Condado is a good place to look for beachfront accommodation, with its many gleaming condo towers contrasting with small guest houses and historic villas. To the east of Condado, the Ocean Park and Punta Las Marias neighbourhood provide a more tranquil spot, with good windsurfing. If it is water sports that excite you, then head to the Playa Isla Verde and try your hand at jet skiing, or perhaps enjoy a fun inflatable banana boat ride around the bay. More information about San Juan Beaches.

Apart from the beaches, there is plenty to see in San Juan, with walking tours of the city's main sights and colonial attractions coming highly recommended. Now classed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the El Palacio de Santa Catalina fortress is also known locally as La Fortaleza and was originally built to protect the harbour, while other important fortifications from the past include both the San Felipe Fort (El Castillo San Felipe del Morro) and the San Cristobal Fortress (Castello de San Cristobal). Dating back to the 16th century, the San Juan Cathedral (Catedral) and its striking Gothic architecture forms a distinctive landmark on the Plazuela Las Monias, being close to the Plaza de Armas. Several blocks to the east, the Plaza de Colon is where you will find the Tapia Theatre (Teatro Tapia) and a cluster of decent restaurants. Away from the more traditional sightseeing, tourists may also like to spend time scuba diving around Condado, taking a boat to the relatively nearby island of Icacos and snorkelling - offshore from Fajardo, or hiking to the Rio Camuy caves. More information about San Juan Tourist Attractions.

The history of San Juan is very much present in its colonial landmarks and plazas, particularly around the Old City. Located alongside the San Cristobal Fortress, the Plaza Colon is home to a famous bronze statue of Christopher Columbus, earning the square its nickname of the Columbus Plaza. The Old Harbour is another important part of the city and was historically heavily used for shipping, although these days is rather dominated by the frequently arriving cruise ships. A leisurely stroll along the Paseo de la Princesa is a good way to explore some of the city's sights, with this esplanade starting at the Plaza de la Darsena / Plaza de Hostos and heading towards the San Juan National Historical Site, overlooking much of the oceanfront along the way. Other landmarks of note include the waterfront stronghold of El Arsenal, the Casa de Ramon Power y Giralt and the El Capitolio building. More information about San Juan Landmarks and Monuments.

The Plaza de San Jose lies on the north-western side of Old San Juan and is a good place to come for museums, since it is where the Museum of our African Roots (Museo de Nuestras Raices Africanas) resides, with its information about Puerto Rico's connections with Western Africa. Culture is also in abundance at the 16th-century White House (Casa Blanca), the Ballaja Barracks (Cuartel de Ballaja) and the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (Instituto de Cultura Puertorriquena). At the Museum of San Juan (Museo de San Juan) is a large collection of regional artefacts, including exhibits relating to the Caparra ruins and a documentary in English. Archeological relics are in good supply within the Indian Museum (Museo del Indio), where you can learn about the Caribbean settlements of the past. There are also several official art galleries with collections of Puerto Rican art, such as the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico and the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, as well as at the Academy of Fine Arts (Escuela de Artes Plasticas). More information about San Juan Museums and San Juan Art Galleries.

Puerto Rico is an island large enough to fill many holidays, with San Juan being a good place to base yourself, since this city is the main gateway and is conveniently next to the Luis Munoz Marin Airport. Many day trips are possible from the capital, with the municipality of Arecibo and the seaside city of Fajardo worth a look. Considerably closer is the city of Bayamon, where the neighbouring Bacardi Rum Factory and the Camarero Racetrack are accompanied by some quality museums. For a tropical rainforest and jungle experience, the El Yunque National Forest and the Las Cabezas de San Juan State Park come with hiking trails, endless views and native wildlife. If you have time you may also like to take an excursion to the cities of Isabela and Ponce, which are just under two hours away. From the harbour, cruises to the island of Culebra are popular with holiday makers, since its quiet Flamenco Beach (Playa Flamenco) is nothing short of gorgeous, with its crystal clear water and stunning coral reefs connected by regular ferries and more reliable short flights. More information about San Juan Attractions Nearby.

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