As perhaps one of the most beautiful cities in the Caribbean, San Juan is a capital city unto itself. Perched on the northeast end of the island of Puerto Rico, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this city has roots going back to 1521, and its wonderful positioning and heritage heart can attest to that. It is both a cultural centre filled with museums, galleries, colonial architecture, and a paradisiacal beach destination. If you fly to San Juan, you’ll discover this is the holiday destination that really does have it all.
Things to do in San Juan
San Juan is older than the settlements that became the continental United States, and wandering around the gorgeous cobbled stoned streets of its Old Town will bring to life that history. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Old San Juan is primarily made up of 16th and 17th century colonial buildings. Admire the old architecture, such as the San Juan Cathedral and the Spanish fort, Castillo de San Cristobel. But the real pleasure here comes from simply strolling the colourful streets, and browsing the quaint shops.
However, one attraction you must make time for while exploring the Old Town, is to head to El Morro. Protecting the town from its position at the entrance of San Juan Bay for almost 500 years, this structure has incredible views and is a labyrinth of tunnels, squares, and little sentry spots that will fascinate children and adults alike.
For museums, the first stop should be the Museo de las Americas, as it will give you a background in the indigenous peoples, their art and culture, as well as a lesson in the colonisation that took place by the Spanish.
Lastly, the beaches must get a mention, in particular the Condado district, and Ocean Park, which take up the shoreline of San Juan. At Ocean Park you can find yourself stepping on soft, white sand lapped by those azure waters, but there are plenty of beachfront properties, hotels, restaurants, bars that line every corner of this district.
Best time to visit San Juan
· The most popular time to visit the city is from December to April, when the weather is sunny, dry and between 22-30°C. Be prepared for very high prices in the city at this time, because this is the peak tourist period.
· At the end of April and into June, or from October to December the prices start to sink but the temperature rises to about 24-31°C, and can be a really great time to experience the city.
· July to September is hurricane season and best avoided.
Best time to book
· Flights to the Caribbean can be notoriously expensive from Australia, so booking in advance is imperative to get a good price. Start looking around seven monthsahead.
Expect to pay
· United States Dollar (USD).
· A coffee to wake you up in the morning can be purchased for about 2.40USD ($3.20) in San Juan.
Arriving in San Juan by plane
· The Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU)is the primary airport in San Juan, though there is the smaller Isla Grande Airport (SIG)also services some flights into the city. For Australian travellers is it likely that you will fly into Luis Muñoz Marín International. Flight between Australia and San Juan are operated by COPA, Qantas, Delta, and American Airlines.
· The Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport has a decent set of facilities, such as ATMs, telephones, internet access, food outlets, and duty free shops.
· Routes from Australia are usually diverted through Dallas (DFW) and Miami (MIA) or Los Angeles (LAX) and Atlanta (ATL).
· Puerto Rico has the same entry requirements as the United States, and so you will have to complete the visa waiver through the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) that Australians are eligible for. Please see the smart traveller advice websitefor more information.
Transportation to city centre
· Local taxis can be found right outside the airport and will run you into the centre of town for roughly 25USD ($32).
· You can take a public bus into town, or organise an airport transferthrough Skyscanner for ease.
· Hiring a car can be done at the airport, or you can reserve a booking using our car hire search tool.
Where to stay in San Juan
· The old centre of town holds many of the city’s attractions, and is a great place to dine, shop and go out, so booking a hotel here is popular. You can find good accommodation dealsif you book in advance.
· Stay in Ocean Park or Condado if you’re looking for sea views and proximity to the beaches. Condado is the more popular neighbourhood as it has lots of restaurants and designer shopping outlets, so you’re likely to pay more here. However, Ocean Park is more low-key and has some beautiful beaches.
Useful tips before you go
· Tipping in San Juan is much the same as it is in the United States, typically 15-20% in restaurants, and 10% for taxis.
Please note that the information provided above is accurate as of September 2016
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