Founded in 1521 by Ponce de León, the capital of Puerto Rico, San Juan is the oldest city in US territory. Home to 1.6 million (more than a third of the island’s citizens), it is also the heart of Puerto Rican tourism. What draws travellers here year-round are miles of smooth, clean beaches, a wide range of accommodations, fabulous restaurants, yacht destinations, and of course, Old San Juan, whose beautifully restored historic sights surrounded by crashing turquoise surf are reason enough to make a trip to Puerto Rico on a chartered yacht by Taylor’d Yacht Charters.
Old San Juan is a 465-year-old neighborhood originally conceived as a military stronghold. Its 7-square-block area has evolved into a charming residential and commercial district. The streets here are paved with cobbles of adoquine, a blue stone cast from furnace slag; they were brought over as ballast on Spanish ships, and time and moisture have lent them their characteristic color. The city includes more than 400 carefully restored 16th- and 17th-century Spanish colonial buildings. The Old San Juan attracts many tourists, who also enjoy the gambling casinos, fine beaches, their chartered yachts, and the tropical climate. More tourists visit San Juan each year than any other spot in the Caribbean. Off your boat, a leisurely foot tour is advisable for those who really want to experience this bit of the Old World, especially given the narrow, steep streets and frequently heavy traffic. To really do justice to these wonderful old sites, you’ll need two mornings or a full day.
Along with Old San Juan, resort-filled Condado is the most popular neighborhood for visitors, thanks to its excellent beachfront and fine boutiques. These two sections of the capital share the highest concentration of restaurants. There’s also much to explore as the city extends to the south and east, including the beachfront neighborhoods of Ocean Park and Isla Verde, the up-and-coming Santurce with its numerous art galleries, the financial district of Hato Rey, and the college-town in Rio Piedras.
Within just a couple of hours’ drive from San Juan are Puerto Rico’s rarest natural resources and some of the best beaches and coral reefs in the Caribbean. The El Yunque rainforest, Luquillo Beach, and the Rio Camuy Cave Park all make excellent day trips when you are docked in San Juan.