The city was founded in 1521 by the Spanish Conquistador Ponce de Leon who was governor there before setting out for Florida in a bid to discover the Fountain of Youth. Today he is celebrated in San Juan where his tomb can be visited in the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista, the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, after whom the city was originally named by Christopher Columbus. De Leon’s statue is also prominent in the Old Town.
San Juan is a popular port for cruise lines because it has one of the biggest, and best, natural harbours in the Caribbean. Nearly 30 cruise ships use San Juan as their home port, which is also visited by countless other ships as well. Being such a popular cruise destinations, the city is well prepared for short term tourism, but there is really more to do there than just make a lightning visit.
There are three distinct area in San Juan, being the original Old City, the beach and resort area, and the outlying areas. The Old City is surrounded by a protective wall, but as the city has grown it long ago outgrew the confines of the walls.
As you wander around those historic walls, it is worth reflecting on the fact that they were actually needed, and also served their purpose as would-be attackers of the calibre of Sir Francis Drake were repelled by San Juan’s generous fortifications.
As far as sightseeing goes, there are many interesting historical sites scattered throughout the city, but Puerto Rico is also the home to Bacardi Rum. Bacardi’s distillery is called the “Cathedral of Rum” and it is open to the public every day. Best of all, the tour is free, and samples are allowed.
One of the most popular places to stay in San Juan is at El Condado, which as well as being one of the most sought after residential areas in the city, has many beach front hotels, some very upmarket shops, casinos, great restaurants and an active nightlife. The main shopping street is called Ashford Avenue, where you will find some of the world’s top brand-name stores.
One of the best places to truly appreciate the beauty of San Juan is at Castillo de San Felipe del Morro which is prominently perched on a rocky promontory and provides a great view of the entire city.
Despite Puerto Rico being a US Territory Spanish is still the main language spoken there, although English is also readily understood. Its climate is tropical, which means hot and humid, and it has good connections to many cities in the US and throughout the Caribbean.