Any visit to a foreign land needs to include exposure to local culture and society. To be complete, a traveler has to take in the sights, sounds, and even the smells that are inherent in the destination. In Puerto Rico, Old San Juan is the area that contains the best of the territory’s culture, history, and architecture, as this short review of Old San Juan will show.
Cats, Pigeons, and Cobblestones
There are three things that are immediately noticeable about Old San Juan:
• Cats are profuse and are warmly accepted by the locals, even as the felines wander in and out and around Old San Juan’s streets.
• Pigeons are also plentiful, sharing Old San Juan with the cats and humans who generally regard them with affection.
• Blue cobblestones abound – known as “Aquinas” owing to their color, the cobblestones that were originally baked in Spain more than two centuries ago are a testament to the days of European colonization, a nostalgic reminder of a bittersweet past.
Getting Around Old San Juan
To enjoy Old San Juan fully, it’s recommended that you choose a medium of transportation that best agrees with you and your physical condition. Here are some methods for getting around:
• Walking tours – this can be done with a tour guide, on your own, or with local friends (assuming that you are visiting them, and are not entirely a stranger to Puerto Rico). If you go on a self-guided tour, you will of course be able to save on the cost of a tourist guide, but you may inadvertently skip on some out-of-the-way or “hidden” scenic goodies.
• Taxi tours – as is the case with any other destination in the globe, taxicabs may provide comfort and save your feet and legs from aching, but there’s always the risk of spending more than you had expected in cab fares.
• Free trolley services – these are ideal for those who do not have a specific special destination in mind, because you can just hop on and off these trolleys as you see sites that interest you.
• Taking the Segway – Segway tours are guided tours, but with a twist: instead of walking with your tour guide in a group, you ride on a Segway and “drive” it to where you need to go.
Don’t worry if you feel intimidated by the contraption. Easy and short riding/driving lessons are included in the package cost, along with your own recorded audio guide that tells you where you are and gives special tidbits of information about it, picture taking opportunities, and a live Segway guide for a group tour.
Where Should You Go?
It would be silly to pinpoint only certain tourist destinations in this review of Old San Juan, because there are just so many, it would be a shame to sacrifice some in favor of the others.
So, to be sure that you get what you want and avoid going to places that you’d rather not be in, just choose which of the following general points of interest appeal to you:
• Historical Monuments, Castles, Dungeons, and Forts
• Food sampling – tapas in local restaurants or cafés
• Plazas and Street Views
• Ocean Views, Sunsets and Nature Tripping
• Nightlife, Shopping, and Casinos
Once you’ve made your choice, you can ask for recommendations from your hotel. Don’t be shy about exploring Old San Juan – it will always have something that will appeal to you!