Why San Juan Makes You Slow Down And Take Pause

San Juan is a city that makes you want to quit everything and just move.  Maybe it was the kids passing their time diving off of a bridge into the ocean that made me feel like that.  Maybe it was the perfect water temperature at the beaches lining the island.  Or maybe it was the constant chirping of the little Coqui frogs that you would have never known existed if it wasn’t for their persistent call in the evenings.  Whatever it was, I didn’t want to leave.

San Juan, Puerto Rico is a town full of beaches, ruins, great food and culture.  It is a perfect location for a warm weather getaway.

When we got in to San Juan, it was the middle of summer.  It was hot.  Not that it was necessarily a bad thing though.  Our hotel was perfectly situated next to natural beaches and within easy distance from the sights of Old San Juan and El Morro, the old Spanish fortress.

View from our hotel room

Caribe Hilton

Caribe Hilton

We were immediately struck with just how comfortable the iguanas were.  These guys can be found all over in San Juan and made for a funny initial shock.  Puerto Rico is a country that takes pride in its ecological systems and you’ll find these guys and their smaller cousins wandering all over the island.

Iguanas!

We rented bicycles from the hotel and made our way down the road toward Old San Juan.  Sights like this are not uncommon along the way, with small beaches lining the coast, many with ruins.  I recommend taking this route if you want to get a good feel of the area and you’ll be transported back in time riding a beach cruiser bicycle along the coast in perfect weather.

Ruins on Beaches

Making your way down the highway from the hotel toward Old San Juan, you may come across an old neighborhood containing houses in vibrant colors.  This would be La Perla.  A beautiful set of houses.  It is apparently a dangerous neighborhood known for drug trafficking – a fact we found out after we made our way through.

Beautiful from far away, upon entering you’re greeted with windowless houses lining streets overtaken by the local cats.  The people seemed nice albeit a bit perplexed at our presence.

La Perla Puerto Rico

Once we made our way to Old San Juan, El Morro was visible across a huge field of people flying kites.

El Morro from afar

As you approach El Morro, you’ll find vendors on the street selling Piraguas – Get one.  These things are shaved ice refreshments with your choice of flavored syrup.  The vendors take a machete to a giant block of ice and hand carve your drink.

After recharging with a Piragua, we made our way in to El Morro.  El Morro is an old Spanish fort that was designed, along with one across the channel to destroy any ships that might be interested in attacking or invading the area.

El Morro

El Morro

Puerto Rican Food

I have to say, the food is amazing.  We were both in agreement that Mofongo, (savory smashed plantains and other spices) is one of the best things this island has produced.  Definitely get this with whatever you eat.

Grab a Jibarito if you want to try a unique Puerto Rican sandwich.  It is a sandwich that uses plantains as the bread.

Fun Fact: The Pina Colada drink was invented at our hotel, the Caribe Hilton!  However below, you’ll find a Pina Colada/Daquiri Mix that was equally delicious.

Modified Pina Colada

Modified Pina Colada

I’m not sure when the next time I’ll be in San Juan is, but it can’t come soon enough.  A week is just enough time for this island to sink its teeth into you and make you not want to leave.

From the city of San Juan and its ancient city center, to the island of Vieques and its bioluminescent bay, there are hundreds of things the island of enchantment has to offer.  In order to appreciate it you need to slow down, pause, and take note of everything around you. The pace of life, the food, the friendly people and the amazing scenery.  It’s almost too much to take in at once.

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