5 Places You Won’t Want to Miss in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico was one destination where I embraced the term beach bum and transformed into a wandering soul. I would roam the island on my own during the day and join my better half in the evening for some bar hopping or a dinner date. Needless to say, I had the best of both worlds. This article lists the 5 best places in San Juan from my trip to Puerto Rico.

According to legend, Puerto Rico, meaning rich port, forms one end of the Bermuda Triangle. Ships constantly battled the elements while carrying merchandise and goods between Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico. One of the Americas’ oldest and busiest ports, Puerto Rico has been coveted, owned and lost ever since Christopher Columbus came looking for India and found these islands.

Today, Puerto Rico is part Hispanic, Spanish, American, African-American and Tiano. If you’re heading to this island, be sure to spend a few days in San Juan. While present-day San Juan is urban and hip, old San Juan with its many forts, plazas, picturesque colonial buildings and winding streets of cobblestone adds the magic to the city. Here are five incredible things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

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Ravaged but Ravishing- San Juan

San Juan is the capital of the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, the city forms one end of the famed Bermuda triangle. The name Puerto Rico, translates to rich port which is one of the reasons for the legend of the Bermuda Triangle. Ships constantly battled the elements while faring between Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico carrying merchandise and goods. There is so much history, mystery and love that has shaped this tiny island, it pulls at your heart strings and leaves you in awe.

Puerto Rico is strategically located on the sea route  and is one of the oldest and busiest ports in the America’s. Puerto Rico has been coveted, owned and lost ever since Christopher Columbus came looking for India and found these islands. The forts and plazas in old San Juan have seen many conquerors and vanquishers.Culturally present day Puerto Rico is part Hispanic, Spanish, American, African-American and some parts Tiano (the native tribe of Puerto Rico). Old city San Juan has many forts, plazas, picturesque colonial buildings and winding streets of cobblestone.   Present day San Juan is urban and hip but it is the old San Juan that adds magic to the city.

The forts of EL Morro and Fort San Cristobal tell us about the history and the many wars that have ravaged this tiny island since the Spanish invaders till World War II. Bunkers from World War II can still be seen from San Juan Bay, these are still in use by the US army. The plains in front of El Morro were designed such that the enemy which were the native tribes at that time, did not have any scope of ambushing or hiding. At present the plains afford a good arena for flying kites and enjoying the view of San Juan bay. While the forts have grim stories of battles and loss, the plazas of San Juan tell stories of life and living. The night lights up and people celebrate life with music and food. In fair weather, the restaurants have open air seating and there would always be music and dancing. It is easy to enjoy in Puerto Rico as all you have to do is order a pitcher of sangria, some hearty mufango (dish made with plantains and meat)  and let yourself immerse  in the culture.

Urban San Juan
Urban San Juan
Kayaking at San Juan
Kayaking at San Juan
Waters Swirling with Mystery
Waters Swirling with Mystery
Castle San Felipe Del Morro
Castle San Felipe Del Morro
Tunnels at El Morro
Tunnels at El Morro, used for canons and other heavy weapons.
Bunker from World War II
Bunker from World War II
The Fortifications of El Morro
The Fortifications of El Morro
Artillery or Powder Room
Artillery or Powder Room
Spanish Architecture
Spanish Architecture
Flying Kites at El Morro
Flying Kites at El Morro
A Segway through Old San Juan
A Segway through Old San Juan
Plaza of Religious Procession
Plaza of Religious Procession
Balconies of Old San Juan
Balconies of Old San Juan
Plaza Colon - Remembering Christopher Clombus
Plaza Colon – Remembering Christopher Clombus
Vibrant and Live -Old San Juan
Vibrant and Live -Old San Juan
Winding Down an Eventful  Day
Winding Down an Eventful Day

Island of Adventure – Vieques

On a whim we decided to check out of our hotel in San Juan in Puerto Rico and stay at a B & B in Vieques, we had our heart set on seeing the bioluminicent bay. The time efficient way to travel from San Juan to Vieques is by air, usually they are 8-14 seater flights which hop from one island to the other on the caribbean. The moment the flight takes off its clear that its an adventure. The atlantic sparkles blue and green leaving looming mountain ranges behind. For anyone who has not been on an 8 seater flight, its an experience that should not be missed.
We booked into Casa de Amistas which is a lovely B&B with a warm welcome and very friendly people. The owner suggested that we go to Esperanza for dining and shopping as it is ‘the place’ to go to in Vieques. We went there expecting a town and what we found delighted us. The main center of Esperanza is actually a small road along the beach on which locals and outsiders (for want of a better word) who fell in love with Vieques have set up shop, selling beach clothes , souvenirs , tropical fruit and a spattering of local restaurants and small food trucks. If you are lucky you might see a wedding party.  Driving around the island in itself is amazing as you can see wild horses galloping on the road and thick tropical vegetation around. Mango trees bearing fruit, plantains and coconut trees made my heart soar as it is very similar to my home town in India which on the other side of the planet.
The trip to bio bay started from Esperanza along with a few other tourists on a small dusty broken down bus. After a very bumpy ride and water from the marshes splashing through the hole in the floor of the bus, we reached thick mangroves from where the bay started. The tour guide unloaded the kayaks in pitch darkness, as it was a moonless night and the milky way formed a pavilion over us. The experience at Biobay is something that cannot be photographed by amateur photographers, hence it was better to experience it and have real memories.
After about two minutes of paddling, the water started shimmering when the paddle hit the water. As we went in deeper in the darkness, the water around the kayak starts shimmering and the paddles start shimmering. An occasional needle fish swishes through the water making shiny S shapes over the water. Soon the kayak is travelling through the bay and the water the kayak disturbs forms a halo around the kayak. Biolumicent fire flies reside in the mangroves lighting up the surrounding of the bay with their twinkling presence. It has a very eerie, magnificent, ghostly sense to it, no wonder the Spanish when they discovered the bay thought that its the work of the devil and had it cordoned off.
The bioluminices is the work of an innocent single celled organism known as dinoflagellates. To see them at work on a moonless night is truly a one of the kind experience. Vieques has so much to offer in terms of its warm people, old world charm, secluded beaches with white sand, deep forest reserves and the bio bay its no wonder that the people who found Vieques have a hard time leaving. The island is connected by ferry from the island of Puerto Rico. You can rent a car at Vieques but it is advised that you keep the car unlocked so that it is not broken into while you are snorkeling or kayaking. It was a idyllic time that we spent at Vieques, when life slowed down and experiencing each new second became more important.
Casa de Amistas - a sweet B&B
Casa de Amistas – a sweet B&B
The pool at the B &B
The pool at the B &B
Esperanza Rd
Esperanza Rd
Perfect for Snorkeling
Perfect for Snorkeling
Wild horses
Wild horses
Pristine Beaches of Vieques
Pristine Beaches of Vieques
Paintings and Souvenirs by local artists
Paintings and Souvenirs by local artists
Kayaking at night in the Biobay
Kayaking at night in the Biobay