It all started with the airfare. We had booked a cruise out of San Juan, Puerto Rico to celebrate our ten year anniversary, and all that was left was to find a way down there. Well Eric, being the travel guru that he is, found us an AMAZING price on airfare…the week BEFORE our cruise. So naturally, he asked if I’d be interested in renting an Air Bnb in Old San Juan and exploring the old city for a week. Well, it turned out to be the BEST decision ever. Outside our one-bedroom AirBnb penthouse apartment had phenomenal views from our private terrace. Inside it came equipped with a kitchen, dining area, living area, and even a washer dryer! Living like locals and exploring the all the hidden places around the city was an incredible experience (not to mention an incredible leg workout, those hills are no joke!!)
We have what feels like a million pictures from Old San Juan, plus our tips for staying in the city, AND a bonus list of our favorite sights, and our favorite places we ate. These are a mix of mine and Eric’s DSLR and camera phone pictures. ENJOY!!
The cathedral from our kitchen!
Paseo de la Princesa
Paseo de la Princesa at night!
The gardens at La Fortaleza
So. Many. Pigeons.
The San Juan Gate at night.
LOTS of well-behaved cats on the Western side of the city.
Our Tips for Staying in Old San Juan
– Don’t Rent a Car – Unless the beach is important to you won’t need one. Parking is a nightmare, and navigating the tourist laden one-way streets seems like a hassle. Plus, the city is roughly 8 by 7 blocks, getting everywhere by foot is easy. There’s also a great free trolley system that will take you around the city,
– Carry an Umbrella (or disposable ponchos) – Caribbean climates are known for short rainstorms, but it was especially rainy during our trip. It rained every day, and once ALL day.
– Rent an Apartment – Especially if it has laundry, a kitchen, and AC (because the humidity was REAL folks). Living like a local was our favorite part of our experience, especially since our Air Bnb was located so conveniently to everything we wanted. There’s even a grocery store located very centrally in Old San Juan where the prices and selection were surprisingly great.
– See the Local Attractions, Avoid the Tourist Traps. – Most of the major historical sites, gardens, and monuments in the city were either free or extremely cheap to see. Just walking the city was nice, especially in the early morning, or in the evening when there aren’t ships in port. The really touristy restaurants, shops, and tours aren’t worth your money if you have the time to wander on your own.
– Know when there will be Cruise Ships in Port – Old San Juan has a BIG port, and the city gets BUSY when there ships docked. It can mean the attractions are a little more crowded, but the hustle and bustle was a nice contrast to the sleepy more relaxing days. Use a website like http://ports.cruisett.com/ to get the info.
– Wear a good sunscreen and a good bug spray – Just because there’s plenty of shade on the narrow streets doesn’t mean you won’t burn. And speaking of those narrow streets, they are full of little uneven areas where mosquitos can breed. The city does a GREAT job trying to keep puddles from sitting too long, we rarely saw any insects, with the exception of a few restaurants and private residences that weren’t as vigilant. If Zika is a concern for you always put it on before you go out, and ensure you’re staying in a place that has glass windows and air conditioning.
– Wear Comfortable Shoes – In fact, bring several pairs of comfortable shoes. Your feet WILL get sore, because the city is much bigger and much steeper than it seems in pictures. The historic forts by themselves are each enormous complexes with multiple stories to explore.
That’s all for now, but if you’ve got specific questions send us a message, we’re happy to help! Next up: a recap of our cruise!