San Juan is similar
to Miami but with a heavy Spanish flavor and better weather. Rain showers
pass quickly due to the strong trade winds and the temperature remains a
consistent 83 degrees even in the winter. Great hotels, casinos and
restaurants are plentiful throughout the city. A particularly unique and
charming factor is the cities great history. San Juan is the second-oldest
city in the Americas, discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. And
despite its age, it is young and hopping.
Juan is my favorite area of Puerto Rico, narrow cobble stone streets,
barely maneuverable by car, and colorful small stucco buildings with huge
balconies that hang over the street. Get off the beach early if you plan
to do any shopping as everything closes at 6 p.m. Shopping is good with
bargains galore. Be sure to check out the Coach and Ralph Lauren outlets,
because there is no sales tax in Puerto Rico. The walk along the harbor at
the city's main gate is a romantic and gorgeous stroll lined with royal
palm trees. At the farthest point in the old city is El Morro, a
huge park. At the far end of the park is a fort from the early 1500's.
Notable restaurants: Dragon Fly (Spanish-Asian Cuisine, no shorts
allowed, reservations required), the quaint and charming El Picoteo
for tapas in the El Convento Hotel, and definitely not to be missed
The Parrot Club featuring live music and upscale local Puerto Rican
Completely renovated in 2000, The Caribe
Hilton is situated on the Atlantic in the middle of Ruins from the old
city. It features a tropical bird sanctuary, one of the island's best
pool/beach complexes and a fabulous spa with beachfront massages and
The trendy neighborhood, Isla
Verde, is home to some very fine hotels including the El San
Juan and the Ritz Carlton. The Water Club is one of the only
boutique hotels in San Juan and feels like Miami Beach's Delano. Cool off
in the Wave bar on the ground floor, or dine on the second floor's
Tangerine. Bask in the warm evening breezes at the outdoor bar on
the roof, reminiscent of LA's Sky Bar.
The town of
Fajardo in the Northeastern part of Puerto Rico is a 90 minute
drive from San Juan and is where you can catch the ferry to either Culebra
or Vieques Islands. If you are looking for a little private time these are
the islands to visit. The ferry ride from Fajardo is about an hour and
only costs $2.50.
Vieques is best known for
it's US Military Bombing range that covers about half the Island. On the
island, checkout the tiny beach town Esperanza where the shops, cafes and
guest houses front a spectacular bit of coast and are in walking distance
of some of the nicest beaches and snorkeling sites. Culebra is the
destination preferred by the locals.
Fajardo is home
to The Caribbean National Forest, 28 miles of lush greentrails,
making it the best place for hiking in Puerto Rico. Hike up the mountains
or down to the flowing springs.
Notes: United flies non-stop from Chicago to San Juan. The flight is
about four hours and costs $350. Tap water is safe to drink. A passport is
not required. Dress is casual except in the nightclubs. The island's food
and drink that shouldn't be missed include the abundance of fresh seafood,
fried plantains, Puerto Rican coffee, paella , and of course, the Pina
Cola. Its birthplace is on this island. If you like rum, be sure to take
the tour of the Bacardi plant, which is free and includes free libations!
For more info on Puerto Rico visit www.Global-Scene.com.
Old San Juan