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San Juan, Puerto Rico

Whether you're a history buff or thrill seeker, San Juan offers something for everyone.

San Juan

Founded in 1521, San Juan, Puerto Rico was the gateway to the New World. These days, San Juan may not be the first stop into the Americas anymore, but this beautiful port is most certainly a great place to visit. Steeped in history, San Juan has many stories to tell. But if you're ready for a more upbeat outing, San Juan can certainly accomodate!

san juan
With its old-world architecture, San Juan is reminiscent of European coastline.

 

For our excursion here, we chose the Old San Juan sunset walking tour. We figured this would be a great way to take in the feel of Old San Juan as much as possible in our limited time here.

san juan cruise terminal

The cruise terminal at San Juan is modern, well-kept, and well-designed.
 

In the air-conditioned cruise terminal, we had no problem locating our tour guide, "Alex," large sign in hand, awaiting our arrival. Once our entire group had amassed, we were loaded into comfortable buses, parked just outside the terminal.

The tour actually began the second we were all aboard the bus, because Alex immediately began his dialogue, informing us about various points of interest as we passed them during the ride.

fort at san juan

We were able to catch a view of Fort San Cristobal during the bus ride.

Once we had arrived in the Old San Juan area, we were offloaded from the buses and the actual walking tour began. Having never visited this port, I was taken aback again and again at both the natural beauty here and the fact that this place is just so well-kept. The grass was manicured, acre after acre, as if we were walking a golf course. The city infrastructure is very well-maintained. We felt a sense of safety here that rivaled anywhere in the States.

san jose church

 

 

One of our first stops was the Iglesia de San Jose' (San Jose' Church). Featuring Spanish Gothic architecture, construction began on San Jose' Church in 1532, on land donated by Juan Ponce de León. Built in various sections over time, this is the second oldest church in the western hemisphere. Juan Ponce de León was buried here for 300 years, until his body was moved to the San Juan Cathedral in 1913. Puerto Rican painter Jose Campeche, is buried here.

According to Alex, even the road beneath our feet was a piece of history. There is a cobblestone-paved road beginning at San Jose' Church, which Alex advised us was the first paved road in the new world. The bricks shown in the foreground of the picture below were said to be the first ones placed to begin this road, as it travels off into the background.

san juan cobblestone street

According to our tour guide, this was the first paved road in the New World.

Another interesting stop along this tour was at Cuartel de Ballaja, or Ballaja Barracks. Since the 1800's, Cuartel de Ballaja has served to house both Spanish and American troops, and even served as a military hospital during World War II. In 2002, it was the location of singer Marc Anthony's wedding reception when he married Miss Universe Dayanara Torres.

cuartel de ballaja

Cuartel de Ballaja served as wedding reception location for Marc Anthony & Dayanara Torres.

As the sun sat on a beautiful Puerto Rican day, our tour guide Alex was still on the job, guiding us along the streets of Old San Juan, and providing a wealth of interesting information about everything at every turn. Without his insight we could have easily overlooked very significant features, such as the below-pictured La Puerta San Juan, which was the official entrance to Puerto Rico, and to the new world for that matter, for so many people who dared to cross the ocean from Europe. If you look closely at the picture, you can see the doorway, near the left, through which travelers would actually pass after debarkation from their ship.

la puerta de san juan

La Puerta San Juan was the official entrance to the New World for colonists.

With the tour coming to a close, Alex bid us farewell and left us to shop and explore on our own in Old San Juan. Even though the sun had long set, we felt as comfortable and safe here as we would have in any town back home. After finding some quick deals in the shops, we made a stop by the Barrachina Restaurant, world famous for inventing the Pina Colada drink in 1963.

barrachina restaurant

The Barrachina Restaurant is world famous for inventing the Pina Colada in 1963.

San Juan, Puerto Rico is truly living history. There is much to see and learn at this port. If you're not a history buff, there are several other exciting excursions available here to suit you, such as a trip to Bioluminescence Bay, considered one of the top locations in the world for bioluminescent organisms. Simply pass your hand through the water here, and you will leave a glowing trail! There are also Horseback Riding, and Golfing excursions, among many others.

carnival liberty at san juan

Aboard the Carnival Liberty, with the skyline of San Juan as a backdrop.

 

 

Next:
Roatan Shore Excursions

 

 

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