Puerto Rico is one of the biggest cruise hubs in the Caribbean. This industry brings thousands of visitors to the island but unfortunately, most of them only stay in Puerto Rico for a short time as they wait to board their cruise. Still, that wait time is enough for you to enjoy some of the best sights in San Juan and nearby regions. If you manage to have 48 hours in Puerto Rico, here's what you can do.
Old San Juan might be small, but this historic district houses a concentrated amount of historical and cultural sights that spans over 400 years of history. Enjoy a busy but fun morning walking along the cobblestone streets lined with Spanish Colonial architecture that make this historical district an authentic look back in time. Visit La Fortaleza, the oldest executive mansion in continuous use in the Americas (free, prior reservation required). And last, but not least, explore the Spanish colonial treasures and magnificent forts like Castillo San Felipe del Morro and Castillo San Cristobal - two great examples of Spain's military power.
End your afternoon by strolling along Paseo de la Princesa, an urban promenade located outside the city walls in the southwest part of the islet. The promenade is lined on one side by the imposing fortification walls, and on the other side by the bay and the sea - a perfect place to watch the sunset. You will see how the life of the promenade changes from a family-oriented place by day to an urban social spot by night.
Spend your night walking along Fortaleza Street, Recinto Sur Street, and San Sebastian Street, all located inside the walls of Old San Juan. These streets excel in their variety and excellent quality of local cuisine, lounges and international restaurants. While Fortaleza Street and Recinto Sur have a more relaxed environment with lounges and outdoor seating, San Sebastian Street is more attractive to younger generations with lively dance bars where you'll see people dancing salsa, reggaeton, and even playing pool while enjoying a night out with friends.
Having a short time in Puerto Rico doesn't mean you need to stay put in San Juan! Enjoy nature and wildlife by visiting El Yunque National Rainforest. This natural treasure is located 45 minutes away from Old San Juan, and it is easily accessible by private car or tour. Get there early to spend the morning hiking one of its many trails or soaking in the waterfalls and rivers. If you happen to hike uphill, you'll have the chance to see a gorgeous view that extends all the way to the sea.
Here you'll hear the rhythmic sound of the coqui, a small endemic frog famous for its mating call. If you're lucky, you'll also see the beautiful and endangered Puerto Rican parrot flying through the forest. The park opens at 7:30 am and closes at 6:00 pm.
Your morning at El Yunque might have been quite active and tiresome, so why not relax during the afternoon at the beach? Isla Verde is a popular spot to go enjoy some time in the sun, and while they are not the prettiest beaches you'll see in Puerto Rico, they are great for swimming and sunbathing. Isla Verde is just 10 minutes away from Old San Juan, and is located right next to the airport, making it very convenient. This is also another hub full of hotels, clubs, bars, and restaurants.
Condado is the district located closest to Old San Juan, so it is very easy to access, and chances are your hotel might even be located there. Condado is home to some of the best lounges, clubs, restaurants, and nightlife found in Puerto Rico. Bordering Condado is Santurce, which is famous for La Placita de Santurce - where most locals enjoy spending the night in one or several of its varied bars and establishments. There's something for everyone, from salsa clubs to reggaeton bars to LGBT bars, and everything in between. The most curious part of this place is that during the day, this is the local market where locals buy their produce.
See how much you can do in just 48 hours. Where would you start your exploration of Puerto Rico?
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Norbert Figueroa is an architect who hit the pause button on his career in 2011 to do a round the world trip. He's been blogging for over three years at globotreks.com, where he shares his travel experiences, budget travel tips, and a good dose of world architecture. From hiking Mount Kilimanjaro to diving with great white sharks, he is always on the search of adrenaline and adventure. Norbert is originally from Puerto Rico and he is currently based in Milan, Italy... when not roaming around the world, that is. He has traveled to more than 80 countries in 5 continents and his goal is to travel to all 193 U.N. recognized countries. Follow Norbert on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.
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