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San Juan, Puerto Rico – Ultimate guide of the capital

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Have you ever heard of San Juan in Puerto Rico? Have you been there? If you have not, you are certainly missing out on the treats and delights it has to offer.

San Juan is the capital city of Puerto Rico. It also happens to be the largest city ad is located on the northern coast of the Puerto Rican island, on the Atlantic Ocean. It is known for being a major port and tourist attraction site in the West Indies, and is now officially the oldest city under the jurisdiction of the United States.

An interesting fact about San Juan is that the San Juan metropolitan area is the largest industrial and processing centre of the island. It has facilities for petroleum and sugar refining, tobacco processing, brewing, and rum distilling. Cement, pharmaceuticals, metal products, and clothing are also produced there.

Tourism is especially important in San Juan. It is well known for its numerous tourist attractions that beckon to visitors on a regular basis. Some of the various attractions and activities San Juan has to offer are: hiking at the El Yunque National Forest, rum tasting and touring at Casa Bacardi, an Old San Juan walking tour, snorkelling at the Flamenco Beach, and sunset sails by the San Juan Historical Bay.  There is so much to do- the activities are practically endless.

The History and Characteristics of San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan was founded in 1521 by a man named Juan Ponce de Leon. He named it City of Puerto Rico, which translates as Rich Port. San Juan is the oldest and most continuously inhabited post-European contact city under U.S jurisdiction.

San Juan was originally known as Puerto Rico. It was the Spanish conquistador Christopher Columbus that gave the entire island the name San Juan Bautista in 1493. Before his arrival, the native people Tainos called it Boriken.

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After centuries of Spanish rule, Puerto Rico became U.S territory in 1898 and has been self-governing since the mid 20th century. It has a population of about 3.4 million people and has its culture influenced by Spanish, the United States, and the Afro-Caribbean communities.

The San Juan Archipelago consists of approximately 418 islands, reefs, and rocks at high tide. The islands are bounded by Haro Strait to the west, Boundary Pass to the northwest, the Strait of Georgia to the north and northeast, Rosario Strait to the east, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, as well as the northern portion of Puget Sound, to the south.  The surrounding region has often been called the Salish Sea, defined by the surrounding land masses of the Olympic Peninsula to the south, Vancouver Island to the west, and the mainland to the north and east.

San Juan is approximately 199.4 square kilometres and is considered a small city in  Metro Manila that is surrounded by Manila, Mandaluyong and Quezon City.

Taking into consideration things like cost of travel, weather, peak travel seasons, etc, the best time to visit San Juan is from April to June. This is just after the busy winter season and just before the rainy summer. June to November is characterised as the most hurricane-prone season.

How to Get to San Juan

There are two basic ways of getting to the San Juan Islands – you can fly or take a ferry. Each offers a panoramic view of the islands. There are several ferry services to the islands; the most popular, the Washington State Ferry, departs daily from Anacortes.

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If you are coming from out-of-state, you can fly into SEA (Seattle-Tacoma) or Bellingham airport in Washington, or to Vancouver or Victoria’s airports in Canada. From there, you can drive to Anacortes, WA, and board a Washington State Ferry that will take you to the San Juan Islands in about three hours and forty-five minutes.

The Washington State ferry operates large car ferries between the islands, terminating its service in Friday Harbour, where the Tucker House Inn & Harrison House Suites are located. If a seaplane is a bit too daunting, wheeled planes fly into Friday Harbour Airport.

If you prefer to do the trip without a vehicle, there are several shuttle services that will get you to Anacortes. The Anacortes ferry terminal is served by Grey Line bus from downtown Seattle (800) 426-7532. Island Airporter runs a daily shuttle service from Friday Harbour to SeaTac (360) 378-7438. Bellair Charters Airporter Shuttle has scheduled service from Anacortes Ferry Terminal to Seattle-Tacoma.

In addition to the above, you can get to San Juan from Fajardo. There are four different ways for visitors to get to San Juan by car allows you to have the freedom to explore and offers comfort. A good place to book would be with Discover Cars. You can opt for a private shuttle which is best for comfort. Some great places to book are Viator, Luquillo Taxi, and Go Puerto Rico Shuttle.

Some helpful tips for choosing the right mode of transport for you would be to: consider the costs of each mode of transport, consider who you intend to travel with and with how many people( if travelling with lots of people a good idea may be to go by taxi, or to rent a car or private shuttle). There are various booking and travel sites  that will help you make the right decision.

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Things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

On your visit to San Juan, you will never be short of things to do. Here are some suggestions on how to keep you entertained and help you make the most of your time that might just tickle your fancy.

  • Hiking at El Yunque National Forest
  • Touring Casa Bacardi where you will learn about its history, rum making and rum tasting, and perhaps a mixology class.
  • Walking through the vibrant streets of Old San Juan where you can soak in the culture and marvel at the architecture.
  • Visit the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista and take a dive into the history that still lurks within its walls
  • Relax and play at San Juan beaches
  • Visit the Icacos Island
  • Go Kayaking, Paddleboarding alongside Manatees in Laguna del Condado, etc

Other Destinations in Puerto Rico to Visit

Some cool alternatives to San Juan that are also in Puerto Rico are:

  • Fajardo- where you can take a full day tour or visit the bioluminescent bay
  • Culebra- where you can kayak and snorkel while on tour
  • Carabali Rainforest Park -where you can enjoy a horseback riding tour.
  • Luquillo with its stunning beaches and scenery

Now that your appetite has been whetted, what are you waiting for? Visit San Juan and cop a feel of all the exciting things it has to offer. Come and discover the beauty of Puerto Rico.


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