La Isla Del Encanto: Spotlight on San Juan

6 Aug

View from Castillo San Felipe del Morro or 'El Morro'

View from Castillo San Felipe del Morro or ‘El Morro’

La Isla Del Encanto, translated, The Island of Charm is a popular slogan associated with Puerto Rico. In fact, you’ll notice license plates on cars bearing this same motto. And for good reason as I would humbly agree that such proclamation is quite fair. One need only spend time in this beautiful jewel in the Caribbean to get it; it’s that palpable.

Puerto Rico, which can be translated as Rich Port can’t help it’s inherent uniqueness. It’s a blessing, I think, because this adds to its ever present charm. On the one hand an (unincorporated) United States territory, meaning no addnl. documentation (as in a passport) is required for travel and, on the other hand, an exotic oasis in the middle of the Caribbean where Spanish is the primary tongue though English is widely spoken as well, in urban areas, and is recognized as an official language.

San Juan, officially known as Municipio de la Ciudad Capital San Juan Bautista is the capital of the territory, its commercial hub and, indeed, the most populous city on the island.
Arrival here is at San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU). Several airlines operate non-stop flights from the East Coast mainland to SJU. Taxi vans are conveniently situated right outside the terminal to whisk you away into town at around $20 for most centrally located hotels (as of this writing).

Dinner at Yerba Buena

Dinner at Yerba Buena

In San Juan, Condado, right in the heart of town, maintains the pulse of the city. Many hotels and points of recreation can be found here. It also simmers with nightlife and a variety of eateries rim, or are just off the main thoroughfare, Ashford Avenue.
For mouthwatering local fare with a Cuban twist, try Yerba Buena right on Ashford or, if you’re seeking a bit of variety, Ali Baba, which dishes up tasty Turkish fare is also a good bet. Kasalta, further afield on Ave. Mc. Leary offers patrons an authentic experience with local pastries and mouthwatering delicacies on offer. Even President Obama popped by on one of his visits to the area.


Checking In: As far as a place to lay your head down at night, in Condado, La Concha is likely one of the more popular hotels on the Ashford strip. Newer, more upscale additions like the Condado Vanderbilt, however, are beginning to pop up along the strip as well. Alternatively, for something a little less pricy, and still very close to the beach, try Best Western Plus Condado Palm Inn

Old San Juan

Old San Juan

Journey Back In Time: if Condado is represents the city’s arteries, Old San Juan, is the the very heart of it. This part of town is beyond charming with it’s well preserved Spanish colonial architecture, easily transporting the visitor back to a time and place when some of the city’s highly connected populace took up residency here. Opt to stay here instead by snagging one of the numerous apartment/room rentals easily bookable via AirBnB. Quite a few decent choices are present in the area. While there, wonder the delightful neighborhood, indulging in scrumptious delicacies such as Mallorcas, an adapted local pastry, presented with your choice of filling – savory or sweet – at the kiosks in the plazas in the center of town. Or, make your way to Caficultura where artisans such as Edgardo Texidor Rosa whip up stimulating caffeinated beverages which you can enjoy with your pastry. It’s a full service restaurant as, as such, additional menu choices are on offer.


In addition, a monument not to be missed while wondering about town is the old Citadel and fort of El Morro. It’s a remarkable fortress that offers the explorer a glimpse into the island’s history and spectacular views of the ocean.

El Yunque - Waterfall

El Yunque – Waterfall

Further afield: explore a bit of nature by heading to the national forest of El Junque. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to hike a relatively short distance to the waterfall which unsurprisingly is a popular draw. As you make your way back into town after your adventure, stop by the one of the several roadside shacks/cafés for delicious local refreshments.

If time permits, consider pairing Culebra, a smaller neighboring island with your itinerary. It is easily accessible, via quick puddle jumper flights, and can make for something as short as a day journey. Alternatively you can also access the island via ferry but this takes a bit more planning and discipline. Ferries depart from the town of Fajardo, approximately 37 miles outside San Juan. Please consult the daily schedule ahead of time for the latest travel information.

A truly enchanting experience. Go check it out, you should be thoroughly charmed.

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