Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Mon March 07 2016

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  • Nick and Dariece | March 7, 2016 11:00 PM ET

    A Day-Trip to San Juan: Puerto Rico's Old Town

    A Day-Trip to San Juan: Puerto Rico's Old Town

    Photos by Goats on the Road

    Puerto Rico both surprised and delighted us. We traveled from the West Indies nation of Barbados, to this American atoll, and as soon as our plane touched down and we arrived at our beachfront guesthouse (Numero 1), we knew we had made the right decision in traveling there. The capital city of San Juan can actually be split into two parts: the Old Town, and the New Town.

    We recommend staying in Ocean Park, aka Condado area, which is home to Ocean Park Beach — a gorgeous stretch of golden sand and turquoise Atlantic waters. Staying in this area, you'll be able to have your pick of restaurants — either top end International spots, or small, hole-in-the-wall joints with authentic Puerto Rican cuisine.

    where to stay in puerto rico the numero 1 guesthouse

    From this area of the island, you will be just a short, 15-minute drive to the Old Town of San Juan, which is a top attraction on the entire island. Many people choose to rent a car, which is definitely a good idea, as many sights are located away from the public transportation lines.

    READ MORE: The Rise of Puerto Rico’s Bed and Breakfasts

    If you don't have a rental car, your options for getting to the old town are to take a taxi for around $15, or you can take the public bus for $0.75 (you must have exact change). The A-5 bus runs from Isla Verde Ave. to Old San Juan in around 45 minutes. San Juan is the second oldest European-founded settlement in the Americas! Once you arrive in the old town, you'll feel like you've stepped back in time.

    san juan puerto rico

    Smooth concrete streets morph into bumpy cobblestones, and the towering white highrises become quaint colorful hotels. Cafes and restaurants spill out onto the streets, and lively plazas are filled with families and couples. Dominating the northwestern point of San Juan is the El Morro fort, which was built in the early 1500's to protect the Bay of San Juan and Harbor. This UNESCO listed site is the most popular on the island due to its incredible history, and its beautiful vantage point over the Atlantic.

    As you walk toward the fortress, you'll notice there is a large grassy area. This used to be where soldiers marched, but these days you'll find children flying kites in the trade winds, lovers laying on blankets and people having picnics — quite a change from the past. The cost of entering the fort is $5. Make sure to wear good shoes as the terrain can be uneven here. In fact, the entire town is hard to walk on due to its cobblestone streets! Give yourself at least an hour (preferably more) to wander around inside the fort, and read about the various towers and garitas. Try to visit the fort around sunset, as the views from there are spectacular.

    el morro fort puerto rico

    Although the El Morro Fort is the main draw in the old town, there are many other sights to see. La Muralla (large city wall, which is 60 feet tall and 20 feet thick!), La Princesa (which used to be the jail), the Fort of San Cristobal and the Catedral de San Juan Bautista (which is the 2nd oldest cathedral in the Americas) are just a few of the other top sites that should be on your checklist.

    Apart from seeing sites, one of the highlights of the old town is simply wandering around and getting lost. Although, you really can't get lost here as this area spans just seven square blocks. Lazily walking up and down the narrow lanes, relaxing in plazas and popping into various cafes and shops are all part of the fun of the old town.

    There are numerous spots to take a lunch break during your walk. Pick a busy spot, preferably one where you can do some people watching while you eat, or one with views out to a plaza or bustling street. Some popular restaurants include: Barrachina (Puerto Rican), Aguaviva (seafood) and 1919 (American). Make sure to sample the mofongo!

    what to eat in puerto rico chicken mofongo

    READ MORE: Puerto Rico Expanding Posadas Program with New $3.8 Million Hotel

    The Old Town of San Juan makes for a perfect day trip for anyone staying on the eastern side of the island. Spend your day aimlessly strolling through the quiet lanes, and passing by the colorful buildings. Don't forget to look down to see the unique, blue cobblestone streets. We suggest giving yourself as much time as possible. Arrive early in the day to have the streets to yourself, stay for a delicious lunch, and finish the excursion off with sunset views from the fort. The Old Town is a highlight of any trip to Puerto Rico.


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Nick and Dariece Notes from the Goats

Nick and Dariece Nick and Dariece are the couple behind Goats On The Road, a website designed to inspire others to live a financially sustainable, location independent lifestyle. Masters at making money abroad and turning their travels into a way of life, they've been on the road since 2008 and have explored some of the least visited places on earth, finding adventure wherever they go. They are also full time contributors at Credit Walk where they share their expertise of making money and travelling forever. Check them out at Goats On The and follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
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