A Short Diversion to San Juan, Puerto Rico

We were on our way to the Caribbean island of Dominica. Because we will be passing through a few countries, we decided to stay for at least a night in Puerto Rico. My Spanish needed brushing up, but the idea of exploring Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan) was appealing. We were mostly curious and wanted to make the most of our travel.

How was the trip?

The trip was great overall. We were tired, though, because we had to take three flights just to get there from Asia. Other than that, we were ready to go on foot and explore. So, half-awake but raring to go, we left the San Juan Airport hotel to visit Viejo San Juan.

By the way, if you want to feel safer on your first trip to Puerto Rico, you may want to stay at the airport hotel. It is right on the airport premises. You will also be in less danger of missing your flight. You may also request a wakeup call. Breakfast is included in your stay, and the ambiance is family-friendly. Book ahead, though, because the cheaper rooms get booked very quickly.

What are a few recommendations?

  • You need to know a little bit of Spanish to communicate. Some – but not all – shop owners can speak English.
  • Visit Viejo San Juan to get a taste of history from its forts, small crafts shops, cobbled walkways, and more. You will also find some restored buildings that originally date back to the 16th and 17th centuries.
  • If you want some shopping done, visit Plaza Las Americas. This is the biggest mall in the whole Caribbean. It is not that big, mind you, but Puerto Rico is one of a few islands in the Greater Antilles. The smaller islands are part of the Lesser Antilles.
  • Visit Kasalta, a bakery that can satisfy your pastry cravings. Obama has been there for a visit, and his table is still distinctively marked.
  • Not too far away from Kasalta is the Caribbean Sea. You can take a walk by the beach.

Would there be any precautions to take?

  • Get a cab straight from the airport or designated stops. The taxis usually have strict, fixed rates. So, don’t believe anyone who says that they have a special fare or do not have a table of rates right on their bus/van.

Should we treat a Puerto Rico trip differently next time?

We love our visit to Puerto Rico, although it was very short. What would we change for next time? We would stay longer, definitely.

I believe brushing up on your Spanish will also help you enjoy your trip better. This way, you can easily say what you want to order in fast-food restaurants, for example. It would also be less awkward. During our last visit, I was just thankful I could remember to ask, “Donde esta el baño?” (Where is the bathroom?) The Kasalta bathroom, at the time of our visit, was locked. You need the code from your receipt.

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