Sunday, December 2, 2012

Top 5 Things to Do and See Around San Juan, Puerto Rico

1. Explore Old San Juan

From sightseeing to shopping, Old San Juan has so much to offer.  If you're a history buff, check out the forts that border the city.  At both locations you can tour dungeons, chapels, and the famous sentry boxes.  If you're more into modern day shopping and exploring, give yourself a few days to wander the streets which have everything from local boutiques to beautiful plazas filled with interesting people.

2. See the Arecibo Observatory

Featured in textbooks around the world and even in the James Bond movie, GoldenEye, the Arecibo Observatory is a great place to get a little educational sightseeing in.  In addition to seeing the world's largest reflector, you can also check out the accompanying museum and visitor center.  A little over an hour outside of San Juan, driving is your best bet for transportation (we rented a car for the week).  The drive through rural Puerto Rico was one of my favorite parts though.

Click through to see the the rest of my Top Five list!

3. Get a free drink or two at Casa Bacardi

Casa Bacardi is a great stop for rum lovers and non-drinkers alike.  Two Bacardi drinks of your choice as well as an informative and fun tour of the factory are completely free of charge!  After relaxing in an outdoor pavilion and enjoying your drinks, you'll take a trolley ride to the main factory where you get to learn all about the history of the Bacardi brand as well as the contemporary form of distillation.  

4. Take a kayaking tour of the Bioluminescent Bay

I'm sure you looked at the photo above and automatically assumed it was photoshopped.  Honestly though, that's pretty much what the real thing looks like!  Microscopic organisms present in the bay (and only several other places worldwide) glow blue when agitated as a natural defense mechanism.  Although swimming is discouraged to protect the natural environment, tourists can take kayak tours of the area.  We paid a little extra to get glass bottom kayaks, and it was definitely worth the money.  It's rarity, eco-friendly environment, and overall cool factor make the Bioluminescent Bay one of my biggest "must-sees" on the island.  

5. Make a day trip to one of the neighboring islands 

Two islands, Culebra and Vieques, lie just off the Eastern coast of Puerto Rico.  Accessible by a 90 minute ferry from Fajardo, both islands have incredible beaches and the typical laid-back caribbean atmosphere.  Due to it's bigger size, we chose to head to Vieques.  Once you get off the ferry, you can get a cheap taxi ride to the other side of the island, Esperanza, which is where we found the best kayaking and swimming to be.  The beach, nestled alongside some local shops and restaurants, was crystal clear and absolutely gorgeous.  For about $10 per person we rented kayaks and snorkeling gear, which we promptly put to use exploring the brightly colored coral and tropical fish. 
If you like laid-back beach days and snorkeling is right up your alley, you definitely need to visit Vieques; unless you have bad weather, there's no way you're going to be disappointed.  

I hope you've enjoyed my mini-series on Puerto Rico!  For more on the island, check out parts one, two, and three.  

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