After an 5 hour flight delay, I arrived in San Juan in the middle of the night. My old roommate grew up in San Juan, so we went to visit him and his family for the weekend. His parents were extremely hospitable and helped us navigate the weekend. We spent a lot of time exploring the Old San Juan and the fortresses that divide it from the water. We spent a day visiting El Yunque National Forest and Playa Fortuna. We ate a lot of chicken mofongo, yuca, seafood, and plantains.
Castillo de San Cristóbal
The Castillo de San Cristóbal is the one of the two forts/castles in Old San Juan and has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built by the Spanish, but additions by the United States were added during World War II. Stepping onto the fortress makes it feel like you are entering into the past. The fortress is well preserved and has an impressive presence next to the splashing waves of the ocean. The artillery watch tower built by the United States provides a stark contrast with the aging, moss covered brick of the fort. The watchtower offers interesting views of the temporary homes built along the ocean to the west of the fort. You can also get great views of San Juan from the top of the fort.
View of San Juan from atop the fort
View of the temporary housing to the west of the fort through the artillery watch tower
Castillo San Felipe del Morro
The Castillo San Felipe del Morro is further west on the coast of Old San Juan. It has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well. The citadel was also built by the Spanish and eventually used by the United States. The lighthouse on the citadel was built by the United States, and once again, the modern structure of the lighthouse contrasts with the medieval feel of the rest of the citadel. The coloring of the stones of the citadel are beautiful. On top of the citadel, you can clearly see the Isla de Cabras where people with leprosy were forced to live in quarantine.
View of Isla de Cabras
Old San Juan
Walking through cobblestoned streets of Old San Juan, you see a mix of cute, colorful houses and trees draping overhead. There are many bars and restaurants in Old San Juan. We even went to the bar where the music video for Despacito was shot!
A street in Old San Juan
The world’s smallest apartment
Square in Old San Juan
Cathedral of San Juan Bautista
Quaint tapas restaurant
La Factoria where the music video for Despacito was shot
El Yunque National Forest
We drove through the tropical forest, although you can go on hikes through it. The weather was humid and having the option to drive was nice. The roads are windy and narrow. There is a waterfall, La Mina, in the forest and a tower where you can see the expansiveness of the forest.
The beach was a short drive from the forest. We stopped to eat at a restaurant located along the shore of the beach. The beach area itself is narrow and is filled with mostly locals. There are some grassy areas and trees for shade.