Beautiful San Juan

5-Feb-2024 • San Juan Puerto Rico

Last Christmas's cruise stop in San Juan, Puerto Rico was our second visit to the beautiful island which the locals fondly call La Isla del Encanto or the Island of Enchantment.  Words cannot describe how happy and excited I was to visit once again.  To think, it took us over two decades to return. The only difference between the two visits was the length of our stay each time.  Our first visit lasted three days while the most recent one was simply a day. 

Although I remember many of the attractions thanks to the pictures we took during our first vacation there, we really didn't know our way around anymore.  Fortunately for us as well as for all other visitors, the city was very walkable.

On the day of our stop, we left the ship at 11:30 am and returned at 5:30 pm.  We first passed by CVS so I could spend a penny.  Fortunately for me, there was a public restroom inside.  While inside the store, we saw the Tortuga Rum Cakes for sale at $5 a piece.  I bought four before we left San Juan. They were a lot cheaper there than on board the ship where they were priced ridiculously high.  Add the discount I received due to the points I had accumulated over time by shopping at our local CVS in San Francisco, my purchase came out even cheaper.

It sure was nice to be back. I stood in front of the city's cathedral back in the late 1990s.

From CVS, we passed by a tourist office kiosk where we were able to get a map of the city's tourist spots.  A few minutes later, we had to take cover inside a Marshalls Department Store opposite City Hall due to the heavy rain.  We, in fact, lost an hour of precious sightseeing time due to the very heavy downpour that didn't seem to want to stop.  

Once the rain had subsided off we went on our usual cultural blitzkreiging.  We found our way to Calle de la Fortaleza where we caught a glimpse of the elegant Governor's Mansion.  Next we saw the cathedral and went inside to pray.  Like every church we visit anywhere in the world, we took pictures of the main altar.  Since it was Christmas time, there of course was a nativity scene.  What I found interesting was a painting of a local saint dressed very much like Tarzan.  I thought it was a joke at first but no.  Apparently he was dressed like the locals of the island centuries ago.  

Then we checked out the Convent across the street.  We didn't realize that the convent had been converted into a hotel.  It was only years after our first visit did a classmate of mine at the University of Salamanca who informed me that the convent was actually a posh hotel.  She was from New York but of Puerto Rican descent.

A view of a tower and the Caribbean Sea at the Castillo San Felipe del Morro

We made our way to the Castillo San Felipe El Morro, one of the famous forts in San Juan, mid afternoon.  We had visited it back during our first trip. It sure was walk down memory lane here.  Unlike our first visit when we had the entire fort practically to ourselves, this second visit was full of tourists.  There were two ships after all that day.

It was the Castillo San Cristobal which was new for us on this trip.  Our visit to this other fort was brief since we still had to find our way back to the cruise terminal and we didn't know how long the walk was going to take.  Good thing it didn't take too long.  Soon we were back at the waterfront.  There were lots of other cruise passengers doing some last minute shopping.  The atmosphere was very festive.  I can honestly say, San Juan is my favorite among the cities in the Caribbean.  It has everything a avid fan of the region can ask for.  It has lots of culture, beaches, nature, and night life.

At the Castillo San Felipe del Morro

A government building across the Fort San Felipe del Morro

This commercial establishment reminded me of the ones in Madrid.

Who would have thought?  We saw the statue of the the Child Jesus more popularly called the Santo Niño inside the cathedral.

A partial view of the very yellow interior of the Castillo San Felipe del Morro

El Museo de las Americas

The Plaza de San Jose with the statue of Juan Ponce de Leon

Such lovely and colorful buildings

This was one narrow building! I wanted to have my picture taken in front of it but another tourist took her sweet time posing and posing.  We had waited over 15 minutes and she was not yet done having her picture taken.  We finally gave up and left.

Inside the Castillo San Cristobal

El Castillo San Cristobal

On our way back to the ship, we accidentally passed by the monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus in the middle of a tiny square. We had seen it before and it brought back lots of beautiful memories from long ago.

City Hall across the Marshalls Store we visited