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San Juan is the capital of and largest city in Puerto Rico, which has one of the best harbors in the Caribbean. It is the oldest city under the jurisdiction of the United States.
San Juan is a tropical city with summer daytime high near 90 degrees and summer nights in the high 70s. Summer includes high humidity making the outdoors feel very hot and muggy. The months of April through November will see frequent rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon. Puerto Rico also has the possibility of being hit by hurricanes and tropical storms from July to November. Winter is quite pleasant in San Juan. Temperatures typically range in the low 80s during the day, and low 70s at night.
Ferries del Caribe operates an international passenger and vehicle service from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The overnight journey requires WHTI-compliant documentation and there are strict rules regarding vehicle transportation. Fares payable in USD.
San Juan is served by Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU), a large international hub airport about 14 km away in the city of Carolina. SJU is one of the most important hubs in the Caribbean, alongside Miami and Panama City. As with most Caribbean airports, the airport's architecture is rather run-down and dated (although you will except to see them renovated in those coming years), with the exception of the new JetBlue terminal in Concourse C.
All major U.S. airlines operate scheduled services linking SJU to various destinations on the mainland, with seasonal air charters operating additional routes.
To and From the airport
Most travellers opt to rent a car or take a taxi, for around 15-20 USD. You can also take a public bus for 75 cents. Bus stops are located at the upper (departures) level. In the buses you can only pay with coins.
There are pros and cons to the various methods of getting around San Juan.
Getting around various parts of the city, and the rest of the island, as well as to and from the airport, will be much more convenient with a car. Though road signs are in Spanish, the road sign shapes are going to be as familiar to you if you are used to American road signs. And when you see the word norte sitting above a numbered-road sign enough times.
Driving in San Juan is very similar to driving in Florida or the cities of the northeast U.S. like Boston or New York. People drive quickly, change lanes with little notice, and frequently tailgate, despite narrow streets. Natives of areas with more placid driving styles like the U.S. Midwest may find it frightening, though.
The public bus system in San Juan is inexpensive at only 75 cents a ride. Only coins are accepted on board so stock up on those quarters! (5c and 10c coins are fine too). The bus stops are marked "PARADA", and the system is currently being reworked to fit in with a new train line.
The Cataño Ferry (La Lancha de Cataño) is a public ferry serving Old San Juan and Cataño. It crosses San Juan Bay every 15-30 minutes.
San Juan is served by a rapid transit rail line called "Tren Urbano" (Urban Train). The line connects San Juan to the towns of Guaynabo and Bayamón, but it avoids points of interest like Old San Juan, Condado, and Isla Verde.
Spanish is the dominant language in San Juan and throughout Puerto Rico. English is also widely spoken and understood. Most businesses within the tourist areas of the city are fully fluent in English and those businesses tend to hire employees who are bilingual, thus speaking English very well. In addition, English is widely taught in high schools, with most students understanding some basic English. As a visitor, be prepared to use some high school level Spanish to drivers to communicate about luggage, restaurants, or anything not a normal tourist spot.
What to see
El Castillo San Felipe del Morro "El Morro" : is a sixteenth-century citadel that lies on the northwestern-most point of the islet of San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is part of San Juan National Historic Site and was declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1983.
El Castillo de San Cristóbal, A Spanish fort in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was built by the Spaniards to protect against land based attacks on the city of San Juan. It is part of San Juan National Historic Site.
Palacio de Santa Catalina "La Fortaleza" is the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico, who is Puerto Rico's head of Government. It was built between 1533 and 1540 to defend the harbor of San Juan. The structure is also known as El Palacio de Santa Catalina (or Palace of Santa Catalina). It is the oldest executive mansion in the New World. La Fortaleza was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
El Catedral de San Juan Bautista: contains the tomb of the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León. It was built in the 1520's, soon to be wrecked by a hurricane, and then rebuilt in 1540.
Castillo de San Jerónimo is a small fort located in the entrance to what is known today as Condado, Puerto Rico lagoon in San Juan. The fort defended San Juan from attacks by Sir Francis Drake in 1595, Sir George Clifford "Earl of Cumberland" in 1598 and Sir Ralph Abercromby.
Iglesia de San Jose dates back to 1523. This building was originally called the Church and Monastery of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Before Ponce de Leon was moved to the San Juan Catedral, his body was buried here for 300 years.
Ayuntamiento or Alcaldia or City Hall.
The municipal cemetery of Santa María Madgalena de Pazzis, located just outside the city walls.
Fuerte San Geronimo is a fort that was built to tighten defense within the city. There is a small museum inside.
Bacardi Rum Factory. Also called the "Cathedral of Rum" and covers 127 acres. Free tour, including a trolley ride around the premises.