Lives in New York City, New York
Since Jul 2009
Sacred & Religious Sites
Caverns & Caves, Parks
Historic Sites, Military Bases & Facilities
Points of Interest & Landmarks
It seems as though there is a church on every street in San Juan, but Chapel of Christ the Savior is special for several reasons. First, you may not even know it is a church. From its perch overlooking the bay, the stone structure almost resembles part of this historic wall — but the 18th-century church has an uplifting backstory, which you'll find written on the outside wall. Equally inspiring are the Campeche paintings and ornate altars inside.
Formed by the Camuy River, the spectacular caves at Parque de las Cavernas are some 45 million years old, with stunning stalagmites, stalactites, and walls carved by Mother Nature herself. These 200-plus caves are located an hour's drive from San Juan and are still home to the subterranean river as well as an array of wildlife, from river crabs to bats.
When you need to escape the throbbing energy of San Juan, head to Rio Pedras to explore the peaceful Botanical Garden. Part of the University of Puerto Rico's science and botany program, the garden's 75 acres feature trails to explore and more than 30,000 plants. The South Garden, home to towering palm trees, parrots, and koi ponds, is especially lovely.
A day-trip to the seaside town of Rincon is a great way to see another alluring part of Puerto Rico. This popular surf city is also home to a number of great eateries, including Tamboo Seaside Grill, a casual restaurant serving Caribbean-American fare. You can kick back on the patio and enjoy ocean views alongside your plantain-crusted shrimp or chicken with mango-chimichurri sauce. The cocktail list is also impressive and inexpensive (Tamboo is known for its potent mojitos).
While tourists frequent the Santurce neighborhood for its booming art and restaurant scene, they often overlook its somewhat off-the-grid main plaza. During the day, La Placita is home to a bustling market where locals buy local produce and other wares, but at night the area transforms into a street party. Sanjuaneros saunter in after work (and even later) to enjoy wallet-friendly cocktails and live salsa music at the many bars and clubs that line the square.
San Juan's second stone fortress, San Cristobal is less famous than El Morro, but it's the largest stone fortification that the Spanish built in the New World. And on weekends, you can get even more 'off the beaten path' on guided tours that delve deep into underground passageways that are usually closed to the public.
Rum may be king in Puerto Rico, but coffee is the queen bee. There are many coffee plantations in the mountain region, but this 15th-century property, located at the mountain base of Jayuya, is less than a two-hour drive from Old San Juan. Have a cup of the rich, aromatic java, and then buy a bag (or three) to sip back home.
On a guided night kayak tour of Fajardo's Bioluminescent Bay, you'll navigate through a maze of mangroves into Laguna Grande, a nine-foot deep whose midnight-blue water is filled with fascinating microorganisms that glow in the dark when you glide your hand on the water's surface. Coupled with the moonlight, it makes an amazing light show.