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Three days in Old San Juan ... and beyond??

Ridgewood, New...
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Three days in Old San Juan ... and beyond??

We are visiting Puerto Rico for the first time in February. We have four nights (three full days) at El Convento in Old San Juan. We look forward to exploring on foot, visiting fort and museums, dining, shopping, listening to music, etc. We're not set on going to the beach while in PR as we will be heading on to St John for our beach vacation.

Do you recommend that we stick to San Juan during this short visit? Or, if we use one day for touring outside the San Juan area, what destination would be your top pick for a day trip?

We are comfortable striking out on our own, and will rent a car if desirable. All four of us know some Spanish; two are fluent speakers. (I also understand that PR is an extremely large and varied island and that I cannot expect to cover the territority on this trip!)

Thanks for your advice!

San Juan, Puerto...
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1. Re: Three days in Old San Juan ... and beyond??

Visiting the forts, museums and shopping will probably take up all 2-3 days (depending on which museums you go to). If you go to Plaza las Americas (I highly recommend you do) you will need at least 5 hours to browse and shop. If you have time I would recommend doing an outdoor adventure such as visiting El Yunque Rainforest (Rio Grande) or Las Cavernas de Camuy...they're at opposite sides so you would have to pick one and both are must-sees!

El Yunque National...
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2. Re: Three days in Old San Juan ... and beyond??

I would take one day and explore outside OSJ.

You might want to see something St John's doesn't have, so you are correct in skipping a snorkel or beach trip.

I would suggest you rent a car and go out to Cueva del Indio and Cueva Ventana (need flashlights) and then maybe a few other things in that area. Or do an adventure tour with zip lining and/or rappeling or underground cave exploration etc.

Orlando, Florida
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3. Re: Three days in Old San Juan ... and beyond??

I was in OSJ in June and you will have more than enough to do within walking distance of El Convento. I had 4 full days.....I used one outside OSJ to go to El Yunque and it is well worth experiencing. I took a private guide and that day included a farmers market, an amazing deserted beach, lunch at a roadside bbq that was great and a few hours in El Yunque. Atabey Tours (Andres) was the guide. I can recommend that as an option. I'll be back next month and I'll be going a little further afield with him. There's lot's to do in OSJ, but it was nice to get out and see the countryside as well.

Ridgewood, New...
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4. Re: Three days in Old San Juan ... and beyond??

Thank you so much for your wonderful replies,

I had never even considered a cave! That would, indeed, be an adventure we cannot experience on St John or in northern NJ where we live ... (and certainly not in lowcountry SC where we normally vacation!) I'll do some reading about the caves mentioned.

I've already heard and read amazing things about El Yunque, but thought we might rather go back to the rain forest when we have more than just a few short hours of one day. I will look into the tour suggested by donOrlando.

On a slightly different subject ... Is there any guided (or self-guided) tour you particularly recommend for Old San Juan? We would particularly enjoy a small walking tour focused on history and architecture.

Pennsylvania
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5. Re: Three days in Old San Juan ... and beyond??

We did three nights at the El Convento on our way to STJ in February. It was a great trip.

We did everything on foot. We spent the better part of one day at El Morro, had late lunch somewhere close by (sorry, can't remember the name) and then worked our way to the El Convento. The pool there is small but lovely. We spent a bit of time there each afternoon.

Our second day was spent at the other fort. We walked there after breakfast and then walked down by the cruise ship area for lunch. After lunch we toured the governer's mansion, which we really enjoyed.

We visited the church across the street and walked along the old wall one morning.

Friends of ours did the Barcadi tour and liked it.

Don't miss the evening wine reception at the El Convento. I was very impressed with the amount, variety and quality of the wines and cheeses. There is outdoor seating that provides a lovely view over the square.

We will definately add a few days in OSJ to the front of a STJ again. I regret not doing it for our upcoming trip.

There is enough to keep you busy for three days, especially if you like to stroll about looking at buildings.

Edited: 26 September 2012, 19:25
Pennsylvania
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6. Re: Three days in Old San Juan ... and beyond??

Ask the front desk about a guided tour. We didn't do a guided tour but followed some map they gave us. Overall, the front desk staff was very helpful in making suggestions, provding maps, etc. We throughly enjoyed our stay there.

Orlando, Florida
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7. Re: Three days in Old San Juan ... and beyond??

Besides the El Yunque tour....I had the same guide I mentioned earlier for an "Alternative tour of OSJ" so out of 4 days there I had 2 with my guide. See Atabey Tours for reviews. There are other private guides and group tours as well. Kind of depends on your interests. Mine was more the off the tourist radar/eco/local interest. I loved every minute ... but you should choose based on your interests. Have fun whatever you do !!

Ridgewood, New...
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8. Re: Three days in Old San Juan ... and beyond??

Thanks for getting me focused!

I loved reading about Cleobeach1's stay at El Convento, and studying the Atabey Tours website recommended by donOrlando. I've found a lot of info online (www.puertoricodaytrips.com is excellent!) about what to expect in the various cave excursions ... all of which look fascinating.

Current thinking on our three day visit ...

The "Alternative Tour of OSJ" (or similar) seems like a great way for us to start our experience in Puerto Rico. Otherwise, I'll leave days one and two unprogrammed, so we can explore OSJ on our own and soak up the atmosphere. We definitely will leave plenty of time to enjoy the hotel itself, as we've been looking forward to staying there for years!

On day three, we can drive out on the North Shore and to Cueva de los Indios (I'm a big fan of petroglyphs!). This drive seems very interesting, with lots of photo ops, as well as easily doable from OSJ ... still allowing flexibility early and late in the day for more enjoyment of OSJ itself.

Does this itinerary "look like a plan" for first-timers, who will certainly be returning?

Edited: 27 September 2012, 16:44
Ridgewood, New...
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for Kiawah Island, Charleston
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9. Re: Three days in Old San Juan ... and beyond??

Another question (seeking advice from this illustrious group before posting a new thread on the forum) ...

Is there a restaurant you particularly recommend for excellent local or Spanish food, great atmosphere, and - possibly - live music? All adults. Not restricted by diet or budget. No special requirements. Just looking for a memorable evening dining experience in an establishment that you consider unique to the location.

10. Re: Three days in Old San Juan ... and beyond??

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