San Juan, Puerto Rico
My hopes of the pandemic diminishing its hold on life were to optimistic. The Omicron variant is raging throughout the world which complicated my plans. I had planned on starting the year off with another tropical holiday. I put together an itinerary that would have me relaxing at a beautiful beach and wandering the island of Puerto Rico. All I needed was proof of vaccination and a valid US ID. I didn’t even need to bring my passport since Puerto Rico is a US territory. Then, Omicron spread like wild fire across the world. Airline flights were being canceled due to the spread of the virus as my travel date came due. Puerto Rico changed its policy and travelers now were required to provide proof of a negative Covid 48 hours before departure. Travel during the pandemic is stressful enough and now I had more to worry about. My early morning departure flight came and my flight wasn’t cancelled, it was actually on time as well. My test results in hand, or on my cell phone, I was off to a my next adventure.
Most people prefer to stay in Old San Juan near all the amazing bars and restaurants, and rightfully so. I decided to stay at a hotel just a five minute walk away from the beautiful Isla Verde Beach. It’s a much larger beach compared to the tiny beaches in the Old San Juan district. It was a perfect location as I was able to relax and walk along this beautiful beach.
It’s also a short and inexpensive Uber ride to the historic Old San Juan district. If your wondering, yes it’s safe to use Uber in the tourist area of the city. Unfortunately, you can’t use them to transfer you from the airport to your hotel but you can have them take you from your hotel to the airport.
I spent a day wandering the historic part of the city, Old San Juan. First, I joined a two and a half hour walking tour to help me familiarize myself with the streets and the history and culture of the old town. The streets are narrow and filled with colorful buildings with bars and restaurants throughout the area.
If your into old Spanish churches, they have that too. It’s also home to two forts, San Felipe del Morro and San Cristobal. The fort at San Cristobal is much larger but during my visit they limited access to the whole fort. I’m not sure if it was due to Covid concerns or some form of remodeling.
In any case, I enjoyed San Felipe del Morro much more with its amazing views. You can cover the fort in about an hour and don’t forget to visit the trail at the bottom of the fort along the ocean. The trail access is to the right of the fort entrance. Walk along the wall and you’ll come across an opening to a set of steps that will take you down to the shores edge. To the right of the fort is an old cemetery.
Take the same trail for about five minutes and it will end at the Santa Maria Magdalena Cemetery. It will take you back in time, you’ll think you were back in the colonial era, if the fort hadn’t done that already.
There are many other great spots in this area to see such as the San Juan gate and you can basically walk to all of them. The Old San Juan district isn’t very large, it’s just over a mile long and under one mile wide. I had a great day wandering the town.
The old architecture transported me back to old colonial San Juan. It’s also a great place to try some amazing local food and beverages. I found a wonderful outdoor restaurant and had ceviche and mofongo for lunch, then washed it down with a pina colada. Mofongo is a local dish with fried plantains as its main ingredient and it goes will with anything, chicken beef or even shrimp, you won’t be disappointed.
With the day completed, it was now time to hit the hot tub at the hotel and rest my feet that were punished by the cobblestone of the old colonial streets. Rest was what I need as I waited for my next Puerto Rican adventure.