Ah Puerto Rico. We loved you. We will certainly be back. I like winter, but a week in the sun was super fun.
We covered a lot of territory while we were there, and I plan to do a few recaps, including restaurants, and what better place to start than with our day in Old San Juan, which was also our first full day on the island. We decided to take a walking tour of the old town, to make sure that we covered all of the important territory and for me, the history buff, to know what was going on in the city.
It turns out a lot is going on. San Juan is the second oldest city in the Americas, and Old San Juan, the historic core of the city, has a fantastic preserved city wall, fortresses, brightly colored houses and a lively spirit. Our tour covered most of these things, from the 500 year old Saint John Cathedral, to the house built for Ponce de Leon, who was actually the first Spanish governor of Puerto Rico, before he went off to find the fountain of youth. The tour was okay, and helped us to orient ourselves, but it wasn’t great. A solid B in my book.
After the tour, we had a bit of lunch at Vaca Brava, a restaurant known for ridiculous servings of meat and fries. We were a bit disappointed that our order didn’t come on a stake (really, we ordered wrong and we’re jealous at what the tables around us had coming), but we survived because it was still delicious. And it was mojito happy hour. What’s not to love about mojito happy hour?
Our travels then took us to El Morro, the huge Spanish fort that was built to guard the mouth of San Juan Harbour. As the first large island at the mouth of the Caribbean, Puerto Rico was the gateway to the riches of the new world, and San Juan was the key in the gate. Over the course of 200 hundred years, the Spanish built the great El Morro Fort, which helped them to hold the Harbour.
I’ve been to many old forts over the years, but I’ve never seen one as large or impressive as El Morro. Each of it’s six levels offered impressive views of the sea, which in old times would have been lookouts for shooting at enemy ships. Even though we were there on a bright, sunny and pleasant (weather wise) day, you could imagine what it would have been like for all of the soldiers that had lived in that space over the years.
After exploring the Fort, we headed to the Old Harbour Brewery, the only microbrewery in Puerto Rico. This of course, surprises no one! The local brews were pretty good, particularly the seasonal beer.
I’m glad we spent a full day exploring Old San Juan. Although we spent most of our trip in the greater San Juan area, old San Juan has a feel that was different. Full of history, but yet still alive and fun.