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One of the gems of the Caribbean, San Juan is one of the favorite destinations for folks looking for a bit of sand, adventure, and extra vitamin D. Although it's the largest city in Puerto Rico, its population is still under a half million, giving it a friendly, relaxing atmosphere. The city, its beaches, and the surrounding countryside offer a great variety of activities. Whether you’re looking for an action-packed trip filled with spelunking, rock climbing, and ziplining, or you’re more looking to amble through Old San Juan, soak up its history, and maybe kick back on the beach, San Juan (and the surrounding area), could be just the getaway you need.
First settled by Spanish colonists in the early 1500s, San Juan (particularly the original part of the city, aptly named Old San Juan) retains a good deal of its original colonial architecture—and it’s as historic as it is brimming and bustling! You can tour the city and its historic sites (a Segway tour is available, if you’re into that), or rent a bicycle and explore on your own. For the adventurous, you can even charter a helicopter for a bird's-eye view of the area. Museums abound, including the Museo del Mar and Museuo de San Juan, as well as several art museums that feature Puerto Rican, Spanish and Latin American artists.
If you want to get out and enjoy the beaches, you'll find everything from white sand to rocky strands for a romantic stroll (or a swim, for that matter). Opportunities for water sports include kayaking, surfing (including several schools, if you're just getting started), paddle boarding, scuba diving, and snorkeling. Take a paddle board tour of the waters or go on the Enchanted Island Eco Tours. Heck, you can even take a fishing charter or spend some time on the links at one of the world-class golf courses—or both!
Shopping ranges from high-end boutiques and art galleries to the Puerto Rican Arts & Crafts store and the Old San Juan Farmer's Market. Since Puerto Rico is famous for its rum and cigars, don't neglect to visit one of the many cigar factories (where you can see the rollers in action) and well-stocked cigar stores, as well as the Bacardi Rum Factory. After a tiring day of shopping, relax at one of the spas for a little pampering.
San Juan has an excellent array of restaurants, cafes, and bars. Many of the hotels have restaurants that offer fine dining (like the 1919 Restaurant in the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel has been voted "best restaurant in San Juan”), but there are many other options. Over the centuries, immigrants from around the world have brought with them the cuisine of their native lands; you can find outstanding restaurants offering Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Caribbean, and raft of others, too. Of course, take the time to try one of the many restaurants—often small and a bit more quaint—that feature authentic Puerto Rican dishes. In a land where some of the best coffee in the world is grown, you'll find coffee shops where its preparation is nearly a religious rite. From quiet pubs and bars for a relaxing nightcap to exciting, dynamic clubs and nightspots, even the late hours can be filled with fun. And regardless of how you like to end your day, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding something to suit your nocturnal needs and send you to bed ready for a new day of adventure.