Puerto Rico’s Best Day Trips: San Juan

From the quiet setting of our Puerto Rico Vacation Home rentals, it is less than an hour’s drive to the bustling, modern city of San Juan. Like any major city, San Juan, offers diverse activities to visitors including world class shopping, restaurants and many diverse activities. You can easily combine two of our recommended excursions for a full day of activity. Or visit one San Juan attraction and then slip away to a city beach or Luquillo Beach for a lazy afternoon. A nice city beach is Balneario Escambron, a park just past the Normandie hotel, at the entrance to Old San Juan.
Getting There:
The primary route to San Juan is expressway Route 30 west to Caguas, where you meet expressway Route 52 to San Juan. After rush hour, this drive is about 45 minutes. Other scenic but somewhat longer drives (up to 90 minutes) include: 1) the expressway Route 53 north to Fajardo, which connects to Route 3 west (a divided four lane highway), or 2) expressway Route 52 west to the Juncos exit. Then, take mountain Route 185 north to Route 3 west. All routes are visually interesting. During weekday rush hour periods it’s best to stay off the expressway in San Juan.

Day Trip 1: Old San Juan
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A trip to Puerto Rico would not be complete without touring old San Juan. Founded in 1521, the original city reflects five centuries of history and one of the finest collection of Spanish Colonial architecture in the Carribean. In contrast to modern San Juan, the old city is a visual feast and a historic treasure. It has narrow cobblestone streets lined with colorful examples of Spanish architecture. Historic squares, two well-preserved and accessible forts, an array of museums (some close 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily), a cathedral dating from the 1500s with a the mummified body of St. Pio on display, among other sites, makes Old San Juan an exquisite walking tour. You’ll find snack bars, good restaurants and plenty of shopping in this historic setting. Old San Juan is well worth a day of your time. See: Frommer’s Puerto Rico Guide book for a well detailed walking tour.

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Puerto Rico Museum of Art in San Juan collection includes many Caribbean artists works. 

History, Architecture, Shopping and Dining
Drive Time: About 45 to 90 Minutes
Directions: Expressway Route 30 west to Caguas, where you meet expressway Route 52 to San Juan. Continue on 53 until it becomes Route 18 and then Route 22. Exit on Route 25 or just past it on Route 26. Travel west until both become Route 25. Follow Route 25 along the ocean where you will come to the historic Fort San Cristobal and Fort El Morro. You can park at the Forts to tour them and, then, park in Old San Juan to tour the city.

Day Trip 2: Bacardi Rum Distillery

The largest distillery of its kind in the world, it produces more than 100,000 gallons of rum daily. Take a free 45 minute tour, visit its exquisite tropical garden and enjoy complimentary cocktails. You can also buy rum at reduced prices. Open Mon.-Sat. 9:30 to 3:30, Phone: 788-1500.

A 130 Year Tradition
Drive Time: Expressway 45 Minutes
Directions: Expressway Route 30 west to Caguas, where you meet expressway Route 52 to San Juan. Continue on 53 until it becomes Route 18 and then Route 22. Take Route 22 west and exit on Route 165. Follow Route 165 North along San Juan Bay. Turn right to back track slightly to Route 888 and Bacardi.It is also possible to take a ferry from Old San Juan and then a bus to the tour. Get infor at the OSJ Tourist Building.

Day Trip 3: Botanical Garden

Enjoy a splendid walk through beautifully designed gardens featuring hundreds of tropical plant species that leads to a lotus lagoon. View a wonderful orchid collection and rest at many pleasant places to enjoy a picnic lunch. Free Admission, open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A must for gardeners and plant lovers. For gardeners and tropical plant lovers, it is well worth a half day’s tour.

125 Species of Palms
Drive Time: Expressway 45 Minutes
Directions: Expressway Route 30 west to Caguas, where you meet expressway Route 52 to San Juan. Continue on 52 until the exit for Route 1 north. Follow Route 1 to Route 847. Look for a sign on the right. Follow a surface street a short distance to a parking area.

Day Trip 4: Night Spots & Casinos

Bars, clubs, located at hotels and throughout the city are listed in Que Pasa, Bienvenidos,Where and Places a publications of the tourist industry. Get at the rental car offices. You might have to ask. Other spots are described in Frommer’s Puerto Rico Guide.

Drive Time: Expressway 45 Minutes
Directions: Expressway Route 30 west to Caguas, where you meet expressway Route 52 to San Juan. Continue on 52 until it becomes Route 18 and then Route 22. Exit on Route 26 Travel west until Route 26 meets the Condado Area. Leaving the Condado area follow Route 26 east to find the Isla Verde Area, just before the Marin International Airport entrance.
The famous beach front hotels of San Juan are found in the areas of the city known as Condado and Isla Verde. Major casinos include: Caribe Hilton, Wyndham Old San Juan Hotel, The Ritz-Carlton, El San Juan Hotel, Condado Plaza Hotel, Raddison Ambassador Plaza Hotel, Diamond Place Hotel, San Juan Marriot Resort, Crown Plaza Hotel and the San Juan Grand Beach Hotel. Most Casinos are open Noon to 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Jackets are requested for men after 6 p.m.

Day Trip 5: Plaza Las Americas

Rainy Day? Try the air conditioned splendor of Puerto Rico’s largest shopping mall. Plaza Las Americas offers over 100 stores in a gleaming modern setting to match any stateside counter part. Expect the shopping to be world class, sophistocated and the setting grand.

Drive Time: Expressway 45 Minutes
Directions: Expressway Route 30 west to Caguas, where you meet expressway Route 52 to San Juan. Continue on 52 until it becomes Route 18 and then Route 22. Exit on Route 23 and travel west To the Mall Entrance.

Day Trip 6: Piñones Forest Beach Rd.

Approximately a 10 mile drive along a relatively undeveloped beach area. Following route 187 until it leaves the water’s edge and brings you to Rio Grande and Route 3. This is a scenic way to leave San Juan during the day time, which can end up at the Rain Forest National Park or Luquillo Beach. Plenty of places to stop and snap photos of open beach scapes and striking stands of palm trees. You can swim along here, but ocean beaches provide heavy surf. You may want to swim a few miles further east at Luquillo Beach in calmer, lifeguarded, waters.

Miles of Open Beach
Drive Time: About 45 Minutes
Directions: Expressway Route 30 west to Caguas, where you meet expressway Route 52 to San Juan. Continue on 52 until taking the exit for Route 17, following signs for the Airport. Stay right, shortly you will come to a traffic light where you must be on the right to continue on Route 17. Cross the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge over the San Juan Laguna. Take the second exit after the bridge, west on Route 26 and the first exit after the airport road on to Boca de Cangrejos Avenue. Follow it east to Piones Forest Beach Road, Route 187.

If you’re leaving San Juan, follow Route 26 east to the exit for Boca de Cangrejos Avenue, just west of the airport entrance road.

 

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