San Juan is the lively capital of Puerto Rico, a US territory that is a captivating mixture of Spanish, Taino Indian and African cultures, and a magnet for cruise ships.
The city is home to high-rise luxury hotels and a buzzing nightlife, but away from the hubbub, visitors can discover a totally different world of colonial towns, lush rainforest, quiet seaside resorts and hidden beaches. This is the land of Ricky Martin and the Latin beat runs deep with salsa dancing and latino rhythms.
What to see and do
Cruise ships generally dock close to San Juan’s old town – which is the most historic and atmospheric part of the city with its narrow cobblestone streets brimming with chic boutiques, lively bars and interesting galleries packed with brightly-coloured local art. Beyond the city, the island offers a wealth of activities ranging from riding, hiking and cycling to a massive choice of water sports and nearly 30 golf courses.
Where to eat
Visitors can enjoy some of the most varied dining in the Caribbean with influences from across the world. San Juan is noted for its excellent range of steakhouses, such as Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse (www.ruthchris.com); and Italian trattorias including the atmospheric Il Perugino (www.ilperugino.com). For casual elegance try the Marmalade Restaurant (www.marmaladepr.com), known for its bold décor and bold cuisine, and described as a “soul-stirring” mix of Italian and Puerto Rican flavours.
Where to drink
Try Nono’s for a great central location and late-night drinking as it stays open until 4am, or El Patio de Sam, a long-established Hispanic hangout for locals and visitors.
Drinkers can enjoy tapas with their tipples at the El Picoteo in the Hotel El Convento (www.elconvento.com) or watch the sunset at the Wet Bar in the Water & Beach Club boutique hotel (www.waterbeachclubhotel.com) – said to be the best spot for catching the fading rays. To gamble the night away, there are several casinos, including the Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel & Casino (www.sheratonoldsanjuan.com).
Where to stay
Choose from large chain hotels such as the Inter-Continental San Juan Resort & Casino (www.ichotelsgroup.com) or more atmospheric properties in Old San Juan such as the Hotel El Convento (www.elconvento.com) and the boutique townhouse hotel Chateau Cervantes (www.cervantespr.com).
Explore Puerto Rico’s wild side at the El Yunque rainforest (www.elyunque.com) which covers 28,000 acres and is noted for its biodiversity; fly through the trees on a zipwire at the La Marquesa Forest Reserve (www.canopytourpr.com); visit the new wildlife museum, the Museo de Vida Silvestre in San Juan; or visit the Bacardi Rum Distillery (www.bacardi.com).