Bright colors, turquoise sea, old fortresses, relaxed ambiance and a hint of Spanish in American soil. Puerto Rico is a mixture of American, Spanish, Indian and African cultures in a moist but sunny island, conveniently located in the middle of Caribbean sea.
History dates back as far as Columbus ever sailed over the Atlantic to find the new land. Puerto Rico is located at a crossing of streams and winds that brings big ships from the Atlantic right to San Juan and others carry them back. Capitol San Juan is one of the main ports for big Caribbean cruise ships due to the deep see surrounding the city.
Neat Old San Juan
San Juan with its four hundred thousand inhabitants is the biggest city of this US terrain island. Greater San Juan populates 2,5 million in several New San Juan regions. Thousands of turists walk the cobble stone streets of Old Sand Juan – and see nothing else of Puerto Rico. You don’t have to go that far from Old San Juan to see the rougher side of a big city.
However, the Old San Juan is a pittoresque cute area you can conquer on foot easily. Free trolleys on four lanes take you to places if the heat is too much to handle for walking. Restaurants, cafes and bars are at every corner. Across the bay is a large Bacardi factory, so rum-based drinks are guaranteed. You can take a ferry for 0,50$ across the bay to visit the factory.
Old Spanish fortresses
Two fortresses “El Morro” and “San Cristobal” guard the Old San Juan on seaside. These old Spanish fortresses also date back to 1600 century, however, were still used as defense bases in the second Worlds War. Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the first real defense base in the whole Caribbean after Columbus had sailed the sea and discovered “the New World”. Both two have played important roles in the forming of Caribbean territories, mixing Carib indians, Spanish and African slaves.
Both castles were really exciting for a 7-yr-old boy and both his parents. It’s hard to imagine what life was like in 1600th century Caribbean, but you get an idea of how soldiers’ lives and duties. Visiting this massive and impressive old sites always gives you perspectives for how nothing should be taken for granted.
Not so American
As Puerto Rico is on US terrain, strict immigration rules apply. ESTAs are required and procedures at the airport take time. And that’s pretty much all American there is to Puerto Rico. Along with the American cruise tourists. And a thousand differend TV channels for all themes you can only imagine… Oh, and the number or police officers in all around San Juan is American. I’ve seen that many police officers only in NYC. You could spot one on a bike, a motorbike, walking, with jeep, van, normal car or even on a horse.
Another thing that reminds you of US presence is the way the Old San Juan, the fortresses and strolling on the cobbled streets is capitalized. There are four lines of free little trolleys that take you around the old town. Museum shops offer a variety of fortress souveniers. And once you buy a ticket to one of the two fortresses, you can visit both two as many times as you want during six whole days. Kids go free of charge! Otherwise, Puerto Rico seemed more Spanish and definitely Caribbean than nothing in the mainland US. Let’s hope it stays that way.
P.S. We only visited San Juan in December 2016. That’s not the whole Puerto Rico. I’m sure there are far more local and intimate sites around the island. As the same in all travels – you can’t see and experience everything. But would we return to San Juan? Definitely! And would definitely explore the island more!