Where to Eat, Party, and Stay: San Juan, Puerto Rico

City Travel, Food & Wine, Hotels & Resorts — By on August 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Land of rum, cigars, vintage cars and miles of mild-wave beach, Puerto Rico sits at America’s back door as a year-round tropical vacation destination. Because temps rarely dips below 75-degrees, you’re guaranteed heat and sun no matter when you go. High season generally runs from November to March, but if you’re looking to save a little cash, skip Hurricane season (normally end of August to beginning of November) and visit during the summer months.

When you’re in San Juan, make sure to visit the Bacardi Factory. For $0.50, you can catch the water taxi from Pier 2 in Old San Juan and head across the harbor in just ten minutes. From there, catch a cab for three dollars per person to Bacardi Factory and enjoy a free tour, and two free rum drinks (Mojitos are the best!) of your choice.

On a lazy afternoon, walk around Old San Juan. Set up similar to Spain with winding cobblestone streets and colorful shuttered balconies, the quaint neighborhood has dozens of shops and restaurants to choose from. Check out the Old Harbor Brewery and taste test its six home-brewed drafts. Or visit the Cigar House on Fortaleza Street to smell and taste the dozens of flavored and classic hand rolled cigars. Don’t miss San Filipe del Murro Fort, a 16-century fortress build after Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1493.  For a fee of $3, you can walk through the massive structure, climb on top of the battlements, walk up the restored lighthouse to score near-bird’s-eye views of Old San Juan.

Stay at the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, buried in the heart of Condado—a chic neighborhood right across the bridge from Old San Juan. You can relax on the clean public beach on the Marriott’s north side to get your salt-water fix. Hang out at the pool area (water slide included) and try Medalla, the local light beer, at the swim up bar. The hotel is sandwiched right between Condado’s best bars for nightlife and live music. Zucchros, right across from the hotel on Ashford Avenue, has an upper deck where you can let loose Thursday-Saturday and salsa with your girlfriends to Puerto Rican music. Buns is a low-key, must-stop burger joint next door. Try the tasty Skinny Burger (sans bun, but slathered in a tangy secret Buns burger sauce) for less than 5 bucks.

Whether you’re into history, rum, sightseeing, or just dying to relax on a tropical beach, San Juan’s a quick flight away. The best part? You don’t even need a passport.

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