San Juan Travel Information

Mother Earth Travel > Puerto Rico > San Juan > History

Many believe San Juan is just a small Spanish colonial town with a couple of bustling avenues--an impression that is far from true. Modern-day San Juan encompasses a vast area spanning some seven different and distinct districts. This makes for a mixed bag which is part of the wonder and joy of visiting San Juan.

Old San Juan/Puerta de Tierra
This traditional, colonial, Spanish, walled city is the actual seat of the island's bicameral government. It houses La Fortaleza, home of the Governor and El Capitolio, the seat of the House of representatives and the Senate, located in nearby Puerta de Tierra. Both of these areas have one thing in common, they are physically on the islet of San Juan and connected to the mainland via several bridges. Old San Juan itself consists of narrow streets encompassing over four hundred years in history and tradition. Dine in one of the great establishments on Fortaleza Street, party in San Sebastián until dawn or simply stroll along the charming streets. A famous tradition is to people-watch from one of several plazas that grace the area. There is something for everyone, young and old, in Old San Juan. A "must-see" is the huge Spanish fort built on the north side of the islet. Puerta de Tierra housse hotels like the famous Caribe Hilton and the Radisson Normandie. Apart from that, the area is not very touristy. Nevertheless, renovations are making this once decrepit area an acceptable place.

El Condado, as locals say, is the island's most glamorous district, featuring boutiques, fine restaurants and some of the finest hotels in town. Contrary to popular belief, many people do reside here in exquisite turn-of-the-century mansions. You'll notice the crowd to be a balance between tourists and locals and, if you're a savvy jogger, you'll love it. This district spans from the Condado Plaza in the west to the Ocean Park area in the east.

Isla Verde
Isla Verde is the home of high-rise apartment buildings, huge clubs and luxurious hotels. This area is actually part of the municipality of Carolina, connected to San Juan via several highways and streets. It spans from the Punta Las Marías area (adjacent to Ocean Park) to the area just beyond the International Airport. Isla Verde hosts world-class hotels like the Ritz-Carlton and El San Juan and its nightlife is certainly something to write home about. It also houses the enormous balneario, or public beach, where locals and guests come to tan their hides and get their fill of people-watching.

Hato Rey
Hato Rey, some miles apart from Old San Juan (but easily accessed), is the island's main business district. This is the district where local wheelers and dealers conduct their business. Thus, its restaurant scene is much more business oriented that anywhere else. The district also has a residential area, Roosevelt Avenue, just off Highway 52. Roosevelt is one of the most famous spots for nightlife in San Juan. Plaza Las Américas, the Caribbean's biggest mall, is also located here.

Both districts are located just off Condado and Old San Juan, but north of Hato Rey. Santurce was at once an upper-class neighborhood and entertainment. Today, see office buildings and abandoned structures with a small but very good marketplace (Plaza del Mercado). A huge effort from the City Hall is being conducted to restore the sector's vitality. Miramar is an up-and-coming area of apartment buildings, restored houses and even some hotels.

Río Piedras
This district is known as the University City because it houses the University of Puerto Rico. Visiting Río Piedras can be very exciting for the tourist who wants to know the real Puerto Rico, first-hand. The district has a traditional Plaza del Mercado and a very hometown atmosphere.

This is the main upscale suburb of San Juan. Guaynabo is home to several of the island's most prosperous residents. It is full of boutique malls offering fine accessories, jewelry and such. The houses here are simply colossal.


  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. High 83° 83° 84° 85° 87° 88° 88° 88° 88° 88° 85° 83°
Avg. Low 70° 70° 71° 72° 74° 76° 76° 76° 76° 75° 74° 72°
Mean 77° 77° 78° 79° 81° 82° 83° 83° 83° 82° 80° 78°
Avg. Precip. 2.8 in 2.2 in 2.4 in 3.8 in 5.9 in 4.0 in 4.4 in 5.3 in 5.3 in 5.7 in 5.9 in 4.7 in

 Fahrenheit temperature scale is used.