Nearly two million people —half the population of Puerto Rico— live in or near San Juan and the neighboring cities of Bayamón, Guaynabo, Cataño, and Toa Baja. Greater San Juan —one of the top-25 metropolitan areas in North America— bustles with big-city business, culture, and entertainment. But on the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan, you will travel 500 years in time to stroll inside the walls of a citadel so unique that United Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organization (Unesco) declared it a World Heritage Site. It’s a seven-block museum, but also a living neighborhood with plenty of places in which to party, dine, shop, and stay.
Puerto Rico Tourism Company
LMM International Airport Tourism Office: 787-791-1014
Ochoa Bldg., 550 Tanca St., Old San Juan: 787-721-2400 exts. 3901, 3902, 3904 & 3905
Serving: Bayamón, Cataño, Guaynabo, San Juan & Toa Baja
Botanical Garden, 787-758-9957. Río Piedras. 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. daily. University of Puerto Rico’s collection of palms, heliconias, orchids, and sculptures among ponds and peace in the middle of the city.
Caparra Museum, 787-781-4795. Guaynabo. 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri. A small museum and the remains of the fi rst settlementin Puerto Rico; established by Juan Ponce de León in 1508.
Casa Bacardi, 787-788-8400. Cataño. 9:00 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Mon.- Sat.; 10:00 a.m.- 3:30 p.m. Sun. The famed rum distillery is open to the public.
Casa Blanca Museum, 787-725-1454. Old San Juan. 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Tue.- Sat. This early fortress-home was to house Gov. Juan Ponce de León, but he died before he could take up residence. It is now a museum of family life of the 16th and 17th centuries.
Cristo Chapel. This landmark at the end of Cristo Street, across from Parque de las Palomas in Old San Juan, is only open Tuesdays 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Isla de Cabras Park, 787-788-0440. Toa Baja. 8:00 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Wed.-Sun. Famous for its El Cañuelo Fort, the area also features a beach and gazebos. From here, you can take great photos of El Morro Fort from across the bay.
La Fortaleza, Governor’s Residence, 787-721-7000, exts. 2211 or 2223. Gardens open weekdays, except holidays, 9:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m. The oldest continuously inhabited executive mansion in the Western Hemisphere. It began as two ill-placed medieval towers in 1533 and took its present palatial form in 1846.
Luis A. Ferré Science Park, 787-740-6868. Bayamón, 9:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m. Wed.-Fri.; 10:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. Sat. & Sun. A large familypark with everything from rockets to reproductions of great art.
Luis Muñoz Marín Foundation, 787-755-7979. Trujillo Alto. 8:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. weekdays; 10:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m. weekends. Memorabilia, house, and gardens of Puerto Rico’s first elected governor.
Museum of Art of Puerto Rico, 787-977-6277. Santurce. 10:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. Tue.- Sat.; 11:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. Wed.; 10:00 a.m.- 8:00p.m. Sun. Closed Mon. Works of Puerto Rican art in a building that also is a work of art.
Museum of Contemporary Art, 787-977-4030. Santurce. 10:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m. Tue.-Sat.; Closed Mon. Exhibits of modern Puerto Rican,Caribbean, and Latin American art in a beautiful old schoolhouse.
National Gallery, 787-725-2670. Old San Juan 9:30 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. Tue.-Sat. See Institute of Puerto Rican Culture’s fine collection of art.
San Juan Bautista Cathedral, 787-722-0861. Old San Juan. Construction of the original structure began in 1521, wasdestroyed in a storm in 1526, and rebuilt in 1529. It is the last resting place of Juan Ponce de León.
San Juan National Historic Site, 787-729-6754. 9:00 a.m - 6:00 p.m. daily. Self or guided tours of forts San Felipe del Morroand San Cristóbal, the oldest European constructions within the U.S. National Park Service