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robkoval Jun 1st, 2009 08:59 PM

Exploring Old San Juan + San Juan while staying at El San Juan
So we've been ironing out the plans for our 6 day stay in Puerto Rico. We want to spend at least a day exploring Old San Juan (El Morro, cathedral, Cristobal), a day to check out other parts of San Juan (bacardi, restaurants, etc), a day to go out to El Yunque and Luquillo, and then a couple days of lounging on the beach, doing ocean activities, etc. It is going to be me and my girlfriend, we are both in our mid to late twenties but enjoy history, relaxation, dining, and nature moreso than just partying and drinking (although we'll try some of that as well).

My question is this: We are trying to figure out how many days we will need to rent a car for. I was thinking that it would be nice to rent one for the day and drive out to El Yunque and Luquillo. But as for doing things around San Juan, what is the most economical way to do it? Is public transportation easy enough? I hear cab rides from Isla Verde over to Old San Juan can be up to $20 each way. How should we plan on getting around San Juan for a couple of days? I have a tour book but still can't figure out how it would best work out. Can you take one ride over to OSJ and just walk around, see the historic sites, find restaurants, then get one ride back to the El San Juan? Or do you hop on buses, trains, etc? The same goes for getting out to the bacardi factory, or museums, or anything else in San Juan that we want to see.

And is renting a car to go out to the rainforest a good idea? It seems like it will cost between $50 and $100 each for a tour group to take us out there.

I'm also looking for shopping recommendations ... does old san juan offer good "local" type of shopping? Where in the san juan area would be best?

We seem to have restaurants and major sites covered with our books, its just the minor functional details that need to be figured out.


coqui_07 Jun 2nd, 2009 05:57 AM


It should possible to take the bus (may need to change) - hotel will have info (try emailing them for bus routes and numbers). The only down side to this is frequency of buses and the time it will take.

A taxi will be the quickest way to get to Old San Juan and would be around $19 - reduce the cost by seeing if another couple would like to share the ride.

For OSJ plan to get there early and then you can spend the whole day walking around seeing the sights, having lunch and dinner, then heading back to the hotel. This article should be helpful

If you want the Bacardi factory you can catch a ferry from Old San Juan then take a taxi to the factory (not that expensive) - the tour is not of the actual manufacturing of the rum

For El Yunque - car rental should be around $40 for small car and is an easy drive from hotel (45-60mins depending on traffic) - you can then spend the afternoon at Luquillo beach

you could also spend the eving at Fajardo and the Bio Bay (if the moon is good) or even do an evening sail over to Vieques for the Bio Bay there.

hope that gets you started. There is also more info if you browse (my personl guide for Puerto Rico)

robkoval Jun 3rd, 2009 09:42 AM

Thanks for the input. After reading about the bio bay, would this be possible to do in one day:

Drive to El Yunque in the AM, explore the jungle/waterfalls til the early afternoon. Go to Luquillo for a bit and eat at food stands. Then drive to Fajardo and do a bio bay kayaking tour?

Also what is a ballpark on the price for a 2 hour kayaking tour? The sites just say "prices vary"

[email protected]!!

tom42 Jun 4th, 2009 06:46 AM

If you take a bus to Old San Juan, you will not need to change or transfer. There is a bus stop right by the hotel. I think the bus is $1 or something like that. It's not a bad ride. I did it once - took the bus to Old San Juan and a taxi back to the hotel. Regarding spending all day in Old San Juan and having lunch and dinner there, that would be a bit much for me. It gets very hot and sticky walking around, especially once you hit the noon hour. I would suggest a half day - get there early do your sightseeing, have lunch and head back. Or if you prefer dinner, do it the opposite - go in the later afternoon, walk around, find a place for dinner.

I have stayed at the El San Juan many times, so if you have any specific questions about the property or surrounding area, I would be happy to help.

ejcrowe Jun 4th, 2009 09:25 AM

I agree that a full day of walking around, and sticking around for both lunch and dinner, in Old San Juan could get pretty exhausting. I like tom42's idea of a half day, but I might recommend two half days because you might not see everything otherwise.

Definitely don't try to take a rental car into the old town because of parking issues.

If you do decide to make it a whole day walking tour, a great place to stop for a refresher is the patio restaurant inside El Convento, which is across the street from the cathedral you're visiting. It's cool and refreshing and they make an excellent sangria and pina colada. You can stop there for an hour or so to break of your day and get out of the sun/heat for a while. Once you're done with your drink, take a walk one block to get to the Ben & Jerry's ice cream store to cool off even further.

robkoval Jun 4th, 2009 04:50 PM

Thanks for the advice! Maybe we will do the Bacardi tour that day, or possibly just break it up like you are suggesting. A $1 bus ride to OSJ sounds like a good deal to me as well!

tom42: As for the El San Juan, any general advice/ideas? I love trying local cuisine when I travel, so are there any nearby places (walking distance) that we could get some local breakfast/pastries/coffee at in the mornings? Also, from what I understand the beaches there are open to the public... does this mean that if we go to the beach by our hotel we shouldn't leave anything out that could get taken while we take a dip in the ocean? And how is the casino in the El San Juan? I like blackjack and Texas Hold 'Em poker, but the affordable kind ($2-$10 hand type of stuff).

tom42 Jun 8th, 2009 10:16 AM

A lot of the dining in the Isla Verde area is hotel based. EL San Juan has some very good (and pricey) restaurants. However, I always go to the Metropol for one or two dinners during my stay. It is across and down the street from El San Juan (going towards the Ritz Carlton). Very much within walking distance. It is moderately priced Cuban/PR food. It is always crowded and the food is very good. My two favorites are the smoked chicken (it is smoky, crispy bacon flavored skin and moist on the inside) and the cornish hen stuffed with black beans and rice.

For breakfast, I would suggest Mi Casita, which is across and down the street (opposite direction than the Metropol). It is located in a strip mall that also has a little grocery store where you can pick up waters, etc.). Very good for breakfast and/or lunch.

The beaches are open to the public and they do get fairly crowded on the weekend, but not so much directly in front of the hotel. Still, I wouldn't leave anything too valuable on the beach if you go for a walk or swim. I have never had a problem nor have I heard of it being a problem but I wouldn't leave your $200 ipod out in plain sight.

The casino is quite nice and fairly large (although small using Las Vegas standards). They have several black jack tables. One is usually a $5 table, a couple of $10-$15 tables and a couple of higher ones. They also have craps, roulette, and, I think, caribbean stud. They do have a small poker room but I have never been in it so cant help you with that. The casino also has slots and some video poker.

General advice about El San Juan - the public areas are very nice and long pants are required in the evenings. You will want to be in long pants anyway because the a/c is usually cranked at teeth chattering levels. I think they do it on purpose so that people are discouraged from t-shirt, shorts and flip-flips attire.

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