Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Raices Fountain | Kale and Ale

In front of Raices Fountain.

This is part three of three focusing on my Caribbean vacation. Read about St. Croix food and St. Croix activities.

Coming back from St. Croix Aaron and I decided to extend our Caribbean vacation a little longer by having a 24-hour layover in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We took a small plane from St. Croix over the most beautiful water to San Juan.

Once we landed we hopped in a cab to Old San Juan. Riding on the interstate, I felt like I was in Miami, but once we entered Old San Juan, with its very narrow, brick streets and colorful buildings that touch one another, I knew I was somewhere special. On first impression I called it a Spanish New Orleans, but it’s its own special place.

We made it to our boutique hotel Monastery Art Suite, which I recommend. It’s a great location, the owner Elena is great and the room is full of old-world charm yet modern. Elena has good recommendations on local places to visit. We freshened up and hit the streets to explore.

We grabbed some coffee and made our way down the tree-lined open street Paseo de la Princesa, stopping at a sculpture park off to the side. Heading east, the street ends at the large Raices Fountain. This is next to the governor’s mansion and leaders to a nice, wide walkway along the shore toward one of the two forts on Old San Juan. It was a warm and sunny yet thankfully breezy day, so it was nice to be outside one more time before heading home to winter and reality. We went to the western fort, Castillo San Felipe del Morro and walked around until lunch.

Castillo San Felipe del Morro San Juan | Kale and Ale

Lighthouse at Castillo San Felipe del Morro in Old San Juan.

Having looked on Happy Cow, I had few restaurants in mind, but since it was Monday many were closed. We went to Cafe Berlin, which has a great vegetarian selection of Latin food and breakfast late into the day, so everyone is sure to find something. From there we walked past the cruise ships and up Calle Fortaleza, the main shopping and food drag in Old San Juan. Because there were two cruise ships docked that day, there were lots of people walking around, so we browsed some galleries and made our way to more food and drink.

Old San Juan fort look east | Kale and Ale

Looking east into Old San Juan from the fort.

This led us to Club Spritz, a new restaurant and bar with a great location on a closed-off street overlooking water. It’s called Club Spritz because the husband is from Italy and they feature spritzer drinks, which were super refreshing after walking around in the warm sun. We sat and enjoyed drinks while the sun went down. The husband and wife team are very friendly and the place has a good atmosphere. We walked around more, looking at the architecture at night, making our way to Toro Salao for sangria and dinner. Toro Salao is a hopping place near a main square, serving fresh and innovative food. If you are looking for a trendy nightlife restaurant, this is the place. And because we sat at the bar and stayed so long, chatting up the employees, we happened to get free dessert of a cheesecake-type bar and churros in homemade chocolate sauce. I said yes to free dessert on the last night of vacation! After all this food, drink and walking it was time to go to bed.

Toro Salaeo Old San Juan | Kale and Ale

Free dessert!

The next day before our flight to reality, we visited Castillo de San Cristóbal (pro tip: save your receipt from a fort, you can visit both with the same admission) where it was pretty similar a fort and display, but it was neat to see a different perspective. After that we got a filling lunch at a restaurant next to Cafe Berlin, Caficultura, which has good coffee, nice sidewalk seating and a filling breakfast.

Old San Juan Courtyard | Kale and Ale

Beautiful buildings all around Old San Juan.

All in all this is a great place to visit, but a stop on a cruise or a few days to try more food, a water sport or perhaps the Bacardi rum tour would be enough.

Have you been to Puerto Rice? What did you do/see/eat that you loved?