As we exited the San Juan Airport, a wave of humidity thawed us out after our chilly overnight flight.
We joined around 25 other people who were waiting in line to get a taxis. After filling out a form documenting the number of bags and people in our party, we were escorted over to a minivan where our driver assisted us and welcomed us to San Juan.
After a short 15 minutes drive to Old San Juan, we turned onto a very narrow cobblestone road and were dropped off at the steps of our lodging for the night. Airbnb.com is our favorite way to find accommodations when we travel, and Old San Juan was no different! With bags at our feet, we contacted Tony via the intercom system located at the front of the gated building. Within minutes, Tony greeted us at the gates with a warm smile and immediately assisted me with my luggage carrying it up the three very long flights of stairs. I knew gaining weight would not be a problem here with this intense workout!
As we climbed the stairs, I noticed the decorative tiles that adorned the sides of the walls of this beautiful and spacious building. After ascending the third flight of stairs, Tony welcomed us into his home and gave us the grand tour. I was immediately drawn to the open floor plan with high ceilings, exposed beams and a peaceful terrace!
Another winner from Airbnb!
Tony made us feel at home and even provided us with a complimentary bowl of bananas and granola bars. After showing us to our cozy room that was adjacent to the shared bathroom, he informed us that he would be away for the evening but would return the next day, so we had the place to ourselves. He gave us our set of keys, answered questions we had, gave us restaurant suggestions and left us shortly thereafter.
We unpacked, changed into warm weather clothes and set out to find a place to eat because after our extended flight of only peanuts and chips, we were starving! We took Tony’s suggestion and decided to try one of his favorite eateries, Restaurant El Jibarito…and we were glad we did!
We were seated immediately and ordered beverages to quench our thirst – rum punch for me and the local beer, Magna, for my hubby. The menu was full of flavorful choices, but I decided on the chicken in creole sauce, friend plantains and salad. Let me just say, I left nothing on the plate!
As we exited the restaurant, the streets were buzzing with locals and tourists. Little did we know that we arrived during the weekend of the Festival del Circo, an international festival that brings street art, theater, puppeteers and circus performances to the streets and plazas of Old San Juan for everyone to enjoy!
Old San Juan was a joy to walk around with its’ cobblestone roads and European-esque charm.
We strolled along the tree-lined (and sometimes pigeon-filled) Paseo de la Princesa and marveled at the gorgeous views of the bay.
We came across the Puerta de San Juan (San Juan Gate), a massive, wooden gate built in the late 1700s that closed at sundown to protect the city from invaders.
Our day ended with a visit to the stunning Castillo San Felipe del Morro (“El Morro”), a huge fortress at the end of a large green field, constructed to guard the entrance of the San Juan Bay and protect the city from seaborne invaders. A San Juan National Historic Site, it’s easy to spend the entire day here, but evening was quickly approaching, so we passed on the paid tour and admired the fortress from the outside.
You can find locals and tourists alike hanging out on the massive field and around the fortress walls, having picnics and parties, resting, playing, taking photos, flying kites (did I mention how windy it is?), and spending time with family and friends. There’s something very special about this place.
Looking out from the watchtowers, the views were spectacular! It was the perfect way to end our first day in Old San Juan, and I couldn’t wait for the next day’s adventures!