There's never much time for in-depth destination exploration during Caribbean Travel Marketplace, as industry professionals come together to build business between the region and international tour operators. This year's annual event took place in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the sun was almost always shining and the people were incredibly friendly. It would be a wasted opportunity not to get a feel for the area while I was there, so I took advantage of my spare time and visited Old San Juan before returning home.
Here are a few tips from my experience there:
What to do:
First and foremost, stroll the streets. I'll admit that I got a bit lost as I made my way through Old San Juan, but this is the perfect place for wandering with no direction in mind. I found myself surrounded by colourful buildings and had to laugh at the juxtaposition of businesses like Burger King and Wendy's occupying these old structures. It's this mixture of old and new that makes Old San Juan so fascinating.
What to see:
The history of Old San Juan is one of the main factors that attracts people to the area, especially its forts such as Castillo de San Cristóbal (World Heritage and National Historic Site) and San Felipe del Morro, which were built as defence structures hundreds of years ago. The ancient stone walls surround the city, and visitors can explore both on foot. I recommend grabbing a snack and drink and sitting on the hilltop at San Felipe del Morro, where you can watch the ocean waves crash into the fort walls while indulging in the sunshine.
Other must-see spots include Iglesia de San José (San José Church), San Juan gate, and Plaza de Las Armas, the main square home to San Juan City Hall.
Where to eat:
The dining options in Old San Juan are limitless, but if you only have time for one stop, try Barrachina on Forteleza St. Not only is the food and the atmosphere quintessentially Puerto Rican, this is the famed birthplace of the piña colada. This cocktail is one that sun-seekers have been enjoying for more than 50 years, but try one here and you'll be forever changed - those pre-made mixes you find at most all-inclusive resorts will no longer suffice.