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Seeing San Juan with New Eyes

The Insider’s take on visiting San Juan, Puerto Rico

A free hop-on, hop-off trolley is a great way to get around San Juan, Puerto Rico.
If you’ve been to San Juan, Puerto Rico, chances are you’ve explored the fascinating historic district, lounged on great beaches, and perhaps played the slots in the city’s popular casinos. While each of these national attractions is worth experiencing, those looking to see San Juan with an insider’s eye should be sure to visit these sights and hot spots during their travels.

History
If you’ve already visited the six-level El Morro fort and seen the San Juan Cathedral, there are still historical treasures to find in San Juan. Perched over San Juan Bay is the palatial La Fortaleza, which dates back to 1533 and is the oldest executive mansion in the western world. Visitors can tour the fabulous gardens on the grounds. Other noteworthy treasures include the San Juan Gate from 1639, and the half-forgotten Fuerte San Geronimo, a fort built in 1788.

Non-Beach Nature
Had your fill of lounging on the beach? The San Juan Botanical Garden, a beautiful nature reserve only 15 minutes from the city center, offers a stunning glimpse of tropical flora and fauna. Visitors to the garden can hike to a lotus lagoon, a 30,000-flower orchid garden, and a plantation filled with some 120 types of palm.

Local Lifestyle
While it might not match the United States’ love affair with baseball, Puerto Rico has a certain zeal for the sport. Visitors can take in cheap, low-key games at stadiums around the island, including the Hiram Bithorn Stadium. For the hottest dining in San Juan, plan a meal in the SoFo district, short for South of Fortaleza, where inventive restaurants serve up creative Caribbean fine dining. The legacy of authentic salsa music is another local highlight, particularly at the popular Nuyorican Café. If after watching a performance you want to get in on the action, take a free salsa lesson at Latin Roots, between 6 and 10 pm nightly, before enjoying a meal and live music.

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