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Late afternoon is a new Friday night in the La Perla area of ​​San Juan. Along the rocky Atlantic coast at the bar Mundo Aparte 2, a woman in her 80s took center stage, moving to the beat of a live four-part salsa band, surrounded by the who cheered her on and sang along to famous tunes with a chilled Medalla in hand.

Next to it is a dilapidated building covered in graffiti, in front of which is a large sign that says ‘I love La Perla.’ This once neglected slum was founded in the 18th century by the working class forced to live on the other side of the wall. Today, this part of town attracts curious tourists, thanks to Luis Fonsi’s video of Despacito’s masterpiece.

A short walk from Old San Juan, the pastel facade looks freshly painted and the streets are meticulously clean. Puerto Rico’s historic Old Town is a small area made up of grid-lined streets that are easy enough to navigate and even at a leisurely pace you can explore its cobblestone corners in some days.

The charm of Old San Juan

Start your day Puerto Rican style with a cup of freshly ground coffee. four balls pride themselves on sustainably grown, hand-picked beans from their hacienda. Many other specialty cafes choose local products instead of imported ones. While there, try the croissant with ham and guava butter – you’ll want to take a jar of this with you.

Pastel-painted buildings in Old San Juan

/ Explore Puerto Rico

Sightseeing in Old San Juan is as convenient as possible – all the important buildings are clustered together towards the end of town. One of the oldest is the Catedral de San Juan Bautista, a Gothic-style church built in 1540. A few steps from the Museo De Las Americas, lies a military barracks from the 1800s, bearing offers a fascinating insight into Latin-pre-Colombian to contemporary art. If grand entrances are anything to go by, nothing beats the 16th-century fortress of Castillo del Morro. The best time to visit is sunset when the pink sky makes for the most spectacular view. Adventurers can also enjoy panoramic views of the fortress and historic town from the ocean with East Island Excursion mini yacht.

If all that walking makes you feel sick, head to El Patio de Sam for mofongo, made by mashed up fried bananas with garlic and served with meat or seafood. While in Puerto Rico, take every opportunity to sip an iced pina colada. Food tour of Taste Food Tour brings you flavors of everything from Senor Paleta’s ice cream to arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas).

Santurce

A creative movement is emerging in Santurce, a trendy neighborhood of San Juan that is home to the Museum of Puerto Rican Art. Young entrepreneurs are experimenting with ideas and launching initiatives to empower local talent in art and hospitality. One of such projects is Artistic walk which illuminates the vibrant street art scene in and around Calle Cerra. The two-and-a-half-hour tour, led by founder Georgie Vega, offers a real insight into the community of graffiti artists and muralists who call the area home. Along the way, you’ll see works by influential artists like Alexis Bousquet and Javier Cintrón – and if you’re lucky, you might even cross paths with them.

Calle Cerra gives real insight into the community of graffiti artists and muralists

/ Radhika Aligh

lot 23 It’s all about bringing together talented chefs under one roof – or in this case, a lot. This foodie oasis features 14 kiosks and vans serving everything from locally sourced meats to Asian bread bowls. Come here for the food and continue to enjoy the lovely open-air atmosphere and live entertainment.

For fine dining, there’s no better future Santaella. The restaurant of the famous Puerto Rican chef, Jose Santaella, looks elegant and sophisticated from the outside. The interior is a subtle mix with contemporary lighting and even more modern dishes. The food is a fusion of local and international cuisine with a Santaella twist. The same quirky ideas are on the cocktail list: try their jalapeño margarita. Rum drinkers should opt for the Jibarito Mule made with Añejo rum, spicy chili syrup, fresh lemon juice, and homemade ginger ale.

Just outside Santaella is La Placita, San Juan’s party hub and a hangout for reggaeton, salsa and club lovers. Dozens of bars surround the 100-year-old two-story market that once sold fruit and vegetables. Today, it’s where locals of all ages hang out from 6 p.m. to early morning, with the atmosphere at its best Thursday through Sunday.

Puerto Rico outside of San Juan

Loiza

Just 26 kilometers from San Juan, this coastal metropolis is known as the ‘Capital of Tradition’ thanks to its deep history of West African-influenced music, art and culture. Bomba, a genre of music and dance, originated in Loiza, and that’s what Sheila Osorio wants to preserve. “It is important for future generations to know where we come from – especially our ancestors,” she told me after our dance lesson, in the most idyllic setting on the beach. sea. The drummer follows the dancer’s movements to create a rhythm. Sheila’s passion is contagious, and you can see it in her students, some of whom are as young as 6 years old.

Feel the rhythm and discover the rhythms that make up the Island

/ Explore Puerto Rico

The coastal drive from San Juan to Loiza is filled with picturesque pristine beaches – a great alternative to the tourist-filled Isla Verde. Along the way in Piñones, you’ll find rows of chinchorros (roadside kiosks) selling seafood and meat frituras (chips and doughnuts) and charcoal-grilled skewers. Alcapurrias stuffed with crab are a local delicacy and a must-try.

The Caves of Rio Camuy

Most people who want to go to a national park in Puerto Rico will go to El Yunque. Try something different and head northwest to the Camuy region for an underground journey with rock formations from hundreds of years ago. The caves are part of an extensive network of caves and rivers carved by Rio Camuy. According to official figures, there are at least 17 cave entrances and more than 220 caves, but experts believe that number is more than 800. The carefully carved trail allows you to experience stalactites and stalactites and caves. stalagmites have unimaginable proportions. You will also meet some creatures that live among them. Rio Camuy . Cave Park open from Wednesday to Sunday.

On your way to or from Camuy, stop at Coastal Inn Saltpeter, an oceanfront restaurant located in the town of Arecibo. From mahi-mahi ceviche and grilled octopus in garlic sauce to pasta and paella, owner Luiz Jimenez prides himself on preparing the freshest of catches. Their distinctive home mojito is a welcome relief from the afternoon sun.

Ponce

Colorful buildings influenced by European architecture, bustling town squares and rich culture, Ponce is as historic as Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan. Parque de Bombas, a fire station formerly known for its red and black stripes, is the most iconic building that occupies a proud position in the center of Plaza Las Delicias alongside Ponce Cathedral. Other important facilities in Ponce include the Museo de Arte de Ponce, which displays 4,500 works of art from internationally renowned collections dating from the ninth century AD to the present.

Parque de Bombas with iconic red and black stripes

/ Explore Puerto Rico

For a beautiful view of Ponce, come Serrallés Castle Museum, a stately home belonging to the Serrallés family of the famous DonQ rum. Visitors can stroll around the house, rooms, gardens and take the elevator up to the Vigía Cross, a 30-meter-tall cross with a gallery at the top, for $15.

Most of the places to eat in Ponce are located around the square. Breakfast at La Potoroca, lunch at Tablas Restaurant and dinner at Lola . eclectic kitchen.

The Parguera

La Parguera is a nature lover’s paradise with plenty of opportunities for snorkeling, diving or hiking. The small seaside town is bustling with bars, restaurants and souvenir shops, especially in the evening when all the tour operators are back on base. It is also known for its biodiversity and vibrant sea life: divers and snorkelers can see many species of fish, turtles and well-developed coral reefs.

Puerto Rico has three bioluminescent bays

/ Explore Puerto Rico

Most tourists flock to this small seaside town to experience the bioluminescent bay, where you can swim as the single-celled algae glow all around you. Paradise Scuba & Snorkeling Center organizes biobay tours for $85.

Where

Bed and Breakfast in Casa Sol in Old San Juan is owned and operated by natives Eddie Ramírez and Margarita Pasto. This impeccably maintained property has 5 double rooms, some with original frescoes and a lovely courtyard where breakfast is served. Room rates start from £180 a night.

Arrive there

British Airways and American Airlines operates daily flights from London Heathrow to San Juan via Miami.

For more information, visit Explore Puerto Rico

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