San Juan Journals

On the Cheap in Old San Juan

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A February 2002 trip to San Juan by thedrifter

Old San Juan Cemetery Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico More Photos
Quote: A long weekend with little money, but a desire to leave the country. Destination - Old San Juan. With little more than time and inclination, you too can enjoy the enchanted island of the Caribbean. Need some tips or some inspiration? Read on! You may learn something handy.

On the Cheap in Old San Juan

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Overview

Old San Juan Cemetery Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
Old San Juan is, in and of itself, the highlight of any stay here. Only the most oblivious of travelers should fail to absorb a decent education in colonial history just by wandering these streets. El Morro fortress is not only a notable historical and architectural destination, it provides its visitors with some of the most memorable views in San Juan. Eating and drinking with the locals in a number of places provided the type of experience that never fails to please and can be had regardless of your travel budget. Just duck in to any bar or restaurant in Old San Juan and mingle. Whether having breakfast at La Bombonera or swigging a brew at El Batey, I was treated to some genuinely f...Read More

Guest House Old San Juan

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Hotel

Guest House Old San Juan Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
This little-known hotel is probably the cheapest in Old San Juan, but is definitely not for everyone. It’s not the place to stay if you require room service or other such frills. If you can’t deal with staying in rather low rent quarters, and not merely in monetary terms, don’t consider it. Located on Calle Tanca, between San Francisco and Fortaleza, you''d be hard pressed to stay closer to the action. Built in 1916, this was once an upscale apartment building. In typical style, the ground floor is commercial space. Above, the apartments have been divided into smaller lodgings. The second and third floors each have two balcony rooms overlooking the street. At $40 a night, these are the most exp...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 17, 2002

Guest House Old San Juan
205 Calle Tanca
San Juan, Puerto Rico
(787) 722-5436

El Jibarito

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Restaurant | "Restaurante El Jibarito"

Quote:
El Jibarito is located on Calle Sol, near the corner of Calle Tanca. The decor is pleasantly old fashioned, somewhat rustic and unmistakenly Puerto Rican. The service was fine and the wait staff more than helpful, though the servings seemed a little small in relation to the price. I have often read of this establishment being a solid example of comida criolla, or native Puerto Rican fare. It may well be, but frankly I found it a little disappointing on my visit. In general, Puerto Rican cuisine is not as spicy as that found in other Caribbean countries and can sometimes be just plain bland, despite ingredients that sound exotic to American ears. Keep that in mind when ordering your meal. The ...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 17, 2002

El Jibarito
280 Calle Sol
San Juan, Puerto Rico
(787) 724-2281

La Bombonera

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Restaurant

Quote:
I often like to treat myself to breakfast out on the weekends, so I made a point of finding a place in Old San Juan where I could do just that. Not only did La Bombonera suit my purposes, but if I lived in San Juan I would become a regular. I'm sure there are other places to get a decent meal to start your day, but after my first morning in town I kept with the addage,"if it ain't broke don't fix it." In addition, I couldn't tell you what they serve at any other time of day. They are open from 7:30 AM to 8:00 PM and reportedly provide more than eggs and toast during the day. Back to the breakfast, though. On the weekend you can expect a line. This seemed to be a popular place with the ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 26, 2002

La Bombonera
Calle San Francisco 259
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901
+1 787 722 0658

Plaza de Armas

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Attraction

Plaza de Armas Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
Tourists probably visit the Plaza de Armas for its historical value more than anything. However, if you are staying in the old city, it's an excellent hub for your activities. The square has a very European air to it and is home to City Hall and other government offices. You may see old pictures during your sightseeing showing Spanish troops on parade here during the Spanish American War. Today it has a pleasant park-like atmosphere and many locals come here to relax. Many begin and end their day here. On my visit, I found myself drifting toward this plaza each morning after breakfast. On the northwest corner of the square, you will find a little green roofed coffee kiosk. Actually, it is ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 28, 2002

Plaza de Armas
Calle San Jose
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901
+1 787 721 2400

Cigar House at the Doll House

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Attraction | "The Cigar House at the Doll House"

Quote:
If you enjoy cigars, keep in mind that Puerto Rico is governed by the United States. So, no Cuban cigars for you. That doesn't mean that Puerto Rico has nothing to offer the visitor with a hankering for a good smoke. There are several places around Old San Juan to purchase cigars. However, this store with the odd name is where I found myself opting to spend my money. Overall, the prices in Puerto Rico tended to be lower than they are on the mainland. You don't have to buy many stogies at your local smoke shop to realize that alone is good reason to stock up while on the island. There are no purely Puerto Rican cigars that I am aware of. If there are, I did not find any and have not rea...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 28, 2002

Cigar House at the Doll House
255 Calle Fortaleza
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Club Gallistico de Puerto Rico

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Attraction

Club Gallistico de Puerto Rico Photo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Quote:
The ancient sport of cockfighting is alive and well in Puerto Rico. For the adventurous, you can easily investigate this activity for yourself. Just head for Club Gallistico de Puerto Rico, one of Puerto Rico's premiere cockfighting arenas. It's a slice of culture you certainly won't get elsewhere. Gallo is Spanish for rooster and the ring they fight in is the gallistico. Club Gallistico is the only one in San Juan, to my knowledge. Typically a rural sport, you may notice that much of the clientele appears to be in from the country. Judging by the vehicles out front, however, either farming pays well or there is money in fighting roosters. In either case, these gentlemen were not complete yoke...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on February 19, 2002

Club Gallistico de Puerto Rico
Isla Verde Ave. (at Los Gobernadores Ave.)
San Juan, Puerto Rico

El Batey

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Attraction

Quote:
El Batey, on Calle del Cristo, is one of the better known bars in the old quarter. This little joint enjoys a certain amount of legend. It was once used in a movie as the setting for a haven of gunrunners and drug smugglers. I'm not sure it lived up to its hype, but I do consider it a cool bar. They are evidently aware of their own notoriety, judging from the t-shirts for sale behind the bar. The rooms are small and have an unfinished look to them. Perhaps unfinished isn't the correct phrase, though. They look as if they may have been gutted at some point in the past and then had some rudimentary furniture thrown in when they decided to open a bar. The main room, of course, houses the actu...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 28, 2002

El Batey
Calle Del Cristo
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00901

Don Pablo

Attraction

Quote:
Don Pablo is located on the northern end of Calle del Cristo, right next door to El Batey. It is not much different in size than its neighbor, but the atmosphere is considerably different. I must admit that I did little more than give the place a once over. It was cleaner and more spruced up than El Batey, but the techno music was turned up to mind searing levels even at the early hour I dropped by. It was really more than I was up for at that moment, so I drifted on. I passed by the place a few times on my meanderings and stuck my head in more than once to see what was shaking. If not for their penchant for mind numbing decibels, it looked like a decent place to hang out. It appeared that ma...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on February 28, 2002

Don Pablo
Calle del Cristo
San Juan, Puerto Rico

The Lingua Franca

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Story/Tip

Quote:
Most anyone who has traveled outside of the United States, or is from outside the United States, has likely had the opportunity to note the almost painfully monolinguistic nature of the average American. If it's not English, we Americans don't want to hear it. If we must go abroad, the presence of other languages is simply an inconvenience we are forced to deal with. With a little persistence, we will badger the locals into learning English on the spot for our benefit if it comes to that. In all seriousness, it is true that most Americans are ill equipped to function outside the English speaking world. For good or ill, this is the reality and is understandably of concern to many Americ...Read More