Five new finds in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Breezy does it.

It’s the way to roll in Puerto Rico, a popular destination for New Yorkers since it’s a quick, easy and cheap getaway.

During my recent three days in Old San Juan, time was deliberately divided between getting lazy (hammock, pool, sangria) and getting busy exploring (forts; La Muralla), the famed city wall; and iconic blue cobblestone (adoquines) streets.

Here are five more fun discoveries from a first-time visitor.

Elephants serve breakfast at this California safari experience

It’s wheel-y bike-friendly

This area is laced with bicycle paths. Paseo Puerta de Tierra, completed in October, is a new one. It made the mile-long trek from my hotel into the city center go by in a flash — with fab views of the green-blue Atlantic, Woman’s Tongue Trees (seriously) and majestic monuments. Prefer to walk? A promenade runs alongside the bike lane, which stretches from Old San Juan to Condado, east of the historic district. Either way, slather sunscreen.

These walls can talk

An arresting 450-feet-long mosaic mural honors Felisa Rincon de Gautier, mayor of San Juan from 1946 to 1969. A believer in the “politics of love,” she died at age 97 in 1994.

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History lives, even in a tomb

Juan Ponce de Leon, Spanish explorer and Puerto Rico’s first governor, supposedly searched for the Fountain of Youth. That’s a myth. But you’ll find his tomb in the 477-year-old Cathedral of San Juan Bautista.

Every plaza tells a story

Plaza Colon, a main square at the entrance of Old San Juan, buzzes nonstop with tourists and energy. A statue of Christopher Columbus here rises high and keeps a constant lookout. Plaza de Armas, near San Juan City Hall, has a colorful history. In 1988, citizens fumed when trees here were all cut down. Three decades later, trees are back and the square is a low-key, shady spot for cafe con leche and a powder-dusted pastry.

The Icehotel is a highlight of winter in the Swedish Arctic

Plaza de Armas in Old San Juan offers shade and snacks.

Plaza de Armas in Old San Juan offers shade and snacks.

(ALAN S. MEHL) The late Felisa Rincon de Gautier, mayor of San Juan from 1946 to 1969, is celebrated on a massive mosaic mural.

The late Felisa Rincon de Gautier, mayor of San Juan from 1946 to 1969, is celebrated on a massive mosaic mural.

(ALAN S. MEHL)

Old San Juan Sights: Plaza de Armas (l.) and Felisa Rincon de Gautier mural.

Local eats go down easy

Mofongo — a mashed, fried plantain-based comfort food — lived up to the hype at popular El Jibarito (280 Calle Sol, San Juan). Tacos at Kabanas (1014 Ashford Ave., San Juan), a food truck in Condado, are a must. They cook cheese onto the tortillas. Yum.

***

If you go…

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Getting there:

JetBlue flies frequently from JFK Airport to San Juan and back (JetBlue.com).

Stay:

At Caribe Hilton Hotel, (caribehilton.com), rates start at around $ 259 per night.

Ride:

San Juan Bike Rentals picks up and delivers bikes to your hotel (sanjuanbikerental.com).

Tags:
featured lifestyle
puerto rico
travel

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